Friday, July 29, 2011

Crossing the Streams of Oppression

I hurt so many with my playing.
The sad truth about most of the Ghostbusters video game adaptations is that they are bad, and you FEEL bad while playing them. There was this one time where I got highly intoxicated at a friend’s house and fell asleep in his mother’s china cabinet, my face covered in wet potted plant soil and my pants blissfully missing. When her wheelchair-bound father finally pulled my twitching body from the cabinet’s cold, wooden embrace, I was told I spent most of the night playing the NES version of Ghostbusters.

I still haven’t forgiven myself. I probably never will.

Another sad truth – one of the saddest truths in video game history – is that all but a measly two Ghostbusters games leave out good ol’ Winston Zeddemore – and one was only released on PAL territories. If you live in America, your only chance to see the oft-forgotten fourth ‘Buster in action is 2008’s Atari adaptation of the franchise for next gen consoles (and also the Wii).

On the NES? No.
Poor Winston is one of the most under-appreciated characters in comedic cinema history. As the last Ghostbuster to join the fray against the demons and demigods trashing the semi-innocents of New York City, most viewers see Winston as “the token black guy,” but his appeal – and his merit as a paranormal investigator – go far beyond his genetics. Mr. Zeddemore represents what would happen if the viewer were clad in a silly jumpsuit with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator strapped to his or her back: While the other three ‘Busters are trying to find ways to take down the ancient evils roaming beneath the city streets, Winston is cashing his paycheck, paying his rent, and praying to the Almighty that he gets out alive and home in time for a beer with his wife. Also, Winston has a really rockin’ mustache, which is indeed the truest measure of a man’s character. So thumbs up to you, Winston Zeddemore, and thank you for all you've done to protect the living from the wrath of the evil dead. Hopefully the days of your video game oppression are finally over.

In the meantime, I’m going to go petition Sega to re-release the Genesis/Mega Drive version of Ghostbusters with Winston as a playable character. Then not only would bustin’ make me feel good, it would make me feel progressive. Yes we can, Sega. YES WE CAN.

UNACCEPTABLE.
Also Peter looks like a rapist and Egon looks like Billy from the Power Rangers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

“A Slight Delay” and Other Lies My Super Fighter Team Told Me

Brandon Cobb lied to me.

Cobb, founder of the retro game publishing company “Super Fighter Team,” said in an e-mail July 9 that there would be a “slight delay” in the shipment of the group’s newest old game, Star Odyssey for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. I excitedly threw down the $48 admission fee for the classic cartridge on June 27 – exactly one month ago today.

And one month later, I got nothin’. My Sega is very sensitive about things like this and it feels like it was stood up. If anyone knows a good way to get a moody Genesis/Mega Drive to stop being finicky with audio-visual inputs and start making me dinner again, please PLEASE leave a comment as I am very bored. Also hungry.

But this isn’t the first time that smooth talkin’, retro game slingin’ Brandon Cobb told a fib. He also said that his company’s last 16-bit revival, Legend of Wukong, is fun. It’s not.

It’s horrifying.

The title screen. That thing doing a peace sign in the back is a TIME MACHINE.

While waiting on Star Odyssey to apparently soar to my home from the farthest of galaxies, I thought I’d whet my old-school appetite with The Legend of Wukong. I snagged a copy when it first came out, but thanks to a television set that went out of its way to make Genesis/Mega Drive games look like skillfully arranged legos and chunks of vomit, I decided to put off playing it until now.

Everything starts out okay as a hyperactive 13-year-old named Wukong smashes buttons in a time machine and accidently blasts himself back to ancient China – clearly a very timely and relatable tale. Then The Legend of Wukong plays like a standard RPG for a while… until the first boss.

No matter how many levels you grind, he is nearly impossible to defeat.

Random battle.
  After 70 million attempts though, you’ll eventually take that bear-faced freak for a ride on the pain train. But immediately afterward, the game goes from prohibitively difficult to eye-meltingly easy. Halfway through the bosses aren’t even a threat anymore, and by the final chapter, they’re actually easier to defeat than the normal army of pallet-swapped fiends you and your party must battle every four steps. I took out the final boss in two rounds of combat. He hit me once.

I think Wukong and his friends might have felt a slight tickle.

You might be thinking that I was over-leveled and that’s why things were so easy, but I can guarantee that I wasn’t. You see, despite a counter with four digits, The Legend of Wukong’s cast maxes out their abilities at level 50. There’s no point in fighting the last 10 percent of the enemies you run into, which could have been tolerable if the run command ever functioned as advertized; the enemies always prevent your escape only to be slaughtered. On a serious note, the bizarre inhabitants of the Wukong world would do well to talk to someone about those suicidal tendencies; I recommend Dr. Spaitso.

All maxed out. Same crap happens to your money.

Okay, so The Legend of Wukong wasn’t exactly Super Fighter Team’s proudest moment. But I assure you that their first release, Beggar Prince, fared much better. However, that’s fodder for a different post. In the mean time, I’ll keep looking to the sky (and my mailbox) for Star Odyssey.

And also cooking my own meals. Damn you Brandon Cobb, you home wrecker!

Friday, July 22, 2011

That's One King-Sized Kong


I was going to play the Xbox 360 version of Peter Jackson's King Kong today because I heard from a somewhat reputable source that it's a pretty good waste o' time.

But then I saw this:



I... I don't think I want to play anymore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Missed Potential #1: Mortal Kombat II for Gameboy

"So Evil. So Deadly."
Today I whipped out my Gameboy Color, and after stealing the batteries out of my trusty Gameboy Advance, I was ready to party like it was 1989 (through about 2001). I suppose I could have used an emulator, but emulation is for suckas and Japan only releases. But mostly suckas.

Thanks to both my packrat nature and a two-for-one original Gameboy sale at Electronics Boutique about seven years ago, I could survive for months after a nuclear war by eating nothing but Gamboy cartridges. So out of all those choices, including titles from the Dragon Warrior/Quest series, Super Mario Deluxe and four out of five of the GB-exclusive Mega Man games, what did I choose to play?

If you said a crappy port of Mortal Kombat II, you win a cookie!*

*OFFER NOT VALID EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES; GET YOUR OWN FREAKIN’ COOKIE YOU SLACKER

The Gameboy version of Mortal Kombat II offers players a staggering eight characters and one boss, compared to the 12 fighters and two bosses found in the arcade version. Yeah, I know the Gameboy is a lesser system than the other 97 consoles/toasters on which MKII showed up, but I’m pretty sure the programmers were taking advantage of the fact the players generally don’t expect much out of Gameboy software. This is pure laziness; a cash-in on the mighty Mortal Kombat franchise. Don’t tell me there wasn’t enough space on the cartridge to hold the likes of Kung Lao, Baraka, Raiden and Johnny Cage; the fact that Mortal Kombat II was also released as a “kombo pak” in the same ROM with the first game dispels any doubt. I’m pretty sure the programmers thought that if one could buy a nearly complete version of MKII for about half as much as the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive versions, some players would just stick with the cheaper option.

Can you tell the difference between these ninjas? Neither can I!

So who are were left with? Virtually indistinguishable versions of Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile, skank sisters Katana and Meleena, and three other dudes who actually use their own sprites. The original version of MKII was skating on thin ice with its reliance on clone characters, but the Gameboy version looks like some kind of bizarre ninja jamboree that Jax, Liu Kang and Shang Tsung snuck into so they could meet some chicks. Consider this: Every time your boot up MKII for the Gameboy, statistically, there’s more than a 50 percent chance that you will be playing as a palette swapped clone. And 50 is a LOT of percents.

There are three backgrounds, but unless you meet up with a secret character, you’ll only ever see two: The Pit and the Kombat Tomb. Who are these secret characters you say? Why, it’s Jade and Smoke, more ninjas! Yaay!

No, Kang's not doing a super move; my camera just sucks.

So I’m saying that this game sucks, right? Well, not quite. The Gameboy does an impressive job of cramming most mortal moves into a two-button scheme, with the Start button substituting for the all important block, just like in the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version. There’s no high punch, low kick or ducking punch, but everything else – including the ever-infuriating, rinse and repeat foot sweep and the trademark MK uppercut – are present and accounted for. The moves are all easy to execute, with the exception of, oddly enough, jumping toward your opponent.

Whenever I load up MKII on the Gameboy, I feel like I’m playing a pretty good beta of a game that’s going to be released in the next four months or so; it’s a great start, but it could have been so much more. The missing characters are too many, the backgrounds are too few, and would it have been too much to ask to have mapped high punch to back and punch like on the Genesis?

No. But it would have taken more time and effort to complete, and God forbid anyone put time and effort into a Gameboy title.

What we’re left with is an almost competent fighter, which was sorely lacking on Nintendo’s premiere portable. With a few tweaks, Mortal Kombat II’s little monochrome brother could have delivered a rim rockin’ headshot to the on-the-go gaming market. But instead all it heaped upon mini Mortal fans was a bloody bucket of missed potential.



I wanted to record myself playing Mortal Kombat II for the Gameboy, but that required me to hold the camera with one hand and fight with the other. All I could reach was the low punch button. EXCITEMENT!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chi is Flowing Like a River, Flowing Out of You and Me

Parishioners of Catholic churches (and possibly other variations of Christianity as well) are asked to donate a little bit of money to their place of worship during services. This is called an offering. When I was a kid, they just passed around a bunch of wicker baskets and people threw in a dollar or two each. I haven't been to church in a few years, so I was surprised when I found this lying around my house:

Apparently, offerings are now given in envelopes with the family name on them, possibly so parishioners can keep track of their donations for tax purposes.

So why am I posting this on a blog about video games, you might ask? Well, if you take the illustration in the lower left hand corner and flip it sideways...
HADOKEN!

The power of Christ engulfs you, apparently.
For comparison:
From the Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES) manual

Whenever I used to wear my Street Fighter shirts to church, I always felt out of place and just a touch blasphemous. Little did I know that Jesus is a Ryu player.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Star Odyssey (Sort of) Delayed!

Perhaps there's no such thing as bad publicity, but it looks like the Super Fighter Team has stumbled on too much good publicity: The day the company's founder, Brandon Cobb, sent out an e-mail promoting the release of their newest retro gaming effort, Star Odyssey for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, is the same day Super Fighter Team sold out their initial stock.

I'm not sure why Super Fighter Team didn't see this coming given the runaway success of their previous two Genesis/Mega Drive offerings, but according to Cobb, the initial batch of 300 copies of the upcoming RPG was sold out within six days. According to a follow-up message sent to those who ordered a copy of Star Odyssey, quick witted gamers who responded to the initial e-mail blast within a few hours snagged the last copies of the first production run. Cobb's newest e-mail, sent Saturday, July 9, said that purchases made between June 22 and June 27 will be filled in the order received; there will be no delay for these customers.

"[In this case,] the copy or copies that you ordered will be shipped to you as soon as possible," said Cobb.

This battle isn't going so well...

So what happens to those who waited a split second to take their credit card out of their wallet and wound up buying the game after June 27?

"If you placed your order after June 27, there will be a slight delay before your order ships, due to the fact that we must wait for the additional stock of the game to arrive from our factory," Cobb wrote. "It has already been ordered and is currently in production."

In case you were wondering, I ordered my copy within an hour of getting the e-mail on June 27. Though I've spent the last two weeks eagerly checking my mail (and freaking out the mailman), I have yet to receive anything from Super Fighter Team.

Some town.

"I would like to sincerely apologize for the delay in getting the game delivered to you," Cobb wrote. "Though I am the president of Super Fighter Team, I also fill many other roles within the company, one of which is packaging and shipping orders. While Super Fighter Team is a full-time job for me, it is not my only full-time job. My schedule is always filled with work of one kind or another, and though Super Fighter Team often takes first priority, this isn't always possible.

"We hope you enjoy Star Odyssey, and we look forward to hearing your feedback about the game when it arrives. If you have any questions or comments, please feel welcome to contact me directly."

According to the Super Fighter Team website, Beggar Prince, the company's first Genesis release in 2006, sold 1500 copies. Cobb says that The Legend of Wukong, unleashed upon retro gamers two years later, sold 600 copies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

If You Give a Gamer a Camera, Part II

...he'll ask to make more gamer movies.

Pow!

As you may or may not remember from this post I made a while back, when I wasn't frantically writing papers in one night or watching my love live crumble into tiny, possibly tasty pieces, my undergraduate days were filled with jogging about holding a borrowed $5000 video camera in my sweaty hands and editing together comical but slightly disturbing student films for a variety of (mostly evil) applications. I took the opportunity to make as many allusions to gaming culture as I could in my work, on the dim hope that someone in the masses who appreciated Nintendo, Sega and the like as much as I do would take notice, and chuckle knowingly to him- or herself.

The following videos are possibly my greatest contribution to society thus far, a truth that would be merely shrug-worthy were it not for the horrifying fact that they're more than six years old. Also, my Ultra Omnisphere 3000 movie, circa 2001, was probably funnier.


Misprint! - A Reporter's Tale
Starring Matt Frey, Sarah Shepherd, Kristy Wormann, Kara Boivin, Shannon Morris and Dave Kotchie/Dave Frey as The Ninja. Featuring the musical stylings of Sandy Devasia and Jessica Jagielski.


As a Media Studies major, I had to come up with some kind of huge, year-long final project in order to receive a small piece of paper stating that I didn't have to go to class anymore. It was akin to the fabled "thesis" students of some majors are forced to write, only my project was allowed to have ninjas. So I wrote a novella (available online here), crunched it down into a gamer-friendly script, and filmed this bad boy in time to walk at my own graduation.

Featuring lovingly crafted allusions to the Silent Hill series, Super Mario Bros., Fatal Fury, Street Fighter II, Duke Nukem 3D, Metal Gear Solid, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Final Fantasy series and more, Misprint! - A Reporter's Tale is sure to make you feel at least slightly uncomfortable. Also, I somehow forgot Earthbound though, and it makes me sad to this day.

Trailer:



The Feature Film:



Out Takes:

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Sega RPG "Star Odyessy" Revitalizes Genesis Scene

Finally coming to a Sega near you!
Super Fighter Team, the same group of Sega retro-gamers responsible for the Genesis/Mega Drive offerings Beggar Prince in 2006 and The Legend of Wukong in 2008, are at it again! Super Fighter recently resurrected the old-school role playing game Star Odyssey, originally slated for release in the United States in 1991 or 1992 but cancelled for unknown reasons, and released it late last month to eager 16-bit devotees.

You can bet that I ordered a copy as soon as I heard about it. It looks like my Sega's gonna sizzle the summer away even more than I had anticipated. Stay tuned to Wordsmith VG for my thoughts on the game.

Longtime Sega fans might remember Star Odyssey from a handful of blurry screenshots released in the Genesis's heyday. However, the title never materialized.

As of this writing, copies of the game are STILL AVAILABLE.

Here's what Brandon Cobb, Super Fighter Team's founder, has to say about the project:

---

STAR ODYSSEY, our newest role-playing adventure game for the Sega Genesis, Mega Drive and all compatible systems, is now available! Originally released in Japan under the title Blue Almanac, the game was slated for release in English in the early '90s but alas, it was not meant to be... UNTIL NOW. Announcing the first new game to be published  in the classic gaming market in cooperation with a company in Japan:

Super Fighter Team proudly presents Star Odyssey @
http://www.starodysseygame.com/

Battle!

I vividly recall the first time I set my eyes on the ramshackle prototype of Blue Almanac as it had been adapted into pseudo-English. Here I held a game cartridge that few eyes had ever looked upon, despite it having been advertised in the publications of the time. People saw it, and people had interest in it, and despite that? POOF. Gone. Never set right with me for a moment. And that's fine, because Super Fighter Team has made it our job to remedy unfair situations like that one.

As I was putting the finishing touches on the game's new script, I took a look at one of those old press ads for the first time. The phrase "Your Star Odyssey is about to begin!" caught my eyes immediately, locking me in a silent moment of realization. We did it! We took this thing from myth to manifest. As a result, perhaps a few of the people who stared longingly at the blurry screenshots inside those early '90s magazines will now find some pleasant closure. I'm damned proud of that thought.

Buying important equipment.

June 22, 2011: Twenty years to the day after the release of Blue Almanac in Japan. We have done right by Hot-B Co., Ltd., licensing their fantastic role-playing adventure set in the future, and preparing it for a long overdue release worldwide.

We now invite you to enjoy the fruit of that hard work, by visiting the game's official website and ordering a copy.

http://www.starodysseygame.com/

You're sure to enjoy it.

---

Along with WaterMelon Team's original Genesis/Mega Drive RPG Pier Solar, Star Odyssey marks the fourth new game released since 2006 for the system Sega officially discontinued in 1996. So far, it looks like Star Odyssey is a must-have for fans of Phantasy Star and Super Fighter Team's other Sega releases.