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.

vixen 357

I’m on yet another business trip for two weeks (this is a very busy Summer, I’ll let you all know now). Because I need ways to pass the time when not working, I thought I would continue on with playing more of my familiar Mega Drive collection. This lead to me replaying Shining Force 2, which is still a great game, even if I’m finding that the map design is a bit barren, leading to some of the battles being tedious. Because it was one of those nights where it’s late and my mind began to wander, I thought about messing around with other SRPGs on the system. There’s one that got fan-translated some years back that I never really got around to: Vixen 357. Not entirely sure why exactly I didn’t immediately latch onto it; it’s by Masaya, the developers of Langrisser, a series that I really like. Technically, Langrisser was developed by another team within Masaya called Career Soft, who seemingly had nothing to do with Vixen 357, but it’s probably easier if I lump the two games together for you, The Reader, to have a frame of reference.

Vixen is pretty darn cool. You control a small squad of mech pilots that, unlike most games in the genre, remain a small squad. As such, the game very much maintains this sense of a rag-tag group fighting a large empire. It’s not like one of those Gundam spin-offs where the protagonists pirouette through an army of Zakus with minimal effort. You are outnumbered in every fight, constantly being ambushed by much bigger forces led by these nearly mythological generals and commanders. Some battles might allow you to join up with another AI controller squad, or have you hold out for a certain number of turns until more CPU backup arrives, but by and large, it’s nine pilots versus the world. You have to scrape and claw your way through every meat grinder of a mission, using cover and terrain to your advantage. On top of all this, as a wise man once said: People Die When They Are Killed. Vixen 357 has permadeath. You lose anybody in that squad, they stay dead. No resurrections, no second chance mid-fight, no one-time use items to bring someone back. Given how hard this game is, and how much harder it becomes over time, you need every last body you can get on that battlefield. It’s hard as fuck, and can be a bit aggravating or sometimes even tedious, but the sense of reward you get for clearing a mission is so good.

There’s a plot. I mean, it’s there, it exists, but it’s not super important. You and your crew pilot experimental new mechas (VECTORs), another nation attacks yours, both nations go to war, the manual mentions something about aliens that’s never brought up in-game, whatever. The narrative, what little there is, only serves as flavor text as you move from battle to battle. Kind of a shame that there wasn’t even a half-hearted attempt at a Gundam-esque meditation on war. The most you get is when an enemy commander joins you after witnessing his superior commit a war crime; the rest of the game, the dialogue tends to fall into the “war as a game” borderline lightheartedness. I did do a bit of digging around before I started writing this to see if there was a manga or an an*me that this was adapted from, and maybe I could understand there was more context I needed before playing. This is not an adaptation, this is a full-on original work by Masaya! Just seems weird, considering how much effort was put into the designs of the VECTORs and their human pilots, and a plot outline of interstellar conflict being confined to a single Mega Drive game never released outside of Japan or ported to any other systems.

Another odd thing about Vixen is that there was never an attempt to bring this game stateside, like Masaya did for Langrisser 1. I bring this up for a number of reasons. 1) This game is really hard, and companies had no problem making games harder for Americans back then, so that wouldn’t be an issue. 2) Giant robots are always a hit, and Sega seemed less afraid of showcasing games that might be “too Japanese.”

3) A number of characters in Vixen have some of the most American names I have ever seen. Mack Ryan. Eddie Ray. Ben Basque. Harry Gibson. Carey Goat. Flannel Mouse.

Flannel Fucking Mouse

It’s a shame, really, that we didn’t get this over here. Vixen 357 is really good, despite any plot-based misgivings I may have. Maybe not the kind of game for everyone. Again, this is a really hard, brutal game where you can sometimes fight up to 30 enemies at a time, up to 50 in one specific level. If I didn’t spend two hours playing and having to replay a single map, then it was pretty damn close. Vixen is the kind of game that challenges you, but also makes you feel real smart when you complete the challenge, and challenges you in a way that’s fair and not a bunch of cheap bull shit (minus maybe one segment) that kills you immediately. And hey, there’s nothing more “Mega Drive” aesthetic than a really hard game with an*me and robots in it.

pride 2022

It’s June, you know what that means. Empty gestures of rainbow capitalism from companies who give millions of dollars to politicians that pass bull shit laws that lead to children being arrested while trying to stream Minecraft for the crime of wearing a dress instead of an oversized Korn hoodie like the rest of us had to do back in the day. An entire month of stupid discourse about gay/trans privilege after Woke DSA drones remember that queer people sometimes have sex, and it goes against the brand to make demands that we all be burned alive so we instead have to be given a month-long headache and accusations of being child molestors because a dude didn’t wear three layers in San Fransisco in June, then some dickhead rando condescends to me for describing this shit with such bigoted language as “stupid.” The endless parade of Netflix specials where comedians who haven’t been relevant in twenty years grab the low-hanging fruit of transphobia in an attempt at making a comeback; looking forward to David Spade’s “Triggering The Trannies,” Paula Poundstone’s “SHEMALES!?” and Bill Bellamy’s “That Woman Is Actually A Man Who Should Die.” Continuing to be a never-ending scapegoat for every single problem the world over, whether it be Democrats throwing elections as if they were the Washington Generals, school shootings, or a Guardian writer stubbing her toe this morning. Worst of all, Kidd Bandit got doxxed and harassed to the point that they’re retiring from pro wrestling less than a year into their career

Happy fucking Pride Month, you goddamn animals.

As such, I’m really leaning hard into the whole “retreating to retro shit so I can feel an emotion that isn’t pure blinding hatred” thing. I thought I would do another post on games with gay/homoerotic content, and then I realize that I’ve already done this. I wrote about Final Fight last year, the single gayest game in existence. Nothing before or since has covered the spectrum of homosexuality quite like Capcom’s seminal classic, so there would be no point to doing another article. Instead, because I am in a bad mood, I feel like being self-indulgent today. I’m taking my mind back in time: a time where I was a young queer coming of age on the internet.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions, probably too many, of my online upbringing. Because I had a fucked up home life, I didn’t get to have much of a social life, leading to me spending a lot of time sitting at the computer. If my father kept me indoors because he didn’t want his son to grow up and become an ambiguously gendered weirdo that can suck the chrome off a bumper, then he failed in achieving that goal. The ‘net, back before it sucked, opened up whole new worlds and experiences and let me know that those weird feelings I had for the boys and girls at school were normal. It was totally cool to be a bit girly, but I still had to hide it so as not to get beat up at school or at home. A time of downloading Gackt and Malice Mizer albums and gay porn off Kazaa (both an*me and the real thing). A time of bookmarking fansites dedicated to hot fictional men that I wanted to lick ice cream off the abs of. A time of heavily entrenching myself in weeaboo culture with lots of emulated ROMs and all the an*me that Cartoon Network was willing to air. It was a fun time, except for, you know, all the fucked up abuse and shit that went on that led to me wanting to escape via media with pretty boys and magical girls in it.

The purpose of this post (finally) is me talking some of these games that I played back then. Essentially, this is one big post to cope with the fact that I hate the modern world. Six hundred words in, let’s finally get started.

Yu Yu Hakusho is an an*me that I don’t have too much attachment to. Pretty sure I haven’t seen an episode after Yusuke and the gang took on Byakko during the late night Toonami days. Despite this, there were at least three things that I really loved about YYH.

1) The English theme song, where it seemed like the lyrics were being made up on the spot.

 

2) Then suddenly, seeing this image on the internet:

 

3) Then suddenly, digging around emulation sites and discovering that there was a Japan-only fighting game on the Mega Drive. Up to four players could compete at once, and it was developed by Treasure. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know exactly who the fuck Treasure are, those geniuses who put together the best games on the system: Alien Soldier, Dynamite Headdy, Light Crusader, and Gunstar Motherfucking Heroes. Of course I wanted to play any game made by them, and it didn’t hurt that it was based on an an*me that I had a slight knowledge of, and featured two pretty boys I saw hugging each other online.

Needless to say, Yu Yu Hakusho is awesome. Just a fun fighting game that looks really cool and has some sick music. There’s battle royales, tag-team matches, tournaments, stuff to keep you occupied for an hour-long session. I would find out much later in life that this game served as a spiritual predecessor to Guardian Heroes on the Saturn. There are multiple (two) planes to fight on, a big emphasis on doing combos, and of course, a bunch of characters on-screen at once. The big difference between YYH and Guardian Heroes is that you only have to deal with 2-3 other characters here, as opposed to about 20 enemies who immediately fly into the screen and kill you like the latter does.

There’s not really much else to say about YYH as a game. It only has those few modes to it, and it’s not like there’s a ranked mode or anything I can log into to prove my Kurama superiority. This was a game I liked to load up on a Saturday night, knowing that I was alone with the glow of my crappy eMachines and the an*me on my TV, and got to feel a little bit safe and comfortable with the fictional gay boys. These days, I only fire up YYH because it’s a fun game; I’m sure that I am way too old to be shipping Kurama and Hiei now compared to when I was 14-15. If I want to ogle hot dudes in a fighting game, The King of Fighters has plenty of explicitly-mentioned adult characters for me.

 

This post is definitely already starting to run a bit long, so I’ll talk about one more game tonight, and maybe come back to this subject during the month (do not hold me to this).

Sailor Moon on the Mega Drive is the best Sailor Moon game that isn’t the ArcSys fighting game (the version with fan-made balance changes), and leagues ahead of the dogshit that came out on Playstation and Saturn. Rather than a 1v1 fighter, this particular game is a Final Fight-style Brawler, only with significantly less mustachioed leather daddies. You can pick from the main five Sailor Scouts, and then you go around a series of increasingly surrealist areas until you beat Queen Beryl to death with your bare hands.

I always liked playing as Sailor Jupiter, because her movelist was mostly wrestling moves. Sure, I could throw some heavy kicks at Kunzite and Zoicite, or I could do some serious damage with a brainbuster or the giant fucking swing.

Sailor Moon, compared to other games in its genre on the Mega Drive, is a bit lacking. Though, any brawler is going to look dull when you realize this is the same console that’s home to three Streets of Rage games (4 if you have a Base Power Converter and the surprisingly good port of SoR1 on Master System), and Final Fight for all those rich kids with Sega CDs. While the backgrounds are imaginative, the enemy variety begins swapping palettes pretty quickly, and you only get one weapon to use in like two levels. There’s an attempt to spice things up a bit by giving the Scouts a decently sized movelist. Jupiter does her wrestling, Mercury can do Shoryukens, Venus has special command grabs, Moon has anti-airs, and Mars has a big non-Shoryuken uppercut (think along the lines of Joe Higashi’s “Hurricane Upper”). It kind of helps, but ultimately, it’s a game about fighting the same handful of enemies on mostly flat stages. Also, a problem: this is a 1-player only affair. Of course, being a lonely teen, this didn’t matter, but this might have mattered if I were in Japan playing a physical copy.

But these are all minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. I played this as a shy queer because this was a game about girls being cool and kicking ass, also plays about a million times better than Valis or El Viento. Sailor Moon was a show that I had to shamefully pretend I wasn’t watching back in my elementary school days on UPN. That’s a show for girls, you can’t be watching that shit! Hell, even the girls at my school got bullied for watching Sailor Moon. It was pretty fucked up. However, being older, alone in my room playing this game in the Gens emulator, with an Internet Explorer window of someone’s fansite behind it telling me about an*mes I hadn’t seen yet (and in some cases still haven’t seen), and listening to goth dudes sing on a Winamp playlist, nobody could fuck with me here. I could pretend that I was a cool girl who kicked ass too! Shocking that it took until I was almost 30 to realize gender was a fuck in one very specific case (uh, mine).

Sailor Moon and Yu Yu Hakusho (among other games, of course) ended up becoming this weekly tradition. This self-care routine I did to heal from the previous week of really horrific shit that children should never have to deal with. This is probably the nostalgia and the heavy amounts of “Copium” (as the Zoomers like to say) talking, but I feel like today’s generation doesn’t have this. Everything is so loud and combative. I fear that confused, lonely kids of today don’t have the same moments of solitude and reflection that I did. They don’t get to feel that slightly rewarding feeling of searching and finding something new from the comfort of their bedroom chairs. They get an abrasive LISTEN UP YOU CHUCKLEFUCKS THIS IS A MOTHERHECKIN’ THREAD ABOUT HISASHI EGUCHI BEING A LITERAL WAR CRIMINAL FOR WRITING “STOP! HIBARI-KUN” flashing at them from their phones. Now, everything is problematic and you should be constantly be ashamed of yourself. Not that things were a paradise back then either; there were still entire movements dedicated to going after queer people on the internet. Only difference between then and now is that it used to be under the guise of “making fun of furries,” and now it’s under the guise of “being an SJW” or “a games journalist had a mild inconvenience happen to them.” It also feels less extreme. Like, as someone who has had people write entire articles and maintain entire sub-sites dedicated to how much they hate me since the mid-2000s, it sucks. Some days, I actually do get pissed off about it. But nobody was ever calling me up at home, or creating a 50-part YouTube series about me, or spending years of their lives in some Truman Show style bull shit to strike up a friendship solely to reveal my deepest insecurities to a message board full of losers with incredibly unsatisfying lives. I realize that this is a retread of the opening paragraph, but man, it does feel like everything is so much worse now. It all sucks, and I’ve been dealing with exhaustion and stomach problems for the last couple of days, so it all comes out in a 2000-word post where I indulge in my nostalgia like a real Boomer.

Well, now that I’ve ended this with a real downer, go emulate some Mega Drive ROMs. Find something that makes you feel a little less heteronormative.