Thursday, September 27, 2012

History01: Sqoon-a-woon spoon! MIGHT BE A SQOONAtiC UR LOOKING FORRRR

at 10:35 PM
What do you get when you take a tiny subhuman and

ZINGER ALREADY! SUbHUMAN! Sqoon is a half-submarine, half-man!

Or okay... a submarine with a face. Yah, it's kinda fucking weird. He is FUCKING PISSED too. Clearly Sqoon was not told he was going to be painted pink. Buncha dicks.

So anyway Sqoon is a brand new game that all the kids have been talking about and trading Pokemon Cards about and taking the nation by storm about and it's because of the submarine aspect. Submarines are hottt right now; on the TV is a new show called Submarine City, on the movies it's a new movie called Submarine City, and on the radio everything still sucks. I don't know what they're playing except on the classical station, but I promise me, it is fucking atrocious. That's why people are turning to Sqoon - they're finally getting fed up with the process cheese microwave reheated McDonalds sponsored pop musicians. Sqoon is offering something different. It's offering a new future.
It's offering a future where presidents can vote for other presidents, because America finally lost all hope. A future where everyone is painted pink, and is angry about it. A future where R-Type actually isn't the only game that Irem ever made.

This post is bad, and I do mean bad. It's like nonsense can't even read it why even post it bad. It's "whelp, that blog is dead to me" bad. Let me try to fact it back onto the rails.

Irem was a great developer. They made a lot of really cool games, and what you especially might not know is that they briefly took the name Nazca Corporation before being fully absorbed into SNK as "the Metal Slug team". It's kinda hard to follow this kind of history which is something I've always lamented - basically all we have to go by are the credit reels of various releases, full of abbreviated names and aliases. There doesn't seem to be a ton of great documentation out there because no one was sitting down with Akio and interviewing him about Legend of Hero Tonma. Instead these days all we have are these corporate ueber-icons like Miyamoto and Peter Molyneux alright now I'm derailing my rerailing. If anyone has a good resource for classic Japanese game dev history, do share. The best I know of are the woefully incomplete MobyGames and the far too wordocious Hardcore Gaming 101 (check out both sites though, they're good resources).

I was talking about Irem. They made all these random good games, and then they made Metal Slug. And that's coming from someone who thinks R-Type completely fucking blows. But there's lots of neat and experimental stuff, the kind of stuff bighead modern game devs and journalists forget existed when they talk about how primitive the '80s was. I'll tell you what's primitive. Someone who thinks they can talk about games without having played Ninja Spirit, Metal Storm, or Spartan X 2. And did you know they did FUCKING MOON PATROL?! Talk about landmark. Word on the street is that's the game that invented parallax. YA DIG?!
So if being painted pink PISSES YOU OFF and you want to kill every last shark left in the post-apocalypse, go try Sqoon. It's kinda hard and you're gonna need to find an FAQ or a copy of the manual to understand the human-rescuing system, but it's a game about a race of submarines rising in the wake of humanity to blow up what's left of sunken civilization! AGHHHHHHHHHHH

SNK fighters and Wii Virtual Console

at 3:01 PM
Hey you know I'm happy as a clam eating a chicken that someone out there is still supporting the VC, especially someone like SNK whose games tend not to be as well-known, but do they really have to keep releasing games that A.) are only slightly modified sequels and B.) are available in latter-day compilations? 

It's the second one that kills me - you can go to Amazon with a fifty in hand (and please, as I do, physically hold your cash in your hand and try to exchange it with the Amazon webpage as though it were a cashier - it's up to you to decide when it's not going to work and the joke is over!) and pick up: 
Fatal Fury Battle Archives V1 -         $5.73
Fatal Fury Battle Archives V2 -        $1.25
Art of Fighting Anthology -                $3.78
World Heroes Anthology -                 $0.99
Samurai Showdown Anthology -         $11.97

The great irony of it all is that no matter how many collections and re-releases they do, SNK still refused to put out Mark of Wolves in the West, which is otherwise generally considered the best game in the series and the best fighter they ever made. Also, the even greater irony is that Last Blade is still a better game.
Apologies all around if that felt like an ad, because hell, I don't even know how to do Amazon referral links, but holy shit look at what I just wrote for a second. We're talking about a perfectly legal method, not even involving MAME or buying yourself a USB arcade controller, that requires only a PS2, to spend $31.27 (plus shaping and hand ring!) and get like, what's that, close to 20 or 25 different games? Why would you ever in your life need to spend one more dollar on an SNK fighting game? You know they're all basically the same, right? And since none of them have online and all are going to be latched to your PS2, there's no competitive scene either (plus the weird thing where Fatal Fury is supposed to be a 1P game anyway).

And Metal Slug's just as bad. Metal Slug actually annoys me even more though, because people get all happy when a Metal Slug game comes out on VC. Listen asshole, go fucking buy the collection on Wii or PS2 right now. That is REQUIRED PLAYING. Those are some of the best run-and-gun games of all time, or, almost definitely they ARE the best run-and-gun games of all time. So by heralding a VC release, not only are you giving credit to the eighteenth overpriced resale of a game that's been available (on the same platform) for years, you're also admitting that you know absolutely JACK SHIT about 2D action games (and probably HAH, this is hilarious to me, probably think like Contra III or something is the best one) and ought not to be trusted with the words "arcade", "shmup", or "difficulty".

YES I AM CRANKY. You try being sick for over a week now and being unable to swallow or eat meat or talk or even breathe properly. It's not that fun. And I could have days or weeks left to go, and guess what, it's all probably just buildup to surgery I'm going to need. Fucking sweet. So you better go enjoy some SNK fighters in a financially responsible way and then someone release a good VC game, because not all of us can live the high life right now. And maybe, just maybe, I'll eventually feel up to playing or talking about La-Mulana.

Alright alright, so as not to leave this on an entirely negative note, let me give you a quick recommendation about an SNK fighter that IS worth playing and IS worth buying and hopefully will soon be followed by its sequel on VC. The Last Blade. It's a Edo-Samurai-Period-Piece, similar to Samurai Showdown but strangely a lot more fun. The characters don't all suck and it has a much more fluid combo system. It's generally just a much more approachable game than anything SNK ever put out; the systems are spelled out clearly, there's a built in counter button, what more could you want. So go check it out, it's a great one for children and kids alike!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ha, nice ending, Fall of Cybertron

at 7:38 PM
Great final level that runs like a highlight reel of the entire game and has you switching between sides on the fly, great climactic sword duel between Megatron and Optimus (that lets you choose sides!), and an overall great finish to a grated game. Going out with a bang is key in a day and age where too many games could easily pull the plug at the five-hour mark before they decompress the remaining ten minutes into five hundred. And just to make sure you weren't taking things TOO seriously, the credit sequence splashes some cold water onto your face with a cheesy '80s power ballad dance montage pulled right out of the likes of Buckaroo Banzai.

And hey, maybe I'll even try out the online MP! Lord knows I've loved rolling around in a tank ever since Battletanx gave me the hunger.

Ever notice that a Transformer is basically a were-car?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

LPGA is back! Let's Play Double Dragon 2! Biting off more than they can chew!

at 5:20 PM
Aw man wasn't it sweet the way that title rhymed?

Been a while since I posted an LP around here (or since I did an LP) so here's an old favorite, very likely the worst one we ever made: LPGA takes on Double Dragon 2. Figured this would be timely since I've been playing that new old Double Dragon Neon, which btw I finished and was awesome. Currently replaying in co-op, and christ it's easy. Thank god for difficulty settings.

Back to Double Dragon 2. A hard enough game to finish as it is, LPGA as always decided to take to the streets without even so much as a single practice run. As such, you have... well, you can watch it. Let's just say you're about to find out why I always say Let's Plays should be about honesty first.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sick so sick so sick so sick

at 1:39 PM
Isn't it so awesome when you're sick like a million times over the past year at an increasing exponential rate and then finally you go to the ER and are vindicated by being informed that you have tonsillitis and yeah it is probably what has been making you so sick? Better yet, now I have mono!
This is what I feel like doing
So that's why no post yesterday, because I was in hospital. Luckily or unluckily, I'll be home from work for at least next week, if not more, so I should be able to keep you post-hounds at bay. Certainly will have plenty of movies to watch and reviews to write, plus I'll be keeping you up to date with the newest R[esident] E[vil] 6 demo news (hence the RE4 post the other day which was actually supposed to be about RE6 until I got carried away), possibly some more about Mark of the Ninja, and plenty of classic game talks as always.

As usual, Rodan says it all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


at 9:33 PM

Everyone here that doesn't know what a huge RE4 fan I am knows that I am a HUUUUUUGE RE4 fan. The game was a major influence on my life. It was the game that allowed me to become self-aware as a gamer, to realize that beyond choices present in the text of the game were choices present in the text of the play. That the player is a co-author.

So somebody at some point stupidly said I would play RE4 100 times in my life. Play through it. It should be noted that it's a game that takes a normal player around 20 hours to beat, and that after getting all the secret guns and committing everything to memory, I could do it in about 6. I somehow reasoned with myself that 6 hours meant three 2-hour sessions, spaced across a month, which was pretty reasonable. And with a rate of one playthrough a month, having already done about ten runs at age 17, I would zip through it in just eight years. EIGHT YEARS???? SERIOUSLY???? I can't believe that when I was 17, basically a fucking adult, I thought I'd want to suffer through eight years of ruining this brilliant milestone in game design and culture.

I never did play RE4 1000 times, if you can believe it. Because what happened is that RE5 came out. And it was awful and left a terrible taste in my mouth and made me doubt that RE4 had actually been any good. That's actually not the real story - the REAL story is that my GCN memory card died so I lost the record of my first dozen runs and said fuck it. It was all about seeing the counter hit 100, without that it was meaningless. Then I got the Wii version when I was a year or two older and I said, alright, let's go in fresh, forget the memory card debacle and maybe we can work up to 100 from scratch.

I was stillllllll pretending that goal was anywhere closer than the sun?!  Seriously?! WeweweweweweweweeeWeeewoooWeooowooo. Sound effects.
TURN ON THE SOUND EFFECTS!You ever listen to the Cows? Go check 'em out. As soon as you think they're a great band you'll realize they are like eight completely different great bands, depending on the album and the track.

So I got onto the Wii version and said, dear god, these controls are awesome, I'll never be able to go back to dual analog. And I never really have been able to go back to dual analog, because I never found it a particularly successful substitute for mouse and keyboard anyway. Well, it works for them ol' third person games, so let's let it be. RE4 is like DOOM 2, that's why it's so fun. It's like you're a magnet and there's no shelter and you stand and shoot. No, hang on to your butts for one more second, I think I'm onto something here.

Is RE4 the final re-emergence of Robotron 64? The top-down shooter, Total Carnage, Smash TV? We learned a long time ago that DOOM 2 Kicks Ass because it's a shmup, an honest-to-god born-and-bred Gradius Batsugun Ikaruga shmup. Maybe with a little bit of Gauntlet tossed in and then kicked into a dungeon. But it's a SHMUP. You minimalistically navigate through an enemy threat pattern managing your and their damage trajectories and momentum. Your concentration is divided between two points: controlling them through fire and protecting yourself through avoidance.

Man I'm really worried this is starting to sound like the ravings of a crazy person. I'll get back to you later.

Double Dragon Neon has been pretty awesome (revis)

at 10:28 AM
Good on ya, WayForward Technologies. You actually got one right. It's nice to see a couple things, like a game that can be retro without pixellated graphx, a game that can make references without spelling them all out, and a game that doesn't cave to the childish whims and forethoughts of an age gone sour with bad.

WayForward is a company that I sometimes call "Letdown Games, Overrated Games, or WhyForward Games". Whyforward? Because for some reason whenever the world says "new game from WayForward on the wayforward!", I get all excited and think, cool, these guys are the real deal. Then I think back and say, wai(forward)t a minute, what good games did they make again? Contra 4 wasn't that special and was ruined by being on DS, Boy and His Blob was pretty good but pretty flawed, that Bloodrayne game was awful, Batman: Brave/Bold seems reallllllll weak, and the rest is a litany of other licensed and forgettable titles. Ohhhhhhh right, Shantae. Man some people really love talking about Shantae. Never got it to work on my GBA emulator, sorry. So when I saw Double Dragon Neon and heard all the bad buzz the previews were making, I was like, hey, no surprise, another slightly below average WayForward game.

I was totally wrong and I'm here to admit that I will admit that to you, in writing, at a later date TBA. DDN plays great, it's chockablock with retro and contemporary game and film references, it has the best sense of humor of any game I've played in a while (if there's one thing most games fail at miserably, it's comedy; I'M LOOKING AT YOU TWISTED PIXEL), and it's not afraid to keep up the pace instead of sitting on its haunches. It also could be hard except that it's not, and the reviewers complaining about the checkpoints must just be really, really, really, really, really, really, really fucking awful at playing. It is not hard at all. It's actually pretty easy, I think every level I beat on my first go (up to 8 now). The game gives you like FUCKING THREE LIVES AND A TON OF 1UPS! THOSE ARE YOUR CHECKPOINTS YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!

So as to the jokes. They're there and they're funny, there isn't much else I can say without spoiling them. There's a surface layer of comedy which is kind of slap you in the face stupid, the kind you see in a lot of games these days that think they're Whacky and Willing to Break the Fourth Wall, like Comic Jumper or Bionic Commando Rearmed. There's also a second level on which it works to parody these games with a deadpan, unflinching delivery of the Whackdom.

DDN brings back this gimmick, but this
time you don't lose a life when you fall out
The enemies and gameplay mixups are a lot more ambitious then what you see in common retro beat-em-ups, or actual retro beat-em-ups. Double Dragon was actually like that back in the day - true, it did come before the brawler formula had really been nailed to the cross by games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, so it's hard to say whether this was stuff that DD added or stuff that successors took out, but the games did have their platforming and their strict 2D segments and their helicopters levels and stuff. Other classic brawlers are more mundane and pretty religiously stick to the formula, rarely adding more than an occasional vehicle level or bowling ball rolling down the street.

As such, modern throw-backs have been terribly timid and in fact sort of tarnished the name of the genre by treating this lack of creativity as a rule. It's considered OK for games like Scott Pilgrim and Castle Crashers to rely on extremely drawn out repetition because "hey, that's just what a brawler is!" Well, Double Dragon Neon isn't happy settling on that cop out. Every level has something different, something to remember, like an airlock, an assault chopper, robo-enemies a la X-Men, and so on. Okay well almost every level. I think level two plays it pretty straight. Otherwise, the game is always introducing something new.

This is exactly what I've been saying makes a great and memorable experience, like Vanquish or RE4. Always be doing something new. Because if the player just wants the vanilla experience, hey, nothing is stopping them from putting level 1 on repeat and digging in. So the developers don't need to force that with artificial padding. And if it means your game is only two hours long, GREAT. I have other things to play, and now I actually might come back to this!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

3D versus 2D revisited, not actually

at 1:28 PM
After reading last week's post about 3D, my buddy Golem said to me "oh no". Or something along equal lines of articulation. I think his concern was that the idea of an entire dimension going to complete waste for so many years was scary, or frightening, or ghastly, or Gastly. We are approaching that spooktacular Halloween season, after all.

For the cretins out there, Homeworld was the fully 3D space RTS that put Relic on the map
First of all let me say that there ARE some games that have actually used 3D. While it's true that most ignore it, I'm certainly not going to sit here and pretend that Homeworld and Tie Fighter (or any other flight game) didn't exist. These games present multiple objects of focus distributed across 3-space in a way that cannot be projected onto a 2D plane in a way that preserves gameplay. That is to say, you could make Rogue Squadron 2D, but the notion of navigation would be lost, as you could make Homeworld 2D only at the cost of positioning. These are experiences that add an entire dimension of location, most obviously because they don't involve gravity. 

Well, that kind of gives away why you can't have a true 3D platformer, doesn't it? Or at least, why we haven't yet seen what it would be. Because we learned back in this post that gravity and other omnipresent forces are what defines platforming. Aside from that, we have action games, which are covered by the transition to flight (Tie Fighter, Ace Combat, etc.), and strategy games, which are represented by Homeworld. So that's your main gameplay styles, huh? And what we have is that 3D maybe isn't irrelevant, and isn't completely trivializing, but is already encapsulated in the common definition of genres. Any given genre is by nature EITHER 2D or 3D.

I guess? I ought to think about that some more, and so should you. Tell me what you think in the form of a dinosaur so that I don't have to come up with my own ideas, because that's tiresome.

Oh hey before you get carried away, I meant to comment on the title that what I'm trying to address here isn't some kind of competition between 2D and 3D games about which is "better" or "more real". Very obviously, 3D presentation has a HUGE deal to offer our brains. It's not a trivial advancement at all, and there are a million reasons for it to exist and continue existing, as there are likewise a million justifying 2D. 

Just wanted to kind of slightly point out that there's nothing inherently more sophisticated or more advanced about 3D, and historically speaking, it actually kind of created a step backward into more primitive forms of gameplay for a long time. Because, believe it or not, every game you ever think existed, existed before 1990. You may have some laughable IGN-style superiority complex about "how far games have come since the '80s", but you might wanna lose that now. Because do even a shred of research and you'll learn that everything you thought you knew is wrong.

Monday, September 17, 2012

MMM - The recurring movie feature I hinted at, revisited

at 2:09 PM
Some more mini movie reviews. These are bite-size, but if you eat them, they will taste like letters. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fuck I've got some old ones I have to do before I forget them. There's probably gonna be another one of these features one second after this one because I want to do the new ones that don't completely suck. 

Friday the 13th - There was something about this movie being a roller-coaster. Like the director or the producer or someone wanted the film to be the exact same experience as being on a roller-coaster. Bad news for whoever said it, whoever was supposed to do it, and us for watching it: it fucking blows. This is the ultimate pointless movie. It's not fun to watch, there's no subtext, no interesting visuals or actors, no plot, no nothing no more. It's a void into which you may, but shouldn't, dare to throw your time. Avoid like plague.
Remember, HE'S not even in the first one
The Burning - For whatever dumb reason, this is ANOTHER slasher about summer camp. There were a shitload of movies on the subject in the early '80s; was it Friday the 13th copyfoot, or was there a popular news story / urban legend, or were they, like, just invented? I don't fucking know. IIRC the idea of camp was a way for the rich to get rid of their children during the only season they had to deal with them. Okay. So camp movies are about ad hoc societies of children. Lord of the Flies. BORING. SO BORED. This one has like Jason Alexander as king though which I thought was funny, and there are some actual characters who do actual things, which is in sharp contrast to Fry13. If you want a camp slasher, this appears to be the best.

I Spit on Your Grave - Oh boy. Where to even start with this movie. We've got sexual violence, the mentally handicapped, and some kind of feminist agenda all wrapped up into a really honestly pretty brutally unwatchable movie that has been at various points marketed as a slasher or exploitation. I'm just gonna describe it because there's not much more you can do. The first part is about the assault and rape of a young woman by a handful of backwoods youths in a secluded community. This is BORING because it involves stuff like the woman renting a house and ordering a pizza and driving places and the guys seeing her and talking to her. It's the Friday the 13th thing - this is utter, meaningless shit. So you wade through this drivel for the supposed payoff which is a woman getting raped by four backwoods hooligans, one of whom is mentally retarded.





What the FUCK is WRONG with someone who would want to watch this? I'm not passing judgment on the act of watching fake rape or trying to take some moral position. I'm saying: who the fuck sits through an hour of some dumbass shit to see another few minutes of a different kind of dumbass shit? And I get the exploitation movie culture, the midnight movie screenings, the, you went to see this because there was no Internet of it all. But this isn't exploitation, because if it was, shot one would have been some idiots doing some silly/funny/crazy stuff and shot two would have been rape, not shots one-through-three-thousand are hicks sitting in a place, shot three-thousand-one is rape, etc.

What makes this movie so much worse is that the first hour of bullshit / stupid payoff is just the setup for the second hour of bullshit / stupid payoff. This second half actually COULD HAVE been a movie because it has AN idea, but it is not a movie because no one here knows what a plot or a dialogue or a storyboard artist is. In this part the woman that got raped goes and gets revenge in pretty much the exact manner you'd expect, lot's of fake seduction and dick chopping.

Alright alright alright I wasted way too much time already but you can see the paradox there, where the feminist that would like the second half would have to sit through the raping half and the misogynist that would like the first half would have to sit through the dickless half. I highly doubt anyone who worked on this movie was even smart enough to understand THAT. This is very likely the worst movie I have ever seen. Do not watch it. You will be completely embarrassed, disgusted, and depressed to have done so.

Witchboard III: The Possesion - Yeah this is just dumb. It's about a haunted Ouija board, but it isn't even a little bit funny. Honestly this movie is a hole in my head. It's what I expect you would get if you removed the QTEs from a Sega CD FMV game. You are welcome for this gem:

The Stuff - Almost there. Almost done this review crop. Honestly these five (sans The Burning which is perfectly passable in its own right) are all candidates for worst movie ever made. It has to have been a horrible week or two for me when I was making my way through these. I blame Netflix. Alright well The Stuff is this B movie about some kind of ice cream substitute that can control people's brains, but in practice it's the same thing as They Live and has some completely unbearable acting. If you're not ready for a 11-year-old lead who doesn't know how to act, then you're not ready for this movie. Don't be. It's just bad directing and idea that seems neat but doesn't sustain a 90-minute feature film. No.

That was mostly depressing to write. Check back next time for some stuff that might be better?:
Jack's Back
Dead Snow
Night of the Comet
Not of this Earth

Revisiting Animal Crossing - Turniping a problem into a journey

at 11:05 AM

Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. These games go together like oreos and chocolate chip cookies. Like Americans and Canadians, or Americans and Oreos. Throw a cookie off the top of a mountain and I bet you'll have quite the tale to tell. I haven't done that, but I did play some Animal Crossing last night, and lemme tell ya if I can't tell ya a little tale about that.

"Animal Crossing" is a general notion. Maybe I should already take back something I said. Harvest Moon. Don't super want to talk about that right now. That's a simulation game and then we have to get into sim games, and I have to talk about SimCity and Sims and explain to you how someone thought an SNES controller was adaptable to the life of an ant. It wasn't, and many ants were killed to bring you this information. The main difference for the today is that when you turn off Animal Crossing, the clock ticks on, whereas Harvest Moon will wait patiently for you to come back.
Animal Crossing isn't a sim then. It really isn't a sim. What the goddamn hell would it be simulating? Buying robot furniture from tiger people? The sim distinction is vague at best; let's suffice to say that if you don't start feeling like a certified airline pilot, you aren't playing a simulator. No, Animal Crossing just has that weirdly addictive quality that kicks off the OCD in everyone's brains so you can feel the satisfaction of work while accomplishing nothing.

Animal Crossing is best described as an RPG without the P. Whoa checkkk this out doooods. The MPAA rates movies R, PG, or G. (or PG-13 but who fucking cares pretend this blog was blogged in 1981). RPG are the exact same letters in RPG, the common abbreviation for role-playing game. Looks like you're ready to learn something!
This is an Animal Crossing too, but a kind that should die
Well too bad! Because I'm pretty sure all I had to say was that girls like Animal Crossing and find its childlike appeal appealing. And that's so beyond an obvious point that I took six paragraphs to get there. Yeah. It's not like a condescending thing at all, it's like, I guarantee if you're bored and sitting on the couch and like "I want you to be able to play a video game", Animal Crossing will be a delight for girls and boys. It's also a good navigator seat game, where everyone in front of the TV gets the same experience.

Wow that was dull. Have a dull post for a dull Monday! I might try to remember something good that happened for my next post. Greg and I played some more Mega Man 7. Inconclusive as ever. Not sure I can justify wasting any more of my life on that game. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double Dragon Neon first play - Trying to write a blog while feverish, revis

at 10:53 PM
Hey guys, my temperature is 103 right now, but luckily I'm out of sick days at work! Isn't adulthood grand? It's my favorite thing since childhood and teenagerhood. Yyeeesterday a little TH heaven raht here on earth.
i never write good when I'm all feverish. it's because 1, I don't like you, and 2 I feel like I'm gonna barf. You ever wrote the Magna Carta when you barffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

see it kilsls all motivation to go backward. It's like, please. My teeth feel gritty and I'm going to lie down. not gonna fix a typoe. I dare you to fix it. Using just barf, type onto your computer the correct spelling of every word so far.

And you shoulda seen WHAT I WAS LIKE LAST night. It was one of those rare opportunities where I actually had to make myself puke so I wouldn't die.

Uhhhhhhno not thinkin that it was. But I DID do it to feel better, and then I slept. See, that's w2hat you almost got.

Waiting tilk today to type this, my breath feels and tastes like salsa. Yo know what else does that?> Double Dragon Neon. Feel the Salsa, Taste the Combos. It's got that chunkity chunky brawler feel, like ever kiss is a kiss to the brain and you just cringe to hear your opponents take a baseball bat to the face,. It's slow in a methodical way, so that you can tell every hit counts. The combos aren't really any more complicated than what NES had: 123punch uppercut. We've got a modified level up system (do not forget DO NOT FORGET that Double Dragon on NES ALSO had a level up system). If you run out of lives, you'll find yourself reset at the beginning of the stage (CLASSSICK, same as on NES (cept it had just lives instead of continues)), with your collected power-ups intact (there is no EXP, leveling is done through pick-ups). So you can grind if you want, but you're just gonna bore yourself and there's no need to.

Level1 pulls NO punches (punches, punches, punches) with enemies. You gotta play right or you ain't gonna make it to the end. You know whate other great game did this? Double Gragon. So, if you're thinking "this game is all archadic and IU CRYYYYYYYY soooooooooo LONG", burn in fucking hell you piece of shit. Actually don't do that. Come to my house. I've got just the puke soaked handshake for you old boy. PROUND OF YOURSELf?? I bet your momma kiisses you with that hand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mark of the Ninja, or Has 3D Become Irrelevant Revisited?

at 6:13 PM
Yeah yeah blah blah blah I know we all like playing games in 3D. Everyone knows that. Oh shit hang on a second.

No I do not mean 3D as in stereoscopic glasses-wearing COMICALLY irrelevant 3D. No one ever cared about that. Are you some kind of nerd or something? This ain't the nerd taxi. Why would you assume I meant that?

Good lord. Now that we're beyond your frighteningly misguided conceptions about modern technology (I'm sure you thought N-Gage was going to be the next big thing too), let's get back to the 3D that I'd already be discussing if I had readers. The Super Mario 64 kind, the Mega Man X7 kind, the Ocarina of Time kind. Less so the Bubsy 3D kind, because the less said about Bubsy 3D, the better. Ask Golem if you want to know about that; kid has a weird thing for mentally challenged cats. Some would call him a mentally challenged cat. It's not bullying if it's completely warranted.

Let's get you introduced to Mark of the Ninja. This is an XBLA game that came out just last week, developed by Klei with the budget-enhancing and exclusive-ensuring help of Microsoft Studios. Klei is a relatively new studio mostly known for Shank, a gory 2D hack-and-slash that almost could have passed for a The Behemoth game if not for the Samurai Jack art-style. Mark of the Ninja takes almost the exact same style and renders it in black ink on black paper colored entirely in black. It's a black game, and no I don't mean [some racial zinger that will feel cliched]. I mean that the entire time I couldn't tell what was anything because it is literally ALL black. Not figuratively, not hyperbolically. Literally. Turn on the game and you will think you turned off your TV.
Screenshot of Mark of the Ninja
That was a risky play by Klei, but in the end it works pretty well. The game is full of derivative if satisfying Splinter Cell stealth-assassination action, peppered with reactive QTEs that tone down the feeling of "press X to watch kill". The presentation restrains itself to the senses of the avatar, presenting the player with a familiar selection of routes: crawl above the room in a duct, grapple across gargoyles (a la Arkham), or take the creeping floor route.

Point is that when you hold it in comparison to SC: Conviction or Arkham City, it's exactly the same. There's no 3D/2D barrier. Or that is to say that there's no 3rd D. But then, there never was.

Since the days of Super Mario 64, or Wolfenstein 3D, or Star Wars (Arcade), every avatar-based game has run on a series of curves, rails, paths, whatever you want to call them, so they're really 1D. And I'm gonna say some more but I really need to get a post up now and I really need to get some sleep so I will be back later.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Red Dead Review that I wrote

at 6:47 PM
Edmund Burke, famous Whig, wearer of wigs, and conservative British political theorist, would have us believe that the wisdom of our institutions, grounded in our collective past and tradition, is much more capable of proper decision making than our individual reason.  Because individual people, especially the dirty peasantry, are stupid as fuck.  Keep this thesis in mind for the rest of my post.
Don't forget me.  Ever.
I started playing Red Dead Redemption because it didn't involve me actually purchasing a game, and I love me some Western flicks.  It captures the dominant mood and tropes of the genre without coming off as entirely stale for a Sergio Leone-aficionado.  Your bargain-bin American History major can tell you that this vision of history is a dolled-up, half-truth narrative which reflects the spirit of a very brief portion of the West for a very brief time.  Plus, most cowboys were black.  True story.

A lot of Westerns use the "end" of the Wild West as a major plot device, as the major source of tension for our hero to negotiate as he pulls himself up by his own boot-straps, but few acknowledge that it barely existed at all.  So I appreciate the nods RDR gives to this fact.  Sentiments espoused by characters along the lines of "your rutin-tutin type of outlaw do-goodery and justice aint appreciated round these parts!" have been, a few times, followed by more accurate and probably more satisfying attempts to depict a complicated power structure and system of law.

This isn't always the case.  At one point I had to go save some lady's kid because "the law can't even help themselves."

It's quite obviously a well put-together game, which makes sense since apparently it took slave labor to make. I have a number of issues however:

Everyone is really, really ugly to the point of distraction.
Though I like this dude's style.
I'm playing on ps3 (mistake number one) and why the hell is R2 the shoot things button and not R1?  I press R1 in fire-fights and it takes me out of cover, which has the direct opposite effect of shooting back.  This could be entirely my own fault but I certainly struggle with it on a regular basis. 

I don't have a problem with not fixing what ain't broke, but RDR is essentially a Western Grand Theft Auto - a Grand Theft Equestrian if you will.  From the style of cutscenes and voice acting to that circle map on the bottom-left corner, it all feels very familiar.
You look significantly less like an ass-hole though.
Finally, and most irritatingly, I can't save whenever I want to and this does not work very well when you live a real life and you know, things come up outside of the goddamn game.  I do not get how this is still a thing in games.  Jesus.

Wait why was I talking about Burke at the beginning of this post?

All in all I give RDR a keeps-my-attention/10 which is the highest score available on my scale.  It has pretty beautiful scenery, voice acting that doesn't unnerve me like most, and the missions tend to be short bits of excitement that also don't feel like a waste of time.  The only issue it is currently facing is that I got Batman Arkham Asylum and, well, it's batman.  Got to play that shit.

Andrew I admire your perserverance

at 3:38 PM
but if you make me look at one more half-finished draft for one more minute I swear to god I will

 ah who am I kidding no one else has posted in weex

Hi. MMORPGs are not games. (Part 2 of that other post)

at 12:49 AM
Well, that is that they don't belong to the video game medium as an artistic or entertainment pursuit. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with MMOers, except that they have autism, I'm just saying that calling them "gamers" is the equivalent of using that term to describe a little league baseball coach or a bowling enthusiast.

I think I've gone on record before as saying that masturbatory competitive headset-a-thons don't have anything to contribute to the experience of gaming. Actually, you can think of this as part two of my previous post about "games to experience" versus "games to I actually don't remember the other term I used". That post was pretty poorly put together and abandoned halfway-through because I didn't like that attack, so let's try again.

Let me give you a better metaphor. You know what movies are, right? Films? Motion pictures? Steve Spielberg? Okay. Now do you know what sports matches are? Baseball, football, hockey games? Olympics? Your answer should be yes. If not, go to jail. Now let me pose a question to you:

Is a football game a movie?
Well, it's a very boring subject for one.
Of course it isn't; each individual football game is meant to be undergone once in a lifetime and never again. It does not compose a continuous experience stored in one's brain, it simply leaves a single fact or handful thereof - essentially, who won? Every match contains events that will be repeated time and again throughout the collective entertainment medium of "football". There is no greater value in watching one game over another, except perhaps a favored contender or a weighty outcome. They contribute to the larger esoteric notion of a season or career and their worth is determined by how they fit into that continuum.

By contrast, a movie is built from scratch, with no pre-existing conditions or permanent outcomes. I'm presenting this contrast as black and white just to make the argument simpler, but don't think I'm unaware that this is an extreme. Like sports, movies can revolve around their contribution to a participant's career, they are often built around an exact framework with only minor deviations, and they may derive their draw solely from the inclusion of a popular intellectual property or famous actor. They CAN. Many DO - as a matter of fact, MOST do. At least the ones you're going to see with a wide theatrical release in the year 2012. These particular films are very much the equivalent of sports; your Bourne Hard 7 or Star Wars Episode -1. The point I'm making is that they don't have to be. There are and (hopefully) always will be those movies that attempt to make a creative statement and to be original. There are NOT football games that do this, because football games aren't meant to interact with an audience, they're meant to follow a predetermined set of rules and expectations.

So I guess at this point it seems like I'm coming down pretty hard on sports, like I probably hate them. That's not at all the case; I'm an international soccer follower and a fair-weather Orioles and Ravens fan. I can only take so much, but you better believe I can get into a match. All I want to establish is that there are multiple kinds of experiences available in the same basic format: a television screen.

Now that I've spent a million years on that detour, I kind of just want you to conclude the rest of my argument for me. That's what a good writer does, isn't it? Can you see why 'real' games are like movies and MMORPGs or multiplayer FPSs are like sports? Call of Duty can be basketball, Battlefield can be baseball, and Counterstrike can be ping-pong, because does anyone take Counterstrike seriously? Or swap those out for WoW, Guild Wars, and The Old Republic. Well, give it a try, and maybe I'll come back someday and finish my thought.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Top Ten Platformers: Revisiting The Top

at 3:59 AM
I'm sure you're sitting there right now, wondering what the best 2D platformer of all time is. You've probably been planted for days, face inches from your monitor and index finger tapping out the drum line to "Shadows in the Rain" on your F5 key, otherwise frozen with anticipation. Your life can't go on without my opinions, I know. Mine can't either. Or I guess it kinda can. My opinions are sort of a burden, a cross I must bear. An Atlas on my shoulders. To always be right, yet know I have to somehow find a way to go on among the ignorant self-righteous charlatans of the world.

Whew. Okay. I'm back. It's Mega Man X. Megan. Mna. X.

10.) Mega Man X
Mega Man X deserves to be called the greatest for you and for me, for time and for time again, because X is a true hero. He's what Joseph Campbell would call a "myth in the making". I could call on my friend Ezio and his never revisited "column" about Joey C. to explain this to you, but I know more than him and he's lazy.

X is a robot fighting against other robots. Campbell considered this to be the first indicator of a "myth in the making": an artificial life-form of equal or superior to human intelligence locked in an eternal, indissoluble conflict with an indefinite beginning and end. Because Capcom will never stop milking the same few intellectual properties, we can definitively say that the X series will never have an end, and since the original Mega Man games strictly precede X and are also ongoing, there will never be a concrete beginning, as each Mega Man is essentially an adjustment of X's backstory. The artificial life aspect is pretty clearly spelled out in the game, when X uses a fake toothbrush and has a helmet instead of hair.

It's not enough to show that X is part of a machine war - so was Terminator and also The Matrix, and neither of them are the greatest platformer of all time, as per Campbell's definition of myth in the making. We need to prove that X is adaptable. Yes, adaptability is a key element of myth, and platforming. If X couldn't turn grey and start throwing boomerangs, no one would remember him. Though his blue-green scheme stuck with him through the worst of times (X6), X was as much a chameleon as Sting Chameleon. Seems like there's a pretty good chance they were brothers. Was this the unspoken twist of the game? X, too, is a chameleon?

That's shocking, but convenient too, because Campbell has it down here that a myth in the making has to have killed his brother. This is the point where many debate Mega Man X; who is X's brother? Is it Zero? Zero dies, but X doesn't kill him. That doesn't make them brothers, even if red and blue are matching colors that look nice with that outfit. X rises from his brother's grave to continue the eternal battle against whatever the hell Sigma is. A dog I think. A dog that rules the world! Or is making plans to. Mega Man X: Kill a dog who has big plans. Sounds bad. I see why they didn't make that the tagline. Never know with the Japanese.

A myth in the making is something that impacts our daily lives as we go to school, work, robot school, robot work, et al. If that's not Mega Man X, I don't know what is. It can be approached a million different ways, but always has the same presence. It's always there, just around the bend, behind that barrier, under the streets, within the river, the river of I'm done

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mini-Movie-Mreviews! Perhaps a new feature?!

at 8:39 PM
Have some extremely tiny reviews of a few movies I watched in the last couple weeks. You can get all of these on Netflix Instant Queue, and I got a dollar just for saying that! I hate numerical scores, so I'll give you a micro-recommendation at the end of each!

The House of the Devil - This 2009 indie movie has the feel of a student project; it runs as effectively an emulation of '70s proto-slasher horror. That means it's far more suspense than gore - you're kept as much in the dark as the film's babysitter protagonist and are taken on the thrill ride right beside here. A definite watch, especially for film geeks.

Small Soldiers - From the makers of Gremlins, it's a similarly dark satire of contemporary American commercial culture. This one focuses on violent and war-obsessed children's playthings. The commentary hits home, especially when the toys turn middle America into a war-zone, but one wonders who was the intended audience. Only the most jaded children would derive pleasure from the toys' homicidal antics or get the satire, and adults will yawn through the teenage love story. Of course, the great irony is that the movie came with a tie-in toy line. If you're bored and craving nostalgia, but keep those expectations low.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - A modest chiller from 2010ish with a haunting Lovecraftian premise that is unfortunately a bit too liberal with its CGI ghoulies. The atmosphere is thick but underutilized; scenes climax too quickly and you're never too far from a comfort zone. The characters don't offer much to grab onto, the filmmakers seemingly unwilling to take them too far from cliches. The focal little girl in particular is too close-mouthed yet the adults are ignoramuses thanks to the amount of coincidence they're willing to dismiss just to disbelieve her. Hardly necessary, unless you're looking for an adaptation of The Rats in the Walls.

Rare Exports - This was a GREAT movie. A completely deadpan blackly comic send-up of the Santa Claus myth that avoids the belligerent "I had a bad childhood" Scroogism of other dark Christmas films like Gremlins or Silent Night, Deadly Night. The R rating is an exaggeration - with the exception of a momentarily naked old man (yeuck), there's nothing in this movie worse than what kids are certainly watching in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. A combination of horror, fantasy, coming-of-age, and male-bonding flicks, the only reservation to a universal recommendation is that it is almost entirely in Finnish with subtitles. You're a prick if that stops you from watching though. Highly recommended for all viewers and all ages. Go watch it now.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky - Extremely weird Chinese '90s prison flick. I've heard it called a gateway drug to outsider gore films. Gory it is, with scenes rivaling even Dead Alive (Braindead) in creative carnage (one villain is so determined that he won't relinquish even when his stomach is ripped open and his innards are strewn on the floor. What happens next is... well I won't spoil it for you). And brain-dead it is as well - the plot is completely moronic, the budget non-existent, and the acting in no way deserving of being called acting. Plus it's got an awful dub. Might not want to be sober for this one, but it has to be seen to be believed. Cult film fans will love it.

That's enough for you to chew on for today. Come back next time to hear about:
Friday the 13th
The Burning
I Spit on Your Grave
Witchboard III: The Possesion
The Stuff
And many, many more!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Killing time - not what games are for, revisited

at 3:33 PM
To make an example here, I'm going to describe an in-game scenario from two different player perspectives. You can guess the identity of the player - it might even be one of your favorite celebrities! The game in question is Sleeping Dogs.

Player 1 says: The world of Sleeping Dogs is rambunctiously engaging, full of micro-challenges that make every second extend and keep me coming back for more. Whether it's street-racing, cock-fighting, drug-busting, or hypen-ating, there's always some objective to drive away to, and while I'm driving, test my own speed-run!

Player 2 says: Sleeping Dogs is full of filler content to pad the game length, milking each gameplay variant to the last drop to keep me occupied with anything but moving forward. Where are the interactive cutscenes and huge boss battles?

Time for the big reveal. Take off those blindfolds! Player 1 is a teenager or someone who is paid to play games for a living; player 2 is every single other person in the world.

Okay, I'm being a drama queen here to make a point. It's not that bad, and Sleeping Dogs is nowhere near the original sinner. The point is that there are two kinds of games. Or actually there's a wide spectrum of games, a spectrum with some identifiable focal points. These can somewhat vaguely be qualified as games for playing and games for experiencing.

Games for playing are like toys, sports, or hobbies. It's almost unnecessary to mention that sports games, party games, competitive FPSs (Modern Warfare) and RTSs (StarCraft), and MMOs fall into this category. I'm not maliciously trivializing those genres - I'm just not going to talk about them here. So what ELSE is a game for playing? Dark Souls is, that's for sure. Skyrim too. Mario, right? And even Zelda.

Wait on a second there, we're moving to fast. You've taken almost every game ever and thrown it into a category. Categories aren't good. They suggest predictability, inflexibility. If all those games are just for playing, are you gonna try to tell me that only story-driven games are for experiencing? That's totally lame. Not only is that not a new observation, but it's siding dangerously close to the "video games aren't art" crowd.

No, story isn't the element of the game you experience - or at least it isn't always. The distinguishing characteristic we're talking about here is still gameplay. Something about Ninja Gaiden teaching you about the fragility of life and Mega Man X exploring how a one expands oneself. OOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh that reminds me that I didn't do the #1 platformer. Alright, I'll get back to this discussion later. Remember when I revisited Will Smith?

Monday, September 3, 2012

If you see this guy touring through your town...

at 9:39 PM
Make sure to go check out his act! Amirite? It's stand-up comedy lobster! He's live and unleashed! Hold onto your wings!

Told you so - War for Cybertron IS Metal Arms

at 3:10 PM
Many critics found themselves complaining that the Cybertron Transformers games were "basically Gears of War, but with a licensed property", and even argued that the Transformers license was all that made the game special. Later I'll have a full review of Fall of Cybertron to fully debate these points, but let's get in a quick slap to the face of critics now.

War for Cybertron immediately and throughout reminded me of an evolved version of a sixth-gen game I loved: Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. This was a generally comic robot war third-person shooter, focusing on run-and-gun and light platforming rather than sluggish cover-turtling. The game starred some creative and unique weaponry (like a dismembering buzzsaw gun long before Half-Life 2 or Dead Space would feature the same), multiple playable characters, stealth missions, and a puzzle here and there. For having gone so under the radar, it certainly played like your biggest budget games.

Of course, my initial thought was, "maybe my brain is linking these two games on the superficial level: third-person shooters about robots". Getting deeper into the levels and seeing Cybertron's preference for mobile, arena-style battles instead of trench warfare, as well as its integration of vehicles directly into the flow of a level (vs. Gears of War or Halo, where these have their own stages), I knew that the developers must have at the very least played Glitch, if not been consciously influenced by it.

Metal Arms never got a sequel, and sadly, Swingin' Ape Studios never saw their name on another game. They were acquired from Vivendi by Activision-Blizzard (perhaps just Blizzard at the time), and put to work on that tragic bit of vaporware, StarCraft: Ghost. Seems like somewhere at Activision the swingin' apes are still afoot, because check this: Moby Games confirms:
Matt Krystek, the lead level designer for War for Cybertron, also designed the levels in Metal Arms.

So you can see why I so rarely doubt my own opinion.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Toppest Tennest 2D Platformers, part Finally revisited

at 2:49 PM

You're not gettin' tired of this, are you? I am. Top ten lists aren't accommodating to whacky hare-brained schemes and comic writing delusions. Translated into Fresca, that is to say that they aren't fun to write. They're... writing to write. You know, that satisfied/confident feeling you get from articulating your ideas? That one. But not anything I would go back and read to say "holy mother of the Great Gazoo what was going ON that day?". If you're me, you know that I like to surprise myself. But maybe I don't know that, and that's the surprise. On the scale of good to fun surprises, that one falls somewhere between "intervention" and "I'm pregnant".

7.) Bit.Trip Runner
Pregnant with ingenious rhythmic classical stylish platforming gameplay, you say? Bet they can't test you for that at Rite Aid. Is Bit.Trip Runner a platformer at all? Well, let's look at the definition. We're in control of a (literally) jammin' avatar, the eternally hip Commander Video, and we're definitely trying to circumlocutory him to a different location. What's crazy this time around is that CV is self-propelled! That's one of those external forces that we discussed before, but this one's a little different, because it seems to be working in tandem with our efforts instead of against them. An Unstoppable Force! Unfortunately for it, and for you, the environments of the Bit.Trip universe are littered with Immovable Objects. And what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? You get zipped back to the beginning of the level, that's what happens.
Someone go tell Socrates!
Runner is a symphony and cacophony describing the chapter of a man's life when he becomes obsessed with success and quantifiable worth, and the chapter of mankind's life in which it too was perverted by the dollar and the notion of profit. This is told wordlessly through one dude's marathon tracking the industrial life-cycle: the discovery of raw materials is followed by a mining operation and finally arrival in the city, the mecca of materialism. Runner remains upbeat in spite of its overbearing thematic material - Commander Video is single-mindedly propelled by naive optimism, not all-consuming avarice. These doomy and morose implications are saved for the subsequent slice of Gaijin's narrative (Fate), which should in its entirety be considered required material for every budding game enthusiast.
The audio/visual execution is exemplary in conveying the feeling that the player is controlling a work of art, step by step creating the music video of their own triumph.

8.) Yoshi's Story
Yoshi's Story doesn't suck. There, I said it. You'd be surprised how few people take that statement seriously - well, if you played the game and had any idea what you were doing, you'd be surprised. Yoshi's Story may very well be the only collectathon that ever worked. It doesn't require you to break out your fine-toothed comb like its forebear, Yoshi's Island, opting to hide its secrets on clever detours and down foreboding paths instead of in plain sight but under a rock that was under another slightly larger rock. This approach to level design is common among the games I've listed, because I'm shallow that way.
And it just may be a balloonatic I'm lookin' for
Yoshi is yet another FPTC, a fun protagonist to control. His is an example of a world that lets you take advantage of this. It isn't punched through with pits directly to hell or running wild with flaming electrified spiny bees. The landscape at hand is well, for lack of a better word, bouncy. It encourages the player to run amok and creatively experiment without the spectre of death looming above. It's not that the game is easy (though any player with even the tiniest speck of patience will see the finish line), it's that there are ways of interacting with things that don't rely on the binary "kill or be killed" that has become a little too rote in the medium. The game is playful and friendly without pandering to children; it wants you to bump around and poke things just to be surprised at what happens. It's an interactive world, not a gauntlet.

The art that brings this world to life also deserves accolades for its effectiveness. An N64 game, it's as beautiful in 2012 as it was in 1997, relying on detailed and deep renders that bring to mind the best of Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario RPG, Baten Kaitos, or Kirby's Epic Yarn.

9.) Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood
For all the super-series the industry has left alive since the '80s, Castlevania has the best reputation outside of the Nintendo classics. While Mega Man became synonymous with cloned template games, Sonic was seen as eternally in pursuit of past glory, and Final Fantasy became emblematic of cult favoritism, Castlevania has maintained a popular set of core mechanics while varying the context enough to stay interesting. It also has vampires and Gothic castles, and nerds love those.

Boil this down, skim the fat, peel the rind, strain the juices, and throw it at your brother's head, and what you'll have left is Rondo of Blood. This is sadly the hardest series entry to get your hands on in the States, but as of the PSP remake and Wii Virtual Console re-release, you've got no excuse. Simply put, the game is a bitch to play. Yup, that's what I'm saying makes Castlevania fun. It's annoying.

Really no game in the series escapes this, but let's talk Castlevania X. Every goddamn enemy, every goddamn jumping segment, is a fucking pain in the fucking ass. It's impossible not to die all the time.
What's good about that. I dunno.

What's the last one? Perhaps the greatest platformer of all time? Come on, you must know. If you haven't guessed, we'll be back next time to share.