ClaDun X2

Haven’t been in the mood to really write anything this week, for a whole number of reasons I don’t feel like getting into. But, I am in a much better mood tonight, and I wanted to post something before the week was out.

Keeping with the theme of PSP Month, I’ve been playing a bit of ClaDun X2. It’s a pretty fun, if maybe a little too grindy, Action-RPG. The big selling point here is its amount of customization through the in-game sprite editor: creating characters, weapons, armor, even the music. So I thought what I would do is upload some of the things I’ve made. All of these folders go into your PSP/emulators SAVEDATA directory on the memory stick.

Gilgamesh (Tower of Druaga)

As the self-proclaimed Number One Super Fan of The Tower Of Druaga, I had to put Gilgamesh in here. This zip folder contains two parts: a face edit, and an armor edit. I did not do any weapons or shields for this one, maybe I’ll add to this at a later date.

Download Here!!

 

The Sword of Moonlight

Straight out of every From Software game that matters (and even a couple that don’t), it is the ultimate weapon: the Sword of Moonlight.

Download Here!!

 

The Jousting Q-Tips from American Gladiators (Blue and Red)

Remember everyone: the Atlasphere is not licensed for street use.

The edit data here is meant to be applied to spears. Now, you can apply this to any weapon type in the game, but you should use it for spears. Both colors are included in this zip as well.

Download Here!!

 

Big Floppy Boy

It’s exactly what it looks like, a big floppy double-ender that I’ve seen in many a porn. This was also designed to be a spear because 1) thrusting LOL and 2) because my starting character used spears. But honestly, you could probably apply to this any weapon type. Maybe not bows or daggers, but the other ones could work.

Download Here!!

 

Slimegirl

Here she is, my most popular creation. I made her really quick, since I figured at least one person out there would ask about her. Like Gil, this is a two-piece face/armor set.

Download Here!!

 

That’s it for now. Get yourself a copy of this game and play around with my creations.

space invaders extreme

I love me some goddamn Space Invaders, there are no two ways about it. A timeless masterpiece that’s still fun to load up today. A primordial soup of STGs; the (get your groans ready, everyone) Wizardry of the Shooting game.

The thing about Space Invaders is that sequels and spin-offs and other games in the series have mostly been the same. Regardless of any additions, they’re all the same at a base level: you are at the bottom of the screen, you move left and right, shooting at lines of aliens that march towards you from the top. Sometimes you get an outlier, like Space Invaders Get Even or God Forbid, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, but Space Invaders tends to stick to what it knows. Extreme is no different.

Extreme adds some bright colors, dance music, and some new weapons. Nothing too out of the ordinary, and something that’s been done in other Space Invaders sequels. But what makes Extreme work in this instance is an even bigger emphasis on scoring. Points, I mean. It’s less about mindlessly shooting your targets, and more about carefully shooting them properly. Taking aliens out in in a vertical or horizontal line, shooting aliens of the same color or the same shape, shooting the UFO the moment it appears on screen, not taking too long to take out aliens, all net you bonuses. You need these bonuses, because you get rated at the end of every stage, and you want to get the highest rating possible, right? That’s how you unlock the extra stages! Going through life with a straight C grade is fine if you’re in school, but not for important shit like this.

Extreme is this addicting monster of a game that you hold in your hands. You are compelled to beat your high score. Grow and improve as a player. A run through every level is probably short enough to complete during a lunch break or a bus ride (depending on where you work or live, I guess). The kind of game to get in your head after you finish playing. It’s what Space Invaders does. The best kind of handheld game, really.

Yes, mechanics are solid and a great reason to pick this game up, but I’d be a fool to not talk about the aesthetic. Despite all the bright colors and droning EDM, everything is still so simple. The titular Invaders look the same in 2008 as they did in 1979. The backgrounds, while they are video files of things like cityscapes, are still dark and not so distracting that they couldn’t just be a flat black background. For me, that image of aliens moving from side to side while a single cannon fights them in a dark void is this eternally eye-pleasing one. Extreme is only a slightly flashier version of this, which I appreciate.

Due to its simplicity, I can really only say so much about it before I repeat myself too much. It is what it is: a fun, addicting game about getting as many points as possible that looks great and only adds a light flourish to an extremely retro look, as opposed to something completely out there like Infinity Gene. Maybe that’s the TV Game conservatism in me coming out; liking classic visuals and immediately selecting the wireframe dungeon, preferring things the way they were Back In My Day (or before, in this case). What can I say? I’m old.

While the PSP was home to a lot of fantastic RPGs and entertaining visual novels, it also did a great job of balancing things out with smaller, frenetic games like Extreme. The PSP did good by Space Invaders (to its credit, the DS did too, but this is not DS Month), for which I am glad.

guilty gear judgement

Guilty Gear is an awesome series of fighting games that I am a huge fan of. They’re great, frenetic fighting games that reward you for paying attention and sometimes operating outside of the box. I love playing them. I love their mechanics, I love the character designs, I love the music, love it all. Even if the series’ plot is a jumbled up disaster that I cannot figure out, even after watching the four hour movie that’s included in Strive, I still love it.

There have been a few spin-offs of and mechanical off-shoots to the Guilty Gear series. One game in particular is Guilty Gear Isuka. Isuka attempted to take the one-on-one fighting game formula and turn it into a combination four-player fighter/side-scrolling brawler. The result was an absolute nightmare to play, and your time would be better spent immediately turning the game off and going back to Accent Core+R. But hey, at least it gave us A.B.A.

Arc System Works would try to make another Guilty Gear brawler, resulting in Guilty Gear Judgement on the PSP. Unlike Isuka, which was an exercise in futility to play, Judgement is really good. I don’t even mean that in a backhanded way; this is legitimately a really fun PSP game.

The thing about Judgement is that the developers didn’t attempt to jury-rig the preexisting mechanics of Guilty Gear into a different genre this time. Rather, they reconfigured how GG’s intricacies work in a different context. Gatlings (GG’s fancy word for basic combos) now work similar to the classic “punch-punch-big punch” combos in something like Final Fight. Special move inputs have been simplified to a degree; charge motions and half-circles have been replaced with quarter-circles and dragon punch motions, also getting rid of Isuka’s Turn Around button and letting you change direction with the D-Pad like a normal person. Roman Canceling is in this game, letting you chain special moves into other special moves and even Overdrives, assuming you have the meter for it (and there is rarely an occasion where you don’t), and all you have to do is input the command for a special move while doing another special. You spend less time fighting with the controls and more time fighting the hordes of enemies.

sol badguy’s move list, as an example of how things are different in judgement

If you were wondering if Judgement would help to explain any of Guilty Gear’s meandering story, don’t worry: it doesn’t. A guy named Raymond is doing human experiments on an island that all of the Guilty Gear coincidentally land on at the same time, and brawler hijinks ensue. Dialogue tends to be your character saying something like “there are enemies over there and I am going to fight them!” Sometimes, you might run into a different character, and the two of you talk as if they were a guest character on The Simpsons. “Wow! It’s Venom from Guilty Gear X2 #Reload! What are you doing here?” That sort of thing. Which I’m glad for; we don’t play GG for its plot, we play it because it kicks ass and has sick music. Don’t need lots of bull shit text getting in the way of me doing Stun Dippers and EXE Beasts on giant bugmen.

Fighting game spin-offs tend to be absolute dogshit more often than not, so it’s cool that Judgement is as good as it is. If anything, I would say that this is the most worthy successor to Guardian Heroes. A lot of games have tried to replicate it (Code of Princess, Streets of Rage 4, even GH’s terrible Game Boy Advance sequel), but Judgement nails it moreso than any other game. The only thing it’s missing is having co-op be more than two players. Like, I was legitimately shocked at how good this game was. A true “Hidden Gem” if there ever was one. My only real complaints here would be that the music is inconsistent. There’s a couple of good tracks, some generic guitar riffs, and really abrasive garbage. This is the one Guilty Gear not composed by series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari, and it shows. I’ll chalk this down to time, as the composer for this game, Kennosuke Suemura, has done other soundtracks. He’s done the SNES port of Fatal Fury 2, Rumble Roses XX, the Playstation horror game …Iru! and Battle Fantasia. He also did Samurai Shodown V…which means that he also…made…this. The worst song I’ve ever heard in a fighting game. Okay, I take back any compliments, fuck this guy, he’s history’s greatest monster.

My other complaint is that game can be overly tough at points. PROTIP: Luckily, there’s a code you can do that gives you infinite lives. Pause the game, then press Select to make the pause menu disappear, then press Up, Up, Down, Left and Start to give yourself one extra life. You can repeat that up to 999 times.

Other than those two things, Judgement is well done, doesn’t go on for too long, and has all of your favorites from GG X2. Unless your favorites include Killf Undersn, Robo-Ky, or Justice, in which case it doesn’t. Once you get tired of beating up insects, there is a survival mode that kicked my ass the one time I tried it. And hey, it also includes GG X2 #Reload, so there is a mainline fighting game you can play as well. I will complain about this though, as Japan got X2 Slash, an upgraded revision, and we didn’t. Also, the screen is really zoomed in. Extremely zoomed in to the point of pixellation, which hurts the visuals a lot.

But hey, it’s still Guilty Gear, and the zoom is its only issue, though in this day and age, you probably won’t even be messing with this particular port, and sticking with AC+R on PC. Might still be worth checking out at least once, as you can unlock slight variations (in terms of move list) of each characters (except for the ones I mentioned above) once you finish the second level in Judgement with them.

Anyways, Guilty Gear kicks ass, and this is a damn good game for the PSP.

Site Restructuring

Hey everyone. It’s that time again where I thought I would do some behind the scenes work on the site, and change things up again. The first, and most obvious, is that this blog is no longer confined to a sub-directory. This is where all the updates happen anyway, and I was getting less and less thrilled with my woefully out of date front page, so I put this front and center instead. I’ll be adding some of the things from the front page to its own “Bonus/Omake” page eventually, once I’m done going through and figuring out what should stay and what I should trash.

That’s also another reason: cleaning up. Thought it would be a good idea to delete old shit that I don’t like anymore, for various reasons. Stuff that I changed my mind on or didn’t age well, like, “Life is Strange is a good game,” “I can’t believe AEW hired Nyla Rose just to bury her,” and “Zoe Quinn is a decent human being.” Stuff that I didn’t think was all that good when I hit publish. Stuff that I reread and decided was too mentally ill to stay up. That sort of thing.

Now, while I’m still going to be doing reviews and short stories and very slowly making games (took a couple weeks off for what should be obvious reasons), I plan on being a lot more self-indulgent. I’ve found that I have become less of a people person as of late, and while I’ve definitely taken the steps to keep my popularity to a small audience of weirdos that society pretends to tolerate, I really want to double down on this. During my small break, I’ve been using the Wayback Machine to look at old sites I would read in my early-20s, or even in my teen years. A lot of these were not all that popular, and I only found them through a stroke of sheer luck during a Google search, before Google went to shit. It was a nice reminder of what I want the internet to go back to being: dudes (gender-neutral term) posting things they like on a space that they carved out for themselves for the love of doing it, not for any kind of “clout” or some shit. If I’m going to be a recluse that thinks people around are stupid as shit, I may as well be a relic in other ways, as well. So expect even more “uh idk here’s some stuff” posts that don’t always use a lot of big words.

Anyways, that’s it. I’ll have something up soon for the Patreon folks, which will then show up here in a couple days. I will also be going through and fixing a couple of broken links that have appeared as a result of me moving things around. Update your bookmarks and RSS readers accordingly.

RIP DJ

Yesterday, my cat DJ passed away at the age of 20. She was my grandfather’s cat, and I adopted her after he died back in 2020, and I wasn’t about to dump her at the side of the road or leave her at the pound.

A couple days after taking her in, I was in my kitchen. I grabbed a pair of scissors out of a drawer, because I needed to cut something. Of course, I didn’t close the drawer, since there would be no point to opening, closing, then opening and closing a drawer again when I only needed to make a single cut. When I turned around to put the scissors away, I see a wide-eyed DJ hanging off the side of the drawer. She must have assumed that the drawer was a platform for her to jump on, and found out the hard way that it wasn’t. In that moment I realized that DJ was a perfect fit for me and my dogs; she walked around with this air of superiority, despite being dumb as shit. Despite being in a precarious situation where she could have been hurt, she was really unhappy about me pulling her off the side of the drawer and putting her back on the floor.

she once pulled her bed off the little ledge it was kept on. instead of waiting for me to put it back up, she simply crawled into her crooked bed and slept in it.

The thing about DJ is that she has always been a grouchy, ornery motherfucker. There are friends of mine that have been in Discord calls that can attest to how mad she could get. I don’t have a family to sit around the table and eat with, so I tend to eat my meals at my desk while working on projects, watching a show, or some other activity involving a computer or my TV. If I was eating something DJ liked, she would make sure to let me know by jumping onto my lap and trying to climb on the keyboard and onto the desktop. I would discourage her from doing this by doing what every cat owner does: using the back of my forearm to gently nudge her backwards and say “no.” Most cats tend to ignore this, and keep trying to get your food. DJ would respond to this by growling at me; a big angry MROOWWWWWWwwwwwww. After a few nudges, she would full-on hiss at me, then growl again before jumping down and leaving in a huff. It was always loud enough that my friends could hear her over my headset. She would never bite or scratch, only yell. DJ’s grumpiness was just a gimmick.

WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME FUCK OFF actually wait i kind of like this

That was kind of her whole deal. She definitely used to bite and scratch at me or my dogs when we would come up to visit my grandfather every few weeks. My poor dogs had the fear of god put into them by her, giving her a wide berth when walking past her, right up until the end of her life. Then when my grandfather died and she became part of my family, she warmed up to me, but still had to keep up appearances and be a big angry jerk. Towards the end of 2021, and the first half of this year, she chilled out considerably, actually laying on my lap and licking my face for reasons other than to wake me up at five in the morning to say FEED ME FEED ME RIGHT FUCKING NOW YOU SON OF A BITCH A FULL BOWL OF DRY STUFF ISN’T ENOUGH I NEED ANOTHER HALF A CAN OF FRISKIES.

she once walked through the handloop of a plastic bag, and kept walking away when i tried to pull it off of her

That’s just how it was with DJ. She was a pain in the ass, but she was my pain the ass. She would break stuff, she would growl at you for walking too close, she would eat your food if you had to get up for a minute, do all types of headache-inducing shit. But she would also snuggle and purr and forget the tough girl act sometimes.

I’d like to think I handled the stress of the last month of her health deteriorating in a well-balanced, mature way. But I’ve also spent the last few weeks going to YouTube and watching numerous Family Guy Funny Moments compilations, so uh, maybe I haven’t been handling it well. At least she’s in a better place physically now, and I’ll eventually be in a better place mentally. Thought I would write some words about her, because she had made herself known in various Discord calls and a couple of Twitch streams and ended up being something of a character to a few of you out there. I’ll be sure to ask “hey DJ, how’s the weather down there?” on your behalf. Of course, I’ll still be keeping her in my Twitch intro, assuming I ever get the time to stream again.

Anyways, here’s some more pictures of DJ to close this out.

a random deposit of screenshots

Way way back in “The Day,” when I was running my blog on long-dead domains that proceed this one, I would post all the fucking time. These would be posts along the lines of “work sucked today” or “I just bought [Game] and here is my Nintendo DS Friend Code for it” or whatever. Sometimes, I would simply post “here’s a bunch of screenshots that I took while playing some ROMs.” That used to be a thing that people would do with their web sites, now that sort of thing is what social media and microblogging are designed for. But fuck all that, I should pollute my own site with that shit instead. Every so often, I’ll remember that I’m trying to use this as more than a “please look at all my words” platform and sprinkle in posts of big butts and a couple MP3’s. Today I’m going to go back to posting screenshots, because sometimes I will save stuff, even if I end up never writing about it. In some cases, I have a bunch of leftover shots I didn’t end up using in my posts. I’ll give the game titles and systems in the captions.

astro boy: the omega factor (game boy advance)

fallout: new vegas (pc)

noctis (dos)

space mouse 2 (pc)

breakdown (xbox)

shin megami tensei v (switch)

sasuke vs commander (arcade)

rough ranger (arcade)

bit generations: dotstream (game boy advance)

bit generations: boundish (game boy advance)

moon landing

For many people in this era, their dream is to float amongst the stars. To drift in space, going from planet to planet, exploring a potential beyond their own earthbound existence.

On Earth, on a long stretch of the Arizona desert, a man sits on the hood of his car. He sits amongst nature, a nature that is disturbed only by the open road and the power lines, and stares up at the sunset. A gorgeous evening in the middle of June. The kind of moment captured in photographs and paintings. Thomas (Tom to his friends) Fitzgerald, a newly-dubbed “Astronaut,” contemplates his life. To be the first man to ever set foot on the moon is an honor and a privilege, and it also a massive burden as a representative of humanity. In one hour, the sun will completely set, leaving the moon to illuminate the world. In one week, Tom will be on the surface of that moon, fulfilling his dream and the dream of billions.

Tom is out here in the desert to be alone. Alone with his thoughts. A place to be away from the petty internal and external politics exploiting his dream. Ever since he was a young boy, Tom wanted to be amongst the stars. His overactive imagination that was egged on by the stacks of pulp and superhero comics he read each month, and the radio programs he listened to each week, filled him with visions of rocket ships and stars and the possibility of alien life. Captain Astro, The Crab Monsters From Planet X, and Mad Scientist Comics were his favorite. A love of science fiction that he would continue to have in his teenage years, when himself and other boys his age were called to serve in the war. Five long years would pass, and Tom would return home, given a lavish welcome and labeled a hero, a title that follow him well into adulthood. A title that he never truly wanted.

The thing about war is that, despite what you’ve heard on the radio, read in the papers, or seen in movies, there are no heroes. A brave man charging headfirst into enemy gunfire to fight for his country’s honor is a myth. War is nothing more than a bunch of terrified boys hiding behind cover, firing their guns wildly into the air, not caring if they hit anything, just shooting until the other side stops. Most of the survivors will go back home and spend the rest of their lives on a street corner, enslaved by a chemical that takes the memories away. Society will not call them heroes, they will call them bums. “Thank you for your service” becomes “get a job.” Some of these survivors will become something worse: a politician. Tom just wanted to go home and become a writer; maybe work on some of those sci-fi movies that were becoming all the rage. The kind with aliens and vampires and things that weren’t a glorification of the suffering he witnessed.

Fate had other plans. During his time overseas, Tom found that he had a real knack for machinery. He could fix and maintain any vehicle, weapon, or radio he could get his hands on, becoming the most sought-after engineer by the US military. Hollywood wasn’t returning his phone calls or responding to his letters, so he went back to the service, building computers and communication tools at an overlooked research center. Tom figured that he could make a living building these machines, and writing scripts in his spare time until a big-shot producer took notice. Many years have gone by, and an unfinished draft of his first script still sits in a typewriter tray.

However, because of his skills, his physical fitness, and his perceived ability to maintain a cool head in an active war situation, Tom’s superiors approached him with an offer: undergo a radical, rigorous training regiment for three years, and be the first man on the moon. Of course, this would all be top-secret, and telling anyone about this mission would be considered treason. Tom agreed to the proposal before he was given the usual spiel about “doing his country proud.” To him, it didn’t matter why he going, only that he was getting to go in the first place.

Three long years go by. Tom is trained to withstand zero-g gravity. He learns the ins and outs of the programming language that will get his ship into space. He has the names and birthdays of every member of Ground Control memorized, and maintains a casual first-name basis with all of them. This is the fun part. Then comes the agony. Politics. Nationalism. The realization that his dream is nothing more than a cynical exploitation to beat the Russians to the Moon; making him nothing more than a prop in the Cold War.

Now, in the Nevada desert, Tom sits, and continues to reconcile his dream with his reality. Space was his dream. Is his dream. But the horrors of war turned him into a man that only supports America because he has no choice. Coming home from Japan, Tom was not the same man he once was. Witnessing his brothers-in-arms, boys no older than sixteen, mutilated beyond recognition by bombs and machine gun fire. Tom lost his pride in his country. What was there to be proud of? His post-war engineering was nothing more than a way to pay bills. At least, that’s what he told himself. The moment he was approached to enter the space program, that hatred subsided quickly. Tom would never admit it out loud, but being a puppet of America was a small price to pay to live out his dream. Even if, after three years, he grew to resent that something as sacred as the moon, which belonged to the artists and the poets, was taken and perverted into an act of war. There was another thought that Tom had been grappling with: what if, maybe, he still loved America? It could be a lifetime of propaganda newsreels at the movies, or the drills he went through in the service, but there was still some sliver of hope that there had to be something more. Maybe the people; the ones who aren’t making the rules. The strange people he would meet at bars, cafes, concert halls. The kind of people that have public service announcements made about them. Maybe these were the kind of people Tom stuck around for. Wanted to make stories for. Wanted to go into space for. Or maybe this was all a coward’s coping mechanism.

Whatever it was, Tom couldn’t linger on this thought for much longer. The silence of the desert was interrupted by a motorcycle engine. Its rider was a man who had clearly never even heard the word “subtlety,” let alone lived up to its definition. Five o’clock shadow. Black beret. Long trenchcoat, in June. Black boots. Black shirt. Black gloves. Tom had always been warned about spies before. The Russians, Tom had been told, were so hell-bent on ensuring that America didn’t beat them to space that they were willing to kill him. This was definitely a spy. Stepping off the bike, the spy approached Tom, not saying a word the entire time. Not only was it obvious that he was a spy, but it was obvious that he had bad intentions.

Tom was a three-time amateur boxing champion. One championship won when he was fifteen at a neighborhood gym, and the other two during his army days. So he could handle himself in a fight. The strategy here is to get the first shot in: land a shot so hard it’ll knock this guy’s dick stiff. Maybe lead in with a jab if necessary. He had to be quick, just in case his opponent had a weapon. You can never be too careful with government spies. Guns, knives, bombs, poison claws underneath a fingernail. These guys are armed with all types of conventional and non-conventional weapons. Just so long as this guy can’t reach for whatever it is.

Tom threw a right hook. With movement faster than any human Tom had ever seen, the spy had done a backwards handspring, evading the attack. Tom could just barely evade the spy in return, as his shirt got torn by the spy’s outstretched hand. He went with the poison claws, it seems. Tom was smart enough to know that while he couldn’t outpunch this guy, he could go on the defensive. Poisoned claws can pierce human flesh, but a well-placed kick with a pair of steel-toed boots will break them right off. Eventually. While Tom’s expertise was in a standing brawl with his fists, he had recalled seeing some fighters overseas using kicks to push an opponent back, creating distance between them. A push kick with the left foot, followed by a hopping kick with the right. The spy is springing to attack. Tom pushes him with a stiff left to the ribs, and gears up for the next kick…

It doesn’t work. Multiple attempts are made. Kick, and a miss. Another kick, and Tom has only succeeded at pissing this guy off. Time for Plan B: Run.

Tom begins sprinting, leading the spy to give chase. Finally, Tom has run out of breath, and collapses, propping himself into a sitting position on the stump of a power line. Finally breaking the silence of this fight, where the only sounds these two men had made previously were grunts and curses, Tom admits defeat.

“Alright, alright. You’ve got me. Just…just make it quick, will ya?”

The spy, relishing his opportunity, dramatically lunges his hand directly at the neck of Tom. This is it, the end of the dream. The end of America’s hope. The legacy of Thomas Fitzgerald ending as a corpse in the desert. The odds of being on the moon first is now firmly in Russia’s favor.

Except that it isn’t.

A last second dodge literally saves Tom’s neck. The spy’s clawed hand is stuck in the wood, and he’s desperately trying to pull it out. A well-placed ground kick to his ribs causes the spy to recoil in pain, which then causes the claws to be violently ripped from his fingers, spraying blood in a nauseating display. The spy is the next to break the silence with a heavily accented “FUCK” as he holds his bloody hand.

“Tell me,” Tom asks, “why are you trying to kill me!?”

“Because you need to die! Your death marks the end of two hundred years of unearned exceptionalism!” The spy responds, still visibly in pain. “You Americans! You exert your will over the world; putting it on your death parade called Capitalism. We could have just as easily killed your spineless leader like the snake that he is. But, we realized that your leaders can be replaced. Presidents have no real vision; they get elected, break all their promises, kill innocent people in ‘enemy’ countries, repeat. Heh, just look at what’s going on in Vietnam. No, if the Motherland is to win this war, we need to kill the people’s spirit. That’s you. Without you stepping foot on the moon, the people have nothing to believe in, nothing to live for. And for that reason, you need to die.” He then sprang to life once again, throwing lightning-fast punches. Tom manages to dodge some of them with footwork that would only be surpassed by Muhammed Ali, and responding with blows of his own.

The two men continue to clash in this epic struggle with the strength, speed and stamina of comic book heroes and villains. Eventually, Tom gets the upper hand. Punch. Punch. Punch. Hook. Uppercut. Knee to the sternum. Point of the elbow to the back of the neck. The spy lies on the ground, beaten but alive. Tom looks down at his beaten foe.

“Go home. You and I aren’t heroes here. We’re both the same: tools of the government. You hunt and kill people your leaders tell you to. I used to do the same, now I make machines that are probably doing a better job of killing than me or any other American could. Every morning, I would wake up, hating myself. Hating what I had become. To be building these bullshit machines because I need money to live. To go every day of my life being called a “hero” because a bunch of blood-thirsty power mongers put a gun in my hand and told me to shoot someone I had never met in a country I couldn’t even point out on a map. Worst of all, I hated that I had grown used to it. Grown used to it, and maybe even liked it. Others didn’t matter to me, because my life was stable. It was simple; I didn’t have to think about the greater scope of things.”

The spy manages to weakly mutter, “so then why do all this? Why go up there?”

“To be alone.”

“Huh?”

“The day I was approached to go out into space, it was as if every moment of my life had lead up to this point. I came out to this desert to be alone, which is why we fought out here, and not in my home. Out here, nobody will bother me. Well, in theory, anyway. I have these memories of my time in the war. All the blood and violence. The sounds of gunfire and screaming. Walking seventy yards to pick up another piece of a man I shared cigars with the night before. No matter what I do, or how much time has passed, I can never forget these things. People call me a hero for going through all of that, which I’ve always hated. In a week, they’ll call me a hero again, and I’ll hate that even more.”

Between the fighting and now, the sunset gave way to the night sky. Tom had sat down next to his defeated opponent, who made no effort to rekindle the battle.

Tom pointed to the sky. “You see that? I’ve wanted to go up there ever since I was a little boy. I was so willing to take this journey, that I didn’t stop to ask why. My government wants to colonize the moon. I’m supposed to run tests to see whether not the planet is habitable. Beyond that, I don’t know what they’re planning. I can imagine that they’ll want to send the most powerful up there if it’s hospitable. If it isn’t, then they’ll probably send the ‘undesirables,’ the people we’ve criminalized for looking and acting different. Tell your leaders that I have no intention of telling the truth when I get up there. I’m not doing this for America. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing this for Russian, either. Not any nation, for that matter. I want to go to the moon for the same reason I come out here: I can forget. When I’m alone out here, I’m at peace. But it’s not enough. I wish to experience a solitude no man has before. This might be the only way I can ever truly heal.”

“Best of luck then, Comrade.” The spy makes those parting words, before getting back on his bike, speeding away into the night.

One Week Later

Thomas Fitzgerald is ten seconds away from making history. Strapped to the pilot’s seat of his rocket, he steels himself for what lies beyond our atmosphere.

“…and in ten

Nine

Eight

Seven

Six

Five

Four

Three

Two

One

Lift off! May God watch over you, sir!”

The rocket blasts off in a violent roar. It’s finally happening, the stars are within reach! It’s hard for Tom to hold back his emotions; his excitement, the tears of joy forming under his eyes. Tom watched the blue sky get darker and darker, as he got closer and closer to the cosmos. Almost instantaneously, he was no longer in Earth’s atmosphere, drifting amongst the stars.

Tom was now safe to get out of his pilot seat, which he jumped at the chance to do. He looked out his cockpit window, the small window on the exit hatch, any view he could get. What a view it was, the beauty of the void stretching into infinity. It was perfect. The many stresses of Earth became so insignificant so quickly, with the planet becoming a tiny speck light years away. Tome was content with this, floating all alone, accompanied by the hum of his machinery. He could never go back home.

A starmap had been prepared prior to the mission, and all Tom had to do was tune his navigational instruments in the direction of the moon. Soon, one man would greatly expand the knowledge of humanity in one fell swoop. America would be able to beat its chest in a display of national pride for generations to come. The discoveries made here could benefit science, or would benefit the military. Tom did not care about any of these things. This was a man willing to spill his guts to a Russian spy who tried to kill him, as if here were a therapist and not an assassin. All that mattered was the mission.

The moon got bigger in the cockpit window. It was almost time to land. Voices on the radio relayed instructions and praise to Tom, who ignored all of them since he took off. Entering his surfacing capsule, he began the landing procedure. Landing gears extending. Thrusters launching and guiding the ship into position. Speed decreasing. Lowering. Lowering. Lowering. Lowering the small shuttle until it touched the ground. Tom sat still for several minutes, his eyes closed. This was it, his dream was coming true. A dream that began with a boy who loved comic books, and was being realized by a man who only wished to escape. He unstrapped the safety harness in his seat, and pulled the hydraulic lever that opened the door. All Tom had to do was take two more steps. He could feel the cold of the moon through his space suit. The absolute stillness of the atmosphere would terrify most men, but Tom felt at peace here

Two steps off his capsule onto the surface of a new frontier, a new beginning. Tom was going to fulfill his dream.

wizardry: traveler’s property

You might remember, back in December, when I covered the recently released Wizardry: The Five Ordeals. I had mentioned that the story text in the main game had yet to be translated, outside of a few of the curated fan-made scenarios. Well, the first of the five ordeals got an English translation last week, and I’ve been playing that.

The first ordeal, Traveler’s Property, is a bit of a basic one. The quest for this one is simple: find treasure. That’s it. There’s no big bad guy causing problems or an artifact that’s gone missing. Honestly, kind of refreshing just how simple this particular Wizardry is: Get That Money. Of course, the catch is that’s a ton of powerful monsters hanging around that will kill you before you can even blink if you aren’t careful, in addition to traps and cave-ins to impede your progress

Now, while the plot is simple, the game is anything but. This is a tough fucking game here, and it isn’t all based around the combat this time around. I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve had to sit back, put my hand on my chin, and carefully think of my next move. Traveler’s Property is one of those scenarios where you are presented with a different situation on each floor, and the game plan is based around solving that situation. Navigating around cave-ins, moving switches in the right order to turn on abandoned machinery, exploring an entire floor covered in an anti-magic field that prevents you from healing or using your map, finding out how to enter a magic mirror, navigating a massive teleporter maze (though I felt a lot less intelligent when I figured out that the answer was to constantly hug the right wall (that’s your Protip for the sixth floor)), and so on. Of course, there’s still the old Wizardry standard of doing all of this while having to fend off large groups of Ninjas with a fondness for one-shotting you, or sorcerers with powerful magic that hits everyone at once, or big fuck off dragons that can turn you to stone, or large insects that can destroy your armor, and many other dangerous things that require commas.

murphy’s ghost even makes an appearance! i will forgive the fact that he is called “major ghost” here.

Traveler’s Property perfectly fits that Wizardry mold: it’s extremely difficult and immensely rewarding. Few games really nail that concept of slowly progressing through an intimidating structure. Solving a difficult puzzle and defeating strong opponents never really gets old. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to explore a black and white wireframe void.

Currently, I am on floor 7 (out of 10). My party has just killed two massive dragons, and I need to find an item to place on a pedestal so as not to trigger a trap that guards the item that I actually need. The 7th floor is also home to demons and giant elemental monsters who can hit the entire party for 30 damage every turn. My characters are all at level 11, and have reached a point where leveling up takes experience points in the hundreds of thousands. In any other game, that sounds extremely tedious, yet there’s this Wizardry uh, wizardry at work that makes this incredibly compelling

i appreciate that, despite being a japanese developed scenario, it still has the american sense of humor of the originals. “holey” armor is not a misspelling, it is actually really shitty armor that has a bunch of holes in it.

Because Traveler’s Property is even less interested in plot progression than any other entry I’ve played, it does that other thing Wizardry does well: the player’s ability to come up with a story and motivations for their characters. I still have not ever played a tabletop game, so this is the closest to roleplaying I get that doesn’t involve me doing sex work (yes, after I threw a big fit about quitting back in December, I made a return to Niteflirt because I wanted to get the money to order Forbidden Door). Why are all these people wanting to risk their lives and explore this mine for money? Why is the kingdom letting groups of ragtag adventurers explore, rather than using its own army and taking all the riches for themselves? What’s the deal with that? Just some blanks for the player to fill as they watch numbers go up. Hell, this game even lets you give characters their own birthdays, something I forget to do in all of these, so I have a bunch of 14 years olds running around that only age when they change classes or come back from the dead.

I’m looking forward to eventually finishing Traveler’s Property, and importing this party into the subsequent Ordeals once those have also been translated. I feel like that’s a bigger priority for the developers than the scenario editor right now, and that’s fine; I can wait. I’ll be here, ready to play and post about every new bit of content this game can give me.

pac-man fever

As someone who has firmly entrenched themselves in Retro TV Games, I love the “Dot Game.” This entire sub-genre of arcade game that I would put forth served as a primordial soup for games as a whole, starting with Sega’s Head-On and the University of Tokyo’s Theoretical Science Group’s Heiankyo Alien, both in 1979, and including games like Rally-X, Raimais, Space Mouse, and arguably games like Bomberman, The Tower of Druaga, and Metal Gear. Of course, this also includes Pac-Man, a great game and an iconic character. A new compilation of Pac-Man games came out recently, called Pac-Man Museum+, and I didn’t have to pay a fucking dime for it (not sure why, since this is the XBox One version I’m writing about). I thought that I would check it out to see if it was any good, or if this was a butchered shit-show designed as a cheap cash-grab (hey Sega, how you doing?).

I’ll spoil the surprise for you all now: Pac-Man Museum+ is actually really fucking good. I thought that the format for this post will be doing a quick rundown of every game on here, then getting into the unique wrapper that ties this whole package together.

 

Pac-Man

It’s Pac-Man. It’s fucking Pac-Man. Is this really something that needs to be reviewed? It does? Okay.

Pac-Man is as good today as it was in 1980. It managed to refine the formula for a nascent sub-genre that was only 2-3 games deep. Still immensely fun to speed around the maze, being chased by and then chasing the ghosts, all while eating dot after dot. I must also mention that the pixel art is wonderful, with the most aesthetically pleasing depiction of fruit in a TV game until the release of Bubble Bobble in 1986. Even after all these years, I still can’t quite explain what it is I love about the old arcade aesthetic; something about bright colors over a black void tickles something in my brain. Maybe it’s because there’s so much character and expression in these abstract 16×16 pixels, as if they have become sentient and are acting in defiance of the limited technology that brought them to life. Pac-Man and the ghosts are not generic stick figures or geometric shapes that would have populated the home consoles of the time, they are full-on characters with personality, and that’s why they’ve become these gaming icons. Anyways, the game rules and it still looks really cool.

 

Super Pac-Man

For all of you out there who asked (none of you), this is actually my mom’s favorite Pac-Man game. Maybe because of that, there’s a subconscious thing at work there to explain why I don’t like this one a whole lot. Like, it’s not terrible, and I hate to be overly critical to something that’s attempting to change up the formula so as not to be repetitive, but I have never been able to get into Super Pac-Man. Dots have been replaced entirely with fruit, but are all locked behind gates that you need keys for. Then you have to unlock the Power Pellets. Then on top of that there’s Super Pellets that make Pac-Man faster, invincible, and able to break down gates without needing a key, so you have all this extra shit that makes the stuff from the last Pac-Man useless. Plus, I don’t like the design of the mazes in this one as much. That being said, the game is not terrible, but I’m still not a big fan, and most of my runs of this game were to get screenshots for this post, so I won’t be coming back to it.

 

Pac & Pal

Pac & Pal is an interesting one. It takes the gate mechanic of Super Pac-Man, but adds the element of randomization to it. You roll over a card, which tells you which items to pick up, and opens the gates blocking said item. The thing about the cards though, is that they’re not always next to the item you need. The card you pick might reveal a banana, but that banana could be in the opposite corner just as often as it will be in the tunnel right next to you. So the whole point of this game is to pick a card and find the item it reveals while avoiding the ghosts and dealing with the Pac Pal, Mil. Mil is this cute little green monster that walks around, picking up the items that you’re attempting to pick up. Mil can’t hurt you, but can hurt your score. See, Mil grabs the fruit you need to complete the level, and takes them back to the ghost house that you can’t enter. Not collecting every fruit or item in a level prevents you from getting a perfect clear bonus, which you want, because these are the kind of games you play for score.

Writing all of this out, I realize that Pac & Pal sounds really unappealing and tedious. I can assure you that this isn’t the case at all: Pac & Pal is actually really fun. It fixed the issues that I had with Super Pac-Man, keeping in line with Pac-Man’s mechanics, while maintaining its own identity. Adding Mil was a really neat idea, and I like the maze design a lot more. Good game.

 

Pac-Land

Pac-Land is amazing. One of the first side-scrolling platformers ever; Super Mario was influenced by this. The PC-Engine port is among one of my favorite games on the system. Pac-Land is a game that tends to get a lot shit, critically speaking, these days. Ah, it’s slow, it’s boring, it’s not Mario!! That shit does not matter to me. I love Pac-Land because it’s this odd thing; this chill platformer where Pac-Man goes on a walk. He goes from left to right, dodging obstacles and avoiding ghosts until he finds a Power Pellet sitting on the ground. Plus there’s a bunch of secrets that are always fun to find.

Luckily, this is the Japanese version of the game, where Pac-Man has his long nose and expressive eyes, rather than the US version, where he looks like a fucking monster. Yes, I understand that the graphics were designed to look like the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but here’s the thing: that cartoon looked like shit. He can keep his hat and that theme song, but not his weird “trying to look like a chubby human” face.

Now, I must mention that due to some weird legal issue, Ms Pac-Man is not in this collection. Not her game, nor her actual appearance in Pac-Land. So instead, we now have someone named “Pac-Mom,” this Last Season Of Family Matters Harriett Winslow recast. Not a fan of this. Once again, the suits up top do something fucking stupid, and everyone else has to pay for it.

 

Pac-Mania

Boy I really don’t like this one. It’s slow, you can’t even see the whole maze, don’t like the faux 3D graphics or the Lego block aesthetic. I find it boring. So boring, in fact, that I don’t feel like loading up the game again to get better screenshots. Skip it.

 

Pac-Attack

It’s shitty Tetris. I played it once, and never touched it again. A problem with Pac-Attack, aside from it being terrible, is that it’s a game that has to be unlocked. And to unlock the game, you have to play…

 

Pac-In-Time

This is part of the compilation where I question some of the decisions that were made regarding what games were included. Pac-In-Time is a hastily reskinned Amiga game called Fury of the Furries. Now, I need to talk about this, because I’m sure I have some readers with a fond memory for this thing:

There has never, ever, been a good Amiga game.

You may be asking, but what about- no. Hey, this was totally a great- no. But- no. Not even- NO! Never been a good Amiga game! Don’t care if you spent your childhood playing The Antisemitic Adventures Of Angus McScroogle And His Stupid Fucking Egg Friend Named Eggy Because This Is England And Everything Is Word Plus The Letter Y At The End. Never been a good one. At least, because this is the SNES port, you can use an actual D-Pad and not have to click on what direction you want to go in with a mouse. Not like it fucking matters, because this game controls like absolute shit at the best of times anyway. This is a terrible game with bad controls and terrible levels and horrific sound and it can’t even be an original terrible game because it’s a reskin. If Namco wanted more non-Dot Maze Pac-Man games, Pac-Man 2 was right there. Hell, I would even take the SNES version with the horrible sound over this. Fuck Pac-In-Time, a game that, despite the title, does not actually have a time travel gimmick! Unless you count “Woods” and “Forest” as different time periods in history.

 

Pac-Man Arrangement

This one’s pretty cool. It very much feels like an evolution of the base Pac-Man. You got all the regular dot eating going on, but then have additions like warps and new ghosts and spots on the map that can make Pac-Man do an invincible dash attack.

levels actually change after a while, too

Definitely the kind of game for someone who wants more Pac-Man, but not all the things that change the formula too much (Pac & Pal) or completely fucks it up (Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania). Not much else to say about it, it’s really good and I like it.

 

Pac-Man Arrangement (again)

This is a second Arranged update. Mostly the same as the previous one, mechanically. Now it’s got 3D graphics, conveyor belts, temporary abilities like jumping, and boss battles.

This is another fun one. Now, this originally came out in 2005 as a bonus for another Pac-Man compilation of the PSP, but it really does feel like something that would have been home on the original Playstation (maybe not as high a graphical fidelity, obviously). Really wish it had been a Playstation game; would have preferred that to all those Pac-Man World games I never played because I am only kind of an idiot, not a total one.

 

Pac-Man Championship Edition

God damn, what an amazing game this is. Back in “The Day,” Pac-Man CE was a very good reason to own an XBox 360. Just as good now on XBox One, and still much better than its sequels and upgrades. This is an extremely addicting game where you get as many points as possible in five minutes. Simple, but very effective. The only real downside to playing this on an XBox One is that I can no longer plug my iPod in and stream any five minute songs I had on there. That’s less of a game issue, and more of a sad reminder that actually useful and cool features on consoles have been stripped away to try and get people to pay for a fucking Spotify subscription and iTunes and YouTube Music and some other bull shit, instead of letting us listen to the music that we already own. Man, fuck Capitalism. Anyways, back to covering a nostalgia-driven compilation made by a company that’s part of a major Japanese conglomerate.

protip: david bowie’s “star oddity” is 5:18. there is no better song for pac-man championship edition.

 

Pac Motos

The original Motos is a pretty neat Namco arcade game from 1985. You played as a little car thing, and you had to bump colored balls off a stage, before they could do the same to you. Namco then gave the game a 3D facelift and put Pac-Man in it. You can argue that is another reskin, but unlike Pac-In-Time, Motos isn’t a shitty Amiga game and is actually good and worth playing and wasn’t made on TERF Island.

Anyways, Pac Motos is a fun little game, much like Original Motos being a fun little game. I didn’t play both games side-by-side and see if the levels are exactly the same, but they do share the same power-ups, like hitting things harder or being able to jump and break the floor beneath you. Not a super deep game, so I don’t have as much to say here, but it’s cool.

 

Pac’n Roll Remix

You know, I don’t hate this one. It’s decent enough, even though I don’t see myself ever coming back to this. Pac’n Roll is a game where Pac-Man rolls around like a fucking weirdo, picking up dots to open up gates and get the goal. My big problem with it is that I feel like this is the kind of game that should be played with a trackball, not an analogue stick or, god forbid, a D-Pad. It can be very difficult to control. Even with a dedicated brake button that stops you on a dime, it’s a very wild and chaotic experience that I wasn’t feeling. Not a horrible game, but not for me.

 

Pac-Man Battle Royale

This one was kind of a bummer. It’s like regular Pac-Man, but smaller. It’s smaller because this is a competitive versus game, where picking up Power Pellets lets you eat the other Pac-Men in the maze. You win by eating the other guys, or if they eat shit by touching a ghost. Playing this alone, I couldn’t figure out how to get more than one CPU opponent. I imagine this is a lot more fun in multiplayer, but I’m a lonely fucker who doesn’t have XBox Live (assuming this even has online support), so it’s just whatever.

 

Pac-Man 256

The final game is another pretty cool game. Less of a Pac-Man, and more an endless runner with a basic Pac-Man mechanic. You constantly move forward, eating dots while avoiding the bottom of the screen. You can get temporary power-ups like lasers and bombs, which are neat. I don’t spend too much time with endless runners, admittedly, but I did like the time I spent with Pac-Man 256. It’s neat.

 

Now with every game being reviewed, I will now spend a little time on the overall package.

I like it. There you go.

No, really, this is actually a really good compilation. There’s no paid DLC, or any DLC at all, for that matter. If there are any issues with the in-game emulation, it’s nothing immediately noticeable.

What I do like about this is the ability to customize the arcade that houses all of these games. We will never get anything like the original Playstation Namco Museum collections ever again, but this is a fine compromise. Buying and unlocking furniture, figurines, wallpapers, it all sounds superfluous and unnecessary, but I am big sucker for trying to recreate my Animal Crossing basement with Pac-Man stuff.

You get your fake in-game currency by playing the games, then you can spend time on things to look at when you aren’t playing the games. It works, I like it, and more retro compilations should give me a digital doll house to mess with.

Pac-Man rules. Outside of a few dodgy game choices and a legal thing that’s out of everyone’s hands (Ms. Pac-Man), this compilation rules too. You should play it.

castlevania bloodlines

Thought I would keep going with this theme of Mega Drive games. Also thought I would get back on the theme of “games I played as a gay little gremlin who hid from the world using the computer.” On top of that, it has been a number of entries since I got to cover anything involving wispy femboys or vampires. So why don’t I take this time to talk about Castlevania Bloodlines? Bloodlines is something I’ve brought up multiple times now, routinely calling it a top three game in the entire Castlevania series. Game owns.

Now, while I admit that is actually one of those games I played a physical copy of a lot as a kid. Of course, I wasn’t particularly all that great at games, being so young, so I never finished it. That didn’t stop me from loving the game, though. Bloodlines was the first Castlevania I really got to dedicate more than a level’s time to (before that, my experience with the series was getting a game over in the second level of Castlevania 3 at my friend’s house), and that’s probably one of the best ways to be introduced to Castlevania. The thing about Bloodlines is that it isn’t just a cool platformer with vampires. Rather, Bloodlines is a game full of really cool setpieces and unique ideas that give each level variety. You got your fairly basic stuff, like a stage with rising and falling water levels. Then you have the Leaning Tower of Pisa actually rocking back and forth as you ascend it. Then you have this absolutely wild effect in the last level that I’m still scratching my head and wondering how the devs were able to pull it off:

The screen splits, but your character still acts in relation to whatever segment they’re on, such as attacking an enemy from further away while your feet are closer to the enemy, so this isn’t just a neat visual thing. No idea how they did it, maybe background layers normally used for that thing every retro Youtuber must see before achieving orgasm: parallax scrolling. In any event, it’s really fucking cool. Bloodlines is this game full of cool gimmicks and setpieces, as well as moving at much quicker pace than previous Castlevanias. In a lot of ways, this feels more like Castlevania as done by Treasure, rather than Castlevania as done by Konami. Like a fresh start for the series.

Then you hit level four. It is no exaggeration that this level changed little kid me’s understanding of games. On paper, it doesn’t sound special. An ironworks plant, essentially a glorified version of the clock tower that has appeared in so many other Castlevanias. No real gimmick to speak of, outside of some pulleys and rotating gears that act as platforms. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the aesthetic: this factory with German skeletons in army helmets (this game is set in World War 1, Nazis hadn’t been invented yet), active machinery, a boss made up of sentient gears. And most important, that fucking song:

It’s pretty safe to say that “Iron Blue Intention” is among my favorite game tracks ever. Me, at seven years old, hearing those opening notes, after fighting my way through three other levels that were no slouches in the audio/visual department either. I had never really given game music much thought up until that point. You know, Super Mario has a catchy tune, right? This is when I bothered to pay attention, and turn up the TV volume from then on. I still sometimes get those chills when I replay the game now. I know that in recent years, Michiru Yamane would probably much rather see a person like me starve to death in a camp somewhere rather than listen to her music, but I still have to admit that it rules and she knocked it out of the park in her first work in the series. Sometimes you have to give the devil his due, or the Q-Anon hers.

Bloodlines has two characters: a burly Texan named John Morris, who is somehow the son of Quincy Morris. Right, Bloodlines is not only canon to Castlevania, but it is also canon to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. John is the traditional whip user, and is honestly the better pick if you’re going to play through this game, as his hitbox is pretty big and he can do a nice chunk of damage per hit. The other character, pictured in every screenshot in this post, is Eric Lecarde, the wispy femboy who carries around a massive spear. While I do prefer playing as John, I had to pick Eric here because it’s Pride Month. He has some cool moves (such as pole vaulting), and has slightly longer attack range, but his hitbox is only the head of his spear, compared to John’s hitbox being the entire length of his whip. That last sentence did not sound nearly as gay in my head.

then i fucked up and realized that i played through the american version, which makes eric look slightly less effeminate.

This was another one of those weekend tradition comfort games that I loaded up in Gens, while listening to the really sick Dracula Perfect Battle albums.. Kid me was wowed by the graphics and music. Teen me was wowed by the level design, the goth aesthetic, and wishing Eric Lecarde was real and balls deep inside my holding my hand. Adult me considers this only half a step below Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night as far as the best game in the series is concerned, and definitely one of the absolute greatest games ever made for the Mega Drive. Outside of my own personal weirdness of playing the game to escape a pretty shitty reality, it’s a game that is incredibly special. If you’ve never played it, and apparently a number of you somehow haven’t, you owe it to yourself to do so.