giving the master system its due

This is another one of those weeks where I’m away from home on business, and the SD card on my Switch died, so any entertainment I can get for the time being is whatever is on my laptop. Not too much of a difference between this and what I do at home; I mean, I’m always playing retro shit, but it’s still not the same as being in my Gamer Chair with a monitor that has a higher resolution and also having the option to also play fighting games and immersive sims when the mood strikes.

I figured that I would take this time to explore a gaming blind spot that I have: the Sega Master System, or the better named Sega Mark III in Japan. Much as I love me some Sega, this is the one system I have the least experience with; I could tell you more about the SG-1000 and the Nomad than I can this one. With a lot of time on my hands, and an inability to do any cool, creative work in said time, I thought I would bring back the old gimmick of playing a bunch of games, and giving some thoughts on them.

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World

In this day and age, people only see Alex Kidd as Sega’s failed attempt at a mascot until Sonic came along. This is a pretty fair assessment: Alex Kidd games were fucking terrible. Except for this one. Somehow, Alex Kidd wound up in a good game. Like, a really good one. Turns out all you needed was not have terrible controls, give Alex an attack range of more than half a pixel, and have level design that suits his abilities better. Who would have thought?

The whole point of this one is that it’s a cutesy take on the original arcade Shinobi, but now with Alex in place of Joe Musashi. Even if this game were terrible, I love the idea of it. Maybe if there were more Alex Kidd games that weren’t dogshit, Sega could have explored this idea of cutesy cross-overs more often. Alex Kidd in Outrun World, or Alex Kidd in Alien Syndrome World, or even Alex Kidd in Teddy Boy Blues. I think that could have worked, and Alex could have been a nice companion mascot for Sonic, instead of being relegated to fucking nothing.

Anyways, this cutesy take on Shinobi is really fun. Plays well, and is short enough (4 zones, with 3 stages per zone) to not drag for too long. I’d rather have a game leave me wanting more, than something that never fucking ends and winds up in your backlog for life. But I must say again that it’s a shame that we didn’t get more of these Alex Kidd cross-overs.

 

Rainbow Islands

It is no secret that I love me some Taito arcade games. Rainbow Islands is a certified all-timer, and I will take any opportunity to play it. Having played through to the end (including the secret 8th world), I can say that this is an extremely good port, only a step behind the PC-Engine CD version, and the original arcade game (naturally). Given that you don’t have to jump through as many hoops to get to the secret levels, you can even argue that it’s better. I mean, you probably shouldn’t, but you can.

Rainbow Islands is a cutesy sequel to Bubble Bobble where you kill monsters with chemtrails rainbows, collect fruit and colorful gems, all while listening to a peppy chiptune rip-off of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” Well, at least in the original versions: the SMS port changes the music slightly; I imagine someone somewhere, whether it was Taito or Time Warner Media, figured out that there could be some legal trouble with flagrant disregard for copyright law, and made some changes. Sure, it’s not the same without that classic tune, but it’s fine. At least it’s still leagues better than whatever that fucking audio disaster was on the Playstation and Saturn versions.

Like Alex Kidd, Rainbow is more bright, colorful, cutesy stuff that I’m quickly realizing is the Master System’s forte. A lot of stuff that plays well and looks nice. However, Rainbow Islands has something very ahead of its time: MORAL CHOICES.

Making the wrong decision does in fact give you a bad ending. You might become the president, or marry the hottest idol singer Japan has to offer, but you left your friends behind. What a jerk!

I should also point out that the original English release of this game is bugged, and you can’t actually get to the final world. The game will crash and send you back to the title screen, leaving a whole generation of kids confused at a very abrupt ending. You can remedy this by playing the Brazilian release, or downloading a patch.

 

Psycho World/Psychic World

Oh hell yeah, this game owns. The Master System does not have its own Mega Man game, but Psychic World is more than worthy of filling that role. You run around as this chick with psychic powers, shooting monsters and picking up new abilities from defeating bosses. Sounds fairly routine, and it kind of is in the sense that it is very much a shooter-platformer of the era. It slightly differs in that there’s some light puzzle solving: using your wind blast to turn vapor into ice, giving you platforms to jump on. Or having to use your flight ability to find hidden areas, or to destroy obstacles before they impede your progress three screens later. Or using an ability that gives you temporary invincibility to walk through level hazards. Fairly simple stuff like that. But the level design is really good, and does a good job of teaching you what your abilities do “on-the-job.”

Plus, the bosses are large and cool looking. Even the smaller mid-bosses.

Now, I have been told by The Internet that the Game Gear version of the game has better graphics, and the original MSX2 game has multiple paths in its levels, so I will have to give those two a shot at some point. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the SMS port; I might even put this up there with all-timers like Phantasy Star or Golvellius. Great game on a great system that definitely deserves better than its reputation as a low-rent NES or “lol Brazil likes it.”

I still have more of this system’s catalogue to explore; apparently this is home to the best version of Ultima IV. Maybe this could become a recurring feature on the site as well.

a real 100% legitimate actual review of hogwarts legacy

This is a game that everyone has been talking about, for one reason or another. A lot of controversy surrounding it, mostly due to the words and deeds of Harry Potter’s author, J.K Rowling. Transgender women the world over have begged people not to play it. Cisgender people the world over responded by saying “I am definitely going to play the game.” Others said that they would simply pirate the game, a much better stance to take, as telling a marginalized group that you are willing to support a piece of media based on the works of an extremely bigoted woman for free, rather than having wasted spent $60 ($70 on Playstation 5) of your hard-earned money on it, is much less offensive.

Now, granted, I understand that the opinions and thoughts of trans people are currently in the mud, and it’s hard to trust us due to some of us having a heinous, neo-nazi past where we did horrible things like watch South Park and the WWF back in 1998, or use the R-Word on Livejournal in 2002 to describe our high school math class. In fact, some of you may even close this tab as soon as I confess to having laughed at a Seanbaby article 22 years ago. After all, maturing and improving as a person are legitimately impossible; especially if you are a literal child brought up in societies where bigotry is the norm, and propaganda is broadcasted through media on a 24/7 cycle, and drilled into your head via the education system. So you probably don’t want to hear the literal embodiment of David Duke and Richard Spencer after they did the fusion dance and watched a History Channel special on Hitler tell you not to play a video game. I get that, and I can only apologize for my fellow Performative Male Allies being literally the only group of people on Earth to ever have a regretful adolescence. Definitely not a psyop at all.

Anyways, because of this, I thought I would actually plunk down the cash for this new Harry Potter game. I could have spent that money on anything: the upcoming expansion for Monster Hunter Rise, the PC port of Monster Hunter Rise, the re-release of Persona 4 Arena Now With Rollback Netcode, some season passes for KOF XV or Guilty Gear Strive, a whole lot of pornography, half an avocado, anything. But, I feel like I owe it to my betters in society to actually play Hogwarts Legacy before I pass judgement on it. Plus, I need to Support The Developers, as we all know that game developers do not make a single cent until the game is released and purchased by the public. So fuck it, let’s take a look at this, shall we? Let’s see what Avalanche Software has been up to since their Glory Days of developing Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero for the Nintendo 64.

I…hmm. I’m not one for being a graphics snob; I am firmly in the camp of art style trumping technical prowess. But man, this is really not looking like a AAA game.

Alright, prerendered graphics are making a comeback, I guess. I must admit that I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter movie, but this looks enough like Hogwarts, based on some commercials I saw for that short-lived Harry Potter trivia show that always played while I watched AEW Dynamite. There’s some castles, and a kid with glasses. That’s Hogwarts, right? So you walk around Hogwarts, I guess that’s the open-world aspect that this game is supposed to have. I think it’s open-world, I actively avoided any and all news about Hogwarts Legacy.

Harry is endlessly chased by a number of enemies, who are all faster than him, by the way. This makes sense, as Harry is but a child being chased by people much older and more experienced than him; it’s his fault for not having the wisdom of someone over twice his age with a rose emoji in their username who just finished reading Das Kapital. Again, I have zero knowledge of the Harry Potter series, so I’m sure there’s a reason he’s being chased around by a World War II soldier, a caterpillar in a keffiyeh, and the actual Grim Reaper. I was surprised at the enemy variety; I was honestly expecting like, a banker, a Hollywood producer, and uh, fuck, I don’t know, a guy who runs a bagel shop, I guess. Apologies to my Jewish friends, I’m not super up to date on all the stereotypes really shitty people hold you to.

The goal of Hogwarts Legacy is to slowly, and I mean slowly, walk around and pick up flying orbs that all move faster than Harry does, while avoiding enemies that all move faster than Harry does. What I’m gathering from all this is that Harry Potter is slowest mother fucker in the Wizarding World. You pick up a certain number of them, and you suddenly appear in a forest.

sorry, the FORBIDDEN forest

Anyways, the forest is more of the same. Walk around, pick up orbs, try not to get killed. Except there’s now a Sengoku-era Japanese peasant chasing you around, as well.

I forgot to mention that if you pick up a flashing orb, Harry turns blue for a short time, and can destroy any enemy by touching them. So what I’m gathering is that Hogwarts Legacy is Pac-Man. It’s fucking Pac-Man, except you can only see a small part of the maze at a time, the foreground makes it so you can’t see shit most of the time, and Pac-Man moves slower than an old person walking in front of you at the grocery store.

I very quickly made it to the third area of this open-world adventure, simply titled “Journey beyond your imagination.” Okay.

You know what? Fair. If I were a character in a J.K Rowling story, I feel like the Middle East would in fact be something beyond my imagination. Or at least the Middle East as depicted in Disney’s “Aladdin.” There’s not much to say here: it’s more fucking terrible Pac-Man. I feel like this level might be the hardest one so far, what with all the tight corridors and turns you need to make. I should also point out way too late that the controls in Hogwarts Legacy are really fucking bad. Harry only does one thing: Walk, and that’s still a struggle. Getting Harry to turn a corner is a magic spell in and of itself. Regardless, with some effort, I got all the fucking bull shit orbs and made Peace In The Middle East.

The game took me back to the title screen, except there’s no “Push Start” prompt this time. I spent sixty bucks on this!? This is it, huh? This is what people are willing to alienate their trans friends over? Like, okay, yeah, we’ve done really shitty, unforgivable things to cis people that have destroyed their trust in us, like think Eminem’s first album was kind of sick back when “My Name Is… (Slim Shady)” was constantly playing on MTV, but come on dude. As we all know, every trans woman with an “edgelord” phase was literally wielding tiki torches during the “Unite The Right” rally, not listening to Marilyn Manson and saying “man, Mr. Kliegerman is a real faggot” during the lunch period in 7th grade. So maybe monetarily and/or morally supporting J.K Rowling, a person whose dogshit views are legitimately being used to justify legislature that will make life infinitely harder for people, is what we deserve in return. Harry Potter Hogwarts Legacy, Game of the Year 2022. Support those developers, ya’ll.

Fuck off.

Going to tell my kids that this was Elden Ring (Ultima)

A couple weeks back, I was recovering from my COVID booster shot. That shit left me wracked with pain, exhaustion, and it gave me a cold somehow. As such, I needed to pass the time doing things where I didn’t have to move much, and sitting down watching TV and YouTube can only entertain me for so long. So, how about a retro game? How about an RPG, at that? Should I do more Wizardry? There’s Never Been A Better Time To Play Wizardry! No, no, let’s do something different for once. Wizardry isn’t the only groundbreaking RPG series responsible for influencing literally every game in its genre in the decades since. You know, I’ve played a lot of games in my life, but I have never played an Ultima. So how about I give it a shot?

I spent that week, on and off, playing the original Ultima whenever I either wasn’t passed out or unable to sit still because it felt like my nerve endings were on fire. I admit I didn’t have the highest expectations for Ultima; there’s this fine line I have when it comes to being able to accept medieval fantasy. There’s the cool, dark fantasy of things like Berserk, Japan’s take on Wizardry, and Dark Souls. On the other side of that coin, there’s Renaissance Faire Bull Shit, like post-Morrowind Elder Scrolls. The kind of bull shit where some cringe white guy puts on a ludicrous deep voice and a bad English accent and says something like “Hark! Dost thou wish to partake in a feast of mead and leg of lamb?” Essentially, being a weeb, but for the UK. Ultima always struck me as Renaissance Faire Bull Shit, and is why I avoided it for so long.

At the very least, Ultima 1 manages to avoid a lot of things I do not like about that sort of aesthetic. Instead, it’s actually a pretty charming little adventure. Playing through Ultima, it is extremely to see how it was able to influence the creation of games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.

Ultima really is the flip side to Wizardry, in that they are both extremely playable despite their age. Though, I must say that I am still firmly on Team Wizardry, and would consider that game to be extremely playable and infinitely replayable. But Ultima is still good: you wander around a surprisingly large overworld, take quests from kings, fight monsters in dungeons, and other things that are considered cliche in this day and age. If you have played literally any other RPG in the decades since, you’ll know what to expect out of Ultima if you haven’t experienced it yet. Once you figure out how everything works, you can knock it out in an afternoon.

The thing that really got me to like Ultima is in how creative it is. It doesn’t simply stop with fighting monsters and wizards. No, you fight monsters and wizards, but then you pick up laser guns that you can use in place of swords and bows. You can acquire a flying car that can travel over land and sea. You will eventually get access to a space shuttle (probably the same one Richard Garriott’s dad flew around in), and fly around in out space, shooting down TIE Fighters. There’s time travel. There’s regicide. All these off-the-wall ideas that go beyond “I like Dungeons and Dragons” like a lot of other CRPGs.

Space itself isn’t even an important aspect of Ultima. You simply fly around, shoot down 20 other ships, then land back on Earth. Once that’s done, you never have to fly again. It’s such a superfluous feature, but I love it for that reason. The addition of space travel was nothing more than, “space is cool” and let’s throw it in the game, why the hell not? I can appreciate that. Why are you able to pick up a laser gun and shoot skeletons and giant spiders? Because it’s cool. After all the flying is done, you go back to a castle that doesn’t have Lord British in it, kill the jester and all of the guards (the king too, if you want), and then you rescue the princess that’s in the jail. But if you become a Space Ace, suddenly she thinks that’s so much cooler than your average one-man army, and tells you the location of a time machine. Why is there a time machine? Why wouldn’t there be a time machine?

Ultima has this hyperactive energy of not giving a fuck that I absolutely adore. I like modern games, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of them feel way too “safe.” Everything has to be done a certain way, lest you be branded with the dreaded 7/10 and your company goes bankrupt. Few of these games have this wild energy that something like Ultima does. Ultima itself doesn’t even have that anymore. There’s just something about a couple of dudes throwing all their ideas at an Apple ][ and creating an entire genre from it. I think, more than anything, Ultima’s legacy is that of creativity, and going completely fucking wild in your game design ideas.

I watched the King of Fighters movie

Last night, I sat down with a couple friends as we watched the 2010 KOF movie together. I figured that since my last post was on KOF ’95, I would continue with that particular theme.

I’ll spare you any shock or surprise by telling you that this movie sucks. The problem with this movie sucking is that it doesn’t suck in a spectacular way, like a lot of other TV Game movies. Infamous examples like Street Fighter or The House of the Dead had at least some kind of redeeming qualities to them; Street Fighter was funny and Raul Julia was around to chew on the scenery like the world’s largest Termite, while House of the Dead had like 100 Matrix camera sweeps and thought it would be a good idea to cut game footage in-between fight scenes (also, the retroactive knowledge of Uwe Boll knocking Lowtax flat on his ass). The King of Fighters is simply boring. The best, and only, good thing about it is picking apart just how badly the film doesn’t seem to even know what the source material is, let alone not being true to it. So, let’s take a look at how badly the producers fucked this up.

Let’s start with the cast. For anyone who hasn’t played any KOF game, I’ve gone ahead and posted shots of the characters in the movie next to their in-game designs. So who do we got in this movie?

Mai Shiranui

 

Terry Bogard

 

Iori Yagami

 

Rugal Bernstein

 

And finally, get fucking ready for this: Kyo Kusanagi

That’s right, folks: the studio execs gave the fucking King of Fighters movie the Jake Gyllenhaal treatment.

Now, these are only the credited roles. Eagle-eyed viewers can find many “Easter Eggs” and figure out which other characters this movie fucked up.

Goro Daimon

Chin Gentsai

Joe Higashi

And if you look real carefully in this shot, you can see Leona Heidern

Yeah, right…..there!

Right away, you can tell that there was no care put into this movie at all. They couldn’t even be bothered to put a red wig on Iori’s actor. Or, for that matter, pronounce “Iori” correctly a single time throughout. “Eye-ori” Yagami.

There’s a plot to this movie. I think. Rugal Bernstein wishes to become “The King of Fighters,” and to do this, he needs to steal three ancient artifacts, and somehow transfer them over to virtual reality, where all of the KOF fights take place. Oh yeah, nobody in this movie can fight for real, and instead need to use Magical Bluetooth Headsets to enter the Metaverse and duke it out there. Anyways, by having these ancient artifacts, Rugal will finally be able to make the cliche “if you die in the game, you die for real” a reality. No, I do not know why he needs to do this, other than to be a dick. But it’s fine, because the script doesn’t know why he needs to do this, either. Nothing in this movie is explained; shit simply happens and then the credits roll. In order to stop Rugal and his video game addiction, CIA agents Mai Shiranui and Terry Bogard need to team up. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Mai and Terry are in the CIA. Because, you know, when I think “sexy big titty ninja” and “homeless guy with a tenuous grasp of the English language” I think of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Also, Iori is there because reasons, and Kyo shows up and does White People things.

Now, I’m not expecting a particularly deep plot here. After all, this is a movie based on a series of fighting games where super-powered martial artists call each other “dweebenheimer.” But I am expecting like, basic coherence. The Mortal Kombat movie was all over the place, but at least was all over the place in a way that made sense; everyone’s on an island where fights can break out at any time, and fights do in fact break out at any time and any place. Johnny Cage and Scorpion fighting it out in a random forest with no explanation still worked in that context. The fact that it was a mostly dialogue-free extended fight scene didn’t hurt.

KOF does not have this. It splits its time between nonsensical exposition, virtual fight scene, more exposition, another fight scene, and repeat. The characters all have to enter a VR chat room to fight in a tournament that has been going on for thousands of years. Thousands of years, a time frame that would have predated things like “virtual reality,” “electricity,” and “international relations.” A virtual reality that everyone totally knows about, yet CIA Agent Terry Bogard thinks it’s a non-existent bunch of bull shit. He does not believe that there is a VR world where people fight it out in a never-ending tournament, despite his CIA partner entering it multiple times, with several of his contacts also knowing about it. The long-standing rivalry between Kyo and Iori is not due to a predestined fate that they share, but because Kyo is biracial in this movie, and Iori is discriminatory against those who are only half-Japanese. You would think that maybe the casting decision to turn Kyo Kusanagi into Kyle Kusanagi would be a commentary on a very real issue in Japanese culture, but no, it’s just a quick way to cover their ass. These flashback scenes with Kyo where the whitest thing about him is his Gi proves that:

he literally outgrew being asian

The writing is a fucking mess, full stop. Maybe the only good thing it did was turn Vice and Mature into full-blown lesbians, which would be cool if they had any character beyond getting their asses kicked repeatedly like cartoon henchmen, and the scene where it’s strongly implied that Rugal rapes the both of them. Because, you know, that was the missing ingredient that kept SNK from overtaking the big boys of the arcade scene: sexual assault.

Something you may have noticed in these screenshots I’ve taken is that the movie is shot badly, too. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Dutch Angles. There are so many Dutch Angles that my hands involuntarily typed “How Do I Join Scientology” into Google.

Did I mention that Rugal is now Freddy Krueger in this movie? He has a different outfit in every fight scene, and he makes sure to ham it up with terrible lines. Ray Park sure has come a long way from playing Darth Fucking Maul in Star Wars.

I will give credit to this movie for one thing: the fight scenes themselves are actually pretty good. Turns out having a bulk of your cast played by stunt coordinators can lead to the action being well done. But, because this is the KOF movie, even that gets fucked up. Lots of quick cuts that kill the action, use of shaky-cam that makes things hard to follow, and those Goddamn Dutch Angles. When the actors are given time to breathe and punch each other, it’s pretty darn entertaining, but you have to sit through a lot of bull shit to get to those few moments of quality.

This movie sucks. Don’t watch it. If you laughed at any of my jokes, then you have been entertained better than this movie could do. And if you didn’t laugh at any of my jokes, then you have been entertained better than this movie could do. Go laugh at the Double Dragon movie or something instead.