racing roundup for may 2021

It’s that time of the year again where I’m not home for a couple weeks, and I don’t have access to my high-end Gamer Rig that allows me to enjoy popular 3D video games, or things like “a mouse.” So to relieve my boredom, I’m playing retro shit on my laptop. And seeing as how Monaco was this past weekend, thought it would be timely to talk about a few more racing games on here.

Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero GB World Championship ’91

Back in September, I had done a write-up on a few licensed racing games featuring Satoru Nakajima. Thought that I would very slowly cover the rest of them, as they are significantly lacking in quality compared to at least one and a half of their Mega Drive counterparts, and I would rather not rip off that band-aid right away. F-1 Hero ’91 is a game that seems like it’s pretty good. Looks fine. Sounds okay. Handles really well. No, the big problem here is an emulation issue where there’s really bad flicker that fucks with the path of the track. I recorded a short video of it, and while it’s not super bad here, it does get worse later on, looking like one of those weird 3-D games from the era that flashed two images one after another. Didn’t record that, as I didn’t want to take a chance and trigger someone’s epilepsy.

So this is a game that’s probably okay, but due to an issue outside of its control, I had to put it down pretty quick. That’s a shame. Despite being literally unplayable, it’s still better than the rest of Nakajima’s Nintendo outings. I’ll cover those another day.

Super Monaco GP

The very first racing game I ever covered for this particular feature was Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II. I thought that, for funsies, I would play the first game.

I have since come around on Sega’s Super Monaco games since August. Before, I would have said that these were okay, but nothing special. Now I’m totally into these games. One of the few Super Scaler games on the Mega Drive (yes, I’m American, but Mega Drive sounds cooler than Genesis) that’s any good. Super Monaco GP is a fairly simple, but still fun arcade port where you get into a car and drive faster than everyone else.

Sorry, let me correct myself. You get into THE car: the 1988 McLaren driven by Ayrton Senna. Quite obvious that Sega wanted to get an official endorsement here, but would have to wait until the sequel.

yes, this is a picture of the 1989 race, but it’s still the same fucking car, okay?

So you climb into the not-McLaren, and as Notrya Annes (yes, that’ll do), you kick everyone’s ass. Well, you’ll kick everyone’s ass so long as you learn how to use the stick shift. You try playing this in automatic, you are going to lose 100% of the time, as the top speed will cause you to helplessly watch as every other car on the track passes you by. Once you get used to that, though, the game becomes fun.

There’s also an extremely rudimentary World Championship mode. It’s not anywhere close to something like Super Hang-On; you simply race on different tracks, and then another driver will give out the mildest trash talk, and then you try to beat him during a race. It’s fine, clearly something to add some replay value to what would otherwise be a cut and dry port. Give it a shot, why not.

sadly, you do not start in the mclaren here

F1 Circus MD

Remember when I talked about one of the PC-Engine F1 Circus games, and I said, “huh, this must be a mistranslation of ‘circuit.'” Well, I was a fucking idiot. It’s circus.

Anyways, idiocy aside, this is the lone Mega Drive version in the series. The game itself is a pretty firm middle of the road (lol) racing game. Circus still suffers from some of the issues that its PC-Engine counterparts had, insofar as the limited perspective and touchy controls. However, it has one major improvement that makes the game far more playable: it has a fucking map.

Now, you can actually see when a turn is coming up, and how sharp it is, rather than only getting a turn signal and hoping for the best. A minimap is such a small thing, but it adds so much when you’re screaming down a track at high speeds.

F1 Circus also has weather effects, such as rain, which is cool. Starting the race with Rain tyres, then having to pit and switch to regular tyres as the weather clears up during the race, that’s also really cool.

and yes, i did steal the umbrella design for my own piece of racing sprite art

I don’t really much to say about F1 Circus other than that. It’s a solid racing game that is a few paces behind Satoru Nakajima Super License, but it’s still fun to play and mess around with for a little while. There are worse games on the system.

That’s it for this one. I’ll be back again next month for some more racing. Looks like the Mega Drive is the current king of 16-bit racing games.

miura

I was in the middle of writing a different blog post here tonight when the news broke with the sudden passing of Kentaro Miura. Miura was known for creating the manga series Berserk, or as my friends call it, That Fucking Thing Ramona Won’t Stop Bugging Us To Read. I’ve talked about it elsewhere, but never really here on my site, but I am a huge fan of Berserk. It’s late, and I’m still honestly in shock over the news, so I figured I would just talk about Berserk and its influence on me personally.

My introduction to Berserk was actually about twenty years ago. I had seen some screenshots of the Dreamcast game, and the body horror element caught my eye. I didn’t really think about Berserk much after that; I didn’t care for the game at the time because I was an immature idiot who simply did not know how to Get Good at games, and I didn’t finish it until a few years ago. My introduction to Berserk proper, as in the manga, would have been around 2017. I had seen a couple of friends talk about the series, and I was bored one night, so I went to one of those sketchy scanslation web sites and proceeded to binge the entire series until the early morning.

Finally sitting down to read Berserk was a moment in my life that felt like it had been a long time coming. I had never, and still have not, ever found a piece of media more relatable than Berserk. It’s the story of a man, Guts, born in literal filth, abused within a horrible upbringing, trying to find his place world. When he finally does, it’s all taken away in a horrific, traumatic way, leaving him broken, angry, and with the inability to trust anyone anymore. All Guts wants is revenge. He’s led by anger, occasionally stopping to do the right thing in a real jerk-off way. His friends are dead. The only person he’s ever truly loved is catatonic. Every night, he’s attacked by demons and spirits, summoned by a painful mark on his body, and sometimes even possessed by a manifestation of his own rage. During the day time, Guts is considered a criminal, and is frequently being arrested or attacked. All this, because he wanted a place to finally belong, and believed the words of a charismatic sociopath who ultimately betrayed him. Of course I loved the story of Berserk!

I can only think about how many years I’ve been fueled by my own anger. A desire for some sense of “justice,” whatever the fuck that might mean, for things that happened to me, and the people in my life. The self-loathing at feeling used. Not knowing if the next person who came along was legitimate, or if they had an angle.

Then there’s the next part of the story. Guts eventually amasses a small party of people who are just as fucked up and weird as he is. Before, Berserk was a story of a violent edgelord on a quest for revenge. Now? Now it’s a story of finding hope in an increasingly fucked world, making life better for the people around you, and you start to question that large screaming voice in your head: would revenge really fix everything? Let me tell you, it is hard to ignore the years of pain. It is hard to not feel small amounts of joy when those who have harmed you stumble slightly (see example: that whole thing I wrote when a bunch of shitheads were being shitty to Nathalie Lawhead). It is hard not to go back to being a reclusive asshole who doesn’t need nobody, even though you have a whole group of friends behind you. Berserk is important, and an influence on my work and my life because of all of this.

This news hurts as a fan. Hurts even more as an artist. Something that I have based my entire life around, especially in recent years, is being real. Miura was an artist who was 100% real. He made a series that was problematic as fuck, loaded with sex, violence, and sexual violence. But he didn’t do it simply for shock value (barring one particular arc that we don’t talk about and ultimately means nothing to the greater plot). No, there was a reason for the graphic decapitations and rape and torture and fountains of blood shooting out of monster and human alike. It was to highlight the corruption of authority; of politics and religion. To highlight the futility of war. To highlight things like xenophobia and racism. It was brutality with a message. There are few things in this world that manage to both be hard to look at, and also the most beautiful work of art you’ve ever seen, but Berserk did that. I love it.

The news of Kentaro Miura’s death fucking sucks. There’s no other real way to describe it. It hurts more than I thought it would, hurts more than any recent “notable” deaths. I can only hope that I can take that influence of Miura’s in a positive direction, and I can make something that’s at least a fraction as good as Berserk someday.

i’m watching the druaga an*me

A confession: despite being a massive Weaboo, I am actually way, way behind on my an*me watching. You name any recent series, and I have definitely not watched it. Hell, I’ve only gotten around to watching Inuyasha last night. It’s not from a lack of knowledge or resources that I don’t watch stuff, I’ve simply never made the time for it. I really do need to rectify this problem.

While watching Inuyasha last night with a couple of my friends (Miffy and Bachelor), we decided to also check the anim- sorry, we can’t to use the “A-Word,” the Japanese Animation listings on Tubi, as There Has Never Been A Better Time To Watch Something On Tubi. For the record, Inuyasha is only on Netflix (in regards to official channels), and fuck that. Anyways, while I was looking around, I noticed that there was an ani- fuck, a cartoon series from Japan based on The Tower of Druaga. You know, hey, I’m kind of known for my fandom for Druaga, and I really to need to watch some more ani- Japanimation anyway, so why not check it out? Probably because Bachelor told me, in no uncertain terms, “ohhhhh it’s bad, it’s really fucking bad!” Not that I’m the kind of person to disregard the opinions and advice of my friends, but I needed to see this for myself. It wasn’t that I thought it would secretly be good; the episode thumbnails looked really ugly, but I figured that it would be fun to watch this garbage and talk about it on my web site. This show fucking sucks! Let’s talk about it!

Episode 1- Wait, is this a fucking Isekai!?

Episode 1 is an extremely fast-paced, extremely abridged telling of a new generation of heroes going to the titular tower to fight Druaga. The new hero is a young man named Jil, which I guess is short for Jilgamesh, and his party of companions that he treats like shit. This is clearly meant to be a comedy, as there are a number of sight gags and goofy lines that come close to breaking the fourth wall. The problem here is that none of this shit is funny. You get stuff like, “My traveling companion whose name I can’t remember has been killed! Oh well, fuck it, let’s keep going.” Then when Jil does do the cliched “I’m full of burning anger and I’m going to kill the villain with the support of everyone I’ve met along the way,” it’s because a random inn keeper shows up on the top floor and is killed by Druaga. That’s some Family Guy level non-sequitur shit. Jil is a complete sociopath weirdo who sucks. He knocks out another one of his party members, leaving him to be killed by an oncoming army of monsters, and calling it a brave sacrifice.

yeah, thanks

And we definitely can’t forget about this:

Oh, a joke about sexual assault. That’s cool.

The writing is really bad and painfully unfunny. I haven’t really touched on the art yet. The art is pretty bad, too. It’s not super ugly, but it’s so utterly generic, and lacking in any real striking detail. The animation itself really relies on coasting along with static images on speed lines or on blinding white voids, with the rest of the episode mostly being characters standing around talking.

folks, this is not a smear frame. this was a five second lingering shot.

Maybe the budget for this wasn’t that high, but if that’s the case, why not make an intentionally lo-fi action-comedy using the cutesy style of the original games? This promotional material for the arcade game could just as easily be used for a short 15-20 minute show with sight gags and maybe a little less getting hard over a potential rape.

Though I guess if you do that, you can’t have blatant references to Gainax’s seminal works:

End of the episode happens: it was all a dream. Jilgamesh dreamt that he was a total dickhead who somehow saved the day by turning into an EVA, and is actually a shitty newbie whose lack of combat skills have completely fucked over the party he began the episode traveling with.

This sucked. The opening Ska theme song was alright, and I do like how the previews for the next episode uses the original Druaga graphics. My question is though: the intro led me to believe that this was an Isekai (character being transported to a fictional world and being stuck there). There was no Isekai stuff here. Whatever, let’s check out episode 2 and then never watch this again.

Episode 2- Wait, this got better somehow!?

Episode 2 takes a drastic turn. The animation is better. The tone of the show turns into a drama, with bits of humor, with a joke that’s actually pretty good. We start by seeing Jil and company get rescued from the cliffhanger that episode 1 ended on, then him getting fired and having to go back to the lower ranks of being an adventurer. When all the grizzled veterans laugh at him for being a little kid with no experience, he then proceeds to start talking some shit. Then a couple of vets start beating the shit out of him, but then freak out and back off when he starts no-selling their offense; I mean, he got hit over the head with a large rock and brushed it off.

Later, a young woman finds Jilgamesh sitting on a bench in an alley. And here it is, folks: the first joke in The Tower of Druaga that actually lands:

The girl who picks him up is Kaaya, who he teams up with after waking up from the ass kicking that he got. They are also joined by Ahmey, a lady knight who just so happens to be there. Unfortunately, that particular bit of characterization is not expanded upon, at least not in this episode. Before they all set out to climb the tower, Jil looks for his old party, which includes his brother Neeba, which I guess is short for Neebamesh. Instead, Jil overhears them talking about assassinating King Gilgamesh, the hero from the original game. Of course, he does not overhear the context of them trying to foil the assassination plot, so he goes back to Kaaya and Ahmey to launch a counter to this plot.

I’m summarizing the plot here because, holy shit, I was expecting more ugly garbage with shitty rape jokes and an unlikable protagonist. Now it’s like, an actual show? Granted, it’s still not amazing or anything, but it’s also not the fucking doldrums of episode 1. I was expecting to tear into this series, as the beginning of this post stated (letting the cat out of the bag and letting you know that I sometimes write these posts while experiencing the media in question in real time), but now I’m in this state of “fuck, should I keep watching this?” Episode 2 ended on a cliffhanger, and I still don’t know if this series is an Isekai, or if the opening was just some weird stylish shit that threw me off.

Now, I still think that a cutesy show in the style of the old promotional materials would be better, but this show did a 180 on me, and left me somewhat impressed. I might check out episode 3 sometime (only 12 episodes in the first season of two), just to see if the show gets better, or if remains kind of mediocre, but clearing the bar established by the first episode. I would still recommend playing the games over watching this, but I mean, if you got a couple hours to kill, you could probably do worse.

Damn, I’m thinking I really need to get on the trolley in regards to watching more anim- sorry, series of moving pictures drawn and storyboarded from the Land of the Rising Sun. Go full-on Weeb this Summer.

Right, I did mention that the opening theme to this show is pretty cool. Take a listen:

mailbag #1

Well. Last weekend has been, uh, a bit eventful. I admit, I’ve been debating with myself what to do after that. I mean, I wrote a very personal, vulnerable thing that brought out and brought back a lot of bad memories, and put a larger spotlight on me, which admittedly made me a bit nervous and filled me with a sense of dread. I wasn’t (I’m not) afraid or full of dread over any sort of reprisal, but rather because I had so many people looking at me for reasons other than for something I made. Also, I’m the kind of person who prefers having a smaller audience anyway; I’ll put a bullet through my miserable skull once and for all if I turn into one of those weirdos that calls their fans a “family” or some other parasocial bull shit. Wasn’t sure if I should take a week off, because it’s not like you can go back to business as usual, right?

Fuck that. It’s business as usual, baby! Let’s have some fun and talk about some video games or something.

Anyways. It’s Spring. The weather is getting warmer, the birds are out, my allergies are kicking in. It’s a great time. It’s also that time of the year where I get bored, and try out new, weird shit on my site. This new, weird idea is the Mailbag. I set up a contact form (click here), so neither myself nor anyone else who wants to talk to me has to use social media, or make a Curious Cat account, and I’m also not making my own Discord server because, again,I don’t feel comfortable managing a community brought together over me. With this form, you can send me questions, leave a comment, or whatever. As someone who is frequently asked what I think about [thing], I figured this would be a good idea.

I got some questions, so I am going to answer them.

(Quick disclaimer: I will never, ever, post your email address on here.)

From: Lariria

What are your thoughts on Grandia 1?

Funny thing, I have never played Grandia prior to getting this message. It’s not like I’ve never had opportunities to play it, I just never did. However, I did spend around an hour playing the game before sitting down to answer this. Grandia has a very slow start. Normally, I hate RPGs that do this, but I didn’t really mind it here. Mostly because the slow start establishes this group of kids as being, well, a group of kids, getting into trouble and having fun. Doesn’t hurt that the dialogue is actually pretty funny (I’m playing the fan-translated Saturn game, for the record).

Grandia seems pretty cool. I didn’t spend that much time with it, in terms of RPG standards, but I think this is something I might want to come back to again.

justin, a boy after my own heart

 

From: miffy

what’s the worst game you can think of that you would wholeheartedly recommend?

This was a tough one to answer. I was trying to think of something that I hadn’t already written about (so no Hydlide, for example), or something that’s actually good, but got a bad critical reception (such as God Hand).

I would start with Daikatana. The first episode is terrible, the weapons aren’t especially great to use, and “Superfly” Johnson isn’t exactly the most sensitive representation of a Black man. It’s not especially great, but it has its charm. It has heart. If nothing else, it definitely should not have been what derailed John Romero’s career for the last twenty-one years.

Another one I would recommend is Earnest Evans, on Sega Genesis and Sega CD. It is awful. It plays like shit, the levels don’t make any sense, and Earnest himself animated like a Marionette. But there’s this weird “It” factor. Like, it sucks, but it sucks in an interesting way. You can finish the game in about fifteen minutes, but it’s an interesting fifteen minutes.

Last one (for now) is going to be Death Crimson on the Sega Saturn. This is a pretty infamously bad game, and also one that is beloved despite that. It is at least as bad as you’ve heard, if not worse. And it also completely fucking rules. It has inspired some cool stuff, like that custom controller:

And the game’s composer has what is the most infectiously happy YouTube channel there is:

 

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Well thank you, definitely real person, that left this comment in a random post I made about two years ago. Hope you are your very real friends and family are having a nice day!

 

From: CJ

I am curious to see what kind of disaster you think the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake is going to be! My personally theory is that 30% of the charm is going to be lost immediately when you lose the spatial puzzle aspect of organizing the inventory.

Okay, yes, a remake of Resident Evil 4 will be an absolute fucking nightmare. The remakes of 2 and 3 were not particularly that good to begin with, and RE4 is a timeless classic that does not need to be fucked with. This remake will definitely cut out the attache case. It will probably also be like RE3 and cut out like an entire third of the game for no reason, and I bet it won’t have The Mercenaries in this one, too!

There is no way this will be anything other than a major disappointment. That being said, I’m still playing it. I mean, if I can play through Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps, I can tough it out through an extremely disappointing retread of a game that can be purchased on literally every gaming platform that has existed for the last twenty years.


That’s all the messages in the bag. Feel free to send some shit, and I’ll respond to it. If you want to hear my thoughts on something, or if you want to tell me to fuck myself and die, the link is at the top of this post and on the sidebar.