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LET’S PLAY (And Overthink): Bubblegum Crash For The PC-Engine.

4 Mar

A couple weekends ago I finally beat Bubblegum Crash for the PC Engine, and that was kind of a big deal for a few reasons. The game was part of my massive vintage game collection (that I sold to pay for my move to Portland), and not only had I never beaten it but I never got particularly far on it either. You know, because it’s a “digital comic” text adventure entirely in Japanese.

bubblegumcrash2It was also the only reason I hung onto my “Purple Barney” converter so long

Thankfully, about a year ago a fan-translation ROM of the game surfaced. Playing through the whole thing, the translation is fantastic, with very little ambiguity or awkwardness. Which is good because the game includes plenty of that for itself. The game opens up with mysterious armored battle suits breaking into a bank. You start out playing Nene Romanova, one of the vigilante Knight Sabers, who finds out about the robbery because her day job is boring. It’s worth noting that the entire Bubblegum Crisis franchise does a pretty tenuous sexual politics balancing act between showcasing four relatively self-actualized woman protagonists (a business owner, a rock star, an actress and… a traffic cop) that are kickass robo-suited vigilantes behind the scenes but also making them ditzy, irrational, and surprisingly helpless on occasion.

bubblegumcrash3Then again, for 1980s Japan, this *was* progressive.

So anyway you go inside to talk to Leon McNichol and Daley Wong and let’s just stop there for a second because Daley Wong. Seriously, even for anime, having such an unapologetically gay male character in the mid-1980s that wasn’t, like, dying of AIDS or otherwise weighted with hubris was really badass. Even though it doesn’t come up at all in the game, they even made sure that looking at him, you just know.

bubblegumcrash4You’d be sassy too if you had a 10-inch… neck.

Like other digital comic adventures, you have a series of commands you can use on the right side of the screen. One of the things that is endlessly frustrating if you don’t have a walk-through handy is that there are separate commands for “Talk” and “Listen” (bottom left and middle left) and many interactions require you to alternate between them in a non-intuitive (read: seemingly random) manner to keep the conversation going. Anyway, you find yourself investigating the bank and immediately the fourth wall between yourself as player and Nene finds itself broken. After a brief glance in their direction, Nene resolves that the nearby garbage bins aren’t worth searching and are gross anyway. Well, turns out you can *force* her to investigate them anyway. Doing so doesn’t even find anything, except a vague sense of horror at a player/character contract the game allowed you to violate.

bubblegumcrash5The fuck kind of game is this?

 Most of the game involves investigating broken pieces left behind by the unfamiliar robo-armor of the criminals that performed the robbery. This requires going back and forth to various computer vendors, sleazy hackers, and military factory workers for bits of information. Eventually Nene just says “fuck it” and HACKS INTO ONE OF NATO’S DATABASES… WITH A POLICE HQ OFFICE COMPUTER… THAT SHE LOGGED INTO WITH HER POLICE BADGE. You know, as one does.

bubblegumcrash6Sure, ok, fuck it why not.

Shit, why not just tell rando homeless street hackers about your plans, as a police officer, to bypass NATO security? Nah that would be so impossibly reckless oh wait she does that too…

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While Nene is busy breaking international treaties, the bank robbers strike again, acquiring a total of 5 billion yen. Further investigation reveals they are also raiding the safety deposit boxes for the pieces of a top-secret super AI. At this point, Nene finally decides hey maybe this should actually be an actual Knight Sabers game…

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Oh wait nevermind, this just means you hang out in Linna Yamazaki‘s apartment while she takes a shower. At this point of the game, in another strange fourth-wall breaking moment, you can peek in on Linna in the shower if you are persistent enough. Not you as in Nene, you as in the player. The game talks directly to you the whole time.

bubblegumcrash10Yeah, like Gamergate would be concerned about a woman’s privacy.

After some story exposition, you find yourself playing as Linna. During this interlude you head to the stock market to hear buzz about Zone Co, the company that manufactures the stolen Super AI. Then you get sexually harassed in an alley be the same guy that harassed Nene earlier in the game. And then you call Nene. And that’s pretty much it.

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Nene then uses the police computer she already committed international espionage on to stalk and harass an old man into telling her more about the Super AI. Because apparently Internal Affairs isn’t a thing for the AD Police. And then this happens-

bubblegumcrash12Oh, Leon. You suck so hard.

Priss (who suddenly becomes a thing in this game) then pursues the escaping battle armor with her motorcycle, which moves about as smoothly as trying to play shuffleboard with a Christmas ham. I cannot emphasize how awful the controls are or how infuriating this motorcycle stage that just appears out of nowhere is.

bubblegumcrash13At least it looks cool when you die. Which you will. A lot.

Once you manage that (takes surviving through three to seven stretches of road) this ridiculous bullshit happens. It’s a 3/4 view grid board game where you chase the mobile suit and manipulate the board to trap it. Seriously tho, apparently somebody thought this was a good idea, and worth adding/keeping in the game. They took the time to program a top-view movement engine, and created these cartoony RPG sprites in a style that appears nowhere else in the game. For this. I’m half-convinced parts of this game were just bullshit unused shovelware hobby projects they had lying around that they inserted the BGC characters into and shoehorned in. Look at this and try to convince me otherwise.

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Then, after investing so much energy into keeping her motorcycle intact through the chase, Priss just shoves it right up Armor Suit Guy’s ass.

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Then we go back to following Nene around, showing some of the pieces of what was left of the armor suit to various folks until she gets a note from Sylia Stingray, which she immediately misinterprets.

bubblegumcrash16Oh God shut up, Nene.

At this point, finally, after what is likely around two to three hours of gameplay, the four Knight Sabers get together in the same place and this thing turns into something that actually kind of looks like an actual Bubblegum Crisis/Crash game. Sort of.

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The remaining part of the game is in Stephen Lab, and if you die you have to play the whole thing over. The gameplay here is like a standard first-person RPG maze game. It’s a three floor maze where you have to trip three levers to get the main service elevator (which takes you to the final battle) to work. While wandering through the maze you will be attacked by the traditional boomers from the series as well as more men in armored battle suits. With each battle all chars HP starts at full, so you don’t have to worry about that, but other than that the fight themselves is like a bare-bones RPG. You’ll wanna switch out characters to keep them from dying. Also, Nene has a “Scanner” tool that will increase your defense while weakening the enemy’s attack, so you wanna use that each battle. Other than that, all four characters have the ability to use physical combat or shoot, which you will also alternate for effectiveness.

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After sludging through the generic “dungeon” of Stephen Lab you fight the leader of the battle armored criminal gang, and it is actually kind of boring as shit. To be honest, after wanting to beat this game for like 20 years, I feel a bit ripped off by how corny the ending is.

bubblegumcrash19seriously that’s it

Like, I think there were elements here that could have made a much more solid game. Literally everything taken care of in the digital comic scenes could have been accomplished as a standard RPG if they’d just developed that aspect. As they were, the RPG elements did offer a challenge and a change of pace, but one that wears off quickly because the elements were so rudimentary and lead to dreary repetition.

That said, it’s an interesting eclectic conceptual grab bag. The graphics are mostly rendered gorgeously and it stays true to the source material. However, the gameplay is clumsy and non-intuitive. Depending on how much of a fan you are of the source material, the latter may be forgivable to an extent. I just happen to be one of said fans, so your mileage may vary.

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Alex Jones Joined #GamerGate, The Pope Thinks Trans Folks = Nukes & The Week Isn’t Over Yet.

20 Feb

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alexjonesgamergate3I like how he differentiates “3rd wave”, as if he has no prob w/the first two

I’m really having trouble deciding which of these revelations is more amazing, really. I mean, Alex Jones is pretty much his own punchline at this point. Looking into it further it looks like Jones also appealed to the hashtag shortly after it began, which is unsurprising because the dude has been riding internet trending topics shamelessly for years. Also apparently the dude that maintains his wiki also maintains Gamergate’s as well and was digging up dirt on Wikipedia editors supportive of Zoe and Anita (sound familiar?). What is it with Wikipedia vandals and Alex Jones, anyway?

So yeah, this current video posted to the tag is by one of PrisonPlanet’s staff, Paul Joseph Watson. Watson is a snarling pasty toad that was apparently cursed by leprechauns to speak only in right-wing buzzwords until he can find true love and become a real boy. He also has just the most punchable face in a crew that seems to take great pleasure in being awful.

alexjonesgamergate1seriously look at this toolbag

He sardonically repeats the words “multiculturalism” and “social engineering” and some gibberish obsesssion he has about feminists ignoring rape by non-white people or something like a terrible party magician trying to hypnotize you. He talks about “joyless” feminists, but the only point in his video where I cracked a smile was when he laughably insisted there was such a thing as “organized misandry”. Also, he manages to invoke Godwin’s Law within ten seconds of his smarmy diatribe which has to be a record or some sort of drinking game.

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Speaking of constantly terrible analogies and Nazi comparisons, Pope Francis apparently thinks us trans folk are as dangerous to life on earth as nuclear weapons and people that advocate gender theory are literally Hitler youth. Yeah, the “cool pope” said that. Good times.

alexjonesgamergate6leaked photo of the transgender agenda

In his recently published report “This Economy Kills”, he talks of how each era has “Herods” that “destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.” To give perspective, Herod was the king that killed all the little boys in his kingdom in an attempt to hunt down and murder baby Jesus. This is the level of discourse he opens up with.

alexjonesgamergate7literally gender theory

He continues:

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” he continues. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

“With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator,” the pope says. “The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.”

“God has placed man and woman and the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth,” Francis says. “The design of the Creator is written in nature.”

That’s like the mother lode of terrible loaded analogies. Basically it’s fancy pope-speak for the whole trans-Frankenstein “meddling with God’s creation/what hath science wrought” boogieman, taken to it’s logical extreme.

He also compares literature that includes gender theory as “akin to Hitler Youth propaganda” and “a form of colonization” which is hilarious. Maybe the leader of the Catholic Church, literally the most prominent force in violent genocidal Western colonization in history, should shut the fuck up about throwing around such accusations until he cleans his own damn house. Go fuck yourself, Popebro.

For what it’s worth tho, as far as shitty scaremongering things to say about us, at least this one is so cartoonish it makes us sound badass. I am become trans, the destroyer of worlds.

COGIATI Is The Worst Classic Text Adventure Game #Retrogaming #90snostalgia

19 Jul

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So I know it’s been ages since I’ve done a video game review on here, despite promising I would be more proactive in that regard. So today’s game is a classic from the mid 1990s.  It appears to be some sort of text adventure created by the same designer that made the classic Apogee game BOPPIN.

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The game is called COGIATI (which is probably one of those nonsense magic words like XYZZY or PLUGH). It promises the acquisition of a “transsexual gender inventory” which honestly doesn’t sound very epic, but I’m not too good to grind for unusual and rare items.

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The game opens up with an admonition to “answer truthfully” to some questions that will follow, which I thought was cool because it reminds me of that fortune teller from the Avatar trilogy of Ultima games.

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It’s kinda dated, but I do get a kick out of the non-traditional methods of character generation. Some of the questions seemed to lead to certain classes, even though they were kinda sexist:

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And others that seemed to be pointing towards special super powers your eventual character may possess-

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The thing is tho, the questions never seem to stop coming. No recognizable character development or progress is shown, and some questions seem irrelevant or morbid-

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So then I finally get to the end of the questions, and instead of presenting a well-rounded character and a world to explore, I was presented with an ending screen:

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What a ripoff, right? I go through all that and I get is a psych recommendation. I mean, it’s better than the endings of River City Ransom or Ultima Exodus on the NES, but still. It’s almost as disappointing than the ending of NARC where it tells you to become a cop-

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So seriously, even if you’re somewhat of a completist when it comes to classic text-adventure games, you may want to pass this one up. There’s no plot to be seen, just endless grilling about your identity forever. Real life provides way more than that to spare.

#retrogaming Famicom Camera Is Pretty Dope.

3 Mar

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Been playing around with 8-bit camera apps lately, and my favorite free one so far is Famicom Camera. It’s pretty straightforward, with only options to change between 27 and 64 colors (most of the pics on here were taken with lower color rate), some retro borders, and the thickness of scanlines.

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I’ve had a chance to play with it with multiple subjects, and it works great for creating dramatic chiaroscuro but loses a *lot* of detail, even for 8-bit art. Still, it lends a very distinct look to photos, resembling more the graphics of, say, a PC-99 graphic adventure game. Really cool stuff.

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Flappy Bird Versus E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Which Is Worse?

5 Feb

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On Superbowl Sunday, I was at a chili cookoff at a sports bar, because why the fuck not. Thing is tho, I… can’t even try to get into the sports. Not even a gender thing (maybe) it just never did anything for me. So despite stuffing my face with near-limitless delicious spicy free food and understanding the team I was supposed to be rooting for was *annihilating* their opponent, my attention span was drifting. So, like the glutton for punishment I am, I decided to take on this game that goddamn near everyone is wailing about.

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This unholy affront to God and nature is Flappy Bird, a game that’s exploded into popularity so fast even the developer is baffled and terrified by it’s success. It’s an excruciatingly repetitive afterthought of a game where you have to give a bug-eyed bird constant screen-tapping reassurance or it falls into lethal despair.

ETflap3Um, bro, you seem to have forgotten how to bird.

Combine that with the actual worst collision detection I’ve seen since Master Chu And The Drunkard Hu, and you get the picture. It combines all the fun of Balloon Fight with… oh wait, Balloon Fight sucked and was the opposite of fun. Twenty years ago, a game like this would have been stuffed on a cartridge with at least 40 other abortions and had a cheetah on the cover. In this first post-Luigi year, a game like this is considered an effective standalone. How times have changed.

ETflap4Come the fuck on. Are these pipes solid or not?

I’m pretty sure high scores on this game could be used as a measurement for masochism on a fetish dating site.

“Oh, does this riding crop scare you? But you reported a high score of 150 on Flappy Bird, so you obviously enjoy pain more than you’re willing to admit. Bend over.”

Aaaaaanyway…

It makes me think of the downright elusive fickleness of what counts as a “good”, or at least successful, game. Speaking of poor collision detection, repetition, and brutal, unforgiving gameplay, I found myself rethinking the Atari 2600 game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, widely regarded as the worst game ever made. Like, millions of copies buried in a New Mexico landfill-level awful. It’s a reputation that’s never sat well with me because I always loved it since I was little. It was one of the first “quest” style cartridge games, and one of a handful of Atari games one could actually “beat”. Remember, this game was created by the badass that designed Yar’s Revenge, for fucks sake.

ETflap5It was basically Zelda 4 years before the first Legend Of Zelda.

It had it’s flaws (some of which people more devoted to it than I have worked on fixing), but it really wasn’t all that confusing, especially once you’re familiar with Legend Of Zelda type games. Pre-Zelda, I was addicted to the Apple ][ version of Rogue, which is pretty much the same thing.

In any case, to be a bit more forgiving to Flappy Bird than the Action 52 comparison, it definitely resembles titles from the Atari 2600 in terms of gameplay/difficulty/replay value. I stuck with it long enough to get a personal high score I can live with, and have already deleted it. I guess my masochism has limits.

ETflap6Oh my fuck I hate this game so much. Bye.

 

8-Bit App Review: 8-Bit Command Window

25 Jan

So one of the (many) things I wanted to start getting into on this blog was writing reviews of 8-bit retro-themed phone apps, so here we go on that. For our first shot at this, I wanna chat up the 8-Bit Command Window, a handy-ish $1.26 app I’ve been using on my phone for about a month now. It’s a set of menus that interacts with your other apps and is designed to resemble the command screen for the NES RPG series Dragon Warrior. It’s actually a package of several different size widgets (I’m currently using 2 of the 7 total).

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Most of it is pretty customizable, with some limitations put in place that are theme related (four-letter names like in the original Dragon Warrior being one of them).

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Functionally, it’s pretty straight-forward. “Talk” pulls up the phone, “Party” pulls up your contacts, “Status” shows battery charge, used/remaining memory and OS version, “Take” is your camera, and of course “Tweet”-

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The rest of the functions require “equipping” or “learning” your other apps like weapons or spells.

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It’s pretty fun, and if you’re bored to death with your phone’s normal OS it makes a clever shell, though I couldn’t imagine using it all the time. Definitely worth the buck and a quarter to pick it up.

River City Ransom: Underground. A FOR REAL Licensed Sequel.

9 Dec

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A million years ago (well technically just over five) on my old gaming/vintage/geek culture blog (Maybe) The Dorkiest Thing You’ll See All Day, I posted the story of a scrappy but failed attempt at a River City Ransom sequel. Lo and behold, a new team has managed to get all their ducks in a row to pull this off for real.

rivercityransom2You know it’s legit when Seanbaby is following their official Twitter profile.

They managed to raise $217,643 on their Kickstarter (which I regret having no money to contribute to because some of that swag looked really AWESOME).  Been keeping tabs on them through the aforementioned Twitter account for release dates and stuff.