I am the Yokai Watcher on the Wall

September 16, 2014

Years from now, a generation of Japanese men and women will be fondly reminiscing about the summer of 2014 as the Summer of Yokai Watch 2. Heard of this game? You will. It met the 2 million-unit sales mark less than a month into its release, and that is probably important, but I’m much more impressed by the game itself and everything it encapsulates about being young in Japan during summer vacation.

In this game, you play a Japanese fifth-grade boy or girl whose summer vacation has just begun, and your main quest involves doing all the things that Japanese kids do on their month and a half-long break between the first and second semester. Now what is that exactly? Well, catching bugs, going fishing, and street festivals play a big part in this, but also going to visit your relatives out in the boonies is a very real, if not stereotypical part of the Japanese childhood experience. Somehow, Level 5 has translated all of this and more into a cohesive game that makes goofing off in your town just as worthwhile as fighting monsters. And if you’ve ever spent time in a Japanese town, you’ll see just how immaculately they have managed to recreate damn near everybody’s childhood here with a fully-interactive environment more realistic than even the metropoli of Grand Theft Auto. I fucking love it.

Whenever I move back to the United States with my family (no matter how much I’d love to do just that, let me tell you) I am inevitably going to miss my life in Japan, and I think it will weigh even heavier on my wife and children who were born here. But I know that whenever I need the flavor of being alive here in this crazy country, I will always be able to jump into a game of Yokai Watch 2 and be magically transported back with wizardry that would make Doraemon blush.

As for the meaty questy part of the game, you have the very Pokemon-esque task of catching and cataloging the many monsters you encounter. These are the titular Yokai, a word which refers the mythical creatures of Japanese folklore. For anyone up on this, either through traditional tomes or other expositions into the Yokai world such as Ge Ge Ge no Kitarou, the familiar faces of the single-eyed umbrella ghost or the lady with the long neck are easy to place. If you’ve studied Japanese and can piece together the linguistics of the Yokai’s pun-heavy names, you will feel a sense of satisfaction and amusement at their clever, if not groan-worthy nomenclature. But for most of the Western world, you’re pretty much fucked, and the Yokai all going to look like just, well.. fucking Pokemon, making it all too easy to dismiss the game as a big rip-off of the successful Game Freak formula.

But they’re not Pokemon. They’re sentient spirits of the Yokai world which overlaps our own human world like something out of an Algernon Blackwood story. The Yokai affect our pliant human minds and manipulate our actions without us even knowing about it. Are spacing out today? Perhaps there’s a Wasurenbo invisibly clinging to your head, chewing on your memories and making you forgetful. Are you falling asleep at your desk? It’s not because you stayed up all night drinking and playing Smash – there’s likely a Baku lurking somewhere in the room and lulling you to sleep so it can eat your dreams – yum! Did you get the urge to clean up your house? No, you’re not on speed – there’s a Katazukerai somewhere making you obsessively need to straighten everything up!

If you had a Yokai Watch on your wrist, you’d be able to see these things, and start taking measures to get rid of them, typically by summoning a different Yokai with counteracting powers. Once defeated and befriended, the Yokai are yours to summon at will, although honestly in this game, you’re mostly making six-member parties to auto-fight other groups of Yokai. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s Pokemon for Japanese people who are sick of Pokemon.

It’s not difficult to see why this game has so far had very little traction outside of its country of origin, because it’s just so goddamn Japanese in that you have a set of very real settings and traditions and lingo that struggle for purchase outside the native mindset. When they bring this game over to the States and beyond, it’s going to be like trying to market igloos in the Sahara, but I’m convinced that Yokai Watch is a real opportunity for people around the world to actually learn something interesting and real about Japan. At the very least, it will give them something besides their snide and tired mumbles about tentacle porn and used panty machines to invoke when discussing Japan on the internet. A daunting task, but god damn, how noble.

How I’d love to be part of that elite squad of localizers, deconstructing the names of the Yokai, rechristening them with shiny new Westernized monickers, and researching all the ancient and modern lore to tell their tales in tasty little bite-sized blurbs for the Yokai Encyclopedia you build in the game. A dream job, eaten by a Baku, egged on by whatever Yokai is responsible for making me need to keep these go-nowhere teaching jobs and drink all this fucking alcohol every night. Fuck it, I’m going fishing.

Snaking Bad

July 9, 2014

I suck at Metal Gear Solid games. Love them to death, but I suck at them, and somehow you just know there’s going to be a big heaping bubbling septic tank of criticism coming, so let’s put our feet up (knees above the waist) and let me take my own dump before I empty the whole thing into the ocean of collective thought to disperse and mutate the aquatic plantlife.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – yes, FOUR as in the one that came out six years ago – is a 12-hour movie you watch between a dozen 25-minute sessions of gameplay. It’s unconventional to say the least, but I suppose this makes it impossible to call it a short game.

Oooh that felt good. Let’s squeeze out another.

This movie, then, is about Snake the old fart ninja who wins every battle in spite of his bumbling, and yet manages to lose every war in spite of being a psycho badass. Infiltrate the enemy’s camp? Good job, your nemesis kills everyone and gets away. Make contact with the enemy scientist and kill a boss? Awesome, your base of operations is compromised. Every chapter so far ends like the Empire Strikes Back, and the prize for completion just gets worse and worse. Something makes you think that if Snake had just gone to a Cubs game that day he’d have had a better chance of seeing victory.

Plop ploppity plop plop plop.

It always drives me nuts that they say you should avoid conflict and try to sneak around instead of engaging the enemy. We all know that this is fucking impossible. Even with radar marking the positions and vision fields of the enemy soldiers, you’re going to get spotted, and it’s going to be a bloodbath. Not to mention that there are like 100 different types of weapons and dozens of accessories for them. And picking up weapons give you money to buy – more weapons! So basically they included and programmed all this useful heavy shit, and you’re supposed to ignore it all. Fuck that. Give me a P-90 and let me kill all these stupid assholes, please Santa Claus?

Courtesy flush. Let’s wipe up.

If you can filter out all of the stupid crap that annoys you about MGS (I’m not even going to get into the retarded flophouse of its controls), you’re left with a pretty awesome and powerful game. Basically, don’t listen to anyone on the radio, shoot everyone with a silencer, and have snacks and drinks at the ready in case it’s time to watch another goddamn cutscene. Nukes and robots, the modern war machine and its economy, stealth, weapon, and nano tech all mix together to make a killer batch of Grandpa Cigarette’s 21st Century War Time Cookies that you can dunk in blood. It’s great fun when you win, neck-stabbingly frustrating when you lose.

It would be a good game to take to a deserted island (off the coast of Alaska). If you put all other games and a good part of your life on hold, I have no doubt that you could become intimately familiar with the stages and patterns of the enemies and work your way up to the rank of Big Boss by being a slick motherfucker who never gets caught. Hell, you might even find a way to take down the bosses using Playboys or other non-lethal means, but it will take time. Time that the egotistical designers believe you should spend on their crazy-ass game. Time you could be using to polish up your Smash technique, learn a new language, have sex with a human, wash your pets, or otherwise live. Most games are like this, and it’s good of Konami to include nearly endless content in challenge form. But I suck at Metal Gear games, and they will never fail let me know that any victory I achieve will always glow pathetic next to Hideo Kojima’s big smart awesome and wonderful guy accomplishments.

Somebody open a window.

You may kill the slime

June 7, 2014

It’s turning out to be a bad weekend for RPGs. Which sucks, because this is ostensibly the best time to play them – 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday with my family sound asleep. Frankly I’m surprised I didn’t scream and wake everyone up when those Mandoragoras killed me in Final Fantasy IX just now.

I picked up FInal Fantasy IX again because I thought that my save file was at the very beginning of Disc 2. While it is very near the beginning, it has none of that Disc 2 intro stuff that I was counting on for orientation. Where are we in the story? What are my current goals and party members? And what the fuck did I name everybody this time around?

Doesn’t matter. I bit it in less than ten minutes and have no desire to pick it up again until, perhaps I’m on the plane taking me back home this summer for a month’s worth virtual reality in the good old US of America. Plenty of time to get refamiliarized with everything on Iifa’s green Gaia then.

I was supposed to be playing Dragon Quest V, but in my haste to get the hell out of work for the weekend, left the 3DS charging in my desk where it sits now.

Nice game, that. It’s healthy to play Dragon Quest games. I wanted to get VIII for the phone, but $30 is kind of a fucked up ridiculous well not really because it’s great but I can’t justify it because I already have the game for PS2 price. You should buy it, though. Especially if you played the non-Japanese version, because when you did that, you got a shitty version of the game.

The Western localization of Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2 featured voice actors, which for Dragon Quest games is fucking blasphemy. You’re not supposed to hear the voices. When you talk to someone or even read text in ANY OTHER Dragon Quest game, you hear a range of tones going bloop and bleeb and THAT’s the voice. It’s like a compass for your imagination to work with and hear the words in your head. It’s part of the Role-Playing Experience(™) to imagine things for yourself. In a big, big world, your character on the map is obviously a grossly enlarged representative version of your tiny self. Each step you take is like half a mile in reality, and each battle, though executed with menu commands is actually a rollicking fracas with jumping and swearing and the clang of steel. Dragon Quest has a tradition of sound effects for these things, and they’ve remained unchanged since 1986, motherfuckers. So cut the shit and don’t assume we want to hear the profanity of human speech when stabbing slimes in the ass.

Right, so I didn’t buy it. But DQV for the DS can be reliably found at a reasonable price, and I bought such for such one rainy Saturday night last month and got caught back up in the Zenithian saga again. This game is unique in that at a certain point you are forced to marry one of three women who will bear your child who will take up the sword in a kind of Dragonballsy epic fashion. Interesting story mechanic, but could the choice possibly be any more aggravating?

Here are the maidens from which you have to choose:

Bianca: You go adventuring with her early in the game when you’re still a child. And she’s blonde. Balanced melee fighter / spellcaster.

Flora: Hair of blue. It is revealed that she is kind. Strong spellcaster, weak defense.

Debra: Debra is Flora’s black-haired bitch-ass bitch of a bitch sister. Strong melee fighter. Not featured in the original Dragon Quest V, so you think I’d rally against her very programming code for that fact alone.

 

dragonquestdeadwivestease

Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Debra Cuziplayit.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to marry at all. I didn’t think it was a particularly good time to be wedded, what, in the middle of my epic quest and all. I slay and bleed every day and stay at shady taverns every night, and it’s no way to start a family. But I suppose if you look at it from the standpoint that you didn’t have a choice whether or not to fight monsters in the game – you either do it or you don’t proceed – getting married is really not so different from killing a slime.

So here I sit, not playing any RPGs, thinking how best to make the time go by. Hey wait, that’s right! I have a family! I’m going to cook some bacon and wake their ass up.

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Right Said Red Dead Confection

May 10, 2014

Holy shit, I’d forgetten how fantastic Red Dead Redemption is. It’s one of those games from my 360 Degrees of Darkness era, and the games played on it can be hard to remember. It can be hard, man.

At first I thought I wanted to play GTA IV again. I was wrong. It’s funny because at the same time I was waiting to download and play GTA V, Rockstar was having a sale on the PSN and I got the complete Red Dead with all the DLC for like $10. I started the game to get past the intro, then played a whole shitload GTA V when it was finally released, and life went on. I’ve started no less than three new Final Fantasy games since then, a new game of Baten Kaitos (attempt #3 is well on, by the way… in fact.. maybe after I write this bullshit…)

Oh! Here’s an update, I guess. I turned a new number and on that day received a second PS3 controller, and it is a beaut (coloration more than appropriate for current game). It’s allowed me and Guy to play some incredible games together. More later, make a note.

Fuck, as I was typing this, my stagecoach was taking me across the land, there was a robbery on the side of the road, and fuck me if it doesn’t always happen like this, check it out.

So someone’s screaming about “treasure, it’s mine!” and there’s gunfire. As I dismount the coach and run over to the commotion, I discover two men shooting at a third man fleeing. Are they law? Sounds like their MO. So I wait to see their dots become badges (allies of the law) on my radar. They become red dots instead. They’re shooting at me. I lasso one, and when the other doesn’t stop shooting, I grab my revolver and plug him in the guts. It executes a fatality scene, which is just enough time for the other guy to untie the lasso and shoot my ass in the back. Or is it shoot my back in the ass?

It can be difficult playing as a good guy, and I’m going all out Paladin on this motherfucker. Marston 360 from back in the day would shoot damn near anyone on the road in broad daylight to loot their corpse. The dots often turned out to be badges in those cases, resulting in just as many, if not more dramatic capers than our current Golden reddened Boy John Lannister Marston, as I’m calling him. I guess. Anyway, there’s a thunderstorm on, so I’m out.

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GTA: Lost Sainthood

April 25, 2014

I found this post from last year that I couldn’t believe wasn’t uploaded. It was barely topical for the saturation of GTAV-related coverage at the time, and even less relevant now that the only people I know who still play this games are the people of /r/trees. I guess that makes it more ridiculous to post it now, but god damn it, I think this needs to be said. For as much as I loved this game, well… let’s just take a trip back to October of yesteryear:

I finished Grand Theft Auto V last night which means that preparations begin today on cordoning off Midosuji Boulevard to hold a parade in my honor. You’ll see me on the Bethesda float playing Fallout: New Vegas again.

I’ve been meaning to think about meaning to talk about this game because it was on the horizon when last I preached. It’s not like there aren’t 5,000 reviews out there or that you haven’t played it for yourself, but I don’t keep a diary and yet want to preserve the memory of what will certainly be remembered as a major title in the history of video gamery.

It’s pretty good. Which is surprising, because my instinct is to enshrine anything that I devote 100+ hours to as epic by nature of my attention. However, I could not get anywhere near as excited about playing this one compared to other GTA titles, and I have to tell you, it made me a little sad.

As far as controls, gameplay, and environment go, GTAV was probably the greatest achievement of Rockstar Games, and I commend them. If you like driving around and taking in the scenery or causing wanton chaos in the street, there is no better way to do it than by playing this game. It’s just wonderful and we should stand in awe of the designers. If you’ve ever spent more than 24 hours building something in Minecraft, you can really appreciate that the amount of work that went into the state of San Andreas was fucking colossal.

That being said, the game does a surprisingly bad job of creating the illusion of immersion, which has more or less been a key strength of GTA games where players believe that the insane freedom granted to the characters is actually theirs. From the very beginning of the game, I was not impressed that San Andreas is actually an island. Look at the map: it’s a fucking goddamn island. And yet, there are highways and byways and all of these long-distance hauling vehicles going where, exactly? 10 miles across the state? Because that’s about as far as you’re going to get on land from any point to the next. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

If Los Santos is meant to be a mirror-version of Los Angeles, there are some serious gaps in geography, especially considering that when Carl C.J. Johnson was in charge, the same landmass was shared by no less than three major cities. So what happened? Did San Fiero and Los Venturas sink into the sea? A tragedy like that would be a major part of the culture, and yet the events of September 11th are referenced on popular Los Santos radio stations, as if that could still be relevant in a time where 75% of a single state suddenly disafuckingpeared into the god damned fucking ocean.

I don’t know why it makes me mad, but it does. Border the state with mountains or something. Create a fucking probation bracelet that explodes if you try to cross any borders out of the game’s playable area. But don’t fucking tell me that San Andreas is a 100 square mile island, because I won’t buy it. Oahu is an island. Does it look like fucking Los Angeles? Hell no, it doesn’t! The weight of the highway system alone would force it underwater. God damn it, so I hate the island thing and now we all get it let’s move on.

Other instances of bullshit that ensures you will not feel immersed are things like having a back door to your home which cannot be opened (come on), and a bottle of beer sitting on your counter that one: you would ever think to drink out of, and two: that you can drink out of forever. You can actually get blind drunk by taking hundreds of sips out of a 12 oz. goddamned beer bottle. Now you can get just as drunk drinking out of the never ending whiskey bottle, too. And yet, no matter how smashed you are, you’ll be sober enough to pilot Air Force One in less than ten minutes, or about two hours in game time. As an alcoholic, I have a major problem suspending disbelief about these kinds of things, and think that if they were smart enough to take out the eating thing, they probably should have completely removed the drinking thing, too. Taking bong rips is a little more interesting, but still just a silly distraction. Maybe if I were a kid who wasn’t supposed to be playing this game like 50% of the players out there are, I’d find it more amusing.

Never mind the fact that out of the thousands of buildings placed around the state, only a couple dozen have any actual interiors and the rest are static exteriors. I’m hoping that future DLC will open some of them up, and I’ll wait to see if it does.

Now if that wasn’t harsh enough, here’s something nobody wants to admit in print: the story is probably the weakest of all GTA games, and that includes the top-down versions of 1 and 2, which had you playing as a fast-driving hustler for hire, no questions asked. Not a bad technique, especially for the arcade-style gameplay it featured. GTA games didn’t really get dramatic and plot driven until 3, but 3 took an anonymous character and put him into incredible circumstances that made you feel that it was what you had to do. Vice City gave you a character with a back story, also thrown into a wild situation out of which he clawed tooth and nail to the top of the game. Are you seeing a pattern here? These characters lived out their lives of crime as a survival mechanism, and it brought them varying degrees of success and victory. GTA V features not one, but three fuck-ups who are all at heart, just opportunists who are greedy and bored and nihilistic enough to try their hand at something big. Not an intriguing setup, and the implications portend further worship of aimless, preposterous, unmerited success for all who buy into the story. Fuck that shit. The dialogue is terrible, too. “I’m getting too old for this nonsense,” is the literally last line of the game, and the cliche couldn’t have less of an impact even if it wasn’t cribbed from the script of the Lethal Weapon movies. It’s a story, yes, I get it, but it’s only compelling if you care about the characters, which you don’t, so I don’t feel bad about spoiling anything, because this fruit was rotten to begin with.

There, harsh enough? Because I actually liked playing the game quite a bit. The expectations ran just a little bit too high this time, that’s all. It’s a big legacy to live up to, and they created something monumental without a doubt. But if you want my honest assessment, GTAV bears all the hallmarks of a Star Wars prequel: beautiful, big-budget gorilla shit. I purchased it, hell I pre-ordered it with money, and I don’t have a lot, so I don’t feel bad in telling you this game gives a lot of head, but few epic blowjobs.

 

 

The 100 Wonderfullest-ass Games in the World (part 4/4)

March 14, 2014

10. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!! – Note the three exclamation marks. I’ve heard this described as the “perfect game” or “the very bestest game ever made in the world ever,” and yeah, it’s pretty epic. How can such a deep game about boxing be accomplished with only a directional pad and two buttons? It’s simply incredible and holds up as a true classic. The addition and subsequent subtraction of Mike Tyson makes it all the more legendary.

9. Arnold Palmer’s Tournament Golf – Really? Yep. Remember, it’s epic because I played it, and for me, this was the first game that came close to making the game of golf enjoyable without windmills. Memorizing club strengths and taking into account the direction and speed of the wind, spacing the feet apart, and following those little lines on the green to sink a perfect putt – when it’s a video game, it’s not completely pointless and wasteful. All golf games should be video games, and they should all try to be as good as this one.

8. Toe Jam and Earl – This game deserves another playthrough and a whole article devoted to it, so I’m going to ramble on a bit about this one. A rich kid in our town got a Super Nintendo before any of us, and somehow through the magic of money got Toe Jam and Earl for the Genesis in the same day. Needless to say he became very popular, and another one of my friends and I found it necessary to sleep over at his house. That night, in spite of the imminent power of the SNES, we ended up playing probably 90% TJ&E because it was so fucking funny, challenging, and the cooperative gameplay was much more meaningful than any game we had ever played. You play as aliens, searching the earth for your lost spaceship parts, collecting mysterious presents that could be helpful weapons, extra life or lives, or even instant deaths. You had to contend with various earthlings such as swarms of bees, a lady pushing her kid around in a shopping cart and screaming at it to SHUT UP!!, the Nerd Herd, and the Boogeyman himself who would boogey you to death or knock you off the stage to fall a few levels, forcing you to find your way to the elevators that would bring you back. You could get separated from your buddy and sometimes have to hop down to help them out. You could get good at identifying presents and knowing which wrapping papers to avoid until you accidentally open a randomizer which mixes up all the contents and forces you to start trial and erring with them all over again. If you had Icarus Wings or rocket skates, you could go back to level 1 and cross the sea to the southwest to drop down a hole and visit the secret level which had a lemonade stand and chicks in a hot tub who would “titter titter” as you “chat chat”ed with them. You burped when you drank root beer. You could have a rap jam instead of playing the adventure. The adventure could be randomized or standardized, and it was just about the greatest game ever. They really fucked up the sequels, but this first one should be enshrined, infused with the soul of a saint and be guaranteed a spot in the afterlife because if it isn’t there, I’m not going.

7. Thunderforce III – I know I say that a lot of games have the best soundtrack ever, but Thunderforce III has the best soundtrack ever, and it really does. If you don’t believe me, you should play it. In that way, I hope you doubt everything I’ve ever said, because it would require you to actually sit down and enjoy some of this shit, which would bring me joy. Not as much as simply having my opinion respected and considered every once in a while, but definitely more than a brand new Game Gear. Anyway, Thunderforce III is just a kick fucking ass side scrolling space shooter with dope bosses and treacherous environments. Did I mention it has the best fucking soundtrack ever? Man, is it good.

6. King’s Quest IV – One of the earliest games where you play the heroine rather than the hero. That’s pretty cool, and it was still a parser style command game, and our commands just got grosser and grosser. If you were to log the commands typed into King’s Quest IV when I was 10 years old (or 33 for that matter), they’d be like PICK UP BOW (okay) TAKE OFF CLOTHES (i don’t understand) UNDRESS (I don’t understand) SHOW TITS (i don’t understand) FUCK YOU (now what kind of language is that) SUCK MY DICK (i don’t understand ‘suck’) YES YOU DO BECAUSE YOU SUCK COCKS FOR A LIVING (i don’t understand). Great game with slightly more sensible puzzles than some of its predecessors, a lot of it based on classic fairy tales, though there was some bullshit that could really get you screwed, like digging up too many graves and your shovel breaking. Or the fact that you had to save and load and pray in order to get through the troll’s cave, because it was actual luck (or a random number generator if you want to be a nerd about it) that determined if you could proceed to the next screen without the troll showing up and dragging you off to your death by the braids. Weird random memory: Playing this game in the den while my parents watched a made-for-TV movie called “Perfect People” about a married couple who end up getting liposuction, hair implants and plastic surgery. I think they get hooked on prescription drugs, too. The TV was just a couple feet to the right of the computer monitor, so I ended up watching a bunch of it and realizing that adults were very susceptible to becoming (or perhaps remaining) insecure lameasses.

5. Super Mario All-Stars – Ka-ching, motherfucker! Four games in one slot. Hey, Nintendo did it and so can I. It was such a great idea to port the first four Super Mario Bros. games to the SNES on a single cartridge, so of course I bought that shit up (and did it once again when they made it for the Wii). I played this one listening to the Beavis and Butt-Head Experience CD – remember that one? Literally got to the very last stage in the Lost Levels (which was actually just Japan’s Super Mario Bros. 2) but could not beat it. All the other ones, though, got their due. It was with this game that I realized that not all that glitters is gold, and not all graphic and sound updates are as lovable as their original incarnations. George Lucas would later drive the point home when he added those extra scenes to the Star Wars movies and made them stupid.

4. Chrono Trigger – Take the artwork of Dragonball’s Akira Toriyama and a Squaresoft RPG and you get… Dragon Quest! No, wait – Enix and Square were still two separate companies (I almost wrote ‘countries’) at the time. This is just a brilliant RPG with excellent music, story, and god damn fucking everything. I play this game, or at least start a new quest every winter and listen to the Roots’ second album because it’s a tradition. One of these days I swear I’m going to try out a game that snubs Magus in favor of helping Frog, but it’s really hard to pass up adding such a badass to the party. Bonus – the Japanese version for the DS has both English and Japanese options, and you can switch between them at will.

3. Super Smash Bros. (N64) – I’ll tell you a story. Be quiet. When I was in the throes of my first bout with Pokemon madness, I got into some wack shit. I had seen the Pokemon movie in American theaters. I played 50 hours of Pokemon Snap trying to photograph the little shits. I kept my money and driver’s license in a Pikachu wallet. And still, I was yet to control a Pokemon in a game as the Pokemon itself. The same way I wanted a Final Fantasy-esque role-playing game with Zelda-style slashing, I wanted to BE the Pokemon and jump around and attack enemies with all my Poke-might. It must have been the late spring of 1999 when my friend and I visited Toys R Us and they had a game at the playable Nintendo 64 display which I had never seen or heard of. It was called Super Smash Bros. and seemed to be a kind of fighting game where you could play as classic Nintendo characters. Among them, Pikachu was playable, and I was like hot Koffing shit! Pikachu was playable! I grabbed the controller and jumped and attacked and fought, and we must have played the game for an hour there in the store. Not soon after that, this friend owned a copy of the game and we began playing it as part of our evening ritual of drinking and smoking and cursing and getting fucked up and playing video games. Life was very fulfilling then, on summer breaks from college. By the time school started again and I had moved back to my college town, playing Smash remained the #1 game among my friends who remained at home. The next summer, Smash was still the de facto purpose of our nightly get-togethers and remained so all the way until December of 2001.

2. Super Smash Bros. Melee – This game came out in December of 2001. The anticipation had been swelling all year since we had heard that there was going to be a new Smash game with more characters, and a complete overhaul on the graphics, which though not necessary, would provide a new experience, which was welcome, because I’m not sure how long we’d be able to continue playing that first Smash Bros. game on the 64 without going mad. Our tradition continued through Smash Melee, and we logged thousands of hours fighting each other and perfecting our techniques. It became the deepest fighting game that was as much of a psychic battle of wits as it was a technical ballet of the fingers. Smash was representative of all conflicts in life, and like Miyamoto Musashi wrote in the Book of Five Rings… uh.. a bunch of very insightful stuff about battle and stuff. Smash became a kind of hyper chess that we played every fucking night, and it bound us together like a cult. My friendships with my fellow Smashers have not deteriorated even with years and miles between our meetings. We will meet again, and we will Smash again.

1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl / X – Which brings us to the present day. It was to be expected that we would all get the new Smash Bros. game even though we lived thousands of miles away from each other, but Brawl lets us continue to play over a Wi-Fi connection, which is really great. Though we can never truly replicate the summers at the turn of the century, at least we can use Gamecube controllers.  Smash has also always been like a kind of museum of Nintendo’s greatest achievements, and if you thought the number of collectible trophies in Melee was insane, Brawl lets you basically mount every one of Princess Peach’s pubes on pedestals for posterity. You can read the history of old games and characters, and even play demos of some of their classic titles right there in the game. You collect soundtracks. You collect stickers to modify character stats for the fully-realized adventure game included. So many goddamn characters to play and new strategies to explore. Items, stages, music music music. This is the game used for Smash tournaments where I live now. I have met fighters from across the world and observed their techniques and learned more about my fellow man through the advent of Super Smash Bros. It is the ultimate game and deservingly takes the number one spot on this list for its beauty, its playability, its sense of tradition, and the effects that it can create on your outlook on life and way of living. Well, at least my outlook on life and way of living. Which is all that really mattered in the first place. Do you even Smash, bro?

So there you are, fiends and neighbors. Play and play well because there is obviously a lot out there, and a significant amount of it is actually worth checking out. Someday, maybe today, you will have a list like this of your very own. I kind of want to kill some items on this bitch so I can squeeze in Leisure Suit Larry 6 and Gabriel Knight 2, but perhaps someday there will be a revised version up here. Oh fuck that. It took forever and wasted a lot of person’s time. And now it’s over and I can get back to trying to finish Quest for Glory IV here at work while nobody’s looking.

The 100 Greatest Fucking Games (part 03)

March 12, 2014

How many games are there in the world, do you think? My guess is that by now there are well over 100,000 and fast approaching half a million. Huh. That’s a lot of games. The aliens will think we had no responsibilities in our lives but to enjoy ourselves, and how I wish they were right. There are almost certainly other games that deserve to be on this list, but I just haven’t been able for whatever reason to play them yet. Anyway, continuing on with the rest of the best 100 motherfucking games of all time we have:

  1. ICO – When I moved to Osaka, my company roommate had a PS2 and was good enough to let me crack out on this game when I didn’t have a social life or even a console system of my own. I was instantly smitten, because big well-constructed castles make for incredible game settings. The gloomy atmosphere and immersive plunge into its other-worldliness is no easy feat, because we’re all such jaded gamers that it takes something truly brilliant to even move us, and ICO does it wordlessly.
  1. Shadow of the Colossus – Well, yeah – I mean, it’s the same studio as ICO, and quite possibly the same world. But instead of making ICO 2, Fumito Ueda and his gang of nethertects take us to the forbidden zone of the gods where each boss is the stage itself. The concept of “climbable bosses” was never done to this degree before, plus the creeping feeling of wrongness as you slay them is a weird feeling, dirtier than anything resulting from even my trespasses against life in GTA. An important game that should be part of the curriculum in all public schools.
  1. Castlevania II (There, take that, Flashback!) – The first game that I purchased after receiving the NES in the Christmas of my eighth year on earth. I don’t know what I was expecting, since I never even got to the third stage of the first Castlevania, but it didn’t matter because this game was almost completely different except for the character and his whip. You started off in a town, and there were regular townsfolk and merchants in addition to Dracula’s legion of horrors from beyond. With a backtrackable map and puzzlemaze dungeons, this game stands alone, at least in my mind, as the most RPG-like of all Castlevanias. As a side note, in 2001 I mapped out the whole game in a notebook to prep for a speed run and get the best ending.
  1. Out of this World – Known by several other titles, but this is what the box at Videoland said it was called. Very interesting animation for character sprites at the time, giving it a cinematic feel that was quite rare. Listened to a lot of R.E.M.’s Out of Time album while playing this game, and never actually beat the damn thing until I got it for the iPhone like 20 years later. “My tuba!”
  1. Mega Man 2 – Quite possibly the perfect Mega Man game. Also, the karaoke of Mega Man games because every tune is memorable and you can’t help but sing along. They are to this day still making games trying to imitate Mega Man 2 for all its simply awesomeness, but they’ll never fucking do it, and they don’t really need to. How much Mega Man do you actually need in your life?
  1. Metal Gear Solid – Because the two NES Metal Gears were rad in concept but impossible to play, MGS was a blessing from on high, because you could continue from a reasonable spot whenever you died, which was a lot. It’s always been a kind of a dream of mine to be super awesome at a game like this and be able to beat it without killing anyone or going undetected, but it will probably never happen.
  1. Metal Gear Solid 3 – The Snake Eater opening theme was so great because it was so over the top, but only hinted at being a joke, reminding you that you are allowed to take the Metal Gear series only as seriously as you’d like. While fighting the Cold War with boots on the ground is some serious shit, eating birds and repairing broken bones in the jungle is obviously very silly. I didn’t like MGS 2 because there was a boss who rollerbladed around on a rooftop throwing bombs, and I thought that was bullshit, so I guess we all have our own tolerance levels for nonsense.
  1. Brave Fencer Musashi – This Squaresoft game didn’t get a whole lot of love, but I thought it was fucking great and I’ll be honest and say the reason I played it was for the action figures. Yes, you could buy action figures in the game of characters and enemies in the game. They all had packaging and you could choose whether to take them out or not – but if you did, there was no putting them back in. High-level shit!
  1. Soul Edge – aka Soul Blade, this was the first title of the Soul Calibur series, and frankly, I think this was the best one. At least as far as first installments for long-running fighting franchises go, this is the best. Its key point was that every fighter had their own weapon which they were masters of, and they were all after the cursed Soul Edge. When I had it for Playstation, I would turn it on just to watch the intro movie and try to record the song with a handheld tape recorder. Then I’d go and try to collect every weapon for every character. Fucking great fighting game, and not so fucking complicated like today’s.
  1. Killer Instinct – this was a fighting game that tried to teach you long-form combo memorization, and though it was really hard and awkward at times, pulling them off would make you feel like a god. Impossible in the arcade, the SNES port made this much more possible, and I’d print out endless volumes of moves and combos that I’d find on our primitive internet, just in time for all the KI cabinets to disappear from the arcades.
  1. Mortal Kombat Trilogy – See what I did there? I’m not going to waste three whole spaces just for the MK series, which however shaping and pivotal to my performance as a player of fighting games, is almost lucky to snag one spot. What separated this from the others were the Itchy and Scratchy-esque finishing moves, which had the chance to become a finishing movie ending with your opponent’s disfigured corpse if you were slick about it. I realize now that that’s not really important, but it was fun then and makes me a little nostalgic.
  1. Super Mario 64 – We were all blown away by the idea of a 3D Mario game, and I guess it shows, since 99% of adventure games made today are in 3D. It was a radical re-imagining at the time, though, and I was in love with the open environments and all the promise that accompanied them.
  1. Street Fighter Alpha 3 – If I had to choose a Street Fighter game to put up here, or rather, take to a deserted island to play until rescued, it would be this one, for the Saturn, no less. Weird choice, probably, but this is the Street Fighter game that plays most comfortably for me. Maybe the only one where I could sense the value of having three different strengths to the punches and kicks.
  1. King’s Quest – The first digital game I ever owned. We had it for the PC Jr., which in 1986 was some pretty hot shit, as it was a computer that could display 16 separate colors – and that’s eightfold of what was considered standard. An adventure game that made you type what you wanted to do, this game got me familiar with the PC keyboard and taught me to spell. An unforgiving game that took months and months to beat if you played it through trial and error alone. A game that made me, well, a game player.
  1. King’s Quest III – Somehow I skipped II, and even though I liked II when I played it, the puzzles were so fucking obtuse it almost makes me sick with rage now. King’s Quest III, while hard as hell was a very different game with a character other than Graham, so I didn’t even make the connection to the first two games until much, much, much later. I honestly had no idea how to get through this game for the first probably six months that I had it. Instead, I became fascinated with its spell book and components, and began creating my own magic potions out of various household and bodily fluids. One of them made the grass at the school grow really tall and spiky.
  1. Gold Rush! – This was a Sierra game where you have to get from Brooklyn to California to find your brother and a shitload of gold! Great historical setting with three different ways to get there, each more treacherous than the other. Completely unforgiving about time, items, and even luck, but fun stuff nonetheless.
  1. Donkey Kong Country – I’ve talked about what a drastic improvement I thought the 16-bit SNES was over the NES, but somehow Nintendo upped the game again by adding something like 64 trillion megabytes of memory to their most graphically ambitious game yet: Donkey Kong Country. And while Nintendo Power magazine never gave me a copy of Dragon Warrior, they did send me a promotional VHS tape that previewed the game and its making, which my friends and I watched obsessively until it came out.
  1. Metal Slug Collection – Ha! Bitched in another anthology. Metal Slug games are the greatest side-scrolling arcade games for their smooth animation and weapons and blood and rush and destruction. The first stage can be beat on a single credit, so it’s always been a nice way to spend a quarter in the arcade.
  1. Super Castlevania IV – Still the best linear action arcade-style Castlevania. Play this one. A perfect Sunday morning for me used to involve watching Salute Your Shorts on Nickelodeon, playing this game, and having spaghetti for lunch; a ritual surely powerful enough to counter the resurrection of Count Dracula himself.
  1. Starfox 64 – This is kind of a proxy for the original Starfox, since 64 is almost a remake of an ugly game with great ambition. Spaceship and dogfight combat across land, sea, fire, and the great Cornelian nebulae. Easy to play, tough to master, with multiple paths you can take to victory and plenty of secrets to keep you coming back.
  1. Berserk (Dreamcast) – This DC game is based on a Japanese comic that I had never heard of, but instantly loved once I played this game. You play as Guts, a big bad dude with a sword like Cloud Strife’s, slashing everything to hell and occasionally blowing people away with an arm cannon. Bloodfest 2000; aka a wonderful afternoon.
  1. Pokemon (first generation) – As a freshman in college, I was enamoured with everything related to Japanese culture, and one of the most easily accessible animes was Pocket Monsters, because episodes played every day on the WB. It was only a matter of time until I picked up the game itself and decided to go on that great quest to catch ‘em all. Very easy to obsess on, and I guess to some degree I still do. Remember that TPP spectacle? Jesus, has it only been two weeks or already been two weeks?
  1. Zelda: Link to the Past – Holy fucklunch, I nearly forgot to add this one to the slew of great Zelda games previously mentioned. Now, Zelda II was a pile of shit. Come on, we’re all older now and we know that that one was a travesty, but hey, even Nintendo makes a shitty Zelda game (a modern take on the proverb “Even the monkey falls from the tree”). But because the SNES more or less made manifest the dreams of every NES player, it was only natural that the Zelda series would pick itself up and find itself at the forefront of fantastic adventure gaming in its brand new 16-bit mantle. I remember sending away for “Zelda 3” as it was listed in some shady looking games dealer in the pages of Gamepro, only to receive the game in the mail something like the weekend after it was announced! Perhaps the greatest SNES game out there, I would play it every summer listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s The Library Policeman. Three-time member of the 000 club, I’m proud to say.
  1. World of Warcraft – I only played free trials of this game, but it was a lot of fun. I occasionally fantasized about the life I’d have if I forsook all human relations and played this game to the extent real online players tended to, but somehow managed to stay my hand when it came time to actually pay to continue. Still, each time was something like a week spent romping about, meeting interesting people, collecting treasure, making shit, and listening to long playlists of albums that I hadn’t heard in years (like the Anticon Giga-Single). RPGs, I learned through WoW, are really great for getting back into to music if you’ve been away for awhile.
  1. Shivers – What the fuck is Shivers, you ask? Well, it’s a first-person puzzle adventure game made by Sierra that puts you in a weird museum where you’re locked in for the night and you end up finding what happened to the guy who built it and solving all kinds of interesting and sometimes old-school puzzles. And you could die. The atmosphere was pretty goddamn spooky in my memory, and I wish that I could play this one again. Too bad they didn’t make it for DOS – I still have the disc, for god’s sake!
  1. Dark Forces – Around the time I was way into Doom and maybe even Quake, I learned of Dark Forces, which was a Star Wars game that played just like those other shooters. There was something extremely appealing to me about shooting Stormtroopers instead of demons and zombies, and this is the game – nay, the very trigger – that made me watch the movies as a teenager and become a hopelessly obsessed Star Wars nerd. Everything changed after Dark Forces.
  1. Knights of the Old Republic – A Star Wars RPG with great D20 mechanics and character specialization that allowed your character to become strong with the Light or even the Dark Side of the Force. Just great stuff in a completely original Star Wars setting 4,000 years before even Episode I. Bought this one for like $3 on Steam last summer and can’t wait to play it again, but I will wait because I don’t feel like playing it now, so I guess that means I actually can wait. Never mind. I’m not nearly the Star Wars freak that I was in high school or even in my 20s anymore. On a side note, how great would it be if Episode VII turns out to be good?
  1. Vendetta Online – This is a game you can still play, and as far as I know they still have free trial accounts. Your avatar is your ship, and you fly it through space either transporting goods, taking out enemies, or mining for supplies. It sounds boring, but it is actually very relaxing to turn off the lights and just pilot your way through space because the physics and vastness of space are just so spot on. I’d plot flight courses and pretend I was Han Solo smuggling spice with yet another music playlist in the background, drink some booze and believe I was drunk in space. Apparently you can play it on the Oculus Rift now, which has to be fucking insane, and I can’t wait to try it out.
  1. Grim Fandango – The swan song of Lucasarts PC adventure games, and what an incredible, beautiful odyssey Grim Fandango was. Noir mystery in the land of the dead? That’s a fucking great idea, now can it be made into a great game? It was. It was a great game, and the only problem with it is that it crashed all the god damn time on my computer and I was only able to finish it once. Luckily, I still have the discs, so I hope to enjoy this one again sometime soon. If anyone has a good, easy-to-follow way of getting Grim Fandango to run on a Mac, give me it and you will be rewarded in fish or beans or something nice.
  1. Ghouls and Ghosts (Genesis) – Another case where the original was too fucking hard, but its sequel is a little more playable, not to mention stunningly beautiful by compare. I still love this one and weep for the souls who never played it.
  1. Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis) – Hells yeah, that’s right! The Genesis came out before the SNES, didn’t it? My best friend moved back into town in 1990 and brought in tow with him a Genesis, and this was one of the highlights from his collection. EVERYTHING was fucking great about it. The graphics were sweet and the bosses were straight out of Hollywood, the soundtrack was fucking amazing, and I knew a code for infinite shurikens. Hard as hell; probably never beat it. Holy shit, I have this on Virtual Console, don’t I? I’m going to play it when I get home.
  1. Sword of Vermilion – In the early 1990s, this game had what we kids called “awesome graphics.” Unfortunately, we weren’t very good at RPGs, so getting to the actual boss fights where you could see these good graphics was very, very rare for us. The game was hard. You really had to grind your levels up, but it turned out to be worth it, and I remember getting quite far – until I learned that being poisoned can reduce your MAX HP, and I rage quit that shit. You can’t take away my MAX HP, you son of a bitch! That’s mine, you ass-slurping, fuck! Bastard balls! Cunt nugget! Doggy! Ah, shit. Another killer soundtrack that makes me want to be 11 and play this fucking game again right now.

And so here we are at the top ten. Last ten. Whatever. Stay tuned and go fondle yourself pleasurably or something. I know nobody’s reading this. They’d have given me instructions on how to get Grim Fandango working by now if they were.

The 100 Greatest Games (part 02)

March 7, 2014

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you start with this list and go on to the next.  The only reason I put numbers on them is to make sure I don’t put more than 100 up.  Which I end up doing regardless, so fuck it let’s meet the leet:

  1. Day of the Tentacle – When it comes to the PC, I grew up a Sierra boy, but Day of the Tentacle made me recognize that there was a lot more potential for PC adventure games than what I’d cut my teeth on. DoTT is like playing the greatest cartoon ever, the time travel was done smartly, there were Star Wars references, the puzzles were hard as shit but you felt really awesome when you figured them out because they were just so damn clever and made sense unlike some of the comparatively random and idiotic solutions to the puzzles in some other games I won’t call out quite yet. Also, you couldn’t screw yourself in a way that you would have to start over or even restore a game – 100% deathproof play for a 10000% immortal adventure game.
  1. Sam & Max Hit the Road – You can kind of see how my mind is mapped out with this list because I can’t really mention Day of the Tentacle without bringing up the virtues of the first Sam and Max game. So colorful and smart. The dialogue was hilarious. It inspired a memorable road trip that my friend and I took to Stuckey’s which was like an hour away from our town. I bought a Stuckey’s T-shirt there.
  1. King’s Quest VI – This was the best King’s Quest game for absolute sure and all the ones that came after it sucked stupid balls. I played the version that came on twelve 3.5” floppy disks and had no voice acting, and that’s how I liked it. Navigating the Land of Green Isles with a magic map to unravel the great royal conspiracy was the focus of nearly all my mental energy one summer. Eventually I ended up buying the hint book and spoiling every damn puzzle in the game, but somehow it made me love it even more and inspired me to start doing speed runs and write my own hint book which talked down to the player like: Q: I’m on a beach, what do I do? A: What do you do? Look around, asshole – there’s shit on the ground, why don’t you try clicking on it instead of consulting a hint book like a little bitch.
  1. Bayonetta – I don’t know why I thought of Bayonetta at this point, but this game was off the fucking hook. Took me a while to warm up to it, but damn am I glad I did. I still think that she’s the first legitimately hot video game character ever. Full write-up here.
  1. Quest for Glory IV – Another golden Sierra series that reached its peak before finishing in disgrace, this was the most memorable QFG for me. In fact, it may have been the first one I actually played. Mordavia – the Transylvanian countryside with a past involving a Cthulhuian cult is once again gearing up for the dark times, and you get to be the one to dig everything up and set shit right. This game was fucking scary. Navigating through that castle at night freaked me the hell out, and I was genuinely relieved when I could finally get out and creep back to my room at the inn. I really need to finish my current game of III so I can import my supermagical thief character into this game and play it again.
  1. Super Mario World – The first game that came with the Super Nintendo, and holy shit was it awesome. The upgrade from 8-bit to 16-bit was just so real, and the potential for incredible games seemed endless. I had played a hell of a lot of the other Mario games, but they always kind of felt like required coursework and more of a challenge than actual pleasure – that would come later, but I fucking loved playing Super Mario World because it was just so goddamn enjoyable. Yoshi, cape flying, secret switch palaces, star road challenge stages – Nintendo upped their game and it was fucking on.
  1. Skyrim – That’s an easy one. What’s not easy is making a fully explorable map the size of Wyoming complete with interiors and interactive objects, thousands of characters with dialogue and books full of lore, a compelling story with gigantic flying dragons you fight, hundreds of different items weapons and spells, a craft system, an enchantment system, a dozen playable races and multiple character development paths and basically holy shit what the fuck. Go assist Bethesda in having an orgasm right now.
  1. Goonies II (NES) – The first stage’s music is an 8-bit version Cyndi Lauper’s Goonies song, and that’s all it took for this 8-year old fan of the movie to become an obsessed player of the game. In retrospect, it didn’t necessarily have to be about the Goonies to be a great adventure game, and hardly felt like the movie at all but for Anne Ramsay’s digital countenance coming up and challenging you to find all your friends. Crazy map, large assortment of items, great challenge, and new Goonies lore. What, you don’t remember Pipsqueak Fratelli and Annie the Mermaid?
  1. Faxanadu – I never beat this game, but I wanted to be able to so badly. The music really sets and sells the mysterious fantasy tone, and I sometimes wish I were a music journalist so I could describe the weird counterpointed melodies that lace up like Celtic patterns pissed into fresh snow. You know? Yeah I don’t really know about that one, either. But I do know that you have to put in some serious fucking time to make the coin necessary to buy the armor, weapons, and keys necessary to conquer this game, and I just couldn’t do it. The penalty for dying is literally the fact that you have squandered an hour of your life and have nothing to show for it. I might actually have to take this one off the list if I think of another game that deserves props.
  1. Shadowgate – Ah, now here’s a point and click game that came into its own when it reached the NES. Thanks, Kemco for rebooting it and adding that amazing, a-ma-zing soundtrack to it. Now if I said Day of the Tentacle is a game where you can’t screw or even kill yourself, the polar opposite would be King’s Quest V, but this would be a close second. The correct way of playing Shadowgate is trial and error, aka learning by dying hundreds and hundreds of times. Took forever to beat this game, and I managed to do it without a hint book, although Kemco did have a hint line, and get this: it was a 1-800 number, so it was FREE. Imagine that – getting free hints on how to solve puzzles? Get the fuck out of town. Now.
  1. River City Ransom – Renegade was too hard, and Double Dragon was too one-way but River City Ransom let you beat the shit out of hundreds of people and walk around a huge city with hardly any restriction of movement. Plus you saved up money to go eat at sushi places and buy books that taught you hyper punch and kick techniques. So fucking fun and brutal.
  1. Contra – Never beat this without the Konami code, but for me, there’s something fun about just smashing your way through a game from beginning to end, even if there’s no real challenge to it. Oh sure, I probably thought I was an actual bad-ass after beating the Red Falcon on my fifty-first goddamn life back then, but now I can appreciate what a true challenge it is in addition to its music, stages, and highly disturbing alien bosses.
  1. Life Force – Everything I said about Contra only with spaceships and body organs.
  1. Bad Dudes – The 1980’s were a time when I was easily impressed by leaps in technology such as putting a human voice that sounded like it was being ground up by a wood chipper into a video game. The true prize of beating a stage in Bad Dudes was getting to hear the Dude say, “I’m bad!” This game was in the arcade a pizzeria waaaaay across town, but I would beg my parents to take us there so so I could play Bad Dudes and hear that amazing quote after killing Karnov boss or the guy with the mask and longclaws. Don’t ask me how badly I shit my pants when this came out for the NES and they kept the sample in.
  1. Wizards and Warriors – I love how misleading the title and the box art are compared to the actual game of Wizards and Warriors. The real title should be Jump Around Like a Fuck in a Suit of Armor. Still, there was a lot to enjoy about this game such as the boomerang dagger, the levitation potion, and I don’t know. Just an all-around smooth arcade-y adventure game with a reasonable learning curve and finishing time and let’s not forget: tunes.
  1. Police Trainer – I had to kick Kid Icarus off this list when I remembered Police Trainer. If you were lucky enough to have this game in your town with perfectly calibrated guns, shooting your way to the head of the police force was a killer goodtime throwdown. I played so much goddamn Police Trainer when I was 17 that I could finish it on a single quarter, and it should have gotten me a lot more pussy.
  1. Metroid – The Kraid stage music alone could put this one up on the list, but there is a lot going on with Metroid that makes it one of those important games that we should never forget. I actually forgot what I was going to say, but the concept of a fully explorable and back-trackable map with a variety of weapons and suits that allow you access to new areas was certainly innovative. Good one, guys. Shit, I just remembered Castlevania II and now I’m going to have to kick something else off.
  1. MYST – Hell yeah. No instructions, a minimal intro, and a silent first-person perspective made a good case for thinking you were the actual character in the game. Although if it were actually me in there and I didn’t have a pen and a notebook, I probably would have just flung myself off that really tall gear on the first island. Spooky immersive atmosphere (great soundtrack, natch) – totally worth playing again once you’ve forgotten all the puzzles.
  1. Resident Evil 2 1 (GC remake) – The first one was way too fucking hard. I liked 2 better, even though the idea of crests and gems fitting into reliefs to open secret doors began to feel a little silly since we’re talking about a fucking police station here rather than a mansion of eccentrics where such contrivances are plausible. Still, Capcom pulled it off and was successful in extending the Biohazard franchise to almost inexhaustible proportions after this. Actually, when the remake of 1 came out for the Gamecube, that made it a lot more fun to play. Yeah, I think I’d like to take 2 off the list and replace it with the GC remake of 1. Fuck 2.
  1. Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Aw yeah, I bought this game for the Dreamcast before I even owned a Dreamcast. It was only like ¥500 and I had seen it played before and knew that this was going to be the badassedest Resident Evil ever. And it was. Maybe this was the best one. Puzzles were quasi-plausible again, the challenge was hard but not impossible, and since I was only in my fourth year of studying Japanese, I learned a lot of words just by playing this with the other people who lived in my dorm at the time. We had to combine our knowledge of the language to figure out the puzzles and it was one of the most rewarding experiences in gaming I’ve ever had.
  1. Crazy Taxi – Another practically “free” game for the Dreamcast, because the system had just begun to tank in Japan and a lot of these games were made in such surplus that the used video game stores couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one only cost like two dollars when I got it. How only two Offspring songs and one Bad Religion song were enough to sustain a game that we played for hundreds of hours, I’ll never know. I just know that when I first played this game in the shitty Wal-mart arcade back home that the chaos of driving was the same rush I got from GTA and if I could ever play this game forever without having to pump money into it each time, well, that would just be motherfucking marvelous.
  1. Dragon Quest VIII (sorry Space Channel 5 – had to boot your ass) – Okay, so I didn’t play a single Dragon Quest game after the first one, because I tried II, and managing multiple characters and enemies just wasn’t the same, and I hastily regarded it as horseshit, but I never forgot the fun of the first one, and was shocked to see just how much HADN’T changed since the first one when VIII came out. To make that great leap to the PS2 and still have all those old school sound effects and beeps and bloops and the same main jingles showed me that Enix (now Square-Enix) had a strong sense of loyalty and tradition. What a beauty. If you haven’t played a Dragon Quest in several years or even EVER, this would be a perfect one to start with. Apparently you can buy it on an iPhone now.
  1. Parappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy – Yeah, I combined them. Is there a problem here? I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re similar enough and short enough that they could fit on a single disc, and should, and this game is good. Hey! That rhymed. Rappity rap / jammity jam. My introduction to the rhythm game genre and my, what fresh, stylized game art you have! How in the fuck am I supposed to do either of these games justice in a shitty little blurb like this? I can’t. I think I have to stop again.

Come back for the other 43 greatest games like.. later or something. Oh wait, let’s do one more.

43. Pop’n Music Animelo 2号 – Wha…? Yep, this is number 43. It’s a game I saw a lot at arcades my first year in Japan that has nine big colored buttons which you push along to a song, and all the songs in this game are from old Japanese animes. They’re as catchy as fuck, you’ll get a really good grounding in basic anime titles if you play it to win, and learning these songs is a huge cultural in. I can say with 85% surety that I wouldn’t be married to the same woman I’m married to now if I never played this game. Games have that kind of sway, over my universe and yours.

The 100 Greatest Games of All Time Because I Played Them And They’re Fucking Great (part 01)

March 5, 2014

Lists are good, right? Everybody likes lists. I thought there should be one here listing the 100 greatest games, because everybody likes lists and lists are good.

To be completely truthful, I was playing Pokemon on my laptop here at work, but the battery ran out, so I had to think of something else to do, and decided to make this list.

So yes, making a list of top games sounds just right, but ordering them by quality is almost always wrong. Even if I were to waste the next two hours trying to rank these games by greatness, the only thing that I would truly stand behind would be the #1 game because there is a special reason for it. In other words, the next 99 items you read (and you will read them, because if you die, you will go to hell where this blog is the only thing you have for entertainment) will be completely meaningless according to their number, but make no mistake: these are the greatest 100 games ever.

At least until I think of another game that needs to be up here and I have to kick one’s ass the hell out.

100. Dragon Warrior – A fine RPG, mono e mono battles, began the Dragon Quest series, what can you say? A lot of people got this game for free by subscribing to Nintendo Power magazine, but I didn’t because I already had a subscription. Thanks a lot, fuckholes.

99. Final Fantasy IV – You may know it as “II” for the Super Nintendo if you’re not up on things. Cecil? Kain? That one. It was such an improvement over the NES graphics and gameplay that it was an absolute joy to play. Good everything, and I used to fly the airship all over the world and pretend I was a tour guide, stopping at the various towns and castles.

98. Secret of Mana – Say you wanted an RPG where you level up and get stronger, but Zelda-style overhead slashing action? Secret of Mana was the perfect answer to that request back in the day. With its amazing music and variety of weapons, I whiled away many an hour playing this while listening to the first Ween CD I ever owned.

97. Rygar (NES) – See, if this list were actually ranked according to greatness, this game would have to go into the top 10, easily. Side-scrolling and top-down action, a rudimentary leveling system, incredible badass soundtrack, and the mocking reality that this game CAN be beaten in under two hours if you know what to do. But you don’t. But you should.

96. Strider (NES) – Turn on the NES and the theme song starts right up – and what a track. Hell, I could easily make this list the 100 greatest video game soundtracks and 75% of these games would end up on it. Strider is a fucking badass, and I don’t care if you think his scarf looks gay. Cipher-slashing, attack sliding, magnet boots, plasma beam, Zain project, pneumatic tubes wiring a pyramid and the Blue / Red Dragon bases made this game so rad even though it’s buggy as shit.

95. Strider (Genesis) – Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.. ha… ha… haaa.. haaaaaa… haaaaaaaw… haaaaaaaaaawww. That’s what you hear when you start the game as the Grand Master Meio kidnaps the earth. Then fly into Russia on a robotic hang glider and start slashing and flipping around battling crazy mechs and manipulating gravity against the backdrop of one of the most powerful soundtracks of all time. Capcom makes you practice your balls off to beat a game like this and it’s totally worth doing.

94. Final Fantasy VII – Everyone’s played this and knows why it’s on the list. If you haven’t, just wait until a remastered one comes out. The graphics are laughable now, but the music and story are pretty goddamn good. I like this one because the last boss is not ambiguous. Too many Final Fantasy games have you fighting some supernatural nutsack who you don’t even know anything about, but here it’s like “YOU’re going down because YOU have been fucking ME over and pissing ME off almost the whole game.”

93. Final Fantasy IX – A beautiful, beautiful game. I love Final Fantasy IX, and would totally marry it.

92. Final Fantasy XII (Intl. Zodiac System if you can get it) – People didn’t like this one so much, but I think it’s fucking great. It’s rather non-traditional because you don’t have random battles while walking around on the overworld, and basically you see a monster and run around deciding whether to attack or not. Feels kind of like World of Warcraft only with beautiful graphics, an epic story and backdrop that makes the Star Wars prequels look like a 4th grade short story contest reject, and you can program you other team members to act not with artificial intelligence, but act based on YOUR intelligence and ability to strategically organize your priorities. Trust me, it’s fucking sick.

91. Final Fantasy VI – yeah, this one belongs up here, too, even though it gets fucking long in the tooth and I’ve only beaten it once though I’ve gotten 100 hours in at least three times. So many characters, great presentation, oh – and a non-ambiguous last boss who is a total asswipe and you’ll definitely feel good about killing him.

90. Fallout 3 – Oh, post apocalyptica, thine charms doth shine or something. What a crazy long expansive and explorable game this one is. Survival in a post nuclear wasteland has never been so appealing, and the culture is something charmingly sinister. Easily went over 150 hours TWICE on this game with content still left to explore.

89. Fallout – New Vegas – just like 3, only in the desert. Different flavor of beast and greater selection of moral / alignment decisions. Used to freak me out that I wouldn’t get a game’s whole content by choosing one side over the other, but instead of seeing what I’d miss by making certain choices, I just let the NPCs convince me whether they were worth helping or only worth robbing and killing. Shit gets real in the nuclear desert.

88. Half-Life – I remember repeatedly playing this game all night long during the summer of ’99 as I dubbed about 100 episodes of the Pokemon cartoon onto VHS tapes. My lack of sleep and shitty posture resulted in the pinching of a nerve above my left shoulder blade, and the skin around that area is still numb. Fucking loved Half-Life.

87. Half-Life 2 – Dyaaaamn. Sequels usually don’t get to be better than the original, but I think Half-Life 2, besides being the perfect 1st-person shooter also has one of the most compelling dystopian sci-fi plots ever. The hideous Combine empire, years into their occupation of earth has made the place unforgettably stunning in its ugliness. Kick fucking ass. Great weapons and a GRAVITY GUN for god’s sake.

86. Portal – This was the reason I wanted the Orange Box in the first place. Hell, I should have just doubled up Portal and HL2 to save a slot, but it should be known that these are two entirely different games. While HL2 is a 15-20 hour rampage across hell and back, Portal is a three hour game in a research lab and is so incredibly fucking clever, people still make “The cake is a lie” references. Don’t they? The computer guiding you is probably the greatest non-human video game character of all time. This game is dirt cheap now, and everyone should have it. It would be worth replacing all of the Gideon bibles in hotel rooms with download cards for Portal, I just think it’s so right.

85. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (The Arcade Game) – If you were a TMNT fan when this game came out, it was just about the most amazing thing ever created. The TMNT game for the NES made by Ultra was a total joke and fucking disappointment, but the arcade game was full color sharp-ass beautiful proportional turtles who looked exactly like their characters from the cartoon, and the action was perfect, the bosses were right, and all four turtles could play at the same time. Make no mistake – this was the best cartoon to game adaptation ever made.

84. The Simpsons (Arcade) – Everything I said about the last game only with the Simpsons. Konami had the fucking knack for making great arcade games based on existing franchises, and nobody has ever done it better before or since – not even Bandai.

83. Animal Crossing (Any of them) – Whichever; I’m not picky. They all have charms and challenges and I could easily amuse myself on a desert island until I starve to death by playing any game from this series. Build a house, collect furniture, go fishing, pay your rent. This game teaches you how to live a double life with weird animals.

82. The Legend of Zelda – The game that really started it all. No offense, but video games just weren’t that damn deep until Zelda came around. The mythology of the Triforce was an entirely original fantasy that beckoned the first generation of Nintendo players to go beyond their insert-coin gaming mindset and think critically over an extended period of time. What they came up with is: This fucking rocks, what a great game, I think we need to have video games forever now. And the Triforce granted that wish, yet people still have the nerve to give Nintendo shit for not making a profit for their goddamn whiny opportunist shareholders. Hey shareholders: FUCK YOU!

81. Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Best game for the Nintendo 64, probably. First to take the Zelda series to that 3D space and introduce “Z-targeting” making for some extremely innovative combat and exploration. 64 graphics look kind of terrible now, but for some reason, this game is forgivable in the same way Final Fantasy VII is. It gets kind of fucked up dark and creepy in this Zelda game, too, and its rare that a game fills you with such tangible dread. I remember staying at this dude’s house once, and he had the game paused at this part in the forest dungeon all week and I would occasionally just turn over to his Nintendo 64 channel and listen to the music for a while and get creeped out.

80. Zelda: The Wind Waker – Zelda at sea. What a miraculous graphical upgrade from the 64—this game is fucking gorgeous! At first you may not recognize it for Zelda, but once you’re in a dungeon, you know that the makers have not strayed far from their roots. So much to do and explore, and though the end drags a little, this one is probably the most brilliantly conceived games of all time, and Nintendo deserves a party every day of the year for making something this wonderful. No more talking about how the Wii U isn’t selling as much as the Wii did anymore, okay, you dildos? They made this game and it’s better than 99% of all the bullshit that comes out of Hollywood and you give bad toothy blowjobs to all those shitheads who make movies twice a year at your goddamn movie award shows. Shut the fuck up and celebrate Nintendo for their genius and don’t be such a dipshit concerned with their finances. Assholes.

79. Zelda: Twilight Princess – yeah, I’m on a bit of a Zelda tear, but believe me, all these games need to be up here for their own good. Twilight Princess revives Link in yet ANOTHER badass graphical style. This game introduced motion controls, and that wasn’t really necessary, but it was a fantastic launch title for the Wii. Beautiful game, awesome dungeons, and you get to turn into a wolf. That’s new and seems a bit out of place, but it hardly takes away from the hard classic core of a console Zelda game.

78. Zelda: Skyward Sword – yet ANOTHER graphical style? Yep, they did it again, this time in watercolor pointillism. They also improved the motion controls to actually make them the preferred way to play. I’m playing this one with my son right now for the second time, we love it that much. Some of the contrivances for dungeon mechanics are mind blowing in their execution. If I tried to explain them, you’d say “What the fuck?” and I’d say, trust me – they teach you how to work them all without even saying anything. Crazy fantastical shit that has to be experienced to be understood. Unfortunately, most stupid fuckbags don’t have the sack to pick up a Zelda game let alone decide to go all the way through with it. And if they do, they put it down right after beating the last boss and move onto the next fucking game without even thinking back on what they just experienced, and certainly never play it a second time through. The same people who say Nintendo is slipping are the same shitheads who treat a Zelda game like a $20 hooker, blow their load inside them, and then have the nerve to complain about having an itchy dick without even washing it until they get home. You stupid bastards don’t understand anything and you’re probably out buying the new Xbox because you like to waste money and you never fucking learn because you’re incapable because you’re retarded.

77. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – the first Castlevania where you can actually level up the main dude and give him different armor and weapons. A customizable Castlevania adventure with Metroid-like exploration makes SoTN one the greatest games ever, for sure. Soundtrack is top tits – Michiru Yamane is a name that needs to be known the way the name of any currently performing musician does not. Could literally play this game any time, and now I want to.

76. Metroid Prime – A lot of people got mad when Metroid went not only 3D, but first-person. Fuck those fools. This is the only way to explore an alien planet and actually feel like you’re on an alien planet. And unlike the two sequels to this game, they make it almost believable that the technology on this planet works the way it does. Chozo lore, space pirates, spider balls, and phazon-powered metroids are some serious shit, and though playing this will make your hands and arms sore, it’s worth every moment of carpal agony.

75. Doom – “Whoa,” I said to computer at the nearly empty Radio Shack, “It’s like Wolfenstein – with carpeting!” I will always remember when I first encountered Doom, and it is more or less exactly like I described above. It took that fun but kind of shitty Wolfenstein, and made it look fucking bad-ass. The interiors for Doom really were incredible, and shooting the monsters while trying to memorize all the secret passageways was at the very least, un-fucking-forgettable. This was also the game that popularized the word “Deathmatch” and once we learned how to play deathmatches in our school’s computer labs, a big tumorous chunk of our innocence fell away from us all.

74. Doom 2 – Probably could have boxed this up with its predecessor as a single entry, but Doom 2 had its own flavor, I think. It was a lot more Satanic, and just fucking ridiculous in its attempts to be dark and outrageous. I recognized pretty early on, I like to think, that most of the imagery was just a bunch of bullshit and stage dressing, and the real game was about conserving ammunition and not dying. The story was pretty silly, actually, now that I think about it, but still fondly remember playing this one particular winter, faking sick with the house to myself, listening to Ween’s “The Pod” on repeat. Memories.

73. Earthbound – Also known as “Mother 2” in Japan, this was one of the first RPGs to be self-aware and break the fourth wall by poking fun at some of the genre’s most traditional stereotypes. The thing that really drew me in and made me want to play nearly four years after it came out was that you could name yourself, your friends, your dog AND your favorite food, so that every time you came home, your mom would be like “Welcome home, dear! Here have some of this SHITPIE that I just cooked and go up to bed!”

72. Mother 3 – The sequel to Earthbound, and never released outside of Japan. Luckily I spent years studying Japanese so that I could enjoy games like this, and it totally paid off when I experienced the heart-wrenching joy and sorrow of Mother 3. Yes, it will make you cry like a bitch. And the soundtrack is too good to be true. I remember listening to the sound test as I took long walks through Nara on my way home from work with the Gameboy in my pocket. Go get a Gameboy Advance emulator, the ROM and the fan-made English translation patch from an Internet near you (I hear they did a wonderful job translating it).

71. Final Fantasy XIII – I hesitated to put this up here, because deep in my heart, I don’t really feel that this is part of the same series to which FF’s 1-12 belong. However, it is a beautiful game, and my memories of playing it are vivid and precious. I played it for the first time at a dear friend’s place in California, drinking fresh Mojitos as my wife cooked curry for everyone and my 1-year old son got to drive a truck. It was a pretty crazy afternoon. And this is a pretty crazy game. I’ve written tons about it. Another time, I had a rare afternoon to myself and I think that this might be one visual interpretation of heaven.

20140305-072552.jpg

70. Kingdom Hearts – At first I was like “Huh?” and totally skeptical that this was just some bullshit crossover aimed at wealthy Disney fans, but it turned out to be a legitimately enjoyable and moving action RPG. It was epic when I first played it on the PS2 in the summer of 2002, and it was epic when I played it together with my son in the summer of 2013. I guess if you hate Disney you shouldn’t play it, but personally it was worth letting go of my cynicism towards them.

69. Kingdom Hearts II – This was a kick-ass sequel to a sweet-ass game. Memories are hazy, but this was a colorful enchanted romp through some classic and more recent Disney grounds. God damn, there was a Lion King stage, wasn’t there? I can’t fucking wait to play this one again when the HD version comes out this year.

68. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – I have fucking loved Grand Theft Auto ever since the first game, because to me, a game where you can mow down innocent civilians and fight the police was basically the ultimate game. Like Ash’s Lilliputian clones in Army of Darkness, sometimes you get sick of being a little goody TWO-shoes all your life, and just want to cheese out with some wanton destruction. While 3 was how I always imagined a GTA game should play, I didn’t have a PS2 until Vice City came out, and it was my chance to truly crack out on the new style. And we did. The freedom to steal and kill was unlike any gaming experience, and the fact that my friends and I got drunk and played this every night for months says something ridiculous, too.

69. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – The map was to be three cities large, it was the 90s, you could get fat and tattooed – this one promised to be the ultimate GTA experience, and in some ways it is still unparalleled. I was so hyped for this game that I wired the money to my friend in America to send me a US PlayStation 2 and San Andreas so that I could have it with me in Japan the week it came out. Funny how that works, since usually the best games come out in Japan first, but by “funny” I guess I just mean that it works both ways.

68. Grand Theft Auto IV / V – meh, one or the another. They’re kind of like the same game, and I could enjoy either one without the other existing. Yes, I’m cheating by giving them the same spot, but the best GTA game would be a combination of these two because the story was awesome in IV and the environment was epic in V. It could be that I’m getting old, but the thrill of stealing and killing wore off considerably after finishing IV. No big deal, and I still support Rockstar for all the despicable behavior they have allowed me over the years, but.. well, I’ll just say thank you and move on.

67. Gabriel Knight – Holy shit, PC games get to go up here, too? That’s right, motherfucker, and Gabriel Knight is one of the greatest point-and-click adventure games ever made. While kids 20 years earlier looked up to the Fonz as the embodiment of “cool,” I had Gabriel Knight running around New Orleans solving the Voodoo murders as only he could. I remember the titillation of when after completing a certain chapter, the girl comes over to Gabriel’s and spends the night and how I told all my friends at school how “I got laid in a game last night!” just in time for a fellow classmate to say, “Oh yeah, guess what I did in real life last night?”

Shit I’m getting tired from writing this. Is it time to go home yet? All right then, the first of this series is done with. Come back for the other 66 fucking games some other time. Did you go download Mother 3, yet?

U Down With TPP?

February 26, 2014

It was not my intention to become invested in the quest known as Twitch Plays Pokemon, or “TPP,” but once every few refresh cycles, we see the alignment of two nebulous digital bodies and what comes pouring forth from the void are indescribably luscious fruits from their holy union. When a certain game becomes such a phenomenal shared experience, it can be like like a communal hookah or a cookie jar full of crack rocks. There is enough to satisfy all, and yet a hunger that can never be sated.

I hate when I miss these things as they happen.

I remember back around 2007 seeing “The cake is a lie” pasted about the internet like a kind of “Frodo lives” tag among gamers and subsequently learning the ins and outs of Portal before even trying the game out for myself. There was that time in late 2011 when “taking an arrow to the knee,” meant “it would probably be for the best if you dedicated a couple hundred hours to Skyrim, yourself if you really want in on the joke.” And I would arrive at these parties very late, indeed, with the hookah still burning, but no one to pass the hose to.

Twitch Plays Pokemon, to sum up in 50 words or less, is 50,000 people playing a single shared game of Pokemon Red for the Gameboy by inputting commands via Internet chat. And it’s fucking bonkers.

Hey man, I played Pokemon Red back in the day, and though I never managed to catch ‘em all, I had a healthy respect for its solid RPG structure and the initial thrill of its gameplay. It’s very weird to see it being played today in this bizarre collective experience, and even weirder to cop to the fact that I’m playing it now. Again. With all these people.

You can see it being played out here: http://twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon on a live stream and the endless stream of commands from its viewers directly to the right. “Up down A B B start anarchy down B A left,” is an example of a single second’s worth of commands in TPP, and only a fraction of those actually being submitted. With such an impossibly large number of players, the gameplay is erratic, but not by precise definition “chaotic,” as progress is actually being made.

The law of averages is on the side of those with a common goal in mind, and by true grit they have captured Pokemon common and rare, named them, trained them, fought seven out of the eight gym leaders, and managed to keep the game going for almost two weeks straight.

Folks often refer to a shared effort like this as that of the Internet’s “hive mind,” and it is fascinating indeed to see its character revealed as the generally well-intended schizophrenic wisecracking self-destructive asshole genius that it is.

They have additionally managed to throw away valuable items, release Pokemon that can never be encountered again, waste thousands of dollars of in-game money, and create a fervent religious dialogue surrounding the game by deifying its creatures and items.

It’s this last bit that really compelled me to see just what in the fuck was going on here. Sometime around the eighth day in, I noticed the phrase, “Praise be to Helix” popping up all over the place and I could immediately sense the in-joke like reefer burning in another room. The Helix fossil is an in-game item that can later be “revived” as the ancient Pokemon, Omanyte. And somehow, Helix/Omanyte had become the players’ incarnation of God.

It was easy to laugh and joke about it at first, but I was surprised at how much flak I received for the trespass of using the Helix’s name in vain on a certain Internet message board. I do believe I might have been burned as a heretic, were the congregation any more corporeal. There was something more serious at work here, and where there was once a playful division between “Helix followers” and “Dome followers” (Dome being the other fossil you have the chance to acquire), it was clear that conversions to Helix were more or less becoming the price of admission for anyone claiming to be “for” the completion of the game. Those who intentionally thwart the efforts of the party by making the character suicidally jump off ledges and tangle up the gameplay by trying to access the start menu were not just trolls, but wicked followers of Dome.

I learned to show some respect and it was with great anticipation that the team eventually reached the important scientist who would revive the divine Helix. It not only took a long-ass time, but just a couple of days before, the team had accidentally released a whole shitload of valuable and beloved Pokemon into the wild due to communication fuckups (and of course, followers of Dome). There were fears that the same fate might befall their lord and savior. This picture pretty much sums it up for me:

pokecide

But praise be to Helix, He survived the extraction process and now lives and fights with the team as they make their way to the final gym, and on to Victory Road.

They’ll probably crucify me for saying this, but I learned that it’s really fun to have a made-up god and to create a mythology around your existence. It’s probably how a lot of actual religions got started, and this one, for all its mock-seriousness is pretty fucking fantastic at not only creating salutations among community members but also rallying the people toward the common goals of success and survival. There will someday be religious studies courses that point to TPP in order to further examine this social phenomenon, and I won’t be able to take it, but perhaps my grandchildren will. To be present for the moment of the Resurrection is an event that I hope to recount to them someday when they’re playing whatever weird games they get up to, most likely involving Mario Party and bungee jumping from IV tubes full of psychedelic drugs not yet invented.

It’s a weird time to be alive, all right. I can’t believe I’m about to go play more Pokemon now.


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