Holy crap, Lois! This is like that time I played a mediocre licensed game during the 16-bit era!

Something that my friends know all too well, but I haven’t really talked about publicly, is that I have this ironic appreciation of Family Guy. Since at least 2016, I have been entertaining/alienating my friends by speaking in a half-decent Peter Griffin voice.

Family Guy is this weird thing for me. It’s not actually all that funny; it’s a show that tells 100 jokes, and 1 of them might land. Family Guy is completely abhorrent in its depictions of minorities. Is Family Guy incredibly racist? Oh yeah. Is it very homophobic? Of course. Is it extremely misogynistic? Definitely. Is it wildly anti-Semitic? Absolutely. Is it terribly ableist? For sure. Is the episode where Quagmire’s dad transitions into a woman the most transphobic thing I’ve seen on film that wasn’t amateur footage of a literal hate crime? Oh brother, you better believe it! Now, to its credit, Family Guy does punch up as well. Though the punching up is like more of a light jab, whereas the punching down is more like curb-stomping a dead body while the recipients family is forced to watch.

Family Guy is a show that me and my pronouns should absolutely hate, and yet, I find myself strangely compelled to keep watching “Family Guy Funny Moments” compilations during my downtime. There is something about this show, with its lack of real humor in favor of nonsensical cutaways also mostly lacking in humor, that causes the Quality Needle to break and wrap all the way back around. This is not a good show by any stretch, but I also cannot bring myself to dismiss it.

The Family Guy PSP game, on the other hand, is a lot more cut and dry. Cut and dry in that it sucks. It starts out boring, then becomes unplayable pretty quick, just like that time I played Konami Wai Wai World on Famicom.

“so you’re saying i gotta go into different konami worlds and rescue their intellectual properties? sweet. will a punch with a reach of roughly two pixels do the job?”

Family Guy is one of those multi-genre games that were all the rage at the time. Peter walks back and forth punching children and the elderly like he’s in a side-scrolling brawler. Brian has to sneak around and avoid being detected, since dogs need to sneak, I guess. And Stewie shoots and does precision platforming. There might be other characters to play as, but I don’t know, I could not actually finish this game. Yes, I’m admitting it here: I was not up to the Family Guy challenge. Peter’s second brawler phase proved to be way too unfairly difficult for me to want to continue. It an arduous task that takes way longer than it really should. It’s like looking at the back of the box of one of those RPGs that were all the rage in the PS2 era bragging about its 80+ hour play time.

ah great, now a bunch of weirdos on twitter are going to tell me that kanji’s not really gay

This is a difficult game because 1) the controls are terrible. Jumping, sneaking, punching, all a bunch of shit that barely works. Stewie misses platforms with the greatest of ease and trying to pull off Peter’s 3-hit combos are a headache. 2) Enemies tend to move faster than you, and during Peter’s level, have no hitstun. A brawler where all of your attacks are unsafe on hit, as you can eat a whole combo despite landing a heavy attack beforehand. The enemies in Brian’s stealth levels are completely blind, or can see you through walls. The point I gave up was having to fight wave after wave of bumrushing children and cops, only for a man in a clam costume to completely kill me.

Somehow, this isn’t the only time I’ve had a hard time fighting a clam in a game. Remember that time I had to fight a giant clam in Suikoden 1?

somehow, this clam was a harder fight than the literal armies i had to take on beforehand.

As much as I would like to write this game off as mere mercenary work, I can’t. The parts where I have to play the game are heinously bad. However, there was a genuine effort to try and make this like a playable episode of Family Guy. It definitely nails the “100 jokes, 1 of them actually good” style of humor the show has; the very first joke you hear is Peter referencing the time Mr. Belvedere sat on his own balls. It has dated references, like the line, “I’m going to do you what life did to Dana Plato!” which is very Family Guy-esque. There is a significant lack of joking about rape or racism, which I will chalk down to a publisher decision, as I imagine 2k is a bit more strict about that than the Fox network. But it still tries to maintain Seth McFarlane’s…uh…humor. Yeah, sure, we’ll go with that.

The one actual good thing about the Family Guy game is that the cutaway gags are represented as mini-games. That’s an actual good idea! If you succeed at them, you get a bonus that will help you out in the main game, like refilling health, gaining meter for special moves, or turning Brian invisible for a time (this one doesn’t actually work though). And the mini-games are just as nonsensical as the show. Why is Brian having to dodge an angry Abe Lincoln? Why is Stewie imagining a construction worker shooting another with a nail gun? Why does Peter have to shit in a port-o-potty in a Simon Says manner? Who cares.

A shame. I never want to go into these hating a game and stopping early, but I have no choice here. Family Guy is a terrible game that can’t even be enjoyed ironically, like the show. This is not freakin’ sweet, Lois. I’m holding out hope that we’ll finally get a good digital representation of the Griffin family once all those Family Guy skins get added to Fortnite. It’ll be a weird, yet fitting crossover, like when Negan was in Tekken 7, or when they added Mario to Super Smash Brothers!

Class of Heroes

I wanted to do a second PSP month this year, seeing as I had a lot of fun doing it last year. Getting to cover unique games on a system that kind of gets the shit end of the stick in retrospectives is something that appeals to me. People are more than aware of my current gimmick of loving dungeon crawlers to the point of mentioning Wizardry in seemingly every post I make, regardless of the subject actually having anything to do with Wizardry.

Class of Heroes is, as you’ve no doubt already gathered, a dungeon crawler on the PSP. It was a game I actually started playing at the end of July, wanting to give it some time before sitting down to write about it. I need you all to know that Class of Heroes is so fucking bad, I nearly scrapped doing this whole PSP-themed month. I was struggling, contemplating dropping the whole idea and writing about fighting games or New Vegas or something much more enjoyable.

Class of Heroes was made by the same developers as the Wizardry Xth series, and is technically an unofficial third entry in the series, much like Elminage being an unofficial Wizardry Empire. I have not played any of the Xth games, but based on what I’ve seen here, I have missed out on nothing. The game was recently remade for the Nintendo Switch, with a PC release on the way. No idea if the remake will actually make the game any good, but I’ll keep an eye out.

What makes Class of Heroes so bad, you may be wondering. The thing about dungeon crawlers is that they are repetitive. Not a bad repetition, mind you, more like a loop. In games like Wizardry and Elminage, you explore a dungeon, fight enemies to get stronger and find better equipment until you have cleared the final floor. While you do this, there is always some semblance of progress being made. It doesn’t matter if you explore an entire floor, or you stop and return to town after mapping out two squares, something happened. This is a genre about slowly but surely hacking away at this seemingly insurmountable challenge. It feels rewarding to completely map out a floor, or to easily defeat an enemy that gave you trouble an hour ago, or to find an extremely rare weapon, or to get the stats necessary to change into a Samurai or Ninja. The secret to the dungeon crawler formula is that stuff happens even when it doesn’t appear like anything is actually happening.

CoH does not have this. CoH is a game about spinning your wheels. Experience is slow to earn, with characters taking a very long time to get from level 1 to level 2. Enemies either do hardly any damage, or have attacks that can completely one-shot a character. Weapons in the shop, even the most basic of swords, costs hundreds of gold and you only get about 5 gold per battle in the early going, if you get any gold at all. So instead of buying weapons, you have to take part in the game’s crafting system, and make better weapons yourself. Except that getting the right parts is still a gamble, so you have to run around, get into battles in a game with a fairly low encounter rate, and hope you can get the parts to make a slightly better dagger so your Dwarf Fighter with a high strength stat will do more than a single point of damage, if they can even land a shot at all. Oh, and I should also mention that the dungeon layout changes every time you enter. Now, while the changes are limited to a few layouts that remain mapped out when you return, you still can’t make any real plan of attack insofar as finding crafting materials or key items because you don’t know what layout you’ll be in next time. Doesn’t really help that one of these layouts, on the very first floor, mind you, has over a dozen warp tiles behind over a dozen doors that send you back to the entrance of the dungeon, so you have to go back and forth finding the right door that doesn’t send you back. Wizardry has repetition, Class of Heroes has tedium.

I never made it past the various permutations of the first floor of the game’s “Novice Dungeon.” I didn’t want to. I was so tired of navigating tedious dungeons that constantly shift, fighting tedious battles with up to nine enemies at a time doing no damage to them (or else end battles quicker by completely exhaust my magic supply immediately), looking for the one Torn Rag or Broken Twig that will give my party is a slight advantage when they aren’t dying of poison or electrified floors. It doesn’t feel like anything is happening in Class of Heroes, other than wasting my time.

the 434 gold is AFTER pooling the entire party’s money together, all for a starter weapon that will be quickly replaced.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there is finally a dungeon crawler I’ve reviewed for this site that I don’t like. Never thought it would happen, but here we are. It’s a shame. Class of Heroes was bad enough that I stopped playing, loaded up Traveler’s Property, and ended up finishing it. A much better use of my time.

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.

Mega Man Powered Up

With this being the final day of PSP Month, I thought that it would be appropriate to close it out with the game that started it all. Mega Man Powered Up is the reason why I bought a PSP all those years ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I didn’t care about the PSP, as I had been told so many times that it sucked, and that I should stick with the Nintendo DS if I was absolutely hard up for handheld gaming.

I don’t remember where exactly I had read about this game. It was another one of those nights where I was up all night on the internet, trying to find something after a hard day’s work. What that something was, I didn’t and still don’t know. Probably the same thing I’m looking for now. Existentialism and loneliness aside, I found some review or blog post about this game, and it caught my attention immediately. First of all, I fucking love Mega Man, something that I’m sure is obvious by now. Second, this is a remake of the first game, a game that after ten sequels and numerous spin-offs, is still really good. Not only is this a remake, but it’s a remake where you can play as the bosses? A remake that includes a level editor that lets you upload and download those levels? Sign me the fuck up!

Whichever team was in charge of doing this remake knew what they were doing. They knew what they were doing with the art style, if nothing else. The thing about Mega Man is that Mega Man is adorable. It’s a series about cute robots blowing each other up with guns, yes, but doing it in a cute way. They could have easily taken the taller, leaner Mega Man 8 Mega Man and slapped some polygons to him, like Mega Man 11 did to mixed results. No, they knew that the best Mega Man is the short little boy in his ridiculous blue get-up very obviously influenced by Astro Boy, and we got a cute 3D representation of that. Mega Man Powered Up is a cute game about cute robots jumping around and being cute. Everything, from the little Blue Guy, to all of the Robot Masters, to the standard enemies, right down to the platforms you jump on and off of, has that wonderful candy-coated sweetness to it that more games need.

The actual game itself is exactly what it’s advertised as; it is a remake of Mega Man 1, but with some more stuff. The levels have been redesigned to be less annoying (shout out to Guts Man), there are two new bosses to fight, returning bosses have new patterns and attacks, all types of cool stuff. You can also choose to play the original levels, though those also use the new graphics, and thankfully removed that weird inertia the Mega Man had whenever he stopped running. Those are nice to have, but the new designs are so good, that it wouldn’t be such a big loss if the old levels weren’t included; not like there aren’t several different avenues to play the original game.

Being able to play a version of Mega Man on the go that isn’t compromised in any way with several quality of life changes is enough of novelty to justify buying a PSP for it. The addition of all the extra characters; all the bosses, with their unique weapons and abilities, as well as Roll and Protoman, who themselves are unique on their own, that’s also awesome. If you’re reading this, then there’s a pretty good chance that you know what Mega Man is. Either you love him, or his games are too hard for you. This is a Mega Man game, and it’s a really fucking good one. The only real shame here is that Capcom didn’t give any of the other games this treatment. Go long enough to at least give us Mega Man 2: Even More Powered Up. But whatever, at least we got this one, which gives me another excuse to listen to another redone version of Elec Man’s theme, one of my favorite pieces of Mega Man music, mostly because it is blatantly ripped off of Journey’s “Faithfully.”

 

Now, before I get into the real meat of this game, I have to bring up the one big issue that it has. Something that any other company would have looked at, said “holy SHIT!” and immediately scrapped and pretended they never saw.

Oil Man.

One of the new bosses added to this game is Oil Man. I don’t think I have to point out what exactly is wrong with his design; it’s pretty fucking obvious. But maybe this was an accident? It’s not like his look had to be altered in the US release or any-

OH MY FUCKING GOD

Yeah…yeah…this game, this great, awesome, cute game also has a character that looks like a horrible racial stereotype, complete with doing a little dance at the beginning of his fight. As much as I’d like to charitably describe this as an accident, this is Capcom, the same company that thought releasing Resident Evil 5 was a good idea, and has had several artists come out as extremely anti-Black in recent years. So who the fuck knows? It is very unfortunate, and I thought it was worth bringing up when I’m otherwise blasting metaphorical rope over this game.

Shitty racial imagery aside, the real meat of MMPU is the level editor. A good level editor, at that. The levels that I made in it all those years ago are terrible garbage, but working on them made those soul-draining shifts at my job all the more bearable. It’s simple enough for a complete idiot to use (see example: me), and is as much fun to make your own stages as playing the actual game, if not moreso. Put down some platforms, place some enemies on them, make it so that you only have access to Cutman’s weapon, whatever. Since the only limit to the number of stages you can have is the amount of space on your Memory Stick, you could conceivably make the equivalent of your own fan-game. Granted, you are still limited to the MM1 weapons and characters, but you can still make it work.

Unfortunately, due to Wi-Fi adapters changing how they connect to the internet, I cannot get my PSP online anymore. However, last time I checked, not only are the servers for MMPU still online, people are still uploading stages! As recently as 2019, people were still making their own creations in Mega Man’s level editor. That’s awesome, and shows that there’s still a tremendous community hard at work. Yes, there is that fan-made Mega Maker, which is fantastic by the way, but there is still something to be said about MMPU’s staying power.

Maybe I’m alone in this line of thinking, but I consider handheld games to be more of an intimate experience than ones on console, or even most PC games. Probably because you have to physically hold the entire system, and play the game on a screen too small for other eyes to see, but it does feel like more of a personal experience. With this, you get reminded that there’s nobody to impress here. You play through the game for you. You make the levels for you. You can make all the levels you want, you don’t have to upload them. There’s no quality control on your Memory Stick, fill it up with trash that’s only fun to you. Ultimately, I think that’s the lasting appeal of not only Mega Man, but of the PSP itself. Simply you, and a tiny, glowing screen, having a personal experience. In my weird opinion, I think this is why RPG’s and Visual Novels and Wizardry-likes ended up working so well on the system. Going through a chapter on the bus, grinding out a few dungeon floors during a lunch break, putting a level together in bed before going to sleep. There’s this intangible warm and fuzzy feeling I get from handheld games. Mega Man is just as important to this as any of those.

Mega Man Powered Up is, one very specific character aside, a game that I can’t gush about enough. Going through this game, and all these other games, I’m glad that I made the spur of the moment decision to cover the PSP for the whole month. It’s a hell of a system. Before I wrap up this post and this month, I think I’ll take a moment to list some other lesser known, good ass games I did not get around to writing about; maybe next year:

  • Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory and Rengoku 2: The Stairway to Heaven
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana
  • Space Invaders Extreme
  • Every Extend Extra
  • Brandish: The Dark Revenant
  • I Am An Air Traffic Controller- Tokyo Airport Hero
  • Thexder Neo
  • Konami’s other STG compilations (Parodius, Salamander, and Twinbee)

there’s some cool stuff on the archive, psp edition

It’s that time of the month again (that time of the month being “whenever I feel like it”) where I crack open every transphobes least favorite den of piracy, the Internet Archive. Since I decided to dedicate an entire month to a handheld system, I have been looking for anything cool related to it here.

Problem: there really isn’t anything super cool, I’m sad to say. Mostly rehosted reviews from YouTube, some old clips from The US Army Presents: G4 TV, and some magazine scans. Unfortunately, it’s no longer the 90s, and games media began its descent into the boring “we’re too cool for games” atmosphere we know today. I’ll try and make this entertaining, which is more than I can say for these original sources.

Jessica Chobot Licking a PSP…again

Might as well start by ripping this fucking band aid off. I’m sure you all remember Jessica Chobot from that time she licked a PSP back in the mid-2000s, something that got a lot of nerds worked up, either because “why is there a girl doing stuff to my video games?” or “whoa, check out the hot chick licking the gaming system. It’s like she’s licking my fuckin’ dick, bro!” Well, she’s here to do again. Hachi machi, I guess.

A couple of things: why does a tech review show need a laugh track? Yes, I know, it’s not literally a machine that plays a laughing effect; it’s the production crew making noise, pretending to be interested in what’s happening on-screen. It’s still stupid. Whatever, this is one of those shows that The US Army Presents: G4 TV put together to try and distance themselves from when they were still TechTV. You know, getting hosts who could not give a fuck less about the subject of the show, calling things “gadgets,” trying to give the show this “night life” edge to make it look cool, that sort of thing. There’s a reason why The US Army Presents: G4 TV is now the “Paramount” Network, and is home to endless reruns of Bar Rescue.

Oh right, a girl licked a PSP in a provocative way. I told you that there was not a whole lot of shit for me to find.

 

Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Strategy Guide

Yes, someone out there thought that an extremely short, linear game that seemingly only exists as a form of mockery for anyone who cares/cared about Final Fantasy VII absolutely needed a strategy guide. For the record, Crisis Core might very well be the worst game on the fucking system; a needless, insulting prequel to the greatest game of all time that felt less like a love letter, and more like a bomb threat. It’s also a game that takes great pains to explain every last aspect of it to you. There’s an in-game tutorial that you can access whenever. But whatever, Brady Games is getting their asses kicked by the growing presence of GameFAQs, and Final Fantasy is popular, so maybe a couple of marks will buy this?

pictured: enemy variety

man, i hope i don’t get lost in this labyrinth!

I looked through this whole thing, with a lot of useless information that you could find either in-game or by using common sense. What is missing, however, are two tips that players could actually use:

  • You can avoid most of this game’s terrible combat by hugging the walls when traveling down the same boring corridor.
  • In Banora cave, you can find Emerald Weapon hiding out behind a wall of ice.

There’s not really a whole lot else to say; I mostly wanted to take the opportunity to say that Crisis Core sucks, and I really fucking hope that none of what was in this game shows up in the next episodes of the FF7 remake.

 

PSP: The Official Guide Book

Now, I thought this would be yet another strategy guide. No, this a whole multi-issue publication dedicated to the PSP, only with a misleading name. Unfortunately, this is a UK-based publication, with all the bull shit that entails. So, let’s take a virtual trip to TERF Island and see what they think about video games, I guess.

Not that anyone really needs it, but if you were ever looking for documented proof that the British are brain-wormed idiots, it would be right here, with this middling review of Mega Man Powered Up. Forget for a moment that MMPU is like, probably the best game on the PSP by a fucking mile, the actual writing here sucks as bad as this terrible opinion. Believe it or not, a remake of the first Mega Man game might actually, in fact, play like the other Mega Man games that followed it. What an amazing deduction. These people have college degrees.

I went ahead and looked at the previous month’s issue, as I had a feeling about something. Sure enough, that issue had a preview of MMPU.

Oh okay, I was right, and this was like every other shitty magazine of the time. You know the kind: previews glowing with praise, getting all excited about the game coming out, then a month later, the review is written and ends with some bull shit like, “play this if you’re the kind of person who’s not allowed within 500 feet of a school, jerk!”

How about a double-page spread on GUN? Remember GUN? Everybody loved GUN, right?

No! Nobody loved GUN! Fuck GUN! I played that shit, and it was terrible, trend-chasing garbage that was rightfully forgotten almost immediately. It wanted to be a free-roaming GTA knock-off, but it also wanted to be a linear shooter in the vein of Max Payne, but it also wanted the element of strategy from playing multiple sides against each other, but it also wanted to be this and that. Ultimately, it was a boring, overhyped shooter where the “GTA” elements were nothing more than letting you shoot random civilians, which would cause the PS2 to freeze. Anyways, here’s a whole bunch of hype about its undoubtedly also terrible PSP game. Fuck you, Mega Man, Colton White is here to lead gaming into a new generation.

 

Now, it’s pretty obvious that I’m being extremely negative, and coming across like I’m in a bad mood. This is because I am! I wanted to find some cool shit about this cool little handheld, and instead I am being given a reminder of the exact moment games changed, and not for the better.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if there weren’t really good games coming out during this time; I literally just insulted an entire country in defense of Mega Man, but rather, this is when the industry began to change. Or at least, become less subtle. The beginning of that transition into the monster we know as “AAA” today. The time period when games media became so utterly cynical. I’ve talked about the older magazines, and that were terrible, by and large. But at least they were staffed by people who actually liked the fucking things! Not like the mid-2000s, or even now for that matter, where it’s mostly coiffed douchebag Firstname Lastnames hoping they can eventually work their way to reviewing Playboy: The Mansion for Maxim Magazine. Gone are the days of publications at least willing to give half a page to something that didn’t have massive advertising budget to it. These are the days of Assassin’s Creed being cynically shoved in your face, while awesome shit like Rengoku 2: Stairway To H.E.A.V.E.N is going to be left in the dirt. Not that games press didn’t have issues with giving a little too much attention to total shit back in the day (see examples: GameFan giving the cover to fucking Skeleton Warriors, and the whole mess every other publication had with Rise of the Robots). Games as a business has changed, and changed for the worse.

I understand that this post may come across as “old man yells at cloud,” but I’m not a person who is completely averse to change. As an example: I’m a big wrestling fan, and wrestling has absolutely changed from when I was a kid, but it changed for the better; I’ll watch the worst AEW show over the best Hulkamania-era WWF show any day of the week. Gaming does not have an AEW, where the business is run by people actively involved in that business, as opposed to out of touch suits embarrassed to be there. Suits changed gaming. Everything has to be so fucking slick and “cool” and you have to acquire things in a certain way; Top 10 Games Least Likely To Result In You Being Turned Down For Sex By A Woman I Made Up In My Head. Something that is really hurting today’s press, aside from all the rampant abuse and bigotry, is that they all want to be like the Big Boys. You should never want to be like the Big Boys. You have to be an alternative. What can you bring to the table that I couldn’t get at IGN? It sure as hell isn’t boring writing and doing what you can to sweep Activision-Blizzard’s heinous actions under the rug!

Potentially controversial take here, but I think that we, as critics, need to go back to 30 years ago. Not literally 1:1, but I mean in terms of having a personality, having a staff that doesn’t think they’re too cool for Halo because they’re worried that they might accidentally go into multiplayer and wind up on a team with a poor person, having a unique look, maybe hire someone that isn’t yet another white dude with a terrible beard, having something that can keep me reading, even if I don’t agree with every opinion presented. This post was a stark reminder that we don’t have this, and that’s frustrating, because games are cool, enthusiast press is cool. Liking things is cool! I hate being negative on my web site, believe it or not! I would much rather talk about things I like than things I don’t. But I have to be negative here, because this all sucks. I would like to see some change.

Elminage Original

It’s no secret by now that I’m a big mark for Wizardry, and games very similar to Wizardry. The concept of creating a cast of characters, then sending them into this dark, cold endurance test of fighting monsters and navigating traps is a winning one. Even when the world has come to an end, and we’re all fighting over basic necessities via motorsport deathmatches, driving around in really sick Rat Fink style hot rods, I’ll still be ending my days hunched over a computer, navigating a fictional dungeon. At least until I’m bludgeoned to death by some leather fetishist when he finds out that I have the last Snickers bar in North America.

Dungeon Crawlers are addicting. For me, anyway. I would imagine that the hours I pour into these games is similar to those with an addiction to MMOs, only I don’t have the excuse of being in a social environment, sticking with the solo, lonely nature of looking at numbers and taking notes. But let’s not psychoanalyze my mindset based only on my taste in games

Elminage Original is one of these attention-grabbing Dungeon Crawlers. Elminage as a series is something that “gets” the magic of Wizardry far better than a lot of similar games. This makes sense, given that the developers, Starfish, actually made a bunch of post Sir-Tech Wizardry games, most notably Wizardry Empire on the Game Boy Color. Unfortunately, this is only one of the two Elminage titles that left Japan; Elminage Gothic being the other one.

EO is very much in line with Wizardry 1 through 3: make characters, go into dungeons, fight monsters, find magical artifacts, repeat. And like the old-school games it’s influenced by, it does all of this with very little story behind it. You finish the first floor, go back to the king, he tells you to go find some magic rings, and then suddenly the world is now open to you. The world, of course, being more dungeons. Regular dungeons. Forest dungeons. Underwater dungeons. Each of these dungeons with multiple floors. Multiple floors made up of maze-like corridors and traps. Lots of cold, dangerous hell holes full of cool-looking monsters hell-bent on killing the blank slates you’ve created. This may sound repetitive, and it probably is if you’re like, normal or something. But if you’re like me, a complete freak, this kind of shit is right up your alley.

hachi machi

Yes, crawling through dungeons is awesome, and I love doing it. But what makes this, and really, what makes a lot of dungeon crawlers so appealing to me is the fact that this is a genre that encourages you to make your experience your own. You are given a barebones template, and told to fill in the blanks. True Role Playing. You make your characters, but it doesn’t have to stop at a name and some attribute settings. Elminage gives you a start and an end, and allows you to mentally draw the line linking them. Why is your knight risking his life? Is your evil-alignment thief only in it for the money? Why is there a maid on your team (yes, one of the selectable classes is “Maid.” That’s awesome.), and who, if anyone, does she serve? What made your magician want to start learning alchemy? Later Elminage games gave you a spot to write out entire character bios if you so chose. Your imagination is as integral to the game as much as Starfish’s design is. Even the graphics presented in-game don’t actually animate; they are merely still sprite images. Two features that are included, that I intentionally did not use, are the ability to import your own images for character portraits, as well as import your own music to replace the game’s soundtrack. I chose not to use custom faces, opting to use their respective class icons, because I wanted to illustrate to you, the reader, how important it is to imagine things. Yes, I am certainly more than capable of making my own art assets, but isn’t it better if I tell you about my Werebeast who fights with her bare hands? Isn’t it better for you to hear about a Fairy Maid and a middle-aged Hobbit Ninja-in-Training, than to see it? Let you build up your own image and idea of my adventures, the way I did for others when I would read about their playthroughs of Wizardry way back when. I feel like this is something that’s been missing from games for a very, very long time, and I would love to see a return to it.

Elminage Original has its issues: difficulty can be uneven, causing you to go from a pushover battle with some slimes and rats, to getting murdered by three rows of magicians hitting you with status effects and lightning. The localization is a bit fucked in parts, such as the original unpatched release mislabeling four different races, which made character creation a pain, and what text is left can be weird. Dwon stairs, for example.

mods, please change my title to “the wiped-out adventure person”

Oh, and the wall textures for forested areas look like absolute shit.

Other than that, Elminage is fantastic. It would get better sequels, but if you want to sit down with your PSP and enjoy a classic-style RPG with an even more classic 20×20 map layout that demands you to get good immediately, and you can’t read Japanese, this is where it’s at. Load up Elminage Original, and make that experience your own. Tell your own story.

Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy

When I began PSP month, I made mention of how this little system had kept me sane during a particularly bad time in California. Santa Clarita, to be specific. This would been back in 2012, and I was visiting some relatives, shortly before they succumbed to the ravages of age. This was not a vacation, obviously, and a number of other things had happened that I will spare you the details of drove a permanent wedge between myself and the rest of what little family I had left. It was stressful, it was a nightmare at times, and worst of all, it was boring.

If you’ve never been to Santa Clarita, there is fucking nothing to do there. At least nothing to do outside of developing a tolerance for needle drugs. And if you are from/currently live there, I am so fucking sorry that your city sucks. The highlights of my trip were being taken an hour out to Ventura Pier, where I then proceeded to freeze my ass off in the ridiculously high speed winds there that day, and then going back to Santa Clarita, to a Taco Bell with only two people on staff during lunch hour, and the burritos I ordered had somehow become two soft tacos that had nothing but lettuce in them. The phone reception was terrible, so I couldn’t exactly use the internet; back when I was still rocking the Blackberry. Really, the only two things I could do was either wait until the evening for the Lakers games to come on, or play my PSP.

I only had the time and the packing room to bring a few games with me. One of those games was the one that this post is about: Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy. I had just purchased a copy of the game a day before my flight, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play before then, so this was a must to bring. On retrospect, I’m not entirely sure why I got the game. I had spent a lot of time, probably too much, on the first Dissidia, and didn’t care much for it. Dissidia 1 was something I got because I needed something new to play on my break at work (this was back when modding a PSP was an extremely complicated process of needing a certain model system, specific games, and having to do shit with the battery. Not like the very idiot proof “put some shit on a memory stick and press X” that I would use later on.), and because the concept of a Final Fantasy fighting game is a good one. While I did not like Dissidia, I still got the sequel, because it had more characters; literally the “she has a new hat” justification for me buying something.

Something that needs to be made clear: like the first game, Dissidia 012 is fucking terrible. A truly wretched, unplayable, bewildering experience. This is not something you play because you want to have a good time. This is something you play because you are a dumb, horny idiot that wants to look at Kuja’s package while listening to a nice remix of FF6’s “The Decisive Battle.”

hachi machi

No, I was not enjoying myself in any traditional sense during my time in Santa Clarita and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. No internet. No good TV. Not a whole lot of privacy. Nothing to do in a go-nowhere place with no transportation. I spent nearly a month hunched over this little silver gadget, ogling femboys with launch-era PS2 amounts of polygons, trying to solve the bizarre moon logic that the game itself runs on. This was my entertainment.

Actually trying to figure out how this game works is a struggle all its own. It’s like a designer passed out while watching Advent Children, had a fucked up dream, then made a game about it. Final Fantasy characters floating around, trying to land slow moving attacks that have zero impact, until one of them finally hits the other. You have to do Bravery Attacks, which are slow and do no damage, in order to do some actual damage with your HP Attacks, which are even slower. Every fight is two of your favorite Final Fantasy characters hitting the air, and if the other character gets in the way of that air, it’s their own fault.

pictured: a typical dissidia match

The thing about Dissidia is that, unlike literally every other fighting game ever made, you have to unlock your move set via leveling up. Moves, and also basic innate abilities. It’s like having to earn a Hadouken in Street Fighter, or the double jump in Guilty Gear. It sucks. Dissidia gives you a lot of numbers and meters and systems and all types of shit to complicate the concept of a 1-on-1 fighting game, but then you stop and wonder about all the stuff that’s missing. Combos? Normals? Spacing? Nothing.

There’s a story mode, too. A story mode that I have never finished. I can only take a bunch of people standing around with phoned-in voice lines talking about bull shit that doesn’t make any sense for so long. I was starved for entertainment during my time in California, but even I had my limits.

Dissidia sucks. Full stop. It looks great, and sounds great, but then there’s nothing else beyond that. In any other circumstance, I would tell you to stay far away from it. But having played it in the situation that I did, I can’t. Dissidia is this weird fever dream of game that doesn’t make any sense, plays like shit, where the appeal ends after staring at Kuja’s junk for a week, and yet, it’s worth playing. The PSP was home to some great games. It was also home to a lot of bizarre stuff you couldn’t really find anywhere else. Dissidia is this fascinating thing that no AAA company would ever release today; the third game on PS4 was much more reigned in. It’s full of bad, half-baked ideas that don’t come together, the actual fighting part feels terrible to play, and often times seems like every negative stereotype of 2000-2010s Japanese games in one package, and I love it. 10/10.

The last two days of my stay, I went to a mall and got myself a copy of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Much better game. So long and good riddance, Santa Clarita.

Gradius Portable Collection

There’s a lot to be said about Konami in 2021. A lot of bad things to be said. Their shitty, abusive work environment. The complete shitcanning of Kojima Productions. Turning the beloved Pro Evolution Soccer series into a cynical gambling den. Turning the beloved everything else they’ve ever made into a cynical gambling den. Strong-arming the Japanese insurance industry. It’s clear that Konami is and was run by evil clowns, and that the amazing games they published were made in spite of them, rather than because of them.

Among these games were a large host of shooters. A whole bunch of all-timers that, even in the era of Touhou and Danmaku, are as amazing today as they were in the 80s and 90s. It’s the 2000s, the PSP is doing well in your home country, and nostalgia is always a good way to make a buck. You run to M2, the undisputed kings of porting retro games, and throw a bunch of money at them to make your shit look good again. Specifically, Gradius. Yes, there were also collections made for Parodius, Twinbee, and Salamander, but I’m focusing on Konami’s flagship STG today. I love to fly around in the Vic Viper.

Anyways. This compilation has five games: Gradius, Gradius 2, Gradius 3, Gradius 4, and Gradius Gaiden. Now, these are not straight ports of the games. Rather, these are all reprogrammed versions of the arcade originals, now given support for the PSP’s widescreen resolution, and not the roughly 4:3 that they originally had. You now also have the option of giving your ship a smaller hit box, which in some ways feels extremely perverse, but is still welcome. Despite the improvements of being able to see more of the screen and being harder to hit, these games are still really hard and demanding, which I love. Gradius is still a series about pattern recognition and being able to react accordingly.

 

Gradius 1

Admittedly, a major reason why I wanted to cover these games is because I very recently 1cc’d the original Gradius, 100% indisputable this time; last time I did it, I was on Vicodin after a dentists’ appointment, and therefore was in no position to confirm that I actually did it.

and once again, i 1cc’d after fucking up a couple times, and finishing the last level without all the cool power-ups.

Gradius still rules. It’s as good in 2021 as it was in 1985. It is a game about flying through a dangerous warzone where everything is trying its damnedest to kill you (and they most definitely will your first time around). It’s about pattern recognition; knowing when and where the enemy will strike. It’s about having the right weapon for the job (I will firmly place myself in the camp of “the Double Shot isn’t actually a terrible weapon, jerks!”). You have to learn all of this pretty quick, as dying will absolutely fuck you. Losing a life causes you to lose all your power-ups, and can leave you way too slow and under-powered to handle whatever lies ahead. Now, it is possible to finish the game like this, as I’ve done, but it’s not ideal, it is however, really cool to finish the game with only a pea shooter and maybe one speed up.

no really, this gets hard pretty quickly

Now, because this is based on the original arcade release, this collection does not include the extra level added in the PC-Engine port of Gradius. That sucks, as I actually really liked that level. This is an extremely minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things, though. I mean, this collection is worth it for this one enhanced version of the original Gradius alone.

 

Gradius 2

Gradius 2? It also still rules. It takes everything about the first game, and makes it bigger, badder, and also a bit harder. Now you get multiple weapon loadouts to use, all of which are viable and versatile for an entire run. I still tend to use the original loadout, as I am an old boomer fuddy-duddy, but I do have a soft spot for the Photon Torpedo-Ripple Laser combo.

On an audio/visual level alone, Gradius 2 might actually be the best in the entire series. It starts off with you flying around a series of burning planets, shooting at giant fire dragons, all set to this killer song, “Burning Heat.” It’s a hell of a memorable way to open your video game.

When I said the game was a bit harder, I meant it. The first game got tough on stage 3. This one gets tough on stage 2, arguably the first boss, even. It’s these obvious rip-offs of the Facehuggers from Alien that get me the most. They are pretty hard to hit, they come from enemy spawners that are surrounded by turrets, and if you fuck up here and lose your power ups, it’s almost a guarantee that YOU SHALL NEVER RETURN ALIVE.

I’m still working on getting that 1cc for this one. I can make it up to stage 4 without continuing, but after that? Forget it. Game’s awesome.

 

Gradius 3

Fuck Gradius 3. It’s awful, and is the worst game in the series by a mile. Doesn’t matter if it’s the arcade game, or the even worse SNES port that ran at like 2 FPS, it sucks. All it does is take all the things you liked about the first two Gradius games, and replaced it with way too fucking bullets on screen, and enemies that take way too much damage to kill. Skip it.

 

Gradius 4

Admittedly, I have very little experience with this one. This might actually only be the second or third time I’ve played Gradius 4. As such, I don’t really have much to say about it. It seems pretty cool. I like the T-1000 melting effect on the dragons on the first stage. No kidding, I’m actually quite fond of the font that the power-up bar has; looks like the interact menu in a particularly seedy PC-98 game with lots of big titties and exploding heads.

My big complaint about this one is that a lot of it feels a bit desperate. Like, I know that a number of years had passed between the release of Gradius 3 and 4, but there’s a lot that comes across as Konami going for that Nostalgia Pop. Remember the giant crystals that broke and became smaller and more dangerous? Remember the shitty bubbles in Gradius 3? Remember shooting the core? There are a lot of callbacks that probably didn’t need to be made, as Gradius 4 could have stood as its own game without feeling like a Best Of. Not a terrible game, but there are better ones.

Oh, and that announcer is terrible. Dude sounds like a cross between the fat kid from Mission Hill, and someone who has made a three hour YouTube video on character balance in Super Smash Brothers.

 

Gradius Gaiden

A-AURORA BOREALIS!? AT THIS TIME OF DAY? AT THIS TIME OF YEAR? IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY? LOCALIZED ENTIRELY ON YOUR PSP?

Speaking of better games, the final one on this collection is Gradius Gaiden. Gaiden kicks fucking ass. This really does feel like Gradius for a new generation (that generation being a hardware generation, as this was on the Sony Playstation). It’s frenetic. It’s intense. It’s fun. Most importantly, it’s still Gradius, but it stands on its own, which Gradius 4 really didn’t.

Other cool things: multiple ships to choose from (though I still stuck with the Vic Viper), and being able to customize your power bar. You want that extra firepower early? Sure, go ahead and put your Options at the front. Gradius Gaiden gives you so much room to tailor your experience, then tells you, “alright bitch, now it’s time to play the game. Get good, asshole!” There’s very much the spirit of the first two Gradius’ (Gradiuses?) at play here. Incredible game.

One callback that I do like is the junkyard level, where the wreckage of Gradius 1 bosses shake loose from the floors and ceilings to mount a mostly-feeble offense against you.

 

Omake

This game is not on the Gradius collection. It is actually a part of the Salamander compilation. I guess there weren’t enough Salamander games to justify a compilation without a couple extras.

Anyways, this is an enhanced port of Gradius 2 for MSX. The MSX game is far, far more different than the original, being more of its own offshoot, really. What makes this special is that the slowdown and choppiness have been removed. The MSX was not a system  known for smooth scrolling or intense action; one of the reasons why Metal Gear was a game about avoiding enemies, rather than taking on an entire army. This one is surprisingly really cool, too. Maybe not on the level of the big arcade boys, but still leagues ahead of Gradius 3.

Thought I would write about the Gradius Collection because 1) Gradius rules and 2) because I don’t think too many people know about this one, or if they did, would have assumed it was a half-assed emulation job. It’s not! It’s an improved experience that matches, and even surpasses the originals. Definitely one of those must-haves for the PSP.

Except for Gradius 3. Go fuck yourself, Gradius 3.