astro boy: the omega factor

Every now and again, I bring up my long-standing love for Astro Boy. I found myself appreciating the character and his show, mostly because it was the only thing on TV worth watching at 4:30 AM while I got ready for work. It was during this time that I also started getting into all the Nintendo stuff that I had missed growing up as a kid with a Sega Genesis and a Sony Playstation. I bought a DS to pass time during breaks at work, and I did a 180 on the Wii as soon as No More Heroes was announced. The DS was a real thing of beauty. Not only did I get to play a lot of great games for that system, but its backwards compatibility allowed me to see all the Game Boy Advance games that I had missed out on (I got a GBA during my high school years, but I only ever owned a few games for it). That was a fun time for me to discover games. And for anything that I couldn’t find for pennies on the dollar at a Gamestop somewhere, I loaded up in the old Visual Boy Advance emulator on my home PC and hoped didn’t run like shit. Among these many classics on the GBA, I found myself becoming extremely attached to Astro Boy: The Omega Factor, to the point that I would say it’s my favorite game on the handheld.

The Omega Factor is a stone-cold classic by Treasure, a company I don’t think I need to gush about a second time. It’s a game with multiple genres: platformer, shooter, brawler. All done very well, with Astro Boy’s powers well represented, including his rear-end machine guns. While Astro’s name is on the cover, this is a game that acts as a loving tribute to the collective works of his creator, Osamu Tezuka. Characters like Black Jack and Phoenix are prominently featured in the story, and there’s an entire level set on the Marine Express. It’s clear that Treasure really did care about the world of Tezuka.

Astro Boy’s first half is a basic enough game. You punch robots and humans who hate robots. You fly around, shooting lasers and your butt-mounted machine gun at more robots and humans who hate robots. Then you take on some large, visually impressive bosses. Sometimes you may run into another Tezuka star making a cameo. You do all of this, moving left to right, as you have in any other game you’ve ever played in your life. Had Treasure stopped here, it still would have been the best game adaptation of Astro Boy by a mile. Then you face a gauntlet of bosses: The World’s Strongest Robots. After defeating the final one, Pluto, a massive being known as the Death Mask appears, sentencing every remaining robot on Earth to death before exposing the planet to an element that will shut them all down. All robots includes a terrified Astro Boy, who slowly dies, leading to an abrupt, anticlimactic ending.

But then Astro Boy is brought back to life by Phoenix, and given the ability to travel back and forth through time, a way of justifying that you now have access to a stage select. Now you’re in the second half of the game, going through each stage a second time, or a third time, or fourth time, or however many times it takes. No longer is this a straightforward action game, the objective has changed to changing the past so as to avoid the apocalyptic future. You have to find the hidden Tezuka Stars that you most definitely missed the first time around. And even if you didn’t miss them, you’ll need to see them again anyways once the story has changed. This is the part of the game where Osamu Tezuka’s message starts to become more and more prominent. It goes from “beat up anti-robot politicians because they’re bad” to themes of love, of bigotry, of what it means to be a robot, of what it means to be a human, of war, of suffering, and of what the purpose of Astro Boy’s existence truly is. The writing is a bit on the basic side, to be certain; this is a Treasure-developed Game Boy Advance game, but it still manages to tell its story well.

I got into Astro Boy watching reruns of the 60s cartoon at four in the morning. I thought it was a neat little cartoon with a simple, yet visually striking character design. Playing this game in the evening is what got me to absolutely love Astro Boy. This innocent child trying his best, using his powers to help others in a tumultuous time of inequality. At risk of sounding like the weeb version of an adult Steven Universe fan, there are times where I’ll play this game, read the manga or watch the many animated adaptations and kind of sort of wish I was Astro Boy in a way. No, I don’t mean having jet boots and the ability to shoot lasers (though that would be pretty cool), I mean I wish that I had Astro Boy’s hope and optimism. I wish I could see a better tomorrow. But I can’t. At least not anymore. Osamu Tezuka survived an American fire-bombing raid as a teenager. He has witnessed death and destruction on a massive scale. As an adult, he became a doctor, a field where pain and death is an every day occurrence. He had a major distrust of government and military, and created iconic manga after iconic manga dedicated to the pointlessness of war and the nationalism that leads to it, full of characters that tried to spread a message of hope. He encouraged a generation of children to be themselves and not conform to a societal standard. I wish I could still believe in people the way that Tezuka did. As great as this game is, I also felt a great sense of sadness upon replaying it for this reason; that I feel myself becoming too fucking bitter for a children’s cartoon character. Maybe it was a subconscious decision to pick this game back up. Maybe I needed to see the spirit of Osamu Tezuka shown through the lens of a great video game to remind myself that things might not be as bad as I’ve spent so many years thinking they are. While I can’t share in Tezuka’s message of hope today, perhaps I can share in it someday soon.

Game’s really good, by the way.

noctis

Solitude is something that doesn’t occur in games all too often. Sure, there’s loneliness, sometimes even isolation, but there is rarely solitude. Even in the most singular single-player games, there are always other people. People to talk to, people to interact with, people to temporarily join forces with, people to fight and kill. You are never truly alone in games. Then something like Noctis comes along.

Noctis is a game about floating through the void of space. You, as an astronaut with no name, pilot a spaceship, also with no name. You fly from planet to planet, moon to moon, galaxy to galaxy, all nameless. You direct your ship’s navigation systems to a celestial body, land, explore it for a little while, then return to your ship. You are then given the option to name the planet or moon you’ve explored, and even write out a series of notes about it. That’s the entire game.

Noctis does not have any combat. There are no survival mechanics. There’s no trade. Nothing else but exploration. There aren’t even other people in the universe. The closest you’ll find are a very rare sighting of small birds and frogs on various planets. Or, if your fuel runs empty and you’re stranded (the one resource in this game you have to worry about), you can send out a distress signal, where another ship will give you just enough of its reserve fuel to get you somewhere to resupply. The thing is, you never see the other pilot, or speak to them. You merely see their ship outside your cockpit window until they finish helping you out, where they then fly away, never to be seen again. Any contact you encounter is fleeting.

the other ship in question

Noctis does not even feature any music or sound effects. Everything is dead silent. You may do what I do and try to break that silence by listening to your best selection of ambient music, but it doesn’t do much to change the overbearing atmosphere of the game: you are ALONE.

motoro faam- “…and precipitation”

I like to load up Noctis from time to time, usually whenever I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed with life. It’s a very meditative experience. Me, in my spaceship, floating through a cold and dark void, cataloguing planet after planet for no other reason than my own curiosity. There’s no goal or storyline that I have to follow, I simply exist in a sterile, single-room ship. The game has an option to turn off the ship’s lighting, and allow everything to be illuminated solely by the brightness of the stars, or a lack thereof. I like to turn this option on, further isolate myself while I look at the majesty of the universe.

I spend a couple of hours alone with my thoughts, as I walk the surface of another world, or as I climb out onto my ship’s roof and admire the stars with less obstruction, or as I sit in the darkness, listening to my droning music and letting a passing moon brighten things for a while. Spend my time deciding if the notes I’ll be taking on each world will be clinical, poetic, or even juvenile. I’ve been doing this ever since I discovered the game back in 2007, where it became one of those games I played to wind down after a particularly shitty day at The Job. Tend to find it more relaxing to play it around this time of year: where the weather begins to cool, the sun goes down earlier, and I can wrap myself in a small blanket, maybe pull up the hood on my hoodie if I’m wearing one (rarely am I not). Losing myself in the kind of solitude that would drive a normal person mad, but brings me comfort.

i am playing a fan-modded version that allows you to take panoramic screenshots

I like to look at those images I’ve taken and notes I’ve kept all this time. It’s like looking at old memories, in a way. Speaking of, I was looking for old screenshots of this game on an external hard drive I’ve had almost as long as I’ve been playing this game. Looking at digital memories of over a decade ago, I found this old drawing a friend of mine had given me. We’ve since lost contact, as a long time has passed and life likes to get in the way of relationships like that, so I can’t give them credit for this, as much as I’d like to. It’s a picture of an astronaut. This astronaut is an average man, not the physically fit, shave them sideburns, jingoistic ideal that America has for them. I used to look at this image a lot, not just because it looked cool, but it was honestly pretty inspiring. Some regular dude getting to travel the stars. That concept is not something that will ever happen in this lifetime, and based on who’s running things now, will never happen in the next lifetime, either. I’ve been obsessed with space travel my entire life, and it’s still good to want to dream.

This is one of my all-time favorite games. It is everything that I want in a game about space travel. A game that I was disappointed No Man’s Sky wasn’t. The atmosphere. The visuals. The sound, and the lack thereof. Most importantly, the solitude. Next time the world I live on becomes too much, I know that, even if it’s only for a short time and also imaginary, I can take off, and be alone on my ship.

phantasy star online

I must begin this post with a confession: the original Phantasy Star Online is one of the few Dreamcast classics I missed out on (the others being Skies of Arcadia and D2). I never got to experience turning on my console to explore a strange new world with my friends or strangers. Never got to enjoy even more of that “Sega Magic” during holidays, or long Summer vacations. Never got to experience the pain of a Dreamcast running off a 56k modem. A true Gamer’s Regret.

A few years back, I finally got off my ass and got into the PC port of PSO. I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you that it’s still an amazing game two decades after release; you’ll have to get used to its somewhat unique control scheme (or use a pad), but it’s as playable and fun as any other Dreamcast hit. I’ve been playing for years, and I’m still enjoying myself. The problem is that my enjoyment is somewhat bittersweet. I love running around fighting monsters with internet friends, or joining up with a group of random hunters to complete some quests. I love exploring the gorgeous environments and listening to that great music. I love taking on a random monster hunting quest and hearing the theme song to Burning Rangers.

All of this is great. Phantasy Star Online is a wonderful game that I love. But the bitter part comes in because I experience (or re-experience) something cool, and think, “fuck me, I really wish I could have played this as a teenager.” I keep feeling like I’ve missed out on something. This is a weird feeling I admit, because it’s not as if there’s anything missing, content-wise, from this port of the game; hell, there’s more stuff here than in the original. But there’s still that part of me that really wishes I could have experienced the game in its initial state. Again, it’s weird; I’m weird.

I ended up joining the fan server Ephinea. I’ve heard great things about the other server, Ultima, but I ended up with Ephinea because it advertised itself on being as close to the original Dreamcast experience as possible. So if you want to play with me, that’s the one to join. It doesn’t quite fill the frankly ridiculous feeling I have of missing out on a game during its heyday, but it does a good job of trying to fix it.

Fall is here. It’s getting darker outside earlier, the weather is getting colder, and I want to play some fucking Sega games. I think another reason why I wish I could have played this back in 2000 was because it does a great job of fitting into that Saturn-Dreamcast transitory period that I always associate with the end of the year. The music. The unique, timeless visual aesthetic. The enjoyment you get from playing it. This is the most Sega-ass game to ever Sega. It might be hard for some people to imagine, or even remember, but there was definitely a time when Sonic Team knew what they were doing, and made some of the best games you’ve ever played in your life.

Despite that personal bull shit, PSO rules. It is the only MMO I can stand, as I’m not a big fan of the genre. Yes, that includes that game; the Fantasy one with the obnoxious meme that makes me delay resubscribing another month every time I hear it, so if you want to play Final Fantasy XIV with me, you’ll have to wait until the year 2172. Anyways. The reason I like PSO so much is that it plays like an actual game. You press the attack button, and you attack. You don’t sit through a canned animation after clicking on your 30th Giant Rat. It’s possible to dodge attacks! You don’t have to simply stand in place and eat shit until your cooldown periods end. Stuff happens, and it’s actually fun. You go out into dungeons, fight monsters until you reach a boss, then come back with all the gear you got. Then you equip this gear, so you can go back into the dungeons, get better gear, get better abilities, take out the massive boss at the end quicker, and repeat until you can do this on the hardest difficulty. Sounds monotonous, but can be hours of fun with the right people.

made a new character today. a very androgynous FOmar. wanted to try a force character out, but with a better build than the last one i made.

I admit that I wrote this as a way to try and convince people to pick up PSO, or get back into it. The shape of the internet is changing again, maybe we can all meet up on the Pioneer 2. Though I regret not playing this on the Dreamcast, perhaps by playing with friends on PC, we can make new memories, instead of looking to the past. Strengthening friendships, building new ones, having a fun night while playing the best Dreamcast game of 2022.

11/3/2022

Hey everyone. I’m doing another “post for the sake of posting” post. Now, don’t worry, this isn’t me apologizing in advance for not having something done; expect something on the ol’ Patreon either tomorrow or this weekend. I’m really just buzzing because 1) I’ve finally finished my final work trip of the year, that horrible thing that’s kept me from getting a lot of cool shit done all year, and 2) TWITTER IS MOTHERFUCKING DEAD BITCH HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!

First Kiwi Farms, now Twitter. Going 2 for 2 for shitty web sites taking a fucking dive. Granted, Twitter is not dead dead; you can still log in and post and all that. But let’s be real folks, Elon Musk owning that site has put time on the clock, and it’s ticking down quicker and quicker with every beautifully dogshit business decision he has made in only 24 hours. So, either it will die RIP in the ground where it belongs, or it will simply become Truth Social with a little more brand recognition, then it will die.

You ask me, that shit should have died ten years ago, but I suppose it’s better late than never. For any remote positive that place did, it has long since been far outweighed by its many horrific negatives. And it’s not as if the positives, like establishing communities and friendships, can’t or hasn’t already been done by literally every other online platform in history. I won’t bore you by retelling the story of what myself and others had to go through when that platform was misused by every transphobe and grifter, but I absolutely have good reason to want to watch that hellhole die. I do admit to being somewhat frustrated by this “we’ll shitpost Musk to bankruptcy” gimmick, as if that’s something that actually works and not a massive oversimplification of what happened to Tumblr, from people who can’t bring themselves to log off and try to find a place online that isn’t overrun by the worst people you can imagine. I’m also frustrated by this wailing and shrieking of “MY BRAND! MY BRAND!” by people who, again, can’t imagine a world without being able to showcase the most naked, horrible bigotry they can find to everyone around them and respond to it with “no u.” It’s like I’ve been on here nearly every week since 2020 trying to show that you can build an audience and even make a few bucks without The Algorithm aiding or hindering you or something.

In any event, anything that brings the world closer to a time when expression and creativity on the internet was encouraged is a good thing. Maybe we’ll see an uptick in personal web sites. Maybe forums will start popping up again. Or maybe everyone will pony up twenty bucks or eight bucks or whatever to become a bigoted manchild’s personal star-bellied sneetches. Maybe they can all hang around on that psyop called Cohost and leave me the fuck alone. Whatever, I’m home, I’ve got my computer and my retro collection and my desire to get better at AC+R, and no longer need to read incredibly tedious and annoying opinions to help pass the time.

Whatever may end up happening, I will still be posting on this site until I am either dead or I am somehow so broke that I cannot afford a once a year payment or the world ends. Even though I’ve been having a bit of a difficult time as of late in regards to actually writing things, I still enjoy running this place. I love to write out my thoughts without a character limit or some arbitrary obstacle preventing you from reading them. I love to post things that you are not allowed to post elsewhere; the internet is a fantastic communication tool to meet like-minded people and share your interests and talents. The internet is also a tool for you to look at big fat titties, or some chick’s massive cock, or a dude with a swimmer’s build wearing latex. I write about a lot of my interests, like games or wrestling or an*me, but I am only 100% interested in having an audience of like-minded adults, particularly perverts; I don’t want to be read or subscribed to by a bunch of tenderqueers having a Fred Sanford-esque “Big One” upon realizing that a mildly disabled person in their mid-30s that avoids a lot of public areas due to COVID might be a horny pervert sometimes.

I love being able to have my own site where I can post things I like, without having to deal with scumbags, see some dumb shit posted by a games journalist or a pearl-clutching transphobe (but I repeat myself), or be reminded that people like Jesse Singal or Brianna Wu still exist. I love the feeling that maybe things will change for the better. Please, for the love of fucking god, do not let yourself fall back into bad habits. Let the trend of social media finally fucking die. Make your own site, get yourself a Feedly account (I switched to them when Google Reader got shut down a decade ago) to keep up with everyone else’s, and let’s all let nature heal.

Oh, and maybe I can finish this post with a glimpse of something I’ve been working on: