Monday, June 27, 2005

"Horror Movie Review 2-Pack"

I saw a couple of horror movies this weekend. Nothing new. Just a couple of older films: Session 9 (2001) and Haute Tension (2003). Check it.

Haute Tension(2003)

I saw this movie first. Sean brought it over on Friday for Horror Movie Night. We played poker longer than we'd intended, so it ending up being the only movie we saw that night.

So, OK, I gotta get this out of the way: it's a French film. There, I said it. You can stop reading now, if you want. ;) But honestly, this movie does have some balls. Believe it, or not! In fact, I checked out the IMdB entry, and it turns out that it got edited in every other country when it was theatrically released. We had the privilege of watching the original uncut French version though. So, if you end up watching this movie, make sure you get your hands on the original French release with subtitles.

Speaking of subtitles, for some reason they were all fucked up when we watched it. They started out fine, but they eventually got way out of sync. I mean, at times the subs were up to a minute early! Normally, that would completely fuck up a movie experience, but fortunately, there was very little dialogue in this movie. Most of the talking took place early, when the subs were still synced, and after that, there were like 10-20 minute stretches with absolutely no dialogue. And even when there was dialogue, there wasn't very much of it.

So while there was little being said, there was a lot being done. After the obligatory set-up, the movie jumps right in with the slashing. And that's what this movie is: a straight up slasher flick. There are a few suspenseful scenes, but for the most part, it's all about the blood spurting everywhere. That's what ended up on the cutting room floor with foreign releases. A lot of the reviews I see on this movie say that it's really, really gory and gruesome, but I must be desensitized from all the killing I do in my spare time because it didn't really seem that bad to me. I think Japanese films like Ichi the Killer and Audition are far more brutal. But then again, this is France we're talking about here. Remember, I said this movie had balls, but I didn't say they were big ones.

It's worth mentioning that there is a twist to the thin plot, but it's not a very good one. It's got a cop out ending too. I could be a dick and ruin it, but some people still might want to see this movie.

Ultimately, what we have here is a movie with little plot, a moderate amount of suspense, and quite a bit of bloody slashing. Not too bad, but nothing great either. If you want a throwback to those 1980's slasher flicks, give this a shot. Personally, this gets a 6 out of 10.

Session 9 (2001)

I had rented this movie for Horror Movie Night, but I didn't get around to seeing it until Sunday evening. I pretty much just randomly picked it off the shelf at Blockbuster.

First impression: this movie is slow as shit. Second impression: David Caruso's in this?!? I hadn't seen David Caruso in anything since NYPD Blue. Anyway, David Caruso wasn't that bad in the film, but the slow start was sort of annoying. For the first 15 minutes or so I was like WTF is going on? It wasn't like surrealistic confusion. It was more of like "I came into this conversation late, and I don't know wtf is going on" type of confusion. Eventually, you get the picture, and we move on.

The premise to this movie is actually kinda cool. An old, abandoned insane asylum is going to be renovated. A small team of five people is hired to clean out the asbestos shit before the renovation can begin. They're offered a bonus if they finish the job in one week. Creepy shit happens. Personal secrets are exposed. People die. I have to point out though, that I don't consider this a true horror film. It's definitely more suspense/drama than horror. There is a fair amount of blood and whatnot, but it's not the main draw. This isn't a gruesome movie.

In fact, Session 9, in contrast to Haute Tension, is completely cerebral. I can dig that. It's always scarier to imagine things in your head than seeing monsters on the screen. Manipulating the viewer's imagination is the scariest technique that a horror/suspense filmmaker can use. For the most part, the director succeeds in making the viewer think. The problem is that we don't have to think that much. Being a contemporary suspense/thriller, it has the obligatory plot twist, and although it isn't as contrived as Haute Tension’s, it still not very good.

The best part of this film was how believable and real the characters were. There weren't any silly teenagers running around getting naked and getting themselves in stupid situations. That's not to say that the charcaters didn't do some stupid things sometimes (like hardly ever working on what was supposed to be a 'rush' asbestos removal job), but overall I liked them, and I believed their intentions were true.

Still, I don't know if that's enough to recommend this movie to others. I can see how some people would like it, but I can also see how some would hate it. I didn't know anything about this movie when I saw it, so I didn't have high expectations. That helped. Unfortunately, now you know something about this movie, so that angle is shot for you. ;) In any case, it's a solid 6 or a weak 7 out of 10.

Word of the Day: halcyon (adj) – calm and tranquil like the halcyon bird that was said to calm the seas. It can also mean the good ol’ days or a golden, prosperous age. Ex: Sometimes, I long for the halcyon years of gaming, so I fire up my dusty Atari and go to town on some asteroids.

Trivia of the Day: RDI, the company that created the Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Thayer’s Quest laserdisc games, released a home laserdisc game console named Halcyon in 1985. The cost? $2500. Yeah, I don’t have one. :(

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Some Funny Gay Shit"

Aaron just sent this link to me, and I couldn't stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. ;)

Make sure to go through them all!:

Either they were really gay back in the 50's/60's, or we're really perverted now in the 2000's. Probably a little of both...

Bonus (thanks to Pete):

Word of the Day: impecunious (adj) - always without money, poor, without the ducats. Ex: Being an impecunious college kid sucks balls, but being an impecunious college drop out sucks bigger balls.

Trivia of the Day: I have a birthmark in the shape of Smurfette on the underside of my... hehe... just kidding. *Ahem* "The sixth sick shiek's sixth sheep's sick." is officially recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records to be the hardest English tongue twister in existence.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Long and Complex"

Seems like there's been some talk lately about long length and complexity as a negative in game design. CNN recently interviewed Shigeru Miyamoto (legendary creator of Mario and Zelda games amongst others) who bitched about it some. That sparked some more talk on the subject at some gaming site (I'd never heard of) that got linked to by shacknews. Personally, I've held this view for a long time: Long games simply aren't fun for me anymore.

I just do not have the patience to play games for very long. I might have at one time, but now there are just too many games out there that I want to play. Honestly, no matter how good a game is, after a while... I start getting antsy. I'll get 10 hours into some RPG, and then I just have to peek at a FAQ to see how far I'm into the game. Only 20%?! Fuck. I become disheartened. And that's skipping all the bullshit side quests and mini games that just make it longer. Fuck that. I'm not playing this game for 40 more hours. I may like it and all, but now it's become work. There are other good games out there waiting to be played.

And that's part of the problem I guess: I'm spoiled by all the choices out there. I buy a shitload of games, and even still I don't get every single 'good' game out there. You know how many games get 9's every month? Lots. It might sound ludicrous, but yeah, I'm saying there are too many great games being released. Especially too closely together. I might have enjoyed that 40 hour game if there wasn't another game tempting me. Instead, I have to deal with the multitude of unopened 'good' games sitting on my shelf... calling my name. It's gotten to the point that I almost hate the Holiday Game Flood because so many games I want all come out at once.

My favorite games are games that I can pick up, play for a bit, and put down. No story. No item collecting. None of that shit to get in my way of enjoying the game. Presently, that boils down to competitive gaming (fighting games, puzzle games, racing games) and portable gaming.

Competitive games are, by nature, quick gaming fixes. With no story to worry about, the only thing you focus on is the actual gameplay. That's why I love games like Street Fighter II, Bomberman and Quake III deathmatch. Every game doesn't NEED a story to be fun. Because, you know, sometimes I just don't feel like spending the time to hunt down all the fucking armors and gems in the world. And the worst offenders, man... those are the games that don't give you the 'good' ending unless you 100% it (Hello, Metroid Prime, I'm looking at you.) Fuck that. What kind of bullshit is that? 100% should give you something EXTRA, not show you the real ending.

Anyway, the other games that rock, the portable games, are meant to be digested in bite sized morsels. Games like WarioWare and Feel the Magic are great. I can even get into games like Hot Shots Golf on the PSP because it's designed so well. It has short quick golf competitions and is just perfectly suited to the needs of the pick-up-and-play portable gamer. Even RPG/Strategy games like Advance Wars and Mario & Luigi for the GBA were bearable. You can save anywhere (why can't you do that in ALL games?!?) and the missions weren't too long. Console game designers can learn a few things from portable game designers.

Getting back to the complexity issue that Miyamoto brought up… yeah, that's pretty shitty too. But for me, I wouldn't even pick up a complex game. Complexity is never fun... whether it be in a short game or long game. Overly complex games can rot on the fucking shelf. You should re-think your design if you require the gamer to use every fucking key on the keyboard and then use shift or ctrl to access even more functions. And while I'm at it, hey Unreal guys: we don't need 20 fucking guns in an FPS to make it fun OK? We don't use them all anyway. Pick a few and make them balanced and useful instead giving us 10 guns all with alternate fire. I'd much rather see a game that had marketing hype like "You'll actually want to use all 5 guns because they're useful!" instead of "Choose from 15 guns, each with alternate fire!". And to those simulation 'game' makers, your shit needs to be sold in another aisle at the store because learning how to fly a fucking Cessna isn't a game. Unless your Cessna shoots vulcan cannons and can pick up shield powerups, your shit belongs in the software productivity section, next to learning to play the guitar or some shit.

Word of the Day: prolix (adj) - tedious, long, wordy and drawn out. Ex: After reading my rant on prolix games, some assholes out ther will bitch how they're not getting they're $50 worth... to which I reply, "Trade it back it after you finish it, you cheap bastards!"

Trivia of the Day: The PS2 game Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht promises 80 hours of gameplay on the back of the case. 80 hours?! Fuck.

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Well, shit."

I forgot to tack on the WotD and TotD again yesterday. So, here you go. These are for yesterday:

Word of the Day: vitriolic (adj) - Vitriol literally refers to sulfuric acid/metal sulfate. Figuratively, it's something scathing, corrosive or caustic. Ex: The vitriolic criticism Uwe Boll has received for his inept movie directing, hasn't thwarted his plan to ruin every video game-based movie within his reach.

Trivia of the Day: The cop in the game Monopoly is named Officer Edgar Malloy. The guy behind bars? That's Jake the Jailbird. I'm not making that shit up either.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

“Overrated Games”

Writing that article about good games that a lot of people never played got me thinking about overrated games over the years that have really bugged me. These games were lavished with undeserved praise when they were first released and have since, somehow, been heralded as classics. So, here’s my feeble attempt to right these wrongs: my list of games that are regarded much too highly when they actually suck.

Some of you might recall that GameSpy made a list of overrated games a while back. It received well deserved criticism. For some reason, GameSpy decided to clump overhyped and disappointing games in with overrated games in their infamous list. Anything that’s overrated, as you would imagine, is rated higher than it should have been. Therefore, a game that got panned by the critics cannot be overrated by definition. So, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness and Enter the Matrix (No.’s 8 and 3 respectively on GameSpy’s list) cannot be overrated games since everyone pretty much agreed those games sucked.

Anyway, with that being said, let’s get on with it.

Mortal Kombat [1992]

Yes, Dave, I stole your precious screenshot.

System: Arcade, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy, Game Gear, Sega CD, PC

Why it’s overrated:

At the time, fighting games were hot. Street Fighter II had blown everyone away with its great graphics and amazing gameplay. And like any good genre-defining game, it was immediately cloned about a zillion times in an attempt to cash in on the fighting game craze. For the most part, the clones sucked. They offered little different from SFII and they quickly faded into obscurity. Then came Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat, I admit, brought a lot of new elements to the fighting game genre, but unfortunately, most of those changes were novel at best. The most glaring example of this is the fatality of course. It added absolutely nothing to the gameplay. The same goes for the digitized graphics. Honestly, I didn’t really care for them. While they appeared more realistic at a glance, the animation was simply terrible. The characters moved like they all had sticks up their asses. And the addition of the block button and ‘tapping’-style special moves made an already stiff game even more cumbersome.

The truth is that MK played terribly, and the only reason anyone ever played it was for the digitized gore. There were no combos to speak of and the strategies involved in playing the game were pretty basic. MK was and still is a terrible game. I will admit that the series improved dramatically with MKII, but that’s another story. MK was a terribly playing game, pure and simple.

The only decent move in the whole game.

Cuz, you know, I didn't get enough Track & Field in the 80's.

Scorpion loses!... umm... wait...

The only reason people played this game.

Myst [1994]

Thys game ys shyt.

System: Mac, PC, PlayStation, Saturn, Atari Jaguar CD, 3DO

Why it’s overrated:

If you’ve played this ‘game’ recently, you should already know what I’m going to say here. No fucking story, no coherence, retarded random puzzles, almost no animation and a bajillion games sold. Go figure. Myst always was and always will be garbage.

This is what happened.

Myst was first made for the Mac. Mac users didn’t (and still don’t) have shit for games so any new game that came out was snatched up in a heartbeat. CDROM technology was new. Myst was a CDROM game. Ooooh. High resolution pre-rendered computer graphics were still a novelty. The game was considered ‘oh so pretty’ even though people were just watching a slide show. The Mac users are retarded and are amused by the ‘wondrous’ puzzles and ‘enchanting’ environments. Myst sells a buttload of copies. People smell money and port it to every fucking console with a CDROM. Because it’s so popular on the Mac, people play it, and even though they don’t get it, they pretend to or risk looking silly. The End.

Wow, a pre-rendered pathway.

Wow, a pre-rendered telescope.

Wow, pre-rendered stairs.

Wow, a pre-rendered bedroom.

Shenmue [2000]

Must... remain... bland...

System: Dreamcast

Why it’s overrated:

If you want to play a ‘find every character and talk to them multiple times’ game mixed in with a little Dragon’s Lair and very little Virtua Fighter, this is your game. If you’re sane, like me, stay away from this overly ambitious yet underachieving game. Those people that gave it 9’s are out of their skull.

You literally do very little more that what I outlined above. Talk to a whole bunch of people until you unlock a mini-game. Do the mini-game and go talk to a whole bunch more people. Where’s the fun in that?

I think people rated this game so highly because they got caught up in all the voice overs. There haven’t been many games that have this much voice acting in them. I remember playing this game back when my sister lived with me. After a couple of hours of hearing me play this game (she was upstairs in her room while I played in the living room), she finally came down and asked me with a confused look on her face, “What movie are you watching?” That’s pretty much how it feels too: like you’re playing a slightly more interactive version of Dragon’s Lair. It’s really too bad that its main drawing point, the voice acting, was so uneven too. Some characters were pretty good, while others, like the main character, were pretty bad.

Yu Suzuki, the game’s designer, had a grand vision: to create the most enthralling real-world adventure game ever. Instead, he made a laserdisc game for the Dreamcast. People wanted so badly to buy into Suzuki’s grandiose plans for this game, that they forced themselves into thinking it was a masterpiece.

A little side note here: if you want to simulate playing this game, buy Shenmue II for the Xbox for like $10. It comes with a DVD movie of the entire first game. Yep, you can just watch the first game being ‘played’. What more proof do you need that this game was really no game at all?

Talking to some lady.

Talking to another lady.

Wow, that's different. Talking to a man now.

Ok, THIS is funny!

Valkyrie Profile [2000]

Only $75, and it's yours to keep!

System: PlayStation

Why it’s overrated:

I honestly don’t’ know why people love this RPG so much. It’s a highly sought after PlayStation collectible as it was released near the end of the PlayStation’s life when games tend to have smaller production runs. Prices on eBay range from $60 to $180 dollars for this game depending on its condition. So I made myself play through this game just to see what all the fuss was about. What I found was that this game’s mechanics were poorly designed and the character development was extremely shallow.

I used a guide to get through this game to assure myself that I would get the best ending and see the most stuff. You see, one unique feature of this game is that you can skip almost everything past the very first dungeon. I didn’t. I did everything I could. But even still, I can’t tell you what the fuck the whole point of the game was. The plot development was terrible. There are so many characters that you don’t get a chance to really get to know them, and therefore you don’t really give a shit about them when they’re sent off to Valhalla.

The actually gameplay is extremely redundant: at the start of the level, hit SELECT to see a new voice/cutscene, go to the area/town where the scene pointed you to, watch the cutscene and get a new character, hit SELECT to see a new cutscene, if it’s a dungeon, go to it and beat the repetitive monsters, if not, go to the town and see the next cutscene and get a new character, hit SELECT to see a new cutscene, if it’s a dungeon, go to it and beat the repetitive monsters, if not, go to the town and see the next cutscene…. Ugh. No wonder they allow you to skip stuff. It’s torturous. Anyway, along the way you send some of your built up characters to Valhalla to fight the good fight alongside the Gods, but it’s all really rather boring.

Somehow this became a collectible and then it got ‘popular’, but if you play this game for an hour or two, you’ll realize just how ‘blah’ this game is. I won’t get into it, but even the music is repetitive and sucky. The bottom line is that there are many better and cheaper RPG’s out for the PlayStation. Don’t bother paying the big bucks for this one unless you’re a collector and can find it cheap.

Horses and stuff.

Field of crap.

Some lame battle.

This game is so boring, you get this shot again.

Monday, June 13, 2005

"Small Update"

Not to take away from the monstrous post below, but I forgot to add the word and trivia of the day to that post, and we can't have that, now can we?

Well, I might as well make a small update too.

Remember that old adage: "Good things come to super kickass people."? Well, it's true. Check it. As you may or may not know, I've been unable to procure tickets to the NBA Finals, The Homestar Runner show at the Drafthouse (with the creators on hand) or Green Day floor/GA tickets. At the last minute I ended up with Game 1 and Game 2 tickets to go see the Spurs at the NBA Finals as well as a ticket to see H*R live and in person! The NBA Finals games were incredible. I'm truly convinced that the Spurs were and are the best team in the league by far. The H*R show rocked. Matt and Mike Chapman and their buddy/helper Ryan showed up at the Drafthouse, got drunk, and guided us through their DVD made exclusively for the Alamo Drafthouse crowd here in Austin. I even got them to autograph my DVD set of Strong Bad's 1st 100 E-mails. Those guys are down-to-earth and just awesome in general.

Now if I could get a couple of Green Day tickets...

Word of the Day: bourgeois (noun/adj) - Someone pertaining to the capitalistic middleclass, or being materialistic, petty and/or and an exploiter of the working class. Ex: Tiffany's bourgeois lifestyle is reflected by her taste in overpriced espresso which she drinks while dropping off her kids at their private school in her new oversized SUV.

Trivia of the Day: Dee Jay, introduced in Super Street Fighter II, is the only Street Fighter character designed by an American. While Capcom of Japan created Cammy, Fei Long and T. Hawk, James Goddard at Capcom U.S.A. came up with the fighting Jamaican. Additionally, the writing on Dee Jay's pants was originally supposed to say "MANTIS", but had to be changed to "MAXIMUM" so that the character sprite could face either side without reversing the letters "N" and "S". Goddard left Capcom U.S.A. to create the fighting game "Weaponlord" for the SNES. That game sucked.

"5 Great Games You've Probably Never Played"

Even with video games having been in the mainstream for a while now, there are still some gems out there that few have had the pleasure of playing. As with the music and movie industry, a lot of great games simply fly under the radar. Sometimes a great game gets made for a dead system that either never got off the ground or was at the end of its life. Really awesome import-only games, mostly from Japan, often times don't get ported to the U.S. because no one thinks they'll sell. And sometimes, you just have to be old enough (30+) to remember some of the long forgotten classics!

Let's take a look at five such games:

Name: Badlands [1984]

I reckon this here's the best laserdisc game ever.

System(s): Arcade

Reason you never played it:
Badlands came out right in the middle of the video game crash in 1984. Chances are slim that this laserdisc game made it to your local arcade (if you still had one by 1984.)

Why you should play it:
To be honest, I'm not sure that you can play this game anymore. I don't think this game was ever ported to any system. It was a laserdisc game, but one no where near as popular as Dragon's Lair or Space Ace. So, not a lot of people played it, and since games like Dragon's Lair rely on nostalgia to sell, chances are slim that someone will make the simple port over to DVD or one of the current generation systems. I was lucky enough to have this in my local movie theater arcade, but I was so young that I never was able to finish it.

Badlands is basically the coolest laser disc game ever. It's set in the old west, and the tone of the game seems almost serious. Buck, the protagonist you play as, narrates the opening scene of the game: "We were livin' a quiet life, when one day for no reason my wife and my children were killed in cold blood! And I was wounded, unable to help. Why this? Why US? Why? I won't let them get away with it. I'll get every last one of 'em!" Wow, how much cooler is that than chasing down a dumb old dragon? You're attacked by bad guys who burn down your house and kill your family? Damn. That is cold. The bad guys did make one fatal mistake, though... they left you alive.

You wander around the old west hunting these bad guys down. Collecting bounty on their heads as you progress. There are classic settings such as saloons and showdowns in the middle of town. However, there is a reason why I said it the tone of the game seems almost serious. Everytime you die, you die in hilarious ways: a scorpion jumps up and gives you a mohawk haircut, a rattlesnake wraps up your horses legs and it trips, you get smoked and served up on a giant plate. And I haven't even mentioned the level where you end up in a dinosaur infested jungle. Very strange.

The control is also very unique. Yes, control, as in singular. We're talking a single, huge, red button. No gun or joystick here. All you do is wait for the right time, and press it to shoot. But it's not as easy as it sounds. You have to be careful because if you shoot too early or when there is no visible threat, you end up being hanged. If you shoot too late, you're swiss cheese. And this game really keeps you on your toes. The scenes that play out the story aren't always the same. For example, in one scene you walk into the saloon, mosey on up to the bar, and the bartender reaches under the counter. Sometimes he pulls out a whisky, and sometimes he pulls out a gun and shoots you. So you gotta be quick on the draw!

If you ever see this game in an arcade, I recommend that you spend the $10 or so to finish it because it's unlikely you'll ever see that game again. If you know of a console or emulated version, let me know!

Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

I looove it, Reynaldo. It's simply faaabulous!

It was a dark and stormy night...

Tayshaun Prince at Halloween.

Name: Earthbound 0 [1990]

Yes, the 'zero' was added by the ROM dumpers.

System(s): NES

Reason you never played it:
For one, it was never officially released in the US. However, Earthbound 0 is not an import. It's a translated version of "Mother" for the Japanese Famicom (NES) done by Nintendo themselves. Read below for more on this bizarre tale.

Why you should play it:
The short of it is that Earthbound 0 is the unreleased (in the U.S.) prequel to the fantastic Earthbound RPG for the SNES, and therefore it can only be played via an NES emulator. The long of it actually quite interesting.

In Japan, Nintendo released a game called Mother for the Nintendo Famicom (equivalent to the US NES) in 1989. It was an RPG unlike any other. You played as a little boy living in a suburb of modern day city. You carried around your items in your backpack. You called home via telephone to save your game. You used weapons like baseball bats, slingshots and frying pans on enemies like hippies and stray dogs. It was a refreshing change from the dungeons and dragons-like fantastical settings that dominate this genre even today.

That's not to say that the game isn't rooted in the console RPG. You still stay in hotels, eat food to regain health and have a form of magic, known as PSI powers, available to some characters. In fact, a good portion of the enemies are alien type creatures. After all, your adventure revolves around investigating weird, paranormal acitivity that seems to have affected your town.

So this is all well and good, but if this is such a great game, why wasn't it ever released? The story goes that Nintendo of America actually did have the intention of releasing this game in the U.S. They even had it translated, and other than the packaging, the game was pretty much complete by September of 1990. But even with the U.S. prototype cartridge in hand, NoA simply felt that the timing wasn't right to sink money into releasing an RPG since they weren't very popular in U.S. So, due to a marketing decision, Nintendo of America sat on one of the greatest NES games of all time.

In the end, someone, somehow, ended up sneaking the prototype cartridge out. It made its way into a few collector's hands, and the game ROM was eventually dumped onto a PC. There's a lot more to this story, and if you have some time to kill, you should read more about it here
Something strange... in your neighborhood.

Podunk, USA.

I lied, there is a dragon.

OK, and a robot.

Name: Gal's Panic (series) [1990-1999]

Original Title Screen Action!

System(s): Arcade, Sega Saturn

Reason you never played it:
This series was only officially released into Japanese arcades. Although, sometimes you can find local arcades that imported this strange game. Le Fun in Austin, Tx used to have a Gal's Panic machine, and they might still.

Why you should play it:
First, a history lesson, as most of you probably don't remember Qix. Qix was an old (1981) arcade game where you controlled a pointer on the screen that drew lines. The point of the game was to draw solid boxes without the pointer getting touched by bad guys floating around the screen. When you'd complete a box, the boxed in area would turn a different color and you ate up a certain percentage of the screen. After you'd completed a certain percentage, you'd clear the screen and try again on a fresh screen with faster enemies. Now, imagine Strip Qix. That's Gal's Panic.

The premise is the same: guide your drawing pointer thing across the screen without getting caught by the bad guys. The twist is that there is a silhoutte of a young (when aren't they young?) girl in the background. As you enclose areas of the screen with your line maker thingy, the enclosed areas you've created uncover a portion of the fair maiden. If you uncovered a high enough percentage of her silhoutte, the screen would clear and you could see her entire, usually sexually charged, body.

In later versions of the game, you can enclose bonus items like a telephone icon that would give you her phone number (bonus points) or powerups that made your drawing thingy faster. Also, in later versions of the game, you could earn short animation sequences of the girl partially nude if you completed her silhoutte 100%.

Overall, this is a pretty fun game, even without the scantily clad (and occasionally nude) women... I mean, young girls. The reason this game is on this list rather than Qix, is because the later versions of Gal's Panic actually play a lot better than Qix does. In Gal's Panic S2 you aren't limited to 90 degree lines like you were in Qix. I'm serious, it had nothing to do with the girlies. Really.

Ugh. Do I have to?

Gameplay on version S2.

You've degraded me 100%. Congratulation! Go to next area.

Ayaah. Silly me, I fell. ^_^

Name: Herzog Zwei [1989]

System(s): Sega Genesis

I prefer hard techno, personally.

Reason you never played it:
You were too busy playing your NES, and they never made a Herzog Zwei cartoon series or breakfast cereal. Plus, it was a real-time strategy game and nobody knew wtf that was back in '89.

Why you should play it:
You don't have to be an RTS fan to appreciate this game. The thing that gets most people about RTS games is that they're too fucking complicated. I mean, I'm not saying every game has to play like Pong, but there is something to be said about simplicity.

Being an RTS, the game is unsuprisingly played from a top-down perspective. But surprisingly, you control a huge transformer general. You can switch from a jet figther looking thing to a giant walking robot and back at will. Kinda like Starscream, but without all the whining. Ulimately, you want to destroy the enemy HQ which has a fighting-game-esque non-regenerating life bar. You proceed to build units to take over and defend the minibases sprawled out across the map. The more bases you control, the more money you make per second. And that means, guess what? You can make more units. Up to 50 per side. If you don't suck, you'll start to move in on the enemy HQ and eventually beat it down.

The units are all ground units, and there aren't very many of them. The basic unit, the infantry unit, is the only type of unit that can take over minibases. It's also the only unit that can climb over mountains and cliffs. Infantry are easy to kill, but absolutely necessary. Then you have your tanks. They're really the only way to damage the enemy HQ. Other than the boats, which act as tanks on the water levels, those are the two units you'll use the most. There are also motorcycles and armored cars, but they're mostly just used as decoys. On the defense/support side, you have a missle launcher, which only attacks the enemy commander. It's more useful than you might think. And then you have the huge turrents, which are expensive, slow to build, and tougher than any other unit on the map. Turrets fire huge guns and missles. You'll be using these quite a bit too. Finally we have refueling truck that keeps all your nearby units stocked with ammo and fuel.

The levels are pretty well thought out and offer wildly different game play experiences. With 8 different planets (maps), you'll have to deal with different terrains like the ice world where your units slip'n'slide all over the place, the volcanic world where there are rivers of lava that damage your units, and a water world where the majority of your forces will be boats and you'll be fighting island warfare. Good stuff.

Overall, it's just a fun game, especially in two player split-screen mode. I've always thought there should have been a sequel on the genesis, but I also think that the time for a sequel has definitely passed. If they made one now, it'd be overly complicated and in full 3D. That would totally kill the very thing that made Herzog Zwei fun.

Muliplayer Action! Oh, Yeah!

Incoming missle!


If you see this, buy it.

Name: Parodius (Series) [1989 - 1996]

Translation: Parodius! - Seriously, It Says That –

System(s): Arcade, Super Famicom, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Gameboy, PC Engine

Reason you never played it:
Parodius games are import-only. It's a very popular series in Japan. But despite all the platforms to which it's been ported, and all the different sequels and versions, there has never been an official U.S. release. See below.

Why you should play it:
Parodius is a Parody of the well known Konami shooter Gradius, hence, the clever name. It plays pretty much like Gradius with a bizarre twist that only the Japanese could concoct.

For starters, you get to choose your ship from a list of oddball choices: would you like to go with the traditional Vic Viper (the Gradius ship), or maybe a stickman riding a paper airplane, or a Playboy Bunny girl riding a torpedo, or how about you get animalistic and go with a Penguin with an umbrella or an angel pig complete with a halo and wings? That's just a sampling, too. There are many more 'ships' to choose from, but you get the idea. And as unique as the ships are, the enemies you encounter are even more strange. How about shooting down some Easter Island heads, teddy bears hanging from hot air ballons, or fish skeletons?
The bosses? Even better!: a giant Las Vegas Showgirl that takes up the entire screen, a Pirate Kitten with 6 legs which act as oars to its pirate ship body, a HUGE mermaid with a nice set of ta-tas, and a Giant Bald Eagle dressed up in Uncle Sam garb.

The powerup system is great too. The powerups are in the form of bells that change color when you shoot them. Certain colors have certain powers. One of my favorite powerups is the White Bell. When you grab a White Bell, your ship gets a megaphone and shouts japanese phrases at your enemies. The phrases are spelled out in a long line of characters spouting from your megaphone. Anything the phrase touches, dies. Simply perfect.

So if this game is so good and had so many sequels and ports, why was it never ported to the US? Well, to put it mildly, the game is very Japanese. It relies heavily on Japanese cultural icons like sumos, public bath houses, crane games, and mythical japanese creatures. A lot of that stuff just wouldn't translate well. And in addition to the general "Americans won't get it." reason, Parodius games have some pretty un-politically correct elements like the aforementioned shooting down of the American Bald Eagle. Throw in a female Easter Island head boss that shoots long phallic torpedos slowly from its mouth, and Playboy Bunny girls riding torpedos and, yeah, that game is never coming to the U.S.

The bottom line is that all these crazy things makes a great game like Gradius even better. Even if you don't get the cultural references, you can still laugh at how fucked up the Japanese are. It's fun to progress to the next area just to see what kind of crazy-ass boss they've got waiting for you there. If you throw in a "spot the overt sexual reference" drinking game, there might not be a better way to spend an evening. So, yeah, if you like shooters, you owe it to yourself to play this game. It's a colorful, demented romp through the pysche of a male japanese gamer on acid.


Hot Megaphone Action!

You don't even want to know what's going on here.

Hey, I'm offended!

Monday, June 06, 2005

"NBA on TV"

I'm a little bummed about not being able to get Spurs tickets for either of the first two NBA Finals games. Claire, Sean, and I all tried to get tickets the minute they went on sale on, and we were able to get 0. That's pretty disheartening. Sitting there, refreshing the page until they go on sale, filling out the form as fast as possible, and within 20 seconds, they're still all sold out. Lame.

Oh, well. I guess we save some money, right? Maybe I'm trying to console myself, but watching the game on TV isn't so bad. You get real-time stats, replays, great viewing angles, and other shit like that. That's pretty cool. With my DVR, I can even rewind and pause when I want.

Really, the only major drawback to watching the games on TV is having to deal with those goddamn commercials... ugh. And they probably wouldn't be so bad if they didn't show the same ones like 1000 times throughout the playoffs. I love watching the games on TNT because they have great HD coverage of the game and back at the studio where they do game analysis. But TNT must only have like 10 sponsors because they play the same fucking commercials so often that they have a negative effect on me. I absolutely loathe those commercials and their products. Someone must have done some market research on that right? No? Then here's a freebie: Stop showing your shitty commericals 20 times a game so that I won't hate you. Thanks.

Anyway, I guess this is a nice problem to have. While most fans' teams have already bowed out of the playoffs, the Spurs are in the NBA Finals for the 3rd time in 7 years. They beat up quite nicely on the Suns in the Western Conference Finals and will have had 8 days of rest before they play the first game of the NBA Finals this coming Thursday. That'll give Duncan and Ginobili some time to rest their beat up bodies.

Word of the Day: garrulous (adj) - talking too fucking much about shit no one cares about. Ex: While waiting to get into QuakeCon, I always end up in line next to some garrulous geek.

Trivia of the Day: The title to awesome PS2 game "Katamari Damacy" is a pun. The kanji symbols literally mean "Clump Soul", and since the characters look very similar to each other, they make a kind of visual pun. Additionaly, the second character is really "Tamashii" (soul), but following the word "Katamari", it ends up being pronounced "Damashii", and "dama" means "ball".

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Annoying People"

Trusted friend and loyal ally, Ryan "Habib" Reynolds... err... Fields brought up an interesting question in the comments section of a previous post: What makes a person annoying? Hmmmm... Good question, Ryan. Let's get started.

While I'm easily annoyed by people, I'm not so arrogant as to assume that I don't annoy the piss out of other people too. Everyone's annoying to someone for some reason, right? Finding something or someone annoying is purely a subjective process. If this wasn't the case, annoying people wouldn't (eventually) find others willing to breed with them so that they can create more annoying people. I shouldn't have to explain this. This is inherently true.

Of course, anything subjective is tricky. You like this thing. I think it sucks. I'm usually right. Well, you know what I mean. You get the idea. But while finding someone annoying is subjective, it is possible for a person to be generally annoying, and I really think that's what we're asking: What makes a person generally annoying?

The answer is pretty simple. I'd say that the one thing that all 'generally annoying' people have in common is that they are not able to read or do not respond appropriately to other people's interpersonal feedback. That's a long ass way of saying that "They don't get the 'hint'". Sometimes they won't pick up body language that says, "The sound of your incessant whistling of Bon Jovi's smash hit 'Living on a Prayer' is grating." Or maybe you're on the phone, and they don't pick up on your monosyllabic responses that say, "Hey dude, I'm so not caring about what you're saying right now." Or maybe they don't get the hint when you never return their emails or instant messages. The point is: they're not responding properly to your feedback. That's what makes people annoying.

An important sidenote to that: People that do pick up on that stuff, but don't give a shit, are a special type of an annoying person. They're assholes. How can you tell the difference between an generally annoying person and an asshole? Easy. The asshole is the mean one. So there's a little bonus for you, Ryan. Not only did I point out what makes a person generally annoying, but I pointed out what makes a person an asshole for you too... at no extra charge.

BTW, if you have comments about any blog entries. Umm, use the comments feature? Other people might share your view. Sound good? Good.