Monday, 28 July 2014

I'm Still Here

Sorry about going dark for a week. I've got a friend visiting, and he's only here once a year. Hence I prioritized hanging about with him over esoteric writeups of Nintendo games and pretend gods I invented to sound smarter than I really am.

I may need to take another week, if only to focus on a handful of writing projects that I really should focus on. Nothing major here. So... I'll come back in another week. Look forward to it! There'll be talk about Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! Already the creative ideas are flowing. See you soon.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Might Makes Right (Might And Magic, Mighty Bomb Jack, Mighty Final Fight)

As we've said before, the grey box was powerful. Mighty, if you will. We've got three games with similar names here, let's run with the thing. Nintendo, the makers of the box... now they were mighty. They still are mighty, with their black box and tablet picking up steam. The tiny red rectangle I bought from them 16 months ago is equally as mighty. Our three games today, in a sense, are almost Dickensian ghosts of sheer might. Let's start with Might and Magic on NES, itself an adaptation of a computer RPG. It's younger than I thought; the original version only came out in 1986. This console port is post-dated 1990. The end of the Wall and the end of the War, but you wouldn't know it. I've played the original PC version of Might and Magic. Well, attempted to play. It is brutal and unforgiving, a throwback to the old days. I talked about this in one of the off day posts a while back, but it has a computer DM who doesn't have a care about anything besides beating you down. Might and Magic fits like a glove when it comes to that. I never got out of the first town in my PC attempts. There was a lot of trying to survive one fight without half the party dying. To the NES version's credit, it only took two fights before someone kicked the bucket. Then we checked a leather satchel and spikes jutted out. TPK. There's might here, alright... a might that's too strong for any atrophied RPG fan in 2014 to survive. I'm sure it lit up the world in the days when we shook our fists at the Soviet Union, but not today. Not now.

Mighty Bomb Jack is the "present" of the Famicom, then. It's a very unique sort of game with lots of hidden mechanics and secrets and things buried deep within. Bombs are a sort of might, when you think about it. An explosion created by alchemical might. Our hero, Bomb Jack... is he a master of them? He collects them like a wild hoarder, and some bonus or good thing happens if you collect lit bombs in a specific order. Look, I didn't get very far in Mighty Bomb Jack. It's decent, but what I really remember it for are the Game Center CX episodes about it. Shinya Arino, the tenacious hero of lands that now exist, facing down some of the toughest dread beasts that video games could come up with in the name of alchemy and Lady Capitalism. It was a struggle that lasted several episodes, and culminated with a final battle in front of a captivated audience of fans. Like a Spirit Bomb feeding positive energy to a Hard Game Beater. Japan. You gotta love it. You gotta love Arino. Mighty Bomb Jack is okay and it's even on the Virtual Console. I think you can even download it on your red rectangle.

Mighty Final Fight. 1993 now. So everything's dying. Capcom actually cared to publish this one here instead of handing it off to Nintendo, so there's that! We also face the problem we had with Mario Is Missing. A Super Nintendo game has bled into the world of our little grey box, and filled it with more power than it can handle. Mind, it is the best game we're looking at today. I've beaten it. Short, but a lot of fun and not obnoxious like most other beat-em-ups. Even when it's dying, especially when it's dying, in fact... the NES has more power than we can comprehend. Enough to exorcise the dread beast GREED, whose arcade hooks gave birth to Final Fight in the first place. The hyper-realistic supersprites of quarter insertion are smoothed out, giving way to cute and colorful graphics. This is the age of Kirby and his Adventure, and the grace of the Goddess Valya brightens everything up. Here, then, we learn the secret of the NES. No matter how much bad was made for it, there's still good in there. Still power. Even to its last breaths in a year of dynamite heads, lock-on technology, and final fantasies, the little grey box fights back with everything it's got.

Now that's what might is.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday French Toast (July 19th, 2014)

Missed Friday again. Wasn't feeling it. I'll make it up to you all, probably, if I'm not too busy this week. I've got a friend dropping in to visit. He is a madman to such a degree that he makes THIS madman into the straight man in the comedy act that is our friendship.

Seriously. We do co-op Let's Plays together whenever we're both around, and this week will be no exception. Oh, how I have plans for that fellow. Decisively tricky ones. I'll leave you with a Youtube playlist of our antics so far.

Also a question: Do you like Let's Plays?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Game Boy Color Grab Bag

I don't really have a lot to yell about today. For your enjoyment, an assortment of things I've been experiencing and enjoying.

-Shantae! A friend of mine got me the Director's Cut of Shantae: Risky's Revenge on Steam. I played a bit of it and it was nice, but now I've decided to hold off on it until I actually clear the original Game Boy Color release. Shantae's quite lovely, really. It's everything I love about games like Castlevania II and Zelda II, but without the naggling flaws and black sheep status that makes those other games punchlines on the Internet. Hell, I gave Wayforward 12 Kickstarter dollars last year for the new Shantae, and I get that when it drops. That's the whole genie trilogy right there. I'm glad the series is an actual series now, and not just a very rare technical wonder for Game Boy Color. Here's a secret: I adore the Game Boy Color. Which leads us to...

-Ghosts 'n Goblins on Game Boy Color. This game has well and truly kidnapped my heart and soul, and god help me if I've not succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome. I even recorded a Let's Play of it. Stages 1 and 2 last night, Stages 3 to 6 this morning. Then I realized I fucked up the footage of the latter batch... and redid them. Also this morning. I'm surprised. So many people called this one of the hardest video games ever. The NES version is trickier than the GBC one, but... I don't see it. I see something different. GnG is just insidious. Parts of its design near the end of the game feel built out of proper malice towards the player. This can't even be attributed to its arcade roots, as some of the insidious elements were added TO the Famicom version by Micronics. Ridiculous and brutal... but by god, it has a charm. I love it more than the NES version.

-Club Nintendo put out their Elite rewards yesterday. There has been some complaining about the lack of quality titles. My rebuttal is as follows: They are giving away Earthbound for free. They are giving away Earthbound. For free. How you can claim this promotion is a flop is beyond me. Even the gold awards are pretty good. Zelda II! Metroid! Kid Icarus! All adventurous spaces we've explored before on the blog! A shame that Kid Icarus is the NES original on Wii U, as opposed to the superior 3D Classics version... but hey, the price is right! I grabbed Super Mario Land 2 for myself, and I'm pleased with that. I did better last year, as I was able to snag Link's Awakening DX. That turned out to be one of the best goddamn Zelda games ever. I just realized all these points have to do with the Game Boy Color. I may be a bit of a fan of that thing. On the bright side, I know what to waffle about next Tuesday!

See you tomorrow for Mighty games.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Squeak Squad (Michael Andretti's World GP, Mickey Mousecapade, Mickey's Adventure In Numberland, Mickey's Safari In Letterland)

The first game today is so unmemorable that I actually have to look up what it's called. Michael Andretti's World GP, or something. Oh, I got it. Too much football talk, I could have sworn there was a cup in there or something. To its credit, Michael what's-his-name shows up in the game to give you tips on how to take the curves. Nice of him. Shame I didn't really grasp the controls. To invoke the future a bit, this is just a less good Rad Racer... that replaces flipping and wasting valuable time with the ability to spin out and waste less valuable time. Except touching the dirt at all slows you to a crawl, and getting back on the road while you're crawling is excruciating. Which, since I'm shit at taking curves even with Michaelangelo's advice, happened often. I was not a fan, so let's talk about Mickey Mouse instead.

Mickey Mousecapade. Let's clean house here. People don't like this game. It did create this bit of silliness. There exists a ponified animation of that. Froborr and the Chaos God continue to haunt our blog. I'll get the feather duster, but first. Everything I've heard about this game prepared me for something awful, a black mark on the NES... and you know what? Bullshit. It ain't no platforming masterpiece, but it's passable... until a certain thing. I'll get to what made me put it down, but before that we should address Capcom. They published this thing in lands that existed in the late 80's, and it was the first shot of the great Capcom/Disney alliance. It led to Chip and Dale. Ducktales. Darkwing Duck. Talespin... okay, Talespin nobody talks about but give me time to get up to there. Mickey Mousecapade, when compared to those other three, is a dud that lacks the electrified spirit of Pure Platforming that possessed Capcom back in the day. It's not really fair to hold that against them because this is a damn Hudson Soft game and not a Capcom game. Taken out of its context, it's fine! It's the most fun game of this entry, I can say that for damn sure. Although special ire goes to level three, which is a maze of doors in a forest that sends you back to previous parts of the forest if you get it wrong. And some of the correct doors are hidden. It's trial and error bullshit, and I stopped after getting sent back to the very beginning for like the fifth time. THAT part sucks but the rest is decent. I remember seeing the solution in one of those Nintendo Power scans I have here. Better look that up.

Oh lord alive. Educational Mickey Mouse games. From 1992 and 1993. By Hi-Tech Expressions and Beam Software, the duo that brought us the wonderful Hunt For Red October video game. In contrast to that ridiculously difficult mess, here is a game made for children. Literal children who need help with letters and numbers, I guess. A silly idea to begin with, but an old man playing an old video game about finding the number 5 in an observatory while playing as Mickey Mouse is even sillier. Children would have cared in... 1988. 1992? 1993? The NES was dying. Beautiful things were blossoming as the Destructor's blades were being sharpened. Lush wonders of pure Valyan essence, existing side-by-side with utter dreck birthed from the darkest Nightmares, the failed experiments of Lady Capitalism. Scenes and machinations that small children would have no idea about, at the time. They just played their Mickey Mouse game and learned how to spell "hat" as Mickey's digitized voice rang out of the TV, compressed due to the limitations of alchemy, but clear enough nonetheless. Even Mickey's influence was waning in those days; Mario was more popular than he, according to the lore of the time. The times were changing, and the NES was falling into legend.

Oh, but how Mighty it was, and how Mighty it would face its destruction.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Metal Gear On MSX

So! A week ago we did posts about Metal games, and I wrote a paragraph of Metal Gear. It was a very nice paragraph, but somewhat lacking for a series with as much gravity as Metal Gear... though Metal Gear had no gravity in 1988 here. Still, a Friend of the Faction asked nicely for it and I'm an indulger of wordful delights. We should start with the MSX, then. It was a home computer that existed in various places, according to good old Wikipedia. The early 80's and the home computer scene is lost on me, but they had their time and they thrived. These are the Before Times, the days before old smart Japanese men created their red and white box. We have a black keyboard. We have a machine that thrived in nonexistant lands as of 1983. Japan. Brazil. The Soviet Union. Did Comrade Communism, enemy of the Lady Capitalism, and his furry hat love the MSX? We can only speculate. Still, in this thriving land, things were born. The Bomberman, demolitions expert. Lolo, king of puzzles. And yes... Solid Snake, secret operative. He hit 1986's MSX2, a potent processor ready to power the walking nuclear tank known as Metal Gear. Snake himself, in the artwork, is a dead ringer for Kyle Reese. This mission is nothing less than a mission to prevent the Dance Apocalyptic. Lady Capitalism and Comrade Communism stare each other down, ancient gods among the stars. Metal Gear is not their story. Metal Gear is the story of the ants among giants, and one especially crafty ant sneaking into an enemy base to stop their plans. After sneaking very well, and defeating all sorts of dedicated terrorists, it turns out that your boss was behind it all. The Big Boss, the man who dares to attempt to ascend to become a god. Even his fortress is called Outer Heaven. The world can barely handle the death stares of Capitalism and Communism without collapsing into global thermonuclear war. Big Boss's ascension would surely bring this earth to ruin, and so Solid Snake stops him. Because it is his duty. I don't have too much else to say about the game. It was smart to make a game based on sneaking around and being covert in 1987, when everything was "blow up the bad guys". Hideo Kojima knows his military stuff, and he breaks the fourth wall a couple of times. Nothing as zany as his later works. I beat it, but that was a good few years ago.

Now, Metal Gear 2... well, this is a fun one. I have only played half an hour of it, but that's okay because I don't need to talk about the game itself that much. I will say that it has one of the best video game intros ever. Its plot also leads into the next Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Solid... which is well outside the scope of a Nintendo game blog but is also very good. No, Metal Gear 2 is important for other reasons. Well, to me anyway. It has a secret history within its secret history, separate of the Japanese public's enjoyment of it in 1990. Metal Gear 2, you see, invented Let's Play. Sort of. A nice fellow named Slowbeef played the game and thought its puzzles and internal logic were very silly. He took screenshots of the game and added running commentary on how silly the puzzles were. In the process, he accidentally created a prototype of "talking over a video game". The concept spread to Something Awful around 2006 or 2007, and Slowbeef did a few of the very first. The Immortal. Super Metroid. Raw and rough, but the foundation for insular goons to talk over and talk about video games. Then it hit Youtube, and... blew up. It was enough to get me to do it at the dawn of 2008. I was terrible at it, but I got better. Probably. Let's Play is a business now. People make money off of it. More money than I have, to yell about video games. All of this from a little MSX2 game. Not bad. Not bad.

I hope that's enough talk about Metal Gear for you, my lovely Friend of the Faction. I'm all tapped out. Maybe I'll go play them again. I mean, I do have that Subsistence disc... and the PS2 is hooked up. First, I should probably talk about Mickey Mouse.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saturday French Toast (July 12th, 2014)

Good morning! I trust your week has been pleasant, friends! As for me, I am currently in Hell. A hell of my own making, however. This past week has seen me go back to, and conquer, a very difficult video game. One that fits in well with the Nintendo space, but has already been covered. It's Ghosts 'n Goblins. Like I said, Phil did a fine job covering it. I happen to have just a little bit of experience covering this series.  A friend of mine keeps saying that I go where mortals dare not go. I'm not sure why I go to hell and back with this series. I'm not even sure if I really LIKE the series. We have a complex relationship, the goblins and I. Complex enough that I kind of want to wax esoteric about them, their design philosophy, and just what makes them so damn difficult. In a way, they are the Dread Beast GREED I keep yelling about. So, to that end, I've been toying around with the idea of a sub-series here on the blog. I basically got the idea from looking at how Froborr does his main thing on Sundays, and did his side Madoka Magica analysis on Wednesdays. So, if there's interest... I think I can take Thursdays to write about the Ghosts n Goblins series. I wouldn't cover every port and remake and whatnot, but I have a couple of versions that should be covered. The "canon" versions, if you will. Let me know down below if you think that's a good idea.

While we're there... hard games! Ghosts 'n Goblins is definitely a hard game, but what's the hardest game you've ever beaten? Or played, even? Conjure up those memories of dread beasts and set them free here, in the land of the wild. We'll see you on Monday for racecars and mice.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Haunted By The Hallways In This Tiny Room (Metroid)

It's August 6th, 20X5. The #1 song beamed directly into our brainwaves is "Avenging My True Self" by the Black Hole Bomb. So that speaks volumes about where the galaxy's gone to since 20XX. In news that does not sing, we have lord knows how many grim things. There is an investigation sent to the colony on LV421, to discover what happened to its missing colonists. None of them return alive, adding further mystery to the whole affair. To say nothing of the scandals involving Commander Malkovich back on Earth. Let's just say the the women of the military don't take kindly to being called "lady" during a briefing, and leave it at that. Finally, those insurgents from the border outposts, the "Space Pirates", attack a Federation research spaceship with a crudely made power bomb. 19 die. The incident is swept under the rug as quietly as possible... but we know the truth. It was difficult to dig up, but I have the advantage. I stand outside of the lens of history, and I know where that ship had been. A place where angels fear to tread, where the darkest primal recesses of the Nightmare reside. An Uninhabitable, SR388. They took something from that planet, and now the Space Pirates have it. With the experimental life form METROID, the MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN could bring about unspeakable destruction. She could ascend to a new position, usurping Peko The Destructor as Queen of Death. Our resident reaper is none too happy with this. Thank goodness she has her champion. Thank goodness it's 20X5 and Samus Aran can bail us out.

Or... is it August 6th, 1986? Is it actually Peter Cetera at #1 with "Glory Of Love"? If it really is, then New South Wales is in for a hell of a lot of rain. 13 inches of it. The heavens twist and weep over Australia as old Japanese men's work finally comes to fruition. A video game about the future, contained not within grey plastic but the bright yellow of a diskette. A foreign alchemy, but an alchemy nonetheless... and one that would take a year to decipher and fire out to lands that exist. Then again, it is the future, after all. Japan exists, and they created this game. Yes, it's not August 6th at all. It's July 11th, 2014, and I'm sitting here in a Burger Time T-shirt and writing about another one of the Big Ones. It's Metroid. Where do you even begin, aside from making silly asides about fake future history? It's fucking Metroid, for christ's sakes! One of the most important video games ever for a myriad of reasons, and one whose future setting echoes the ghosts of games yet to come. We know this tale. An impossible bounty hunter will rise up from troubled times with innovative exploratory games, culminating in the best damn Super Nintendo game ever. Then all will go quiet... until all returns with a double whammy in the 21st century. America takes over and makes things fantastic. Then Japan takes it back and fucking murders it. It is nigh-impossible to talk about Metroid without talking about these things. Psychochronography is supposed to take things out of context, but what was the context of Metroid? It's changed now, such that the original game is casually dismissed. Witness the chronicles of the Zero Mission. The glam, the vibrant colors, the satisfying crackling sounds, the entire enriched experience. This is what we all play now. "Put that poorly aged NES cart down", they say, "and slot in this GBA game! It's a remake and way better!". The future has consumed this future game. Haunted it.

There's another piece of entertainment that came out in 1986. The novel IT, by Stephen King. In it, one of the characters looks up the definitions of the word "haunt" and finds the last one fitting; a feeding place for animals. This is what the Zero Mission has done to Metroid. It has cannibalized its own past, creating a paradox and feasting on the flesh of its own destruction. Peko's Paradox, if you will. Hell, the original is in there, trapped inside the confines of Zero Mission, waiting to be unlocked. Swallowed whole but still powerful. That's fine. Here, in the world of infinite imagination, one can undo these things. I create my own transcendent space using my power of free thought and typing. In this space, there is no Zero Mission. Not today. The future cannot be entirely kept out, and it will bleed in at times. That's fine. Right now I want to talk about Metroid on the NES. No need for insanity, no need for long walks and esoteric readings. We are going to talk about Metroid on the NES, and why I love it. For starters... it's very fun! Sort of a combination of Pure Platforming and Endless Adventure, a strange melange that shouldn't work but does. Kind of like turning Mega Man into a cartoon horse, but Mega Man doesn't even exist yet so shoosh. It's also brilliant! Like the opening moments of the game. I'll defer to Jeremy Parish's Anatomy Of A Game, but the short version is that the game lets you go right for about the length of an average 1986 pure platforming game before stopping you. The real solution is to go left of your starting point and get the item that allows you to curl up in a ball. Now you know that scrolling works both ways. Soon you will find that we can scroll vertical as well, and every direction is open to you. Time to explore.

Is Metroid on NES perfect? Holy mother of god, no. Even if you ignore the lack of modern convenience like a map system (or saves in the non-disk version), you still have... problems. Like starting with 30 health every time you continue. That's not a lot. You'd have to farm for energy upon continuing. Having to rely on random drops to replenish missiles, the cryptic and hidden nature of some of the secrets... this game is not kind to you! Although... in later years, the Trickster Beast of the ROM would come in on his pirate ship and... meddle with things. A Time Meddler, if you will. Metroid needs no such things to function, though. What it does it does well. It explains the basics by way of example, and then plops you into a harsh world to explore. In that way, it's similar to the shrines of Endless Adventure that we have visited before... but nowhere near as friendly. The planet Zebes is a dark, dreary, desolate and isolated place where you are constantly under attack from nightmarish aliens. Things That Should Not Be assault you at every turn, and in order to succeed you must delve into the depths of Alien Hell itself. This is why I love Metroid on the NES. It has some of the best atmosphere a Nintendo game can have. Zero Mission, lovely and upgraded as it is... kind of misses that. It makes everything bright and colorful and sort of peppy. Metroid, to me, is a black background with purple eyeball platforms and searing lava beneath you. Eyeball monsters and fire breathing seahorses. A dragon hiding deep within a base, the dread beast Ridley... itself a causal link between Metroid and one of Metroid's big inspirations. The backstory is the damn same as Alien. Ship goes to a bad planet, picks up a lifeform... and it turns out that said lifeform could be weaponized and casually destroy all life in the galaxy. That's about where the similarities end, but Metroid and Alien also both share amazing atmosphere. The music for Kraid's Lair is one of the spookiest tunes on the NES, a vibrato of echoing notes that makes the place sound like a haunted cathedral, deep within the bowels of planet Zebes. Zero Mission tries to replicate it... but it doesn't do it for me. It's not as spooky. However, listening to it as I write... it reflects the state of Metroid now. This sounds like triumphant music for a hero. A hero like Samus Aran.

There's no use trying to play around Samus. Samus's identity is about as secretive as who Luke Skywalker's father is. No alchemy can keep that immutable fact completely out, and yet... the manual straight up lies to you. It refers to Samus as "he" multiple times. Misdirection? Losing things in translation? Apathy? Whatever it is, it creates one of the first possible "surprise" moments in video gaming. Samus Aran, the space bounty hunter who entered the shifting walls of the Labyrinth Zebes and came out alive... was a girl. A cynic might say that it doesn't matter, that we all just assumed Samus was a guy anyway and putting a girl at the end (who'll strip down to a bikini to reward the player for really mastering the Labyrinth) doesn't serve women in video games well. I counter with "fuck that". I'm also a very privileged fellow with a blog, so this probably isn't the best space to talk... but why wouldn't we want a cool lady like Samus? Again we are forced to reject everything that exists outside, in the future. There is no origin story involving Ridley and the planet KL2. No Captain N comic. No two hour pre-rendered movie with dialogue delivered like an oak tree on orders up high. There is only Samus Aran, Disciple of Peko The Destructor. Here is a woman, a bounty hunter who deals with threats and puts herself in danger on a daily basis. This is her job. She is good at it. One day the terrorist cell led by the MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN steal something that would bring untold Death to the galaxy. Samus Aran, not quite yet a Huntress, is sent to save the day. With the powerful suit she has learned to master, she delves into the underworld and deals with hellspawn. Hellspawn that have gone rogue, and joined with the MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN. The Labyrinth becomes her domain, and she thrives in it. There's a certain giddish glee to making Samus a super-powered badass. It is entirely selfish on the part of the player, as their desire to finish the quest is what keeps Samus going... but the Disciple benefits from our action. Gradually, we learn powerful incantations and local myths. The harrowing tale of Justin Bailey. The legend of the Narpas Sword. Even rumors of the Negative Zones, the Space Between Spaces. Then comes the endgame. Then comes Tourian.

The Metroids are a known quantity. I was surprised to find them displayed in the manual, sprite and all. Only the MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN is a true mystery, but to get there one must defeat a horde of Metroids. In another unfortunate misstep, it is possible to come here with the wrong weapon for killing Metroids. It certainly makes the things scarier, but come on. You shouldn't do that. Still, Metroids are horrific. Pulsating jellyfish with sharp teeth that latch on to you and never let go. They are vampiric, draining the life force out of all. Such entropic endurance cannot be allowed. They all must go... but that's for later. Right now, we must worry about the task at hand. Destroy more of the things on your orders, and then come to It. The MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN herself. Mother Brain. Oh, is this ever a tense fight. A sentient mass of neurons encased in a jar shouldn't be a threat, but everything works against you. The flame rings that can knock you into lava, combined with the unstable terrain, make things difficult as hell. Grit your teeth, Samus Aran. It's almost over. With the power of death and missiles on her side, the MECHANICAL LIFE VEIN explodes. A time bomb is set. Get out fast. Maybe see a girl in a bikini if you were fast enough.

That is Metroid. Of course, serving Peko The Destructor, the Queen of Death, has its consequences. We can't keep her out, I'm afraid. Death comes to all things, even these spaces. The Nintendo Project faced death already, but it's been back for almost a year now. Still, there are side effects and odd coincidences. I probably shouldn't bring this up, because it's really quite inappropriate to bring up a real world tragedy and compare it to dumb video game blogging... but the day Metroid was released in Japan? The 41st anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. William J. Schroeder, the second artificial heart recipient, dies. Coincidence. As Samus kept coming back, other things happened. 1991 sees her return, and her near-genocide of the Metroid race... right as the Dance Apocalyptic winds down and the Soviet Union dies. 1994 is Super Metroid, and with Samus heading strong in 16 bits, Peko's blade cuts down our wonderful grey box. The Nintendo Entertainment System dies. Samus remains dormant after that, but comes back in full force. This defies the rules. Death comes to all, and Samus had her chance... but Samus Aran is more than a Disciple now. She is a Huntress. She is more than just a slave to reality. She is a mythical being deigned by Fate, a Legend of her own. She is her own reality, and with that power she transcends Death itself, becoming the Bounty Hunter Victorious... for a time. Then Peko gets her revenge, and everything Samus was is torn down by the very forces that created her.

It's August 2nd, 2010. Samus Aran dies.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Get Equipped With Magic (Mega Pony), Part 2

(What in the world is this? Allow me to explain. A very nice Constant Reader and follower of the Faction tossed a request at me a while back; to collaborate with a Sandiferesque blogger by the name of Froborr. Froborr runs a ship called My Little Po-Mo, which focuses on... esoteric and psychochronographic write-ups of My Little Pony. Now, I know jack shit about that program beyond the less savory parts of its fandom, but I do know a lot about Mega Man! Froborr, by comparison, admits to knowing jack shit about Mega Man. So by putting our head spaces together, we were able to hash out a bunch of interesting words about Mega Pony, an MLP/Mega Man crossover fan game that turns Mega Man into a quadruped dimunitive horse to fight against other dimunitive horses. I wouldn't have approached Froborr with this idea if the game didn't do some interesting shit, but by god if it didn't do some really interesting narrative shit. This is Part 2 of our writeup, and you really should go check out Part 1 on Froborr's blog before you dare venture any further into this thing. Here it is!  While you're there, may I recommend you read The Very Soil? As I said, ponies are not really my jam... but Froborr's Very Soil series is an in-depth look at Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Which is in my top 5 of best Japanese cartoons. He did a good job, and we both put words into this Mega Pony piece. Now then... on with the show!)

That intrusion comes, unsurprisingly, in the form of Discord, whose sheer wrongness mounts throughout his fortress. The first level is a fairly standard Mega Man final level, with variants on puzzles earlier in the game and occasional spots where the boss weapons--always optional in the first cycle of stages--are now required to advance. It even ends with one of the most classic Mega Man foes, the dragon hovering over a pit, though My Little Pony gets its say, too, as the dragon is the aforementioned one from “Dragonshy”, and easily rendered ineffectual by Fluttershy’s weaponized Stare. The corruption increases slightly in the second level with the intrusion of the Windigo from past, but it is in the third fortress stage that the corruption becomes truly apparent. Sweetie Bot is fought again, later followed by Scoota Bot and Apple Bot. The corruption of the Cutie Mark Crusaders is even deeper than in Friendship Is Witchcraft, which other than affirming that Scootaloo is an orphan (something left to viewer speculation in the show) leaves the characters of Scootaloo and Apple Bloom largely intact. Here they are thrown into the same corrupted transformation as Sweetie Belle--literally, once the stage boss is reached, the player falling through the false floor of the previously safe boss corridor to fight a massive robot with three heads, one for each of the CMC. (And, of course, each head is weak to her older sister’s--sister-equivalent in the case of Scootaloo--weapon.)

Then, once that abominable monstrosity of Corrupt Chaos is dealt with… we have the final stage. A boss gauntlet. “Dr. Discord’s Super Chaos Funhouse.” I’m not coming up with that to be cute. It’s clearly visible written in the background. Here, we fight our six heroines again, and a player who didn’t go with the weakness order can find how things work. Pinkie Pie’s zipping upwards is perfect to catch her with the Sonic Rainboom. The Party Balloon will lift Fluttershy’s animals away from her. By now, one is good at this. It’s Mega Man. The average Mega Man player has destroyed so many bad robots! What are six ponies to a Hard Game Beater? Then comes the Discord Machine, and it fires its blasts at you. Nothing too difficult, not really. The tank soon explodes, and Discord begs for forgiveness as the Mega Man 1 “boss clear” jingle pops up. Lovely! Then our ending screen, ripped straight from Mega Man 2. A calming and peaceful tune plays as we look to a grassy field… and then Chaos itself performs the ultimate corruption. The ending screen is snapped in half, and Discord taunts us from the clouds above the fourth wall. Chaos has subverted the narrative, but there’s more to it than that. During all of this, the boss music is playing. The boss music from Mega Man 6, that is. Released in 1993, not even published in America by Capcom, a final quest of Pure Platforming for a dying grey box about to meet its Destructor. Discord is invoking the end of all things here. Mega Man 2 cannot handle the power of 1993, and so it breaks.

We could, perhaps, have seen this coming. There is momentary notice before it all breaks: chocolate rain, pouring down from cotton-candy clouds, Discord’s harbinger once before. But almost before we can register that, the future breaks in, and in so doing breaks the game. The final stage is a perfect representation of a broken NES cartridge, distorted sprites misplaced, random jumbles of text, a complete disconnect between what’s shown on the screen and the underlying physics. Instant-death spikes must be walked on, and walls walked through. An entire screen’s floor is made of a flickering swarm of overlapping Metools, firing constantly. Another room features hovering fireballs that trigger the flash and sound of damage, yet do not reduce Mega Pony’s health. And perhaps best of all, at the base of one ladder, the player must climb down the floor beneath it--only, when they hit the bottom of the screen, to be thrown up to the screen beyond the ladder’s top. At one point, there is even the death sound-effect and explosion from Mega Pony--who remains unscathed. Death itself, that final imposition of order that cuts off all possibility of chaos and change, has no place here. Until, that is, one reaches the boss chamber to face Discord, Chaos itself.

At this point, all semblance of the future comes crashing down. Discord’s entrance into the boss arena is a clear reference to Sigma from Mega Man X, released in Japan in 1993. It makes sense. No wonder everything broke; Discord has commanded the next generation of Mega Man for his own benefit. It’s similar to the final boss fight of another fan game, Mega Man Unlimited; in that game, Mega Man faces off against a half-completed Zero and finds himself totally ineffective. The classic series can do little against its own future in a fair fight… but Chaos’s own transcendence and rulebreaking can be turned to our advantage. If anything goes here, then why can’t anything go for us as well? Discord, to his credit, attempts to destabilize things further by using an attack pattern that feels reminiscent of Dracula from the Castlevania series. We’re not even in the same series any more, and yet we press on, determined to vanquish this chaotic space. Once enough damage is dealt, we see our six friends--foes up until the Chaos Funhouse--fueled by the Elements of Harmony. They channel that energy into us, and then… then we break the rules ourselves. With a Mega Buster of Harmony, a Rainbow Beam that should be foreign to Mega Man 2 but fits with this broken world. Discord is blasted by pure Order, and is turned to stone. Everlasting peace has returned to the world, and things can now properly conclude.

The true ending credits, interestingly, are pure pony, a chiptune version of “A True, True Friend,” a song which in the show celebrated and depicted the restoration of the Mane Six to their true selves. Generally speaking, chaos mounts in the Mega Man series over time. Wily always returns, and when at last he is no longer able to do so, creates the Sigma Virus to take his place. Each successive incarnation of the series, from the original Mega Man to X to Zero, depicts a darker world than the previous. But here? Here ponies have won. Harmony is restored. The Mane Six, healed and with their new friend Mega Pony, return home to find ordinary, uncorrupted Cutie Mark Crusaders, along with Spike and the princesses, waiting for them.

Well. That was Mega Pony. Never letting one of its influences overwhelm the other, it somehow strikes a perfect balance between being a Mega Man fan game and an MLP fan game. It is solely neither, but a blend of both. I have no doubt that its creator has fond love for both of those things, from the genuine homage to Mega Man 2 to the myriad of pony references within. It’s a strange sort of alchemy, but somehow it creates the intended effect. Possibly due to the chaos churning within its inner sanctums, but that’s always a danger with this sort of alchemy. The children of the great grey box are bigger on the inside, fueled by one’s imagination… and in this case, the darker side of indulgence has been let loose and gives way to a game where you shoot the heroines of the show with a Mega Buster. Strange, but the themes inside are interesting enough. With fan games like this or Mega Man Unlimited, Mega Man need not die, need not give way to the Beck and Call of a new body without its ancestral memories. Until Capcom decides to make a Mega Man 11 (doubtful, really)... the spirit of Pure Platforming sleeps in our minds.

Perhaps it dreams of ponies.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK (Metal Gear, Metal Mech, Metal Storm)

One of these days, I need to properly read about alchemy. I've thrown the word around a lot, but it never hurts to learn more. For now, let us delve into the Metal Age. Metal is ingrained into the very fiber of the grey box. That and plastic, and the microchip. A great metal shield sits over the cartridge housing, an impenetrable shell from which no RF frequencies can escape their fate. Metal screws keep the two halves together, a beautiful box held tight. How many pieces of metal does the Metal Gear have? God, what a machine that is. The date may be some nebulous future, but it is the future of 1987. A grim future where the Dance Apocalyptic is ever played, and Hideo Kojima is a nonexistant phantom who waltzes along, painting a picture of the Disciples Of The Destructor. Metal Gear, then, is his child. A ghost from Japan that we cannot see in the year 1988, when it comes to NES. All we see is a super computer, its silicon conductors pumping tactical espionage information to the enemies of the West. These things must be fought. We are not expected to survive, but when have we ever let that stop us? The Metal Gear will haunt us, unseen until long after the NES has fallen. It will live on, as most ghosts do, until inhabiting a new machine. For now, accept that what we got here was flawed. This is not the scripture of God, but a muddled mistranslation. And lo doth he say, the truck have started to move.

Flawed? Lord almighty, is Metal Mech flawed. This is one of my personal disappointments in video gaming. I paid a dollar for it at a flea market, long after the death of the NES. I also remembered reading about it in a Nintendo tip book. An interesting game about an armored mechanical vehicle, with the ability for its pilot to hop out and explore the world on foot. I didn't know it at the time, but that's... Blaster Master. This is a failed attempt at turning lead into the gold that Sunsoft created, and all we are left with is a putrid pile of lead. This game is not very good. Things come at you from all angles, and you have very limited fire power. Tiny bullets. When you need to exit your mech, the little man is weak as sin and gets hit by rats in the sewers. Rats he cannot shoot. Oh, joy! The Nightmare from my past rears its head again, now biomechanical and ready to strike. He has been summoned by the botched alchemical processes that Jaleco and company have been foolish enough to fiddle with. How do you crush a beast? With gravity.

Metal Storm is a gem! It's also difficult. Really difficult. Before that though, you become a master of gravity. You can alter the very way it moves with a button press. Ceiling becomes floor, and enemies fall up with you. What exactly powers this, I cannot guess. More alchemy? A localized gravity well powered by advanced microchips and quantum mechanics? Pure imagination? Who the hell knows. What I do know is that this one's mighty fun, and well worth a play. Then, when you think you have become a Gravity Lord, it challenges you sweetly. Try a game for experts! Do not be fooled. This will skin your sanity alive. I named it the hardest game ever, and I still stand by that somewhat. The hard mode is ludicrous and demands absolute perfection and planning. There can be no hesitation, no delay. You are no master of gravity until you become one with the robot you control. A true 1:1 ratio of synchronization is required. Welcome to Metal Storm. Welcome to the Machine. Meanwhile, the Mechanical Life Vein pulses and plots. It dares to subvert Peko The Destructor, and create a new force of Death. It dares to become a Death Lord, and to stop it, Peko shall send her newest Disciple Of Destruction. The Huntress will descend...

...but first, ponies.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Icewind Dale, Dungeon Masters, And Man Vs. The Machine

Let's talk about tabletop gaming, really quick. I have three DMs and they're all pretty neat. Ranchei runs an in-depth Pathfinder session with lots of little side missions and bounties, and his treasure roll of a scroll of Plant Growth somehow spiralled out of control, creating a campaign where the adventuring party are now prospective drug lords attempting to set up a massive marijuana operation in a fantasy realm. Being in an altered state of mind is nothing new for my summoner; he once was nothing more than a drunkard hobo with a familiar that wouldn't shut up. At least now he has a home. The next DM I've got is Kyon, who was actually my first DM in a short-lived D&D 3.5 campaign. He's restarted the gears, and together with a ragtag group of Tumblr folk we embark on an Incompetence Quest. I, the druid and huntress, arrows flicked with precision at her foes while she dreams of magical power beyond the wildest dreams of most. This campaign has more of a high-stakes plot unfolding, with hordes of undead monsters laying waste to villages, and a nebulous Big Bad waiting in the wings for us to one day face. My last DM is Nick, and Nick is also a player in Ranchei's campaign. It is a circle. Most of us involved in the Pathfinder campaign play in Nick's Call of Cthulhu campaign. It is a different beast, and one that fills me with dread. As of this writing, it is the only time I have properly lost a character in tabletop gaming. Lee Brahm, charismatic journalist, ripped in two by a Thing That Should Not Be. A private investigator now takes his place, and he aids his uneasy alliance by searching for rumors of dark cultists.

All three DMs have one thing in common; they are human. That sounds like a "no shit" statement, but bear with me. I don't know much about the DMing process just yet, but I don't think any of the three would WANT to see a total party kill. They work with the rules, and create encounters that are fitting for the party's strength at the time. Sometimes things go south, like those goddamn teleporting leopard things in Pathfinder with DR 5 and an anti-magic field. It took us three hours to kill them. For the most part, things are fair and if you get diddled it is the fault of chance and dice rolls. That is not the case with Icewind Dale. A friend got it for me, and that friend was very nice... but holy lord did this game humble me. I rolled up a party of 6 and focused their best stats on what I thought would be good for them. High DEX for the Druid/Ranger, high INT for the wizards and so forth. After exploring the starting town and roleplaying a little, it was time to go into a cave and fight some orcs. Of which there were about 20. Who could easily one or two-shot my level 1 party. Combat seemed to work a lot differently here. For one, it's fast. 6 seconds a round means a damn slugfest where my guys try to hit the orcs. As opposed to the slower, turn-based feel of Maptool or Roll20 where I move a person when my initiative comes up and make a roll. I'm still not sure what I did wrong. I even remade my party to have beefy CON scores so they had more HP, but it didn't help. I still got steamrolled. This should not have been an issue, and yet it was. My DM this time was the Machine. The Machine, unlike Ranchei or Kyon or Nick, doesn't give a fig about trying to be "fitting", it seems. Here are 20 orcs. Did the first three wipe you out? Too fucking bad. It's ruthless. It's ridiculous. I eventually did it, by savescumming and resting outside over and over again. I don't feel like that was the right way to do it. For a first quest it was brutal. Maybe I'm just soft when it comes to RPGs. I accept that something is wrong with me as opposed to the game, or I made my party incorrectly... but at the same time, it doesn't FEEL like I should have been so thoroughly destroyed. The orc boss was even worse; straight-up OHKO on the main fighters. Magic Missile helped to hit him initially, but I only got one of those a day from the wizard. After that, she was spent.

This became bitching really fast, but I still like the idea of adventuring and whatnot. I guess I just like the tabletop things more. My DMs are nicer than a hard game, that's for sure.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fight The Future (Mechanized Attack, Mendel Palace)

Oh boy! A game that's compatible with the Zapper! My favorite! There were maybe like 10 of these things, and the only ones I ever had were Duck Hunt and The Adventures Of Bayou Billy. We already covered Hogan's Alley way back when, but now we have... Mechanized Attack. It reminds me of Bayou Billy's shooting levels, only it's a whole game. "Goody!" I said, as I moved my crosshair around and shot at dudes. "I'll bet emulating the Zapper would make things even more fun!". I was incorrect. The alchemy has gone wrong. You really cannot emulate the Zapper. That bright orange frame, once a stark grey long ago to match its parent box. The little lens inside the barrel to refract light. Best of all... the springy noise the trigger makes when you pull it. That's one of the best sounds from my childhood, and you lose it when you try to emulate. You also lose control. A mouse pointer is no goddamned good. I had to shoot things off center to hit them, and the screen flashing was starting to give me a headache. More to the point, Mechanized Attack isn't all that good. It just stacks the deck a little too much against you. I mean, you have two targets flying at you from the top screen, a soldier far away and a soldier close to you. These things will start shooting you in about a second... and the soldier close to you is a MECHANIZED soldier. ATTACKING you. See how clever that is, except it means he takes four goddamn hits to kill and you're getting hammered by everything else. Blegh. At least the game over screen is cool.

Speaking of mechanized attacks, we've jumped ahead in the alphabet. We dealt with the Mega Man and his rise and fall. Now we deal with... a future intrusion of sorts. Though you'd never know it. Mendel Palace is a game made by Hudson Soft and developed by a little studio named Game Freak. Game Freak eventually created the ultimate alchemy on the Nintendo Game Boy, splitting its power into 151 fragments and commanding the children of the late 90's to reassemble it. What, then, to say of Mendel Palace? It has jack shit to do with any of that stuff, although the seeds for the idea were with the company at the time. This is part of the secret history, then. It was lurking within the minds of some Japanese people, in a land that didn't exist, waiting to burst forth from its cocoon at level 10. As for Mendel Palace... uh... it had a commercial! I suppose that doesn't relegate it to true obscurity. 200 levels? A 2-player mode? Holy shit! The game itself is okay too. Nothing particularly special or "best ever", so it fits in well with the middle of the road NES library. Other than its lineage, and the prophecy that its creators will fulfill in the future, that's about that. It seems that the future is... beginning to intrude on us in ways I can't imagine. Let's look towards it, then.

Towards the Age Of Metal.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Saturday French Toast (July 5th, 2014)

Oops, forgot to fire this off in the morning. I'll be quick about it because... today is tabletop gaming! Yes, nothing beats a Saturday afternoon at risk of having a fictional character I created being torn apart by Things That Should Not Be, but that's Call of Cthulhu for you.

There will definitely be an article about tabletop gaming vs. computer RPGs in the future, but for now let's open up the floor! You guys ever do any tabletop gaming? Tell me all about it! In the meantime, P.I. Adam Clear needs to investigate some spooky cultists with his new buddies. He might not come out alive. Cross your fingers for him, won't you?

Friday, 4 July 2014

A Psychochronography In Red, White, And Blue (Mario Bros., Mario Is Missing, Mario's Time Machine)

It's July 4th, 2014. Iggy Azalea is at #1 with "Fancy". In news that does not sing, it is Independence Day in the United States of America. Millions will celebrate by blowing a small part of the country up, eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and generally celebrating a country they quite love. As I am Canadian and it is raining, I am instead talking about something else clad in red and blues: Mario. Here he is. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning of the breath of Valya, and the last man standing as Peko The Destructor cleaves this great grey box in two with her blade. Mario encompasses the start of this song, both in Japan and in America. Let us look, then, at a cute arcade conversion called Mario Brothers. Or Mario Bros. Whatever you prefer, broski. What stands out with Mario Bros is just how much the dread beast GREED was kept at bay here. Here's some personal experience for you, relating to my evening. I spent part of it playing the arcade version of Bionic Commando. That's a series I love to death, and please do read Mr. Sandifer's musings about it and the secret history. Bionic Commando arcade was a suffering, a taxation that I pumped many a virtual quarter into. We've gone over this. The beast demanded more of my soul to continue the journey. Mario Bros on NES doesn't have that. I lasted 10 "phases" and had an absolute blast. Was it like this in the arcade? I actually have a vague memory of one of these arcade machines, in my sister's residence house while she attended college. Squires House, it was called. The year was 1992. 11 years later I became a college student. I visited Squires House. There were no arcade machines. There were, however, many cool girls there. I like that. I like Mario Bros. This is why Nintendo stayed around.

We jump ahead now, to the end times. 1993. Mario has... done something. To look to his timeline between 1985 and now is to risk fragmentation. His is an open wound in time from pure transcendence, the very heart of alchemy itself. One day we will brave that storm. Today is not that day, for Mario is missing. It's up to Luigi to find him, and that entails... education. Land in New York City, the apple that's bigger on the inside. This is not the land of dreams I've been imagining for the past six months. The Proposal Peridot never had glimmers of Koopa Troopas and King Kong. Still, we travel on and eventually learn the trick to things. We must discern where we are, and then call... Yoshi. Christ almighty, what are we summoning here? This is the steed that ferried MODE SEVEN into our universe, its dark scaling powers far advanced beyond any alchemy our grey box can muster... and we've just brought it into this world. It is a sign of the End Of All Things. Reality has grown thin. King Kong can be returned to a museum. So can Liberty's Torch, but for god's sakes don't blink. Learn about Rockefeller and its skating rink. We are paid very well for this, Lady Capitalism having become the regent monarch long ago. Now we move on, because if the walls of reality are bleeding thin and allowing monstrosities like this green MODE SEVEN horse... what about time?

Mario is no longer missing, and he has returned to a parody of his roots. This is no arcade conversion. This is a slippery homage without a soul. The soul died long ago, I fear. 1993/1994 is not 1983, no matter how much you long for it. Still, this is some form of alchemic ritual. We must invoke the past to fuel the means to travel back into it. Destroy the koopas and hop on in. Curiosity made me pick 1989, and we warped there. Mario found himself near... the Berlin Wall. I'm not even making that up. I swear to God, we travelled back to the Wall. Lady Capitalism's acolyte actor demands that the Wall must fall. All things must tumble down, and the Cold War must end. End it shall. We know this. Even in 1993, we knew this. We grew up in a world where roses sing and Communism does not want us dead. Lady Capitalism reigns supreme, her black wings fluttering as she flies overhead. A dark feather lands near us, and we know. One day we will return to the rip in space and time... but for now, we must escape. Mario's time travel has set things off. This is the catalyst for the death of the NES. All things are folding into themselves, as they do when Mario is involved. Let us make our escape, lest we find ourselves at the end of the Ultimate Swordswoman. Happy 4th, my dears! Feel free to stay and watch as the crumbling wall signals the beginning of the end for the USSR! We ain't sticking around.

I've got tabletop gaming to play.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Freeware Games And Other Wonderful Things

Oops, missed Wednesday's post on account of laziness. I'll make up for it. In the meantime, I've been fiddling with a few free games every now and again. The first one is called VESPER.5 and it's... different. You are some sort of monk and you move forward towards something. The catch is that you can only move one space a day. That is, an actual 24 hour period on planet Earth. It's different to say the least, but it replays your previous moves when you load it up. Like Doctor Who in cliffhanger form, the game doesn't just last the 35 seconds it takes to make your move a day, but the 23 hours and 59 minutes or so between moves while you think of what's ahead. I won't get too worked up because it's probably all about the journey and not the destination.

The other one, the one that friends of mine have gone gaga over, is an RPG Maker game called Wadanohara And The Great Blue Sea. It has no random battles, and its character art is adorable. Everyone in this game is cute as a button... which makes things all the more troubling because the download site for this game has some pretty heavy fucking trigger warnings. The other foot isn't just waiting to drop this time, it's a goddamned meteor hurtling forth in space, ready to make an orbital strike on my feelings. I eagerly await how Wadanohara will make me very uncomfortable and ruin my feelings.

So. What free games do you like?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day. The 147th birthday of my country. What a lovely day it is! Well, except the weather is awful today but that's neither here nor there. So, a short little article today. It's simple, really. An alchemy that anyone can do. We take the pure essence of the dread beast NOSTALGIA, mix it with my own personal memories, add in a dash of creativity and a dollop of maple syrup... and FOOM. The red and white potion bubbles within our cauldron, an inviting fog wafting from it as we pour it into the flask. Drink with me, why don't you? Drink, and share in the memories of a Canadian madman. Red and white may be the colors of my flag, but they are also the colors of the Famicom. There are connections, of course. Let me take you there.

-We have to start with YTV. A television network that aired everything under the sun for the youth of the late 80's and early 90's... and today as well, but we're all old farts here so let's focus on the old. In its infancy, the network showed McCoy-era Doctor Who! My god, how about that? Or we could talk about Video And Arcade Top 10, the show where children played Nintendo games semi-competitively and the theme music sounded eerily similar to Crash Man! Or... for god's sakes, we even had a TV series based on Maniac Mansion. I swear to God this was a thing. We could go further, splintering ourselves into infinite nostalgia memories. Goosebumps and Earthworm Jim and Sailor Moon, watched at my great-grandmother's in 1995... literally across the street from where I rented Nintendo games. Much later, at the turn of the century, watching dubbed anime on the thing as I became a software pirate scouring the high seas for NES ROMs. That was the last gasp of me and this television network. I'm out of its target audience now, but I never forget it.

-Now the food. Canadian food is wondrous. Especially poutine. Poutine is a guilty pleasure that is in no way good for you, but it tastes wondrous. It is, quite simply... french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It creates a salty, rich, slightly gooey and cheesy taste that cannot be replicated. It comes from French Canada, even, and is a marvel from that sect. Vive la poutine. Being from Eastern Canada, I also know of another interesting food; the donair. Some sort of co-opted Greek dish variant. Spiced meat tossed into a pita with tomato, onion, and a very sweet garlic-tasting sauce. I love the damn things. Special mention to shawarma. I've never had it, but I know at least two people who swear by it. Fellow Canadians and good friends. This space is for the two of you.

-Finally... specific Newfoundland memories. Because why not. There will be a bunch of links and stuff because we live in a strange place. A pretty place, as you've seen... but a strange one. The way we talk may puzzle some, but I've grown used to it. I have been known to lapse into it during casual conversation. Our traditions are ancient and quizzical things. Our music, a mad medly with accordions and acoustic guitars. Maybe fiddles. Who don't love fiddles? Our ritualistic induction ceremony for those of us not born on this island. Here is famed talk show host Conan O'Brien becoming One Of Us. All of this is real. Most importantly, our time zone. We are, in our own way, a Time That Never Was. Our time zone is GMT -3:30. Skewed half an hour from the rest of the world, a Negative Zone where the Unnouns of the universe can thrive and survive in coastal bliss. Many find this insane and strange. I find it comforting. EST is a strange and terrifying beast. I've been in normal time. I've stayed here 12 years since.

So that's Canada for you. Just a snippet, just a taste. It's a mighty fine country and I live on a mighty fine island. Now... what else of the red and white can I salute? Hmm.