Friday, 31 January 2014

The Alchemy Index (Klashball, Knight Rider, The Krion Conquest)

There was something here, you know. A realm under assault from insecurities and bad dreams. We should only have just arrived to it, but we were a month and a half early. Do you remember? That green ring was what did it. An Eightfold Emerald, glittering across time and space, rippling pure positive emotion across the void between worlds. The void between words. We defeated the Nightmare, then and there, with the power of feelings. A month and a half later, we can look upon that happy planet of dreams and smile. Part of the Nightmare will always lurk within me. Nobody can be truly pure. We are all an amalgam of hope and despair. One just has to let the hope prevail within you. One needs to trust. Trust that they are not a burden to their friends. Trust that they are not an annoyance. Trust that their problems and grievances matter, and that those you love will do everything in their power to set you on the right path.

Kirby's Adventure is still a good video game, and my friends still love each other very much and I love them in return with much friendship. The words I said then still matter now that we've made it here, but I stand by saying them prematurely. It needed to be done. Now then... where are we going next?

Oh. Klashball. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the NES library. With history at the pulse of my fingers, I have absorbed much knowledge. Klashball was an unknown to me until about 20 minutes ago. I had never heard of it. It sort of just slipped in between the cracks. Fitting, since it's basically a sports game. Some sort of robot soccer played in the future (or robot football, if you're not from North America). I wasn't expecting much, but you know what? It was a fun enough distraction, and I actually honest to god won my matchup against the CPU this time. A first for a Nintendo Project sports game. Usually the things have some convoluted way of controlling them that makes me lose because I don't know the button presses. Somehow, this was simple enough. Run up and earn goals. The goalie wasn't a superhuman, the opposing side wasn't on me like a rabid pack of wolves, switching players wasn't some complex button combination only the manual would reveal... it was an actual intuitive soccer video game! With robots! Hell, I even found the inklings of a system to make your team level up and improve! God damn! Why does this one have to fall to obscurity while shit like the American football NES games are known? Thanks, Klashball. Sports games aren't all bad. You're the best one since... Ice Hockey, I think.

Too bad the same can't be said for Knight Rider. It's a novel concept for a game, I'll give it that. Had Knight Rider faded into obscurity by 1988? What a strange use for a license. The thing plays like Rad Racer, in first-person perspective, with you being able to shoot cars. Cool idea. Some cars shoot back. Situations pop up where your shots don't hit a car but their shots hit you. What is that? I mean, come now. What is that? One should be made to take an oath when they make this sort of thing. Never cruel nor cowardly. "I CAN HIT YOU BUT YOU CAN'T HIT ME" is the war cry of a coward. A coward taking advantage of programming quirks to destroy, to demoralize, to despair. I am a little bit offended by this display against me. I did not expect much from Knight Rider, but I expected something a little better than this. You've upset me, David Hasselhoff. Your fancy future car is little more than a hassle to me. Did you like that? What I just did with your name? It was clever. More clever than making a game based on Knight Rider and then messing up the concept. I'm just marking time now, let's get to the last video game here.

Okay. Much better, if not... a strange twin. The Krion Conquest. Look to the right. Just look at that. You know whose lifeforce we're draining here. This little witch wants to play at being a super fighting robot. Her magic is potent, to be sure. The alchemic mix that has brought her to life has animated several of her spells... including something she shouldn't have. She has a magic broom to fly over spikes, a blast of cool ice to freeze things, a magical shield to defend herself... and the curious ability to focus her magic into one powerful shot. Strange, how she knows that. Perhaps the dark gods she made her deals with know of the future, as we do. Curious, that. It's worth looking into. Despite all of that, she's missing something. Alchemy is a tricky prospect, after all. That essential spark is missing from this battle against the Krions. Something just doesn't gel right with what this witch is trying to take her power from, and it shows. Nevertheless, enough energy has been siphoned to make this one playable. Worth giving a spin.

Well, here we are. One more turn 'round the galaxy, and we're away from another letter. Are you ready, Valyan apprentices? Listen to your inner Valya, the sweet voice powered by your own Eightfold Emerald. Listen to her and let your thoughts resonate within your minds. Before we leave this world, we must attune ourselves once more and turn our bodies into weapons.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Kings Upon The Main (King's Knight, Kings Of The Beach, King's Quest V)

 Well, let's get back into it. Let us talk about kings. By 1989, Nintendo was king of the video game world in North America. Swirling onto the scene then is King's Knight, an electronic video game by a company called Square Soft. Now, we enter a curious case here. Japan, as has been noted by Phil Sandifer, did not exist in 1989 for most Nintendo players. With the benefit of history, we know what happened for Square Soft there. A video game called Final Fantasy happened in 1987 and launched them into success. By 1989, a second one existed and changed things up... but Final Fantasy had yet to reach us, so Square Soft merely existed. Kings hiding among the paupers. This game came out in Japan in 1986, a year before Square hit gold with fantasy roleplay. King's Knight, then. A year before Final Fantasy in both Japan and America. How is it? It's middling. A shooter where you don't pilot a spaceship through a black void, but a man walking upwards and shooting straight. At least you can break the walls and find powerups, but I know not what they do. Then I die and go to a whole other level with a new character. I die three more times and then I'm done. Well, that's King's Knight. There's a right way to play it, but I don't know how. This is merely the sketchbook of a future royal. The world is not Square yet, and King's Knight falls into obscurity, remembered only by those who owned it. Someday, though, in another time and place, well after the NES's Trenzalore has come... it will happen. Clouds will form in the sky. Squalls of wind will rock houses to their foundations. Lightning will light up the sky, and Square Soft will rise to become titans among us. Kings among men, someday.

Kings Of The Beach, meanwhile, is a volleyball game from Konami. You know what? I almost had fun with this. I scored points. It comes very close to getting the whole sports thing right. An anecdote from Captain Nintendo's adventures crosses my mind now. People who play console video games circa 1990 don't usually want overcomplicated control schemes, he says. They just want a big red button. That knowledge sold carts, so the man claims. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to enjoy their games, but... Blades Of Steel got this right, since it's hockey and also by Konami. Konami usually understands this mindset, and Kings Of The Beach is almost intuitive. I suppose it would really help if I knew the precise control input to spike the ball, but I did not. Nevertheless, it's a hell of a lot better than the football games I've played. At least Phil Sandifer covered everything baseball so I don't think I have to. I should check with him on that. Either way, Kings Of The Beach has nice music. Konami could make the NES sing when they wanted to. This one's okay if you want volleyball on NES, I suppose. Konami. Kings in their own right; even when they botch up, they still make something kind of enjoyable.

Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. They put out... King's Quest V. On NES. As complicated as a sports game might be, adventure games are even more complex. Only a few folks have tried it, and only a few have succeeded. I'm not sure if I like this or not, but then again I'm not the biggest King's Quest fan. If you like King's Quest, this is the fifth one only with less colors, no voice acting, and controlled with four buttons and a directional pad. I talked to people and explored the world for a bit, and then a bear mauled me. Oops. I've also heard that this is one of those lovely adventure games where you can make the game unwinnable by not doing an arbitrary action at an arbitrary point. Oh, what fun. Sierra was known for this back then, and now where are they? Gone. I have a bit of a bias here, I believe... but this is by no means a king of the NES for me. Why it even exists is a mystery. The dread beast GREED, or just a strange idea that ended up coming to light? That's how ideas start, you know. Just little seeds. Final Fantasy was just a seed in 1986, and now look what it's become. King's Quest? Its seed sprouted, bore fruit, and now the tree has withered. A monarchy lost. A shame.

In the meantime, here is where present, past, and future collide.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A Tribute To Justin "JewWario" Carmical

A man named Justin Carmical died today. Under the handle of "JewWario", this man did plenty of videos about old video games and imports, and assorted things like that. He entertained the masses with his creative vision, and his sudden death has brought about an influx of memories from his fellow creative friends. I never really knew the man, but I know people who have been deeply affected by his loss. So, what the hey. If I can't post a tribute on my dumb Nintendo blog, then what the hell is writing good for? It's late, but I will let my own creative powers take hold. Here, then, is what I know of Justin Carmical.

We spoke only once. My friend, under the handle of "MegaGWolf", had a stream series where he just talked to people over Skype. He called it MegaGTalk. Clever name, I know. I had been on a few of them, chatting about anything and everything. One of the last MegaGTalk sessions had JewWario as a guest, and he and GWolf talked about video games and junk. I expressed interest to G in talking to the man, and with a few clicks, I was in. We chatted for a few moments, and spoke about import video games. The Mother series, for one. He knew what Moon Crystal was! A very lovely little gem of beauty that never saw release outside of Japan. It's outside the scope of this blog, but he knew it and that was great. The only other places I've really seen the man in action were the That Guy With The Glasses anniversary "movies". He brought me some smiles in those.

That's about all when it comes to my direct interaction with Mr. Carmical. It was only as I sat in a group call, sitting in silence, pondering while being verbal support for GWolf that I realized how Justin Carmical had changed my world for the better. Not directly, of course. He had no idea. It's all cause and effect. Ripples. You see, his main series of videos was something called "You Can Play This". Looking at import games from Japan that are easy to play for people who do not know the language and wish to enjoy good games. Quite handy stuff, and he showcased another favorite import of mine, Super Back To The Future II. Now then... watch carefully as the ripples spread. MegaGWolf, inspired by this series, creates a one-off video called "You Shouldn't Play This". He shows off an NES game that we have covered here on the project before; one that he had as a child and drove him quite batty. The Hunt For Red October. You may remember my words on that game, but the summary is the next ripple. During casual conversation with GWolf one day in August 2011, I jokingly reference that game and tease him about beating it. He bets me that I cannot do it. Three days later I accomplish the feat, and in doing so I learn how to beat hard video games. This opens the floodgates, so to speak. Super Ghouls n Ghosts. Battletoads. Ecco The Dolphin. All demons that rush towards me, and that I conquer. The Hard Game Beater, Victorious.

Then the last ripple. The most important of all. Me becoming a member of the "GChat". GWolf and his Skype friends, including me into their fraternity of friendship. Some of these people I already know. Some I meet for the first time. I am a passive member for quite some time... and then, one Saturday morning, I awaken to find that two of my best friends in there are getting married. I am overjoyed and overburdened with positive feelings, and over the next few weeks I become more of an active member in the GChat. I also culminate these engagement feelings by writing about them along with Kirby. I have been an electronic wanderer for quite some time. For the first time in years, I'm part of a tight-knit group again. A chat for non-losers, reborn. The comraderie is strong with some of us. We laugh together. We cry together. I hope to meet them all at the wedding, and shake hands, and share drinks. These are my dreams. Let us look back at the ripples. How far we have radiated out... but we must not forget the genesis of it all.

Thank you, Justin. You didn't know it, but you've given me some of the best friends a weirdo like me could ask for. This is how I remember you, though we only met once. I remember you as the man who's changed the course of my world. This post in remembrance of you is about all I can offer now.

Rest well, sir. You won't soon be forgotten.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Get Off My Lawn (Kid Klown, Kid Kool, Kid Niki: Radical Ninja)

Oops. Had a bit of a breather there, to learn a little more about the constant battle of light vs. dark. We're going to apply it to the first game up today. All of these games have the word "Kid" at the start. Kid Icarus was special enough to get his own because his was an affair that spanned the dimensions of death. Kid Klown In Night Mayor World, though... well, now we've got something. Looking at it from the practical side of things, it is an NES platformer made in 1993. Shades of crossing over our own timeline yet again, with an onrush of feelings culminating in the destruction of our insecurities. Look at the name, though. Night Mayor. Say it out loud and you understand the wool attempted to be placed over your eyes. Is this our first encounter with the Nightmare, or does it know what we will become? Regardless, it takes the form of a Snidley Whiplash pastiche who kidnaps the family of a young clown. After a quick tutorial level culminating in a battle against a hedgehog boss who rolls into a ball and attempts to kill you (no really), Kid Klown is thrust into a mirror and enters the land of Night Mayor. He has little choice in the matter. The Night Mayor, a delegate of Despair, has his family hostage. Our clown friend (never thought I'd say THAT, after multiple reads of Stephen King's It) cannot let the darkness and despair taint his heart. He is but a child, but he has limitless potential. Much like this game. Night Mayor World is a twisted yet colorful mishmash of insanity, calling to mind our own future battle with the Nightmare. Just like before, I will let my own dreams and beliefs guide me on the path to victory. These are the preachings of Valya, the inner meditations of pure Hope. Yin and Yang, Light and Dark, Valya and Nightmare... now I'm calling it Hope and Despair. In no small part due to what I took a breather to read, but anyway. Kid Klown is quite a good video game! It proves that Hope could win out in the twilight of the NES. I would play it to completion, someday. The same cannot be said for the other kids up today. Despair already flitters upon my subconscious as I prepare to experience them.

That was not very good. Kid Kool kould not be further from the truth. This kid has to save a king who's dying from a terminal disease or some such shit, and he's got to get seven herbs in three days. Really, who kares? This is Vik Tokai, and they've done some pretty kool games. Klash At Demonhead is the one everyone likes to kite and Skott Pilgrim referenked it for some reason. Klash At Demonhead is a very good game, however. Kid Kool is not. The idea is, you have to build up momentum and move very quikkly. The problem with this is that you die in one hit and the enemies appear far too fast for you to reakt to them, so you kollide with them before you are even aware that there is something on screen to kollide with. There's also issues with building up momentum and making long jumps. If you stop too klose to an edge, you are skrewed and have little khoike but to die. I don't like Kid Kool. James Rolfe doesn't like Kid Kool. Maybe Kid Kool has its fans but it's kompletely unremarkable to me, and this gimmikk typing krap is getting on my nerves and yours too so let's just move on. Please.

I'm not sure how to feel about Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. I fail to see what's radical about him, other than being a product of 1987. This game is not very good, but it's not very bad either. It's a passable bit of entertainment. I don't know what it is, but we've entered some sort of neutral zone. Hope does not spring eternal here, nor does despair reign with an infinite summer of discontent. We just have a game where you run to the right and hit ninjas with a twirly sword thing. Then you find a boss and he looks really weird. Like that guy at the end of Big Trouble In Little China who gets really mad and expands before exploding. John Carpenter makes good movies. That's an aside because there really isn't too much else to say about Kid Niki. But I'll try. It's one of those games that just exists. If one had it as a child, they would likely have nostalgic feelings towards it. It is difficult with its one hit kills, and it took me a while to clear level 2... but it's a game that seems to reward persistence. It screams early NES, and I appreciate it for its honesty like that. Kid Niki, you're okay in your neutrality and I respect that greatly.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Night Mayor needs to get wrecked.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly (Kid Icarus)


Kid Icarus, released by Nintendo unto our shores in 1987, is an odd case. It is, and yet isn't, a beloved Nintendo mainstay. It got a sequel, its main character was featured in an animated series on national television... and yet then it died right along with Communism. We could go on a tangent here about using the hearts of dead beasts as currency in a capitalist society within the game, but let's not attempt that. Kid Icarus then came screaming back into the world 17 years later, ready to pummel the stuffing out of other beloved Nintendo mainstays. This surge of popularity netted the series a new game, and a 3D port of the original. This is what history has told us. Here, then, is Kid Icarus for Nintendo, flickering between the borders of reality. It both is and isn't a good video game, an odd quantum case locked inside a box with a cat, existing in a state somewhere between good and bad, between Valya and Nightmare. Let us look at the first impression, then.

Our hero, Kid Icarus, or Pit, or whatever you wish to call him, has fallen. He has flown too close to the sun... the sun being his nemesis, Medusa. The goddess Palutena is in jeopardy, and Kid Icarus has found himself plunged into the depths of the underworld. This is how the game begins. In hell. Hell is... oddly black. The 3D port adds a lava background to these proceedings, so use your creative minds here. The beginning is hell, and that is the truth. Pit has very little health and a short range on his bow. Enemies fly in erratic patterns, and deal lots of damage. The bottom of the screen is a constant zone of death; backtracking is forbidden within the depths of hell. There are many things going on here. Not just for our dear Kid Icarus, but for the player. Hidden mechanics are in play here, in order to determine your score. How much damage you take. How many shots you miss. How many hearts you collect from the creatures you slay. Getting a good score makes you stronger. It makes it easier to survive. You will need it. Kid Icarus starts way too god damned hard for its own good. Enough so that many, including myself, write it off after 15 to 20 minutes of attempting to escape hell. Of course hell would be difficult to escape. Bill and Ted had yet to show us the way. Even Death himself roams these platforms. The Grim Reaper, that sentinel who blocks progress for a Mr. Belmont... as a regular enemy in stage 1-1. This is too much. I have escaped hell before, and now I have a secret weapon. A weapon that came into being with the rise of the NES.

I've got books.


Kid Icarus: This one's among the oldest Nintendo games, but if you've still got one lying around, take this code for a spin: ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS. Thanks to my pal Emory King III of Newbury, Ohio, for that. It's worth dusting off the cartridge to give this one a try!
-Jeff Rovin, How To Win At Nintendo Games 4, 1991

Our salvation comes from Emory King III. His secret code pulls us out of hell and into a whole new world. We have no time to fart around with hellspawn. We are Icarus, and we must fight the Medusa Angels. Emory's enchanted words send us to level 2-4. We are in a labyrinth of ice. Hell has frozen over, and now we must navigate through the twisting little passages, praying we do not meet the wrong thing. A wizard of eggplants who will turn you into a monstrosity, a vegetable on legs that begs for death. Spikes jutting into our fragile frame. Emory's words have given us power overwhelming, but navigating the maze is up to the player. There is a way to map this place out in-game, but one is better off breaking the rules. Breaking out paper and a pen, and drawing squares on paper. I've done it. With the cool breath of control, I have guided Kid Icarus through this sub-zero serpentine subterrane. My hands have grasped a pen, the tiny flucks creating squares that link to each other. Tiny symbols, scrawled inside certain ones, their meaning known to me. St. A cross. The letter H. Easy to decipher. Store. A hospital. A healing spring. That big room, with the letter B? A boss. Not a minotaur, but something like a cerberus. Or a dragon. Something to be destroyed, with help. These dungeons also contain the petrified soldiers who dared tried to destroy Medusa. Angels, if you will. Freeing them will cause them to assist you in the boss battle. Emory's words now make sense. Icarus fights... with the angels petrified by Medusa. This is still not enough. We need more power.


Kid Icarus: Two codes that will bring you to the last level of play are: DANGER !!!!!! TERROR HORROR, while 8uuuuu uuuuuu uuuuuu uuuuuu will get you there... along with a stockpile of weapons not to be believed!
-Jeff Rovin, How To Win At Nintendo Games 3, 1990

to wonder...Jeff, what would I do without you? This paperback of yours that I recieved as a child is nearly falling apart. Without it, I would not have beaten Castlevania 2 or Bayou Billy. I would not have been able to venture into the fortress of Dr. Wily. I would not have learned of the insanity that is Monster Party. Many of these games have been covered by a Mr. Sandifer. Many have yet to be discovered. For now, let us look at those codes. I went with the 8u one... though the other seems more like a warning than an alchemic spell. Within the heavenly realm that Medusa has taken as her own, there is danger, terror and horror. We cannot let this stand. Medusa has subverted the goddess Palutena, a holy lady of the Valya. Our Demetria demands that we destroy this agent of the Nightmare... but look what she has done to the heavens. We have somehow entered a closed time loop. Medusa, the serpent, has turned the land of Valya itself into an Ouroboros. A world without beginning or end, until you manage to destroy enough of Medusa's minions. We have powered ourselves up to maximum, and equipped three sacred treasures... a trinity of force, if you will. Now we fly. Now we are an angel, and this has become some sort of shooter. Thank the Valya for that code. I have

We've done it. We've destroyed enough of the souls to break through the Medusa Cascade. Now here she is, stationary and staring at us with a single eye. She cannot petrify us. To be petrified is to be afraid. I do not fear Medusa. Fear is the mind killer. Instead I shall reflect her blasts, and blast her right back in that single eye of hers, forever staring. A snake comes at me now and again, but it is dealt with. This is the power of Valya. The power overwhelming. No wonder Kid Icarus had to remain dormant for so long. This power had to be contained. The world was not ready for it. Even an agent of the Nightmare like Medusa cannot handle it. We hover in place, blasting and blasting, never letting up on our assault. Finally, Medusa falls, and Palutena is free. The balance is restored. The Nightmare's hell, the Valya's heaven... and our own little mortal world in between are all back in harmony. That is Kid Icarus for you. He had to retreat from the world soon after, to let his sister thrive and flourish, ushering in a new age of exploration.

But that's in the far future, a Greek myth for the year 20X5.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Dance Apocalyptic (Karnov, Kick Master, Kickle Cubicle)

It had to happen sometime. We've finally hit a game that's just baffling. Curiously enough, its hero is one of the enemy. Jinborov Karnovski, or Karnov as he has been dubbed, is a rotund firebreather of Soviet descent. This was 1987. The Cold War was on its way out, but the dance apocalyptic was still ongoing. Children of the age of armageddon were invited to witness the adventures of a Soviet hero in Karnov. What they got was baffling. This is a decent video game, don't get me wrong. Just a baffling one. I only took a few screenshots, but everything about this game is a visual mishmash. A fat Soviet man shooting... things at other... things. This is, of course, a limitation of the 8-bit platform. These things are supposed to be demons and goblins and tricksters, but when you contain them within microchips and plastic in 1987, they become a bit of a mess. I'd almost call this some sort of propaganda towards the Soviet Union, but this was made by a Japanese company. Supposedly things made sense in Japan... but remember, it didn't exist in 1987. All the doomsday children had was their burly man shooting things and turning blue when something touched him. Karnov is really really odd, but part of the times. Let's see if four years can change anything.

Kick Master, then, exists in a time when there's not much left to prove. Late 1991, early 1992. The shadow of Communism has fallen. The world escaped its oblivion, but the cost of averting the narrative collapse was... well, in this case, the fall of the NES. The world had gone Super and wasn't about to look back for quite some time. We've seen many beautiful things in this time period, but the double-edged pendulum always swings. One galaxy's hidden gem is another's piece of shovelware. Kick Master is a hidden gem, but look at how it courts with death. Skeletons dance across the screen, brandishing blades. The Cauldron Borne, ever marching, long-decayed remnants of a life now stolen. Unlike the champion, our master of kicking is still an apprentice. He has a lot to prove, and he will level up as the journey progresses. He needs no steel, for his feet are focused weapons in their own right. He does not kick with his legs. He kicks with his heart, and that makes Kick Master superb. A game worth playing. A game that should be played. Valyan apprentice, I will see your journey through to its conclusion... but now I must kick with my mind.

Kickle Cubicle brings reality crashing back to me. 2014 brought it with an apocalypse for the island of Newfoundland. Not by armageddon's flame, but by the lack of flame. Witness the alchemic concoction that led to our Trenzalore by ice. High demand for electricity. Extremely cold temperatures. Rolling blackouts, followed by unplanned fires and explosions. An entire island lost in the dark, lost in the cold. Lost. Kickle Cubicle comes to mock it with its dissonance. Everything about this game is adorable. The slimes, the player character. Your mission is to rescue a frozen fantasy kingdom. By kicking ice blocks and collecting bags. The thing sucked me in, I will admit... but the dissonance remains. Is this how the world ends for Newfoundland, the island of my birth? The land freezing over before cute slimes run rampant? Is this how the Soviets imagined nuclear winter? I can't compare to the frigid cold of their wastes... but I can say that it's pretty damn cold here.

Good time to curl up and beat Kick Master.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Now I Have Taken Control (Kabuki Quantum Fighter, Karate Champ, The Karate Kid)

Come. Meditate with me for a while. Lay back under the soothing cool waters of the waterfall, and let the only sound to permeate your mental focus be the serene rush as the water cascades. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, and fly with me. Take a mental voyage to the stars, on a spaceship named Nintendo. Today our journeys take us to the beginning of a new galaxy, at the dawn of a new year. Come. Meditate with me, and you may find your own inner voice, your very own Valya, if it pleases you. She may encourage you, she may tease you a little even... but she means well. Come. Meditate with me, and hear her lesson. Today your inner voice wishes to teach you about control. Listen to her. Listen to me. Meditate, if only for a while.

In these private thoughts of ours, our imaginations sing and resonate with the imaginations of others. 1990. HAL Laboratory comes to us once again, a reminder that our future is a fixed point in time. Our battle with the dark will come, but do not focus on that. It will be defeated by the other half, the Demetria, if you will. Why am I smiling like that? Don't worry about it. Worry instead about a possible future imagined by the dreamers. The year 2056, and an attack within the cyber-dreaming itself. A brave warrior of Valya named Scott O'Connor digitizes himself to combat this, and falls out of the world, becoming something which does not exist; a Kabuki who fights inside a computer space. A glance at what the dreaming sees as the computer world is enough to unsettle. The mere idea that the machine code of something like Ikari Warriors could translate into this monstrosity is perverse. See the ten hearts of the dread beast GREED pulsing and beating, arteries clogged by currency. It is enough to send H.R. Giger screaming into the deadlights, the sanity leaving his eyes forever. Scott, now the Kabuki for time immemorial, is well-equipped. That is why I show you this. This is what your own Valya sings to you. Can you feel it? Her cool breath in your ear, sending shivers down your spine? I heard it as well. She said "control". The Kabuki has excellent control, when someone like you or I is in charge of his actions. He has committed himself to the machine, and it is only us who can guide the machine. Meditate. Synchronize yourself with the Kabuki. Resonate with your inner voice, and your fingers will become weapons of their own. He will march forward with a flick of your left thumb. Launch upward with your right. When the time is right, a different flick of your right thumb will send his hair into the space where the enemy lays, and damage it. Continue on this course and the Kabuki will prevail. I've done it. Can you?

Another world. Another sight. I show you this not because I hate you. Far from it. I want you to understand how a lack of control can lead you to ruin. See this man in the white. See him face his opponent in red. His goal is to land a blow on the man in red, while avoiding the man in red's attempt to do the same. It sounds simple, no? It is not. The flicking of your thumbs does not translate well to fluid movement. One wrong flick makes this man face backward, an awkward dance. The man in red approaches and easily deals his blows. He is of the machine. He knows what to do. You, my pupil, are not of the machine. You depend on the resonance to guide him... and sometimes the resonance just plain doesn't work. It all comes back to... ah, yes. You heard her again. Yes. Control. Or rather, a lack of it. This man, this... what does he call himself? A "Karate Champ"? He is far from it. He is also locked in an endless battle with this man in red. Someday, one more skilled than us at the resonance may discover the way to do it. Long ago, in a time when the world stood at the edge of oblivion, there were ancient tomes that told you how to resonate with these gods in the machine. This one may still be out there, awaiting discovery. Don't worry yourself about it. Now, you need to understand the full extent of control. Shield your eyes.

There it is. The dark rainbow, lurking in space. I travelled through it, once. Twice. Never again. What's that? Don't concern yourself with it. It is nothing that a pupil like you need fear. I've dealt with that darkness, and now all you need do is observe. Observe and meditate as the lesson continues. Here is a pupil, just like yourself! A bona fide "Karate Kid"! Time has not been kind, mind you. In reality, the pupil is now older than his teacher. What a sad thing time can be... but a powerful one as well. There is a dark power at work here with this one's adventure in Okinawa. The resonance is spotty and unclear, but not as bad as the braggart champ. It's the minions you need to worry about. The sentries of the darkness, that other half of our little Demetria. They come at you without mercy, ready to destroy you easily... and what can you do about it? Not much. You're only a pupil, after all. This is what we call "realism", my friend. What's that, you say? You attempted to resonate with this young student as an escape from realism? My dear pupil... the dark rainbow cares not. Its arc has done what it desired. It fed the ten hearts of the dread beast with cold hard cash and kept them pumping. It matters not to them if the resonance fails. All that matters is the money. Yes, I know, child. It's trash. You've learned something about the universe today. Most of it is just trash.

Have you found it, though? Your own inner voice? Your Valya? Does she sing to you the song of wisdom, passed down through time and space? Does she enlighten your mind with her words, bigger on the inside? Does your meditation broaden your perspective on things? Now, open your eyes. Open your eyes and come out of that soothing rush of water from the sacred waterfall. You've done well, my friend. Don't forget your inner voice. Don't forget that pop of cool breath in your meditative ear. Don't forget that word, the most important to an agent of the Valya, a dreamer.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (Joust, Jurassic Park)

Don't you just love it when things line up perfectly, as far as themes and waffling about old Nintendo games are concerned? As 2014 dawns, we now find ourselves 20 years removed from the entropic heat death of the NES. There are people turning 20 and 19 this year who never knew the NES while it was alive. How unfortunate. Then again, someone older than me could lament as well. Being a product of 1985, and from a small town to boot, I do not know the glory of the arcade scene from the late 1970's and early 1980's. Pity, that. It might have made my understanding of this first game a little more real. I do, however, have something.

Joust is a classic Midway arcade game that came out in 1982. This NES version is courtesy of HAL Laboratory, who will one day send me into battle with my own insecurities before a pair of newlyweds cut it down with the power of love. I saw it happen. I MADE it happen. At first there is no real link between this game and 2014, aside from this weirdo here writing about it on his blog. Here, look closer. Joust is the undistilled form of one of our legendary Black Box Games, those monoliths that defined the NES way back in 1985, at the genesis of it all. This is just Balloon Fight with... knights mounted on flying ostriches. It's at this point that I'd like to direct you to the commerical for this game's console release on Atari systems. It doesn't have a lick to do with NES, despite being part of the secret history and the Great Video Game Crash that led to the NES's curious success... so it actually has everything to do with it. I'm just linking it because it's an absolutely insane commercial for a game about bumping into a mess of pixels that's supposed to be a knight on a flying ostrich. So! Balloon Fight! That game came out in 1984, and that was now 30 years ago! BAM SEE WE'VE GOT OUR LINK. If that's not enough for you, here's another fun thing. Sometimes when you bonk the enemy knights, an egg lands on the ground. If you get it, you get points... but if you don't, the egg hatches and guess what comes out. That's right. A knight. Who then summons an ostrich mount and gets right back into it. Reincarnation. A new life cycle. A new year. One wonders what Joust would do if you killed the same knight 13 times. Let's not risk intervention from the Ostrich Lords and just call Joust "pretty fun". It's the fun side of the arcade, the side that just wants to spend an afternoon with a pocketful of change and try things in a dark room full of flashing lights and beeps and boops. Or waiting for your pizza. It's good!

And now, to close out the journeys of the letter J, and dance into the realm of K for real this time... it's Jurassic Park. Everything about this screams the same wailing screech we've dealt with before: licensed dreck that makes up the bulk of this console we love, revealing the horrible truth to any amateur psychochronographer who dares to do something stupid like, say, continue writing about NES games two years after a more talented writer gave up the ghost. Jurassic Park, though... well, now we come to something different. Those other licenses? I didn't give a fig about Jack Nicklaus or James Bond Junior or John Elway. Jurassic Park, on the other hand? The film came out in 1993 and made millions of dollars. I was an eight year-old boy, and eight is about the age when small boys are already fascinated with dinosaurs. There's no way to divorce myself from this particular cultural event. Jurassic Park and its licensing Tyrannosaur swallowed me whole. I can remember seeing the movie in a theater while on vacation in Nova Scotia. When the T. Rex eats the lawyer on the toilet? That shit terrified me because I was watching death. In my mind, I had just watched a frightened human being cower and scream before being devoured by a monster. Despite that fear, there was a sense of fascination with this movie. I got books about the dinosaurs and things. I was given all sorts of Jurassic Park toys and clothes and god knows what else for Christmas 1993... along with one more special thing. A Nintendo Game Boy with the Jurassic Park portable video game, from Ocean Software. I would have been playing this game in January 1994... twenty years ago. On the Game Boy. This time, my link to the past is an Ouroboros. I am writing about video game history courtesy of MYSELF. Here, then, we see the ultimate victory of Darth License. It's easy to shrug off nonsense sports game, but what happens when his licensed claws dig into an impressionable child? You get a game that I can't look at objectively. A game that I can't just write off as dreck. Great. Now I'm the dark side.

That being said, there is still enough light and imagination in me as an adult to realize that this game is not some forgotten masterpiece. It's underwhelming, even though the NES game tickles my sense of nostalgia for the old days. The Game Boy game I played was pea soup green with a small screen and beep-boop noises. This NES version came out in 1993. Even Ocean knew how to make the NES sing, Just listen to this. Good god. So in this game you run around and shoot dinosaurs with what looks like a bazooka, while collecting dinosaur eggs to earn keycards. I would like to call your attention to that question mark monitor thing to your immediate right. Those are a gamble. They either contain health or invincibility... or blow up and damage you for about half of your life bar. There is also no way I know of to tell which ones hurt you and which ones heal you. As a child, this was annoying. As an adult I could let loose a stream of profanities, but I instead point to it as a shining example of Game Design 101: DON'T DO THIS. At this point I'm playing the game on a set course, a course burned into my brain twenty years ago on a grey brick. Eventually I reach a stampede of Triceratops, and the music... it builds. These are good chiptunes! My god! With the crescendo rising, it's time to blast away from the jaws of the T. Rex. Time to let fright give way to memory, and go on to the world of the K. A world we darted into when love lit the way.

Happy New Year.