• Hiatus

    Bad news, everyone: I’ve spent this past week dealing with issues in my arms and hands. The rest of my body has been having some problems, but my hands are the most noticeable since I use them so much. As such, I haven’t been able to play any games, or spend too much time on a keyboard; I’ll be having problems just typing this out.

    Because of this, I didn’t have anything written up for this week, and I don’t plan on doing anything next week. I have some braces and stuff to help my pain coming in during the week, but I’d like to not aggravate things if possible until then. So I’m taking a break. Hopefully a short one. So no essays or reviews, and game development will be on hold too. I’ll play things by ear next week and see how my health is doing then, but for now, I literally cannot do a whole lot without it hurting. Sorry, everyone, I’ll try and get better soon.

  • welcome house

    Welcome House is one of those games I have spent literal decades trying to find. Like any obscure Japan-only Playstation game, I first heard of it in a glowingly written spread in an issue of GameFan magazine, and I was convinced that I needed to some day play this game. The problem is that it wasn’t sold in any import dealers, and even if it had been, there was no way I would have been able to afford the ridiculous prices imports were being charged for (would you like to spend over a hundred bucks on Dragon Ball GT for the Playstation, you fucking idiot?). Another problem is that, due to Welcome House being an extremely obscure game, the ROM for it would not appear until maybe half a decade ago. Even then, when Welcome House 1 got dumped, it was only the compromised Saturn port that was extremely buggy due to Saturn emulation being absolutely terrible back then. I did eventually find the original PSX version years back, and a couple weeks ago, I finally finished it!

    What is Welcome House? Well, Welcome House is a game where you explore a mansion, solving basic puzzles and discovering the secrets within it. That sounds very much like Resident Evil, but it is actually more in line with a 3DO game that was pretty unknown until recently called Dr Hauzer, mostly due to the lack of combat and the backgrounds being rendered in real-time rather than prerendered. But Welcome House separates itself from those two games by using themes of slapstick comedy, rather than horror. Keaton Paxman, the protagonist, can charitably be described as a complete fucking dope. If you have him investigate an open window, the window will slam shut on his fingers. He’ll slip in oil spills every single time walks past them. He’ll get so spooked by a dog that he walks into a rake. He’ll fall from tall heights like Wile E Coyote. Keaton will literally be flattened into a paper-thin form of himself on multiple occasions. Welcome House does not take itself seriously in the least; the sequel would even add a laugh track to Keaton’s suffering.

    In a purely mechanical sense, you could easily describe Welcome House as being no different than say, a point and click adventure, or even a short text adventure. Keaton is trapped in a mansion full of comedy traps while visiting his uncle (full name Uncle Parkinson), because it’s April Fools and Keaton’s Uncle felt like fucking with him. That’s the story: you are trapped in a mansion, and the goal is to leave. Simply explore and solve basic puzzles, like putting a key into a door, or putting an object into another object. There’s a distinct lack of plot; no cutscenes aside from the intro and ending, and NPC’s don’t even show up until the very end of the game. Just Keaton walking around what is honestly a pretty nice house; aside from a couple of rooms, this home wouldn’t be all too different from a regular mansion. While there is the moving platform room, and the room with moving walls that will crush you, everything else is so normal: bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, then the most opulent things you’ll see are an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, and a room with a large fish tank and a regular sized TV.

    A moment that sticks out to me is finding three vinyl records. These serve no purpose when it comes to game progression. There are no puzzles to be solved with them. What you can do with them is play them on the jukebox in the bar. Two of these songs are classical arrangements, and the third one is Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera” in its entirety. It’s like the game is giving you a break from all the puzzles and navigation, letting you chill out in a relaxing space while listening to music. It’s cool that there’s a room that’s essentially only there for you to hang out in (also searching behind the bar gets you a key).

    Yeah, this a game with a defined goal and obstacles to overcome to get there, but playing this game felt like I was just a dude walking around a big house. It’s probably because there are no stakes: no enemies, no time limit, no game over state. Reading about Welcome House as a kid tripped something in my brain, and playing it many years later tripped it again. I spent a lot of time as a kid in big empty homes, due to my parents’ jobs, and they would drag me along sometimes. Being the only kid in a large building for hours at a time while your parents built or cleaned up parts of it would get really boring really quick. So I would wander around using my imagination, pretending that I was finding secrets and solving a mystery. Of course, there was little to no furniture, as nobody actually lived in these homes yet, so my imagination would have to work some overtime, but that was how I passed the time. Welcome House reminds me a lot of that time, except that the mansion in this game is this lived in, cozy space to walk around in.

    Mechanically speaking, Welcome House isn’t all that different from other “search the mansion” games of the era, aside from using goofy comedy instead of manmade horrors beyond your comprehension. It’s a small adventure game that ends before it wears out its welcome. But the cartoon aesthetic and the almost realistic mansion makes it unique. Definitely worth the decades-long wait to finally play it.

  • game center cx

    It should not be much of a surprise that, as someone who spends a lot of time playing and writing about retro games, I would also be a fan of Game Center CX. It’s a wonderful TV show, and one that I will frequently watch to relax and enjoy a few laughs while remembering old games I like. Something about a self-deprecating, middle-aged comedian struggling through games on a monitor with severe input lag is extremely appealing. Also, something that can never be done outside of Japan, at least not in the states; we’re too angry and over-the-top. The closest we’ll ever get to an American Arino is Jerma.

    I mention all of this because there was a Nintendo DS game loosely based on the show. A game that had just about every reference to it being based on a show completely removed when it was released outside of Japan. Game Center CX became the generic sounding Retro Game Challenge. So, you know, better give out the hot take that Game Center CX is a good show before I actually get started.

    Nostalgia is a hell of a thing. Hell, this entire site’s continued existence is due to a combination of nostalgia and a love of the “good ol’ days.” This bittersweet emotion you feel pouring over old memories, even if it’s a memory as small and insignificant as remembering old pieces of media, because those small memories open up and reveal bigger memories. Listening to an old album that will then remind you of a cool Summer night twelve years ago. Watching a movie that you saw with some friends, and remembering that afternoon would be the last time you ever got to see one of them again, and you wish you could have said literally anything else to her when you had to say goodbye. Games are no different when it comes to forming memories that last you a lifetime. Communities and bonds form over these things. The most fun I’ve ever had with competitive fighting games was when I would spar with friends for hours, learning how to deal with match-ups, pulling off combos with more consistency, and the most important thing: spending time with someone I care about. I thought Overwatch was fucking dogshit, but I played it for a year straight because it meant I got to hang out with a bunch of friends. Of course, not everything leads to a positive memory, but I think I’ll stick to that positivity for this piece, because it is a feeling that Game Center CX (as I will be calling the game throughout this piece) fosters. Also, I don’t think people need to know that I’ve never been able to play Star Gladiator on the Playstation past my teen years because [INCREDIBLY TROUBLING STORY OF PARENTAL ABUSE REDACTED].

    GCCX at its outset asks you one thing: do you remember being a kid, playing games (in this case, NES games) with your friend? Do you remember one of you manning the controls, while the other gave encouragement, advice, read secrets from game magazines, or gave some mild roasting? Remember dedicating whole weekends to a particular game, staying the night at your friends’ house sometimes? If you do, then this is a game meant to appeal to you. There is a small bit of story involving a digitized Shinya Arino sending you back in time to the 80s to complete various game challenges he gives you, but this is irrelevant, and takes a backseat to everything else this game has to offer.

    Game Center CX presents you an ever-growing list of fake NES games to play through. Close to stuff you remember, but not quite. You have games based off of Galaxian, Ninja Jajamaru, Star Soldier, Dragon Quest, and so on. Robot Ninja Haggleman is my favorite. What’s neat is that these are complete games, with a beginning and an end, rather than the expected mini-game collection ala Wario Ware. They’re short, ranging from 4 to 8 levels long, but that’s not too different in length from a lot of independent throwback titles that come out now; the kind of games you can sell on Itchio or Steam for five or ten bucks today and probably make a nice chunk of change from it. Each game is a representation of different period of the 80s, with the sudden jumps in technology allowing games to be more ambitious and complex. You have a basic single screen shooter to represent when the Famicom couldn’t support screen scrolling. Then you get games with horizontal scrolling, then vertical, then both. The games get better graphics over time. Games start getting RPG elements added to them after the success of the actual in-game RPG. There’s even an advertisement tie-in game meant to reference Kaettekita Mario Bros. All while you play these games, Arino as a child cheers you on, and talks to you about all the hottest new game news.


    The games themselves are good, and would be worth playing on their own merits. As you complete challenges and progress through the story, Arino buys new issues of GameFan (not the GameFan, merely a GameFan) magazine that you can read at any time. They have all the things magazines of the era had: news, short reviews, a mailbag, sales figures, cheat codes, even a letter from the editor. Granted, they aren’t full-length publications and only serve to add flavor, but they’re still neat. In the Japanese release, the staff were cast members of the Game Center CX show, and that was the joke. Here, they’ve all been replaced by actual game writers, like James Mielke or Dan Hsu. That’s great, whatever, but that’s not the big deal. No, the big deal is that they got my man, the main man, Dave Fucking Halverson in this game.

    Folks, I cannot tell you enough just how influential this man and his magazine was on my interest in games. As a kid, I had a subscription the to real Diehard GameFan magazine. I would read, and re-read, each issue, pouring over games that I would not be able to play for at least another twenty years. GameFan listed goddamn Tail of the Sun as a game of the month! I saw a two-page spread for Welcome House back in 1995, and I was gagging to get my hands on that game, which I couldn’t until the mid-2010s because the ROM was impossible to find. Because of GameFan, Symphony of the Night was the second biggest reason I wanted a Playstation (right behind Final Fantasy VII), during a time when other magazines were tearing SotN a new asshole because it wasn’t in 3D. Seeing Dave Halverson in this game all about retro nostalgia triggered something in me when I replayed it during a big DS ROM downloading spree.

    I always feel weird outright saying that I like the “good old days.” There’s this movement where alt-right fuckheads will post shitty 80s nostalgia art and say shit like REMEMBER THE NINJA TURTLES? REMEMBER BACK TO THE FUTURE? REMEMBER NINTENDO? REMEMBER WHEN GAMES WEREN’T SO POLITICAL? REMEMBER WHEN THE BLACKS AND THE JEWS AND THE PRONOUN POLICE WEREN’T RUINING WESTERN CIVILIZATION? It’s fucking obnoxious, and it dilutes this very real fact that, fuck dude, things used to be much better!

    I own a physical copy of this game. I went to a store and bought a copy of Retro Game Challenge, which is sitting on a shelf in my room. I own this game. The cartridge is not some physical DRM that I merely bought a license for, and will have to sit through potential hours of updating the second it touches my console. Do you remember when you had ownership over a thing you bought? Remember when if you wanted to play a game, you simply put it into your console and played it, because it wasn’t some service game bull shit full of loot boxes that gets shut down in a year? Remember when it didn’t cost nearly 80 bucks (Earthbound and Phantasy Star IV being notable exceptions) and a two year waiting period for the most mid-level trash that will be forgotten about in less time than it took for me to write this sentence (hey, Ghosts of Tsushima, how you doing?)? Remember when everything coming out wasn’t a fucking remake? Remember when digital games started becoming a thing, and they weren’t a legitimate 100 fucking gigabytes in size? Remember when there were games that weren’t literal propaganda for the US military and the many war crimes it has committed? Remember when you can read good publications like GameFan or Video Games magazine? Remember when games writers were people who actually liked the subject they were paid to write about, and not a bunch of centrist hacks who are mad they couldn’t land a gig writing snarky political commentary for Esquire or Rolling Stone, so they had to settle on a medium of “children’s toys” they openly despise, and this is somehow the fault of every transgender woman on Earth? Things used to be better! They used to be better.

    Now, I will say that not everything is bad these days, nor was everything great back then. The internet has allowed small-time independent creators to release their own games without the need of a publishing company. This is great, because this has allowed us all to experience Cave Story. You don’t need to be part of a writing staff to talk about any of these games, as anyone can create their own site (and they should). I don’t need to deal with a middle man for you to play my games. I don’t need a college degree for you to read this review. I wish that there was a way to combine that retro spirit with today’s technology that wouldn’t be considered career suicide, never allowing you to be anything more than a niche. I personally have no issue being a niche, but a niche can’t necessarily pay the bills, which can discourage a lot of other people.

    I come back to this game, this game about you and your friend playing Nintendo. The idea behind this game was to appeal to your sense of childhood nostalgia, and it does a good job of that. But there’s more to it then that. Look past the jokes and the 8-bit aesthetic, and GCCX is a collection of small, independent games. A person playing this on their DS could then go to their PC, pick up a couple programs and learn to make something like Robot Ninja Haggleman or Star Prince themselves. GCCX exists as a celebration of games as a medium. It also exists as a celebration of creativity. The games here are all based on popular works, but are all unique in their own way, and are not merely clones. Innovation, creativity, the rewarding feeling of knowing that all the hard work will pay off when you make something and it inspires someone else. The big takeaway I got from GCCX is not just, oh yeah, games are great and things used to be better, but that you should make things. Do me a favor, readers. Play Game Center CX. Get a physical copy, put it on a flash card, emulate it, I don’t care, just play the game. Play the whole game, it will take less than a week. Then I want you to sit back and think about, maybe even write out, an idea for a game. You don’t have to actually sit down and make it; that shit’s hard, but think about making it. This game is a tribute to an era where you didn’t have to play it safe, and can make seemingly anything within the limits of the technology. The Famicom was home to Donkey Kong, and home to completely off-the-wall shit like Paris-Dakar Rally. Just think about the wild ideas that you would want to pull off, then thank yourself, and this game, for it. This little cartridge has allowed me to feel so much better about video games than I have been feeling in the last couple weeks. I hope it can do the same for you.

  • wwf warzone

    People seemed to enjoy my write up of WCW vs the World. As such, I thought that this week, I would see what was going on with the competition. This was something that we as fans would do on TV every week as part of the “Monday Night War,” switching the channels back and forth, seeing what WCW and the WWF were doing. I’m contractually obligated to myself to constantly shit-talk the Fed at any given opportunity, so I’ll go ahead and say that WCW stomped their asses as far as I was concerned; anything that didn’t involve Stone Cold Steve Austin fucking sucked, especially the constant segments where the women’s division would cut terrible promos and then take their clothes off the literal second your parents walked into the room. I would also criticize the racism and homophobia, but unfortunately, WCW had that too (though WCW never had the Nation of Domination (more on that later) or Kaientai), so nobody is free of sin here.

    I feel like I was really harsh on WCW vs the World. This is because I really wanted to love it. Despite the faults of the company, on-screen and off, WCW fucking rules. It was disappointing when they fucked up, because you knew that they were capable of so much better. I carried this mindset over into their games, because I should reiterate that the devs behind WCW vs the World went on to make the best wrestling games of all time that weren’t Fire Pro. I was also disappointed because that meant that at some point, I would have to replay WWF Warzone to see just how much worse a wrestling game could be. Good God Almighty, it can get so much worse.

    WWF Warzone is a bit of a milestone, in that it’s the first fully-3D WWF game. Not the first fully-3D wrestling game, something I’m surprised hasn’t been claimed, given the Fed’s love of revisionist history. WCW beat them to the punch two years before, and New Japan Pro Wrestling beat them both to it a year prior with Toukon Retsuden, a game that outclasses the two games I’m mentioning here, and outclasses most wrestling games made since. Guess I’ll have to review that one too, huh? In any case, Warzone also represented a change: no longer were WWF games these mindless button-mashers where you blistered your thumbs to pull off a basic suplex. Now they were becoming more “sim-like,” in that they were strategic and more methodical. In practice, it’s slow and boring and matches take way too long to play through. The game has sluggish movement, with awkward animations and bad controls. Warzone is a miserable game to play.

    A big issue is that moves are done Street Fighter style, with multiple direction inputs. Not a problem in a fighting game, but definitely a problem in a game where commands are more of a suggestion and you can move in multiple directions, leading to lots of accidental inputs that will get blocked and countered. Unlike a fighting game, where characters have less than a handful of moves each, the WWF Superstars have these long movelists full of things you can do on accident.

    Normally, in a wrestling game, you have your strikes that can be done in a neutral position, then you and your opponent lock up in a collar-and-elbow, where you can then do your suplexes and slams. Not here. You can simply throw your opponent around from anywhere in the ring, so long as they don’t press the block button or slightly move away from you. There is a lock up, which strangely has less moves you can do from that position. To the game’s credit, you do get penalized for spamming the same move over and over, but it doesn’t matter when you can switch off between your two most damaging suplexes until you get a three count. This game is not fun. This slow ass game that plays like shit, is not rewarding in the slightest, with these ugly character models that barely animate, leading to situations where Stone Cold punches you with the tips of his fingers. There were Playstation games in 1995 that had animated hands, this came out in 1998

    I’m going on about how to play the game, because there is not much else to it. There’s little variety to the match types, which all play similarly to each other, even the cage match. Wrestlers all play the same, with only their appearances to differentiate them. The “career” mode is boring and the only highlight are the poorly done cutscenes. Wrestler entrances, a big part of what makes wrestling so special, are limited to said career mode, and last all of maybe five seconds. Finishing moves are a ridiculous input combination that the game never tells you how to do. You can’t even pick your own opponent! Would you like to recreate the Wrestlemania XIV main event of Steve Austin vs Shawn Michaels? Well then you better get lucky and hope the CPU picks one of them! Wrestling games are a lot like a kid playing with Star Wars toys, in that they are about changing the outcome of classic matches, or coming up with your own dream match, and Warzone takes that option away from you. WWF Warzone is an ugly, slow, horrible shitshow to play that also acts as a digital representation of 1997 WWF, a period of time where that company legitimately nearly died from being so fucking terrible. You should not play it.

    That being said, I did spend a lot of time playing this when I was in middle school. At least, I spent around eight months playing it before the sequel, WWF Attitude, came out. There is only one reason why I did: Create A Wrestler. Now, Warzone is not the first wrestling game to feature the ability to create your character; Fire Pro Wrestling 3 on the PC-Engine was already doing this, but it was the first time this was featured in an international game. Unless you were hip to the import scene, you had no clue that there were games that let you make your own wrestlers, so this was a big deal at the time. You could put aside the multitude of issues Warzone had, so long as you were still given an opportunity to let your imagination run wild.

    Looking back, I have to wonder just what the fuck I was thinking. Like the rest of the game, the character creator sucks. Your options are extremely limited if you want to make something cool. Your options are nonexistent if you want to make wrestlers from WCW or ECW. However, if you want to make some ludicrous freak straight out of a Saints Row cutscene, Acclaim has you covered.

    you have to unlock being able to make women’s wrestlers by finishing career mode with noted women respecters, shawn michaels or triple h.

    You can make your fucked up little freak, then give them a premade movelist from the game’s roster, a three second theme song, and a name. So I made this blue asshole with Jeff Jarrett’s shirt, and some leather pants.

    Say hello to Dumbfuck “Bitch Boy” Oregano.

    Now, despite the fact that he is clearly blue, he suddenly turns purple once you enter the ring.

    Anyways, this game sucks. Fuck the Fed. At least it gave us Fun With Ahmed.

  • bullet witch

    I had been debating dipping my toe into a certain discourse subject involving a certain dogshit wizard game that’s currently really popular with neo-nazis and performative dipshits who can’t log off of Gab 2.0 (scratch the latter and you’ll find the former anyway). By “dipping my toe” I mean covering wizard/witch games that are actually good. Originally, I decided against it, because if you’re reading this site, you’re not a fucking idiot, and you don’t need me being petty and borderline edgelordy when I can simply be doing anything else. But then yesterday, I remembered that Bullet Witch exists, so I quickly changed my mind again, because the people need to know about Bullet Witch.

    Bullet Witch is one of many awesome, lesser known games by cavia inc. (stylized in lower-case). It’s a spiritual successor to another great cavia title, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (only mentioning this so people will also check out Ghost in the Shell). The game itself is fairly basic: you run around shooting at things in large environments until there is nothing left to shoot. Because your character is a witch, you can also cast magic spells to bolster your offense. The game does not get much more complex than that. Bullet Witch is a mechanically simple game, but it uses that simplicity very well. Alicia, the titular Bullet Witch, runs and shoots and jumps for the course of six levels, in a game that’s over in about a few hours. This is a low-budget shooter that gives off the impression of looking like it was supposed to be developed for the Playstation 2, but then shifted over the XBox 360. It is a janky shooter with a weird localization that has competent, but not exceptional voice acting, no different from many Japanese games of the era. At first, the story is the standard “demons have invaded the world, and you have to kill them,” while Alicia occasionally teams up with a military group led by a boisterous stereotype names Maxwell Cougar. At a glance, it would be hard to tell this apart from something like Earth Defense Force.

    So, you’re probably wondering what makes Bullet Witch so special if it doesn’t do anything on a design level that hasn’t been done by a double digit number of other XBox 360 games. Where Bullet Witch excels is its sense of style; its soul. In true cavia fashion, Bullet Witch takes place during the brink of the apocalypse, where everyone is about to die and everything is bleak. The state of the world is explained in a wonderfully done intro that is genuinely chilling at points. While demons invade the world through a dimensional rift, there’s strong hints that the world was well on its way to destruction before then. Constant natural disasters, climate change getting worse, another war in the Middle East, a killer virus running rampant worldwide, then the demons arrive. A nice bit of world building. Granted, none of this comes up in-game, but it does try to justify why the environments are so empty, and I can appreciate that. Bullet Witch is a game where a lot of fucked up shit happened, which causes fucked up things to emerge and make things worse, so you have to kill them.

    Boy howdy, do I love the things you have to kill in this game. A bulk of your time will be spent fighting members of the US military that have exchanged their souls for demonic power, and now are these skeletal monstrosities who wear human skin, Texas Chainsaw Massacre style. Weird thing is, they all have to faux-British cartoon villain accents. Maybe that was done out of some fear of pissing off a post 9/11 America, because boy we were still loving our troops in 2006. In any event, you fight a lot of soldiers. Sometimes, they have tanks that you have to destroy by calling down a lightning strike that is this big, extravagant visual display. Then you have the Giant Soldiers, these building-sized fuckers with wrist-mounted miniguns, and hit the ground so hard when they die that they cause an area of effect impact that can kill smaller enemies underneath it. Despite their size, they’re actually super easy: just shoot them in their heart until it explodes.

    I would be perfectly fine with a game where all I did was shoot slightly more evil American soldiers. But then there are more enemy types that look like they came out of a cancelled horror game. These extremely imaginative creatures that would be memorable in any major horror title, but are instead hidden in an obscure shooter. Normal humans taken over by parasitic ghosts, their heads mutating into these unnatural bulbous things. They run at you with no control over their upper bodies, like an inflatable tube man in a strong wind, while making strange noises out of the gaping hole that used to be a mouth. It’s a very uncanny valley thing.

    What creates the spirits that turns people into these things? It’s only a multi-armed woman/larvae hybrid that looks both gross and cool as fuck.

    Bullet Witch has style. This shooter with a mild horror element that rules so hard. It doesn’t have the polish of something like Gears of War 2, but the art style makes Bullet Witch far more memorable. A moody girl with an assault rifle shaped like a broom blasting monsters that look cool as fuck. She can throw down a rose that causes spikes to pop out of the ground and impale everything they touch. She can call a horde of ravens to peck at enemies, leaving them open for you to shoot without consequence. She can use a force push to shove cars and debris at enemies, killing them instantly and brutally. She can call up all sorts of elemental storms. Guns and magic are a sweet combination. Bullet Witch is not polished; frame rate is inconsistent (on XBox), lots of physics bugs, cutscenes are choppy, the PC port requires some finagling to get working right, but it is fun. Bullet Witch is very much of its era: the kind of low-budget PS2/360 game with lots of negative reviews and could be found at Game Stop for next to no money that would be the most fucking amazing thing you could throw into your console. Everyone should play Bullet Witch because it’s cool, and fun, and has a great art style.

  • 2/2/2023

    I’m spending this week away from home on business. The place I’m staying at absolutely fucking sucks: shitty furniture; pretty sure my spine resembles the shape of a Taco Bell Cinnamon Twist, no hot water (which is great, seeing as the weather has been hovering around zero degrees the last two weeks), half the lights don’t actually work, internet is a joke, and I haven’t been able to get any good sleep. Me sitting down to write this is actually the longest time I’ve had to myself since Sunday night, as I have been without any sort of privacy all week. Needless to say, I’m just sore and exhausted and waiting for the weekend so I can get the fuck back home. At least I’m being paid really well.

    Before that, I got to be disappointed alongside everyone else on Earth when I checked out that absolutely wretched port of Goldeneye 64 on the XBox. God damn that fucking sucked. At least we still have that masterclass that is Perfect Dark 64 on XBox. Aside from that, game-wise, I’ve gotten the Monster Hunter bug again, but I’ve only been able to do literally a couple of hunts due to a severe lack of free time. I did make sure to buy Sunbreak, so at least I’ll have the expansion to mess with when I’m home.

    I’d like to be able to get an actual article done this week; I don’t want a repeat of last year where I had to keep putting it off because of real life bull shit. I’ll have to see what tomorrow or Saturday brings. Had I known I would be busier than expected, I would have tried writing something ahead of time. Oh well. Lesson for next time. If I have time after that, I can also try looking into doing more design stuff for the site?

    That’s what’s been going on. Been feeling miserable due to external circumstances, but I don’t have to deal with it for too much longer. I also wanted to post a song, due to the passing of Tom Verlaine last week. While I can’t claim to be an obsessive fan of Television, “Marquee Moon” is one of my favorite albums, and his death is a bummer.

    television- guiding light

  • tail of the sun: wild, pure, simple life

    Something that I find myself enjoying about the original Playstation is that Sony, to their credit, let anyone make games for it. Even more to their credit, a not insignificant number of those games got released outside of Japan. Granted, the Playstation was home to a lot of unplayable garbage and soulless licensed games, but their laissez-faire attitude to anything that wasn’t a 2D game did lead to some of the most interesting and/or innovative games ever made. It led to record labels and British art collectives putting out their own unique software, and allowed for traditional game studios to get experimental in ways they would not be able to by the time the HD generation came along.

    Artdink is a studio that was formed in 1986, and is still making games today, yet feels like they only could have existed during this time period. Mostly known for the Take The A-Train series, city management games with an emphasis on running train stations, a good chunk of their catalogue are games that defy any sort of standard “game” explanation. Aquanauts Holiday, a game where you explore underwater, looking at various schools of fish. The closest thing it has to any end-game goal is attracting these fish to a man-made reef. Kaze no Notam, a game about flying in a hot air balloon, left at the mercy of the constantly shifting wind. Then there’s this game, Tail of the Sun.

    Tail of the Sun is an open-world game about a tribe of cavemen who wish to reach the sun, hence the title. To do this, they have decided to hunt mammoths, and use their bones to create a tower they can climb to the Sun. Sounds like an off-beat, but still reasonable game, right? Well, there’s more to the game than that. Mammoths are large creatures that can kill a mere human with their size alone, and all you have are your bare hands. So while the destination is a tower of mammoth tusks, the journey is about building a tribe. You send out a lone hunter-gatherer to explore the world, hunting smaller animals like birds and monkeys to feed the rest of the tribe, allowing them to grow. Along the way, you’ll be eating sugar cakes found all over the ground, raising various stats that your caveperson has. A big enough tribe with enough intelligence increases your “Cultural Level.” In this case, “Culture” means making weapons. You start with nothing, then work your way to sticks, then axes, then finally the spear. Obviously, the better the weapon, the stronger the game you can hunt. Before, you would’ve run from tigers and mammoths, now you have the strength to take them down. Of course, running at them head-first and mashing attack will still get you killed, so that’s why you also had to work on your speed and agility.

    Once you’ve figured out the game’s objective (or you read the extremely detailed instruction manual), that’s really all there is to the game mechanically. Build a tribe and build a tower. What makes Tail of the Sun is its abstraction. While things like the objective, cultural levels, and what the monoliths south of your home are for are all explained in the manual, nothing else is. Sure, you have to hunt mammoths, but where are they? Why does your caveman keep falling asleep at seemingly random times? Why did my caveman suddenly drop dead? What are all these weird landmarks?

    I’ll ruin some of the mystery and say that a lot of cavemen-related things, like hunger and energy, are simply tracked off-screen; you starve if you go too long without eating stuff off the ground, and you fall asleep when you move around for a long enough time. Despite what the internet tells you, you can wake your caveman up manually if you need to get away from an animal or avoid slowly slipping into a body of water, but it’s not a good idea to keep doing that, as they can die from exhaustion that way. Everything else? That’s a mystery for you to explore and discover. It’s a big world you can wander around and get lost in. You can find various monuments that serve no in-game purpose, they only exist for you to discover. There are entire cave systems to be explored, some of which have generic food items inside, while the rest are completely empty. You can swim to different islands, some of which are barren. The only reward is the exploration.

    I appreciate games like this existing. Even if Tail of the Sun sucked, and it doesn’t, I would still consider it an extremely important title for the Playstation. It stands tall as an example of how truly creative games can be in arguably its most experimental period. This game about cavemen wandering around this weird, almost alien environment (also: you can meet aliens in the game), with these unique visuals and occasional drum and bass interludes, that revels in its own imagination, that revels in its own freedom. For every Metal Gear or Resident Evil, there were just as many games like Tail of the Sun that captured my attention as a kid. Games that didn’t appeal to “normal” people. Games that took the massive jump in technology that the 32-bit era offered over previous generations and ran with all sorts of possibilities. The most advertising any of these games would get is, if they were lucky, a two-page spread in Diehard Gamefan magazine, but that was all they needed because they have already reached their target audience. Those games defined the Playstation for me just as much as Final Fantasy VII did. Tail of the Sun is as much an off-beat art project as it is a weird game, and the world is a better place for it.

    Tail of the Sun is a fantastic Playstation game. Load it up, wander around for a couple hours, find no material reward, and yet never feel like your time was wasted. The kind of game you can unwind with, no real stress attached to it. Perfect for a late Winters night, wrapped up under a blanket. Also perfect for a cool Summer evening, when the sun has finally gone down. Admittedly, it is extremely cliched to end this by referencing the game’s subtitle, but it truly is a Wild, Pure, Simple Life.

  • guilty gear xrd rev 2

    2021 was the year that I finally got into Guilty Gear. I don’t mean in the sense of playing it for the first time; I had spent a lot of time playing XX #Reload on my PS2 back in high school, but it was only ever me playing all of the solo modes, as there was no competitive scene in my area. No, 2021 was when I actually got into Guilty Gear. Learning how to play the games on a competitive level (along with other fighters, but GG is the subject for today). Learning how match-ups worked. Learning to be more flexible in my playstyle. Learning how to do more than sit in the corner blocking forever until I fall for a mix-up and die over and over until I uninstall the game.

    Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 (I will be shortening this to Rev 2 for the rest of the post) was my introduction to competitive Guilty Gear. A friend and I decided that There Has Never Been A Better Time to get into the series than now. Turns out, the two of us had a friend of a friend who would set up online lobbies for their Twitch streams every weekend. I dove head-first into a trial by fire, taking on people as new as me, and people who were most likely kicking my ass one-handed while wearing a blindfold. Truly, the best way to learn is to humble yourself in front of a double-digit number of strangers (this sounds like a joke but it’s not). I didn’t have a clue; had no idea how to even do a Force Shield, let alone know the right time to use it. Didn’t know the ins-and-outs of Roman Cancelling. Didn’t know any good combos, good follow ups to a Dust attack, didn’t know that you always want to get a hard knockdown on your opponent. I knew some special moves and what buttons did what, and I slowly picked things up from there. Then Strive came out that Summer and I never looked back, at least not until the rollback update that happened today. As fun as Rev 2 was, Strive didn’t have the nightmare of delay-based netcode and frequent desyncs.

    Those were fun weekends. We would play a ton of Rev 2, then spend the rest of our nights either watching whatever was streaming on Outer Heaven, or episodes of mid-2000s Kamen Rider (which is much more homoerotic than my “hasn’t watched Tokusatsu since Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as a kid” self expected). Unfortunately, those days are long gone now, and that sucks. My time with fighters these days is playing ranked mode all on my own, then getting my ass kicked a bunch and getting sad, or winning a bunch and then also getting sad.

    As I had already mentioned, Rev 2 got a big update this morning: better netcode! I spent the wee hours of the morning, then a few hours this afternoon, getting back into the swing of Rev 2. Relearning all the mechanics and characters of a game I haven’t touched in nearly two years. After all that, I have to say: Goddamn, Rev 2 fucking kicks ass.

    Guilty Gear, as a whole, is such a satisfying series to learn. A lot of other fighters have a degree of rigidness to them, an expectation that you have to play a certain way. Guilty Gear, by design, is much more free form. Character hitboxes are all different, take damage differently, have different speeds in which they get flung into the air or sent falling back down, so basic combos and techniques need to be adjusted on-the-fly depending on the match up or even the position you and your opponent are at in the level itself. As an example, you cannot rely on the same attacks you would use as Ky Kiske against Sol Badguy that you would a character like May, Potemkin, or I-No. Guilty Gear walks this fine line between the constant spontaneity and flying by the seat of your pants, while maintaining the strategy and calm thinking that is needed in a competitive environment like this. It is an An*me Fighter in every sense of the term.

    Rev 2 is no different. It is immensely satisfying to land that shot that allows you to follow up and knock and opponent into the air, or push them into a corner, where you can then proceed to beat the fuck out of them. Also rewarding to be on defense, and find that perfect moment to shift the momentum your way, either winning the round or making your opponent sweat to get those last few hits on you. I’ve picked up Venom as my main, whose fighting style is “playing Pool.” Lots of fun setting up his magic cue balls after knocking down an opponent, and hitting said balls at weird angles, keeping my opponent on guard while I try and then break that guard with my physical attacks. I’ve come a long way from 2021.

    training mode example

    Fighting games are a hard genre to get into. They ask you to put in a lot of time and effort for a victory that you will only ever get 50% of the time. It’s a genre where you have nobody to blame but yourself for failure (unless you get into a match with a ping of 300, in which case it is absolutely not your fault (shout out to that Sol player I took on earlier. Fix your internet, bitch)). They can be merciless and cruel, and you may give up and take a break from them for a while, if not contemplate giving them up entirely. But when you’re in the groove, that moment when win or lose, you and your opponent have laid it all out on the line. The moment when you go beyond merely pressing buttons, when you find a way to play mind games that work on someone half a country or even half a world away. When you can say “good games” afterwards and actually mean it, not simply handwaving a complete and total loss while you keep your head down in defeat. That’s when fighting games are good. As far as I’m concerned, no other game speaks to that spirit like Guilty Gear. Thankful that Xrd is now in a much more playable format, and can now be enjoyed for many more years to come alongside it’s fellow definitive GG’s in Accent Core and Strive.

    custom multiplayer titles are fun

  • 1/21/2023

    You may have noticed that things look a little different than they used to. I’ve been wanting to find a new look for the site for a long fucking time. Specifically, I wanted a design similar to the web logs I used to run in my teen years and early twenties, something that has become incredibly difficult to find these days. Posts in the middle, one sidebar for pertinent information, another sidebar to let new readers know who I am and to put goofy bull shit on, a header that lets you know that I spend a lot of fucking time writing about games, loads quickly and looks good. Used to be able to find that shit super easily. Everything these days has to be in a “magazine” format (see example: any news site that you hate navigating), or has to have a bunch of ugly shit that takes too long to load, or is all about SEO or something. Have I mentioned that I hate the modern internet lately?

    I found this current theme, but I’m not really feeling it, but I’m running with it for at least a little while. May have to just say “fuck it” and actually learn advanced CSS instead of relying on pre-made stuff. Or maybe I’ll be like my fellow cool kids (aka fucked up tranny freaks) and do something “minimalist.” I don’t know. I get very indecisive when my initial choice isn’t available. Blaming this on my recently diagnosed autism, a diagnosis that will surprise absolutely nobody but me. Definitely explains a lot in hindsight, at least.

    Other than struggling with site design and plugging away at my game (things are looking good, but I have since learned to keep stuff close to my chest until it’s time to have a solid announcement), I started up a new run in Morrowind, as it has been suggested that I try out an Argonian. I picked a very lore-friendly name:

    Anyways, that’s my not often enough “Update” post. See you all again when my next article drops tomorrow.

  • wcw vs the world

    Given recent events in the world, I have been over the moon the last couple days. We’re getting closer and closer to the day that The Big Trump Fundraiser known as WWE finally dies. It’s about fucking time. A company that built its fortune off of broken bodies, and a mountain of people who died too young. A company run by white supremacists and sexual predators. I have been given a few lectures that I shouldn’t be happy about this, because of all the fond memories people have and the smiles that WWE put on their faces. My response to that is: I don’t fucking care. I was a WCW kid growing up, and I am All Elite as an adult. I should be more understanding for the nostalgia over miscarriage storylines, Triple H’s “black people don’t deserve to be world champion” feud with Booker T, all the storylines involving rape and simulated necrophilia, or that time Owen Hart fell to his death due to gross negligence and Vince McMahon forced his horrified friends and co-workers to go out and wrestle around his dead body. Now, while WCW was by no means a perfect company; it was infamously imperfect, I still loved it and it should have won the Monday Night War. As far as I’m concerned, this is revenge.

    The above paragraph was meant to be a killer segue into a write up of WCW/NWO Revenge for Nintendo 64, which is among the greatest wrestling games ever made. Problem is, for reasons I cannot figure out, there is not a single N64 emulator out there that will actually save any screenshots of the game. I can take screenshots of any other N64 game, but the moment I do it for Revenge, either the emulator crashes or I get a big blaring error message. Of course, trying to look up information on the internet these days is a fools game, so I can’t fix this issue, and I gave up. So instead, I’m covering an earlier WCW title, WCW vs The World.

    The thing about being a wrestling fan who owned a Playstation is that if you wanted a good wrestling game, you were fucked. There was Power Move Pro Wrestling, a half-way decent port of Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, and Fire Pro Wrestling G if you were willing to navigate Japanese menus and pay the inflated import prices of the era, but you otherwise had nothing until the Smackdown series began in 2000. Up until then, it was putting up with whatever dogshit Acclaim was putting out, and those bad WCW games whose only redeeming features were its FMV “rants,” if only to see a clearly inebriated Kevin Nash.

    That being said, I was looking forward to WCW vs The World. After all, this was developed by the same team that would later do all those great N64 wrestling games. We knew them as AKI Corporation, later becoming syn sophia (stylized in all lower-case), the developers of the Style Savvy series. However, when this company began, they went under one of the greatest names a company can have: The Man Breeze. Let me say that again, THE MAN BREEZE. That’s awesome.

    I bring all this up because it is baffling to me that this company would go on to do all of those great games, because WCW vs The World fucking sucks. There is a lot wrong with it.

    Let’s start with this screenshot of the character select screen. Terrifying drawing of Sting aside, there’s a lot of characters, right? Look closely. All those names in the red boxes? Barring some hidden characters and one exception I’ll get to later, that is the entirety of the WCW roster in this game. Everyone else is a changed-so-as-not-to-violate-copyright version of a real wrestler from various Japanese wrestling promotions. This would be one thing if it were something like Fire Pro, where everything is unlicensed and I know what I’m getting into with that so there would be no complaint, but this an officially licensed WCW game and there’s only about 16 actual WCW characters in a game with a roster of 60! Of all the complaints anyone has ever made about World Championship Wrestling, at no point in time has there ever been a complaint about its roster being too small. Not that I’m sore about a number of awesome Japanese wrestlers being present, even in a compromised fashion, but I feel like if I put down some money for a WCW game, I would want some fucking WCW guys to be in the goddamn thing. Yeah, it has Hogan, Sting, Flair, the Steiners, and Lex Luger. But where is Randy Savage? Where is Kevin Nash and Scott Hall? Where is Rey Mysterio Jr? Harlem Heat? Brian Pillman? Diamond Dallas Page? Chris Jericho? Konnan? Maybe one of the colorful weirdos from the Dungeon of Doom (aside from The Giant, who can be unlocked)? It’s very obvious that this was a hastily edited version of a previously existing game made to have a slightly higher WCW presence.

    There is a character in the blue section who is given the creative name of “Billy Gaijin,” who is a very obvious rip-off of Scott Norton. Here’s the thing: Scott Norton was already in WCW! He joined the company in 1995! He was one-half of the Fire and Ice tag team with Ice Train (CHOO! CHOO!)! He was part of the NWO! You don’t need to make a knock-off version of someone WHO IS ALREADY A CONTRACTED PERFORMER FOR THE PROMOTION YOU ARE MAKING A LICENSED PROPERTY OF.

    Then there’s “The Unknown.” At first glance, you might think this is a take on Jushin “Thunder” Liger. That makes sense; after all, he was in the first match on the first ever episode of Monday Nitro. Except that this isn’t Liger, he’s elsewhere on the fictional roster. This is Super Delfin, a wrestler WHO HAS NEVER HAD A MATCH IN WCW!!!!!!! FUCK!!!!!! We could have had Booker T in this game. It sounds like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but it is fucked that a WCW game is lacking in having anything to actually do with WCW. Plus, the game gets so much worse.

    Actually playing WCW vs The World is a chore. Controls are sluggish, with inputs not being recognized to such a degree I had to check and make sure my controller wasn’t broken. Even on Normal difficulty, the CPU counters every move you throw at it. Go for a strike, the CPU will immediately do a counter-grab. Go for a grab, the CPU will do a backdash and avoid it. Go for a running attack, the CPU will block it. Go for a block or a counter-grab, the CPU will do a regular grab. Change the difficulty down to Easy, and the CPU just stands there and lets you wail on them until the match is over. So there is either no challenge, or SNK-boss level bull shit. Those spirit meters on the bottom are there to illustrate how well you’re doing in a match, starting at red and moving to white. When it’s fully white, you can do your characters signature move. Or at least that’s how it worked in the N64 games. Here, it’s a fucking mystery how this shit works. You can beat the fuck out of your opponent, only to find that their spirit is rising, while your spirits remains at the same level. Put someone in the Scorpion Death Lock, and there’s a good chance they’ll have a finisher ready to go as soon as they get out of the hold. I had assumed that maybe I had to play going along with the ebb and flow of a real life pro wrestling match, where there’s a back-and-forth of offense and defense. Well that doesn’t work, shockingly enough. If you play too well, your opponent gains an advantage, while you get nothing. If you get your ass kicked, your opponent gains an advantage, while you also get nothing. I tried other things, like mixing up my offense and making sure to do different moves each time I was able to get a shot in. Still only served to help my opponent. The only winning strategy here is you should have bought a Nintendo 64 instead, you fucking mark.

    WCW vs The World is a game that punishes you for trying to get any sort of enjoyment out of it. Whether it’s enjoyment from the perspective of playing a game, or the enjoyment you might get as a fan seeing your favorite WCW wrestlers. Even the part where the main roster plays second-fiddle would be more acceptable if the game itself wasn’t this frustrating mess to play. It is mind boggling that The Man Breeze made this, then proceeded to make six of the greatest wrestling games of all time back-to-back. Also a shame; this could have been a great digital showcase for fans of 1996-1997 WCW. Instead, it was treated more like a showcase for fans of 2000 WCW.

    Wait, hold on.

    Jeff Jarrett is a hidden character!? Alright, never mind, this game rules. 10/10. Jeff Jarrett is the GOAT.