Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I Failed My Husband

So, here's what happened:

I got all excited, submitted my article to chickswithjoysticks.com, and couldn't figure out how to submit an image with it.

Now, Jeremy had made this really awesome image to go with the article, and since I screwed up and didn't get it on that website, I'm going to post it here for all to see, because he really did put a lot of thought into it.


Make sure you get a good look at the posters. Let this be standing evidence that I married a truly awesome guy who just wanted to support my hobby. If you like this, please shower him with praise on his Facebook wall.

This is what it was supposed to adorn:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Well, I'm back after a blogging hiatus! For your reading pleasure, I played through the game Astyanax, the title screen of which is displayed above for your viewing pleasure.

Astyanax was one of the games that came in a box of NES games that we were given long ago, in the early 1990s, by some friends of the family. There were some classic gems in there, like Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3, and the two NES Zelda games.

And then there were games like this one. Games that might have languished, forgotten on some shelf, if they had not ended up in the room of a eleven-year-old girl who thought it was better to sit inside and play video games during summer vacation than to do something more productive, like go outside in the sunshine and let my body manufacture some vitamin D.

As a kid, the farthest I ever got in this game was the first big boss. It's quite difficult in gameplay, because the computer essential just pelts you with repeating enemy after enemy, and they don't stop coming until you move. (Sorry, Jurassic Park fans: The enemy will see if you stand perfectly still.)

I decided to save myself the headache in re-playing this game for the blog and got myself some Game Genie codes and completed the game in the span of an hour. And I would say about half of the time I spent playing was devoted to the plot of the game.

Of course, with this being a fantasy game, the end goal is to save a princess. This particular lady is named Rosebud, and it turns out she's been contacting the title character through his dreams and interrupting his time palling about with his high school gang of kids who roll up the sleeves of their T-shirts.

Yes, yes, Astyanax, very good. He then goes on to tell us that his name comes from Greek mythology.

Now, keep in mind this kid will, through the course of the game, become a powerful hero. Because that's what happens in games like this. But let's take a look at the Greek legend, and who he was, and what he did.

According to Wikipedia, Astyanax was the infant son of Hector of Troy and was murdered by the invading Greeks, who were worried that as the son of the heir to Troy's throne, Astyanax would grow up and want revenge when he reached adulthood. Now, Wikipedia offers a few different versions of how the infant actually dies. In some cited literature, the Greeks throw Astyanax from the city walls. In another version of the tale, the Greek Neoptolemus ended up clubbing the Trojan king Priam to death with Astyanax's dead body.

What a wonderful choice for the name of a video game hero.

Anyway, back to the plot:

So young Astyanax (the one that wasn't thrown from the walls of Troy or used as a deadly weapon) keeps having dreams that some hot chick is calling his name, which probably isn't all that unusual for a teenage boy.
Yeesh. You can draw all kinds of lewd conclusions here.

So anyway, one day, Astyanax is walking around, minding his own damn business, and gets yanked into some crazy fantasy land by a Jazzercizing fairy named Cutie, who begs him to save the princess of Remlia, Rosebud, who is incidentally the hot chick that Astyanax has been dreaming about.Check out those leg warmers! Now, I'd like to add something here. It looks to me like Cutie's got grasshopper wings, and in a second here, Astyanax asks her if she's a talking butterfly. Sounds like someone didn't pay attention during the entymology unit...


And Astyanax himself is suddenly dressed in battle armor. Observe:

I was left wondering, after Cutie somehow poofed away a minor's clothes and replaced them with armor, why she didn't poof him a pair of pants. That's a little creepy.

Anyway, back to the plot. Turns out Rosebud's been kidnapped as part of some nefarious plot by the evil sorcerer Blackhorn, who wants to take Rosebud's power, whatever that is. You never really find out. All you know is that some freaky little fairy kidnapped a teenage boy and told him that he had to save a princess and sent him into the world without pants to fight monsters.

So here's Blackhorn, and his henchman, who I'm going to call Skeletor:

That's Blackhorn. He is white, orange, and green. If you're having trouble figuring out what he looks like from that image, it's because YOU SHOULD NOT USE ORANGE AS AN OUTLINING COLOR.

And the henchman:

He has a name, but I forgot what it was. So he'll be known as Skeletor.

So basically, the big bad guys are pissed off that Astyanax killed the first big monster, a creature ridden by some little freak in armor. The creature's head comes off and flies around, and you have to hit it with the weapon until you have to fight the freak in armor.

All of the major boss fights are like this: Some monster comes in from the right, and it moves back and forth and spits things at you until you whack it in the head enough times to kill it. (Alternately, some monsters have a jewel embedded in their chest that you have hit. But they still move back and forth across the screen.)

As the game progresses, you get more hemming and hawing from the incredulous bad guys, and we're treated to a bonding moment between Astyanax and Cutie:

The whole conversation takes place while Cutie, who also has no pants, is sitting provactively on Astyanax's shoulder. She asks him a very obvious question--if he's homesick. Of course, he answers that yes, he is. Cutie offers to guide him through some Jazzercize routines, but he politely turns her down.

Now, if I was actually put in that situation--that is to say, some magical little creature plucked me away from everything that was familiar and dropped me, pantsless, into a strange land and forced me to fight a bunch of damn monsters--I would not be having a civil conversation around a campfire. Oh, no. I would demand a pair of pants and march straight home.

But not the boy who is named after a legendary prince who was thrown from the walls of Troy or maybe also used as a blunt object in the murder of his grandfather! He seems to be just fine with all of this.

Anyway. Then you fight some more monsters and come to the big battles at the end of the game. Of course, the first battle is against Skeletor. (As I'm looking through my screenshots, I see that his actual name is Thorndog. I'm sticking with Skeletor.)

So Astyanax fights and defeats Skeletor, but that wily bastard has a trick up his sleeve! He does some magical thing that makes it so Astyanax has to die as Skeletor is dying.

But wait! It turns out that Cutie is more than a flying aerobics instructor! She somehow trades places and dies with Skeletor instead of poor, pantsless Astyanax.

And here, we can see Astyanax go through the four video game stages of grief:

1. Bargaining

2. Anger

3. Denial

4. Vowing revenge

Of course, Blackhorn does die, because I used Game Genie codes.

So anyway, Astyanax rescues the hot chick/princess, and she wants to take him back to her homeland for a celebration. He refuses and asks if she can please just send him home where he can put on some damn pants.

But wait, dear reader! This is no tragedy!

Astyanax goes back home, hangs out with his gang some more, and is once again walking down the street, minding his own business, when...

Why, Cutie is alive and well, looking for a position as a Jazzercize instructor in late 80's/early 90's Big Modern City! How can this be??

Oh, that Princess Rosebud! She's sneaky, putting herself into the burning hot sun like that and bringing her friend back to live in another dimension somehow, even though she was fine with letting the fitness-loving fairy die and stay dead back at home.

So there you have it. You can take a kid, give him a REALLY lame name from Greek mythology, and he'll go save a princess in another world and come back with a girlfriend who used to be some sort of grasshopper/Jazzercize fairy creature. Just make sure he takes an extra pair of pants with him wherever he goes.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Legend of the Ghost/White Lion

So, the Legend of the White Lion is probably an NES game that you've never heard of, and there's a good reason for this. (The title as it appears on the screen is Legend of the Ghost Lion, but in the game the damn cat is referred to as the White Lion, and I'm too lazy to go back and redraw an image that it took me exactly thirty seconds to create.)

We'll go over the basic plot with the help of images in a moment, but for now I'm going to explain game play. It's a turn-based RPG. You click here for this guy to do that, you click there for that guy to do this, and yadda yadda yadda until everyone in your party/group/congomerate is done taking a turn hacking at some enemy. In this game, it can be orcs, or zombies, or some flying lion called a manticoa.

Now, I love the environment, and I give a lot of thought to how I should be recycling. (I fail in the actual act of recycling.) I suppose the artists of this game are positive ecophiles, because I noticed a LOT of recycling. The same basic image was used for several different enemies; they were just colored differently and had varying hit points.

Okay, now that you have an idea of how the game is played, and how it could take so FREAKING long to play this when you have to arrange eight different things to make one strike on some stupid-looking flying lion.

Enter: The plot.

Meet a young girl named Maria. Her parents are missing after going off into the ether to seek out the truth behind the legends of the White Lion. You get the impression that she lives somewhere on the African savannah, and her parents are doing something that sounds vaguely racist, like "studying the natives." They're not going to call it something neutral, like "anthropology."

Yeah, you're not going to know what follows that "and." Check out that awesome 80's hair. She disembarks with a spear. Now, that spear is not a weapon, oh no--it contains the spirit of a warrior named Moja that she can call on whenever she's in trouble.

Meet Moja:

There he is. Ta-da!

Now, in searching for her parents, Maria and her spear spirit travel into a magical world, where instead of hit points (like in a normal RPG video game), you have courage, and instead of magic points, you have dreams. Oh, yeah, and instead of leveling up, you find fragments of hope.

This was a game made for girls, folks. Apparently girls can't handle complicated things like "hit points" and "magic," despite the fact that we are practically bathed in unicorns, princesses, and wicked witches from the age of 2.

Maria and Moja bounce from pixellated area on the map to pixellated area on the map in this magical world, fighting monsters, visiting towns, pillaging treasures, and picking up all kinds of crap that has spirits in it to help complicate the battles.

Let's meet some of these friends:

I know he looks like Dumbledore, but he's some dude who pops out of a lamp.

And now meet the nameless halfling. I don't know what he's half of, but here he is:

It would be much cooler if he looked like Elijah Wood.

And now, for the nameless elf:

And now, the Wing Man:
Unfortunately, there are no seedy bars in this world where Maria can go pick up guys, so Wing Man's true talents are not realized in this game.

And now, for the Centaur:

Yep, half-man, half-horse. Looks about right.

And the giant:

I just imagine that he just yells "GIANT!" whenever anyone says something to him, and that the other spirits hate his slobbering guts.

Oh, yeah, and there's a giant snail, but I somehow didn't get a screen shot of that. In case you were wondering, it looks like a giant snail.

So, after trudging around for what seems like forever, Maria and her posse finally enter a pyramid, kill a bunch of monsters, and finally come across the creature that she's been looking for, because for some undisclosed reason, this will somehow reunite her with her parents.

Readers, I present to you, the W. Lion.

Yup, it sure is a white lion.

So, Maria and her gang whack the shit out the legendary White Lion.

And what happens when they succeed?

Oh, snap! The enemy was riding along in a magic lamp all along! And what does he have to say for himself when he's found out?

Oh, don't worry. Ol' Twana spouts off some shit about the importants of dreams and hope and courage, and a lesson is learned by all, and he gives Maria some fancy pendant to help her along in her quest.

And then, it turns out, Maria has been sleeping all along!

Well, probably not sleeping. It turns out that she almost drowned in a river, so she was probably unconscious and delusional. She gets scolded for it by her mother.

But don't get upset, gentle reader--Maria is wearing the pendant, proving that she had her mind fucked with by some creepy old guy!

And at the end, we get treated to the following images of Maria remembering her journey through the magical land of...whatever it was.

Now, normally I like to sum things up with a final thought, but there is no final thought here. This game was so odd and nonsensical that all I could do was mutter, "My brain, my brain..."

My husband, who usually watches as I play these games through for these blog posts, got so bored watching it that he generally went off and did something more interesting.

So, here we are. No special insight, no little nugget of wisdom for you to take away. Just join in the confusion, and try to avoid the creepy gaze of Twana if you have to scroll back to the top.