• link to the past

    I was not a big Zelda fan for a pretty significant chunk of my life, going all the way back to me being a kid. My first time ever playing any Zelda was Link to the Past. Not entirely sure how this happened (probably a work get together my parents dragged me to), but I was at the house of some rich kid with an SNES. He was of course playing LttP, and his mom told him to quick hogging the console and let me play a little bit of it myself. Begrudgingly, I was handed the controller. Now I grew up as a Sega kid; I owned a Genesis and I played the fucking shit out of it. I never regretted my choice of console, but I was curious as to how the Other Half lived, so to speak. So this was my chance to finally play one of those beloved SNES games that I had only ever heard about, and I was excited!

    I walked two screens to the left before the controller was quickly snatched out of my hands, followed by a bellowing “YOU’RE PLAYING IT WRONG! GIVE IT BACK!” Then I didn’t get to play any SNES games for the rest of the night.

    This was not an isolated incident. Multiple times this would happen. I would constantly end up having to go with my parents to the house party of whoever was going to fire my dad in two weeks, being shuffled off into a room with all the other kids, being handed the SNES controller by the rich kid playing Zelda, and would get all of ten seconds of play time before I inevitably did something “wrong” and would have to sit in silence while yet another spoiled brat spent all night with Zelda. Sometimes they would relent and let me play the “good” SNES games, like Ultraman and the Goddamned Rocketeer. I eventually grew to hate Zelda, and Nintendo as a whole. The reason why I found myself only going back through the Nintendo catalogue during the Wii era is because I couldn’t help myself from associating Zelda (and many other N properties like Donkey Kong Country) with shitty little rich bastards who treated being told to share their toys like it was a fucking war crime. But I still could never bring myself to pick up LttP. Why would I waste my time with a stupid game with a shitty little elf that was slow as fuck and wasn’t late-era Genesis classic Beyond Oasis? Or the better-than-people-give-it-credit-for Brave Fencer Musashi on the Playstation? Anyways, if you grew up with an SNES and Link to the Past, I will firmly suggest that you go into the comments section and apologize for being such a tremendous dickhead to me as a kid.

    Despite all that, I still had a Gameboy, which I liked. And I had Link’s Awakening, which I also really liked. I had always treated it like some rogue dev team at Nintendo managed to make chicken salad out of chicken shit with that game. I figured that Zelda games were all bull shit, except for Link’s Awakening. Then I got older (my twenties), played a couple more Zeldas, and figured that Zelda games were all bull shit, except for Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask. This pattern would keep repeating until I finally had to admit that Zelda games were good, I just had the misfortune of the literal worst way to be introduced to the series. But I still didn’t play Link to the Past. Not because I was still mad about kids being little brats, but because I would get lost for too long, or I would get tired and take a break, then forget to pick the game back up the next day, or the next week, or the next forever for years.

    But, I finally hunkered down and played through the game. And here it is folks, my hot, scorching, blazing, molten take that’s taken nearly 700 words to get to: The Legend of Zelda- A Link to the Past is really good.

    Zelda scratches an itch for me. The itch of knowing that there is an objective: fight Ganon, rescue Zelda, etc, but also knowing that you can take your time. Time spent obsessively combing every inch of the world for every last secret item. I have to get all the heart pieces. I have to upgrade my boomerang into the Better Boomerang. I have to find the screen-clearing magic I will barely use. I have this need to explore everywhere and fill out every blank in Link’s inventory. I don’t struggle with OCD or anything like that, I just have a desire for exploration. I love to explore these worlds that aren’t really even all that big, but manage to feel so massive and grand. Every iteration of Hyrule becomes this fun playground to run around in for hours or days at a time.

    There is also something about Hyrule that I’ve been trying to understand. Honestly, it isn’t all that much different in its narrative design from other fantasy media, and can even be pretty cliche in concept. You have castles, villages, woods, deserts, caves, and dungeons to explore until you fight a wizard and rescue a princess. On paper, the Legend of Zelda doesn’t really do anything that Ultima didn’t already do years before. I don’t know if it’s through audio/visual presentation, or through design and mechanical implementation, but Link to the Past, and Zelda games as a whole, don’t feel like cliches. They feel like these grand adventures akin to an epic poem. Link to the Past can be summed up as a series of ticks on a checklist; you have to save Zelda, which means you have to defeat Ganon, which means you need to rescue the seven maidens, which means you needed the Master Sword to get to the dark world, which means you need the three talismans to get the sword. Maybe because you don’t get nagged at by the game itself, but it never feels like you are merely going through a series of objectives to fulfill. Each shrine feels like a mini-adventure in itself, which then ties into the narrative whole. Yeah, you need the talismans, but you also need the bombs to blow up the walls to get to the bow and arrow so you can shoot the cyclops that guards that lead to the power bracelet to lift up the large rocks so you can acquire the magic mirror and warp to the Dark World. It rules. Feels like a lot of similar games, especially in the last couple generations, have lost that sense of adventure and whimsy and made things so clinical with its obtrusive UIs and objective markers.

    Most importantly, I goddamn love Link themselves. This goofy, clumsy, awkward elf that suddenly becomes the most capable person in the world the moment they touch a sword. Such a great character design, and a great cypher for the player; silently observing and appreciating the world. Love that little fucker, especially when Breath of the Wild came out and that Gerudo outfit was available, then Link became the most breedable game protagonist.

    I realize that this piece is a much too late gushing over Zelda as a whole, but this game rules, and I’m glad that I’m finally getting through all of these.

  • rest in fucking shit waypoint

    AAAAAAAAAAA YEAH MOTHERFUCKER! All the terrible websites are dying! Twitter, Kiwi Farms, Fanbyte, and now Waypoint!

    I originally had this long post where I aired out all my grievances about Waypoint’s staff, and the games “journalism” industry at large, but I scrapped all that and decided that it would be better for me to LOL out loud and be a petty bitch. It was a shit site staffed by terrible people; incels, chasers, transphobes, rape apologists, capitalist bootlickers (all the stars are here), who’s shoddy idea of investigative journalism ruined people’s lives. Maybe don’t have your first full-time writer be the same guy who wrote a bunch of creepy shit on Kotaku about trying to look up nude photos of my friend on Kiwi Farms, then when he couldn’t find them, told the world she was a pedophile, and ultimately playing a big role in her leaving public life entirely. As a quick aside, a little ProTip from someone who never went to college, let alone got my parents to buy me a journalism degree: if you’re covering a story of a woman at the center of a right-wing harassment campaign getting fired from her marketing job for some unspecified “moonlighting,” maybe instead of diving headfirst into gossip and both-sidesing message boards that use the n-word like punctuation and giving credence to the idea that she’s some child-touching prostitute secretly making changes to bad tactical RPGs, you could have maybe asked the more pressing question of why someone at a fairly important position at the largest most recognized game company in the world was being paid so little she felt the need to take a second job in the first place, regardless of if it was some dreaded sex work or not, Patrick Klepek you fucking incel ass clown bitch. But hey, why let things like actual ethics or having a fucking brain get in the way of ruining a woman’s life because you couldn’t get your dick hard while visiting the nazi forum? Pretty cool that someone I was friends with, and who was one of the first people to support me getting back into making art after a twenty-something year hiatus (and during a time when frankly, nobody should have been enabling the shit I was pumping out), has more or less vanished off the face of the Earth and I haven’t seen or heard from her in years. Hopefully, she’s doing well.

    Also maybe don’t hire a shitty transphobe that’s spent nearly a decade being mad whenever a trans woman does something that reminds her that we’re human beings. Or you know, actively had a hand in driving my best friend into homelessness and giving me nightly flashbacks to all the times I had to talk said friend down from both metaphorical and literal ledges, all because she committed the heinous crime of being trans on a Wednesday or something equally nonsensical. I’d go further, but I think I’ve talked enough shit about Gita Jackson to last all of us a lifetime, so I won’t. But I will ask if you remember when she went off on some trans writer, called her a pedophile (real weird how the P-Word keeps coming up whenever a games journo gets mad at society’s undesirables, huh), then wrote some rant accusing anyone of writing about their sex lives to be a predator because “nobody wants to see that shit,” then proceeded to ignore her own threat to write out a list of sex acts she wanted to do with Chet Hanks, a man notorious for his lack of legal troubles involving women and women’s boundaries. Anyways, I just thought that was interesting.

    this isn’t exactly a post that lends itself well to image breaks, so i’ll show off a screenshot from the game boy game i’m working on

    It was a big maddening at first, then pitiable, then funny, to see a lot (a lot) of very dumb motherfuckers online eulogizing this like it’s fucking 9/11. Too weird to live, too rare to die, like you’re talking about Bowie and having to acknowledge the era where he was infamously on enough coke to kill an elephant and nobody told him that wearing Hugo Boss was a bad idea. Everyone doing their damndest to try and beat Dax Harwood for being the Biggest Ball Licker of 2023. But whatever, I guess we’ll miss out on all that great writing. Now where will I go to read about predatory gacha games actually being good? Where will I go when I need a eugenics-loving American to squint their eyes and say “ching chong bing bong” at a Japanese game? How will we in the public ever make it without up-to-the-minute updates letting us know that a sexual assault survivor is actually totally lying about it in order to subject an innocent rapist to the dreaded epidemic known as cancel culture, and doing so as racistly as possible? Where can we go to see the most leftist-communist who is definitely not a right-winger doing a grift find a new trans woman who then will be held responsible for the ills of the world for the next decade, despite her only rolling out of bed like an hour ago and having exactly zero influence on the world at large? Where will we go to read thoughts and opinions about games from people who openly despise games, and only use them as either a way to score points in the world’s stupidest culture war, or as a stepping stone to a fulfilling career writing “chicks with dicks” jokes for a late night talk show host? Maybe it’s because everyone crying about this have smoothed out their brains playing Harry Potter and posting way too much on Elon Musk Presents Twitter Dot Com after him and his reinstated nazi buddies openly celebrated the Club Q Nightclub shooting, but back in my day, we would celebrate when bigots and assholes got shitcanned. Maybe I’m just getting old.

    In any case, fuck ’em. They’re gone and I’m still here. The sooner we get away from this shitty little venture capitalist funded clique that only exists to do harm to both people and a medium that deserves better, well, the better. Games are fucking great, in spite of the shitty industry that makes them, covers them, and consumes them (at least here in the west). Maybe this fracturing of social media, and the collapse of all these sites (crossing my fingers on the bubble of YouTube video essays bursting too) might finally give us back an internet where individuals had a voice. Maybe we can finally see more than a handful of people who can actually cover games with any degree of respect, not being overshadowed by Hot Takes and shitty headlines specifically designed to piss off reactionaries, which in turn will direct harassment at anyone defending you. Maybe it won’t; maybe we’ve reached a point of no return regarding the digital world being taken over by get-rich quick schemes and profit margins. But fuck me, dude, it would be cool if we could at least try. Everything is so cynical and so stupid.

    I can’t pretend that I have all the answers, I would be leading the world instead of talking shit about a dying gaming website if I did. I started writing about games as a teenager because I like them, and I like talking about them. Just imagine, such a wild concept: writing about something because you like it. Hard to imagine these days, because everything has to have an angle because nobody believes a fucking word that comes out of their own mouths. No wonder there’s so much hate and toxicity coming out of that scene. But I’m getting a bit philosophical because it is very late, so I’ll stop here. Rest in fucking shit, Waypoint. The world will miss you, even though they really shouldn’t. Games criticism will survive, even thrive, without Gavin McInnes’ blood money and a freak show of fake allies who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.

  • i made a mega man level

    Between traveling for work reasons again, and internet troubles where I’m at, I didn’t have any articles ready to roll this week. So to try and make up for it, I made a level in Mega Man Powered Up. Run around in some spooky woods shooting at bats, those little dudes made of fire, some other enemies, then go and fight Elec Man, who is my favorite Mega Man boss.

    Check it out, maybe.

  • gungrave

    There are a lot of great games out there. A lot of good ones, too. Even more bad ones out there. However, rarely are there cool games. Not just cool, but effortlessly cool. Like, the kind of cool that happens when you see a friend immaculately dressed in the greatest outfit you’ve ever seen, and when asked how they pulled that look off, they simply shrug and nonchalantly tell you it was all something they pulled out of the closet. The kind of cool that you aspire to, but can never achieve because that means you had to try, and the nebulous concept of being cool means you either are or you aren’t, and no amount of trying can change that.

    Gungrave is a PS2 game that is effortlessly cool. It is an extremely basic shooter at its core; imagine if Contra wasn’t so damned cerebral, you go from one room to another, mowing down (sometimes literal) faceless goons until the end credits roll an hour after you’ve pressed the start button. Gungrave is not deep. At all. It is a simple game that is over before you know it. This does not matter, because Gungrave is the coolest game you will play on your Playstation 2.

    apologies for the screenshot quality; trying to capture a ps2 game in motion leads to a lot of blurriness.

    Gungrave is about a former mobster killed in power struggle and brought back to life as a hulking brute in a cowboy hat, with a metal coffin (which also acts as a chaingun and a rocket launcher) and a pair of big handguns. Grave, as he is now known (short for “Beyond The Grave”), is back to get revenge, and that revenge involves a lot of people dying from multiple gunshot wounds.The plot is not super important, it’s there, but it’s not a big deal. If you want the full story, there is an anime adaptation that is supposed to be pretty good, so I might check it out myself pretty soon.

    You look at Grave, with his big coat, his massive guns, carrying around this massively unwieldy object that doubles as another weapon, and you can probably tell that he was designed by the creator of Trigun (Yasuhiro Nightow). Now, I haven’t watched Trigun since I was a teenager, so I don’t know if it’s still good, but the characters looked cool, and that’s what’s important here. Nightow has a design sensibility of taking something so over-the-top, something that could just as easily have been some cringy edgelord bull shit no different than any other terrible violent video game character of the mid-2000s, and making it work in an aesthetic sense. Red Entertainment (the game’s developer), talented developers that they are (they made the Bonk series after all), took this design and made it work in a mechanical sense. Grave’s default method of movement is walking, not running. Walking. This seems like a bad idea for a character to slowly walk around in a frenetic shooter like this, but it all comes together in a thematic sense. Think about it: this hulking spirit of vengeance, slowly trudging down long hallways before he kicks down the door to a room full of literally dozens of mafia hitmen about to meet their doom, all to the squeals of saxophones and the frantic jazz/EDM fusion soundtrack. You are the anime badass. You are this unstoppable force of nature that will only leave disaster in your wake. If you’re good enough, you can clear an entire building without a hair out of place. Again, the shooting is basic, but it’s cool.

    To the game’s credit, enemies don’t just run at you in a rush to die. They hide behind cover, attack in groups, ambush you from behind, all sorts of tactics. Of course, Grave has a solution to all of these problems. He can destroy cover with enough bullets. Shooting while dodging (a John Woo/Max Payne style dive) drastically increases fire rate, meaning groups of small enemies or one large enemy can be taken out in a single burst of bullets. Graves’ coffin can be used as a melee weapon for anything that’s too close or not directly in the line of fire. Or, you know, just kill enough enemies and destroy enough objects to fill up your kill gauge, and take out any annoyance with some rockets or chaingun fire. Gungrave operates on one verb, and that verb is “Kill.” Kill everything that moves. Kill everything that doesn’t move. Keep killing and don’t stop killing. Every level begins with a prompt tell you to KICK THEIR ASS!! Gungrave is a cool game where you get to do cool shit, and it rules.

    I know that I said it’s simple and short, and I’ve also said in the past that those are not bad things. Gungrave is well made, it looks great, sounds great, doesn’t control or play like shit. You could definitely there’s more style over substance, but the style is not there to hide any massive shortcomings or to disguise a bad game. It does what it needs to do, and ends before it has a chance to wear out its welcome. Probably because you’re encouraged to replay levels for a higher score (represented by skulls, the coolest form of judgement), and having too many levels that go on for too long would hurt that. Gungrave is only about an hour long, but it’s a damn good hour to spend. Did I mention that Gungrave is really cool? Feel like I may not have gotten that across.

  • okay i’m back

    It’s been a few weeks, but my health is much better than it has been. As such, I thought I would give a little update post to let everyone know.

    I’m trying to get something written and put up on the Patreon I barely promote tomorrow. However, I haven’t done this in a while, and I’m having a hell of a time trying to find something to cover. The new Wizardry DLC maybe? A couple other dungeon crawlers I’m still not that far into yet? Some episodes of Inuyasha I watched? No idea. Hopefully, I can put some words together in a way that doesn’t suck.

    Anyways, other than the brief issues with my hands, life has been very boring. Was tempted to struggle through and type out some angry words about some discourse re: game journos doubling down on bigotry (again), but decided against it because who gives a fuck? I’d rather keep to myself and my own little critic hole because internet slapfighting and a post-gamergate world ruined my goddamn life!!!!!!! Well, okay, maybe it didn’t, but it definitely sucked and I’ve been having one of those introspective moments where I look back at that time period and ask “how the fuck did I let myself get dragged into that shit!?” especially now that it’s becoming more and more clear that that whole incident was a fucking work where some nobody neolibs, their right-wing friends, and some walking punchlines picked a fake fight with each other for a career boost. If you wanted games to be a better place for minorities, you got worked. If you think games are being ruined by SJWs and the woke mind virus, you got worked. But that’s enough of that, just some shit I needed to get off my chest before I go back to being a verbose weeaboo.

    That’s about it. I’ll have something more substantial soon. Uh, bye, I guess.

  • 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.