Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The End Of The 2014 Mess

This will be quick. Oops, I neglected this again. There's only 15 minutes until 2014 is done here, so I have to hurry. I just wanted to wish you all a happy new year and also post this nice list I did of games I played in 2014. Some of them I've written about here in greater detail. Here you go.

It's been a wild year. Book writing and general disillusionment with video games led to some long absences, and I apologize for that. Video gaming really seemed like the absolute worst cesspool this fall. You know why. Still, let's have hope. I give you this hope via a stupid dumb anime game I played. Observe.

This is Chiaki Nanami. She's a character from Dangan Ronpa 2, which I gave the Game Of The Year nod to. The conceit of the Dangan Ronpa games involve high school students of a prestigious school called Hope's Peak, who are the best of the best at what they do; "Ultimates". So you have stuff like Ultimate Musician, Ultimate Gymnast, Ultimate Mechanic, as well as more oddball ones. Chiaki Nanami is the Ultimate Gamer. I played this game at the peak of the putrid "scandal" that made everyone hate everything, and it was Chiaki here that gave me hope. The mere idea that, in the Dangan Ronpa world, that the best of the best, the Ultimate Video Game Player was a lady? That kept me going. Not to mention that her English VA is also the English VA for Madoka Kaname from Madoka Magica... a direct inspiration for the concept of the Valya on this blog.

So what I'm saying is, Dangan Ronpa 2 is the most important game I've played in respect to this blog. We can all believe in Chiaki. We can all keep hope. Let this narcoleptic anime girl guide us to the golden age of the future. I'm going to go watch the New Year's Eve countdown. See you on the other side.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Big Money, Big Prizes, I Love It! (Nintendo Campus Challenge, Nintendo World Championships)

We've jumped ahead just slightly now. It's 1990. Nintendo Power has become a success, chugging along into the brave new 90's. The Wizard survived Video Armageddon, but its hype fled the silver screen like a demon, spreading like wildfire. By now it had been fully unleashed in cartridge form, and Mario mania had gripped us all. This is not that story. This is the story of the brave maniacs who decided that it wasn't enough for Video Armageddon's harbinger to become reality. By God, they were going to harness its full power and bring it forth into our realm. Ancient tomes were consulted, seals were drawn, prayers were chanted and planted among us. In a summoning ritual involving blood and microchips, it came to us. Video Armageddon exploded across America in a wave, and we Disciples Of The Grey Box still feel the effects of the summons today. In 1990, they called it... the Nintendo World Championships.

I hear they were very good. I was also four years old, and on another island entirely while they occured. This, more than anything, is a reconstruction lost to time. The Nintendo World Championships are dead and gone along with 1990, just like all those missing Doctor Who tapes that got burned. They were an event, but what really happened? The real answer is something mundane like "a bunch of kids who were good at Nintendo games competed with one another", but when have we let that stop us? No, this was a clash of titans. Hard Game Beater against Hard Game Beater, the strong surviving and the weak faltering. Here, in this gladiator arena of the Gods, the barriers between America and Japan were weakened. Things could bleed over and be called "sneak previews". Video Armageddon had been summoned to darken the skies. Anything could happen in this arena of divinity. The competition continued to rage, gods and devils battling alike with their controllers. Destruction rained from the heavens as heavenly light radiated from square grey boxes, the alchemy at hand here beyond the grasp of mere mortals. The heavens shook and trembled. The power of Valya, even here, surged through the competition... until finally it was Thor, God of Thunder, who surmised victory. He had survived Lady Capitalism's challenge, and ventured into the heart of the Plumber's rip through time to collect 50 golden coins. He had taken Endless Adventure's unorthodox driving challenge, and steered himself across the coast at 250 miles per hour. He did these tasks quickly for the true prize, Captain Communism's test of reflex and quadratic thinking... for this was where the points really mattered. With mastery of them all, Thor was crowned Supreme Champion of Video Ragnarok. All hail Thor, our alchemical Destructor.

As for the rest? Lady Capitalism took pity on them, and her sadness brought her to tears. 116 of them fell like rain into our realm, with the first 26 being the most powerful among them. This is the continued legacy of the Nintendo World Championships; the rarity of its cartridges. Most can simply be a teenage ROM fiend, or move up to a reproduction cartridge. For the true madmen, there is shelling out thousands of dollars for one of Capitalism's Tears, an actual divine portion of Video Armageddon used in the battle of the gods. I played the games tonight. To talk about them here is to give away the future, but suffice it to say that my score was nowhere near that of mighty Thor's. The Angry Video Game Nerd had a run-in with the thing as well. Tempted by its greed at first, he plays in competition for the Golden Tear of Lady Capitalism, only to realize that it consists of games he already owns. He rejects the siren song of the Big Time, and... Well, I won't give away the end of that. There was also a Nintendo Campus Challenge in 1991. College students taking breaks from finals to partake in their own little Video Armageddon. Unlike the World Championships, this file is not available for a teenage ROM fiend. The reconstruction cannot happen. It lacks the popularity that the first competition had, and this would be the last on the NES. 1992's Campus Challenge was in 16 bits, which are a place we cannot go.

What we can do is play football or something.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

California (The Wizard)

Still not ready to talk about the Nintendo games yet. The entire point of the Nintendo Project is looking back, and I find myself looking back to December of 2013. There, I postulated that the end of the NES was a thing of beauty. To be fair, this was mostly brought on by me being mushy about my friends getting engaged, but I'm going to stick with it. 1994 and 2012 were both about Nintendo partying in the face of oblivion, and doing it with a vibrant celebration of the life that the NES and Nintendo Power had led. Today we go to 1989, where both were riding high. Millions of children were getting the Power every month, and the end of the 80's signalled Nintendo's arguably highest heights with the NES. 1989's silver anniversary is waning, set to be subsumed by a future in which we make the same tired fucking joke about hoverboards and Pepsi Perfect for 365 days. How depressing. Now playing at the Holomax of Infinity, where time is a construct and we flit through it like antsy and esoteric little hummingbirds, it's The Wizard in 5.1-D totally schway vision.

God help us, what are we doing here? A movie starring that Wonder Years kid about road trips and Nintendo games. Dear god in heaven, have we sunk to these meteoric lows? Still, there are things to be said about this movie. It's little more than a historical relic at this point, an artifact of 1989. Is it a very good film? Not really. I don't even know if one could call it a cult classic. It is riddled with problems and things that people on the Internet mock it for... like its video game inaccuracies. Roger Ebert called them out on this. The mental image of Roger Ebert in 1989, playing the first Ninja Turtles game on the NES, speaks to me on so many levels. Part of it is the "secret history" Phil mentioned ages ago, but with me being used to the main reason people call the first Ninja Turtles one of the hardest NES games being the dam level... I want to know if Roger Ebert ever beat it. Short of a seance, I will never know the answer to that question and it fucking haunts me. Just like the NES and Nintendo haunt this film, the spectral force of Nintendo's influence being the fabric that binds it all. Here we sit, at the tail end of the Dance Apocalyptic, and yet in the cinemasphere we have a looming Destructor to rival Peko. It is Video Armageddon that blazes in the skies over Universal Studios in California, and the secret harbored beneath its gates will send the world into chaos and frenzy. But let it sleep for now.

Then you have the weird moments. Jenny Lewis screaming about breasts, for instance. Ah, Jenny Lewis. Looking back again, it was this time nine years ago that I first became acquainted with her voice. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she was in this. How about that. Of course, the Power Glove shows up as well, Nintendo and Mattel's joint gauntlet of doom in these dark times. The camera trickery led us to believe that this would assist our alchemy. We were wrong. Oh god, were we wrong. The muddled power of control was not in our hands. We were fooled into creating a monster... but this is only one of the monsters birthed by our Wizard. The next lies buried within Universal Studios, the harbinger that is the final test of Video Armageddon. Video Armageddon, you see, is a test of the best. The children who have mastered the video games flock, pitted against each other in glorious 8-bit alchemical combat. We come down to three in the final round. A girl that the movie does not care for. Lucas, wielder of the Glove of Deception. Jimmy, our protagonist and Wizard of California. The final test is unleashed upon these three Hard Game Beaters, and it is nothing they could comprehend. They know only the games that have existed. Now, as Video Armageddon strikes their hearts, comes the world of anti-matter, screaming at them in chiptunes. As the gate is raised, the full fury is placed upon them. In this unknown land, they must beat their rivals and become the champion of all video games, both existant and non-existant. As for us, we witness something amazing. Something that set the world on fire in 1989, when we knew naught about it.

Holy fucking shit. Super Mario Brothers Three.

To speak more is to risk being sucked into the open wound that Mario unleashed upon time in this period. Already, I fear the winds are gale force. Still, this is the monster set loose upon the world in 1989, the bringer of Video Armageddon and the vanguard who let Nintendo rule the world. Only a beast altered with superior alchemy could possibly take it on... but that story is not ours to tell. The Wizard probably made money. It probably cemented the hype for Super Mario Brothers Three in the minds of every child of the time. What I know for sure is that this film created several monsters. The Power Glove was one. Super Mario Brothers Three is another. The third came about when Nintendo sought to bring the film to life. That story comes later. God help us all.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Get The Clues That You Can Use (Nintendo Power)

That was fun. As promised, I'm back at this space again. The highly elaborate post about the Ninja Gaiden games will happen someday, but like I said; in the interest of chugging along, we will do just that. Right away, we hit a roadblock. Chugging along, according to my Wikipedian roadmap, gives us a duo of games with some importance. Therefore, a little context is in order. We are firmly in the world of the letter N, and now we are far enough along that we must talk about the Big N. This is the Nintendo Project, after all, but it is time to turn our gaze to the creators themselves; to Nintendo. We know the alchemical machine already, the grey box. We know that its game cartridges are bigger on the inside. Hell, we even know what power words can hold. I am nothing less than an amateur alchemist of the keyboard, firing words off into the aether. Nintendo seized upon that and created an entire magazine about it. Today, I fear, we must talk about Nintendo Power.

Here is where this all gets morbid. Nintendo Power is dead and dusted. Two years ago, its final issue shipped, a loving tribute and celebration. 24 years of fun and profit, going out with a grandiose fiesta of print in the face of oblivion. All returned to nothing, but Nintendo Power embraced it with a smile as it looked back. Peko The Destructor partook in punch before purpose took the Power. This entry, I am afraid, is all after that fact. It's December 1st, 2014, and we are visiting the memorial of Nintendo Power. What do we hope to gain here? Perhaps it is just understanding. The era of Nintendo Power is remembered fondly by some. I was not around for it. I grew up in small-town Newfoundland. Magazines were a rare commodity, and the only subscription I had was to Disney Adventures. Another dead magazine, incidentally. The information rags of our youth die tragically young. Hell, I don't think I bought an issue until 2000, and that was for the Pokemon Gold and Silver strategies. A few years later, though, during my days as a teenage ROM fiend, I bought an old issue from a used bookstore. Mega Man 4. Monster In My Pocket. Super strats for Super Castlevania 4. A thing of incredibility.

What can I say, really? I mean, this is of course a part of the song of the NES. Phil talked about it when he came back for Mega Man 3. The games featured in Nintendo Power, and on its cover, were Important. In a Dark Age with no Internet and only the word of friends to guide you, the book launched all sorts of games into fame. Mega Man thrived. Ninja Gaiden cut through the competition. You had guides for the games, and an entire cabal of secret agent children submitting their codes and cheats to the magazine, electronic espionage hard at work. High scores were on full display, showcasing the madness of the young Hard Game Beaters. Howard Phillips and that smarmy kid with the spiky hair ran around video game worlds, their antics entertaining and educational. When Nintendo Power was on, it was really fucking on. It had its moments of accidental brilliance, like the moment when it almost let Mother exist in our realm officially. Its previews teased and enticed, of course, breaking down that impenetrable curtain between nonexistant lands. As the Wall crumbled and Captain Communism began to crumble with it, so too did Japan and its army of ghosts secretly take over. Nintendo ruled the goddamn world, and Nintendo Power was one of its vanguards. Now it is gone, reaped two years ago after its final party. Its legacy lives on. Nintendo Force is a fan magazine that has fired up the dormant engine and continued the work abandoned by the brilliant official creators. Sound familiar, much? The magazines themselves exist, or scans can be found. The days, however, are gone along with it. I was a subscriber of Nintendo Power, if only briefly. I registered some DS games in 2007 and earned a three-month subscription. Part of my ritual when travelling to visit my grandparents, around that same timeframe, was purchasing Nintendo Power magazines and poring over them during my times without Internet. I longed for the Final Fantasy III remake. I was dazzled at Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Super Smash Bros. Brawl looked incredible.

It came 20 years late, but Nintendo Power enriched my world and I can't thank it enough for that. Here and now, two years after it has left us... I eulogize it. Celebrate its life, friends. Watch the AVGN wax nostalgic about it. Read about the legendary Captain Nintendo. Enjoy some Howard and Nester comics. Let us remember Nintendo Power, and create our own magic with our memories. Rest well, you silly little book. Rest well.