Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blue Marlin

The Blue Marlin...Ah. I came across this little gem not so long ago, when my fiance's best friend was visiting. I think this is one of those games that is best discussed in picture format.
As it would seem, the entire plot of the game is to go fishing for--and capture--the elusive and legendary Blue Marlin.

There! There! Didja see it, in all of its eight-bit majesty?

And then, you start the game:

So that weird little nub in the middle of the screen? Your super-cool, uber-tubular 80s fishing boat. So cool that you might even see a be-stubbled Don Johnson staring at it longingly from a pier in Miami, wishing he had some way out of that vice cop gig.

Now, following behind the boat, you'll see an orangeish triton. That would be the GIGANTIC LURE that you're dragging behind your awesome boat.

That boat, I will add, was ridiculously hard to steer about the Floridian coastline. I bumped into the dock; I bumped into the beach. After a few minutes of putting that boat through a level of abuse that should have capsized it, this is what came up on the screen:

Apparently, after my drunken attempt at navigating the sparkling blue waters of the Atlantic and/or Carribbean, this crew member was a little worried about my driving.

But soon after that, excitement! Some fish silhouettes appeared in the water, and one of them was the titular Blue Marlin! Squee!

And that brought us to this screen:

And, as I am not a competent eight-bit fisherwoman, I later got this:

Now, my first reaction wasn't "Aw, damn, I didn't get the fish." Oh no. It was: "Holy shit! That's one beefy-ass fisher!"

Seriously, take another look at that guy. He looks like he should be a professional wrestler, all decked out in spandex and face paint, not hanging out on a boat chasing a fish.

So, having lost the Blue Marlin, I drove the boat around in the waters again. And again, I had some trouble steering the boat. Observe:

I gotta admit, this is about where I gave up. I'm not going to spend an evening helping some 'roid head chase a damn fish.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Could somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on in this game? Because I couldn't figure it out.

I even looked it up on Wikipedia and found no plot summary whatsoever, which means they don't know what the fuck's going on, either.

I played Rygar because it was one of those games I had played as a kid, but never got too far. And now, with the magic of Game Genie, I spent a Friday evening playing through the game. Because that's what I do on Friday evenings these days.

Now, I understand the general concept of controlling some little dude on the screen and killing monsters. It's great fun. But generally there's some kind of discernible plot. Not so much with Rygar.

All you know is you have to kill monsters, find five really weird-looking guys, and then kill a big boss monster. And the only weapon you get is what appears to be a bop-bag--one of those inflatable balls that had a rubber ring and string that would attach to one finger so you could punch it to your five-year-old heart's content.

Every so often you come across some gigantic old dude who gives you a hint as to where to go next, but these hints are about as helpful to you as a one-eyed chicken is to a blind man.


After getting this screen, I just shrugged. I had never seen those words before, and I didn't know what they meant, and therefore I didn't care. I pay more attention to soap operas on Univision, because I can occasionally understand (or, at least, think I understand) something they say on that channel. Here? Nothing.

Now, I thought this was worth the screenshot because of the creative use of quotation marks. It would seem the guru-fellow is trying to make a very pointed remark here. "Dorago" and "release my daughter" might be code for something...but what?

I would like to note that no female characters appear anywhere in this game.

Again with the weird words. I can just picture Napoleon Dynamite drawing Ligars all over the place. (Okay, I know it was "liger," but let me have my fun.)

And now for my personal favorite:

It all makes sense! The nonsense words, the cryptic phrases...these guys are cheerleaders! Nothing they say is supposed to make any sense anyway!

And this is what you get at the end:

So finally, at the end, we have some idea of what the damn plot was. And the lovely thing about the translation here is that they couldn't keep "Argool" and "Argus" straight. Wikipedia told me that in the Japanese version, the land was named Argos, but it was changed to Argool for the English version. Apparently the translator couldn't keep the two straight here.

After three hours of gameplay, I was rewarded by more confusion and a friggin' rainbow.

Thanks a lot, Tecmo!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

So here's one of the most recent in a long line of Zelda games. The plot, I assure you, is the same: Hack your way through monsters, save the princess, murder Ganon.

I must say, this game was made great fun by the Wii controls. It's like you're right there, murdering Ganon yourself!

As previously established, Link continues his assholery by walking uninvited into people's homes, breaking their shit, and stealing their stuff. And you know what? The villagers just friggin' love him for it.

I could go on about a lot of the odd elements in this game, but what really made this game shine for me were the peripheral characters. I will be highlighting four (well, technically, five) of them: the Mayor, the Really Gay Clown Guy, Malo, and the Yeti couple.

The Mayor: As his title suggests, this fellow is the mayor of Ordon, and is generally useless until Link has to venture into Death Mountain. To do this, the mayor must teach him sumo wrestling. As the lesson begins, you get a nice cinematic shot that goes between the mayor's legs and leaves you wondering, "Did I just see his taint?"

The Really Gay Clown Guy: This is the fellow you have to talk to in order to fly a chicken over Lake Hylia. Yes, you read that right. Take a ride with a chicken over a big friggin' lake. It's quite fun, actually. When I first laid eyes on the Really Gay Clown guy, I actually said, "Aaah!" He had makeup like a mime, Hammer pants, and a green polka dot shirt that essentially looks like a brassiere with long sleeves. He generally stands around with one hip cocked and calls you "big guy" a lot. Pretty creepy.

Malo: Malo is one of the children from Ordon, and by far the shortest. This kid is almost literally knee-high, and looks like a dwarf child who wants to be a Japanese theatre actor, and generally makes snide comments whenever he speaks. But somehow, after being kidnapped by monsters and deposited in a village far from home, becomes an entrepreneur. He reopens Kakariko's abandoned shop and badgers Link into buying shit. And when the shopping is done, Malo scoots what we can assume is his only customer out of the shop with "Time is money, so if you're done shopping, quit wasting both." Or something like that. The cocky little fucker.

Later in the game, Malo opens a satellite store in Castle Town, which is positively an orgy of commercialism with workers whose only duties are to dance or pretend to be buying things. I had a similar reaction to this place as I did to the Really Gay Clown Guy.

You can get some satisfaction after being snarked at by this kid, though. When you hit non-combatants in the game with slingshot pellets and arrows, they might fall, but they get right back up. I had a lot of fun shooting Malo in the head with arrows.

The Yeti Couple: About halfway through the game, Link encounters a pair of yetis, cleverly named Yeto and Yeta for the husband and wife, respectively. Yeto is about three times as large as his wife, and is working on a soup recipe to help cure his wife's peculiar illness. Link has to go through their home searching for a particular object, and will later have to beat the shit out of Yeta to get it, but I digress. What is most important here is the yeti assault.

To start out, Yeta sends Link on a quest to find the key to her mansion's bedroom. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but what actually happens is not nearly that interesting and involves Philip Glass-esque music.) Yeta marks a spot on the map where she thinks the key is. Link leaves the room, and finds Yeto standing over a big cauldron of reekfish soup. (Guess why the fish is named like that. Just guess.) So Link tastes the soup, and passes through to get to the spot marked on the map, which is a treasure chest containing a pumpkin.


Yeta then instructs Link to take the pumpkin to her husband. Link goes into the kitchen and speaks to Yeto, who knocks Link down and takes the damn pumpkin.

Here, you have just witnessed a yeti assault, and you have no semi-automatic weapons.

Yeto deposits the pumpkin into the soup, invites Link again to taste the soup. Back to Yeta, who marks another spot on the map. This time, it turns out to be a treasure chest containing--ta da!--goat cheese.

And we have a repeat of events--Yeta advises Link to take the cheese to Yeto, and again we are witness to the horrible crime of yeti assault when Yeto shoves Link to the floor and takes the cheese.

I suppose Link had it coming. He's pretty much been doing the same thing to everyone else up until this point.

Now, if Link ingests the finished soup with all these ingredients, it replenishes 8 hearts. Not bad for free food. The text in the game even refers to it as "superb soup."

But let's think about this for a moment, shall we? This is virtually the only food you see Link consume in the game, and it's soup made from foul-smelling fish, pumpkin, and goat cheese.

I've had fish soup, I've had pumpkin, and I've had goat cheese, but I can't even conceive what these three things would taste like together. All I'm imagining is something that's pretty gross and more effective at inducing a good vomit than playing with your uvula.

And yet here's Link, who, when he fills a bottle with it, holds up proudly like a kid showing his mom the macaroni picture he made in Bible school.

Good job, kid. Go ahead and chug that soup, and I'll go get a bucket for you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

So, apparently I wasn't paying attention when I made this graphic, because I totally used cheats, and totally used a walkthrough. Because I'm not 13 anymore, and no longer have catlike controller reflexes.

Also, those catlike controller reflexes require one to move to and fro with the action on the screen with one's tongue hanging out the side of the mouth as a show of effort/stress, and that's what I have a friggin' Wii for.

But I must say: This game still has it. It is still my favorite of the series. There is a certain charm to navigating this 16-bit world, and collecting all the items, and seeing what they can do. You still want to explore every corner and find all the secrets. You still want to know what the deal is with those weird dancing cucumbers.

As I was playing this game through again so I could write this post, my fiance looked over my shoulder and said something thought provoking:

"You know, when you think about it, Link's a jerk."

And indeed, he was right. When you think about all the stuff you have to do to complete this game, Link is, indeed, an asshole. He run around, slaughtering guards and monsters without a second thought, all in the name of saving the princess.

Let's take a look at some of the events in "A Link to the Past," shall we?

You start out as Link is jerked out of a dead sleep by a mysterious voice in his head. Last time I checked, this was a symptom of schizophrenia. But crazy ol' Link gets up, listens to the voices in his head, and goes out into the rain STRICTLY AGAINST HIS UNCLE'S INSTRUCTIONS. What impunity!

So Link trots into the castle, and stumbles across his uncle, who seems to be suffering from some mortal wound. Link takes the old man's sword and shield and leaves him to die in the castle's cellar. What a devoted nephew. Sure, the old guy told him to take the sword and shield, but I think he would have filched them off the corpse anyway. There's high adventure to be had!

Now, let's take a look at Link's behavior in other people's houses: He walks in uninvited and breaks their shit and steals their stuff.

This is the Hero of Hyrule, folks.

And then, there are the chickens, who Link can slash at or pick up and throw. Yes, animal abuse in video games is all good and fun, but in this game, when Link abuses the chickens too much, they gang up on him and kill him to avenge their fallen, clucking comrade.

Take that, Hero of Hyrule! You can wade through thousands of monsters, but you fall to chickens!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Legend of Zelda II

I can say I am a fan of the Legend of Zelda games. But this game sucks.

As a kid, we got both NES Zelda games from a boon of cartridges given to us by a neighbor. So after finishing the first one, of course I played the second one. The first one was fun, why shouldn't the second one be fun?

Well, it was certainly more involved--not always a bad thing. The graphics had been updated--again, not always a bad thing.

But the game turned out to be altogether too hard, and the close-up scenes for battle were a little bizarre. First of all, it would appear that Link is just stabbing enemies overhand with a sword, which seems to look more like a very large kitchen knife.

I suppose this is possible, if he got news that he was supposed to save Hyrule yet again while he was switching to a career as a chef, and that the gigantic sword he had to retrieve from the mountain top was just three feet too far, and he had a kitchen knife in his hand anyway. So why not give 'em a nasty salmonella infection if you can't impale them properly?

Secondly, when travelling from place to place, any time you stray from the path, you are in danger being attacked by some very odd-looking monsters. Wiggly blobs, dog-men with spears, spiders, and all sorts of things abound. You get the occassional fairy, but mostly, you're going to have to jump around and stab things. A lot.

There's even one scene were you can get hurt by bubbles. BUBBLES.

I remember beating the game as a kid, but I haven't been able to as an adult, even with Game Genie codes. I got to the final palace, fell down a hole that I can't get out of, and, well, let's just say Ganon took over Hyrule, because even with the code for infinite magic, for some reason I couldn't turn myself into a fairy and fly back up to where I was.

Oh, yeah--you can turn into a friggin' fairy.

Now, let's take a look at the villagers. Sure, they're generally helpful--talk to the right ones, find out what you need to do next. And in each village, there is a woman who, if you follow her into her house, will restore your life. Normal game device, maybe, but you have to wonder about a woman who takes strangers into her home, and they leave mysteriously revitalized.


And then each village has a wise man hiding in the basement of some building. Again, what is it with the elderly hiding in dank, dark rooms to dispense wisdom to passing adolescents? And the stairs going down to these cellars are each the height of a person--it's safe to say there's no escape for these old folks. I can't say that there's any way for an arthritic old wizard to climb the series of mini-cliffs up to the main floor of the house. The along comes Link, who demands some kind of magic spell, and then bounds away, leaving the old man alone in a dark room once again.

What an asshole!

There just isn't a whole lot to like about this game. I can't even make fun of it properly--I had to drag out the old elderly-living-in-caves material that I used for my entry about the first Zelda game.

I would say that's evidence of this game's uselessness.


Don't call me Ishmael, okay? Because I am not friggin' Ishmael.

This game turned me into Ahab.

For about 24 hours, maybe less, I developed an obsession with this game. See, I figured out how to up your own power so you could knock down Jaws--you have to go back and forth between the two ports, and if you docked with at least 5 conch shells you upped your power.

So there I was, going from port to port, excited that this game that had always vexed me during childhood and made me just throw down the controller, muttering, "This blows!", was about to meet its match: Adult Laura.

Adult Laura has the power of logic and reason, of life experience. Some stupid pixelated shark could be no match to my Vulcan-like video game reasoning abilities.

Okay, I'm not even remotely Vulcanesque. But you get my point.

When, after sailing from port to port and numerous encounters with jellyfish, sting rays, and Jaws hisownself, I finally faced the big bad shark and shot so many of those weird little arrows into his face that his power bar went down to nil.

I was pleased.

I was pleased, because I thought I had beat the game.

But I hadn't. See, once I had knocked down that power bar, the game knocked me into a different screen. It was like looking into the water off the bow of a ship. I figured out that by hitting A, I could make Jaws pop out of the water, and by hitting B, something happened with the ship--it jolted forward.

All I can figure is that I'm supposed to make Jaws pop out of the water and them ram him with the damn ship.

Oh, did I try--I sailed around the screen, looking for Jaws. I'd find him, get dropped into the water. I would deftly maneuver the diver to and fro, firing madly at Jaws and those smaller sharks that keep popping up.

And do you know what would happen, time and time again?


In my hands, I held the power to kill JAWS. A BIG, EFFING SHARK. And then pow! a jellyfish.

J E L L Y F I S H.

So do you know what hours of cursing at the screen and shooting the shit out of sharks amounted to? Me being defeated by friggin' jellyfish.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bad Dudes

Words will not be enough to describe this game. I have some screen shots that will help me relate the awfulness that was this game to you, the reader, who I will presume never played this game.

First of all, after the opening sequence where you pick which dude you'd like to control, you are greeted by this:

For such a tragedy to befall the United States of America, this fellow (identified as a Secret Service agent in Wikipedia, and not, as I thought, "some kind of pilot guy") seems very calm. I mean, the president was just captured by friggin' ninjas!

I mean...ninjas?

So you have fight your way through veritable clouds of ninjas who just throw themselves at you as you slowly trudge your way through scene after scene to get to the Dragon Ninja.

Without Game Genie codes, I am not a bad enough dude to rescue the president. I couldn't even weed-whack my way through the ninjas with enough energy to beat the boss at the end of the first level. But with the Game Genie codes, I am, indeed, a bad enough dude to rescue the president.

So, armed with my cheat codes, I punched, kicked, knifed, and nunchucked my way through level after level. You got your blue ninjas, your grey ninjas, your red ninjas, ninjas, your lady ninjas. You even got your dog ninjas. All of these I knifed with impunity. It's pretty brutal looking, once you pick up the knife for a weapon--you pretty much just end up knifing everyone in the face. At the end of each level, you are rewarded by a satanic computer voice belching at you, "I'm bad!"

And at the end of the game, in true NES fashion, you have to beat all the bosses you already vanquished before you can beat the Dragon Ninja. These bosses are pretty odd. The first one's just fat and you have to hit him in the belly; another turns himself into 5 ninjas about three times before you can stop pushing the A button in a frenzy; another fellow with a staff whirls about like a ballerina. And the Dragon ninja himself, well...just take a look.

That's my dude on the right, and the Dragon Ninja, who I shall from here on out refer to as "Rufio", is hanging out on the helicopter. The helicopter then lifts up into the air, and you have to jump up there and knife the snot out of him. Or nunchuk the snot out of him. Whichever one you've got at the moment. And Rufio goes down pretty easy.

After that, the helicopter lands, the president gets out, and you are thanked. This is how your efforts are rewarded:

No parades, no monetary reward, no offer of a job in the Secret Service, where you'll be able to wear the cool gigantic sunglasses and bomber jacket like the fellow who asks you to save the president.

Nope. What you get is burgers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Legend of Zelda

This will be the first of a few posts about 'Legend of Zelda' games. That's because I've played a handful of them. As far as gaming goes for me, this series is a holdover from childhood.

A link to the past. Ha!

Bad puns aside, the old one still holds strong, happy memories of sitting up late at night in my room, sitting cross-legged in front of my tiny TV, playing NES games into the wee hour of the morning during summer vacation.

Thanks to that, I still get "cravings" to play video games into the wee hours of the morning when the weather turns warm.

The Legend of Zelda--the original, in that deviant gold casing--was one of the games I played the most. Over and over. I'm not sure why; nothing ever changed. You always killed monsters, stabbed the crap out of Ganon, and saved the princess. It is like many, many other games, and a myriad of folktales.

And yet this game was exceptionally fun. There was a challenge in killing the monsters; you could shoot projectile swords; the elderly hang out in caves and dungeons to dispense advice, hand out weaponry, and oversee gambling games.

Originally, when I made the up-top graphic for this entry, I thought that I would be musing about the fact that you could shoot with the sword, because the sword is obviously not a projectile weapon unless you have the strength to chuck it at someone--and hit them. But this is all easily explained away by the fact that there is magic all over the game, and the sword must therefore be magic. End of story.

I am more interested, at the moment, in the old people who are scattered about the game. Now, when I worked in West Branch, my coworkers and I would sometimes go to a fast food restaurant. At this restaurant, there was always a nasty old woman behind the counter, and I would joke that the restaurant used an "enslave the elderly" program to recruit staff members.

I believe the Powers that Be of Hyrule use the same program.

Think about it: You've lived well beyond everyone you've ever known. I make this assumption because there's a medieval feeling attached to everything, what with it being a fantasy game and all. And in the medieval era, people made it to about 30 and died somehow. So these old people, they're something special just by virtue of their ability to remain alive.

And here we find them hanging around in dank caves and dark rooms, always between two bonfires. And it would seem their only purpose is to hang around, waiting for some plucky adolescent in a ridiculous green hat to show up, waving a sword and various other magical/sacred artifacts around like they're nothing.

That has got to suck.

How would the posting for that job ad read? Well, here's my idea:

"WANT TO SERVE YOUR KINGDOM? No manual labor, plenty of cooking fire. Training provided. Must have ability to wait long periods of time. Send inquiries by carrier pigeon to GUY IN CAVE, S.E. HYRULE. Great position for retirees!"

And, of course, Hyrule's few elderly folk fell for the trap. Only a couple of old women had the foresight to make any kind of profit from the deal. One of them sells red and blue liquids which she claims are potions, but I personally think they're some kind of energy drink that makes the little green gelfling on screen so hyper that he only thinks his life energy has been restored, but really he's just hopped up on guarana and caffeine and berserking on squirrels that he thinks are peahats.

Imagine that sight for the old guy's who's waiting for some kid to arrive so he can tell said kid that Dodongo hates smoke, but finds some little turd hopped up on roofies (here to mean, guarana and caffeine) who, as previously mentioned, is swinging a sword around.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Sims 2

If you haven't read my entry on The Sims, take a minute to do so. It'll set the tone. The mood. The climate. The, er, background stuff.

So anyway. You already know that when it comes to playing the Sims, I'm a sick, sick, sadistic freak. Doubly so with The Sims 2.

Of course I looked up the cheat codes right away. I didn't want to waste any time with making my Sim get a job, saving up money, and earning a cool house. That's for schmucks. I want free money!

And yes, my fascination with the undead continued. I created a Sim just to kill in the pool, so that there would be a haunted house.

Then I removed the ladder and watched the poor, be-mulletted bastard paddle around in the pool for days.

"Why are you watching this?" my fiance asked me more than once. I don't think I had any kind of satisfactory answer.

Now, when I found out there were vampires in The Sims 2, I was intrigued. Okay, maybe "geeked" is a better word. At first, I thought that making a vampire was just making a gothy-looking Sim. Oh, no no no. They can be an actual blood-sucking undead, bat-transforming freak.

But to make your Sim a vampire, you have to go to a community lot, find a vampire, befriend said vampire, and then MAYBE they will bite you and turn you into a vampire.

Well, fuck that. My fiance found a cheat code, and behold--there were vampires in Strangeville. Or Strange Town. Or whatever it's called.

We started with a vampire teenager. His dad was a man whose wife had left him for a vampire, was afraid of vampires, and had to live with his damn vampire son and mother. So we had some fun, and found out that our vampire teenager--transformed by the magic of a cheat code--could turn into a bat, stalk about the house, and smoke when he flew outside into the sun.

We also discovered that, when he was hungry, the vampire would make a sandwich, not eat it, and pantomime that he was hungry.

Later, we used the vampire cheat on the dad. Turns out that in The Sims 2, when all of a Sim's fears are realized, they go bat-shit crazy. As in, a psychiatrist appears to treat the Sim.

I declared this "cool."

On another vampire adventure, we decided to create a whole vampire family. A vampire mom, a vampire dad, and an adorable vampire toddler dressed in a black suit.

Well, we were able to turn the adults into vampires, but sadly, the toddler had to remain human. Even the cheat code creators have limits.

I do not.

So we build a house for this vampire family, and by some glitch I level the terrain incorrectly and make it so the family can't go inside the house. We watched as the couple burned to death in the sun, unable to figure out why they just didn't go inside the damn house, and each turned into a pile of ashes, leaving behind their infant son. The kid then crawled around outside the house for a little while, happily splashing around in a puddle of what I presume was his own urine.

Don't worry about the tot, though; a social worker came and picked him up.

Throughout the whole thing, my fiance looked on in horror. I, however, thought it was hilarious.

I'm very sick. Sick, sick, sick.

The Sims

Let me say this right now: The Sims is no fun without using cheat codes. If you do not use cheats to give yourself all the money in the world, then it's like playing Pretend Real Life. And Real Life sucks enough without being reminded of it by some stupid little simulated human who just babbles at you and pees on the floor, no matter how many times you click on the damn toilet.

Also in playing this game, I discovered that I am sick. Sick, sick, sick. I mean, I got the cheat codes, learned how to play the game, tried playing it the real way a few times, and then decided I wanted to see what else this thing could do.

I think, in the end, I broke up about 40 marriages, created 18 neighborhood feuds (insofar as that is possible, anyway), turned several people into frogs with the Makin' Magic expansion, and killed countless Sims just so that there would be a few haunted houses on the block. And I cackled the whole way.

I'm sick. Sick, sick, sick.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

River City Ransom

This was, for a while, my favorite game to play after a bad day at work. Because all you do in this game is beat the ever-loving snot out of people.

Now, they have it coming--they're all punk-ass gang members. Not quite as hardcore as, say, the Bloods or Crips, but certainly as angry and lethal as the ones in West Side Story, but, sadly, without all the dancing and catchy tunes.

The whole plot here is you control some dude who has to save his girlfriend and fight his way to the high school through hordes of different gangs. And I do mean hordes. By sheer numbers alone, you would have to assume that the city's entire male youth population is taken up by gang membership.

As you go through the game, you can either punch your opponents and take any weapons they have, or you can sometimes find them just laying around on the ground. You have a choice of 2x4s, lead pipes, brass knuckles, crates, trash cans, and chains.

The chain was always my favorite, because it's the closest thing the game has to a projectile weapon. Some punk-ass comes running at you, and you can just whip the chain and whack him in the head before he even comes close to you. And these guys will always say something. Sometimes it's "Mommy!", and sometimes it's the more cryptic "Barf!"

This is also the only game I have every played where, among the various items you can use to restore your life energy, CDs work. You go to the malls--which are teeming with what must be the girlfriends of all these gang members, but they don't care that you're the only guy running around there--buy a CD, somehow listen to it in the heat of battle, and find your energy restored.

Once soothed by the sounds of classical/rock/R&B/country music, you can go back to whipping the shit out people with the awesome, fantastic chain.

Black and White

The Penny Arcade guys said that the only remarkable thing about this game is the creatures, and they were right.

There's nothing quite as fun as having a 20-foot tall pet/minion who can pick up a whole cow (or human, for that matter) and just pop it into his mouth like a friggin' bonbon. Or a pet that can destroy a house just by pooing against it.

Now, here's the odd thing that always, ALWAYS happened when I played this game. I would end up with a creature who was aligned on the side of good, because I don't take any of that backtalk shit from a giant monkey. He acted bad, he got bitch slapped. But, if you as a deity don't always follow the strictest of moral rules, your hand icon gets veiny and sprouts claws. So I'd end up an evil deity with a very ethical minion.

Then again, I never had any trouble picking up people who were badmouthing me and just flinging them toward the horizon.

Wii Sports

It had been a long time since a game had brought out such an intense competitive streak in my personality, but there was just something about playing sports through those little Miis that just made me want blood.

It started with the boxing game, where you get to beat the tar out of your opponent. And at the start, I was pretty good at it--trouncing over almost anyone who dared challenge me. (Don't worry, I did eventually get my ass kicked.)

It all just kept rolling downhill from there, and now I can't really even get my fiance to play Wii Sports with me. So now I'm left to just scream, "I WILL DESTROY YOU!" at whoever the computer will pit me against.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Illusion of Gaia

Again, we have a Japanese game where the main character is a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. Again with the yin-yang universe crap. But here's the fun part: You bludgeon your enemies to death with a flute.

You're an adolescent bad-ass with a flute and psychic powers! Hellz yeah!!!

I'm not going to go too much into the plot here. This game was made by the same folks who brought us Terranigma, so there are some similarities. (Okay, a LOT.) The main character's name here is Will, he's telekinetic, and he has a bunch of useless friends who tag along with him as he explores various ruins looking for his dad or something. You really don't care.

There's a princess involved, but the unique twist with this game is that she has a pet pig who, late in the game, throws itself on a fire to feed some hungry villagers in Cambodia. This totally makes the game worth playing, just to see that moment. You can almost smell the sizzling pork. Actually, as I write this, it's making me a little hungry.

So what I'd really like to focus on here is just how useless buddies can be in video games. I know that in a lot of games, when the controlled character is paired up with someone, that partner plays some sort of function like, I don't know, carrying all of the shit you accumulate on your journey. They must have access to some magic portal that leads to a dimension containing the most organized closet ever. But not Will. Nope. His stuff just hangs out somewhere, presumably the Dark Space that they keep babbling about in the game. And his friends just tag along, two girls fight over him.

As the game goes on, Will's buddies reunite with him on some legendary Incan ship, and one of them falls into the ocean and gets swallowed by something called a Riverson. I'm thinking it's a big fish or something. Then they just get picked off one by one by various things and annoy you, the player, along the way. Will, onscreen, seems to take this all in stride, probably because he's essentially just an amalgamation of pixels.

After getting your ship destroyed by some monster that ate your buddy, you end up floating on a chunk of wood with the princess, eating raw fish, and getting scurvy. You drift into a town, reunite with all your buddies (except the dead one, of course), and have to get one of your buddies' memory back.

Then there's an adventure involving going through a vampire couples' underwater palace. What they're doing underwater, I don't know. But when you make your escape through some tunnels, someone starts banging on the damn walls from the outside. Turns out it's your dead buddy, who has been reincarnated into the Riverson somehow. I'm still not sure how that works out.

You do that, then wander over to another town, where another buddy finds his papa. Two buddies stay behind. But always tagging along is the damn princess.

I can't even remember how the last buddy drops off. Maybe you just leave him somewhere in the desert.

Luckily, though, you generally only have to babysit the buds between levels. You don't have to herd them about while whacking the shit out monsters with your damn flute.

And speaking of the damn flute, every time Will has to use his telekinetic abilities, he twirls it. He twirls it two-fisted like he's at the head of the most bizarre parade ever.

Maybe I'm obsessing about the flute a little too much. As the game goes on, Will can change shapes into some kind of pupil-less knight and plasmic being, so the flute will not be your only weapon. But it's all Will's got in his normal form. He's got telekinesis and a flute.

Can you imagine what happened when those monsters went to their afterlife?

Monster 1: "I got stabbed by a sword. What happened to you?"

Monster 2: "Oh, burnt to a crisp by a fireball spell. What about you, Mr. Skeleton?"

Monster 3: "Some damn kid bludgeoned me to death with his purple flute."


And so Monster 3 is teased for eternity. Hope you're happy, Mr. Bludgeons-Everything-With-A-Flute.

Friday, July 24, 2009


So you battle your way through monsters galore, face down communists, and revive and develop the worlds major cities, sit through Buddhism 101 and all for what--to face a gigantic, satanic Mothra at the very end?

That's kind of what happens in Terranigma. Here's the basic plot: Your name, inexplicably, is Ark. (I've tried to figure out if there's some kind of significance to this, but as far as I know Ark doesn't get coated in gold leaf and house any holy commandments.) Old guy in your village sends you on a journey which will ultimately revive the world. But the journey starts out with a trip around the five towers outside of your village, where you will encounter a guy who's just a few spikes shy of looking like Shredder. You kill a gigantic insect monster. And this means that you're ready to revive the world above with the help of a weird little pink ball with wings named Yomi.

Now, to get to the upper world, you have to say goodbye to your girlfriend and jump into a giant crevasse. As it turns out, you've been living underneath the surface of Earth, just hanging out there, and not getting burned alive by magma.

Despite the way I've been writing here, I actually enjoy this game. Like most RPG games, the plot is a little ridiculous. There's romance in the air. There's drama. There's killing lots of monsters, which is the entire point of most video games.

So when you get up to the surface, you first have to revive all the plants, which you do by killing a giant parasitic monster choking some kind of giant tree that talks to you. And the plants talk to you, too. And one of the flowers even sings you a song. Now, the appearance of the plants is kind of a mystery, but this happens throughout each of these revival missions: you kill the boss, emerge from wherever you where, and everything's suddenly, conveniently revived. One minute the earth's surface is a volcanic wasteland; the next, it's covered in green.

The next mission: Revive the world's birds. Here, I just want to not that the state boss is two giant birds, and one of them uses its poo as a weapon. You got it: lethal bird shit.

Then you revive the animals, which is followed up by a mini-mission in which you help a lion cub become king. (No, the cub's name is not Simba.)

And now for reviving the human race. You get to climb through the Himalayas, talk to Yetis, and eat a dead, frozen goat after being urged to do so by its surviving mate.

And then you revive the human race, fall into a deep sleep, and wake up in a town called Lhasa. This begins the main adventure. You get to make friends with a Buddhist monk, save a girl from a village full of her zombie playmates, wander around the world a bit, get killed, get reincarnated, and then go kill Satanic Mothra.

I'm not kidding. The final boss is a big flying moth-man, and all you have to kill him with is a big stick. Is it any wonder I was using cheat codes?

So enough with the plot layout. And there is quite a plot attached to this game. But here, you do see some themes that are going to pop up in Japanese games: yin-yang duality, blond-haired blue-eyed youths, and general f***ed-upedness.

Now, when I played the game for the first time and encountered several world cultures through the game, as written up by Japanese game developers, I learned that they saw the world like this: 1. Paris is awesome; 2. Buddhism is awesome; 3. Tourism is awesome; 4. Americans do nothing but work; and 5. Ridiculing the Chinese is A-okay!

I'm going to elaborate on point 5 here. Now, as Ark makes his way around the world, every world culture and even the plants and animals are more articulate than the people you meet in the game's equivalent of Beijing. The buildings are squat an unattractive; there are flies circling bare light bulbs hanging from the ceilings. The doctor uses traditional medicines and has weird things in jars in his office. And the Chinese characters speak in broken English. Now, in the game, the French don't do that, the Portuguese and Spaniards and Japanese speak perfectly. Only the Chinese people's dialogue has been translated as all broken up.

Not cool, Japan. Not cool.

But the Japanese get their comeuppance: Not too long after it appears on the map, Tokyo is destroyed. I suppose that just happens from time to time, and the residents there are quite used to it by now.

Other little gems you get to see: a sassy '90's black kid on a skate board, communists that look like KKK members, a chicken race, an Aussie zoo, and Christopher Columbus.

If you're looking for an old game to play and relive the SNES days, I'd recommend checking this one out. It's pretty big, world-wise, for an SNES game, and lots of fun little missions to go on. And, in pre-destroyed Tokyo, you can find where the software company has actually written itself into the game, and is staffed by (if I remember correctly) a bunch of chickens.

As you develop the world, you also get to explore the US. There are two major cities to visit in the game's version of the US: Freedom, roughly where Washington DC is and seems to be more like NYC; and Nirlake, which is roughly where Chicago is and seems to be a cross (pre-development, anyway) between Crossroads Village and, well, Nebraska.

And, at the very end, you face Satanic Mothra.