Racing Game Roundup, Handheld Edition

Another month, another upcoming Gran Prix, it’s time to play some racers and talk about them on the internet! This particular entry will follow a theme that I will expand upon in an upcoming post.

Gran Turismo PSP

I’m still torn on how I feel about this one. Obviously, you’re not doing a 1:1 recreation of a console GT on a new handheld. It would be ridiculous to expect nearly a thousand cars, loads of tracks, more than four cars racing on said tracks at a time, and all the various bells and whistles that you associate with Gran Turismo when the PSP is still so new.

Then I did a few seconds of research and found out that this came out in fucking 2009. 2009, and Polyphony Digital thought that it would be a good idea to release something so bare-bones. You get a small amount of cars available at a time, in two lap races on a small amount of tracks, and that’s about it. No license challenges, no ranked challenges, nothing. Just pick a car and drive. And while I can respect that simplicity, and totally understand why things would be so stripped down for a game that you’re mostly going to be playing during bus/train rides or during a break at work, there’s not really much of a reason to come back after a while. Due to the random nature of buying cars; you can only buy from about 4-5 dealerships at a time, and they’re randomly determined after finishing a race, unlocking shit is a lot more tedious than it needs to be.

Despite all this, it’s still Gran Turismo. It still plays well. I can still drive a 240z at Suzuka and Monaco. I can’t completely hate it, but I can feel a bit let down by it.

 

Ridge Racer PSP

Until I sat down and played this, I only knew about this version of Ridge Racer from one thing: that disastrous Sony E3 presentation. You know, the one that spawned a series of extremely unfunny memes? Giant Enemy Crabs lol and all that bull shit? “Jokes” that were so fucking bad that it caused me to feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Sony. Like, congrats Gamers, you are all so annoying and terrible at telling jokes that you made a massive corporation that released a $700 console and openly thought it was “too cheap” look like the good guys. Fucking assholes. Anyways, I ignored Ridge Racer as a result of this.

If you needed any further proof that gamers ruin everything, it’s this, because Ridge Racer on the PSP is fucking awesome.

Holy shit, this game rules. It is essentially a Ridge Racer Nostalgia Fest, in that you drive through tracks from previous games, and listen to music from previous games, as well. So you can tear through Wonder Hill from Ridge Racer 4 while listening to that really cool Genpei Toumaden remix from Ridge Racer 5. Or listen to music from the first game while driving on the beach track from Ridge Racer Revolution. All while using the new nitrous boost system that would later be used in 6 and 7. It’s cool, and extremely fun.

I do need to take this time to mention how good this game looks. Ridge Racer came out in 2004, once again proving that Namco’s artists are some of the absolute best in the entire industry. Great stuff.

Ridge Racer is a fun as fuck racer with a lot of shit in it. Also, the loading screen is a playable version of Rally-X.

 

Pimp My Ride

Oh yes. I saw this, and knew that I had to play it. This is the kind of low effort garbage I adore. Now, it’s been about a million years since I have seen an episode of Pimp My Ride, but I do remember that it was a show where people with shitty cars would beg popular Hip-Hop artist Xzibit for help, to which he would send the car to a garage, where a team of experts would then put a bunch of shit on said car that made it look even worse in the end. You know, like “yo man, we put an aquarium in the roof towards the back seat, so when you’re failing to once again convince your girl to try anal, you can take a gander at this Flounder.” Shit like that. I was not a fan of the show, but my friends were, so I ended up having to watch a lot of episodes.

Pimp My Ride The Video Game is a shitty open-world driving game. The first half is you driving around, picking up cash icons and crashing into other cars to get money. You can also do some extremely low effort mini-games, like dancing and honking your horn at a crowd of onlookers.

You do this until you get a certain amount of money. Once you do, then comes the second half: Pimping a Ride. Credit where it’s due, the developers actually got Xzibit to do a phoned-in voice over here. The X to the Z sends you back out into Pimp City (yes, really) to make stops at various Pimp Stations with loading screens are full of “Pimp Hints” between them to Pimp out some poor fuckers’ car. I’ve heard the word “Pimp” so many times that the word has lost all meaning; it may as well be its own Smurf language at this point. This Pimping game is really Pimpy and can seriously Pimp my Pimp, and if you don’t like it, Pimp off.

Now, the idea of competing to customize a better car could make for a good game. That is not the case here. Predictably, the game plays and controls like absolute Pimp. This is not a game made by an A-Team with a lot of money behind it, and it shows. But at least it’s Pimp in an interesting way. The kind of game you play and laugh at for a little while, before scrambling to put the Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer UMD into your system. It Pimps, but there are games out there that Pimp more.

nice interior

metal black

In the past, I have described my love for old Namco arcade games. With good reason, they all rule. However, Namco is not the undisputed king of the arcade. Right next to them, there is Taito competing for that title, going hand-to-hand, blow-for-blow.

Taito’s biggest strength was more than simply making a good game, but making a wide-range of them, all different in their own way. Taito gave us Space Invaders, but then they also gave us stuff like Bubble Bobble, The Ninja Warriors, and Darius. Taito didn’t just make different types of games that were all great, but they were also not afraid to get real weird with it; so many games, popular or otherwise, loaded with surrealism and really artistic themes. Sure, there was also trend-chasing bull shit like Thunder Fox and Chase HQ, but let’s not talk about those.

This game, Metal Black, is this wonderful, challenging, fun, thought-provoking piece of work that I feel like talking about today.

The story of Metal Black is that aliens from Jupiter have violently taken over the Earth, leaving humanity at the brink of extinction. The world’s military have managed to reverse engineer one of Jupiter’s weapons and implant that power into a fighter jet. However, the UN has refused to let the jet be used in combat, as it will lead to an all-out war that Earth will absolutely not win. In response, you, the player, goes rogue and steals the fighter, going on a suicide mission to save what remains of Earth.

Metal Black came out in 1991, that magical time before video games got all political. The first level, Earth, has become a sand-blasted wasteland due to climate disaster and unending war long before Jupiter came along, with the only remaining vestige of humanity being an electronic advertisement billboard. Oh, and the boss of this level is named “Apartheid.”

Something that Taito was very good at, was establishing a mood. They were great at making cutesy, colorful shit. However, they were just as good at making really dark, depressing, unsettling post-apocalyptic games. This is the same company that made a game about killer robots overthrowing the United States, which had since devolved into a full dictatorship, rather than the implied one we have now. Metal Black is a fucking dark game. It has that opening stage on Earth, what with all the death and destruction I pointed out earlier. Just you, on this one-man operation for the sake of a dead planet, complete with this incredibly atmospheric track by Zuntata, probably the best in-house band gaming has ever had:

The rest of the game, admittedly, is not as atmospheric as the first level. However, finally reaching space is when the shit starts getting weird. No longer is Metal Black focused on a dying world. It is instead focused on the most surreal, dreamlike depiction of space that very few games have ever had. Fighting a large, snake-like creature that hatches from a fake moon, set to a backdrop of brightly-colored constellations. Flying through an abandoned, destroyed space station surrounded by what looks to be large molecules; the kind found in a human body. Navigating an uneven series of stalagmites and shifting rocks, then being assaulted by a large battleship that quickly sheds its manmade machinery to reveal the alien life form underneath. Cruising on a Gradius-inspired alien planet, before having a rematch against “Apartheid” in an asteroid field. Then finally, going to Jupiter, before fighting what I can assume is the leader, while you are bombarded with digitized images of cavemen, war, and devastation. Needless to say, it’s all very cool.

I do need to make special mention of the loud, scary death cry that every boss makes when killed, followed by the screen exploding with a rotating map of Earth superimposed over it.

Needless to say, Metal Black absolutely shines in the audio visual department. Its style is so thoroughly beyond being cool. So many modern games, built with million dollar budgets and a team of over 100 different rapists, and so many of them cannot make something as aesthetically solid as an arcade shooter from 1991. Do you want to try telling me that Assassin’s Creed looks better than this?

Actually playing Metal Black is also pretty interesting. Unlike most shooters of the era, there’s no selection of weapons or power-ups to pick up. You get one weapon for the entire game, and it gets stronger as you pick up “Newalones,” the energy source that powers Jupiter’s weapons, and Taito’s attempt at pronouncing the word “Neurons.” The more Newalones you get, the better your bullets. Newalones also let you use your super beam, and of course, the more power, the better that is, too. Your ship moves slowly, and never gets faster. To make up for it, your bullets, especially once you’re hit power level 4, are bigger than your ship, meaning that a lot of encounters can be survived by jamming on the fire button. This does not make the game easy, mind you. Metal Black is still a really fucking hard game. There are only six level, and once you hit level three, you need to be ready to be attacked on all sides. Shit will come at you from the front, behind, above, below, often two or more directions at once. Metal Black is not impossible, though, it a challenging game; the kind that you practice and memorize over and over until you can get that much desired 1cc. Unfortunately, I’m not quite there yet; still working on memorizing the best routes.

Metal Black is a simple, pared down game, mechanics-wise. Yet, the very small move set actually works really well in this case. There has never been a time where I thought that maybe there should be a homing laser, or a downward-sloping bomb, or anything like that. Every level is designed around this lack of options, and is a better game for it. Plus, thematically speaking, it would make sense that an untested, experimental weapon thrown together by a devastated world would not exactly be loaded to capacity with guns.

What I appreciate the most about Metal Black is that, yeah, it’s a cool looking shooter that’s fun to play. But it does all of this, and has this dark, post-apocalypse story that’s surprisingly cool for its time, and tells it almost wordlessly. There’s an opening cinematic crawl, then some ending text, and nothing else. It’s up to you as the player to piece everything together by looking at the environments and see what is happening, the epitome of show, don’t tell. Despite being a visual medium, doing this in video games is actually a lot harder than you would think, so I’m impressed every time Taito pulls it off.

Like here, let’s take a look at the ending. You defeat the final boss, effectively saving the Earth, right?

Oh.

No, the Earth is split into two after the war is over, literally this time. Then you float in space wondering if everything that’s happened is a dream. Now, if you get a game over on stage 6, there is a bad ending where the Earth’s military coup’s the UN, sending mass produced Black Fly’s to Jupiter, where they will probably also be killed. That one’s interesting, if only because of a badly translated line that makes is seem like the aliens can blend into Earth’s society, They Live style. I honestly think that this is one of the few times where the overplayed “you were dead all along” theory actually applies. I think that the main character was killed during his fight on Earth, probably before he even hijacked the first Black Fly, and the rest of the game is in fact a dream. The opening does sort of imply the whole “dying in the fighter hangar:”

I’m pointing all this out because I think there’s a tendency to take retro games like this for granted. We, as a general rule, tend to look at shooters as these mindless diversions where you mow down aliens and unnamed enemy armies. The most thought you put into them is in the bullet patterns and enemy spawn points. Not putting thought into this surrealist take on war and humanity’s place in the universe. In 1991. Yet, here I am, doing exactly that. It’s very cool. Metal Black is very cool. A shame that Taito’s current place in the industry is nothing more than a third wheel in the Square-Enix merger, because in their day, they were kings.

there is some cool stuff on the internet archive, part 4

Confession: I retired this segment from the site for a while due to the Archive’s Twitter account doing some fence-sitting about cryptocurrency, and leaning towards being in favor of it. As a tyrannical SJW, or whatever idiots on Reddit call you when you say that their forest-destroying Monopoly money sucks ass, I didn’t feel like indirectly providing free PR to a site getting in on that racket.

But now that crypto’s value has completely plummeted to a level so far below rock bottom that it usually entails a Budd Dwyer-style public suicide, I’m a bit more okay with it. Regardless of any idiot in charge, the Archive still does provide a valuable service to culture. So it’s time to look up some cool shit that it has.

Video Games: The Ultimate Gaming Magazine

Video Games: The Un-Googleable Magazine is, like GameFan and Incite, one of those publications I remember reading when I was younger. Until I started looking at some issues for this post, I couldn’t really remember much aside from its import section. Back in The Day, I was in love with the import sections of gaming magazines. It was tantalizing; telling me about all these cool looking, weird games that I will never see because they were all on the Saturn and go fuck yourself Bernie Stolar. Fucking loser ass bitch.

Anyways. Japanese games. This issue in particular, April ’96, introduced me to the Megaten series. Specifically, Devil Summoner:

Read that first sentence. We very nearly had this in the States! Imagine a world where America’s first taste of Megaten was Devil Summoner, and not Persona. Imagine not having to wait until I’m in my fucking 30’s to play Soul Hackers! I’m not sure what stopped Devil Summoner from getting over here, but I will take this opportunity to blame Bernie Stolar for it anyway. Dogshit brain stupid idiot fucker. Kiss my ass, Bernie.

This particular page really caught my imagination. Back in the The Day, when there was no YouTube or The US Army Presents G4, that was all you had. Something that these old mags were really good at was using great screenshots. These days, I know that Megaten games involve you fighting static sprites where the animation is limited to shaking back and forth. But back then? Kid Me spent a lot of time daydreaming in class, imagining all sorts of different scenarios of how this game could have worked. Maybe I’ll finally learn more than 10% of the Japanese language and get around to playing this.

Oh wow, remember back when you could talk about killing nazis in video games without a bunch of weirdos sending you pictures of their gun collection in front of a sticky note with your home address? Feels so long ago.

Hold on, an inappropriate anecdote in a small blurb? Did I write for this magazine?

I don’t want to post every single page from this issue, but I will post a couple of reviews/previews that have that off-the-cuff writing that I’m actually pretty fond of.

you. damn. right.

yeah, there is definitely an alternate timeline version of me who wrote for this mag.

Check this shit out, they even covered fanzines! Or, at least the concept of a fanzine. That’s awesome.

This is a pretty good issue of a magazine that was better than I remember it being. But there is another reason why I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it. Let’s take a look at the masthead:

Now, editorial aside, there’s a name on the staff that’s really sticking out for me. See if you can find it. Give up?

Yes, that Larry Flynt. I very recently found out that, in addition to Hustler, Larry Flynt published a number of gaming magazines. In fact, he even published America’s #1 PC-Engine publication, TurboPlay! Video games and porn, truly a man after my own heart. A real shame about all the antisemitism and allegations of child molestation, though. Still good magazines; he only published the gaming stuff, and left his fucked up beliefs to his porn.

 

Conan O’Brien

A couple weeks ago, I was laid out, sick as fuck with a stomach bug. This week, I’m laid out, sick as fuck from my second COVID shot. Combine this with YouTube randomly recommending me Conan clips, and this led to me checking the Archive for full episodes. Sure enough, they are here.

The thing is, I missed out on the whole Late Night train. Growing up, my parents were big fans of Jay Leno. For anyone who has never seen Jay Leno, he is a man made in a lab to see if science could create a being with no concept of humor whatsoever. Watching a painfully unfunny idiot look at typos in the newspaper was enough for me to write off the whole concept of a talk show. Got better things to do, like staring at the fucking wall.

As such, you’ll have to forgive me for delivering the world’s coldest take: Conan is really fucking funny. I mean, the dude was a writer on The Simpsons, back when that still meant something. Taking this format of interviewing famous people and making jokes about current events, and making shit that is completely off-the-wall and legitimately hilarious is awesome. Take this nine minute segment I’m about to embed here. There is more humor in this one, for lack of a better term, throwaway segment, than other shows have in an entire season.

In any event, I suppose that it’s better late than never when it comes to watching good TV.

 

Funky Horror Band

I have been looking for the Funky Horror Band’s music for a long time. FHB, for the uninitiated, are a fake band (think along the lines of The Gorillaz) made up of cool looking aliens that made some pretty nice music in the late 80s-early 90s. That kind of New Jack Swing inspired Pop music that only Japan could pull off. Gorgeous stuff.

Anyways. Of course the Archive has their stuff available for download, which I went ahead and did. It sounds awesome. Also, “Magical Trans Circle” lol.

That’s it for this month. So long as there aren’t any more NFT-related shenanigans in the future, I’ll keep this segment going. The Internet Archive is too important a resource to lose to a bull shit form of fake money that’s even more fake than the shit we have to use in our day to day lives.

3DO-Face #3: Penthouse Interactive- Virtual Photo Shoot vol 1 & Virtua Photo Studio (NSFW)

It’s been a while, since I’ve done one of these. Been too long since I wrote about an explicitly horny game, rather than the implied kind like Final Fight. Let’s get busy.

Penthouse magazine was the in-between of porn mags. It was more hardcore than Playboy, and less antisemitic than Hustler. One of those mythical publications that could be found in the woods, or under the bed of a parent or older sibling. Penthouse was a magazine I definitely uh, read a lot. At least until the emergence of peer-to-peer software like Kazaa gave us all a world of digital erotica right at our sweaty, dirty, perverted fingertips.

But I must ignore the convenience that the internet has given us perverts, and put myself back into the metaphorical shoes of a hypothetical horny 3DO owner. Like Vivid Video, Penthouse also had their own development studio. Looking around, there was an entire series of Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot games for PC and Macintosh, so if you’re down for some grainy, pixellated nudity, be sure to break out the virtual machines. Volume 1 is the only one released for the 3DO, and as far as I can tell, only released in Japan. And there was definitely time and effort put into a Japanese localization; most of the text (what little there is) is in Japanese, and the game features a Japanese dub, so you will hear three very non-Asian women speaking fluent Japanese no problem.

 

I ended up going with Tiffany, as I couldn’t figure out what she was wearing on her head.

Turned out that this was an Egyptian-themed shoot, back when this was still considered okay. Also back when porn had an actual set.

The whole point of the game is that you select from a series of FMV clips, then click the camera icon on the bottom at the right time. Any pictures you take can be looked at later for your own uses. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. I probably should have used inverted commas when I said “game,” as there’s no reward for taking pictures well, nor is there any penalty for doing it badly. The whole interactive element seems to be tacked on; it easily could have been another series of FMVs like Blonde Justice was.

However, unlike Blonde Justice, or even Neurodancer, Penthouse actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s porn on the 3DO that doesn’t take way too fucking long to get to the sexy parts, and actually features nudity. I’m making a lot of assumptions about 1) the kind of person to own a 3DO and 2) the kind of person to own porn on it, but I feel like this is perfectly acceptable for the horny games enthusiast. There are attractive women who take their clothes off, and you don’t have to play a boring mini-game or watch a shit movie to get to this point. It’s what you need if you don’t feel like turning off the console and switching over to some hardcore stuff on your VCR. I guess. Crank one out to three different women with an easily ignored game element.

Posting a small gallery here for any stragglers who somehow got here through Google. Hi, please consider reading the rest of this site after you’re done doing you know what.

Before I forget, the real reward to this whole game is to hear from a Japanese dubbed Bob Guccione, a man whose love of piss far exceeds my own. That is pretty fucking funny, honestly.

 

I’m going to switch gears here a bit, as there is another game very similar to Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot that I feel I should talk about. The game in question is…

 

Virtua Photo Studio (Sega Saturn)

First of all, yes, this was published by fucking Acclaim. I assume that their Japanese branch was tired of pumping out shitty licensed games, and decided to try their hand at Sega Saturn titty games. As I said, this is very similar to Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot, but with one major difference:

This game fucking owns. Specifically, because of this guy:

This guy, I don’t know who he is, probably the producer, is full of personality. You do well at taking pictures, or if you fuck it all up royally, he will let you know.

What I like about this game is that it is an actual game. It’s also really fucking hard! There is no fucking around here; you better be good at taking those pictures, or you will never see these ladies naked.

what’s up with all these porn games only ever having three women to choose from?

You pick your girl, then it’s time to take pictures. Of course, after you are warned by your producer not to fuck it up.

These girls will start doing their pose routines, and you have to snap photos at the right time. And you have to time this right, as they will go through the motions like they have other shit to do. No do overs, no requesting that maybe they slow the fuck down for a couple seconds. Do it right, and do it right now.

Do well enough, as I did, and then things get spicy. Now this is where you can pick outfits.

Then you take pictures again, and it is surprisingly difficult to snap a good shot of a woman as she gets them out. You have to be quick on the trigger.

a little something for the algorithm

There are also segments where the model will want to take a break, and you have to answer a series of her questions, I assume to keep her at ease and make her comfortable. Don’t think you can go through Virtua Photo Studio acting like Terry Richardson. I would have gotten screenshots of this, but it never came up during all the times I played this for the post, and the last time I played this was on my old PC that’s probably on a garbage boat about to be dumped into international waters.

But who gives a fuck about any of that? I appreciate a fine set of big himmer-hommers as much as the next pervert, but I’m all about that excitable man who yells at you between shoots.

Two horny games that aren’t particularly terrible. I’d still recommend the Saturn game, just because it has more personality. You know, if you ever think to yourself, “jeez, I’m tired of playing Fighters Megamix and Elevator Action Returns all the time. Time for horny photography game!” maybe give this one a shot.

playing the sega saturn

I have felt like absolute shit all week, physically speaking. Just sick as a fucking dog, feeling all gross and shitty. As such, I’ve been keeping myself entertained in ways where I’m “off my feet” so to speak. No fighting games (gonna be so rusty at GG Strive when I get back into it), nothing super intense. Lots of RPGs and adventure games; stuff that I can play, but then also stop at a moments’ notice if I need to sprint to the nearest toilet and puke my guts out.

Right about the same time I got this nasty stomach bug, I also got a somewhat less nasty bug to play some Sega Saturn games. Since it’s Friday, and I got no clue what else to write about, I thought I would do my usual “here’s some shit I played” posts.

Dragon Force

No, not the shitty band that every insufferable nerd couldn’t shut the fuck up about from around 2002-2010. This is a really good strategy RPG that you’ve probably seen on every Top 10 Saturn games list, also maintained by insufferable nerds.

All that aside, Dragon Force is legitimately awesome. It’s this game where you maintain your own kingdom, but the actual management aspects are so pared down as to be a negligible feature. Rather, the big, big, big feature is its battles. These large-scale clashes where up to 100 different character sprites swing their weapons and shoot arrows or magic at each other until they’re dead. It’s cool to see all these fairly detailed little dudes fighting it out, and then remembering that this is happening during a time where the Playstation (great system otherwise) couldn’t even support the tag-team feature from X-Men vs Street Fighter. Saturn does what…Playsta-shan’t?? I’ll workshop that one a little more.

These battles are the one thing you always hear about when people talk about Dragon Force. This is because, honestly, there isn’t a whole lot else. I mean, there’s a story, which is pretty much bull shit filler to explain why you’re a war hawk throwing a wall of bodies at everything until the entire country is under your rule. And there’s also the previously mentioned “kingdom management,” which is a glorified menu where you can level up your units, search for equippable items and new generals, and fortify your defenses so as to give yourself a bigger terrain advantage. Dragon Force is all about making numbers bigger, and having those big numbers fight other big numbers in spectacular fashion. Sometimes, a game only needs to do one thing, and Dragon Force does this one thing really well. Check it out if you’re the kind of person who wants to try out a Romance of the Three Kingdoms game, but your attention span gives up as soon as you reach the Policy menu.

 

Enemy Zero

Oh, this one was a heartbreaker. A horror game by mad genius Kenji Eno tends to be a winning formula. Enemy Zero is not one of those times, unfortunately.

An Alien-esque adventure/horror on a quiet spaceship? Cool. Really sleek, mid-90s PC CG art aesthetic? That’s awesome. The alien intruders being invisible to the naked eye, and can only be detected through a sound-based motion tracker? Yeah, you’ve still got me.

The problem is not Enemy Zero being a slow-paced point-and-click with invisible enemies. No, the problem comes from the method of detecting them. That sound-based motion tracker. Here’s the thing: the sound is not locational. The sound only gets louder and faster the closer you get to an enemy. You have no idea if it’s to the left or the right, in front of you or behind. I think you can see what the problem is. It makes what little combat there is so much more of a drag than it needs to be. Doesn’t help that the guns need to constantly be recharged. So if you shoot at something you think is there, and it’s not? Feel free to go fuck yourself, and either die or run away and try to remember where the nearest recharge station is. It sucks, and it’s a shame that I can’t get into this one, as again, I think Kenji Eno was a criminally overlooked genius during his lifetime.

cg still looks cool, at least.

 

Policenauts

This game was the main reason why I felt like opening up Mednafen and messing around with Saturn stuff. Policenauts is one of those games I’ve wanted to like for so long, then I played the fan translation, and found myself hating it pretty quick. Pretty much all stemming from a small scene at the beginning of the game where the private eye main character, Johnathan, is commissioned by his ex-wife to find her missing husband. After telling her that he’ll think about it, she leaves, and then is immediately killed by a car bomb. Johnathan sees the killer, and gets into a chase/gunfight with the guy. After the first shootout, you have to search the street to see where he ran off to. One of the places you can look at is a strip club across from Johnathan’s office, which is full of “Biovestites,” people who have gotten sex changes via genetic manipulation. “This city’s full of ’em, unfortunately.

The fuck?

Like, dude, you have literally just been reintroduced to your wife, who you haven’t seen since an accident left you drifting in outer space for 25 years. Before you can really even try to catch up, she’s immediately and violently murdered, and you yourself are being shot at by her assailant. And after all that, the first thing on your mind is, “what’s with all these goddamn trannies?” What kind of shit writing is that? Yeah here, let me complain about minorities after the love of my life has just been killed.

Well, it turns out that scene was a mistranslation, and didn’t even exist in the original Japanese text, so I decided to play the updated fantranslation on the Saturn. Here’s the new line:

Wow. Kind of amazing how one line can immediately fix years of not being 100% behind Hideo Kojima as a writer. Not that a protagonist being bigoted in some way is necessarily a terrible thing, or that Kojima would also subscribe to those same views, but the way that it was delivered sucked and left a bad taste in my mouth. If you’re going to be transphobic, at least pick a more appropriate time than “literally being shot at by an assassin.” Now it’s just Johnathan matter of factly stating what that place is, not doing an Archie Bunker bit while standing over the body of his dead ex-wife.

With that out of the way, actually playing more than a few minutes of Policenauts, the game itself is mostly really good. It is a Kojima game in the vein of Japanese adventure games like Portopia, in that you are constantly clicking on the same stuff, over and over, until something new happens. It’s more compelling than I’m making it sound. My only real issues with Policenauts are the shooting sequences being pretty bad, and feeling like the pacing is way off past the second act. Like, you’re trying to solve this mystery, which of course leads into a bigger situation involving police corruption and the influence of major corporations, then all of a sudden, here are all the answers given to you immediately. Felt like Kojima was writing this story, when he was told the game’s shipping date, and condensed the shit of the story in order to get it done. That’s a shame.

yeah me too

Ultimately, Policenauts is still good, but I think that Snatcher, Kojima’s previous game in a similar genre/style, is the better game. Snatcher got to the main point fairly quick, and didn’t really lose steam along the way. Though credit to Policenauts for having a “fuck cops” message in 1994 (Saturn port came out in 1996). The only remotely “good” cop is the forgotten old man who is afraid of guns and is left in a basement to handle petty theft cases, while the rest of the force are money-hungry assholes with a love of military weaponry and an excuse to use them. Pretty true to the modern day, only without the lovable old man in a basement. And hey, it’s now 100% less shitty about trans people, so that’s gotta be good for something too, right?

 

I’ve been playing other Saturn games this week, but as I’ve already accomplished my weekly “write a thousand words just to say ‘video games are good'” challenge, I’ll leave it here. Play the Saturn, everyone. The games are great, and emulation is actually good now, as opposed to years back when it was a crap shoot getting Virtua Fighter to load up and not look like a blurry mess with bad sound, if it even loaded up at all. Maybe I can do some more Grandia. Maybe I can get serious about learning Japanese, so I can read some of the text in these games Bernie Stolar thought I wouldn’t like, because that man is a fool. A disgrace to the name “Bernie.”

langrisser 2 hd

The Langrisser series, or at least, the first two entries, are games that I really enjoy. Hell, I was once on an internet radio show about the second one. Tactical RPGs are really good, and are even better on the Sega Mega Drive. Langrisser 1 and 2, the original versions, exemplify this. They were fast paced, challenging but not overbearingly difficult with bull shit units and situations, nice looking, and having some of the best music the FM sound chip had to offer. If you’ve never heard of or played these games, imagine playing Fire Emblem, then asking yourself, “huh, I wonder what these games would be like if they were actually good?” That’s Langrisser.

I’m not here to talk about those original games, great as they are. I’m here to talk about the remake of Langrisser 2. Like all the remakes I’ve purchased this year, they all have the same story in regards to me acquiring them: because horny men on the internet gave me money.

dude’s straight up copping a feel, here

Before I continue, I have to consult the Official Lonely Frontier Dot Net Rulebook on Remakes and Remasters. According to the rules, Langrisser 1&2 has to fit the following criteria:

  • Add new content
  • Is available in territories it was not previously available in
  • Reimplement previously removed content
  • Fix technical issues/bugs that plagued the original release

These games check off items 1, 2, and 4, so it counts as a good remake. There was no previously removed content in the originals, so 3 cannot be checked off.

Anyways, back on topic. The thing about Langrisser 2 is that it had its original release on the Mega Drive. In that version, it was a hard, linear TRPG. Then, the game would be ported to the Super Famicom, then later, the Saturn and the Playstation. This version, Der Langrisser, added a whole bunch of new shit, as well as easing the difficulty somewhat. Der Langrisser introduced multiple story paths for you to take. Now you were able to take different sides in the games’ ongoing conflict, which also led to multiple endings. Granted, the plot wasn’t super involving; it was very much the typical “evil empire is doing bad things, and wants to obtain a powerful magical artifact so as to do even more evil things much easier,” but it was still a novel concept in 1994. The thing about all this, though, is that only the Super Famicom release is in English, thanks to a very good fan translation (RIP Near). The problem, however, is the Super Famicom version fucking sucks. It runs at like 5 FPS, which wouldn’t normally be a problem in an RPG, but it is when it’s all on a large level with a lot of units present. Battles take forever because of how long it takes to move from one end of the, for whatever reason, larger maps (bigger than the original Mega Drive version) and fight the enemy army. Also the music sounds terrible and it sucks.

This remake contains all the extra stuff that I didn’t get to see in the original game, is in a language I can understand, and doesn’t run like complete shit. That alone is worth it. But there are some changes that I can appreciate. For one thing, unit balance is significantly better; no longer do I have to cast characters like Liana and Hein down to the back of the line, and Hawk Knights actually have a use that isn’t “highly mobile meat shield.” Actually being able to use all of your troops this time around is fun.

The game itself plays well, and is about as good as the original, barring one thing. My biggest problem here is the way the game looks. Like, you can get the option of using the original SNES sprites for the maps, and using the original Satoshi Urushihara hand-drawn character portraits. But you don’t get the option to use the original in-game character sprites. This is a problem, because I don’t think the new art is as good.

the original, for reference

This carries over into the actual battles. Before, you had these Chibi sprites bump into one another until they were dead. Now, it looks like a mobile game, except that these are new art assets, and not ones recycled from the actual Langrisser Mobile game.

I don’t like the new art style. It’s not for me. Really, I just wanted the original sprites, original music, a good script, and some technical fixes. I understand that this is probably me being weird, and that I am not the average consumer that companies need to or should directly market to. Still, I will complain about a lack of the one option I wanted. Maybe I’ll look into modding this game some day.

you may be surprised to learn that satoshi urushihara is a porn artist by trade. a horny foreigner gave him the nickname, “master of breasts.”

Langrisser 2, despite the visual aesthetic, is still fucking great. I miss the challenge of the original, but I’m not going to complain too hard. There is a strange, nostalgic feel to the game. When I was an awkward teen, I wasn’t really allowed to go out. I had a pretty rough, controlling childhood, you see. So, as a result, I would spend a lot of weekends at home, playing Mega Drive ROMs, downloading porn off Kazaa, listening to Malice Mizer in WinAmp, and watching an*me at night. Langrisser (the first one, anyways) is one of those games that left an indelible mark in my fucked up little brain. Another Saturday night alone in front of the computer, listening to that wonderful music on the FM sound chip, much like I’m doing right now; though being home alone in 2021 when you’re almost 35 years old is much less sad than when you’re 15 and your parents think you’re on drugs. Langrisser 2, despite only being unofficially in English in 2011, still evokes that imagery in my mind, of exploring the internet, because you can’t really explore anywhere else. It’s the kind of game you lose yourself in for several hours, occasionally taking a break to watch whatever an*me is on the original run of Adult Swim, or to see how close a download is to completing.

Revisiting old games, an*me, Visual-kei, I said I was going to go full weeb this Summer, and goddammit, I meant it! Maybe if you were a weird kid like me, you might enjoy Langrisser. Or I don’t know, maybe if you like a good Tactical RPG.

Before I forget: yes, the remake of Langrisser 2 absolutely retains the secret Cho Aniki level. Oh hell yeah.

the homoeroticism of the side-scrolling brawler

It’s June. More importantly, it is Pride month, or as it is known today: Pridetm, presented by Mastercard, Raytheon, and the McElroy Brothers. In this month of people and corporations pretending to like us so long as we remain sexless, docile concepts rather than actual human beings, I thought I would do something a little different. And by “different,” I of course mean, “write about video games.”

The Side-Scrolling Brawler, also known as the “Belt-Scroller” and the “Beat ’em Up,” is a genre that gets a lot of shit. Critical reception these days looks at these games as boring, badly made, repetitive, “poorly animated guys lumbering around and punching other poorly animated guys.” This is bull shit, brawlers are awesome. Maybe some day we’ll get a big resurgence of the genre.

A big reason why these games are good is simple: they are gay as fuck. In this post, I’ll be playing a bunch of these games, and rating them on a scale of their homosexuality.

Final Fight

I’m starting this with the Grand Leather Daddy of them all. Final Fight is gayest game to ever gay. It is the story of gay archetypes beating up other gay archetypes that look like they bought their clothes at Stryper’s garage sale, and tearing their way through a suspiciously San Francisco-looking New York.

Let’s take a look at the playable cast:

You have Guy, a self-assured, twinky bottom-bitch. Then there’s Cody, the bisexual, versatile switch, complete with extremely form-fitting jeans. Finally, there’s Mike Haggar. The body, the single leather strap, the immaculate mustache. Mike Haggar is 80’s Gay in one large, bulging package. It’s like a Tom of Finland drawing did the Fusion Dance with Ray Harley.

So you pick your piece of ass, and get started beating people up. You start off in the most derelict part of the city, where amphetamines and isobutyl nitrate are easily acquired. Who is the very first enemy you encounter?

Bred

Bred is a man who knows what he’s into. And any of you fucking know-it-alls can spare me your bull shit “uhh actually, it is a mistranslation of ‘Brad'” and shut up. It’s fucking Bred. This is a man who joined up with the Mad Gear gang, and when picking his name, decided to use that opportunity to let the world know that he enjoys both cocks and cum in his ass. Nobody loves to get dirty more than Bred, and God Bless Him for it.

Final Fight also introduces us to Poison, one of the first transsexual video game characters. I once watched some porn where a trans girl doing Poison cosplay was cranking on her sizeable hog, then she stopped at the five minute mark to inform the viewers that, quote, “Poison was one of the first transsexual video game characters.” That’s awesome.

Okay, look, this dude’s name is goddamn Sodom. It cannot be more obvious that Final Fight is a game for the queers. You don’t have a game with two characters named after terms used to describe man-on-man anal sex and then try to pass it off as straight.

look at those jeans! cody wants the world to know what kind of heat he’s packing.

Final Fight is a game where tough, burly dudes with good physiques do manly shit with one another in the dirtiest way possible. Fighting. Wrestling. Grappling. There’s a level that takes place in a fucking public bathroom. Do not try to tell me that that’s a realistic depiction of street gangs; as if the Bloods and the Crips are getting into territory wars over nightclubs, public bathrooms, and any other notable spot used for gay cruising. This game has all the makings of a Can-Am Productions fetish video. It’s kind of hot, honestly.

oh hey, look at all these bikes. i bet they were all driven here by a hetero leather club!

These days, you get all these SJW snowflakes losing their shit over current day gay pride. Doing a Helen Lovejoy bit, freaking out over the possibility of a child seeing someone in a puppy mask and a leather harness. First of all: shut up, bitch. Second: When I was a child, you could walk into any arcade in America and play Final Fight. It was there, front and center, with all its extremely homoerotic imagery that made my brain feel funny until I was old enough to understand that Guys Being Dudes in a sexual way was something that I was into. Final Fight is gay, possibly the gayest thing. Actual gay sex is straighter than this game. A leather daddy pounding down a PBR before he walks into a gloryhole to get sucked off by some shirtless cumpig with a George Michael beard is more heterosexual than Final Fight. This is the greatest arcade game of all time, and the lack of homoeroticism is what what killed the subsequent Final Fight sequels.

Gay Rating: 10/10

 

Knuckle Bash

Knuckle Bash is a rare departure from STG masters Toaplan. It takes the eroticism of Final Fight, and makes it far more overt. You play Knuckle Bash and chuckle to yourself, “this game is gay lol” over and over. This is a game about pro wrestlers going out and fighting other, much more evil, pro wrestlers. The game itself is fine, it’s a short quarter muncher from a company that wisely went back to making shooters. But I’m not here to talk about “gameplay,” I’m here to talk about “gayplay.” Knuckle Bash has a lot of it.

First of all, let’s take a look at the between-level transition screen:

hachi machi

Do you enjoy excruciatingly detailed sprite work of muscles? Do you enjoy outfits that go way beyond the flamboyant excess of professional wrestling? Do you enjoy the camp nature of video games? Because if so, you should definitely load up your preferred version of MAME and load this game up.

You’ve got:

Kind of obvious gay dudes.

Middle-aged divorced dads who have finally discovered themselves.

Well defined asses that not even Yoko Taro could imagine.

this is the “bonus stage.” you mash buttons until the timer runs out, and whoever mashed better lands a punch.

A little something for the furries.

please ignore my mature intials

Football players, for those of you out there with a jock fetish.

Unfortunately, the homoerotic stuff declines late into the game. So unless you have a thing for dudes with pig faces grafted onto their own, you won’t be getting as much out of the second half as you did in the first. But fuck me, what a first half! Worth the 15-20 minutes it takes to play through the whole thing.

yeah this is cool in a body horror sense, but not in a hot gay sex sense.

Gay Rating: 9/10

 

64th Street: A Detective Story

A real hidden gem here. I mean, the game itself kind of sucks, and the gayness is toned down compared to the last two games. But it’s worth looking at, if only due to the fact that it is very obvious that the two protagonists, Rick and Allen, are definitely in a “daddy-boy” relationship.

Other than that, and the funny plot point about secret messages in the classifieds, there’s not a whole lot here. But I don’t think this a game a lot of people know about, and even trash has its fun.

wait, what the fuck?

Gay Rating: 3/10

 

Streets of Rage

NO COPS AT PRIDE

GAY RATING: 0/10

 

Rushing Beat

Rushing Beat is honestly, pretty fucking generic. Generic in terms of how it plays, and generic in terms of being homoerotic. However, one of the characters, Bild, dresses up like M. Bison at a gay bar, and the second level lets you recreate the iconic scene from Lords of the Locker Room.

hey buddy, i think you got the wrong door. the leather club’s two blocks down.

Gay Rating: 6/10

 

There’s plenty of other gay ass brawlers out there. I thought I would look at a handful of them for funsies. I’m mostly doing this post to let everyone that brawlers are for the queers, and don’t let anyone dump on this genre without a fight!

i’m watching the virtua fighter an*me

People seemed to enjoy my last write up on the world of Japanese animation. As such, I figured that I would do it again. After all, There Has Never Been A Better Time To Watch Something On Tubi. Also, never been a better time to watch the Virtua Fighter an*me…several weeks after the rerelease of Virtua Fighter 5 on the PS4, and during a time where the only fighting game I’ve played for the last week is Guilty Gear Strive (I’m on the 10th floor, btw, making me a high-level player). Like The Tower of Druaga, I heard that this adaptation sucked too. But as we all found out, Druaga got good after the first episode (follow-up: having watching several more episodes since, the show has improved even more). Maybe this will also be the case? Let’s find out!

When I think about it, this show in and of itself is not a bad idea; Virtua Fighter is a series notoriously known for having zero plot development in the games themselves, leaving it to supplemental materials, like the instruction manual. So, to have something like this, that can expand upon characters that are otherwise simply faces given to real-life fighting styles, can be a good thing. I guess it will all come down to its execution.

Episode 1- Akira of the Hakkyoku-ken

As the title gives away, this episode introduces us to Akira Yuki. Unlike the games, where Akira is a stoic, no-nonsense Karate Man, Akira in the show is a goofy, hapless idiot with a bottomless stomach who also uses dumb luck to take out guys trying to kill him. Basically like a less charming Goku. He’s at this restaurant, taking an all-you-can-eat challenge so as to get free food, since he is broke.

While this is all going on, Pai Chan, who is now apparently a teenage girl instead of a fully grown woman who stars in martial arts films, is being chased by a bunch of dudes because of reasons. To get away, she runs into the restaurant that Akira is eating at.

Hijinks ensue.

I need to make it clear that is a painfully unfunny sequence. The worst kind of wacky bull shit. Hey look at all this chaos going on, but Akira is too busy trying to stuff his face to care! HA HA! Bad guys are trying to beat him up, so he deftly avoids their blows and catches slowly falling dumplings in his mouth! Hilarious!! It works when Jackie Chan does it in his movies, but it always seems to fall flat whenever it happens in an an*me. It comes across as obnoxious, rather than humorous. Maybe it’s the subtlety of Jackie’s performance, and not him constantly making that expression that I can only describe as the A-Word equivalent of a Soy Face:

funny thing: the subtitles started bugging out here. this is funny because i was watching the english dub, and therefore had subtitles turned off.

Anyways, Akira and Pai end up accidentally kissing in the fracas and it’s so funny because Akira ate so many dumplings that his breath smells like garlic and this was Pai’s first kiss and it sucked so she beats him up and the bad guys kidnap Pai and I hate this show.

I…

Look, confession time: I’ve been working on this post for the last three days. I have watched one episode per day. Virtua Fighter starts bad, and manages to get even worse. I hate the writing. I hate the bad animation. I hate the shitty 4Kids voice acting. And while I’m at it, fuck this too:

There’s a stupid villain who isn’t in any of the games, and he sounds like Stewie Griffin. Then Akira disguises himself as a racist Chinese stereotype to break Pai out of the evil Kung-Fu jail, before he suddenly gets all serious and starts to actually fight, complete with a Magical Girl-esque transformation.

The whole crux of Virtua Fighter is that it is, you know, a 1-on-1 fighting game. Combat is the focus of the whole thing. The an*me? 1 minute fight scenes where it is very obvious that this show was made on a small budget, with static images with speed lines that cut before you see fists making contact with a face; the kind of thing that makes it clear this was meant for kids, with the typical American censorship of the era. Then the episode ends with Akira chasing Pai around with a plate of garlic dumplings, because THAT IS FUNNY.

I’m tapping out. Like I said, I watched three episodes of this crap, and I don’t feel like going back and re-watching them so I can get screenshots. Don’t watch Virtua Fighter. Play the game instead; it’s free for PS Plus users until August. Have a few matches before you do what I did and start playing Strive again, marveling at the latter’s amazing netcode. Play Guilty Gear Strive. Watch literally any other an*me in the world. Do not waste your time with goddamn Virtua Fighter.

nocturne

There is one game that I have been playing way too much lately, and that is the HD remaster of Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. I do understand that by buying this, I’m perpetuating the terrible cycle of constantly rereleasing stuff that already exists, but a couple of things:

1) This is a game I actually really like that came out in 2003, not some soulless bull shit from 2019 that Sony needs to shove out the door because they fired all their dev teams.

2) The inclusion of Raidou Kuzunoha without me needing to find a second copy of the PS2 game fits in the “it’s okay to remake/remaster if cut content is included” clause.

Now then, with that out of the way, let me get started on this bad boy.

Like Resident Evil, the Megaten series is one of my favorites. Unlike Resident Evil, I don’t find myself in many situations where the topic of Megaten comes up. Probably because I don’t have too many friends who have played these games; even in 2021, with Atlus being a much bigger deal than they would have been 20 years ago, these games are still very niche. Megaten is the mainline series, yes, but Persona is the money maker, and the one that everyone knows about. But, as this is my web site, maybe I’ll take this time and make the topic of Megaten come up.

For those unaware, you poor fools, Shin Megami Tensei is a series of RPG’s. For the most part, they aren’t especially connected to one another in the plot department, so you can find any game in the series and go to town. All of them are very obviously influenced by Wizardry, with an emphasis on exploring long, winding dungeons with increasingly difficult enemy encounters. The big appeal, on a mechanical level, is the ability to recruit enemies over to your side. You talk to a demon, and if they like you, they join you. Then you can take two of your demons and fuse them together into one stronger demon. This has led to Megaten being described as “Pokemon For Adults,” despite predating Pokemon by a number of years. You know, hey, we are Americans, and we live and die by the Elevator Pitch.

it also has a cute doggy! hello, pascal!

Megaten is also, underneath the large amount of memes and shitposts you can find online, very political. Every game involves the world coming to an end thanks to the actions of some dickhead, and then you spend the rest of the game gaining enough power to kill God, and remake the world in your image. None of these choices are perfect, each with their own pros and cons. You can create a world of law and order, which can lead to a fascistic police state. You can create an anarchic society that can also lead to a eugenics-based “survival of the fittest.” Or you can create a world that shuns these ideals, leading to freedom for the individual without the use of class systems or “fuck you, got mine.” Megaten is a series that tends to have you dismantling systems of oppression, both religious and state-based, though the two tend to blur in these games.

Putting all this information here because I have friends who have never played these games, and wanted to know what they were all about. Now I will talk about Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.

Nocturne is a pretty brutal game. It begins with the world suddenly and violently coming to an end, thanks to the machinations of a tech company CEO that leads his own cult. Even for 2003, even for the Playstation 2, it’s still a very unsettling sight. This 100% has to do with Kazuma Kaneko’s art style making a beautiful transition to 3D. Everything from an abandoned hospital to a simple magazine cover manages to look genuinely creepy and unnerving.

The silent protagonist, who can be given a name at the beginning (I named him after Astro Boy), is a student who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and ended up surviving the apocalypse. He’s then forcibly turned into a half-human, half-demon creature, and is left to his own devices. I bring up this extremely brief synopsis to explain that Nocturne is a departure from previous games. The first Megaten began before the world was obliterated in a nuclear war, and the second began several decades after that apocalypse. Both games also had the protagonists use a wrist-mounted computer to  summon demons, via a program written by Stephen Hawking. This one has the shit hit the fan immediately, and say that no, John, you are the demons. Nocturne does a mostly good job of maintaining this hurried pace. I say “mostly” because I really love to take a good few hours to not go forward, and instead grind out levels like a weirdo. Like Wizardry, Megaten games tap that pleasure center in my brain of watching a number go up.

dude does look an older astro boy, let’s be real

This young demon thing, now called the Demifiend, has the power to punch things to death, and speak the language of the demons. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the demons are all various creatures from different religious texts, urban legends, and folklore. So it can be you, a Hindu spirit, the Mothman, and even Baphomet, just walking around the ruins of Japan fucking up anything stupid enough to start a fight.

There is one more aspect to Nocturne that I think everyone is aware of: the inclusion of Dante from the Devil May Cry series…

…which I won’t be talking about, because this particular run of the game I’m doing is with the other guest character: Raidou Kuzunoha from Devil Summoner 1 & 2.

both are pretty interchangeable, really

So these are all things that Nocturne has. What makes it appeal to me? After all, this is my web site, where I put down my thoughts and feelings.

Nocturne is a game where a shy teen boy becomes something that society considers a monster, amid a world-destroying event that could have easily been avoided and was only done so a rich guy could have more power, who uses the powers of Satanic powers and allies, all to literally run up and punch God and Elon Musk right in the fucking face, and use that power to make the world a better place for everyone. Why the fuck wouldn’t I like this?

It is a game where you sift through the rubble of the old world, dealing with old friends who have since moved to the extreme poles of a political compass. The new world is a constant power struggle; there are warring factions everywhere, and everyone wants to create their own shitty version of the world. Now it’s up to me, the smartest asshole in the room, to tell them that they’re wrong (using my fists), and do this shit right. I don’t want a Libertarian hellhole! I don’t want a do-over of Capitalism! What if we had an anarchic system in place? Is that a perfect solution? Probably not! I mean, the entire premise of SMT2 is how that system can be warped into something shitty. But it’s certainly a better idea than “I have a lot of money, which gave me a god complex” or “I lost all my friends when the world ended, so I think more people should die.”

Really, I’m only doing all this because I’m in a position where I have to. If I were the Demifiend, I would be more like the Manikins (one of Nocturnes many factions), and move far away from all the bull shit, where I can live in peace. But since I can’t, I’ll simply have to beat the shit out of every religion and system of government until I can.

That is Nocturne. It rules. The other Megatens also rule. It is this stylish, rebellious piece of art where you constantly walk that fine line between hope and pessimism. The prevailing message here is: the world is fucked, but it doesn’t have to be.

aew, two years in: part 2 (the good)

The complete 180 of Britt Baker

I’ve said this a couple of times already, but when AEW began, I saw nothing in Britt Baker. Her happy-go-lucky babyface character felt incredibly fake and disingenuous. And on top of that, she wasn’t exactly the best wrestler, either. She looked like someone who was on her way to the WWE Performance Center, and got lost along the way.

Then, in response to Riho never showing up to defend the women’s title on Dynamite, Britt turned heel. During this turn, Britt Baker proceeded to cut what it probably one of the absolute worst promos I have heard in years. If I may make an indulgent wrestling reference, she made “Sufferin’ Succotash” sound like “Cane Dewey.” It was so bad, AEW literally went to a commercial right in the middle of it, probably one of the only times AEW not showcasing a woman was actually a good thing. Thankfully she wasn’t actually at the Performance Center, because that one performance would have killed her career; you think Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn are going to let a woman live down having a bad night?

For a long time, Britt Baker had “go away” heat. I did not want to see her on my TV, and I questioned AEW management’s decision to put her there.

A funny thing started to happen pretty quick: she got good. Like, really good. “I might actually buy an AEW t-shirt” good. Her promos got better. Her wrestling got better. Her whole character of “unintentionally racist, entitled Karen” was pretty dang entertaining, even when she couldn’t actually wrestle due to injury. Her whole, “I hate everyone in AEW except for Tony Schiavone and maybe Rebel (not Reba)” trait is a surprising breath of fresh air; even heels have friends! When was the last time anyone in wrestling had an on-screen friend? Well okay, The New Day. But is there anyone else?

The Lights Out match between Britt and Thunder Rosa (also really awesome) is in the running for my favorite match of the year, and I imagine that it’s going to end up clinching that dubious honor. I watched two extremely talented women beat the fuck out of each other in the main event of an AEW show, the first time that has ever happened. I watched them do ridiculous, violent, hardcore wrestling that even most male wrestlers would shy away from. I watched them bleed. This was a match that showed 1) how fucking good the women of AEW actually are, 2) that Thunder Rosa rules, and 3) that Britt Baker is going to be a main event player for years to come. It also showed something that’s been missing from the wrestling landscape for way too fucking long: losing does not mean that you are done, and you’ll never make it back up the card. Britt Baker lost that Lights Out match, and look what that did for her. It looks like her next feud is with Nyla Rose, and while I will always be in Nyla’s corner, I’m certain Britt will be more than entertaining in this rivalry.

 

Using the veterans well

For the sake of clarity, when I say “veteran,” I don’t mean someone who’s been in the business for ten years, but is still young and in their athletic prime. I mean guys that I grew up watching. So like Sting, Chris Jericho, Matt Hardy, Christian Cage, etc.

There’s a tradition, for lack of a better term, in wrestling: popular older wrestler who can still get ratings and pay per view buys, but is beyond his best years athletically, and becomes world champion anyways. Hell, I’m sure Bill Goldberg and/or Brock Lesnar are on their way to dismantling whatever promising young talent is currently holding the WWE title again.

Of all the names I brought up, the only one to ever hold the AEW title is Jericho. This makes sense, as he was the biggest name in the company while AEW and its roster were still establishing their identity. Jericho eventually lost the belt, and (editorial aside, thankfully) has not been anywhere near the title picture since.

Sting is here to establish Darby Allin as a major star, something that I feel he has done well. Sting may as well come to the ring with a blinking neon sign that says HELLO OLDER FANS WHO REMEMBER ME. HI, I AM STING. I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THAT I SUPPORT AND ENDORSE THIS GUY, THIS GUY RIGHT HERE: DARBY ALLIN. PLEASE WATCH DARBY ALLIN WRESTLE AND DO COOL STUFF OFF THE TOP ROPE. I was a bit worried that he would only ever be a Cinematic match kind of guy, but his showing at Double or Nothing last week fucking rules. For a moment, I thought I was looking at the old Sting, and not the Old Sting.

Christian is still fairly new to the company, and hasn’t done much of note (aside from have excellent matches). This is mostly due to his planned feud with Ricky Starks being put on the backburner after Starks got a neck injury via Mortal Kombat X-Ray Move. But at least in his short time, he’s made Jungle Boy look like an absolute rock star.

Matt Hardy has mostly been okay in his role. Not through any fault of his own, but it does feel like the other members of his Hardy Family Operations stable are in the background. I’m chalking this up to Private Party and The Butcher and The Blade not being on TV as much lately, and some inconsistent booking; are Jack Evans and Angelico even part of the group anymore or what? That being said, Matt Hardy did get Adam Page over in their short feud.

Older wrestlers stepping aside and letting the younger generation look good is something that has also been sorely lacking in wrestling for a long time. It’s hard to create new stars if they look like shit compared to the current stars, or the old stars.

 

The redemption of Tony Schiavone

Remember all that stuff I said about Jim Ross in the last post? You know, how he was once the greatest voice in wrestling, and has since gone on to be absolute shit from a dog’s ass since then? Take all that, and apply the exact opposite to Tony Schiavone. The dying days of WCW, Tony could not have been more checked out. His post-wrestling reputation was that of a bitter old dickhead, and his repeated use of “the greatest night in the history of our sport” became a meme.

Then, after a brief stint with Major League Wrestling, he’s back to full-time wrestling commentary with AEW. What I love about Tony is that 1) he’s actually really good at commentary again, and 2) it is very obvious from watching the show that he is having the time of his life. It’s as if he traveled back in time to the 80’s, and he’s sitting next to Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A all over again. Tony Schiavone is like the Dad of wrestling, just a guy who loves wrestling, and loves playing Uncharted on his PS4. Now keep in mind, I haven’t looked at his Twitter or listened to his show with Conrad Thompson, as I do not want to risk seeing or hearing something that shatters my illusion of Tony Schiavone being fucking awesome. Let me have this, please.

Anyways. In a strange twist of time and fate, Jim Ross is the bitter has-been that needs to hit the bricks, while Tony and Excalibur handle the announcing duties. Tony rules.

 

Creating new stars

Jungle Boy. Darby Allin. Maxwell Jacob Friedman. “Hangman” Adam Page. Rey Fenix. Sammy Guevara. The Acclaimed (Max Castor has since gotten a lot better than rapping about Twitter Trends). Private Party. Only some of the names of guys that in only a couple of years, went from “who the fuck is that?” to, “holy shit, that dude rules!” Guys who are young, relatively young, or mostly unknown, being able to showcase themselves in front of a much larger audience. Adam Page is legitimately one of my favorite wrestlers at the moment, and I’m glad he was rescued from the purgatory that is being Yet Another White Guy In The Bullet Club. I only knew Sammy Guevara from that time he botched his Wrestling With Wregret promo, now I know he’s fucking awesome and needs to break away from The Inner Circle right fucking now and do his own thing.

Darby Allin? Well, he’s come a long way from the “I Like Turtles” video.

yeah i stole this joke from osw review. bite me.

It could have been so easy for Cody, the Bucks, and Omega to use AEW as a playground to only get themselves over. And instead, there’s a whole bunch of new/new-ish guys that I think are really great. Okay, admittedly, Anthony Ogogo definitely got his shit derailed at Double or Nothing, but there’s still a good chance that he’ll rebound; he’s immensely talented.

 

Brodie Lee Tribute Show

The day after last Christmas, Brodie Lee tragically passed away from an unknown medical condition. This was especially tragic as Brodie was making great strides in proving just how overlooked he had been in WWE, and proving that he had what it took to be a main eventer.

Naturally, AEW held a tribute show in his honor. A show that was not only probably the best episode of Dynamite ever from an in-ring standpoint, but definitely the best tribute show in the history of wrestling. As a long-time fan, there have way too fucking many tribute shows to fallen wrestlers, and they have always, without fail, felt cynical. This one didn’t. Probably because, unlike other tribute shows, Brodie Lee wasn’t literally killed by the company that he worked for. This was two hours of wrestlers giving their all in a heartfelt showing of love to a friend they lost.

And fuck me if the end of that show wasn’t the most gut-wrenching thing. Seeing Brodie’s wrestling boots get metaphorically hung-up by his son is a moment that, even to a non-wrestling fan, is a powerful image.

As great as this was, I really do hope that this is the one and only tribute show AEW ever does.

 

Maintaining goodwill

The most important thing to know about AEW is that it is a Wrestling company that Wrestling fans watch because they want to see Wrestlers Wrestle. They are not WWE, in that they are not ashamed of what they are. AEW does not insult my intelligence. It does not insult me, period. Are they a perfect company? Well, no. I mean, I literally just wrote an entire post about how they weren’t. But the thing is, when AEW does fuck up, it feels as though is comes from an attempt to actually try, and it failed in execution. Tony Khan’s not exactly saying, “you will like what I tell you to like,” as Vince McMahon has long before I was even born.

Think about all those times you watched WWE programming. All those great wrestlers you wanted to see at the top. Now think about how many times they got fucked over in the end. You want Daniel Bryan? No, you want Sheamus. You want CM Punk? No, you want Kevin Nash. You want Bray Wyatt? No, you want Bill Goldberg. You want Kofi Kingston? No, you want Brock Lesnar.

AEW has been really good about not shoving the wrong guy down our throats. Like, yes, there’s Cody Rhodes. And there was that time I wanted Nyla Rose, and they gave me Riho, but I think I may literally be in the minority for that one. But the rest of the time? Pretty cool to see people you like actually be on the show, rather than feuding in the catering room.

This carries over to the actual shows. Remember that fucked up finish at the end of Revolution? That would almost certainly killed a lesser company, or at least damned it to obscurity for twenty years like Impact Wrestling was. But I know that myself, and a lot of other fans, are still giving AEW a chance because, holy fuck, it’s a wrestling show! We will still get to see great wrestling and storylines that mostly make sense and are actually good and have long-term planning behind them. There has never been an episode of Dynamite where there was no wrestling for an entire hour, you know? Outside of one segment, there’s never been time taken away for dance contests, terrible backstage segments featuring extremely wooden acting with one-liners done by the team behind one of Chuck Lorre’s shitty shows, or having to listen to Michael Cole try to rap. AEW is essentially Tony Khan using his vast fortune to play his own real life Fire Pro Wrestling sim, but at least he’s pretty good at it.

These are my thoughts on this nice little wrestling promotion that has reignited my love of the game. I honestly always thought that I would only ever watch wrestling out of life-long obligation, and not because I actually really fucking like it. And even if AEW sucked, its existence is still a really good thing, as actual competition in the business makes everyone better.

Really, all I would like is for my complaints to be fixed, and for Luther to be a world champ in 2022.