Sunday, December 25, 2011

RIP Hiroyuki Kanno (1974-2011)

Despite the holiday season bringing joy, laughter and harmony to many of us, it doesn't shelter life from its fragile nature. Today, Abel announced that Hiroyuki Kanno has passed away. On December 19th, Kanno left us due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Kanno was only 37 years old.

Throughout his life, Kanno was an avid reader and studied the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King, as well as philosophical studies in order to learn about the human psyche and emotional patterns. He would make use of this when he began to design video games in his early 20s for C's Ware, a visual novel software house that became an influential in the progression of the visual novel genre with his games Eve burst error and Desire. His greatest achievement in video games would later be YU-NO, the multi dimensional thriller which not only brought innovation to visual novels, but video gaming as a whole.

Kanno was a close friend of late Ryu Umemoto, a friendship which saw them collaborate on the games which made them two of the most well respected individuals and deeply regarded in the independent video game scene in Japan in their respective fields. Now, the legendary duo has both passed away, all within 6 months.

Hardcore Gaming 101 would like to offer our thoughts and condolences to Kanno's family.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Update 12/23 - Top 250 Western VGM Tracks, Skygunner, Dynamite Dux, Blake Stone, Last Action Hero

The results of the Best Western Video Game Music of All Time Poll are in! We've compiled a list of 250 songs from numerous composers that seem to be overlooked by much of the VGM community at large, including tons of stuff from the Commodore 64, Amiga, NES and Genesis, along with numerous indie games (and a few AAA titles even) that stand out from the crowd. If nothing else, it should help get rid of that perception that all Western music is generic Hollywood-type stuff!

Updates are going to be slow for a bit due to the holidays and everything, plus other Big Happenings Coming Soon, but in the meantime here's a few shorter articles. Every once in awhile I'm possessed to write about obscure Sega minutae - this time it's Dynamite Dux, which I believe is one of the first cutesy-type beat-em-ups. Overall it's rather average, but it's got a great graphical style, and it's one of those games I'd always read about in magazines for the Sega Master System but had never really played since the system had largely dried up in America when it came out. In other mediocrity news, we also have a review of Blake Stone, two first person shooters from the shareware era that licensed the Wolfenstein 3D engine and took the adventures into space. They also had the bad luck to be released within weeks of Doom and Doom II, respectively, which means they looked and played terribly outdated, but in spite of that I (and probably a few other people out there) have some vaguely pleasant memories of them.

A bit away from the usual norm is an extensive review of all seven versions of Last Action Hero. Why, exactly? Well, every one of us has some kind of game that marked our transition from naive kids who loved everything placed in front of us into cynical bastards aware of commercial exploitation. For me, that game was Bubsy. For Audun Sorlie, it was this. We don't have a proper kusoge article ready this week, but this will more than suffice for quite awhile. There's even a short interview with one of the guys involved that helps explain the ridiculousness of what went wrong, despite a solid design document.

The only truly great game featured in this update is Skygunner, an incredibly fun early PS2 created by a studio called PixelArts. It's a cutesy air combat-type game with irrespresibly cute Japanese-style artwork mixed with a fantastic European-style setting, with some really excellent music. It's light and breezy, and something of a cult classic.

Also, thanks to Adventure Gamers for cataloguing my stupid game Que Pasa Perro? in its database, and covering it on their November 2011 Freeware roundup, vaguely legitimizing some random goofiness I threw together over the course of the week. Extra double thanks to the guy who recorded a whole walkthrough and posted it on Youtube. He's doing a Let's Play of the terrifying Bubsy 3D so you know he's an alright kinda guy. And super triple thanks to the folks behind its TVTropes page. I do hope you check out the whole ordeal if you haven't already.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kindle version of HG101 Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures 50% off for limited time, plus KDP select

Just for the holidays, from now until Wednesday, December 28th, the Kindle version of The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures will be 50% off. That means $4.99 for US buyers, and assorted similar discounts for other regions based on whatever conversion metric Amazon is using at the moment. This is only going for a week, so it's a good time to pick it up, especially if you get a Kindle this holiday season!

Additionally, the book is also enrolled in the Amazon KDP Select program. This means that if you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime, you can borrow the book, for free, although you're limited to one title a month. Keep in mind though that when they mean "Kindle" they mean "an official Kindle device". I only own mobile decides that run Kindle software, and this doesn't apply if you're using an iPhone, Android or the PC reading software. I made the mistake of purchasing my own book to test it out, and based on the refund numbers, it seems like at least one other person did too. Sorry! It's a neat program although initially a little vague.

Finally, the book has always been available in America, the United Kingdom and Germany, but Amazon has expanded its Kindle store to include Italy, France and Spain, so do check that out as well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reflections on year’s end – and a Sakura Wars V review

Probably my last blog entry for this year, I talk about our everyone’s pile of uncompleted games, plus random gubbins, but mainly I talk about Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love, for PS2.

GamesTM issues 116 had a feature on the most anticipated of 2012, starting off by saying that if you haven’t got a massive backlog of unplayed games you’re not doing it right. Sadly this is true, since with the majority of games aiming for the 40-100 hours mark, buying one game every two months will require you to invest many, many hours into them.
My own backlog stands at 17 PS3 games (including Disgaea 3, which is still sealed and I intend to sell), 12 PS2 games, around 15 PS1 games (most on PSN), half a dozen PSN exclusive titles, and a few PC games (if it arrives before New Year I hope to write an HG101 article on Boiling Point: Road to Hell). Plus I’m not even counting the countless Saturn games I downloaded for my modded system. They say piracy harms sales? Bullshit. I’m going to be reselling most of these games unplayed and in some cases still sealed, flooding the market with cheap second titles which will stop people from buying new. On the other hand if I had pirated my PS3 games and allowed my gluttony to run rampant, I wouldn’t have any games to resell. Piracy doesn’t usually increase sales of new games, but it’s naïve to think that every pirated game = loss of a sale.
Long story short: I was determined to complete Sakura Wars V in a couple of weekends, since CJ Iwakura on HG101's forums said it was great, and I had bought a US PS2 specifically to play it. Plus my brother was going to visit soon, and I knew he had bought me Dark Souls to play over the holidays (in return my gift is an alarm clock and expensive Navy Rum – which if you think about it, kind of compliments each other). If I waited until next year it would just languish on the shelf.

It took around 28 hours to finish, and it’s actually quite a nice visual novel/strategy hybrid. It’s kind of like a poor-man’s Valkyria Chronicles almost, with a visual novel tacked on. The best thing though is that there’s no need to grind. Each battle is its own standalone segment, with no time limit or ranks or EXP gain and other associated nonsense. Which is good, because I prefer having the time to play a strategy title slow and carefully.

If you like visual novels then it should definitely appeal. There’s plenty of divergence points based on your decisions, plus a few free-roaming sections. I actually didn’t like these, because these are timed and if I’m in the mood for linear visual novels then I like it to stay that way. But it’s not a deal breaker.

The characterisation of the good guys is pretty fun. You have the bespectacled Japanophile; the hard line bossy lawyer; the creepy and mysterious Japanese woman; schizophrenic country hick; moe girl in wheelchair; and chirpy kid who duel-wields revolvers. Just your average bunch. But they have charm, as strange as they are. It’s also kinda racy in places, as one female character openly fondles another’s breasts in the bath house, but ultimately it’s all tongue-in-cheek and played for laughs. And there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. The bad guys in contrast are terribly written, one-dimensional and universally awful – which is a shame.
It’s a great game for Sunday afternoon, like a good lazy book, which you can page through. My only gripe is that while it allows quick-saving, it forces you to quit back to the title screen afterwards. I would have preferred a more lenient system to allow easy checking of different dialogue choices.

This is not the game you hold up as proof of videogames’ validity, but it’s definitely an esoteric (and probably guilty) pleasure to indulge in, and probably the PS2’s swansong. And if the rest of the hip world thinks you’re weird because you chose the Subaru ending, to heck with them all – leave them to their GoW games on 360/PS3.

For those curious, Hardcore Gaming 101 is working on some proper Sakura Wars coverage – but there’s a lot to cover. And no, I’m not the one doing it.

Also, because it's so awkward, here's some racist dialogue encountered towards the end. Given people's sensitivities to such things, I'm surprised it was left in.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Hardcore Gaming 101 Child's Play Marathon

Saturday, December 17th, 10AM to 10PM.


Games you've either never heard of or have always wondered
'what kind of madman in their right mind would buy that game much less play it'.

(And this is just to give you an idea.)

Best of all, we're open to viewer recommendations, assuming I own it. (Which is pretty likely.)

Yours truly will be hosting, and some friends of mine will be helping out from time to time, one of whom is one of the best damn God Hand Players alive.


Child's Play sanctioned and approved, baby!

Hope to see you join in. Or at least pony up some cash for the kiddies. (Especially that.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Update 12/12 - Teenage Mutant Turtles mega article, Vic Tokai platformers, Martial Masters, Akira

About a year ago or so, we published a massive article covering the many, many Asterix games. This time around is a similarly themed article covering the entirety of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. There are roughly 30 games in total, spanning from the original Konami NES game all the way up until the recent Ubisoft titles, with numerous highs and lows throughout. It's thirteen pages long and includes a brief history of the TMNT franchise itself, making for very comprehensive reading.

Since that particular update is huge, there are only a few smaller articles to post up. One is one which I couldn't think of a proper name for, so I called it Vic Tokai - Speed Tengoku Jump Jigoku. It's a series of four (technically, three and a half) platformers developed by Vic Tokai which are all technically part of the same series, seeing how they have largely identical play mechanics, despite there being no thematic links between them. The first is Kid Kool, which I think the Angry Video Game Nerd (righfully) tore apart earlier this year. However, most of the major issues in that game got fixed for the Master System title Psycho Fox, which then evolved into the Mega Drive/Genesis games Magical Hat no Turbo Buttobi Daibouken (in Japan) and Decap Attack (in North America and Europe). It's sort of cool to see ideas go from total unworkable garbage into a minor classic.

We're finishing up the single game coverage with Martial Masters, an incredibly nice looking arcade 2D fighter made by IGS, who I keep wanting to call the "SNK of China" just based on its adherence to classic spritework and traditional genres around the turn of the century despite both the hardware and the audience evolving in different directions. None of their games seem to have ever been ported, so they mostly live on through MAME. Their work is generally worth checking out, including this one.

Also up is a new podcast called Game Club 199X, started by members of the HG101 forums and IRC channel. The idea behind this series is to play games as they were originally intended - that is, no FAQs, no cheats, no save states, just the support of the local community - to get through some rather old and obtuse games. Last month's game was Snake's Revenge, which is discussed in this episode. December's game is the Interplat classic (and predecessor to Fallout) Wasteland, so check out the forum thread if you're interested in joining in.

And Your Weekly Kusoge is the Amiga version of Akira, which is largely regarded as the second worst game on the computer. So very much lost potential, there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Update 12/5 - YU-NO, Alpha Protocol, Revolution X, Quest for the Rings, The Fool's Errand

If any English speaker knows the name YU-NO, it's probably from an awful hentai anime translated back in the late 90s. This was a bad way to get introduced to this game, a rather excellent visual novel with some outstanding music. The game's recently been fan-translated, so do check out this expansive article detailing why it's so fascinating. (And a vague NSFW warning on it, since it is technically an eroge.)

HG101 is normally a retro site, but occasionally we cover recent games that tend to get overlooked or are least worth addressing. This is the case with Alpha Protocol, Obsidian's action/stealth/RPG epic from last year. It definitely didn't hit the same level of success as Mass Effect did, but it does some rather clever things in regards to storytelling, even though the plot itself is fundamentally ridiculous.

Other articles this update include Quest for the Rings, a release for the Odyssey² that attempted to combine video and board games; The Fool's Errand, one of the first attempts to marry Games Magazine-style puzzles with a narrative, paving the way for The 7th Guest and Myst; and Revolution X, the incredibly stupid shooting gallery game starring Aerosmith. Your Weekly Kusoge is Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport, one of the many absolutely terrible fighting games developed for the PC after the success of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat in the arcades. And our spotlight article updates our piece on the Korean brawler Eojjeonji Joheun Il-i Saenggil Geot Gateun Jeonyeok and its sequel (and much more succinctly named) Storm.

And a quick reminder! Just a few more days to vote on the best Western VGM tracks!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snatcher Sega CD ported to iOS...?

I recently interviewed Jeremy Blaustein, along with David Hayter and other Metal Gear folks for a print magazine, and while these interviews and snippets of them will appear on HG101 in the near future, this snippet of speculation is too cool to wait for.

Jeremy Blaustein still speaks with friends at Konami, and he recommended they should put the original Sega CD version of Snatcher on iOS. As he explained: “Apparently they can't release it because right now Mr. Kojima is doing this radio play for Snatcher and isn't interested in releasing the old Snatcher at this time. One has to believe that he's keeping it, you know, up his sleeve to pull out when he needs to. I'm just speculating that it will be the next thing that Mr. Kojima will put out, since it's too good of a property.”

It is an excellent property, and admittedly this is speculation, because no one wants to speak too much on the record, but Kojima's popularity continues to soar, his MGS series is on everyone's mind, plus the Radio Drama is being unofficially translated by fans, surely if there was a time for Snatcher to be ported to iOS it would be soon? (if you've not checked out the fan-translation of the radio drama, do it now, it is a phenomenal achievement)

And, because it's so damn awesome, here is another photo from Jeremy's personal collection, taken during the Snatcher voice recording sessions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best of Western VGM Poll Pt. 2

More cool songs and Youtube embeds ahead!

Deus Ex Human Revolution - Sarif HQ Intro Combat

Deus Ex: Human Revolution probably has the best video game soundtrack released this year, only really challenged by Xenoblade (even though it's technically a 2010 game.) It's a shame about how many people seem to be playing this game super stealthy, because that means they'd be missing out on all of the amazing combat themes, of which there are several based on your location. This one here, the best of the best, is right in the prologue, before you even properly begin the game. It's a shame that both the Augmented Edition and official soundtrack releases are missing such huge chunks of the music.

Command and Conquer Renegade - Command and Conquer

Did I post this song the last time? I don't remember. Westwood's Frank Klepacki put out some of the best music on the PC back in the mid-90s.

Universe at War - Modern Design

Klepacki's work on Universe at War is also excellent, much truer to the roots of Command and Conquer than the actual modern Command and Conquer.

Neotokyo - Tachi

I got turned onto this soundtrack in the last poll and immediately bought the soundtrack. I don't think this track in particular got any votes, but it's one of my favorites.

Return All Robots! - Roboballad

I only barely know what this game is, but the soundtrack was included in that awesome Indie Music Bundle over the Thanksgiving weekend, and has quickly become one of my favorites of the bunch. My favorite part is around the 2:30 mark, which reminds me of bits of the Ducktales NES soundtrack.

The Binding of Isaac - Sacrificial

I don't know if I like Team Meat's newest game, sort of a rogue-like combined with Zelda and a twin stick shooter, but Danny Baranowsky's soundtrack is aces.

Ocean Loader 2

To anyone who asked if loader themes counted, because they weren't tied to any specific game, the answer is yes, largely so rad tunes like this one can be accounted for.

Mass Effect - M4 Part 2 (Faunts)

We've been playing fast and loose with the "no licensed music" rule, which was mostly done just to disqualify rhythm games and playlist-type sports games, which major sites seem to call "video game music" even though it really isn't. Still, we've been allowing certain cases, usually for alternative bands, like Canadian space rock band Faunts, in this instance. The guitars in this remind me a lot of the following song...

System Shock - Intro

For being pretty basic from an animation standpoint, I've always REALLY loved this intro.

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Burning Town

A remixed version of the first level theme from the original GBC game. Remarkably catchy. It was released on the iOS awhile back if you can stand the touch control pad.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Best of Western VGM Poll Pt. 1

We've got another video game music poll going on, this time specifically for Western music, since they were largely skimmed over in the all-encompassing poll. Based on the number of votes so far, it probably won't reach anywhere near 1000 like the last one, but more votes would definitely be appreciated!

At any rate, here is the first group of cool songs I've picked out from the ones voted on so far, as well as others that deserve some attention:

Unreal Title Theme

I really like the unique sound of the Unreal music engine. It's technically just another tracker format like MOD and S3M, but like the SNES SPC sound chip, it's quite distinctive.

Turrican 2 - The Wall

This poll should be largely dominated by Chris Huelsbeck and Turrican music, because it's some of his best work. I picked this one in particular just because I hadn't heard it before, but the soundtracks to all three games (and even their Genesis and SNES counterparts, Mega Turrican and Super Turrican) are really damn good.

Acid Tetris - Tearing Up Spacetime

I think this game had to change its name to "Acid Brick Breaker" or something to avoid the name infringement. But I remember it being a cool freeware game back in the mid-90s with support for tracker formats. This pre-loaded song is really excellent.

Barkley Shut Up & Jam Gaiden - jonathan taylor thomas

This song got a lot of love in the last poll. Like the game itself, it encapsulates the cliches of RPG battle themes while at the same time being really damned awesome.

Sleepwalker - Zoo

The only thing I know about this game is that it apparently obtained the Eek the Cat! license when it came to the SNES. Issues like that interest me, but in the meantime you'll have to make do with the rad music.

Starcraft - Terran 3

I only ever played the Terrans in Starcraft because their music was awesome.

Jets n Guns - Death from Above

If you like the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack, this is well worth checking out, as it combines Commodore 64 music with heavy metal.

Shadow of the Beast - Welcome

Dig the flutes on this whole soundtrack, really.

One Man and His Droid - Theme

This is another song which I'm embarassed to admit I've never heard before, but is amazing. It's hard to pinpoint the exact point where it becomes awesome because it happens at least four times.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Update - 11/28 - Ultima (pt. 5 of 5), Otomedius, Eye of the Beholder, Electronic Popple, 3d Ultra Pinball, Baruusa no Fukushuu

The final part of the Ultima article has now been posted, which finishes up by giving a quick briefing of Ultima Online, a handful of cancelled games and fan works, several books and guides, and most importantly, an exclusive interview with Lord British himself, who also recently had a documentary made about his journey into space. The article in total is 15 meaty pages long, putting it up there with the Shin Megami Tensei article in sheer length. Also of note is a preview of the Ultima Collector's Guide by Stephen Emond, a massive 800+ page catalog of Ultima memorabilia and trivia. You can read a bit about it at his Rockethub page, although it's already got enough donations to put it into production. And keeping up with the WRPG theme, please enjoy a review of the Eye of the Beholder series, a trilogy of first person dungeon crawlers.

At any rate, what have you spent your precious holiday gaming time with? Uncharted 3? Arkham City? Skyrim? I spent the past few weeks with Otomedius, to cover the recently released Otomedius Excellent, which somehow got localized despite being a very, very Japanese series. The only reason I got so enamored with it is due to Konami shooter fanboyness, which these games deliver in droves. It is a bit odd, though, considering they reference so many titles that never got releases outside of Japan, but this article should help sort all of that out. Even as someone who spent far too long with it at the expense of much better games, they're...really not all that great. I've seen it get torn to shreds in some reviews, which is harsh, but perhaps not unfair. Beyond the Konami love, its focus is largely on boobs and grinding for weapons, whereas the core games are fairly mediocre by Gradius/Parodius standards.

Additional articles this post-Thanksgiving update include 3D Ultra Pinball, a series of, well, pinball games put out by Dynamix in the 90s; Baruusa no Fukushuu, a side-scrolling action game for the X68000; Electronic Popple, an amusingly goofy Korean beat-em-up; and Giftpia, a Japan-only Gamecube from the guys that would eventually develop Chibi Robo, and has that same outright bizarreness to it. They also created the (similarly Japan-only) Captain Rainbow for the Wii, which Nintendo silently buried before focusing on exploiting its franchises for the dozenth time (although doing it reasonably well, at least) and ignoring anything that isn't guaranteed to sell a million copies. Oh, and the weekly kusoge is Battle Construction Vehicles, vehicle battle simulator where you can attack your opponent with giant bees. You may remember it being posted on the blog a few years back, but something this bizarre is worth catalouging for the ages.

I also forgot to post last update on the blog, so if you only read this site through an RSS reader or whathaveyou, here's the text below:

The fourth part of the Ultima article is now up - since the main series is covered, this one focuses on the various sub-series and spinoffs. These include the Worlds of Adventure games, which featured pulp novel-inspired settings like prehistoric islands and martian landscapes; the Runes of Virtue series, simplified (but fun) versions for the Game Boy; and, of course, the incredibly influential Ultima Underworld series, being one of the first true 3D free roaming RPGs.

Beyond Ultima, we have three sort of lesser known shooters: Eliminate Down, the pricey but well designed Mega Drive entry; Bio Hazard Battle, featuring bugs and all manners of creepy crawleys; and Imperium, a vertical shooter with an experience point-based power up system. And continuing our fascination with Konami Famicom titles, we also have a look at Dragon Scroll, the company's valiant attempt at a Zelda clone. Your Weekly Kusoge is Voyeur, one of the many awful FMV games featuring tackily implemented "adult" themes, "gameplay" in the loosest of sense of the word. And this thing was supposed to be one of the highlights of the Phillips CDi!

Reggies Entertainment System – South African TV advert

It’s taken 20 years to get here, but I’ve finally archived one of the Reggies TV Entertainment System adverts which were shown on South Africa TV – likely from Saturday 2nd November 1991.

Recently I interviewed David Hayter for GamesTM magazine (the article is due out 22 December – expect scans from myself). It was epic, and he’s a great guy, very funny and eloquent. After this I decided to watch an old tape of Guyver Dark Hero which I had, since it stars Mr Hayter, and I thought I’d do a review for here. Anyway, turns out halfway through, the tape starts skipping to the point where it’s unwatchable. I lift the flap and notice the tape itself has started curling at the edge, causing a series of grooves. Probably due to poor storage on my part – left it at the bottom of an old cabinet.

Suddenly it dawns on me that I have even older tape, with home recorded footage from South Africa, featuring an advert for the Reggies Entertainment System, which was a Famicom clone branded by one of South Africa’s leading toy stores. Reggies is kind of a competitor to Toys R Us. I wrote about Christmas in South Africa for The Escapist before, mentioning this tape. At the time of the article I searched, but couldn’t find it (I did find a photo of myself though, as a child playing a Famicom on Christmas day, but that’s never becoming public). So given that one of my tapes was already dead, it was time to find this Reggies tape.

A long time ago, when my parents upgraded to DVD, they were going to throw most of their old tapes out. Their plan was to keep some blanks to record films on TV, but chuck those a decade or more older. Being the nostalgic kind I obviously demanded they give them to me, and so I inherited about thirty BASF VHS tapes – a mixture of 180, 200 and 240 minutes. Luckily they let me keep leave in their loft, and when visiting for the holidays I would enjoy going through said tapes. About a quarter are tapes with kids shows on them, mostly Smurfs. The rest a collection of documentaries (Attenborough's Living Planet) and totally awesome obscure films (My Science Project being one such badass entry).

Anyway, around 2003 both my brother and I were over for the holidays, and we decided to have an epic video marathon. So we set the TV, machine and tapes up in an old holiday caravan, and spent a couple of weeks watching most of them (we skipped the documentaries and long series like Lonesome Dove). After exhausting the films we even started watching the Smurfs. Drunk on Christmas wine it was actually kinda cool, and very nostalgic. At one point we also spotted some ads, including those for the Reggies machine.

Fast forward to today and I was determined to fine this ad. Well, it’s taken at least 12 tapes, watching the 3 or 4 hours of footage on fast-forward to finally find it. I went through every Smurf tape in the box, assuming the ad was during a kids show, and couldn’t find it. I went through all the kids shows and films – nothing! I did find some cool stuff though: half a Kurt Russell film, where he’s a journalist searching for a serial killer. A video for Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly, broadcast on daytime TV, which BLEW my mind back when I was ten years old (Google it to find out why). Some really cool adverts, including one for Volkswagen, where a guy overtakes one on his bicycle. And a show celebrating the 2nd Birthday of the M-Net TV channel. I also found an old news story regarding the 1993 WTC bombing, which was rather chilling, and also a news story from Waco.

The Reggies advert was nowhere to be found though. Right when I was about to give up, I tried an old tape that used to have Police Academy 4 and 5 on it, before my dad used to tape for something else. Fast forward to near the end, and lo and behold, there’s one of the Reggies ads!

And how many seconds did I get for wasting my entire Sunday? About 9 seconds.

The ironic thing is this isn’t even the ad I was looking for – the one I can recall was much longer, and prefaced by an advert for chocolate Easter Eggs. Still, this is all you’re getting because I really can’t be bothered to spend anymore time on this. I have fulfilled my duty to archive history.


According to X-Rates currency exchange website:

In November 1991
1 Rand = 20p (£GBP)
1 Rand = 35c ($USD)

So 20 Rand = £4 / $7

200 Rand = £40 / $70

I seem to recall games costing as much 100 Rand though, at least the good NES games, like SMB3. Crappy stuff like Mickey Mouse was about 20 Rand.

The advert also starts with what sounds like the sfx from Dynamite Headdy. Weird. I left the follow-up advert in place, since it dates the whole thing. Likely it was recorded Saturday morning, since the next ad talks about M-Net programmes on Sunday 3rd November.

Notice how they emphasise that it’s the SA version, implying the correct plug is bundled with the system? Which I think was a result of a lot of stores selling grey-market models from Hong Kong which came with the wrong power adapter (I think my first system actually had a replacement provided by the store, which was a little too strong and soon burned the system out).

The most significant thing is that it features footage of Castlevania 2 running on Famicom hardware, as a cartridge. As far as I can tell Akumajou Dracula 2 was only released on the Famicom Disk System, making this visual proof of a rarity: FDS games converted to cartridge format for bootlegging in other countries. Another good example is Snake's Revenge, which I actually played while in a store - it was running via Famicom cartridge despite never having been released on Famicom (it was NES only). On that day I had asked for a game with guys in a jungle - I had been thinking of Contra. The guy broke out a few such games, one of which was Snake's Revenge. I went home with Contra that day, but always wish I'd gone with SR, simply because of the rarity of it being in Famicom cartridge form...

Any way, it’s not a great advert, but it’s something.

Also, while I have your attention, and since we’re talking about M-Net, if anyone has any old monthly M-Net TV guides circa 1986-1995 I would be interested in having one or two of them (for certain research purposes).

Naughty Dog wipes Vaseline in your eyes for Uncharted 3

I am so mad right now. Naughty Dog are idiots, complete and utter idiots. Uncharted 3 has now been ruined. Well done Naughty Dog, you collection of morons.

This is not a satirical post, this is me explaining my hatred for motion blur.

Let me tell you a story about Uncharted 2. When I first started playing it I thought my new HD TV was broken, and was ready to take it back to the store for a replacement. There was some terrible smudging of the visuals whenever anything moved. I had this problem with the PSP, which was the fault of the old screen being crap, but none of my PS3 games so far had really had this problem. There was some slight colour smudge, but fiddling with the settings eventually made it go away on most games.

But with UC2 there was terrible, horrible smudging when you moved, making everything fuzzier than an acid trip at Woodstock. I had been to bachelor parties which were clearer and more focused than this crap. And no fiddling with settings could make it go away. Obviously my TV must have been ****ed. So I ask on NTSC-uk’s technical forum, and eventually it transpires that this Vaseline vision, this smudged greasy look which obscured my clarity, was called “motion blur” and was intentional.

I was forced to suffer it.

Then I discover that UC3 lacked this. Huzzah! I thought. Naughty Dog had seen sense to bless me with pure clarity. A few pissants on forums bitched about it, but **** em I thought, I wanted clarity. I needed clarity. Any way, long story short, ND also screwed with the aiming and so have now released a patch to correct this:

Except as they also put it:
* Fixed the missing Motion Blur effects

It’s not fixing it, you imbeciles, it’s ****ing with it. I DON’T WANT SMUDGING!

Well done, idiots. The best thing about UC3 over its predecessor has now been removed, forcing me to play it either unpatched with broken controls, or patched so that it controls, but looks like absolute ass. And let me emphasise this – if UC3 lacked Vaseline vision before, that means it wasn’t now implemented for technical reasons. The game ran just fine without it. It should be OPTIONAL. It was implemented because ND are a bunch of cretins.

So I am forced to play without the patch, I am forced to play offline, I am forced to use broken controls. ARGH!!!

If I wanted anything less than absolute pure 100% crystal SHARP visuals, I’d use my SD TV and an RF cable, instead of the $1000 HD TV and HDMI cable I bought.

If I wanted blurring, I’d play without my corrective spectacles. Or better yet, for all those myopic whiners on ND’s forum, why don’t YOU just remove YOUR glasses?

If wanted blurring, I’d get drunk.

If wanted blurring, I’d smoke marijuana.

If I wanted blurring, I’d punch myself in the face until I saw stars.

If I wanted blurring, I’d go to a redneck bar, hand out baseball bats, then call ever man in there a panty-wearing sissy.

If I wanted blurring, I would buy some Vaseline and swab it over my eyes and my TV and then put MORE Vaseline on my eyes.

Some people have tried to persuade me that motion blurring is anything other than absolutely ****ing terrible, by showing videos of PC games with and without motion blurring. And you know what?

In every single example motion blurring still sucks. It will always suck.

Anything which is a step away from absolute 100% fidelity sucks.

I hate motion blurring! I didn't buy a PS3, buy an HD TV and then pay £40 for a game with the visual clarity of an Atari 2600 game FFS!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The New Gamepro Quarterly journal

Not too long ago, Gamepro Magazine announced a switch in format, from a typical monthly magazine to a quarterly "journal" that would focus less on news and reviews, and more on features. This sounded like a brilliant idea to me, as it would establish something more meaningful that would be worth paying money for and re-reading, rather than something to pick up for five minutes, glean a few review scores, then put back on the magazine rack. The first issue of this new version of Gamepro hit the bookstores recently, and I picked it up a few days ago.

For anyone unfamiliar with the magazine's evolution lately, it's a taken a huge departure from its 5.0 HOT smiley face and PROTIP origins, both of which have long been staples of ironic hipster websites everywhere. For a long time it was kept alive for reasons no one really understood, even though no one I knew appeared to actually read it - it always seems like it was meant for kids, which I guess would answer my own question. A couple years ago it shifted gears and got a makeover into a more mature format. I liked the change in direction, and they employed writers whose works I admired, but at the same time never actually bought an issue - their cover stories were consistently about topics I had zero interest in, and each issue felt remarkably flimsy.

The new format is a bit beefier - it feels weightier with a total page count of 148. It retails for $9.99, but costwise that puts in the league of Brit mags like Edge and games(tm), both of which use heavier stock that looks and feels quite a bit nicer. All of read on the 'net so far are people complaining about the "148 pages of epic win!" tagline on the cover, which seems like a silly thing to get in a huff about.

In spite of initial impressions when holding it, it really is packed to the brim with content, with tons upon tons of features. A few pages are devoted to artwork for the upcoming Western-developed fighting game Skullgirls, the meanings of color and psychology (and how it affects games), a quick summary of the launch window games for the PlayStation Vita, a standard "best games in 2012" preview, a lengthy section called "Now Playing", where staff members casually discuss what's on their minds (probably the best holdver from the old format) and numerous others. A bunch are simply a page or two long, like the one that ponders why all video game heroes look the same, and another showing off obscure t-shirts of the writers. However, most features clock in at six-to-eight pages. The benefit of these short-but-sweet articles is that if one doesn't catch your fancy, just flip a few more pages and maybe you'll find something more suited to you. On some levels they might appear shallow, but for what they are, they work well.

For example, it's hard to explain much about the intricacies of Final Fantasy in a limited amount of space, but the primer does a reasonable job of sorting it all out for newbies. There's also a brief article about the history of Zelda, though it seems like every mag has one of those (Future Publishing put out a whole special issue devoted to it) so it doesn't stand out as much. The one explaining what the hell a MOBA is (that's basically the title of the article) that's also quite well done. (They're sorta like an RTS where you control a single player character and you help the other guys, who are controlled automatically.)

There's a lot of introductory-type stuff which hits more towards the mainstream than readers of this site would probably like, so it's not exactly Gamefan, but at the same time the writers have an obvious appreciation outside of the usual AAA blockbusters that's usually featured prominently in US game magazines.

I do have to take issue with the cover article, which ranks the top 50 fighting game characters of all time. There are some things which rub me slightly the wrong way - not so much that they picked characters from Super Smash Bros., so much as Marth, Pikachu and Link aren't really original fighting game characters. More annoyingly, its preface is meant to defuse any "where's my favorite character?" arguments, but its problem is much larger they that - they almost entirely ignored SNK's line of fighers. These aren't some fringe, obscure games either, they were one of the most popular developers in the 90s, and just because their properties haven't been kept alive in the same way that Capcom's have, doesn't mean they should've been ignored. I don't expect everyone to know how goddamned awesome Gato from Mark of the Wolves is, but where's Terry Bogard? Kyo Kusanagi? Iori Yagami? Geese Howard? Haohmaru? That's only scratching the surface of the huge array of iconic characters in SNK fighting games, and only one that even got a mention was Mai Shiranui under the "hottest gals" category. Why were the others passed over in favor of joke entries like "Red Guy" from Karate Champ, Meat from Mortal Kombat 4, and the midget from Thrill Kill, which was never even officially released? It's things like this which suggest that the people in charge of the list either weren't knowledgeable enough about the genre, or were otherwise pandering to a readership who they suspect wouldn't get the references. Given the quality and approach of the rest of the magazine, I'm going to lean towards the latter. But I've rambled on enough and leave any more bitching to the thread on the forums that's undoubtedly devoted to it.

SNK fanboyish aside, it really is a classy issue. The content is generally great, the layouts are classy and distinct (a huge step above Edge's recent awful redesign), and it's solid enough to be worth the $10, even if it does make me wistful for the days of 200+ page issues of Next Generation that cost half the price.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Satellablog deserves our appreciation and respect

I’ve been meaning to post about Satellablog for months, but kept forgetting.

Apologies to all involved. Satellablog is dedicated to all things Satellaview, the satellite-based add-on system for the Super Famicom in Japan. Arguably one of several forerunners to today’s PSN and XBLA download services. The problem is, the service contained a lot of exclusive content, available nowhere else (most infamously a special version of Zelda which was dumped). In addition, neither Nintendo nor any of the companies from the time are interested in archiving or preserving this rare data. So it falls to Kiddocabbusses and his comrades to source the memory packs from Japan, pray they contain a never before found download, and then dump them for the world. It’s an expensive mission (there’s a donation plea), but it does yield rewards, such as the Satella-shooting trilogy, which ties in with our own Dezaemon feature. I feel no shame in saying that it’s absolutely worth donating a few spare dollars for the preservation of games history. Satellablog and its many ROM dumping specialists deserve our utmost appreciation and respect – because Nintendo sure as f*** doesn’t care about this stuff. Without us, the obsessive geeknocrats, history would simply die. My only criticism: create a proper site with easily navigable news archives. Blogs just don’t cut it for something so important.

GamesTM 116 – History of Metroidvania

I take a look at the latest issue of GamesTM, which includes a 6 page feature on Metroidvania games.

This month’s issue of GamesTM features the following (copied from NTSC-uk, courtesy of PrinnySquad).

Skyrim - 9
Battlefield 3 - 7
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary - 8
Uncharted 3 - 9
Assassin's Creed Revelations - 8
Batman: Arkham City - 9
Dance Central - 360 - 8
Shinobi - 3DS - 4
Kinect Sports: Season 2 - 360 - 5
Modern Warfare 3 - 8
Saints Row: The Third - 7
Rayman Origins - 7
Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 - 7
Kirby Mass Attack - DS - 8
Sonic Generations - 7
Real Steel - 360 - 6
The Adventures of TinTin - 6
Raving Rabbids Alive and Kicking - 6
King of Fighters XIII - 8
Disney Universe - 3

2012 Preview Special
Chat With Naughty Dog about the past, present and future
A Look at the new SSX
A look at the trend for remakes, reboots and rebirths

Operation Raccoon City
Backstage with the people behind Zelda's 25th Anniversary Concerts.
Chat with Tood McFarlane about work on Kingdoms of Amalur
Tim Schafer on his new thing and the merit of Kinect
thatgamecompany talk about Journey.

Behind the Scenes: Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver
Year In Review 1985
Conversion Catastrophe - Kung Fu Master on Speccy
The History of Metroidvania - the forerunners to the genre.

My main reason for posting though is my 6 page article on Metroidvania games. No credit as usual for the writer of said piece – though I was technically asked to write it as a favour, so I don’t begrudge this too much. The first dps is hi-res enough to read, though seeing as I’m getting paid for the article (at least I hope I get paid!) I don’t think I can get away with making the entire article free to read online – at least not until they put it on their website or the next issue is out. Of course if someone else, somewhere, has put hi-res scans up, by all means read it and pass the links around.

With it being the 25th anniversaries of Metroid and Castlevania, it seemed time to cover the portmanteau they went on to create later with Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. Ironically most entries predate these two titles, showing that the genre classification is erroneous. But it’s still fun. There’s 24 entries, one for each year of the anniversary, with the 25th title to be voted for on GamesTM’s forum, or discussed here. I also quote Jeremy Parish, which I’m sure he is not pleased about! Sorry Jez, but at least you got credit whereas I did not. I also included interview quotes from several key people.

The list (year of release, then alphabetically):

Pharaoh’s Curse (Atari 8-bit, C64)
Below the Root (C64, DOS, Apple)
Brain Breaker (Sharp X1)
CrossBlaim (MSX)
Sacred Armour of Antiriad (Spectrum, C64, Amstrad)
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
Codename: Droid (BBC)
Legacy of the Wizard (NES)
Zeliard (DOS, PC88)
Zillion (SMS)
Blaster Master (NES)
Euphory (Sharp X1)
Exile (BBC)
Predator (MSX)
The Scheme (PC88)
Wonderyboy III: DT (SMS)
Takahashi Meijin Boukenjima IV (Famicom)
The Divide: Enemies Within (PS1)
Vigilance on Talos V (DOS)
Cave Story (PC)
La Mulana (PC)
Aquaria (PC)
Treasure Adventure Game (PC)

It’s not perfect, but I had around 80 titles on a rough list covering anything even remotely similar, which I whittled down to about 50 series entries, then 40, then 35, and then it got tricky requiring many redrafts.

My goal: differentiate the list from everyone else’s.

That’s why I’ve got silly stuff like the MSX release of Predator, and lots of obscure games. The trend? Metroidvania style games are predominantly on computers, followed by the NES. A reflection on the perception that console titles need to be simpler? Could be why console Metroidvanias are so well loved – they filled a desperately empty gap. Because admit it – how many other games like Super Metroid are on the SNES? Very few.

As for omissions, I left out some popular titles because I just can’t stand them. I absolutely hate Tombi for example – the jumping, where your guy flails forward in an uncontrollable belly flop, is unbearable. How can anyone stand playing that? It feels broken and uncomfortable. Metroidvanias are all about the jumping, and with Tombi every time I press the jump button I want to break the controller. Another omission was Shantae. I don’t care what anyone says, it looks great but the level design is dull, linear and really not much fun. Shadow Complex was on the list, but then I thought: that’s a little obvious. Why waste space on something people know and are enjoying, when something like Treasure Adventure Game can do with the publicity instead?

My big regret?

I never included Link: Faces of Evil, or Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, for the CDi. They just slipped my mind, but they actually follow the Metroidvania template quite nicely. And I love them dearly. For starters, for all the complaints about the controls, when using a wired controller (as opposed to the crappy infra-red remote) the jumping is more comfortable than the jumping in Tombi. I can actually dictate the direction for Link and Zelda, and they don’t lunge forwards with that moronic belly flop.

The rest of the world continues to spout vitriolic hatred for the Link/Zelda games, and people on various Zelda forum boards openly state that they 1) absolutely hate the games for existing and 2) will never, ever play them because they’re not true Zelda games. Their kind of passionate, blinkered, refusal to accept any other-point-of-view mentality, is something I’ve mainly seen with religious extremists. You know, the kind who claim dinosaur bones were put in the earth by the devil to deceive humanity.

How can you claim to hate something, and then refuse to examine it on the grounds that it’s inauthentic, when in that same sentence you admit that you have no idea what it’s even like? That’s like me saying: I hate apples, I’ve never eaten apples and I never will eat apples or even think about what apples are because I know that apples aren’t really fruit and so don’t even need to know what they are because I already know what they are not (ie: not fruit).


Bottom line: obsessive Zelda fans who claim to hate the CDi titles while simultaneously refusing to play them are retarded. To form an educated opinion on something you need to understand it first. Otherwise it’s just a mob mentality, no better than those crowds who wanted to burn women for witchcraft.

I suppose I would have removed Below the Root to fit Link/Zelda in. Interestingly, they were both by the same man, the late great Dale DeSharone. May he rest in peace.