___   ____ _  ___  __                                   
  |__ \ / __ \ |/ / |/ /   ____  ____  ____ ___  ___  _____
  __/ // / / /   /|   /   / __ `/ __ `/ __ `__ \/ _ \/ ___/
 / __// /_/ /   |/   |   / /_/ / /_/ / / / / / /  __(__  ) 
/____/\____/_/|_/_/|_|   \__, /\__,_/_/ /_/ /_/\___/____/  

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Sort of review: Vigilante (Turbografx-16)

(This was an article for Wii Fanboy that I didn't end up using. It might be worth reading.)

Let's lay the "review" text out right now: Vigilante is not the best game on the Virtual Console. It wasn't the best game on the Turbografx-16 either. It's not at all the best side-scrolling brawler (beat-em-up, what have you.) Put next to games that are themselves old, like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, with their combos and their three-dimensional movement and their non-nunchaku weapons, Vigilante's simplistic gameplay is archaic. Simplistic can be fun, as long as you know what you're getting into; with the constant stream of one-hit-kill enemies, Vigilante can be hypnotically soothing and frantic at the same time.

But it is precisely because there has been so much progress since Vigilante that we should play Vigilante and try to understand its merits. It's one of those games that should be available, even if everyone isn't interested, and its presence is one of the more wonderful, promising things about Nintendo's download service.
Vigilante is notable as a historical item, at least-- a reminder of not only a long-dead genre, but an astoundingly specific subgenre: the "thousands-of-identical-guys-try-to-cling-to-you" side-scrolling brawler, of which we know only three examples: Kung Fu Master (Kung Fu on the NES,) basically the first brawler ever, (and also developed by IREM) and China Warrior, a digitized TG16 game from Hudson-- a game whose VC release we eagerly await so we can write about its hypnotic properties and big-spriteyness. Besides, anything that can be done to draw those with brawler predilections away from Urban Champion is basically a public service: nobody should buy Urban Champion, ever; not as a joke, not to fill a collection, not even for some weird article intended to present it as a game of historical interest.
The story is pretty standard arcade-game boilerplate: "The Skinheads have taken Madonna hostage. Take the power into your own hands!" Of course, by "Madonna" they mean "the protagonist's girlfriend" and not Madonna the pop star-- although people might still have been upset enough, back in 1989, to take some power into their own hands, if Madonna the pop star were kidnapped. Basically, games like this need the kidnapped girlfriend, because otherwise the story would be "You are a huge jerk who likes to walk in one direction and beat up people!" This was before the Grand Theft Auto series brought videogame jerks into fashion.
Vigilante's nuanced visual style, which features softly shaded characters with thick black outlines, is surprising. It's unusual-looking, and an unusually artistic flourish for a beat-em-up. The art is especially striking when compared to its flat, flat, flat NES predecessor, Kung Fu. It's a good thing such attention was paid to the character art, since the gameplay consists almost entirely of fighting thousands of clones of the same guy (with occasional bosses and a few different dudes with sticks,) and that guy needs to look kind of interesting.

So why should this simplistic old game be on the VC? Why should we care about a game with monotonous gameplay and a marginally interesting look? Why is this "game history" worth someone paying $6 for? More than just giving us the ability to play Mario Kart again, the Virtual Console, with its emphasis on older games rather than newly-developed casual content, has the potential to become an important service-- a Museum of Gaming, or even better, a distributed, distance-learning Library of Gaming. With a broad enough selection of games, it can be a way for all the new gamers who are buying Wiis catch up on the last 20+ years of game development.
And that includes the games that are not quite the "greatest hits." It has to. It especially includes games like this one that directly influenced whole genres. Nintendo's willingness to publish a game like Vigilante, that Wii Sports fans and people who remember Kid Icarus aren't exactly clamoring for, is a positive note for people hoping for a mechanism to preserve the collective memory of the video game hobby. Plus, sometimes it takes a not-so-good game to help us understand what is so good about the good ones.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


i got a jooooooob

So, here's an exciting development! And by "exciting" I mean ""

Starting very soon, you'll be able to see my particular, flavorful blend of enthusiasm and searing, blinding hate on DS Fanboy and Nintendo Wii Fanboy!

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


Hello Kitty/Space Invaders cellphone charm

As you may know, I like Hello Kitty a lot. Not enough to know anything about her or her friends, just on a superficial level, which is really the only level on which to appreciate Hello Kitty. I think her simple, earnest, goofy, focus-group-tested sweetness is a nice counterpoint to the other entertainment properties I enjoy. With Hello Kitty, there's no danger of getting sucked into the fandom; there's no temptation to spend a couple of hours reading backstory or looking on message boards trying to find Hello Kitty release dates or critical analysis (not for me, anyway.) There are no Hello Kitty design trends for me to get pissed about. There's no lifestyle involvement. Hello Kitty is just cute, and I can just enjoy the cute cartoon cat.

Despite the fact that Space Invaders is a video game, I feel kind of the same way. I feel like every word that needs to be said about Space Invaders has been said (plus several extra by me just now) and I can think of it separately from the games I enjoy/write about/pursue. Space Invaders is just Space Invaders-- it's simpler than most cellphone games, proudly displays its blocky-ass pixels, and is repetitive to the point of hypnotism. I love it. I love playing it, and I love watching it. I am a pixel fan.

This combo cellphone strap ("Hey, pick two things Japanese people enjoy, and we'll slap 'em on a cellphone strap") is something I would enjoy having dangle uselessly from my own phone, imprinting pixelated 3D Hello Kitty sprites into my cheek. I almost said "dangling impotently," but I decided to save my penis jokes for when they are intentional. I then blew my wad by including it in this paragraph anyway.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Throwing some website ideas out into the world

I've been thinking about websites I'd like to start, but don't have the money or the technical knowledge to create. Maybe after I get a job I'll save up for some domain names and try to find some pre-written resources to develop them, but until then, I'll just stupidly expose them and allow them to get stolen.

  1. Gamercraft: a site for people to post their game-related craft projects, like, say, t-shirts and bead pictures, and to share templates, how-tos, and ideas. Basically Craftster for game nerds. So why not just use Craftster? Two reasons: first, it would be very useful to have all of the materials follow the same theme, so that when you see someone's backpack, you know it's going to have a videogame theme, instead of looking at page after page of emo band logos and stuff I'm just not at all interested in; and second, part of why I like these crafts is that it makes me feel like part of a gamer community. Limiting the site's domain to game stuff would make it more likely to attract an interesting, tight-knit group of people with very similar interests to my own.

  2. ObsessiveGamer: a site that combines social networking with insane hoarding by allowing you to keep lists related to your game collection: what you own, when you bought it, how much it cost, if you've completed it, etc., and share these lists with other members. You could include links to your collection list in message board signatures and such. The entries would be linked to information about the game, so that if you saw Sweet Home in someone's list, you could click on it and find info about the game. I really don't have the database creation/maintenance knowledge to do this, but it would be awesome.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006


Games that Might Have Made My 2006 Games of the Year List if I Had Played Them

[update! Previously empty Zelda section now filled with glistening venom.]

God Hand and Okami
Clover Studio released two beautiful, original titles this year: an over-the-top 3D brawler with insane difficulty and hyper-16-bit humor, and a watercolor-style action-adventure about the goddess Amaterasu in wolf form on a quest to return color to the world. Then Clover Studio closed. It's my fault for not buying the games. But I totally bought Viewtiful Joe!*

*like two years after it came out, for $9.99

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Nintendo delayed the original Gamecube version until after the Wii launch, and then sent an insultingly low supply out. As far as anyone who wanted to purchase the game was concerned, they cancelled it. Now I'm not even sure if I want to get it with my (eventual) Wii out of spite. Dicks.

Dead Rising
A game from the creator of Megaman involving beating zombies with everything you can grab from every store in a mall. I'm glad to see a kind of lighthearted zombie game. It really sounds like something I would have poured bucket after bucket of quarters into.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Okay, so the PSP does have one game: a Metal Gear Solid game that takes place between MGS3 and Metal Gear, and allows the player to recruit randomly-chosen soldiers based on the location of the WiFi hotspot they are connected to. I am a sucker for Hideo Kojima's little triTURN OFF THE GAME CONSOLE RIGHT NOW

Guitar Hero II
I would totally have bought this, but I still suck ass at the first one. And I refuse to fail the first song of another Guitar Hero's hard mode. Also, the gameplay refinements, while awesome, are mostly limited to multiplayer and don't do me any fucking good. I would like some new songs, though.

Bit Generations series and Rhythm Tengoku
Rhythm Tengoku is a GBA music game from the creators of Wario Ware, and is apparently the best GBA game ever. For me it would have to be, since being a music game automatically makes it better than all of the non-music games on it, and that includes all the Castlevanias and the That's So Raven sequels. No way I'm paying import prices for it, though. Same with the Bit Generations games, which were a series of eight experimental, stylish, minimalist GBA games. I just don't have the finances to pay $25 for Art Pong or whatever, as much as I'd like to.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Games of the Year (Games Released in 2006 that I Played Edition)

In 2006, two new consoles came out, one to massive fanfare and ridiculous lawsuits, and the other an exclusive eBay release, overpriced and undersupported.

I didn't play either of those consoles. I also have yet to play a single Xbox 360 game, aside from the one time I played some WWII game in Toys R Us until I got blown up. I should also mention that I didn't play any PSP games this year, but that's a given since I'm not sure any PSP games even came out this year.

Despite all those launches, as this list reflects, this was the year of the Nintendo DS. What was, last year, a dumb-looking, underpowered console with gimmicky games is now the top gaming platform in the US and Japan. The massive surge in DS popularity affected even my weird-ass gaming habits, because no matter what, whichever system is #1 in Japan is going to be the one that gets the cutesy music games and niche stuff that I love.

Here are the top ten games that I played this year that were actually released this year. Come back tomorrow for the best games this year that I didn't play, and on Monday (hopefully) the best games that I played for the first time this year that didn't come out in 2006! I think that covers all the lists!

As usual, click the pictures for larger screenshots.
10. Phantasy Star Universe

To be honest, I didn't enjoy PSU very much when I rented it. But then, I was playing the single-player game, which I can only describe as "Phantasy Star Online with more cutscenes." I hear the multiplayer is an excellent evolution of the original PSO gameplay, with new levels, enemies, weapons, and all kinds of items that not only require you to kill way too many enemies waiting for a random drop, but then require you to luck out at an item synthesis shop! I'm actually afraid to buy this and try the online game, because I lost a lot of my life to PSO on the Dreamcast, and this sounds even more engaging.

9-7. Big Bumpin', PocketBike Racer, Sneak King

Arriving mere seconds before the world got tired of Burger King's creepy mascot, these three advertising games hearken back to a simpler time when food advertising mascots starred in video games (Kool-Aid Man, California Raisins, Yo! Noid)
I felt sort of subversive by purchasing and enjoying these games, seeing them as kind of a "fuck you" to the other big releases of November, including the Sony Playstation 3. I paid $4 each for these at Burger King, I didn't have to wait in line, and I didn't even need an HDTV.
Plus, none of them included copies of Talladega Nights, which I count as a positive.
Did I mention that they cost $4 each? Because they do. They are the first games to include both Xbox and 360 versions on the same disc, they include multiplayer, and online and achievements and all that (on the 360), plus they're kind of fun, and they cost four damn dollars.

6. Brain Age

I almost didn't want to put this on the list, because it's just barely a game. In fact, if not for the time limits and the score tracking, Brain Age would just be shitty brain exercises. Nintendo brilliantly grafted just enough game into it to make it addictive, challenging players to increase their "brain age" by doing math problems and memory exercises faster every day. This is one of those insidious products designed for Nintendo fans to buy and give to their parents. I don't know exactly why it has sold as well as it has (especially in Japan, where it is one of the best-selling games ever,) although I suspect that people saw the dubious brain performance benefit as a reasonable excuse for playing video games. I enjoyed it for a while (and so did Mary!) but when I tried to play it again previous to writing this, I found that the magic had kind of dissipated, leaving only a vaguely irritating set of activities presented by a condescending head. If you haven't played it enough to get tired of it, it's great! And did I mention there are charts?

5. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

It's a 2D Castlevania game. It's automatically better than just about anything else that comes out. A lot of people are getting tired of Koji Igarashi's nonlinear Metroidvanias, and they have a point-- the earlier Castlevanias were some of the best-designed, most stylish action games ever, and it would be great to have more of them. But we don't really get much of a choice in side-scrolling action anymore, and really the only bad thing about these modern Castlevanias is that they block the possible development of one of those old-style ones.

4. Gyakuten Saiban 2

I hardly ever import games, but I couldn't wait for the US release of this, the sequel to Phoenix Wright. I didn't really play text adventures, graphical or otherwise, when they were popular. But now that they're basically extinct, I'm a huge fan of console graphical text adventures. The cases are clever, the dialogue is well-written and hilarious, and the gameplay-- which consists of alternating "investigation" periods of detective work, and "courtroom" periods of cross-examining witnesses to find contradictions-- is enthralling. Playing Gyakuten Saiban games is like reading a good novel.

3. New Super Mario Bros.

Of all the weird tricks Nintendo has pulled out in the last year or two to (successfully!) coerce everyone in the universe to purchase a DS, New Super Mario Brothers is the most surprising: a real Mario sequel? They haven't done that since Yoshi's Island in 1994, and even that wasn't quite a traditional Mario game. And it's not just a token effort, either: the levels are some of the most carefully designed and well-thought-out of the series, and the genre! Too bad about the ugly 3D graphics, though. I guess they had to make a concession to the gaming environment in 2006.

2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

The original release of Metal Gear Solid 3 was the best release of 2004, and two years later, MGS3 is still good enough to make the list. I am not a double-dip kind of person, generally only having enough money to buy some of the games I want, and then only following a price reduction, and only once! I made an exception for this game, however, because the extras were irresistable: a movie made of recut versions of all the game's cutscenes, a 30-minute Metal Gear retrospective, and ports of the unreleased-in-the-US MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The main MGS3 game got a new controllable camera and an amazing online multiplayer mode for which my sauce is unfortunately too weak.

1. Elite Beat Agents

It's taken me longer than I wanted to write this post because I keep stopping to play EBA. Whenever I get tired of gaming, or sick of all the shitty treatment fans get from game companies, I invariably find solace in music games. There is much more gaming joy and less bullshit in music games than in any other genre, and playing a great one makes me feel good about what I choose to do with my time. And this one is outstanding: easy-to-learn gameplay that makes perfect use of the DS touch screen, vivid hand-drawn graphics (and some 3D), fun and inspired storylines, a perfect difficulty curve (ending at "screen-piercingly hard"), and, uh, some music too. The music (all bad soundalike covers of pop songs) ranges from guilty pleasures ("YMCA") to dog shit (Sum 41's "Without a Fight"?) The game manages to overcome its musical handicap to become one of the best story-based music games ever released. That much is unsurprising from the developers of the greatest music game ever, Gitaroo Man.

Stenciling Phoenix Wright: An Illustrated Guide!

Possibly my favorite Christmas gift this year was a t-shirt stenciling kit assembled by Mary-- acrylic paint,
fabric-paint medium, freezer paper, foam brushes, and two t-shirts. She also typed up instructions, and staple-bound them zine-style. Mary is pretty awesome.

While we were visiting family, I spent my downtime working on stencil ideas (made so much easier by my new laptop!)-- listing possible sources, collecting images, seeing what they would look like on a t-shirt, and such-- and decided on Phoenix Wright for my first shirt.

These are the materials I used for the project: acrylic paint, some kind of junk that makes acrylic paint work better on fabric, some freezer paper, and my rusty old X-Acto knife (horror movie script pending.) The shirts, instructions, and paint were wrapped together in a gift box; the freezer paper was wrapped separately, and opened first. I didn't exactly know how to react to my gift of freezer paper-- well, I knew how to react (with surprise and delight) but I kind of got the feeling that I was being asked to do housework of some kind via the communication medium of "gift." I was very pleased when this turned out not to be the case.
the design
This is the design, based on graphics ripped from the game (found at Court Records, an excellent Phoenix Wright fansite) and printed as large as it could be on one sheet of paper. The printer decided to cut off some of the picture, and it chose an area that nobody would pay much attention to, the finger, which isn't the focal point of the whole fucking picture or anything. I suppose it could have been my mistake, instructing my
program to "fit to page" and assuming that the picture would then fit on the page it was being printed onto. It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory.
Were you wondering what the freezer paper was for? Probably not, because everyone who can successfully navigate to this blog is smarter than I am. Anyway, I found out after reading the instructions that it adheres temporarily to fabric when ironed on, making it a (presumably) cheap transfer medium for stencils, plus it's translucent so you can easily trace and cut your designs from another sheet of paper. This picture is of the stencil ironed onto the shirt. I kind of like the way it looks in this state, and probably would have kept it, if the freezer paper were not so likely to fall off after the first wash. Oh, and also, wearing freezer paper is for food, and I AM NOT FOOD.
Then I mixed up the paint and the fabric medium and dabbed the mixture onto the shirt-- no dragging for some reason!
A few minutes later, I had a shirt covered in sticky goop! YES. Oh, and incidentally the sticky goop is in the image of the main character from a semi-obscure Nintendo DS graphical text adventure.

Now all I have to do is wait a week (!) for the paint to dry, and then heat set it with the iron, and I will be dressin' in my custom-designed fly threadzz!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I tried Second Life

That's right, I took an exciting step into 2006, and downloaded the hottest game in the "pointless game for people who want to pretend they're doing something important" genre! It didn't run that well on my computer.

Also I just stood around and didn't know how to start conversations with any of the other players. So, just like my real life, except I was "outside!"