SUMMER 2001

Posts from September 2001, the first month of GRB archives.

September 27, 2002...  Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart

I've got a new job now... I won't tell you what it is, but here's a hint that should make it pretty obvious.  Remember Bruce Campbell's character from the Evil Dead films?  Well, there you go.

I was looking through one of the flyers at my new workplace and was a little upset to discover that they'd slashed the price on Fire Pro Wrestling, the Game Boy Advance version of THE most complex and addictive wrestling game ever made.  C'mon, people... please don't tell me you're going to buy more copies of whatever crapola WWF game they release for the system.  If you want real wrestlers that badly, just buy Fire Pro and rename all the thinly disguised characters and organizations in the game.  Heck, even if you're not a wrestling fan, you should get it.  A classmate of mine at the local college picked it up when I'd recommended it to her, and she told me it was "kick ass" even though she admitted she wasn't particularly interested in the greasy gladiators of the ECWCWWF.

Anyway, you're probably wondering what happened to those weekly updates I promised.  I'm really sorry about that... now's just not the time for that, since I'm currently juggling two jobs and some of the world's most frustrating college classes (the laughably titled "Intro" to Electricity being one of the worst).  I have been working on a Shaq Fu review for Fighter's Misery, though, and after playing the Wonderswan version of Rockman and Forte at a friend's house, I'm thinking of teaming up with Mandi Paugh to give the game and perhaps even the system itself the thrashing of a lifetime.  I swear, Americans should be signing petitions to keep the Wonderswan OUT of the United States, so we won't be stuck with yet another lousy handheld.

OK, I'll be back in about a week... and I may even post another page entry before then if I get the chance.

September 21, 2001...  Anything Is Finer Than a Game of Manic Miner

My last two posts were a little negative so I'll take the advice of my mother (who actually used to tell me this, as much as it sounds like something from a cheesy 50's sitcom) and try to say something nice for a change.  Maybe I'm letting nostalgia get the better of me, but I really like the new Journey song... it's got a driving beat that really sticks in your head, and the band's new lead singer is a more than adequate replacement for the tempremental Steve Perry.  Sure, it would have been nice to have the entire band back together, but sometimes, these things just aren't possible... and at least Journey chose a singer that would keep their trademark musical style from the 80's intact.  You know, unlike those self-absorbed dorks from Van Halen who think they can cast their singers overboard at random and hire new artists who change the entire sound of the band.  How many times have they done this?  They're on their third lead singer now and Van Halen still sucks as much as it did in the early 80's.  Call me nutty, but I'd tend to think that the man who named the band is responsible for its shortcomings, not the guy who's holding the microphone this week.

OK, so that whole "accentuate the positive" angle didn't last for long.  What can I say?  It's in my nature to bitch.  And while I'm doing what I do best, I might as well bring up that Jet Set Willy series I mentioned in my last post.  Recently, I downloaded updates of the two Willy games, and it's clear from the mountain of options, beautifully redrawn graphics, and tremendous soundtrack that the designer, Andy Noble, really loved them.  I'm just having a hard time understanding why.  Spending all that time rewriting these games for a new format and improving everything but the gameplay is akin to sculpting a bust of the Mona Lisa out of manure.  Sure, you could end up with something really impressive, but the source material is still a big pile of crap.

If you're into emulation- I mean, so deeply involved in the hobby that you're familiar with obscure computers from the 80's like the Timex-Sinclair- you've probably seen gamers from Britain praise and even devote web sites to both Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy.  They're so enraptured by the games that they don't even bother to tell you what they're like, probably thinking that you should already be familiar with them, but I know better.  So here's the scoop... Manic Miner was the first game in the series, and as the title suggests it's the United Kingdom's equivalent of Miner 2049er.  If you don't remember THAT one, well, think of Donkey Kong with puzzle elements rather than fast action... each round's got keys you must collect to enter the next round, but those keys are generally hanging above enemies and obstacles that will turn you into post-mortem Miner if you touch them.  Worse yet, you've got to make a round trip to the keys and back to the door near the beginning of the round, which doubles the danger... and your frustration.  Contrary to what the whole country of Great Britain seems to think, it's not fun to collect a half dozen keys, get squashed by something close to the exit, and have to start the whole damned round over again.  It really becomes obvious that this game was designed for British sensibilities when you discover that there's no possible way to defend yourself.  That's fine for a civilized country with a strict ban on firearms, but when this American gets caught by a robot for the seventh time, he feels like dropping a grenade into that garbage can lid it calls a head.

If all that doesn't make you feel helpless, just wait until you get out of that mine with a handful of diamonds.  You'd think Willy's life would only get better after this, but apparently, he's quite a boozer, and he made the mistake of hiring an uptight maid who demands that he pick up the dozens of items he dropped while throwing back beers with his buddies.  No cleanie means no sleepy for Willy, so he's got to wander around in a drunken stupor picking up anything shiny while dodging alcohol fueled figments of his imagination.  He may be rich now, but he's no safer than he was before, and the structure of his enormous, disturbingly decorated mansion actually makes things harder for him than they ever were in the mines.  The rounds in Jet Set Willy have twice the enemies as the ones in Manic Miner, and to make things worse there's far more backtracking and exploration involved... you have to search through every room to find all the objects, and because there are only a couple of paths in each room the mansion is like a blasted labyrinth.  Furthermore (as if we needed a "furthermore"), most of the rooms are designed so that perfect jumping is required to reach the items within them.  As frustrated as I was by the last few rounds in Klonoa, they don't hold a fucking candle to the first ten in Jet Set Willy... in fact, I don't even think I've SEEN ten rounds in Jet Set Willy because I'm snuffed so quickly in the early ones.

I just can't imagine how games this sadistic could be popular with anyone, much less an entire country.  I'm thinking maybe the Brits were so starved for video games (which are heinously expensive in Europe) that they were more than willing to settle for Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy until the Amiga computer gave them more and better options.  In fact, I've noticed that a lot of early British games, particularly Psygnosis' Barbarian, have interconnected puzzle rooms similar to the ones in Jet Set Willy.  It must have took the Brits a while to get this kind of gameplay out of their systems... and unfortunately, some of them STILL look back on it fondly.

I'll give you guys a chance to try Andy Noble's improved versions of Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner and decide for yourself whether or not the games have merit.  I guess I owe Andy that much... I do admire his work, even though I personally feel he could have put his talents to better use with conversions of games that deserve a comeback.

September 19, 2001...  The Roar, The Merrier?

Holy cow, I didn't realize so many of these links were broken!  Let me hop into CutePage and fix them...

(A half hour of typing, clicking, and swearing follows)

That's a little better... I guess.  The Overclocked logo should lead to somewhere now, although judging from my past experiences with this page editor it'll probably send you straight to one of the zillions of fetish porn sites on the Internet.  Hope you like naked computer rendered nerds writhing in bondage to the tune of an acapella version of Moon Patrol...

But seriously, all the other links should be fine now.  You still can't download either of the games in the Pac-Mon series, and the Bomberman picture is still missing staff members, and I admit, that's totally my fault.  I didn't feel like spending another hour adding characters to the already crowded staff artwork, and I thought I could just leave a few of the staff members who I haven't heard from in a while... but somehow I forgot to add Josh to the picture as well, and he's been a good friend and an important contributor for nearly eight years.  I'm sorry about that, Josh.  I'll add a link to your staff profile directly below the picture, and hopefully create another drawing for the rest of my contributors sometime next week.

Speaking of contributors, The Gameroom Blitz has a new one... John Roche, a Neo-Geo fan who recently sent me reviews of Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Kizuna Encounter.  He had a lot to say about the recent "Schlock the Vote" feature on Fighter's Misery, too, and I intend to print his letter along with his reviews next week.  He didn't agree with some of the choices I'd made, but he'll be happy to know that Brutal will most definitely be one of the games I skin alive in that page.  I'd played the game on an emulator after John recommended that I review it, and now that I've suffered through its crummy collision detection, cheesy computer opponents, and constant corner traps, wild black belt wearing llamas couldn't keep me from kicking the crap out of Brutal.

I wasn't really happy with the more recently released Bloody Roar III, either.  It isn't as impressive on the Playstation 2 as the previous Bloody Roar was on the original Playstation... for some reason, the playfields got a whole lot darker and less distinct and some of the character designs, which seemed fine in BR2, are absolutely moronic here.  Alice the rabbit is the most desperate attempt by a game company to grab the attention (among other things) of its male audience I've ever seen... and this is coming from someone who'd played both the Turbografx-16 and Namco Museum Encore versions of Wonder Momo.  I assume that Busuzima is an exaggeration of the wild eyed criminal introduced to fighting games by Ryuji Yamazaki, but he's not nearly as impressive as SNK's sharply dressed thug... frankly, he's just grotesque.

Well, I've got to study for my Concepts of Electricity test, so I'll save my rant about Jet Set Willy, an incredibly popular- and overrated- game series in Great Britain for Thursday.  Besides, it probably wouldn't be right to start another international incident so soon after the whole World Trade Center thing. ^^;

September 17, 2001...  Holy Crap, the Towers Just Fell

Hey, guys!  I've redesigned the layout of the site, just like I promised, and... guys?  Guys?

Oh crap.

Nothing steals the thunder from an important project quite like a disaster.  David Hasselhoff learned this the hard way when he tried to launch his singing career in the United States the same day OJ Simpson was chased down the freeway by a fleet of cops, and I guess it's my turn to follow him off the cliff marked "career suicide" by improving The Gameroom Blitz just days after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. 

I could wait a couple of weeks until peoples' attention starts to wander from the terrorist attack and back to their daily routines, but then I'd come up with another excuse to wait to finish the site, and then another, and then another... until I gave up on it entirely.  As it is, it's been entirely too long since I've worked on The Gameroom Blitz, and it's definitely suffered from this neglect... nobody visits the GRB forum anymore, and 80% of the E-mail I receive is not about the site but the same three pieces of junk we've all seen countless times (the scammers responsible should just merge their shady businesses and start distributing mails about getting rich by selling herbal Viagra alternatives to men who love online porn). 

I'm hoping to bring the site back to life, and get people more interested in it, by updating a lot more frequently... instead of publishing a handful of new articles and reviews every few months, I hope to add two major features every month, a review or two each week, and, since it's worked so well for other sites, a front page entry every couple of days.  I'm not used to doing things this way, so it might take a while before I can get into the habit of writing on a regular basis rather than publishing a lot of content all at once.  I'm willing to try, though, because it looks as though it's the only thing that will keep readers coming back.  And even though I do feel for the victims of the World Trade Center attack, I agree with Kohler and Parish that putting the site on hold until things blow over in New York isn't going to solve anything.  If working on The Gameroom Blitz right now makes me look as though I'm fiddling while Rome burns, so be it.

Since the subject's already been brought up, I might as well discuss the New York incident in greater detail.  Last Tuesday, I woke up to news about the attack, blaring from the radio of the roofing crew working on my apartment.  I was still a little groggy so I'd only heard random bits about airports across the country being shut down... after I'd dressed, I walked outside and called up to the folks on the roof, asking what the hell was going on.  When they told me that a plane rammed into the side of the Pentagon, I had a hard time believing it... I mean, geez, America wouldn't let anything happen to what amounts to the nervous center of its military intelligence!  When I drove over to my parents' house to watch the news on television, it turned out that yes, it was in fact true... and things only got worse from there.  It turned out that both towers of the New York Trade center had also been attacked, and since they were tall thin skyscrapers rather than a squat polygonal building, neither they nor the people inside had a chance.  One person had described the towers as having been shorn in half by the jets that collided with them... since the structural support inside the buildings had been severed, the top halves of both towers simply fell into the bottom halves, completely destroying both.

All of this was just bewildering to me... I couldn't understand why our property wasn't better defended, and how the criminals who took these jets could, even in their twisted minds, justify the deaths of thousands of citizens who couldn't even find Iran on a world map, much less had any direct involvement with the supposed "persecution" of Muslims in the middle east.  Fortunately, the passengers of one hijacked plane had fought bravely against their captors, and while it didn't save their lives, the fact that the jet crashed into the ground rather than another building did spare others.  This brought up another question, however... why do the victims of hijackings just let it happen?  Sure, attacking the terrorists would result in a few deaths, but it's better to take that risk than to just line up like good little sheep to the slaughter.  Besides, if airplane passengers were more resistant to terrorist attacks, they'd happen a lot less... terrorists only hold planes hostage because they know it's effective.  When it stops working, they'll stop doing it.  Perhaps this amounts to belling the cat, a great idea nobody is willing to risk implementing, but if the terrorists have raised the stake to the point where the hostages will die anyways, they should consider sacrificing themselves for the greater good.  With any luck, this WILL happen more often, and eventually, there will be a hijacking that backfires, leaving the terrorists in the uncomfortable position of being taken hostage by the passengers, rather than the other way around.

In any event, this is a very frustrating situation, and one which could be hard to resolve... Bush can easily retaliate, but against whom?  Although everyone suspects Osama bin Laden was behind the attack, nobody can say for sure that he was responsible... and declaring war against an entire country would be even worse for the same reason.  We have to use absolute precision in our counterstrikes, because as Kira's evil twin in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine observed, violence is a scalpel, not a club.  If we can root out our enemies as specifically as possible, it will be better for everyone... better for innocent men and women in the middle east who may otherwise be killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and better for the United States, which could fuel the fire for more terrorist attacks if it doesn't attack those specifically responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center.  I'm also hoping that we as citizens can keep from blaming the attack on Arabs who live here.  Remember, that darker skinned guy with the unpronouncable name next door could have moved here to avoid persecution from the same kind of overzealous dickheads who were responsible for killing thousands of Americans.  His enemy is OUR enemy.  So the next time you walk by a mosque or see a random Arab on the street, just remember Jamie Farr, the lovable Lebonese crossdresser M*A*S*H, and leave them alone.

(Gee, I can't decide whether that was condescending or just plain offensive...)

Well, enough of that.  I want to mention a few things before the site begins.  First of all, the King of Fighters '99 Battle Tournament was kind of a disaster... I'm debating whether or not to cover it in The Gameroom Blitz at all.  I'm also wondering if Pat's last party is worth writing about so long after the fact... I had a lot of fun there, but I covered the previous party in great detail and I'm not sure my readers are interested in hearing about another one.  If you are, by all means let me know and I might change my mind.

Next, I've collected all the votes I think I'm going to get for the Fighter's Misery contest and have decided on the ten fighting games I'll cover next in that feature.  Although I hadn't included it as one of the choices, so many people included War Gods in their ballot that I've decided to make it one of the games I'll review.  I'll probably need to spend a little more, ahem, quality time with the game first, because it's been years since I've played War Gods (back when it was first released in arcades), and naturally, I didn't throw more than a couple of quarters into the machine.  If any of you wants to send me the Playstation version of War Gods, I'd appreciate it... that way, I won't have to spend good money renting the game and you won't have to waste all that energy smashing the disc with a hammer.  Just E-mail me about it and I'll send you my house address.

OK, what else?  Oh yeah... I met Jeremy Parish of Toastyfrog a couple of times shortly after he moved to the Montcalm County area.  If you're familar with the Toastyfrog web site, you're probably aware that Jeremy tries his very hardest to present himself as a snooty intellectual.  I hate to spill the beans and tarnish his on-line reputation, but Jeremy turned out to be a really nice, generous guy when I met him in person.  I'm hoping that we'll eventually become pretty good friends, and that he'll be willing to head down to the Lansing area with me someday to either hang out with my old friend Pat Reynolds or the half dozen guys who spend most of their free time at Game Hits.  The atmosphere at Game Hits (especially during the gaming tournaments) has been described as Cheers without the alcohol, and we really could use a net savvy, video game loving equivalent of Frasier over there...

I'll probably talk a little more about my visits with Jeremy sometime next week... we had a good time playing (and ridiculing) the games on the A and editions of Namco Museum and it'd be a shame not to cover that on The Gameroom Blitz, even if he's already beaten me to it.  Right now, though, I'm a little talked out, so just check out the rest of the web site... and if you've got comments about it, for the love of Pete, post them in the forum!  Thanks.