Friday, September 18, 2015

Hardcore Gaming 101 video articles are go!

Welcome to Hardcore Gaming 101’s official video channel. We’ve been asked about more video content a lot, and video is the future of games writing, so finally here is our attempt to launch some regular programming.

We’re starting out with two series. The first is a new topic in our popular Inventories line. Super Mario Bros. has just turned 30 this month – what better excuse could there be to take a look at all the platforming games from before that paved the way for it?

The other series is JRPG Chronicles, where we explore the history of RPGs in Japan from the very beginning. This is an extended reboot of the blog series we launched a couple of years ago, and we’ve been looking for an opportunity to do more of this for a while. These aim for deeper research than the old blog posts, and so we’re launching with 1982’s Dragon Lair. We only grazed over it in the original series, even though it might just be the very first computer RPG ever published in Japan (among a few other games of which we know only a vague 1982 release date).

But producing the videos takes a lot of time, and the current site budget cannot support doing it consistently, so we’re adding new milestone goals to our Patreon. They won't be up by the time this is published, but look out for them very soon. Once we reach $1250 (it's currently hovering around $1070), we can ensure one video per month, alternating between the two series. If we manage to get to $1500, that means three videos each month. This will be in addition to all the usual articles we put on the site, so even if you’re already a patron, please take a moment to consider whether this kind of added content might be worth increasing your pledge to help us go on and get better at this.

Mind that the quality isn’t quite where we want it to be yet. I obviously need to work on my delivery a lot, but I also haven’t figured out the acoustics yet, so please view these initial two videos as a proof-of-concept rather than the final standard of quality. We plan to go on with both series even before we reach sufficient funding, but the schedule will be much less reliable.

We’re also going to try out how ad revenue pans out with these. If it contributes in any significant way, then that means even more videos for you. Patrons will get ad-free download access to all future videos a few days before they go on Youtube. Later down the line we will also have votes on Patreon every once in a while when we try to decide on a new series. As ever, as a patron you also get access to all our eBooks at the $5 level and physical copies of future books at the $25 level. An official announcement for a new one will be coming up soon, too.

If you’re into this kind of content, be sure to also check out Dr. Sparkle’s Chrontendo, Jeremy Parish’s Game Boy World and PlayStation Year One by Adventure Pals, all of which informed the style of our videos a lot. Also don’t miss the official channel of our own GameClub 199X crew, where you can find long form discussions about many overlooked games. See our subscriptions on Youtube for all these and more recommendations.

Go to the Hardcore Gaming 101 Youtube channel.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

HG101 at A Video Game Con in Parsippany, NJ on Saturday, September 19, 2015!

A Video Game Con is a brand new video gaming convention starting up in Northern New Jersey. Since this is basically my backyard, I had to get a table here. So, please stop on by and say hi! I should have a near complete copy of the next HG101 book, The Top 200 Video Games of All Time, available for preview too. It starts at 10:30 AM on Saturday, September 19, at the Parsippany PAL, which is right off Rt. 46 and not too far off Rt. 80. It's about a 30-40 minute ride from the George Washington Bridge, if you're coming from New York City.

Anyway, here's some stuff I'll be bringing:

I've got plenty of NES, SNES and Genesis games, plus all of the HG101 books will be available, at prices lower than Amazon!

Here is my table from Too Many Games earlier this year, so you kinda sorta know what to look for!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

HG101 at Too Many Games 2015!

Are you going to Too Many Games, the video game convention on Oaks, PA from June 26-28? If so, cool! I'll be there at a table, selling books and assorted video game stuff. Feel free to stop by and chat about old video games!

I'll be selling copies of all of our books, as well as copies of the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers book, including a few copies of the Kickstarter-only cover special edition. Things will be cheaper than they are on Amazon too!

I'm cleaning out my closets and selling other stuff too, like Japanese PS2 games, SFC games, boxed NES stuff, video game soundtracks, loose cartridges, Japanese video game-based manga, back issues of Gamespite Quarterly and Scroll magazine, basically whatever I can fit in my car and on the table!

Here's me looking awkward by my table back in 2013. (I didn't have a table in 2014 since I hadn't published anything new, but we have put out plenty of stuff since then!) Maybe this year I'll remember to bring some proper signage. 

Here's the floor plan, I've circled our location below. (Click on it, because the thumbnail is tiny and useless.) Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

HG101 State of the Union: June 2015

First off, the HG101 Digest Vol. 1: Strider and Bionic Commando, is now available! It retails for $15 at Amazon, $4 for the Kindle and $3 for the PDF from Sellfy. It's more than just Capcom's series, it covers some similar games and includes a few other really fun, nerdy feature articles.

Coming up this month, we have a bunch of articles on some older computer games, all from Electronic Arts: Murder on the Zindernauf. a mystery on a blimp; 7 Cities of Gold and its pseudo-sequel, Heart of Africa, which focus on exploration and can be seen as the precursor to Sid Meier's Pirates!; and Alter Ego, an extremely forward thinking "life simulator". We'll also be featuring all of Sunsoft's Batman games, including the two NES and two Game Boy games, in time for the release of the new Arkham Knight game, as well as some Namco titles like Phelios and Marvel Land, and the addictive perpetually-a-work-in-progress strategy game Dwarf Fortress.

I'll also be at Too Many Games on June 26-28, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. I'll be manning a table selling our books, as well as assorted video games and whatever else I can dig out of my closet and fit on display. Feel free to stop by and chat! As a side note, Robert Belgrade, the voice actor of Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, is going to be there. Just saying, maybe our Castlevania book would be a good thing to have signed!

For a summary of last month's articles, we started an extensive feature on arcade games within video games (which will be completed this month); a long look at the many, many Lemmings games, which will also be evolving as we fill in some of the small gaps left in coverage; the weirdo cult classic Goat Simulator; the two GI NES games by Taxan; the two Mad Max games to tie in with the awesome new movie (even though Outlander isn't officially a Mad Max game, even though it really is); two fun indie games, the Zelda inspired Ittle Dew and the time-bending run-and-gun Super Time Force; and the early PS1 3D platformer series Jumping Flash.

Now that some of our major projects are completed, it's time to start talking about some new ones.

As a follow-up to our Bionic Commando and Strider digest, we are currently planning two more similar volumes. Vol. 2 will focus on Taito arcade games. While nowadays Taito is mostly known for Bubble Bobble and Space Invaders, they were a huge, huge publisher in the 80s and 90s, as the many arcade compilations can attest. Most of them are not well known outside of Japan, unfortunately, though many are excellent. We're still keeping the whole volume within the 75 page limit so obviously this will only scratch the surface of the company's output. We haven't finalized all of the covered titles yet, but planned articles include an overhaul of the ancient Darius article, as well as Ninja Warriors, The New Zealand Story, Gun Frontier, Metal Black, Growl, and many others. Like the first volume, it will also contain 10 pages devoted to 80 interesting Super Famicom titles. We're also planning some other interesting "Inventory" articles to feature.

A subsequent volume will focus on Data East. The major game people seem to remember from them is probably Bad Dudes, but again, they had quite a bit of output, and even though they aren't always fantastic, there are still a lot of interesting titles. Again, nothing is set in stone, but we plan on covering the Data East Commando games (Heavy Barrell, Bloody Wolf, Midnight Resistance, Desert Storm), Joe & Mac, Bad Dudes, Karnov, Burger Time, Trio the Punch, Edward Randy, and whatever else we can squeeze again. Again, there will be another piece focusing on 80 import titles, though we haven't decided the platform yet (I'm still working on completing the Super Famicon one!)

Of course, we are still working on Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2! This one has taken awhile (and will continue to take awhile) as we build up all of the games that need to be featured. Basically, the game will cover all sorts of early 80s stuff, from the Sega/Gremlin days, all the way up through the System-32 era. The current list of featured titles are:

119 / Megumi Rescue / Flying Hero, A.B. Cop, Action Fighter, Aerial Assault / Sonic Boom, Air Rescue, Alien 3, Arabian Fight, Aurail, Bank Panic, Bayroute, Bonanza Bros., Borderline, Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom / Zoom 909, Bullet, Burning Rival, Car Hunt / Head On, Carnival / Razamatazz, Choplifter, Columns, Congo Bongo, Cool Riders, D.D. Crew, Dark Edge, Desert Breaker, Enduro Racer, Flicky, Gale Racer / Rad Mobile / Rad Rally, Hang-On, Holosseum, Jurassic Park, Laser Ghost, Last Survivor, Line of Fire, Monaco GP / Super Monaco GP / F1 Exhaust Note / F1 Super Lap, My Hero, Ninja Princess / The Ninja, Pengo, Rail Chase 1 & 2, Riot City, Samurai, Scramble Spirits, SDI / Global Defense, , Sindbad Mystery, Spatter, Spiderman: The Arcade Game, Subroc / Poseidon Wars, Super Locomotive, Tant-R, Teddy Boy Blues, Tetris, Tough Turf, Tranquilizer Gun / Safari Hunting, Turbo, Up'n Down, Zaxxon

We'll also be having smaller reviews of the (many, many) other obscure titles published during this era, like 005, Gardia, Combat Hawk, 4-D Warriors, Tac/Scan, Pulsar, Monster Bash, I'm Sorry, Flashgal, UFO Senshi Yohko, Time Scanner, and others.

One project we've been working on for a few months is a little different from the norm. It's a "best games of all" time book, that highlights favorite titles from the staff. Looking through old magazines, these were always the issues I enjoyed the most (and have the most worth in keeping around) since it gave a good snapshot into the tastes of the magazine, and the attitude towards certain titles of the time, so I wanted to do something similar for HG101.

The main issue with these types of articles is that the actual written content is very shallow, since they're typically just a cover article as part of a larger magazine. Even when other video game sites do "top X" lists, there's not much actual writing, maybe a paragraph or so. We're doing things a little differently, as each piece will have about 450 words devoted to it, describing its history, why it's important, and why we love it so much. We're also doing smaller pieces to accompany each game that we've chosen that recommends similar titles, either other games in the series or just another game that's related in some way. The main reason is that we don't want to feature too many similar games, but at the same time want to talk about as many awesome games as possible. We also tried to balance the selection out so there are a whole bunch of different games from various genres, to give a wide variety of titles to read about.

Although I'm sure many readers will be familiar with a good chunk of our selections, the content will be significantly different from most other magazines or websites. Since we focus primarily on retro content, most of our selections aim towards older games, or modern games that either channel the spirit of older games, or do something really unique beyond the typically bland AAA cinematic stuff that encompasses a majority of today's marketplace. I hope that it will encourage people to check out some new and different titles. It's still very much a work in progress and I haven't quite nailed down how many games we'll be featuring, but it will be at least 175, so it will be a pretty meaty book. Given the size, we will probably be publishing both a full color and a cheaper black and white edition.

Further into the future, we also have two (maybe three?) more books planned. The first one is a Konami special, that will feature two big series - Contra and Ganbare Goemon - along with a good chunk of their 8/16-bit output. I was initially trepidatious about this after Konami grumbled about our Castlevania book, but we haven't had any issues with them since, and they haven't bothered us about the Konami Shooters book, so I think we're in the clear! Other games featured will include their run-and-guns (Sunset Riders, Mystic Warriors, etc) and their many FDS/FC/NES games, like Almana no Kiseki, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Ai Senshi Nicol, Getsu Fuumaden, and so forth.

Additionally, since I've received many requests for a book on beat-em-ups, we've decided to start putting one in order. We have a good number of significant titles already featured on the site, but we're missing a big one - Double Dragon - so we have to complete that first! And in order to chronicle all of the beat-scrollers, we will probably have to publish two volumes, and figure out to do with some of the redundant content that will already be featured in the Sega book. (The Konami beat-em-ups articles will probably be placed here, rather than in the Konami specific volume mentioned above.)

All of these plans are admittedly pretty ambitious! I'm hoping to have the Taito digest, Top X Video Games and Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2 completed by the end of 2015. Everything else will definitely be planned for 2016.

If you like what we're doing and like what you see, please consider donating to our Patreon, even as little as $5 a month will get you access to digital copies of all books published, past and future, and $10 a month will get your name in print in subsequent volumes. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A friendly reminder of the ways you can support Hardcore Gaming 101

According to our randomizer feed for the front page, there are now more than 1200 articles on Hardcore Gaming 101, including book reviews, Weekly Kusoge, 500-word indies and more! If you ever wished you could pay someone for all that content, the good news is you can! Patreon and our most generous readers have already enabled us to post about 20 articles on average each month over the past ten months. Besides many one-shot looks at classic and indie games, we've had massive serialized retrospectives about the Wizardry and Mega Man series and fun features like an enumeration of the video game heroines of the 1980s, which is right now being followed by a thorough history of arcades and arcade machines within video games.

We've also published three more books within the past year alone, comprehensive volumes on the Castlevania series and Konami's entire shoot-em-up output over the decades, as well as a special of assorted contents for the holidays. Patreon backers can receive all our ebooks (or even hard copies of future books, depending on the funding level) for free. More books are always in the making!

The great thing with Patreon is that it allows us to react flexibly to our funding level. The more funding we get, the more content we can publish the next month. And there is no shortage of content in sight: For the time being, we even had to temporarily suspend external submissions in order to be able to reduce our posting backlog and keep the waiting time for each individual submission in check, so every contribution helps in getting out more articles.

So, if you've got a few bucks to spare each month and think our content is worth your money, head over to our Patreon page!

If direct financial support is not an option for one reason or another, there are other ways you can help us out. Please consider clicking on an ad or two. When you go to eBay, Amazon, PlayAsia or through our links, anything you buy still gives us a tiny cut even if it's not anything that's recommended in the links themselves. Also follow us on the social media of your choice - we just recently added Tumblr to our list of outlets, but there's also Facebook, Twitter and our Steam community group - and share, mention, reblog, retweet or forward whenever you see something you like.

Also shoot us comments about what types of content you'd like to see more of, or what additional site features could make your stay more pleasant. Did you know that as of recently, you can easily browse covered games by company, genre or themes, with a screenshot of each entry as a preview? We're on a neverending quest to try and improve the site and its content, so your feedback is always welcome.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

HG101 Sega Classics book part of the latest Storybundle!

Yesterday the Video Game Storybundle 5.0 went live, featuring several video game related books! If you pay at the $12+ tier, you get a copy of HG101 Presents: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 1, in both PDF and a newly created Kindle format. It also includes a bunch of other great stuff - I've been wanting to read some of the Boss Fight Books series for awhile, which are extremely detailed essays on a particular game, as well as Leigh Alexander's title - plus I have the original issuance of the I Am 8bit art book and it's pretty fun!

Additionally, since I needed to create a new digital version of the Sega Arcade Classics book, I decided to do a small revision to add a few new things. I'd originally intended to do these later in the year after all of the 3DS ports had been released in America, but did them now since Storybundle requested the book's inclusion. They aren't major addition, and the page count hasn't changed, but these include:

-An updated format (for the PDF) which includes the same headers and page numbers as the Castlevania book, so it looks a little nicer
-Updated text to include the 3DS ports of all of the featured games, since only Space Harrier had been released at the time the book was originally published (December 2012)
-Since there were some changes to text spacing, some of the articles are slightly expanded with extra details or pictures

For right now this revised version is only available digitally as part of this bundle. It will be issued in physical form shortly, but I'm still waiting on the proof from the printer to ensure that everything looks good.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Digitiser returns

If you read the original on Teletext, you're probably weeping into your sandwiches with joy. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then it probably just seems really weird, in a British sort of way. Digitiser is back, by those who made it.

They also seem to have an official YouTube channel, and... someone told me you can pay to have someone make you promotional videos like this. Awesome.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Over 1800 Atari VCS games trawled for hidden stuff!

Everyone knows the Atari VCS, or 2600, depending on your preference. Everyone should know The Cutting Room Floor, which documents unused stuff hidden in games. Fantastic website, and they have 14 entries for Atari's system. Allow me to share a university professor's paper, which looked through 1816 titles for the system, in the hunt for hidden stuff.

In July, as a result of my book on Japanese game developers, I was invited to Montreal to give a keynote speech at the Game History Annual Symposium. As you can see from the itinerary it was an amazing two days, jam packed with fascinating discussions on the history of games, and methods of researching game history.

The majority of talks were excellent, with favourites including a talk on Space War and Warrior (the vector graphics one), plus one where speedrunners were examined as a means of digging up "gaming fossils", since they hammer games in ways that reveal a title's inner workings.

This blog entry relates to "Using Historical Video Games to Teach Computer Scientists" by Professor John Aycock (pictured).

The quick version is that he dissects old games in order to teach present-day students valuable skills. The problem being that students would otherwise graduate without working within a constrained environment, and many techniques used on limited hardware (such as the Atari VCS), are still used today. Games are fun, students like games, and so: "... the implementation of old games can be used as a vehicle to explain modern Computer Science techniques."

What caught my attention was that they would disassemble old games in order to understand how they work. At the end of the talk I asked if they discovered anything odd in the games. The answer given related to Chase the Chuckwagon, which had an unused piece of graphics, and two sections of code which - in the context of this game - did absolutely nothing. Likely leftovers from previous games, where code was borrowed. Three mysteries which intrigued me, because I am all about uncovering the "unknown".

My question, and the conversation with Professor Aycock afterwards, led to me receiving an email with the following:
"I got curious - and somewhat carried away - when you asked about hidden things in games, and I thought you might like to see the result:"

Strung Out: Printable Strings in Atari 2600 Games

"This report documents the raw findings from an exhaustive (and exhausting) analysis of a large corpus of Atari 2600 games to find printable strings. While similar reports have been conducted before [3], this is the most extensive survey so far, to the best of our knowledge. We intend to analyze these results from a higher-level viewpoint later, but this report serves as a permanent record of the data and the methods we used to acquire it."

"The results reported here are based on a corpus of 1816 Atari 2600 ROM cartridge images. Duplicate images were removed - the initial corpus, as acquired, had 1840 images - but some game images have one or more prototype images too. We have not removed these, because sometimes the strings are different between these versions."

For anyone who enjoys The Cutting Room Floor, this should prove very interesting. Surprisingly, despite programmers not being allowed credits in games, many have their named tucked away within the code. Some games have little jokes from those who made it, while others contain ending text or - in the case of edutainment title MegaBoy - the answers to puzzles.

It's a long document, and mostly raw data, but I'm sure a lot of people will get a kick out of it, and it will probably keep TCRF busy for a while updating the Atari section.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

HG101 State of the Union October 2014 - Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2, more Patreon discounts, and a summary of last month's updates!

Hi everyone! Just here to give some updates about all of the goings-ons at the site for the past month.

A few people have asked if they were able to get copies of the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers book by donating through Patreon. Although HG101 promotes the book and we helped with its production, it's actually John Szczepaniak's project, so we're not at liberty to give anything away. However I've discussed it with him and he offered up discounts exclusively for Patrons at the $5+/month tier. For the book, you need to order directly from the Createspace site, as opposed to Amazon. The coupon will bring the price down to $29.99. Although you have to pay for shipping, overall it's about a $7 discount over the lowest price from over Amazon. Additionally, he's also offered discount prices for the DVD. It's normally 40 pounds but if donate, you'll be given access to a discount link which will lower the price to 30 pounds. If you've donated or are already a donor, I've already posted a section under "Activity" called "Discounts for Untold History of Japanese Game Developers", where you can find the coupon code and the discount link.

You can find some reviews of the book/DVD at Eurogamer, Black Falcon Games and Borders Down.

In the last couple updates I've discussed the Konami Shooter book, which is coming along nicely, but I also wanted to talk about the one every keeps asking me about: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2.

In the first volume, we focused primarily on popular franchises, along with a few other one-shots that we deemed noteworthy enough to include along with it, largely based on whether they were ported enough times. The main reason was, even though there is a "Volume 1" in the title, we weren't sure if the book would be successful enough to justify a "Volume 2", so we figured we'd load it with the titles most gamers were familiar with. The good news is that the reception was decent enough to justify a second volume, but on the other hand, the titles are probably not going to ring any bells. But that's okay! HG101 is about discovering new titles, and Sega put out a ton of interesting stuff in the 80s and 90s, most of which has been largely forgotten. So if you're the type that trawls through the MAME archives to find new and interesting things to play, this will definitely be for you, especially if you're a Sega fan.

The selection of games in Volume 2 falls into two basic categories:

(1) Arcade games from 1985 and prior. In the first volume, the earliest release game we focused on was Space Harrier, but there are a lot of games from before that period. These predated Sega consoles (at least the ones that were released worldwide, like the Sega Master System), so they be more familiar to Atari or Colecovision fans. The most prominent of these titles are Pengo, Turbo, Congo Bongo, Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom, and Zaxxon, along with others like Carnival, Borderline (AKA Underground), Up n' Down, and Subroc. There are a lot of other titles that fall into this category like Spatter, Flicky, Monaco GP, Ninja Princess, Super Locomotive, and many, many others. Sega also had a partnership with Coreland (in Japan) and Gremlin (in America) that put out a wide variety of strange, bizarre, largely unknown titles.

(2) Any arcade game from the late 80s and early/mid-90s that couldn't fit into the first volume. There were some titles like Bonanza Bros, SDI/Global Defense and Teddy Boy Blues that fell into the era covered in the first book, but we felt weren't quite well known enough to add in, since it would increase the cost to the point of unaffordability. Not all of these games were great. Some games like Bay Route, Tough Turf and Riot City are flagrant rip-offs of other titles at the time, but they're also really good rip-offs! Other games like Last Survivor, Dark Edge, Line of Fire, Laser Ghost and Rail Chase show off some extremely impressive technology, and occasionally have some really interesting ideas, that kind of games that are worth recognizing their efforts even though they're flawed.

Here are some very rough, early samples of what I've been working on:

I don't have anything close to a set release date for this just yet. There are two other books that will come first: the Konami Shooters book, which should hopefully be available at the beginning of 2015, and the HG101 Digest Vol. 1, a 75-ish page issue covering Bionic Commando, Strider, and several other features, will hopefully be available by the beginning of summer.

Some of the most noteworthy articles we've published this past month include: the first parts of Wizardry, the seminal CRPG series, coverage of which is still ongoing; Danganronpa, a series of stylish adventure games that totally justify the purchase of the Vita and are easily two of the best games I've played this year; Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban, a campy SFC run-and-gun similar to Choaniki; Pier Solar and the Great Architects, the recently released HD update of the homebrew (yet quite professional) Genesis RPG; Elemental Master, a fantasy shooter by the same folks as Thunder Force; Smash TV / Total Carnage, the ultra violet twin stick arcade shooters from the 90s; and System Shock, the first person shooter/RPG hybrid that inspired Bioshock, and is the topic of this month's Game Club 199X.

Upcoming articles for October and early November include Charlie Ninja, Puzzle Boy, Boppin'. 64th Street: A Detective Story, Sentinel, Yumimi Mix, Chimera Beast, Martial Champion, King of Dragon Pass, New Zealand Story, and several Halloween themed entries towards the end of the month.

As always, thanks for reading and for your support!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HG101 State of the Union September 2014

Here's a summary of the stuff that's been going on with HG101 the past month:

After being in the works for over two years, the Castlevania book is almost ready for publication! We unveiled the cover artwork a little while ago, provided by Rusty Shackles, who does lots of fantastic video game crossovers in the style of comic books. I spent this past weekend fixing up small little issues and am waiting for the final proof. Initially I'd anticipated having it ready for sale at the end of September, but that's because I like to leave a "Murphy's Law" buffer in case something goes massively wrong. So far it's shaping up okay though, so if all goes well it may be available by next week!

Note that everyone who contributes to the Patreon at the $5 (or more) per month level will receive free copies of the PDF and Kindle copies - the PDFs will be sold for $5 alone and probably about $7 for the Kindle copy. Anyone who has donated $10 or more has their name appearing under the table of contents nearing the beginning of the book. The cutoff date has passed for any future contributors, but the same deal will apply for any future books! Anyone who's donated at the $25 level will receive free copies of the books shipped to them, which I'll handle after the final proof has been approved.

The retail price of the Castlevania book is $25, but Amazon has a tendency to discount them, so it may be cheaper once it actually goes live.

Since most of the work on the Castlevania book has been completed, I've been concurrently working on the Konami Shooters book. This will encompass articles for Gradius, Life Force/Salamander, TwinBee, Parodius, Otomedius, and the Konami Shooters article, which includes Scramble, Time Pilot, Gyruss, Axelay, Xexex, Thunder Cross, Space Manbow and others. All of them are being updated to fix up various stuff, and the Parodius and TwinBee articles have been almost entirely rewritten, since they were from the early days of the site. We're also featuring a section on the numerous minigames featured in Tokimeki Memorial and other Konami games (which I started several years ago but never finished, because I hate playing those games), the usual sections about trivia, reviews for a few Gradius inspired games like Satazius and Hydorah, a rundown of some clones and fan games, and a full list of soundtrack albums. Since there is still some work to be done I hesitate giving release dates, but if all goes well it should be ready by early 2015.

I have a feeling that the Konami Shooter book may not be as popular as the others, just because there doesn't seem to be a large English speaking fan base. The forums at Gradius Home World aren't too active and most of the folks on the Shmups forums seem to rally around more modern shooters. Konami did a very poor job in building an audience in North America by failing to localize many of their shooters (they did a bit better in Europe, where they at least tried with a few Parodius and TwinBee games). But if you're a fan of Konami in general it'll definitely be worth checking out! In the 80s and 90s, the company had the feeling of an extended family, with games often cross-referencing each other (especially Parodius, which the series was essentially built for), and I love drawing these connections together, even if they are for games that are not particularly well known.

As for other site news: last month we pushed past the Patreon threshold to allow us to bring back the Your Weekly Kusoge column and solicit submissions. Since its inception, we've published reviews of Contra: Legacy of War, Sonic's Schoolhouse, Spanish for Everyone, Muscle March, Midgard, and Gokuu Densetsu: Magic Beast Warriors. We've closed submissions for the moment since we have a little over a month's left that's still to post, but we'll be reopening them soon.

We also debuted a new series of columns called Inventories, a name which is more or less blatantly stolen from The AV Club. They're basically listicles, but with more effort put into the standard thoughtless clickbait that most people seem to use them for. For our first one, we've featured a list of over 70 video games featuring women in leading lady (or otherwise featured) roles. We'll probably be updating it in the future to include a few that we've missed - you can drop in to the article's forum topic if you seem any that we've missed and that fit into the requirements. Someday we'll probably also flesh it out to more to include more heroines from the rest of the 8 and 16-bit era, but we'll be focusing on other Inventories for awhile instead. They do take a long time to research and compile - this one here is the result of a year's on-and-off work between Derboo and I - but they should be a more regular feature going forward.

Finally, other articles we've featured include PS1 platformer Tomba, 16-bit era shooter Steel Empire and its recent 3DS remake, the indie Mercenary Kings, the offbeat SFC RPG Gokinjou Boukentai, a look at the early 3D games powered by the Freescape engine, the (very) early falling block puzzler Highrise, and unfortunately unlocalized Falcom PSP RPG Nayuta no Kiseki. And we've finished publishing a massive article on the original Mega Man series, making it one of the larger articles on the site. The Game Club 199X page has been expanded to include the video series, as well as a new podcast line focused on indie games, the most recent topic being the fantastic Sega inspired Freedom Planet. The newest episode of the main podcast focuses on the recently fan translated Game Center CX 2.

We've also introduced a long requested function to swap the white text/black ground to a black text/white background, to improve readability. There are still some pages using the old pre-CSS code that won't work, but most of the site has been updated to feature this. Thanks to Derboo and his behinds the scene wizardry to get this up and working!

As for the coming month, please look forward for articles on System Shock, Danganronpa, Wizardry (another very long article to be posted in multiple parts), Smash TV/Total Carnage, Elemental Master, and the usual kusoge and 500 Word Indies columns.

As always, if you like the work that we do, please check out our Patreon! Your contributions are always much appreciated!