Friday, February 25, 2011

Satan of Saturn (Arcade)

Alright Bring it On Satan of Saturn!

Shit. I lost my first life quick.


Who wood evan makk thes?

conk-sunking SNK Boss Syndrome.


Return of the Lady Frog (Arcade)

I...don't know?

"Like strip mahjong, but high as fuck and no mahjong and starring a frog." - Psiga

The Combatribes (Arcade)

As Guile destroy all normal sized men/clowns.

The Kimonos - The Kimonos (2010)

With the availability of music on the internet, and the fact that it takes just a little bit of time to decide if you like the music or not, I think music reviews are pretty much dead.  I still scour the Punk News year end reviews for my year's worth of punk music.  I go through each list and load up each band on youtube/myspace/amazon.  Some of them are good.  Some of them aren't.  Music critics role is primarily of giving context and history of the music.  What music had the musicians made before?  How is this different or the same from their previous works.  How does this piece fit in the flow of popular and underground culture?

So this is a side project by Mukai something, of Zazen Boys/ Number Girl fame.  I have been listening to it non-stop since yesterday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Penny Arcade Game Episode 1 (PS3)

It was 2.99 for both games, so why the hell not!  I've played the first one, and it is full of Tycho's delicious writing.  It doesn't have a lot of music, but it's also one of the only PS3 games to support custom soundtracks.  That's a pretty short list it's on.  I ended up fighting the final boss to Edna's Goldfish's Elements of Transition.  Not exactly the most thematically appropriate music, but I didn't have a lot else on there.  I should put some more game music on it.  Maybe the Etrian Odyssey III soundtrack?

I don't see a lot of people talk about the game, but then again there isn't a lot to talk about.  I will say it was nice when I could finally try the game when I had the 360. It's an active battle RPG.  The enemies will keep hitting you regardless if you're in a menu or not.  This is a mild headache, especially when you suddenly can't control your cursor because you're selecting an enemy to attack and don't realize it.  You're also using different buttons for different commands and need to manually select each character.  It works alright I suppose.

They ended up making a game in which it is hard to say anything good or bad about it.  Maybe that was their goal.  Oh, I'll say the trophy for going through the game without anyone dying once is ridonkulous.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Suikoden (PS1) Shining Force (Genesis)

Suikoden had commanded a high price on the PS1 aftermarket as soon as it was released.  It's connectivity with Suikoden II helped this.   I didn't have a PS1 at the time, and didn't feel like hunting it down when I got a PS2 or playing the sequels available for that platform.  I had mild curiosity in a series that was still on going, but if it was ever brought up they talked about the first two games, or that game 4 was awful.

Then Suikoden got a PSN release and I figured a 15 hour RPG that got praise (if it got mentioned) and instead of 100 dollars was 6, why not.  It turned out to be a 25 hour RPG, but I'm not going to feel too bad about that, since part of that was collecting our 108 characters.  Suikoden is loosely based on the Water Margin another ancient Chinese story I don't really know anything about, but has many different interpretations.  That includes 5 RPGs about collecting 108 characters!  I guess there is also the DS game which was maybe different?

Anyways!  108 characters means it's hard to give them time to develop.  But that's not the only idea this game has.  It also has you participating in large scale battles against the evil empire.  You try to recruit every person you defeat because the Emperor has changed from how he was seven years ago.  And at the very end, he isn't actually evil at all (but he does turn into a hydra).  So the plot isn't what is keeping you going.

Hell I think what kept me going was because I had it.  Skies of Arcadia is this game, but in every possible way better.  If you've never played Suikoden, well just go play Skies of Arcadia again, or for the first time.  It's definitely one of the best RPGs ever made!

 Shining Force though, I wasn't expecting to play it all the way through.  Unlike Fire Emblem, death isn't permanent.  Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics/Ogre Battle it doesn't have a huge amount of between battles preparation.  Unlike both of those games and most tactics games, it has the feeling of a coherent world. Between each stage you might pick up more (awesome) characters and buy one slot of equipment for the characters you're going to use.

Each battle is important to the story, and if you lose a battle you keep all the experience you gained from it, lose half your money and are sent back to the town before that battle.  The battles walk a neat line between being kind of easy, but also always in danger that you could lose.  I probably followed GameFAQS a little too much, as I used characters I didn't like because they supposedly became great (but never really did). 

No one ever talks about Shining Force's world though.  Like how midway through you have to destroy a giant laser eye on the otherside of a canyon.  Your party has hawkmen, a baby dragon (that upgrade to an adult dragon), and armadillo in steampunk armor.  Along with normal dwarves, mages, elves and humans.  What's weird is the most common species in your party is centaurs.  Which can go far, but are useless for half the battles because of mountainous terrain.

It was brisk and friendly and knew you could beat it.  I'm more interested in the series now, and might pick up one part of Shining Force III at the local game store.  It's amazingly unobtrusive for an early Megadrive game. It was a nice fun time.  Suikoden I can say is "something I have played."  Shining Force is a fun game.  I'm sure the GBA re-make is great too (unless they fucked it up.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima)

The only thing I knew about this film was the cover and that it starred David Bowie.  Well, I also knew the premise, British soldiers in a Japanese POW Camp.  The director may be famous I don't know?

How was it?  Alright.  You get lots of shots of David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto looking too perfect.  Outside of the beatings and poor food fashions, it seems like a very open prison camp.  I didn't expect the Japanese officers to speak that much English.  They do an admirable effort, Sakamoto and Beat Takashi, but it still comes off more awkward than effective. 

It's a neat film just for the star talent involved.  They all give great performances, and our true star Mister Lawrence, who didn't speak a word of Japanese, speaks phonetically perfect Japanese throughout.  It even sounds like it is Japanese spoken by a British man.  That was really impressive. 

Oh and the whole movie is about homosexual mindgames.  Going to need to watch it a few more times since A) I own it, B) Can't say for certain if I like it or not.  It's in some ways a very flawed film.  Most of the scenes were done in one or two takes, and the script wasn't set in stone.  So the tone and flow jumps wildly.  There's are two scenes (related to each other) that just stop the film dead in it's tracks.  Even with that, it's a pretty breezy two hours.  Still I would have liked there to be an editor to just cut those scenes out of the film because they don't add anything to the main plot.  It feels like one of those cases where a movie ends, and another begins and you didn't even have to leave your seat.

Sonic Colors (DS)

Sonic Colors is like Sonic Rush Adventure is like Sonic Rush is like Sonic Advance 3 is like Sonic Advance 2 is like Sonic Advance 1 is like Sonic Pocket Adventure.  It's the next portable Sonic game by Dimps that doesn't capture what was great about the original Genesis games.  I'm not sure I could even tell you what's so much better about the Genesis games, or even if there is something that is better.  Maybe nostalgia has blocked me from understanding them objectively. 

Sonic Pocket Adventure was the start and kind of a weird beast.  It had Sonic 2's levels (but not level design) and Sonic 3's music.  I'm skipped around with the series.  Sonic Advance 2 was one of the first GBA games I had, and it infuriated me that I had to find 7 magical things if I wanted to see the special stages.  The game was filled with bottomless pits and so spacious that trying to find anything felt like an obnoxious chore, and it was easier just to GO FAST.  Well, go fast into a pit.

So Sonic Colors is pretty much the same product.  It doesn't have you collecting minerals to continue the game like SRA (good) and it has no bottomless pits (BETTER!)  It still has you collecting magical things, but not for to see the bonus stages and I couldn't really figure out why.  It also has the talking between stages that I really couldn't care about.

I completed two sets of levels and their respective bosses and didn't feel like investing more time.  Sonic's back and he's bzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Sorry guys!  It's FUCKING KONAMI WEEK! I didn't mean for it to be, I just realized it was FKW and I was playing Suikoden and Salamander.  I will write about those when I'm satisfied with either of them.

In the meantime, play some KONAMI games.

Silent Hill
Metal Gear Solid

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Patchwork Heroes (PSP)

Patchwork Heroes is giving Qix context.  Battleships are heading towards your city, you need to cut them up and rescue your friends.  Each friend has a bio, and a funeral if you get hit.  You can just restart it to not get your friends killed this time.

It's kind of fun, you collect power ups to get super cutting power.  I've had it for a while now, and i go back and play the next level and turn it off.  While I was at the hospital for 7 hours because I wasn't able to come back if i left, I played another.  My file is at 33% complete and the game is just getting into the complication mode.  Now each rescue was timed.  I suddenly felt like I was collecting stuff half out of compulsion and half because the game didn't make cutting a ship and avoiding robots fun enough.

Probably should just play Gals Panic if you want to play a Qix style game that's cool.  Because Gals Panic is a cool game, and it has naked anime/real girls depending on the version.  Laugh at that as much as you want, but Gals Panic really doesn't fuck around.  Really sad MAME on Xbox doesn't support it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Phantasy Star (Master System)

I can't.  The grinding is too intense.   If you die you get sent back to the title screen.  The 3D dungeons are still amazing after all these years, but no.  There are twenty years of game design and loving the player between this game and me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bayonetta (PS3)

10 dollars meant I decided to go ahead and buy Bayonetta.  I originally planned to play it whenever I went back to Japan.  I still don't know when that's going to be.

Even if I had played it in 2010, it wouldn't have even been mentioned in my favorite games of 2010 (still writing the fukubukuro).  Hell it's not even my favorite witch game.  DEATHSMILES DEATHSMILES DEATHSMILES.  Bayonetta doesn't have you fight a giant photorealistic cow.  Most of the bosses finished with me thinking "I'm glad that's over" and when I inevitably fought them a second time, "Well this time it's shorter."

I've got to compare it to two other action games, Ninja Blade and Bullet Witch.  First I think NB and BW might as well have taken place in the same universe.  I'm going to hold that dream too.  Both of them are just about 5 spectacular hours long.  While people complain about the QTEs in Ninja Blade, the entire point of the game is the QTEs.  If you fail a round, the game rewinds briefly you might take a tiny bit of damage, and you get to try again.  It wants the player to win, and it doesn't want you to feel bad about losing.  Also almost always has you pressing buttons if there is cool stuff on screen.

Bayonetta uses QTEs in the worst way possible.  They are haphazardly thrown around and so inconsistently used that you don't know when you're just going to watch a cutscene and when you are going to get a QTE to "dodge" or "jump".  More that "dodge" in QTEs is Triangle and Circle together, and not R2 which is dodge in game, another nice point for Ninja Blade.  Even late into Bayo, you'll watch 30 seconds of fighting wondering "when is this boss fight going to start?" 

The worst part of the QTEs is, if you fail it is instant game over, and Bayo makes you feel bad about getting a game over.  A red skull and crossbones flashes on the screen, Bayonetta's body lies full and center, and you'll get a skull for every death each chapter.  I've never liked games that hammer home that I died.   I know I died.   It's why I hate Jak and Daxter and love Jak 2 and 3.  The most fun I had with Bayo was when I spent about an hour on one of the bonus missions, which really should have been separate from the main game, like Godhand.  In the bonus missions you have a set amount of times you can get hit, and if you die it just drops you right before the mission started.  Dying, internalizing my mistakes, and trying again was great.  It didn't kill the momentum like the main game did.

Playing Bullet Witch is like making your own cutscenes.  One of the reasons I love it so much, is that a giant floating brain threw a flaming bus at me which I cartwheeled by.  I then summoned a tornado which kill the brain and destroyed most of the city street I was on.  The camera is always focused on Bullet Witch too, and I really don't know what the hell the camera was trying to do in Bayonetta.  I got used to it, but that doesn't mean it was good.

In Bayo you can be in dangerous environments without danger, half the stages take place on frozen in time falling debris that won't let you make a bad jump, and if you do make a bad jump you have to fight the camera and Bayo's weird jump to get back to safety, but you'll probably take the 1/10th damage and spawn back at the beginning.  In Bullet Witch I had to take down a giant flying serpent that was trying to destroy the plane I was on.  I had to combat it, the blowing winds, and the ability to just fall right off the ship.  Winning that battle felt like I had done something. 

Bayo has a map screen before each mission, in which a little girl places a Bayo figure on the map.  Then it loads.  Then it lets you start the mission.  Like the Devil May Cry series, and really way too many games, Bayo has a poor sense of progression.  Bayo even has amnesia and doesn't really know what she's trying to do or where she's going for most of the game. 

Bayo didn't get better than the demo, but it didn't get worse either.  It just sort of exists, it's a game I have played.  It's not Bullet Witch.  It's not Godhand.  The director, Kamiya, does love Space Harrier (<3<3<3<3)  enough that there's a Space Harrier level, but you can't change the controls to non-inverted.  But But But...Outrun music?  Nah, just go play Bullet Witch

Monday, February 7, 2011

United States Entry Fee

I guess I actually have a clear reason to be angry at Obama now, for passing a dumb as hell law.  This law is:

"As a measure to raise money, President Obama passed a new law designed to boost the dwindling numbers of foreign tourists. He believes that by charging a $10 fee on top of the ESTA (Electronic Scheme for Travel Authorization) application will somehow raise our declining tourism numbers."
- mediasteed

God lord.

"The remaining $10 of the fee will go towards a semi-public promotion fund that was created under the Travel Promotion Act signed into law in March this year. The act aims to boost the US tourist industry, which has been in decline since 2000. The fund will be used to help the industry recover.

Hope it went towards those cancer machines and child molesters.

Apparently Europe complained about this law, but clearly they didn't complain enough that Americans heard it.  Or if they did, they didn't throw enough of a fit about it.  I wonder if Fox News put a positive spin on it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sakura Taisen 3: Is Paris Burning? (Dreamcast)

I'd always held some interest in Sakura Taisen the gal-game/robot SRPG series.  Eventually one did come to America, but it's the one that takes place in Japan's insane version of turn of the century America.  Also the girls your supposed to hold interest in look terribly boring.  So I ignored it in favor of this Dreamcast copy of 桜大戦3:~巴里は燃えているか~.  I think I got it when a friend was abandoning Japan.  He had also given me 2 broken dreamcasts and a saturn.  I never did get those dreamcasts to work or get a working dreamcast.  It's only back in the states on my US Launch dreamcast that I finally have a chance to find out if Paris IS burning.

It took me way too long to figure out 巴里 was "parii", Paris.  About 1/3rd of the vocals are actually voiced and so when I wasn't hovering over my DS looking up kanji I was thankful to hear ultra obscure stuff spoken.  This game is full of that.  It actually uses Japanese words for everything.  No "faito", "potion" etc.  Even their word for "mech" is a pile of kanji.  I appreciate this, in that it actually adapts something to Japanese instead of just using tons of katakanized English.  However it was a headache when words like "mechanic" were composed of about 5 kanji. 

Sakura Taisen is set up like anime TV shows (and most of the characters fall smugly in anime tropes).  The girls I had met were a Nun that carried around a machine gun and was a ditz and clutz.  About once an episode I had to get her out of jail because she had her machine gun out in public.  The stuck up strong blonde girl who I could absolutely never say the right thing to.  The moe~ 12 year old magician that thinks everyone has a good heart.  A Japanese ex-pat with a sad past.  And a 1000 year old women who can set fire to anything with the power of her mind, who switches between total bitch and come-hither.

I just got her into my party and everytime I said something positive to her, it pissed off the rest of my team.  So she was obviously both the "obvious, awesome" option and "GODHAND" mode. Because when the girls are pissed off at you they do worse in battle.  The battle I was just in I was no doing so well, because awesome girl was mildly positive and the rest were "you are sleeping on the couch."

So I guess I give up on the game.  It's not that entertaining to play through.  In fact it was frustrating, because a lot of the "choose what to say" actions are timed based, and that doesn't exactly give me enough time to look up a kanji I don't understand.  Other times it asks me to walk around town wasting time.  Then some of the other choice actions require I determine how strongly I say/do something. 

Man that pyro eternal girl is ultra cool sounding.  Why can't I play her in like, an action game.  She sets the Mona Lisa on fire to prevent a scorpion-woman from defacing it.  "Shit, she was going to do it anyways."  She was going to make the boring combat sections become impossibly harder though, I could tell.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Work Time Fun (PSP)

While WTF had always intrigued me, I'd never set out to buy it.  All reports said it was Warioware but incredibly boring.  They were kind of right and kind of wrong.

It was originally released in Japan as Baito Hell 2000.  I believe the Japanese story is your in hell, and need to work off your eternal damnation by playing minigames.  Unlike Warioware you choose what game you play next, though only 4 at a time.  I ended up sending it back to Gamefly, because although I had "won" more minigames, in the next twenty minutes I didn't get a chance to play any of them.

One game has you putting pen tops on pens.  Sometimes you need to flip the pen to the correct direction before you put the pen on it.  There is no time limit.  There is a counter made of digits the entire length of the PSP screen.  The counter is easily past trillions (100,000,000,000,000) .  You keeping putting pens on caps for as long as you want.  I ended up completing about 300 pens and got 5 dollars for my efforts. 

Another is chopping wood.  This counter is thankfully only 3 digits.  However, your grandma sometimes switches out the wood for a cute animal (dolphin, puppy, kitty) which if you press a button is brutally sliced in half and accompanied by incense and the chants of monks.  I haven't proceeded beyond 20 logs, because the rhythm I get from chopping is so precise that my brain doesn't register don't touch anything when the cute bastard comes on screen.

Then there is a people counter.  You press square for every person passing by on screen.  Or every HUMAN.  There's also various vehicles, space aliens, animals, etc also crowding the screen.  This is a play on a very real job for homeless people in Japan.  They have about 5 different counters and click for each of the demographics that are passing by.  It's in invaluable marketing data for the foottraffic heavy Japanese cities.  It's also a thankless and low paying job because homeless guys are the ones usually doing it.  In game, it proceeds in rounds.  You are allowed to quit after each round of spotting the correct number of humans.  If you mis-count you don't get any money at all.

The concept of each minigame is usually boring, though the graphics and sound design for each is perfect.  The baseball one looks almost like a Famicom game (the player's avatar has 5 colors instead of 4 though.)  The wrestling game looks exactly like Fire Pro Wrestling and even has Japanese "these are our sponsors" before the match.  The people counter and lumber chopping games are hideous pixel illustrations.  Some of the games are Terry Gilliam.  Each of them has exquisite sound design.

WTF is monotonous though.  You are doing something simple over and over again for little to no reward.  I wouldn't call it boring though.  It's just distracting.  Distract from your boring life by playing this game about monotony.  I'd say it's definitely worth sitting down with for 30 minutes, and it's only 4.99  on the US Playstation Network.  Another reason I sent it back to Gamefly.  If  I was going to play it again, I should at least give the guys 5 dollars for the pleasure.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima

"The instant the blade tore into his flesh, the bright disk of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids."

That's a fantastic line.  I wish the 419 pages preceeding it had similar lines.  When I read  Les Miserables and The Three Musketeers the back of the book was filled with notes an explanation of the time period.  It helped give context for what was happening.  Runaway Horses does none of that.  You're given reference to The May 15th Incident constantly, but the translator felt no need to explain what the hell it was.  It's a moment in Japanese culture that at least everyone has the general idea about.  But I even as a guy that lived in Japan for several years, had no clue.  Oh it does go into detail about Shinpuren Rebellion, but doesn't give again any annotations about it.

Annotations are invaluable for giving context to a story that is so strongly about a place and a time period.  It wasn't need for the original because when Yukio Mishima wrote it, their were people that were alive during it.  It was also a reaction to current Japan and Mishima's views on it.  The translator, Michael Gallagher failed to give annotations but also failed as a translator.  He does the obnoxious thing of using occasional Japanese words in italics to mark them as Japanese words, but also never felt the need to translate these words. 

The only context I have for the word "zaibatsu" is freaking Tekken.  It's...something to do with corporations or conglomerates or monopolies I guess?  I know.."hakama" is a kind of clothing.  He never italicizes kimono though.  He did feel the need to write, "The offered noodles with fried bean curd."  You mean MISO RAMEN?  Or that the building was in Number 3 Asogaya.  You mean Asogaya 3-chome?  You read something like that, and you wonder if the man has ever been to Japan.

One of the most infuriating parts has to do with the above mentioned Rebellion.  It is referred to in the book as The League of the Divine Wind.  The main characters wish to imitate this group, and "had named their hideaway Kamikaze, divine wind."  Divine Wind in Japanese is kamikaze (God Wind).  It's such a bizarre line, like suddenly the story isn't taking place in Japan in English.

Hell what is a tokonoma?

Yukio Mishima is an infinitely fascinating man whom I am not enlightened or entertained by the writings of.  He's very good at psychoanalysis.  He perfectly understood everyone and the world around him and still on November 25th, 1970 committed seppuku.

"The instant the blade tore into his flesh, the bright disk of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids."

Monster World IV (PS2, Megadrive)

Don't lie to yourself and God.  No one enjoys the Monster World series.  Maybe the Adventure Island part amuses you briefly, but not for long.

The Monster World series itself blends together for not holding my interest for more than 5 minutes.  In each of them your sword is composed of maybe two pixels.  It doesn't nearly have the friction of Ys III or Adventures of Link.  The save points are few and far between and dieing leads you back to the title screen.  That's a good way to capture my interest jerks.

But occasionally I've heard praise of Monster World IV.  I just forced the whole game down my throat.  The dungeons are entirely too long and repetitive.  The fire dungeon has you go through the exact same screen six times in a row with different enemies.  You can't even save the beginning of a dungeon.  You save in town and then have to walk back through the starting area and then into the dungeon.  Ys III let me save at any time.

None of the bosses are worth talking about outside of a god damn ghost horse with a flail because he was a bastard and a fire wave spewing bird woman because she kept running away from me.  Some of the normal enemies have shields and swords like you do, but this game has none of the high low sword play of Adventures of Link and the old man that flails swords on either side of you while jumping like a 3 year old I still don't know what to do against but get lucky hitting him.

The sprite work is about the only thing worth talking about because it's fantastic.  One of the first things you get to see is Aysha wiggling her butt while opening up a treasure chest.  I would have included pictures, but the PSP Genesis emulator didn't have a screenshot function and the screenshots taken for saves were in some encrypted format.  You missed out on pictures of the dumb as hell genie, water penii, and wolfmen.  Why you start the game fighting militant pigs and wolfmen and then proceed to fight children with swords and slimes at the end is beyond me.  The wolfmen's animation is great too.

To round out a typical review fashion the music is pretty much all remixes of one theme that wasn't very good in the first place.  Also jesus christ that is amazing boxart.  Seriously, I wish the game was anywhere near as entertaining as that boxart.  Would like a copy just to put on my shelf and say, hey look at that boxart, that's pretty good isn't it.  Now let's play Sonic 2 or Hard Corps or Aladdin instead. Aladdin actually has some tact and challenge and progression to it.  That was the worst part of MWIV.  The stages are numbing a repetitive and you don't really know when they are going to end (oh god you want them too already jesus I've done this puzzle THREE TIMES NOW). 

Though I own the Monster World Collection on PS2, I played it on an emulator because there's an English patch available, and the time I had spent with the game wasn't engaging me enough that I would force through with it in Japanese.  But I've finished it I know it never gets better and hope to dissuade anyone from playing it.