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.