aew revolution

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.

Fuck.

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.

gonbee no i’m sorry

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.

Now then, M2, where is our I’m Sorry Switch port?

GOTY 2021 CRUELTY SQUAD

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.

making some observations

This is one of those weeks where I played a bunch of games and watched a bunch of movies, but I couldn’t really find anything worth a whole write up. I wanted to do a post about the Valis games, as I just finished replaying Valis 2 a couple days ago, but I felt that it would be in poor taste to talk about a series featuring scantily-clad high school girls right after I made a post about porn.

Instead, I think I’ll talk about observations about different aspects of the games…um…for lack of a better term, “community,” that I’ve picked up on lo these many years. So these aren’t necessarily new thoughts that I have, but I don’t think I’ve ever brought up my grievances outside of late night Discord calls before.

this will be another one of those posts where i put unrelated images in to break up the walls of text. this is a screenshot from “clockwork knight” on the sega saturn.

The thing about playing and writing about retro games is that the internet will give you lots of information that you don’t want. If I want to look up release dates and system ports? Google is occasionally good at that, when it isn’t trying to shove obvious spam links at the top of the query. Like yeah man, I bet I’ll find out all sorts of info on Hydlide from a URL like flyfishingwinelaw.shoes or whatever the fuck.

This bull shit carries over into the dread YouTube Algorithm. That evil thing that assumes you logged on specifically to watch 100% unfiltered white supremacist garbage after you watched three videos where cats did humorous things. Luckily, I’m getting a lot less “SJW’S RUINING STAR WARS!?” videos featuring some guy standing in front of a wall of Funko Pops. What I get now is video after video of people buying stuff. Retro collectors basically showing off how much money they have in the stupidest way possible.

I just want to say: first of all, collectors can go to hell. Because “collectors” also includes these motherfuckers hoarding all this rare, expensive shit, refusing to dump or scan these things for the rest of the world to appreciate, holding hostage the work of defunct companies and deceased artists. These anti-preservation sacks of garbage directly contributing to capitalism’s slow murder of art. I’m a person who doesn’t care if you play a game on original hardware or through a Retroarch core, or if you watch a movie on Laser Disc or in MP4 format, so long as you’re able to still enjoy it. These people are my enemy.

Second of all, you assholes are fucking BORING. I don’t know how to tell this machine that puts these garbage videos in front of me that I don’t give a fuck about some 40 year old idiot with no personality other than “I remember things I saw on TV as a kid” recording himself looking for 80’s shit at Goodwill, rubbing his hands all over the merchandise, which is definitely a good thing to do during a pandemic at a place frequented by lower income families, you selfish fuck, and going home with a bunch of Ninja Turtles merchandise to fix the hole in his heart left by his wife divorcing him. Or else you get these five minute videos about an old NES game that all follow the same script: “The game was good. The graphics are nice. The sound is an eight out of ten. All in all, I had a fun time. Like, comment, and subscribe.” You’re not going to tell me any of this shit in more detail? Not going to tell me what attracted you to the game or the Leonardo But With A New Hat action figure? Do any of you know how to think critically? Do any of you know how to think at all? Fuck! Get another Mario tattoo and drive to the store in your Dodge Dart that you customized to look like the car from Ghostbusters.

It can be very obnoxious, because I like to look for new voices. I like to find people who are creative with their thoughts. People with a fucking personality. People who can tell a joke that isn’t “the cake is a lie” or “arrow to the knee.” I mentioned before that I worry about being too normal. In my eyes, being a status quo Normie is the worst thing I could be. Being weird, traveling off the beaten path, having a little goddamned culture is where it’s at. I’m friends with multiple artists and free thinkers, I sometimes get a little self-conscious, because I talk about “normal” things like games. I’m developing games right now, games that are more in line with the mechanics-driven works I played when I was younger, rather than games steeped in a large narrative. I sometimes feel like I’m losing my touch; that spark of madness that makes me Me. Then I watch videos like this and it hits that no, me at my worst is still about a million times better then these clowns at their best.

But it could always be worse. They could be people who work on video game fan-translations.

Oh fuck yeah, bro, fan translations! A way for people to enjoy work in their native language for when companies don’t have the time, resources, or just straight up don’t exist anymore to do localizations themselves. And also at least 95% of the people who work on these (or at least work on the programing aspect of them) also happen to be, ironically enough, racist as fuck. Hey, thanks for translating this hours-long Japanese RPG, let me go to your web site or to your social media to see what else you’ve worked on. Oh okay, you seem to have some fucked up views on Black people! Hmm, yes, another joke about pronouns that got old ten years ago! Lots of Ben Shapiro and Mike Cernovich retweets you got here! You sure do have a wonderful theory that Trump can take back the White House from Joe Biden who stole the election thanks to the forced-feminization satellite laser owned and operated by Anita Sarkeesian! Nice sidebar on your website dedicated to showing a random Chuck Norris joke! A checklist of things anyone with any remote sense of empathy for another human being is beyond tired of seeing and hearing.

Shit like this is no secret; I’ve known about it for years. But I found out last night that one of these assholes did a bunch of Wizardry translations. It was bad enough that these motherfuckers tried to ruin the Ys series for me, now they have to go after goddamn Wizardry. What did those games ever do to you, huh?

I just want to grab one of these guys by the shoulders and shake them until they understood that YOU WORK WITHIN A REALM OF MEDIA THAT USES A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE THAT IS NOT RELATED TO WHITE PEOPLE IN ANY WAY, YOU STUPID ASS! Despite what your boy Hitler may have said about the Japanese back in the 30’s and 40’s, they are actually Asian. You know, the same people you blame for spreading the Coronavirus, assuming that you haven’t gone literally mask off and think that the virus is fake?

Now you, the astute reader, may think to point out Japan’s history of xenophobia and its own issues with right-wing bull shit, both in the past and at this very moment. I counter that with the following: do you actually think these fuckheads are actually smart enough to ingratiate themselves in the conservatism of another country? Let’s be real, these are guys who watched some an*me and assumed, wrongly, that Japan is this apolitical paradise where queers and women with their own autonomy don’t exist. Guys who think that their weird asses can simply stroll into the country and get the waifu of their dreams within moments of the airplane touching the ground. Guys who are dumb enough to believe that Metal Gear is not a political work. Hate the idea of the rest of us having to rely on the dice roll of whether or not a new translation of a piece of media that looks interesting was done by some shitheads that may or may not have tried to slide in their own bigoted beliefs into the text (see example: the Netflix version of Neon Genesis Evangelion). It’s fucking stupid, and if you’re going to be an alt-right fuckhead, at least be consistent and hate all of the races, not just some of them, and maybe the cognitive dissonance will get you the fuck out of game localization. And also leave things I like, such as Wizardry, the fuck alone. Jerks.

Despite all of this, I still love games. I love to talk about them. I love to make them. I love to find other decent human beings that can also do these things in a creative way. But fuck me if there isn’t also a lot of annoying and outright evil shit you have to deal with to get there. The reward is usually enough to make up for it, though.

3DO-Face Gaiden: The Yakyuuken Special- Kon’ya Wa 12-kaisen!! (NSFW)

About a week or so ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Hazel about the stigma that comes with adult video games. Why they’re so frequently dismissed and mocked to hell and back. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why, and seeing as how this is my web site, I’ll go ahead and present my argument here.

Fifty percent of why porn games are looked at with scorn is that, as an American living in America, it’s not hard to notice that we live in a society (yeah, I know, lol) that is hypocritically hypersexualized, and overwhelmingly puritanical. Every check-out line at a grocery store has some magazine with a woman barely covering her titties on the cover. Commercials with some model bending over while eating a burger or some shit. Ads on so many websites telling you that YOU WILL NOT LAST FIVE MINUTES PLAYING THIS FUCK SEX GAME. But also, society will look down on the women who are involved with this, as if using your body to make a bit of money is this heinous act. People will have entire hard drives full of porn, then go onto Twitter or Instagram and call the performers disease-ridden whores right to their digital faces. It’s totally cool to go to a strip club, but you’re looked at as less of a man if your partner works at one. The entire existence of the term, “turning a ho into a housewife.” My high school sex-ed was Abstinence-only bull shit, and I’m pretty sure that’s still the case for schools today. Sex before marriage? You’ll go to hell! You get the ludicrous idea drilled into your head that you can get a girl pregnant by so much as looking at her too hard, and not even the world’s strongest condom will help you.

And this is just the hetero side of things! Looking at gay material, pornographic or not, is referred to as “sinning.” As in, “oh, I’m totally sinning” when looking at something as benign as fanart of two dudes kissing. Sinning. Evil. I can think of at least two trans sex workers who were singled out and accused of preying on minors in 2020, not for actually committing any acts against children, but for the crime of making porn and oh my god, what if a child runs across it? As if nobody underage has ever gotten access to adult materials at any point in recorded history until those goddamn trannies came along. As if HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime never existed. I came of age (no pun intended) during the height of peer-to-peer software. Things like Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire. You didn’t have to try to find porn, it would find you. It would show up in completely unrelated search queries. I’m not about to write a call-out post on Jenna Jameson, Belladonna, or Danielle Foxxx, though. The world of straight porn is dominated by “step-sibling” themed scenes where the girl involved is dressed up like Misty from Pokemon or some shit, yet some 30-something jacking it in front of her webcam is the height of degeneracy.

This whirlwind of horseshit hypocrisy can and is doing potentially irreparable damage to a new generation. It’s concerning how often you see some completely unhinged take from some 16 year old on Twitter who will threaten sex workers with, “if I find your work, it is your fault, and you are a predator, because you did not protect me from myself.” An entire generation getting closer to or at their early-20s espousing these extremely shitty, conservative views about a woman’s bodily autonomy. As easy as it is to fob all this off as “these goddamned kids these days,” we have to ask ourselves: who taught them this shit? The answer is us. We fucked up, and failed this generation, the same way the generation before failed us, and the generation before failed them. A decade ago, allegedly fully grown adults on Tumblr and other fandom hell holes putting forth these us vs them ultimatums and call-outs against those that were different. They learned it from watching us, okay?

This should all be obvious to anyone reading this, but I just wanted to take a moment to complain.

The other fifty percent of why porn games are so looked down upon is because most of them are dog shit. This is The Yakyuuken Special- Kon’ya Wa 12-kaisen!! It is no different.

What is The Yakyuuken Special? It is a Sega Saturn game where you play rock-paper-scissors with a girl. Every time you win, she takes an article of clothing off, until she is naked. That’s the whole game. There is not much meat to it. However, the AI fucking cheats. The game will pull off some SNK boss bull shit to ensure these women keep their clothes on. Any lewd screenshots you see are the result of me using savestates until I could beat the CPU. So much effort, for resulting nudity that is honestly pretty disappointing.

And maybe that’s another issue with adult games: you have to work for it. When people are in the mood, they can simply watch a video or look at some images, or even dial up a phone number. The last twenty years of the digital age have made this easier than ever. You could sift through reams and reams of badly formatted text, play through a bad platformer, a bad fighting game, or a brutally difficult rock-paper-scissors session to get some goods, or you could simply remove all the bull shit and log onto a web site or open up a media player. An actually good adult game, such as Hardcoded, has to compete not only within an already competitive video game scene, but with multiple forms of other media. A bad one like this can easily be discarded.


Doesn’t help that whoever put this game together went out of their way to make the women involved look as unappealing as possible. Please do not take this as me bodyshaming, because these are not ugly women by any stretch. But you would be hard-pressed to think otherwise when you’re presented with porn starring people who look like someone’s mom. And I don’t mean a “mom,” I mean an actual, PTA meeting attending, sitting on the bench at the playground Mother. Like, how do you take adult actors in their 20s, and make them look like the gossip group at church??

It’s yet another example of taking a unique, interesting concept (the concept of an erotic video game), and completely fucking it up by making it look like shit. Nothing is helped by the women dancing with all the passion and energy of feeling like there is someone off-camera holding a gun.

It took me about ten minutes of saving and loading over and over to see a half-naked woman on my Sega Saturn emulator. That is a lot of fucking work. Maybe if you’re the kind of person with a denial fetish, this will work for you. But for everyone else, this is just some cynically made bull shit. It is not impossible to combine erotica and video games. The problem, is that developers just don’t want to try. Fuck it, they already got your money, you can eat shit and like it. It’s honestly a bit frustrating. Another one for the trash pile, I suppose.

Anyways, here’s your “reward:”

this sucks

STGs

The thing about challenging myself to at least one post per week, during a time where I’m not going outside much due to disease and the weather being in the negatives, is that I worry about becoming too boring. It’s why even though I’ve mostly been writing about one subject (games) all this time, I like to cover other types of games, and different generations. I don’t want to do racing games every week, or posting any incremental progress in an RPG every Wednesday, mostly because I would get bored of writing it, and I can only begin to imagine how bored you would get with reading it. The idea of being repetitive scares me. This paragraph is sort of a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been getting into shooters this past week.

Something about shooters really appeals to me. I am, at the moment, mostly terrible at playing them. Despite that, they have this sort of video game purity that I enjoy so much. Shooters and fighting games (puzzle games too, arguably) have this; this moment where you play long enough, and your mind begins to become one with the internal mechanics that the game presents to you; this strange ballet of brightly colored bullets and a spaceship dancing around all of them. During this time, you either master the challenge of the obstacles and opponents before you, or you fuck it all up, and still learn something from it. Watching high level play in either of these genres is fascinating to me because of this. I love to think of new strategies or ways to rectify mistakes I made mid-game.

I also love the feeling I got from 1cc’ing (that means “1 Credit Clearing”) the few shooters that I have. For the record, those games are:

  • Sin and Punishment (Nintendo 64)
  • Coryoon: Child of Dragon (PC-Engine)
  • Gradius* (PC-Engine)

(putting an * because I’m not entirely sure how I accomplished this, or if it was even legitimate. I was incredibly fucked up on Vicodin at the time (want to say around 2011), and I haven’t been able to replicate this success since then)

I’ve currently been “sampling” various games, trying to find one or two good ones to really dedicate my time to, so as to get that coveted 1cc. Of those, I’ve been sampling Blazing Lasers, Super Star Soldier, Gradius V, Thunder Force IV and V (I fucking suck at Thunder Force), and Raging Blasters (BUY THIS GAME). I’ve gotten close to that 1cc goal in Blazing Lasers and Gradius (only played Raging Blasters “arcade” mode once, opting for getting points in the Caravan mode), while failing miserably at the others. Needless to say, I think I’ll be sticking to those two games until I can get it, before moving on. It’s like getting into fighting games: if you spread yourself too thin amongst vastly different games, you’ll never really master any of them. Unless you’re SonicFox.

“Traditional” shooters are the order of the day, here. One, because I fucking love old-school shit. Two, because Danmaku (“Bullet Hell”) shooters probably aren’t the best place to learn how to finish one of these games, especially since I can’t even get past the third level in most Danmaku games without having to use a continue every thirty seconds. So no DoDonPachi or Touhou. Let me learn how to crawl before I learn how to run a marathon.

i am currently 19th in the world for raging blasters caravan mode

I’d like to come back to this with another post once I finally 1cc something. The concept of getting better at something is what drives me. Doesn’t matter if it’s art, writing, music, even something as relatively unimportant as “being good at hard video games.” STGs are an entire genre dedicated to that very thing, and I fucking love them for it.

probably not a surprise to learn most of the best shooters of the era were on this little white box

the pc engine is god’s favorite console, part 2

Been meaning to do another one of these posts, but then I get distracted by something shiny and write about something else. But luckily for all of us, it’s snowing outside, cold as fuck because my heat’s not working for some reason, and I ain’t got much else to do this weekend, so I’m going to do another PC-Engine write up woo hoo.

Kato-chan and Ken-chan

This game rules. It’s one of those platformers where you are constantly having to move forward, as your health is always draining. So something like Adventure Island or Wonder Boy (if you haven’t played those games, then what the fuck are you doing here?). This is also a licensed game, starring two Japanese comedians: Cha Kato, and the late Ken Shimura (RIP). Over here, they’re mostly known for being the reason that America’s Funniest Home Videos exists. As such, the game itself has this goofy comedic tone to it.

And by that, I mean there’s lots of shitting and pissing and farting everywhere.

You hold down on the d-pad, and your fart cloud can kill an enemy dead in their tracks. You run from point to point, dodging bird shit, large boulders that look like globs of shit, getting power ups out of public bathrooms, dealing with enemy flies (which are attracted to shit), avoiding falling bed pans, there’s just lots and lots of shit everywhere. If that’s too low-brow for you, first of all, go to hell, and second, maybe you’re better off playing something more your speed: Flower, Gravitation, Journey, or some other bull shit made for people who have never had fun a day in their lives. I might be a Serious Artist, but I will still appreciate poo-poo pee-pee humor.

Anyways, the game is fun as hell. At least until you reach the last stage, which is the worst Mario Lost Levels bull shit imaginable. But otherwise it’s great.

Batman

Hey, it’s a Batman game by Sunsoft! Say what you will about Batman the character, Sunsoft made some good shit in his likeness. You’ve no doubt heard of the other Batman games, but you might not be familiar with this one, at it was never released outside of Japan. You may that find that odd.

Or not.

Batman on the PC-Engine is pretty much a less cerebral Bomberman (ironic, given that you play as the World’s Greatest Detective). You walk around, all short and stubby, shooting Batarangs at enemies while picking up boxes of who knows what off the ground. That’s about it. After what feels like a million levels, you move on to the museum, and restore paintings that have been vandalized by the Joker’s henchmen. It’s a little off the beaten path, to say the least, and would certainly explain why we never saw the game.

bruce wayne has enough money to invest in that hell hole known as arkham asylum, yet he can’t invest in fixing gotham’s road infrastructure so that cars don’t drive about 100 through a “walk” signal.

This is kind of a short write-up. Mostly me saying “ha ha hey, look at this weird Batman game!” If you’ve played Bomberman to death, and are getting tired of Cratermaze, you might like Batman.

Right, can’t forget the sick version of the NES Batman music:

 

Now, a couple of you will probably stumble across this post while doing a Google search for info on the PC-Engine, or to be precise, what its best games are (to ensure this, let me game the SEO real quick: PC ENGINE BEST GAMES COCAINE PORN SEX). You don’t care about some weird obscure shit with loads of jank to it. You want me to get to the “good” shit, the objectively best titles on the system. First of all, idiot, there is no such thing as an “objective opinion.” Second, fine, I’ll kowtow to you apes, you fucking animals for a moment. Here it is, the best game on the PC-Engine:

It’s Rondo of Blood. Of fucking course it would be Rondo of Blood.

Like, what else were you expecting?

Rondo is the best game on the PC-Engine. By a mile. I would even go so far as to claim it is the best Castlevania; even better than Symphony of the Night. I know that there are some people who are wrong that will claim Super Castlevania IV is the best, but they are wrong, Gabi. It’s Rondo.

You could probably write an entire book around Rondo’s sense of design. The level design. The two characters that play vastly different from one another, without detracting from the game itself. The secret areas that reward you for being curious and looking around. Plus the great sprite art and music. Everything comes together in this tight, focused package. For as great as Symphony is, it’s all over the place. By the end, you have a warehouse full of armor you’ll never wear and weapons you’ll never use. Most of the hidden areas in that game don’t really make a whole lot of sense; as if it’s normal for Dracula to have a spare bedroom in the ceiling of his coliseum. Rondo has a vision, and runs straight for the goal. Also Michiru Yamane is a QAnon follower, so SOTN gets knocked down a few spots as a result.

Aside from just being a fucking great game, I appreciate all the little touches in Rondo. The way levels are designed around feeling like an actual place, in addition to being a series of obstacles. Being able to do stuff like read signs. It’s such a little thing, but it tickles a pleasure center in my fucked up brain. Discovering things like Richter being able to extend the range of his whip, or Maria’s secret Hadouken. Or finding that room in the boat level that leads to a mystery door that was probably part of an area cut for time.

A series of little things that build up to one good thing. That’s Rondo of Blood. A shame they don’t make them like this anymore. But for the love of God, stay as far away from the PSP remake as you can. That one is garbage.

That’s three more PC-Engine games worth checking out. Three more games on God’s Favorite Video Game System. Please play the PC-Engine. I don’t give a fuck if you emulate it, buy the PC-Engine Mini, or import an original one at an exorbitant price, just play the fucking thing.

there is some cool stuff on the internet archive

Some time ago, I want to say maybe a few weeks back, I was in a Discord call with my friend Miffy. I was watching her work on a project, which looked pretty fucking cool. The project in question used a lot of fashion references, which meant that there were a few nights where all we did was look at fashion magazines from about 10-20 years ago on the Internet Archive. I don’t know much about fashion myself, as my plaid leggings and Bullet Club T-Shirt will attest to, so it was fun to browse through them.

Something that we both discovered was the Archive’s “Collections” feature. Basically, a user’s likes with its own dedicated page. One of these was labeled, “grapes.png’s Favorites.” Okay, who the fuck is grapes.png? It’s such a weird link to throw out amidst a series of Vogue back issues and Shinjuku fashion mags. So of course we clicked it.

It was straight up porn. After we both got done laughing about that (followed by my despair at seeing all the antisemitic shit in there), the wheels in my head started to turn. There’s porn on the Internet Archive! Now, in my experience, if there’s porn somewhere where there’s not really supposed to be porn, then that means that there is other really cool shit hidden around. That’s what this post is about: here is some cool shit that I found.

1. Look at all this cool trans/queer shit

Let me start with something kind of serious, before I get to the gaming and artistic stuff. One of the few historical outlets we have for where we came from exists on this site. There a lot of trans publications from the 70s and the 80s, and probably even before then, that talk about The Culture of the era. Reading some of these as I write this, it’s actually really fucking cool to see all these girls having fun and forming communities, even as the specter of death that is AIDS loomed in the background, and Reagan’s bullshit continued unabated. And it managed to do all of this while prominently featuring trans women of color, something that today’s publications sure as fuck can’t do! Granted, some of these magazines would be considered “problematic” or fucked up by people who learned about gender through Tumblr memes, but they can go to hell. The magazines I read were some really good shit. On a personal note, I’ve been feeling less and less “weird.” Weird in the sense of pissing off The Squares. Weird in the sense that I’m supposed to be a trans(lol)gressive pervert that makes cool looking shit. Reading these has kind of helped me move back in the right direction.

it was acceptable in the 80s…it was acceptable at the time…

You don’t just have magazines. There’s radio interviews, as well as current day podcasts. An entire stand-up comedy special. Documentaries. The Wayback Machine once showed me a blog by an older trans woman who wrote about incredibly mundane shit like how much she likes the latest episode of the X-Files. Wish I could find that link again. While not trans, the Archive does have Caper in the Castro, the first (commercially, at least) LGBT video game. This is all extremely important shit.

I don’t really like to talk about gender shit much these days (outside of complaining about how fucked it is that young LGBT artists get run off of platforms for being too good at what they do), as I’ve grown too jaded for it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care, though. By now, we should all know about the bullshit lawsuits that publishing companies are filing against the Internet Archive. Bullshit lawsuit being endorsed by shameless cheerleaders like Chuck Wendig (eat shit Chuck Wendig) and NK Jemisin. Hack writers who pump out Star Wars fanfiction, mad that at least twelve people looked at their bullshit. I’ve mentioned the name Isabel Fall before. You know, the promising new author whose story on gender identity and corporate pinkwashing was the best piece of writing in 2020, and then got run offline by a bunch of shitty cis people and sellout trans women desperate for their approval. Who was one of the big names that drove her away? NK Jemisin. Wendig himself uses Randi Harper’s “I hate trannies” Twitter blocklist, and as recently as a month ago, was singling out trans women who had anything negative to say about him like the creepy weirdo that he is. Funny coincidence that they want a site with literally decades of queer culture erased because they’re too fucking stupid to realize that publishing companies are fucking them over, not some random dope who wants to read about TIE Fighters zip-zooming and blippity blooping or whatever the fuck, or are being willfully obtuse because fuck them shemales.

or it could all be because they wouldn’t want something like this preserved for future generations, right?

So yeah, fuck them and fuck anyone defending them. Keeping the Archive alive keeps our history alive.

2. Wizardry, motherfucker

Shifting gears to something more positive. Wizardry has since taken over my whole fucking life, so you better believe I’ve done a big dive into as much stuff about it as I could find. One of the cooler aspects of Japan’s obsession with the series is the amount of artists that take this goofy little computer game from 1981 and make it look cool as fuck, or give it even more humor.

Wizardry rules.

3. The Hypnotic Eye

This was a pleasant discovery to make. I had never heard of this show, and it’s understandable, given that it was a cable access show that only aired in Texas, so I’m glad that it’s here. It’s a “VHS mixtape” show, decades before those were as prevalent as they are now. Think along the lines of Forgotten VCR, except a couple decades before.

4. Old Game Magazines (mostly GameFan)

Something else I’ve talked about here and there is reading a lot of GameFan Magazine as a kid. Looking back, it wasn’t really a good magazine, and later being taken over by some alt-right dickhead (who I recently found out fucking died back in 2017, rest in piss, bitch) didn’t help it get any better. I know I’m talking about GameFan, but the following criticisms can be applied to any magazine of the time: bad writing, writers clearly on the take, schticky aliases with badly drawn avatars, juvenile dick jokes from grown men in their 30, lots of posturing over how skilled and manly they all were. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I kind of also miss it? For as bad as these were, they were at least colorful and bright and had enough screenshots to let your child brain decide if it was something you wanted to play, and had to wait about 20 years to do so.

taking a moment to use the power of hindsight and say: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Honestly, it feels like today’s games crit isn’t much different, other than looking bland as fuck and having a larger vocabulary. Both are infinitely capable of mockery.

the good old days

the modern day

Or it could just be that I’m extremely biased because for all their faults, it’s not like Nick Rox wrote an article about trying to look up a woman’s nudes on Kiwi Farms, which is more than I can say for someone like Patrick Klepek. And it’s not like Scary Larry started a harassment campaign against trans women, which is more than I can say for uh…the entire field of video games journalism since at least 2015. Also, haven’t found any shows of solidarity with sex criminals or people who treat rape victims like dog shit. Whatever, I’m petty, I don’t give a fuck.

That’s a small sample of Cool Things I Found Online. There’s more stuff to talk about, but I think I’ll save it for another post. Give us all a little something to look forward to. Hopefully, this post can help explain to you that we need the motherfucking Internet Archive!!!

playing wizardry at 3 a.m because i’ve lost control of my life

Prefacing this post with an admission: last couple weeks, haven’t been doing so great up in the old brain region. Being mentally ill and seeing recurring triggers popping up with an increased frequency causes me to feel bad, man. This is one of the reasons why there was no post last week. It causes me to be unable to do other things, like try and stream, or work on game development stuff, or try to play some competitive Tekken, or any other cool things I’m known for.

I was able to at least make a car in Blender.

The rest of the time, though? Slouching in my gamer chair, letting the world pass me by because I’m too fucked up to do anything with my time. Times like this, I tend to crawl through the cellars of the Internet Archive (eat shit, Chuck Wendig), looking for some cool and obscure stuff to distract me. Things that might end up being their own post at some point. Anyways, to get things on topic here, I ended up reading through a bunch of Japanese Wizardry artbooks and monster manuals, which led to me loading up Wizardry for the first time in a couple years.

Now, I’m no stranger to the Wizardry series. I was on a podcast about it (for like five minutes). I watched the entire an*me adaptation, as weird and as obviously rushed as it was.

Wizardry is fucking great. Nobody outside of Japan gives a fuck about this series these days, but I still absolutely love it. What’s so great about the series is that about 50% of each game is dedicated to level grinding. Long, tedious grinding. Now, for most games, that’s a negative. But when you’re sad as fuck for reasons that make little sense, to sit and grind and grind and grind into infinity is great. Takes my mind off things. Spending a good 2-3 hours watching numbers go up; it’s like investing in the stock market, but with less war crimes associated with it.

Another great thing about Wizardry is its lack of story. Given that this was meant to be an answer to the question, “what if Dungeons and Dragons was a computer game?” this is not a complaint. It allows me to use my imagination a bit more: why are these rag-tag groups of mercenaries putting their lives on the line for a couple hundred bucks? I’ll fill in the blanks for why a diverse group of characters are fighting skeletons and slimes and sentient coins in a multi-tiered labyrinth.

And boy, did I ever fill in the blanks! Late nights of intrusive thoughts and self-doubt lead to me making six OCs (that’s “Original Characters”). I even made rough, kind of shitty looking sprites for them!

Wagner (Human/Neutral/Fighter)

Wagner is a dependable, if single-minded man. Originally working on a farm with his family, he picked up a sword and became a fighter, as he found it more financially and personally rewarding than watching most of his years harvest get taken away by the royal family. Wants to open up his own fighting school when this quest is over.

Ashlynn (Dwarf/Neutral/Fighter)

Ashlynn is the pride of her Dwarven tribe. She’s joined this group to earn enough gold to raise her three children in comfort. Despite her stature, Ashlynn takes a leadership role quite often, and takes no shit from anyone.

Dahlia (Gnome/Evil/Priest)

The youngest of twelve children, Dahlia has grown up feeling like an outcast; like she doesn’t belong anywhere. Getting branded as “Evil” because she does not fight on behalf of any kingdoms or their particular religions hasn’t helped this feeling at all. Dahlia feels a strange kinship with this band of weirdos. Hasn’t thought about what she would do with her reward money.

Serena (Elf/Neutral/Mage)

Serena is a loner. Leaving her village after an incident she won’t talk about, Serena is only in this to get enough gold to retire in a nice house in the woods, far away from anyone else. Despite her cold exterior, Serena does sometimes show signs of her less cynical side around the group, much to her own annoyance.

Genji (Hobbit/Evil/Thief)

Genji is a thief with aspirations to become a full-fledged Ninja, like his brother Genichiro did. Contrary to the popular conception of thieves and ninja, Genji is extremely outgoing and personable. Even Serena enjoys having him around. Once he reaches Ninja status and completes this quest, Genji is looking forward to a less hectic life. Maybe running a tavern.

Rosa (Elf/Evil/Bishop)

Rosa is a devout follower of a religion that is labeled as “degenerate” by the kingdom, hence her “Evil” status. Having an ill sister at home, Rosa is journeying for enough money to care for her, as well as hoping to stumble across some medicine that could even cure her. As for her own goals, Rosa is a member of her church, and is looking forward to returning to her services after all of this.

Cool thing about these re-releases of Wizardry is the ability to use either the new hand-drawn graphics, or go with the classic wireframe graphics. Not to diss the updated graphics, because they look great, but if you’re playing a Wizardry, you gotta go with the wireframe or nothing at all.

This is the Super Famicom port I’m playing. I also tried out the Sega Saturn version, just to see what the differences are.

The Saturn game has polygonal backgrounds, as opposed to sprite ones. But of course, you can switch back to the wireframes. Something you can also do, that the Super Famicom game can’t, is use the original battle sprites if you so choose.

That’s nice, but I actually prefer using the modern battle graphics. All of the command boxes are neatly arranged in way that pleases my eyes in a nonsensical way. On top of that, the Saturn graphics are high resolution, and therefore look better than the Super Famicom ones.

Comparison:

sega saturn

super famicom

The Saturn also has a super convenient auto-map that you can pull up at any time by pressing the R button.

The SF version has one too. But that requires a magic user and at least one use of your level 1 magic. Which in the early going, isn’t that much.

But, I have to stick to the Super Famicom, for two reasons. One, although the game has a Japanese and an English option, item/weapon/magic descriptions are still completely in Japanese. The SNES port had a fan-translation to fix this, and the Saturn didn’t. Two, Thieves are far more useful in this version. You see, in Wizardry V, Thieves were given a new ability called “Ambush.” This is a two-turn ability that allows a thief to hide, then backstab an enemy for more damage. This also works in the back-row, where you can’t do physical attacks, meaning that thieves have a purpose in this game, compared to previous versions where they acted as glorified keys. Ambushing was retroactively added to the SNES version of Llylgamyn Saga, as this version was released in, holy shit, 1999, after the Saturn game. Anyways, in the Saturn game, thieves act as said glorified keys (because they can pick locks), and simply exist to take up space until you get access to ranged weapons, or you turn them into Ninjas. So even though the Saturn port looks better and has some quality of life changes, I had to put it down and go back to the 16-bit game.

That’s Wizardry. Like Space Invaders, it’s a form of video game comfort food for when you’re sad, bored mess of a human being. I mean, it’s good in other contexts as well, but it’s definitely a good choice to pick up if you feel like shit.

the worst game i have ever played

Let me begin this post with a short backstory about how I got to this point. A few days ago, I was watching a friend of mine play Ace Combat 7 (aside: it looks really good and I’ll definitely end up getting it at some point). At some point, another friend had asked us if Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was any good. The answer is a firm No. Assault Horizon is terrible. It’s an answer to a question nobody asked: what if Ace Combat was more like Call of Duty?

Also, this fucking song

The conversation then went on to other bad spin-offs of otherwise great anti-war series’. Like Front Mission. Front Mission had one. Evolved. Never played it. Front Mission also had a second bad spin-off: Left Alive. Left Alive happened to be on sale, and because I tend to make very impulsive choices in my life, I got it. I went in expecting a little bit of jank to it. I was not expecting an overwhelmingly great game, but I also didn’t immediately take the critical reception to it at face value; that IGN God Hand review gave me permanent psychic damage. Like, there’s no way a game could be that bad, right? Besides, the concept sounded incredible: a stealth-based game where you are in a hostile, war-torn environment trying to survive. That’s actually pretty damn interesting!

There are times where I might exaggerate the quality of something in order to make a joke, or to make a blog post more entertaining. Slight amounts of easily noticeable hyperbole.

I am not exaggerating here when I say that Left Alive is the single worst fucking video game I ever played in my life. Left Alive is bad on a level that I had previously only held for absolute dog shit like Manhunt 2 or Revolution 60. The difference, though, is that I went into playing those games expecting nothing, and still being let down. Left Alive was something I had expectations for. Not high expectations, mind you, but something along the lines of “janky ass PS2/PS3 game.” Something that wouldn’t be traditionally good, but still enjoyable on its own merits.

Left Alive is straight up a broken, unfinished game that completely falls apart by the third level. The enemies are either completely blind and deaf, and can’t see you running in circles or firing off a non-silenced weapon in front of them, or can spot you from an entire football field’s distance away while you are hiding behind a wall. There is no in-between. And the whole time, if there is an enemy in your proximity, a computer voice endlessly harasses you with CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. You are either strong enough to withstand an entire platoon’s gunfire directly to the face no problem, or you’re killed in one hit. There is no in-between. No in-between, no consistency, nothing. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Enemies respawn almost immediately, sprinting directly towards you (or, more often, an unarmed civilian you’re trying to rescue) like they’re Sonic The Fucking Hedgehog, completely destroying any progress you’ve just made. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.

In this game, combat fucking sucks. The guns are terrible, enemies can withstand headshots and don’t even react to being shot until they’re dead. There’s no CQC aside from limited-use melee weapons. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There’s the other method of combat, crafting traps and IEDs, which Left Alive is designed around, but materials are so limited and hard to come by that wasting even one improvised weapon is enough to reload a previous save. That is, assuming that they even work in the first place. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Molotov cocktails do such little amounts of damage to be laughable, and anything that involves electricity is a joke; I watched an armed guard walk into an electrified wire I set up, and all he did was literally sit and look at the thing as it kept trying to shock him. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Oh, and it has everyone’s favorite part of stealth games: forced combat! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Because that’s something Left Alive needed: sections where you are required to fight up to a dozen soldiers or more, in a game where your offensive options are paltry and weak by design! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There are a few segments where you can climb into a Wanzer, in an attempt to even the odds. After all, this is a Front Mission game. Wanzers control like shit! There’s zero feedback to whether or not you’re doing or receiving damage. And because of the way the levels are built, with lots of impassible sections and tight alleyways, you can’t really do much with them. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.

Here’s around the part of the game where I gave up:

You can see the blue marker where I need to go. There’s a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and an enemy Wanzer in front of me.

The other side of this park, several more soldiers, and a fucking tank. There are also a bunch of snipers on the rooftop that I found out about way too late.

Behind me, a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and snipers that I cannot shoot at, despite that bridge clearly being unprotected. Also, one of the few times where hiding behind this crate didn’t cause an alert to go off.

The other side of the street has a shit ton of soldiers, drones, and even more snipers directly above me. There is an underground sewer system I can take, with smaller groups of enemies. The problem though, is that it leads to the exact opposite end of the level, and not where I need to go! So how do you get there? I don’t know! My solution was to sprint past everything, tanking what bullets and rockets I could, and hoping that I lived long enough for the alarms to shut off by the time I got to where I needed to go. It certainly wasn’t through stealthy means, you know, the way the game was meant to be played!

pictured: a stealth mechanic that works

Left Alive is garbage. It is almost hilariously unfair to play. It’s broken, the writing sucks, the characters are lame, the product placement is all over the place. Yoji Shinkawa was brought in to be the character designer, and look at this:

Shinkawa saw a scene that called for a black man, so he went through his notebook and remembered that, oh yeah, he made a black character about a decade ago, and just put Drebin from Metal Gear Solid 4 in there.

The only way that Left Alive could have been phoned in any more was if it had been developed by an actual telephone. I had watched a developer interview prior to writing this. It was a video featuring the producer, director, and Shinkawa himself. Nobody wanted to be there.

Nobody wanted to make this game. Nobody wanted to play it. Nobody wanted to market it. Left Alive is, by all accounts, a game that shouldn’t exist, yet it does. Normally, I could respect that kind of tenacity, but I can’t, because Left Alive is the worst fucking video game I have ever played. There are bad games. Genpei Toumaden is a bad game. Michigan is a bad game. Hydlide is…something other people say is a bad game. All of those games have at least one thing that makes them good, makes them redeemable. All Left Alive has is a concept. I don’t know what exactly the fuck happened here? Was it all a money laundering front (mission) for the mafia, inexplicably disguised as an entry in a long-forgotten RPG series? Who knows, who cares. Just play Gun Hazard instead if you’re dying for a Front Mission spin-off.

oh right, i forgot: when you get a game over, you are not killed, you are instead…”left alive.”