Much like my Racing Game Round-Up, I think I would like to make a monthly thing where I look for cool shit on the Internet Archive that is worth a look. Just as well, because some things have gone down in the world recently where you might need someone to point out where to find some files. Let’s start with that.
Turns out that the rumor of Sony shutting down all storefronts for their pre-PS4 hardware is true, with the Playstation Store getting shut down like, today. It’s not too often that a major corporation comes out and straight up tells people to pirate their shit, but hey, their loss is our gain.
The Archive has multiple sources of downloadable PS3 games. I’ve been using this particular collection myself, but again, there are plenty of other places to look on there. It’s mostly a great collection, the downsides being that not every game is on there quite yet (I had to go digging through the cellars of the internet for a copy of Armored Core For Answer), and the Archive’s download speeds are incredibly slow; don’t go in expecting to get every Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto immediately.
Now to actually mod your PS3? Well, you know, I don’t want to be one of those people supporting piracy, and as such, I wouldn’t do something like tell you to click on this link here, link a YouTube video telling you how to install a bunch of legally ambiguous programs, or link another YouTube video that shows you how to transfer the games from your PC to your PS3. I also will not tell you that if you want to transfer a game larger than 4 GBs, you’ll want to use an FTP program like FileZilla, and have it connect to the IP address on your PS3 system itself (found in the PS3’s System Settings), then click and drag your games to the “PS3ISO” folder on the PS3. I won’t be doing that. Figure it out on your own, you filthy pirates!
Atomic TV is/was a public access show from the late 90s-early 2000s that I’ve been checking a few episodes of. From what I’ve seen, it’s a show that takes clips from 1950’s exploitation films, propaganda, and fucked up PSA’s, interspersed with commentary segments and interviewing random people on the street about the theme of the episode. There have also been some episodes focused on music videos and bootleg concert footage of Japanese musicians like Cornelius and Pizzicato Five, which is honestly a pretty amazing service, given that even now, getting Japanese music into Western mediums is pretty difficult.
Cool stuff. I’ve really been getting into watching public access stuff as of late, mostly because here in Colorado, there isn’t much of a scene for it. The best we’ve gotten were:
A one-episode “comedy” variety show starring the cast of a series of commercials for a used car dealership. As an aside, if any other Coloradans remember the weird Rocky’s Autos variety hour, please let me know in the comments, so I stop feeling like maybe I made up the whole thing in my head somehow.
An extremely irritating series with what are essentially the mascots for a chain of porn shops. The Pleasures Dudes, two middle-aged men acting like Spicolli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High doing obnoxious interviews with porn stars, doing bad commentary over women’s pro wrestling matches, and generally annoying me.
A half-hour…thing…by a b-movie actress named Jennifer Day, where her and a couple of strippers dance around in a hotel room in their underwear. This is to sell you on a series of videos where her and a couple of strippers dance around in a hotel room, only they’re naked now.
son of the beach!? holy shit…
Incite was a magazine that I read an awful lot as a teenager. Probably because they were constantly getting to interview pro wrestlers and had lots of photoshoots with models with freaking monster titties. Which, as a teen who didn’t have internet at the time, I appreciated.
jeez, who could ever accuse the games industry of being juvenile?
Reading the first issue for this post, and boy it is something. There’s this energy of a desperate, flailing plea to be taken seriously. For games to be taken seriously. It’s a surprise that the first sentence in the issue isn’t, “Video Games: they’re not, heh, for kids anymore!” Celebrity interviews, the aforementioned big titty models, “gadget” reviews, the Maxim-esque layout. Rather than letting the medium of games speak for themselves, Incite has this put-upon attempt at making games “cultured,” like you’re going to an expensive cocktail bar in your finest Versace to discuss the merits of Crazy Taxi. It’s the worst, most obnoxious kind of “lad magazine” bull shit. The kind of thing that led to The United States Armed Forces Presents: G4 TV, the one-sided feud of Gamers vs Roger Ebert, and the subsequent We Demand To Be Taken Seriously games “journalism” of today.
Games do not need that sort of pretentious, elitist validation. Despite everything in this incredibly shitty, toxic industry, the actual games it produces are more than capable of being appreciated on their own terms. Games are very much an artistic medium that can bring out emotions and feelings that other mediums can’t do, or can’t do the same way. Doesn’t matter if it’s Nier Automata or some Pac-Man bootleg you downloaded in a MAME ROMset, they are both important and appreciable on their own merits. And if you’re going to attach this garbage “Vodka on the rocks” aesthetic to games, at least actually play the fucking things, instead of using the same tired writing cliches of the vapid, flighty reviewers of the past.
shocking news: fighting games take time to be proficient at
do not call your pokemon article “yellow peril.”
At least Incite didn’t dedicate any of its pages to calling a rape victim an unreasonable liar who wanted to take down their downtrodden publication. HA! You didn’t think I would take a potshot at Kotaku and noted SWERF n’ TERF Gita Jackson, but YOU THOUGHT WRONG.
Damn…this was supposed to be a post about cool things on the Archive. I guess my teenage memories didn’t hold up to my nearly 35-year old tastes. Let me see if I can’t salvage this and find something else that’s actually cool.
NG Namco Community Magazine
Namco Community Magazine was a Japan-only publication done by Namco themselves. If you are familiar with the Namco Museum Collection, you’re seen a few of these covers before. Being entirely in Japanese, I can’t exactly do much with these other than look at the pictures, and I imagine that this was similar to a Nintendo Power-like “buy our games because they are cool and the best and girls will suck your dick if you play” glorified advertisement. But fuck it, I’m a sucker for old Namco shit.
PC-ENGINE DRUAGA REMAKE!!
That’s it for now. I’ll be coming back to this subject again in April.
Today was the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. This means that F1 season is starting up again (I mean, I guess racing season itself is too, if you ignore the IMSA Endurance races and the Mazda Cup). With that in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to bring back that thing I do where I play some racing games and then say if they’re good or not. Maybe even make it a monthly thing. The season being over should also explain why I haven’t been doing this for a while.
Initial Drift Online
Before I begin this, quick shout out to my friend, Miffy The Gaming Goddess, for showing me this game.
Initial Drift Online is an open-world street racing game that is currently in Steam Early Access. The elevator pitch for this would probably be “Burnout Paradise meets Initial D.” You drive around various parts of Japan known for their street racing culture, racing other players or delivering tofu for cash, which you then use to either upgrade or buy a new car. It’s a bit bare-bones at the moment, but what’s there is fun enough. Admittedly, it did take me a while to get used to the car handling. I’m so used to games that emphasize you using the brake and slowing down on corners, rather than games like this, where you just spin to win through them. Also, some of the adjustments you can make to your car might not actually work yet. So there’s a bit of a learning curve to IDO.
Now I will say that earning money can be a bit tedious; driving back and forth down long, long, long winding roads to deliver tofu isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But it’s worth it when you have a car that can actually hold its own in a race. I am looking forward to seeing Initial Drift’s progress, and come back to this once there’s some more stuff to do. As it is, I kind of have to keep this write-up short, as there isn’t much else to say. Mostly wanted to plug a nice little indie game I played. It’s fun and it’s cheap. So put on your favorite Eurobeat and take some corners.
Ridge Racer 7
After about two years of pulling out my hair, banging my head on the wall, and not getting anything resembling a straight answer from the internet, I finally got my PS3 modded yesterday! I’ll get around to doing a post on that once I get more than two games on there. Anyways. One of those two games was Ridge Racer 7, because you need a Ridge Racer on your Playstation console, even if you get it about 14 years too late.
For a game that came in 2007, early in the PS3’s life, Ridge Racer still looks really good. I shouldn’t be so shocked, since Namco games always have an amazing art style and a timeless look, but it’s still interesting to see a game developed during a tumultuous period for the PS3 not look like hot garbage. It should go without saying that it sounds good too. I mean, duh, Ridge Racer always has great music. It has some sick EDM, as racing games should, but it also features a couple of songs from this nameless genre that seems to exist mostly in Japanese video games. You know the kind, with the somber piano set to unusual techno beats, sometimes suddenly shifting into a different sound altogether. RR7 does it, Phantasy Star Online does it, Opoona does it, Tekken 7 does it, Blue Reflection (fuck) does it. Whatever it is, I fucking love it.
Ridge Racer 7 owns. This is the kind of racing game you play if you’re only in the mood for “car go fast brrr,” and don’t feel like constantly having to make adjustments and do hard things like look at numbers. I don’t mean that as an insult; sometimes you just want to feel the sensation of going fast in a hurry. When you come to grips with how the cars handle, playing well is so goddamn satisfying. Getting that perfect drift that fills up your boost gauge (this game has a boost gauge now), and leaving the other cars in your dust is so good. A term you could use to describe Ridge Racer 7, or any Ridge Racer for matter, is “effortless style.” Playing well takes time, but it looks so easy when you get it.
i’m thinkin’ about dig-dug
If there’s any game you decide to play after reading this post, please make it Ridge Racer.
Now we’re going from an early PS3 game, to an early PS1 game.You may not know about this game, as it never left Japan. A pretty good reason as to why it never left Japan is because Cosmic Race is widely considered one of the worst games on the system. And boy, is it ever! Mostly because it controls like absolute shit, is somehow completely nonsensical despite being a racing game, and is said that a good chunk of the game’s graphics are default assets from the Playstation Development Kit. Actually playing the game feels legitimately unfinished. I don’t mean unfinished in the sense that one or two things feel rushed, but there is still a whole product, like most games. No, I mean unfinished as in, if I released a demo of one of the games I’m working on to Itchio.biz right now, it would be as much of a game as Cosmic Race.
This was as far as I got in Gran Prix mode. The rival car (the only one you have to beat, despite there being like a dozen flying cars in front of you at any given time) goes super fast, and I could never get used to the control scheme of strafing with the d-pad and turning with the face buttons. You won’t get used to it, either.
It is extremely not good. Which, of course, also makes it great for all the wrong reasons. The secret to Cosmic Race is to not actually play the racing mode. This sounds weird, I know, but there is another mode to the game that is almost enjoyable. In it, you fly around looking for three markers as quickly as possible. This is pretty much impossible, as the markers will randomly disappear and reappear, and your guide are two arrows pointing you in completely arbitrary directions. You’ll never finish this mode, either. But what I do like about it is simply floating around in this low-poly world where nothing makes sense. It’s almost kind of scary; it’s like playing a dream. But I love it.
I would liken Cosmic Race to the Playstation equivalent of Death Crimson. Depending on what kind of person you are, this is either a huge recommendation, or a huge condemnation. Check it out.
Well then, that’s three games covered. I think I will return to this some time in the next month, turning it into a feature for the rest of the racing season. Look forward to it!
Hello everyone. I figured that for this post, instead of talking about other people’s media, I would talk about my own. Specifically, how things are going, what I’m doing, and what you should expect to eventually come out during the year. I would normally reserve this my extremely neglected Patreon, but I don’t think anyone actually reads that, so it’s going here.
I’ve been hard at work on a number of things. One of those things is an action-RPG. The name of it is “Knights of Wardinia.” In it, you play as, well uh, a knight, and you fight monsters and explore dungeons and stuff. Good news is that the hard part of the game is done; I spent a good couple of weeks creating and debugging an experience system, so you become stronger and have more health after killing enough things, like in any RPG. Now I’m currently in the process of putting the actual world together, so that exploration makes sense and the difficulty of the combat is reasonable. Look forward to this coming out eventually.
Some of you may know that I’ve also been learning how to make things in the Unreal Engine. Sorry, I meant Unreal Engine 4: the noble and pedigreed middleware from Epic Games. I had been working on a cutesy, brightly-colored platformer that I had titled “Astro Smash.” I’ll go ahead and post some in-progress shots here.
Now, the problem with this game is that 1) learning Unreal is actually really fucking hard, given that I have almost zero programming knowledge to speak of, 2) every Unreal tutorial worth its salt is demanding that I make a shooter instead, and 3) I’m starting to realize that this game’s main gimmick would probably work better on a 2D plane. I’m not dropping or cancelling this game, but for the time being, I may put it on the backburner, or turn it into another 2D game.
Much as I loathe to give in to peer pressure, if I want to learn how this engine works, I may need to say fuck it and make a damn shooter like everyone wants. But I wouldn’t do any regular ass shooter. No, I plan on bringing back a long-forgotten FPS sub-genre: the mecha corridor shooter! I’m a pretty big fan of stuff like Kileak, Space Griffon VF-9, and the most awesomely titled IRON ANGEL OF THE APOCALYPSE. Games where you are in a large robot, moving down cramped, atmospheric environments, and shooting stuff. I want to make a game that still maintains the aesthetic of a PSX game, but without making yet another jump scare horror game. I can’t make humans in 3D to save my fucking life, but I’m at least half-decent at making vehicles and locations. This theoretical project would at least play to my strengths.
Something you may have noticed in my post about Valis 2 is that I’m bringing Slimegirl back. Slimegirl was already in one game I’ve made, and I had been working on a second, when a couple of things went down and halted development until recently. One, I fell victim to the dreaded “scope creep,” where as I learned new things, I would find a way to include them in the game, meaning that it would take longer and never get done. Two, some musician took the name “Slimegirls” and decided to be a sex creep late last year, which really turned me off from my own character for a time. But fuck that, the people love Slimegirl; it’s probably the most enduring design I’ve ever made. The fact that at least two people have worn Slimegirl t-shirts in public is pretty damn cool. So I think I’ll get back into working on that, but remembering to maintain the KISS style. I don’t mean Knights In Satan’s Service, I mean: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Have a goal, and run straight for it. Scrapping a lot of the cruft, and sticking to a fun platformer where you shoot stuff and the characters say funny and vulgar things.
Outside of games, I would like to get back into making poetry. Girl Zone was surprisingly popular and well received, and I thought it was rewarding to make them. We’ll see; I don’t want to stretch myself too thin, here. I’m working on a bunch of games, trying to make at least one blog post per week, being involved with streams and podcasts, trying to get tournament ready in fighting games, and also having an actual day job and real life obligations. Not to mention continuing to work on my own mental health. February was honestly pretty rough, what with the whole, “transphobic game journos who harassed my friends for years are now publicly comparing a rape victim they all exploited to Peter fucking Thiel, a literal blood sucking white supremacist” thing going on, bringing up a lot of bad memories that I’ve actively tried to get over. And by “get over,” I mean “completely ignore until my brain finally breaks.”
In any case, this was a post to let people know that I’m not just fucking around with old video games and wrestling pay-per-views, and that your support, whether it be moral or monetary, is appreciated. I am actively working on things. And I guess this post is more of a reminder to myself that, oh yeah, making big projects like this takes a little while, especially when you’re flying solo, and I probably should stop stressing that it’s not all done right fucking now.
There was a post I made a couple years back. In it, I told you all to get a fucking blog. To summarize that post, the reason you should do this is because in doing so, you can establish your own online identity without the information overload that comes with places like Twitter and Facebook. The ability to express yourself or an opinion without the constant bull shit discourse that gives you a headache at best and will literally destroy a persons life at worst is something that’s been lost lo these many years.
Something that’s been said to me whenever I beg people to get the fuck off of shitty internet holes that hurt you is, “Ramona, that sounds good, but I have no idea where to begin!” So here we go, part 2 to a post I did not realize needed a part 2; I will help you find a new home on The Wired.
PART 1- GET A BLOG
If you are someone like me who is clearly in love with the sound of their own voice, maybe you want a platform that encourages a long-form communication of ideas, and not being restricted to only 240 characters, leading to the dreaded and much-hated-by-me “Tweet Chain.” You want a Web Blog. If you have a little bit of money on you, you can spend a bit of money on hosting for your own domain name and even your own web storage, as this web site does. But if you don’t feel like spending $120 (or whatever other hosts charge) a year (and I don’t blame you), there are at least two good free options that can get you what you need.
The first one is WordPress. This blog uses WordPress software, so I can at least vouch for it working well enough. It looks like the free version does not have the range of features that something like this would have, and it is ad-supported (but we all have ad blocker, right?), but it should be enough for what you need.
There’s also Blogger. Looking around online, this might be a better option if you are not feeling like dropping some money on something you only plan on using to talk about which Touhou girls you want to have as a mom someday. I have not touched Blogger in literally over a decade, but when I did, it seemed easy enough to use, and it’s probably gotten better over time.
I was going to talk about Ghost, the other blogging software. But in the few years since I heard of it, the front page turned into some weird venture capitalist shit and I have no fucking clue if there’s a free option because the site itself is a goddamn mess. Maybe look into it on your own if WP and Blogger aren’t suited for your needs.
PART 2- WHAT ABOUT A PERSONAL WEB SITE, INSTEAD?
Alright, maybe you don’t want to write a bunch of words down all the time, but you still want to have a place to post stuff you’ve made or stuff you like. Sounds like you want a web site rather than a web log. These days, there’s only one option for that: Neocities. It is the closest the internet can get to the old days of Web 1.0 until there’s a massive overthrow of every tech company in America.
You can get a site on Neocities and make it look like some twenty year old Geocities trash, or make it look sleek as fuck. I’ve never used it myself, as I’ve never needed to, but from what I am told, it is extremely easy to use.
PART 3- THE FEDIVERSE STILL EXISTS
Now, what if social media still has its poisonous claws latched onto you? What if you want to get the hell off the bad sites everyone expects you to use, but you still want the endorphins from likes and retweets? Well, there is still a decentralized thing called the “Mastodon Fediverse.” Okay, I know that even mentioning the term “Fediverse” causes everyone to look at you as if you just murdered a dog and fucked the corpse in full public view, but hear me out.
I admit that process of joining is a bit on the complicated side. You have to find a good instance to join, and hope that either they’re accepting new members, or you know a guy who knows a guy that can get you an invite. There is no single “Mastodon” to join. That’s the hard part. But otherwise, it’s mostly Twitter but without the Twitter.
However, because this is still a social media outlet, it is still beholden to some of the problems inherent to the format; I mean, hell, I made a big post about leaving the site for a time last year because too many Twitter refugees turned it into a performative hell hole. Since that time, though, it has become much easier to ignore the bull shit discourse. As such, my account has mostly been “played a game today” or “watched a show and it was pretty cool” without having to see literal teenagers or mentally aged teenagers annoy me again. So, you know, tread carefully on this one.
Now you got no goddamn excuse. I want more sites to put onto my RSS reader! Make your own web site!
A bit of a story here: I was in the middle of writing the rough draft for my Valis post a couple weeks ago, when I got pinged on Discord. A friend had messaged me, asking if I wanted a Steam code for this game. Not one to turn down a free video game, I said yes. I didn’t press the issue as to how exactly he got this game. I hope it was from a bundle, because nobody should be gifting me $60 video games for the hell of it. Well, unless you’re one of my Niteflirt customers, in which case, you fucking paypigs need to get me a Super Cassette Vision and a bunch of its games, specifically Pop and Chips.
Now then, the game itself.
WWE 2k20 was an absolute joke. Even if you don’t care about wrestling, video games, or wrestling video games, you knew what a piece of shit it was. It looked like shit, and it played like shit. 2k20 was mostly infamous for its bugs. The game was very obviously released unfinished. This was mostly due to the series developer Yukes leaving mid-way through production, with the resulting development in the hands of an inexperienced team that had no idea how their engine worked. I guess after nearly twenty years of making the same game over and over, not enjoying it, all while having to deal with a revolving door of unstable publishers and WWE itself breathing down you neck, you finally have enough. And like everyone else who’s sick of Vince McMahon’s shit, Yukes now works for AEW. To say that the game suffered because of this would be an understatement. Ultimately, the only thing 2k20 was good for were the NewLegacy streams that followed.
As a result, it would be announced that WWE would not have a game released in 2020. The time would be spent coming to grips with how the game worked, and make something that didn’t suck.
But then there was a game released in 2020, and that was 2k Battlegrounds.
2k Battlegrounds was meant as an “apology” for how bad 2k20 was. Instead of a boring Sports Entertainment sim, we were getting this over-the-top action-fighting game. Something along the lines of the Stone Cold (heh) classic, Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, or, fuck, WWE All-Stars. Brief aside: I have never played All-Stars. I head it was really good, but I couldn’t get over the art style, which is one of the few times a games’ art has ever actually offended me. I’m just saying, maybe it’s a bad idea to give your roster exaggerated muscle definition, looking like a bunch of steroid monsters, especially given that about half the characters are actually dead in real life due to substance abuse issues; I don’t want to be reminded how grossly big Eddie Guerrero was prior to his actual death, thank you.
Anyways. 2k Games wanted to apologize for giving us an ugly, badly playing, buggy wrestling game released at full price with a bunch of microtransactions by…giving us an ugly, badly playing, buggy wrestling game released at full price with a bunch of microtransaction.
I hate to focus so much on the graphics of a game, but I have to here. Battlegrounds is fucking hideous. It attempts to use a chibi-fied, super deformed look, and fails miserably. It’s not cute, and everyone looks like they got something wrong with them. You will never get used to how this looks, and I hope that this does not become a trend. Some things were never meant to be, and I think a chibi Bray Wyatt or Hulk Hogan are among them.
this is supposed to be a terrifying murder demon
You pick your ugly little Superstarstm and then you have a match. I played this on the medium difficulty, and either I would finish a match in about thirty seconds because my opponent no resistance whatsoever, or the AI would counter every single move I attempted and draw the match out to a time limit draw. Because of everyone’s stubby little limbs, your attacks have no range to them, and any move that does any real damage takes stamina, stamina that is constantly draining. Every match quickly degenerates to doing big moves, hoping the AI doesn’t have a response to all of them, then either throwing shitty punches that don’t connect, or even better, standing back and doing nothing until you’re recovered. In real wrestling, when the wrestlers are tired, they at least put someone in a headlock first. At least recover in a way that isn’t completely boring! For something that’s supposed to be fast-paced and “arcade-like” (whatever the fuck that means), having guys run out of breath completely kills the pacing.
steam went down literally as soon as i installed this
There’s a story mode. It also sucks. You don’t get to play as any of the wrestlers you see on TV. You instead play as a bunch of OCs that can best be described as: “douchebag,” “another douchebag,” “another douchebag that is probably a racist caricature,” and “I stopped playing this mode because I don’t care anymore.” The cutscenes are presented via comic panels where a badly drawn Steve Austin is looking for new talent for WWE, I guess because the current talent is all going to AEW and Impact. Because, you know, that fits the character of Steve “took wrestling to new heights of popularity by beating the shit out of his boss on TV” Austin.
pretty sure this is racist
You’ll probably have to play this anyway, because it’s how you get enough “Battle Bucks” to unlock hidden characters. In Battlegrounds, “hidden” means “about 90% of the game’s roster.” Oh did you want to play as multiple time world champion Daniel Bryan? Better pay up! You want Becky Lynch? You know, the same Becky Lynch who main evented Wrestlemania a few years ago? Earn those Battle Bucks, bitch! Rob Gronkowski, an NFL player, is available by default, yet just about everyone who made WWE programming tolerable for all these years are hidden from view. How fitting.
I went looking through the roster, to see who was considered the most valuable. The most expensive wrestlers in Battlegrounds are:
So you can save up all that money and buy a racist, a guy who killed the company for about half a decade due to his ego (you can even argue that WWE has still never recovered from his run at the top), a TERF, and a literal supervillain. The fact that McMahon is worth more than most of the talent he hires really is the best unintentional statement, isn’t it?
That’s really all there is to 2k Battlegrounds. It sucks, but it sucks in a boring, ugly way. At least with the mainline games, you can at least laugh at how buggy they are. Battlegrounds is just…there. It doesn’t succeed, but it also doesn’t fail in any spectacular way. I played it for about a week, then I put it away, realizing that I had seen all there was to offer. Games like this are built around having lots of replay value, and this doesn’t. Really, all I can say is that 2k Battlegrounds is the video game equivalent of modern day WWE: throwing bad ideas at a wall to see what will stick; what will bring back a deflated audience and a low public opinion. At risk of sounding like a fangirl, I would say to stick it out and wait for the AEW game. I can at least say that when AEW fucks up, I still have fun.
There exists, mostly in the 16-bit era (though one could extend that all the way to the PS2 days), this particular aesthetic. It’s a look that’s a bit hard to explain, but I will try my best. I’ve referred to it as a “late-night” aesthetic. Dark graphics, music that goes ridiculously hard, some cool body horror shit, nice amounts of blood, at least a moderate amount of jank, that sort of thing. Like the video game equivalent of an exploitation film, or an angry queer zine. The Sega Mega Drive and the NEC PC-Engine were the absolute best at this (honorable mention to “Psycho Dream” on the Super Famicom), with lots of games that perfectly fit this mold of dirty, violent games that you play on a Saturday night, right before the midnight an*me block airs on TV. For some better examples, check out my post on pre-Sonic Genesis games.
Valis 2 is a game that almost matches this description perfectly. I’ll explain that “almost” later. This grungy looking action game starring a girl in a chainmail bikini, shooting and stabbing large monsters in this weird looking hellscape. It is extremely cool.
That’s pretty much it to Valis, really. At worst, it’s a competently made shooter. But that’s not what’s important; sometimes, there’s more to a game than solid mechanics and design. It’s style. It’s attitude. Valis 2 is loaded with these things. This has never been an especially deep series, mostly relying on its cutscenes and sex appeal to turn some heads.
I guess I should probably give some context here for the younger readers: Valis 2 was released in 1989. I did an extremely brief amount of research to see what else came out around this time. This game was released two months before the Sega Mega Drive, and around the same time as NES games like Duck Tales and Castlevania 3. At the very least, Valis should be recognized for being ahead of its time. I mean, this was a CD game released at a time when most PCs didn’t even have a CD drive. Animated sequences and music with actual instrumentation (or at least a really good synthesizer) long before it was the norm. Granted, these cutscenes were not full-screen, and were surrounded by this ugly green border, but they are animated, which is something games weren’t really doing at the time.
Even now, I’m still kind of blown away by the presentation. The first level throws you right into things: fighting a bunch of monsters in the middle of the city at night, while this extremely awesome, pumping tune plays in the background. Then after you defeat the first boss, you do a Magical Girl transformation into your battle bikini and continue to kick ass. It’s almost very cool.
Valis 2 is a great representation of this strange transitory time of the late 80s into the early 90s. This time where technological limitations eased up a little bit, allowing directors and artists to go hog wild with their ideas, putting all the blood and tits and swear words they want into these games. A time when developers wanted to aim for an older audience, or at least aim towards endlessly immature and easily entertained idiots like myself. Give me some cool, murky visuals and pumping music to kill things to.
I’ve been putting off the elephant in the room this whole time, so let me go off on this right now: I keep stressing the word almost. This is almost a great game. This is almost a great aesthetic. What keeps Valis 2, and the Valis series as a whole, from being as awesome as it could be is the sexualization of its women. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some prude whose face will melt like a nazi from Indiana Jones if I so much as see half a boob; the fact that I have written multiple posts about pornography will attest to that. Normally, some hot girls in skimpy outfits killing things is right up my alley. You find a way to convert this concept into a liquid form and inject it into my veins, and it would be a stronger drug than heroin.
No, the problem with the sex appeal of Valis is that Yuko, the main character, is only sixteen years old. That’s fucking gross. I had assumed that she was at least eighteen, which isn’t much better (I don’t fuck with anyone under 21), but it’s also not much worse. According to the Valis fan wiki (because goddamn everything has a fan wiki these days), Yuko is sixteen throughout all of the games, except for Valis 4, the one game where she’s not a playable character. This means that not only is she sixteen in this game, running around in a battle bikini, but she’s sixteen in the PC-Engine remake of Valis 1, where you see her underwear every time she jumps. This also means that she was sixteen in Valis X, the fucking actual straight up porn game. The appeal of Valis is that the main character wears little clothing, but also the main character is a child. This might sound appealing if you’re a Libertarian or if you’re Hideki Naganuma, but not so much for the rest of us. Either have your j/o material be an adult, or go in the opposite direction with a non-sexual Magical Girl set up. You absolutely cannot have it both ways on this.
With that massive disappointment out of the way, it’s a fucking shame. It’s a shame because other than that, Valis 2 is really good! The worst you can say about it is that maybe the levels are a little too flat and monotonous. Luckily, this version of the game keeps the titillation to a minimum, so it’s a bit easier to put it out of your mind. I’m told that the computer versions of the game are significantly more risque in that regard. I say “I’m told” because I can’t get the X68000 version of the game to actually fucking work, so I’ll take that claim at face value. As it is, I do hate that Valis has that shadow over it that a lot of other games in this sub-genre I just made up manage to avoid. I wish I could like this game more.
I’m also taking the time to talk about the Sega Genesis port of the game. Somehow, someway, I played this as a child. I saw the cover at the video store, and knew that this was the game I wanted to rent for the weekend.
Valis SD, or Syd of Valis as it’s known over here, because the localizers didn’t give a fuck, is a cutesy reinterpretation of Valis 2. It also sucks really bad. It controls like shit, taking a single hit will cause you to fly all over the screen like a ping-pong ball, hit detection is a joke, and it does the Ninja Gaiden bull shit of having an enemy immediately meet you as soon as you make a precarious jump. Not a fun game by any stretch.
Of course, I was a kid, and didn’t know any better. I still liked it a lot, to the point of renting it multiple times. And I’m pretty sure I never made it past level 3 in any of my attempts. These days, I can finish it with almost no problem, but I’m not really enjoying myself when I do it. It is bad. The exact opposite to how fun the PC-Engine game is. At least the art style discourages the whole “please masturbate to these children” thing.
I really just want to shit-talk the localization, or lack thereof, because I can only say “this game is really fucking bad” so many times. I had mentioned being attracted to the game’s cover for whatever reason my child brain liked about it. As an adult, I’m only just now finding out that I was attracted to the cover of a completely different game.
This is actually the cover to a PC-Engine game called Sugoroku ’92 Nari Tore Nariagari Trendy. Yuko is now “Syd,” because nobody knew that “SD” meant “Super Deformed,” as in the art style the game used. Fun fact: because I was a stupid child, I didn’t know that “Syd” was an actual name, so I pronounced the title “Side” of Valis. In addition, a bunch of dialogue was left in Japanese. Whoever at Renovation, or Telenet, or whatever one of the six hundred different sub-labels that company had was in charge of translating this game gave up and went to bed pretty early on.
To its credit, Syd of Valis at least has the multiple costume/weapons inventory that the computer games allegedly have, giving it an iota of depth. And it has this fucking great looking turtle:
love this turtle, man
I guess in the end, Valis 2/Valis Syd SD are games I wish I liked more, but can’t. That’s either due to being gross, or being absolute dog shit to play, respectively. Valis 2 on the PC-Engine is still an important game, but maybe scrub your hands with soap and water after you’re done playing.
Last night was All Elite Wrestling’s latest Pay Per View. I ended up ordering the show, as I’m a fan of Tony Khan’s product, and I wanted him to have a little walkin’ around money (I also hit the jackpot in regards to Niteflirt customers actually spending money instead of finishing up in less than five minutes like a bunch of scrubs, so I could afford it). I watched the show with a bunch of my friends, many of whom aren’t wrestling fans, or at least aren’t fans on the weird, obsessive level that I am. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last Tuesday, but I can absolutely tell you about the time Al Snow and D’Lo Brown had a hardcore match in the late 90s where D’Lo hit Al with the receiver of a pay phone, then told him afterwards, “next time, use 1-800-COLLECT!” making a reference to a very homoerotic commercial he had done with Steve Austin earlier in the year.
As I’ve casually mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a fan of Sports Entertainment more or less my whole life; one of my earliest childhood memories is me sitting on my mom’s lap while we watched “Mean” Gene Okerlund do a rundown on the wild world of the WWF during an episode of Superstars. Despite all the really sinister and dark shit that has happened in this industry, I still love it, and find it to be somewhat magical well into my mid-30s. To write about the appeal of wrestling is a post all its own, and I’m already going off-topic, so let’s literally get this show on the road. This is also my first time reviewing a wrestling show, so please bear with me here. I won’t be doing move-for-move stuff, since I would rather focus on characters and the story being told, instead of “he hit him with an arm drag.”
The Buy-In: Riho and Thunder Rosa vs Dr. Britt Baker and Rebel (Not Reba)
We start with the free pre-show match. As much as I love AEW, and watch it literally every week, fuck this weird “only one women’s match on our televised program” bull shit. Hikaru Shida and Ryo Mizunami are already on the main show, so this gets bumped to the preliminaries. Riho is whatever. Rosa is really good at doing a wrestle, though man, she really needs to wear pants that maybe don’t fit as much; I’m not some fucking creep who only watches women’s wrestling because I want to jerk off to the competitors, so I don’t go looking for their stuff to fall out of their gear, but you can’t not see Thunder Rosa being All Cheeked Up during her matches. It is so distracting. I linked to the match up above, you can see for yourself.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about not giving a fuck about Britt Baker. She didn’t have much of a personality. She had this energy of “when the fuck is NXT going to sign me?” The start of her heel turn involved her cutting one of the worst promos I’ve heard in years. Since then, though, I’ve come around on her. She’s definitely been doing a great job in her new role of entitled, racist Karen. I don’t think AEW set out to make her character a racist, specifically, it’s just that she’s exclusively been feuding with women of color this whole time (Yuka Sakazaki, Big Swole, Thunder Rosa), and as a fan, you can put two and two together, even if it’s unintentional. Though I haven’t really seen her wrestle, as I am way behind on watching AEW Dark, I think Rebel is at least a good character too; she added a lot to the Dentist Office Brawl between Baker and Big Swole.
But it doesn’t matter, because Rebel is not wrestling tonight, as she is “hurt.” So there is a last-minute replacement, and it is…
MAKI MOTHERFUCKING ITOH!!
If you do not know who Maki Itoh is, let me tell you that she is a bonafide Superstar, bottom line. A former pop idol turned wrestler, Maki has charisma like a motherfucker. Even if she were in the ring with three slugs, instead of just one, she still could still carry the whole match on her personality alone. Even if it’s only a pre-show, I’m happy that Maki is being given a worldwide platform to perform on.
The match itself was actually really good. I went in expecting Riho to look lost, fuck up half her moves, and do a bunch of really shitty Dragon Suplexes. Instead, she actually had a personality and did some cool moves. Maybe because she was in there with people closer to her size, rather than expecting 280 pound Nyla Rose to take her power moves. This was mostly the Maki Itoh match, whether it was due to booking, or her presence overshadowing all the other women. Whatever, it was fun.
And hey, Maki won, so I’m thrilled.
Match 1- The Young Bucks vs Chris Jericho and Maxwell Jacob Friedman
Before I start, let me point out Jim Ross showing up to do commentary with his voice completely shot. This is good, because it means a bulk of tonight’s broadcast will be handled by the more than capable Excalibur and Tony Schiavone, and will lower the chance of JR saying some stupid boomer shit, like calling Emi Sakura an “Oriental” or something. Twenty years ago, I never thought I would prefer to hear Schiavone over Ross on a wrestling show, but time is funny that way.
Confession: I like the Young Bucks. A lot. In my particular circles, that seems to be a minority opinion. Whatever, they’re cool. MJF is a future star who could go down as one of the best heels of all time. And Chris Jericho is a dumb fuck boomer who is always in the news for saying something stupid or that time he performed at a concert with his shitty band that led to a spike in COVID-19 cases. That kind of sucks, because I loved Jericho as a kid. And despite all of the things he’s doing to kill his off-screen legacy, he’s still legitimately one of the most talented wrestlers of all time, and could contribute so much more to AEW’s success if he weren’t so hell-bent on becoming more trouble than he’s worth. As it is, I’m fine with him being kept as far away from the main event scene as possible, making younger guys look good, and hopefully fuck off back to WWE when his contract is up. At least he has more upside than fucking Jake Hager.
The thing about AEW is that it prides itself on having great wrestling, which it absolutely does. Even its worst match can still be described as “okay, I guess.” As such, it’s going to be extremely repetitive of me to keep saying, “this match was good.” Of course it was. But I will say that this match failed to tell the story it set out to tell. This was supposed to be a personal blood feud. Jericho and MJF had bloodied and assaulted the Bucks’ dad the week before. If someone beat the shit out of my dad, I would…well, I would shake their hand and thank them for a job well done. But if I didn’t hate my dad, I’d be pissed. Maybe the one time where I’m not doing cool flips, and instead focusing on kicking a man’s ass. So in the end, it was a fun and exciting match, so I can’t hate it, but it should have been brutal and violent instead.
Special mention to this weird spot where MJF kept pointing at his dick. And yes, telling people to suck your dick is absolutely a Thing in wrestling, but usually when you do it, it’s not fucking hanging out and winking at you. MJF spent what felt like an hour crotch chopping while he was open-carrying some heat. Like Thunder Rosa, maybe he should get some new gear.
Match 2- Tag Team Battle Royale
I love tag team wrestling. I love battle royales. I love when tag teams are in a battle royale. AEW has some great fucking teams, too. You got Private Party, The Lucha Brothers, Jurassic Express, The Dark Order, Proud and Powerful, The Butcher and The Blade, among others.
The thing about these kinds of matches is that they are fun to watch, but you can’t really say much about them. Guys walk around, punch another guy, try to throw him over the top rope, and then something cool happens on occasion until there’s only a few guys left, then the real drama kicks in. And fuck yeah the drama kicked in at the end. Any of the remaining teams could have won, and it would have been believable. I loved that the final two wrestlers were Jungle Boy and Rey Fenix, getting to see the two of them show off their particular skills in a 1-on-1 environment. And as much as I love Jungle Boy, I’m glad Rey Fenix won. That dude is on his way to becoming a Lucha Libre icon, I think.
Fun, but I think this should have been on the pre-show instead of the women’s tag. I personally like when a battle royale serves as a lead-in to a show. You gonna fucking tell me that Peter Avalon is more worthy of a PPV slot than Maki Itoh?
Match 3- Hikaru Shida vs Ryo Mizunami
I have only two complaints about this match. That being said, anything negative I have to say should not take away from the fact that this was the best match of the night, which definitely says something on a show where every match is good. Mostly (we’ll get to that one later). Unlike the opening match, this had a story, and it told it wonderfully. Hikaru Shida is the dominant AEW Women’s Champion. She’s beaten just about everyone. Then Ryo Mizunami, who told a rookie Shida about ten years ago that Shida was not in her league, wins an entire tournament involving the best women’s wrestlers in the world, and gets a shot at Hikaru Shida’s title, and to prove herself right about not being beatable. It’s simple, but it works. It’s Wrestling 101. Two women with something to prove, beating the fuck out of each other.
To explain what makes wrestling so captivating is that there’s more to it than matches that are fun and a good showcase for an athlete’s abilities. I’ll go ahead and let the cat out of the bag here: as fans, we know wrestling is fake. We know that the results for every match are predetermined, and that the wrestlers are choreographing and pantomiming their moves in the ring. We know, and we don’t care. But there are times when wrestlers are so great at what they do that, for at least a moment in time, they can convince us that what they are doing is 100% real. It’s suspension of disbelief, no different from any other form of fiction. By the end of this match, Hikaru Shida and Ryo Mizunami made this shit look legitimate. Keep in mind, I was watching this with a group. We were talking and joking and carrying on all night. This was one of the few moments where everyone was dead silent. This match demanded your attention, and it got it. That’s how you know that you’re doing Pro Wrestling right.
Hikaru Shida ended up winning. I like Shida, I really do. But in her win, I must ask: what was the point of the tournament that Mizunami won? Winning a tournament in any fictional environment, not just wrestling, means that you are set to do something big. Feels anticlimactic to have her lose her first match on a pay per view. That’s complaint number one. I didn’t like that.
Complaint two: after the match, Nyla Rose showed up and beat the fuck out of everyone. This in and of itself is not a complaint because Nyla Rose fucking rules. No, it was because she was joined by Britt Baker and Maki Itoh, before Thunder Rosa came out to even the odds. This led to the announcement of a tag match on Dynamite. This would be cool normally, but the cynic in me sees this as a way to consolidate the AEW women’s feuds into one match, so as to avoid having to worry about needing to book more than one of their matches on TV. Please prove me wrong, Tony Khan.
Match 4- Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy) vs Miro and Kip Sabian
This wasn’t a match so much as a storytelling vehicle. I do not like this. This story sucks; one of AEW’s few low points in its creative direction. This entire feud is because one of the Best Friends was accidentally thrown through a cheaply made arcade cabinet Miro gave Sabian during an episode of Dynamite. This also led to a cameo appearance by Billy fucking Mitchell of all people. I don’t want to talk about this. I like Taylor and Cassidy. Miro’s good. Kip Sabian’s alright, despite that fact that his real name is not actually Kip Sabian, meaning that at some point in his life, he thought that it was a good idea to name himself “Kip Sabian.” These are guys who could be doing good things, but this feud ain’t it, chief.
Match 5- Matt Hardy vs “Hangman” Adam Page
Of all the wrestlers in this current era, Adam Page is by far my favorite. He rules, and is the best at everything. He is my favorite, and he should be yours, too.
Adam Page went from being Yet Another White Guy in the Bullet Club to being the absolute best thing about AEW in about a year. Turns out that “Wrestler With Impostor Syndrome, Who Drinks A Lot As A Means To Deal With Self-Doubt” is intensely relatable and endearing. I mean, who doesn’t feel self-conscious? I’ll confess right now that there are times where I do feel like I’m not as good as my very talented friends, despite my own considerable skills, and I imagine they feel the same sometimes. It’s very human to feel overlooked and left out. Watching the internal struggles of the character of The Hangman play out is probably some of the most realistic writing wrestling has ever had.
Plus he has one of the few accounts that makes Twitter worth looking at once in a while.
I love this man.
Oh right, and he’s having a match against Matt Hardy, because Matt tried to steal money from him.
Matt Hardy has always been good at what he does, even when he was fucked out of his mind on drugs. This was maybe the second best match of the night. Whether or not that’s due to my bias, who cares?
What you should care about is that, after Matt relied on liberal outside interference, Hangman ended up winning due to THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP!! The entire Dark Order came out and saved him from hitting the arena floor in what is the most feel-good moment of the year so far.
Wrestling is really cool sometimes. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this at all, but Adam Page is really fucking good.
Posting this shot of Matt Hardy’s shocked expression because it made my friend Miffy laugh really hard.
Match 6- Face of the Revolution Ladder Match (Cody Rhodes vs Max Castor vs Scorpio Sky vs Lance “Tramp Stamp Hoyt” Archer vs Penta El Cero Miedo vs “All Ego” Ethan Page)
This would have been my least favorite match on the card, if the Best Friends/Miro-Sabian didn’t already happen.
But before I get into that, I need to take a moment to talk about this fucking clown Max Castor. His whole deal is that he will do a freestyle on his way to ring, right? Nothing too out of the ordinary; Rap and Wrestling are far more connected than you think. The problem is that his freestyle sucked.
At least when John Cena did a shitty freestyle, he had a message behind it, even if that message was, “hey Brock Lesnar, suck my dick!” Max Castor is just like, a rapper who looks at the Trending tag on Twitter before his matches.
Anyways. Watching this match with non-fans, it made me realize: ladder matches are fucking stupid. Especially ones with more than two wrestlers in them. I like gimmick matches, but maybe ones that require you to climb something should take a break for a while. Credit to this one at least, for having a spot where guys actually climbed the ladder and tried to grab the Sonic Ring at the top.
Otherwise the pacing was all over the place, with Cody being “injured” then not “injured” then “injured” again. Penta had multiple opportunities to grab that fucking thing and win the match, but he had to stop and press the taunt button every single time. The whole match was basically an overwrought jab at Vince McMahon (the brass ring), and a way to give Darby Allin someone to fight on Wednesday. Whatever. At least Scorpio Sky won it.
Then there was the big mystery signing announcement. Swerve, it’s not Kurt Angle. It’s…it’s Christian.
So, even though I made a billion “it’s…Christian” jokes in the span of the few minutes it lasted, I am looking forward to seeing him in the ring. Unlike Angle, his body isn’t completely fucked. He’s not a dickhead like CM Punk. Given the way AEW has used other established talent, it’s not like he’s going to be a ten-year champion that runs roughshod on everyone. I’ll be optimistic on this one. Though maybe he should have done more than silently sign a contract and leave.
Match 7- Sting and Darby Allin vs Team Taz (Brian Cage and Ricky Starks)
This was what’s called a “cinematic” match. Pre-taped, heavily-edited, with lots of post production flourishes that regular wrestling does not have. Basically, a short movie. Wrestling during the COVID pandemic led to more matches like this being made, as promotions don’t have a live audience to play to. The reason this match is cinematic is because Sting is old as fuck and is returning after a several year absence caused by Seth Rollins turning his neck into dust. A guy like that needs the benefit of the smoke and mirrors these kind of matches provide.
Really, you wanted to see this match for Sting. Not that Darby, Cage and Starks were a non-factor in this match, far from it. But you want to know if Sting can at least look like he can still go, even in an much more tightly choreographed environment.
It was fine. Mostly four guys punching each other in an empty warehouse. It was cool when Brian Cage pick up Darby for a suplex, then walked up an entire flight of stairs before slamming him.
I remember talking about this with the group while the match was going on, that maybe there shouldn’t have been commentary for this. It sounded weird and out of place. You want to separate this from a regular match as much as possible. Let the mini-movie tell the story for you.
Wasn’t bad otherwise. Not on the level of The Final Deletion or the Firefly Funhouse Match, but definitely not the fucking doldrums of the Graveyard match between Vampiro and The Kiss Demon. The match at least managed to establish a bunch of things. It showed that Team Taz had to be nearly murdered to be put down. It established Darby Allin as a risk-taking superstar. And it made Sting look cool. Good job, boys.
Main Event- Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match (Kenny Omega vs Jon Moxley)
Oh, this was a heartbreaker. This was a fucking heartbreaker. For this first time in over twenty years, a major American wrestling company was going to feature a match involving barbed wire and explosives. I bought this show solely on the strength of this concept. Plus, Omega and Moxley are two of the best wrestlers in the world, only behind “Hangman” Adam Page.
There’s this misconception that deathmatch is some absolute shitshow; a bunch of untrained idiots hitting each other with things in lieu of having an actual wrestling contest. This claim is usually accompanied by some clip of a preliminary match on some CZW or IWA Mid-South show, where a lot of those matches are in fact, untrained idiots hitting each other with things. Over in Japan, though, deathmatch wrestling is a goddamn art form. FMW, Big Japan Pro, W*ING, promotions like this had these kinds of matches all the time. Wire, explosives, thumbtacks, nails, broken glass, fluorescent light tubes. Grown men would throw themselves and their opponents onto these objects, bleeding and burning for the sake on entertainment. But these matches had a little something called “psychology.” There was a reason that these men were subjecting themselves to these barbaric conditions. I will post a link to what is probably the best deathmatch of all time between Atsushi Onita and Terry Funk. Take some time to watch it after you get done reading this. It’s not “garbage wrestling” when it’s done right.
What breaks my heart is that Omega and Moxley had a great match. It was utterly fantastic. It was brutal, it was bloody, it was violent. It, again, did what the opening tag match failed to do: convince us that these two men hated each other to the point of willingly entering a ring wired with explosives. Risking life and limb for the right to call yourself the best.
Omega ended up winning due to outside interference. But the story continues after the match. There’s still a 30 minute timer with a large explosive set to blow up the ring. Moxley is left, bloody and handcuffed, in the middle of the ring to be blown up on his own. At least until his hated rival Eddie Kingston comes out to try and rescue him. Kingston never actually hated Moxely; he just wanted to be champion, and would do whatever it took to get there, even if that meant having to hurt Jon Moxley. He can’t wake him up in time, so instead, Kingston uses his own body to cover up a prone Jon Moxely, calling back to the end of the Onita-Funk match I linked to earlier. And then…
The ring doesn’t explode.
All this drama; this genuinely emotional moment, killed instantly due to a technical malfunction.
The fucked up part about this whole show is that this absolute fuck up will completely overshadow it. I have spent nearly four thousand words talking about it, and this lack of an explosion is still sitting there at the front of my mind. An absolute botch that is not the fault of any of the wrestlers involved. Other than two matches, this was a great show, but it won’t matter, because Eddie Kingston being murdered by sparklers is the true highlight. It’s a damn shame.
Despite that, this was still a fun night. I don’t get to watch wrestling with friends. I tend to either watch the shows alone, or catch an illicit stream where I’m subjected to a chat full of chan board assholes. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday night. Glad I got to spend it having a good time with people I care about.
The wonderful thing about emulation and games preservation is that it allows us to discover a new treasure every day. In the nearly infinitely large library of video games, you are never at a loss for something to check out. There’s always some new discovery to make, a new favorite to add to your list.
And then also really weird fucking shit like this.
I’m Sorry is the biographical tale of Kakuei Tanaka, the former Prime Minister of Japan, and later a member of its House of Representatives, who fell from grace after he got caught taking somewhere between $1.8 million to $3 million in bribes from Lockheed-Martin in exchange for better negotiations for new fighter planes. This game features a lot of moments of this time in his life, such as: punching Japanese comedians with a fist nearly as large as his head, running from a statue of himself that somehow came to life, picking up lots of gold bars and bringing them back to the House of Representatives, and jumping over a rolling barrel. Surprisingly realistic for 1985.
I’m Sorry is like Pac-Man meets Dateline. It’s a maze game where you have to avoid an ever-threatening group of enemies, while collecting as much as gold as you can carry back to the home base. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that. It does however, get really fucking hard really quick. I would be lying if I acted like this game was a new discovery for me; I played the shit out of this as a teenager. Or at least, as much as one could play the shit out of an arcade game that never ends. Finding this ROM hanging around on the internet and wondering what exactly the fuck an “I’m Sorry” is led me to this wonderful game. And I’m Sorry is a good game. It’s difficult, yes, but also a lot of fun. Probably more fun than it has any right to be, but still fun nonetheless.
Something that I’m Sorry shines in is its use of pop culture. Tanaka’s enemies in this game are far worse than public opinion or any oversight committee. No, he has to deal with movie stars and musicians!
The first enemy you encounter (aside from the ever present and murderous Barrel) is famous Japanese comedian Tamori. When I played this as a teen, I had assumed that he was like a yakuza member, or whatever Japan’s equivalent to a tax agent is (probably a tax agent). Tamori is an early-game preliminary enemy who vanishes after the fourth level. He doesn’t really do much, other than run around and try to catch you.
But when he does catch you? You are treated to what is easily the single greatest death animation in the history of video games. Here it is:
The medium of games peaked in 1985, and nobody knew about it.
This next enemy, the internet informs me, is supposed to be legendary pro wrestler Shohei “Giant” Baba. Bull shit. This is obviously a buff Bill Cosby. I mean, this was the 80’s, a time when we all believed Cosby to be America’s Dadtm, and not a craven sex criminal. Anyways, Bill Cosby takes about a million punches to kill, so you’re better off trying to jump over him. What a fucking sentence.
Here’s a cool picture of Giant Baba (the REAL Giant Baba) smoking a cigar:
Here it is, everyone: Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a Sega game. Other than Moonwalking everywhere, he’s more or less a replacement for Tamori. He at least turns into a zombie and bites you, sticking to the canonical ending of Thriller.
I have no idea who this is. He’s some dude who jumps around all over the level. Judging from the attire and the hair, I’m going to assume that it’s a time traveling Kurt Angle, making a video game appearance 11 years before he won the Olympic gold with a Broken Freakin’ Neck.
And then there’s Madonna. She’s there. She blows long range kisses that can kill you. I’m not much of a Madonna fan, sorry to say.
Despite the game relying entirely on knowledge of contemporary Japanese politics to understand it, I’m Sorry managed to, somehow, get a release in the US. I can’t imagine that it was a big release or anything; never saw it at any arcade I ever went to, but that’s definitely the strangest and most baffling thing about this game. Maybe Sega and Coreland thought that it would succeed on the strength of it’s unofficial celebrity endorsements and kids at school telling their friends about this game “that’s kinda like Pac-Man, but with like, more stuff to do.” Games have thrived on less.
Something about I’m Sorry that I really appreciate is that I kind of miss this era of games. A time where you could make whatever weird ass shit you wanted and release it into the mass market. You can only do that on an independent level now, to a much smaller, more focused audience. It’s a real shame.
It’s only March, but I’ve already decided what 2021’s best game is. The title already gave it away, it’s fucking Cruelty Squad.
There’s this meme that’s been going for around the last year or so: “i want shorter games with worse graphics made by people who are paid more to work less and i’m not kidding.” It has since become something of a rallying cry against the suffocating culture surrounding “prestige” AAA video games, and the White Boy Indie Games that want to be just like them. I’m not here to regurgitate the tired “AAA vs Indie” argument that’s been done to death for about fifteen years. Not every AAA game is bad; Tekken, Resident Evil, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater all count as AAA games. Likewise, not every Indie game is this profound work of art, mostly the ones made by people who post threats in my comments section or hang around with TERFs.
I bring this up because this line is what Cruelty Squad best represents. I have to be careful here, because I need to find the right term to describe this game, but without making it sound disparaging. “Trash.” “Garbage.” “Ugly.” These are terms I’ve seen used to describe Cruelty Squad. Most of the people who say this are not necessarily wrong, mind you, it’s just that to anyone who isn’t a fucked up, problematic, twice-cancelled artist, these sound like insults rather than terms of endearment. I will instead say “aggressively unpolished.” A sardonic shitpost of a vid con with biting commentary that is delivered in a gruesome, extremely violent way. The kind of “messy” art that usually ends with you getting called a brownshirt by a cis woman who’s mad she wasn’t the center of attention for five minutes. It’s brutal. It’s hard as fuck. It’s funny; actually funny, not Borderlands-style “does anyone here like MEMES” bull shit. And the most important thing is the game is actually good. Not ironically good. Good good. This distinction needs to be made here.
So what exactly is Cruelty Squad? For starters, it’s a first person shooter. To be reductive, I would say to imagine what would happen if Hotline Miami was actually good. Fast, objective-based combat with multiple guns to kill people with. You can take different routes, or use an alternate play style, in each level. You can go loud with big guns and mow down everything that moves, or you can take the silent route by sneaking around with silenced guns or by kicking things so hard they explode into a shower of gore. It’s fucking cool as fuck.
Everything takes place in these big, non-linear (at least until the last level) landscapes. There’s no railroaded “Press F To Pay Respects” here. Because you often times have to assassinate more than one person, you can use these environments to pick your spot, so to speak. So you don’t just plan out how you’re going to kill something, with your weapons and your equipment, but where and how. It’s the little things that make this a game worth coming back to. Also, the game is really fucking hard, so you’ll be replaying levels because you keep dying. But that’s fine, hard games are good.
The whole of Cruelty Squad feels like a fucked up dream. One of those dreams where everything makes sense, until you wake up and think about what you saw and did and realize that it was absolute nonsense. The world looks weird. The people look weird. You just sort of teleport around as things just sort of happen. You walk through a wall and have to fight weird looking monsters. You unquestioningly go out of your way to murder an elected official at the mall, a mall with a store simply called “PUNISHMENT” that only sells Funko Pops. The only thing it’s missing is a level where you stock shelves at your old job with your 7th grade math teacher, and a level where you’re back in high school with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, only to realize that you graduated over a decade ago and can leave whenever you want. Few games can pull off the feeling of a lucid dream, even a game about literal dreams. Cruelty Squad does it in terrifying detail. A unique, scary experience.
Cruelty Squad is the game of 2021 because it is an important piece of art. A surrealist commentary on depression, social media, corporations parasocially trying to be your friend, the co-opting of leftist language for sinister means, pretty much anything you can hate about the world in these Roaring Twenties. The gaming equivalent of a mentally broken person, covered in blood, screaming incoherently at the sky. Raw and vulnerable, the final form of art. Despite the garish colors and angular models, Cruelty Squad is the most beautiful game I’ve played in years.