Posts from April, May, and June 2002.

June 25, 2002...  Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting

Friends, family, and Darkstalkers... truly, this is the stuff of life.  I had a lot of fun over the weekend, even when I was helping a friend of mine and his family move from their apartment to a brand new house.  I was treated to a sneak preview of Castlevania: White Night Concerto on the car ride there, and I can see why everyone's so excited about it.  Aside from the Limp Whip Syndrome that first infected Super Castlevania IV, it's a lot of fun, and very much like Symphony of the Night.  As for the music, sure, it's a big step down from Circle of the Moon's, but the NES quality of the tunes adds a nostalgic touch to a series that's drastically changed since the first game was released in 1986.  Besides, White Night Concerto has a definite visual advantage thanks to the brighter color palette, which also brings back fond memories of the NES games.

I really wished I could have persuaded my friend to come with me to the Game Hits tournament that day.  Perhaps it was best he didn't, though.  I won last year's semi-official Vampire Savior tournament, but thanks to a new set of more difficult opponents, I wasn't so lucky this time.  What's really frustrating is that I got into the zone AFTER my first few losses.  It was just enough for me to beat a couple of opponents in the last chance bracket, but a very close loss to Game Hits' graphic designer Heath (the less geeky half of Fat and Geeky) dashed my hopes of entering the finals.  Despite that, I had a lot of fun... it was great to talk to all the Game Hits regulars.  I was relieved to discover that I wasn't the only one who had gripes with the current state of the video game industry... Shawn was a little disgusted with Sony's current dominance, and Carl admitted that he just wasn't playing games that often.  We all wondered aloud if it was time for another crash like the one in 1984... it was very difficult for Nintendo to revive the industry but once they finally had, the hobby benefitted greatly from their innovative ideas and powerful hardware.

The next day, I spent a little quality time with my mom, watching Disney's new film Lilo and Stitch.  I enjoyed the movie a lot... the animation was well done and very inventive, and many of the characters were very appealing, particularly Cobra Bubbles and Lilo herself, who was adorable, yet an appropriately weird human counterpart for Stitch.  The very cool sci-fi themed opening wasn't nearly as long as it should have been, and the conclusion was much too optimistic (even for a Disney film!), but I'm still very glad my mother and I waited for a later showing rather than settling for Scooby-Doo.  I'm sure I'll see that film too, but only because I'm a huge fan of Shaggy and I want to see how Matthew Lillard's interpretation of the character matches up to Casey Kasem's.

Well, that's how my weekend went, and that takes care of the updates for this month.  Stay tuned, though... July will bring with it a series of reviews centered around Capcom's 19xx series (a perfect complement to my reviews of 1942 and 1943 in the upcoming NES issue of Toastyfrog 'Zine) and maybe, just maybe, even a contest promoting my art site The Rogue's Gallery.

June 20, 2002...  Total Destruction from Mountain to Shore

How many of you think I should redesign the index page?
How many of you like it the way it is?
How many think I should concentrate on Rogue's Gallery and finally get that finished?
...uh, anyone?
OK, how many of you really don't give a crap what I do?

Ah yes, that's what I thought.  In that case, I'll just post this previously unpublished Zoo Logic comic.  I intended for this to be in color, but I didn't feel I could do it on my own at the time.  I asked Josh to do the honors, but he was juggling so many comics of his own that he couldn't do it, either.  So, uh, just pretend they're blue or something. 


June 11, 2002...  The Editor Predicts the Wii.  Er, Sorta Kinda.

You've probably already heard the news that Nintendo is burned out on consoles... the new president claimed that video game technology has reached its limit and that developing new systems would be a waste of time and money.  Does this mean that Nintendo's going to take the same route as Sega and start developing for the Playstation 2 and X-Box?  A lot of people seem to think so, but I kind of doubt it.  As long as C. Montgomery Yamauchi has even limited control of Nintendo, the company will be too proud to give its competitors anything but the finger. 

My guess is that Nintendo is just going to support the GameCube for a long, long time.  It's tough to say whether this will ultimately benefit them, but it does have a lot of advantages over, say, releasing a new Playstation every couple of years.  In those couple of years, the GameCube hardware is going to be cheap for both Nintendo and its customers.  Better yet, since all the company's resources will be devoted to software rather than hardware, Nintendo will be able to wring every last drop of power out of the system, resulting in games that will look nearly as good as anything available on the PS3... especially if it's rushed out the door to compete with the X-Box as rumors have suggested.  Sony's already proclaimed that the system wars are over, but if Nintendo can get enough third party support for the GameCube (the only support it's lacking right now), Ken Kuratagi and his lackies may finally have to eat their arrogant words.

In other news, I'm pretty happy with how The Rogue's Gallery is turning out... I've almost finished the animal artwork and fanzine cover sections.  All I need to add to both to make them complete is some kind of navigation bar and maybe a background to keep them from looking plain; possibly something like slightly wrinkled paper to make it seem as though the reader is really digging through all my old art folders.

Here's another sample of my artwork.  I started work on this yesterday, and I'm not quite finished with it, but it should be pretty cool when it's done.  I call it... Spaceballs: The Fan Art!

June 7, 2002...  Prohibition

In case you're not sure, yep, that's Zoo Logic all right.  The comic wasn't too successful on its own (probably because I never bothered to update it regularly) but I'll be publishing new strips here from time to time.  I've found that drawing political comics like the one above is a good way to handle the aggravation that results from the gaming industry's callous disregard of its customers ("What, you don't want another Mortal Kombat game? Come on, we're sure you'll like this one. It's got more palette-swapped ninjas... you like them, don't you? You don't? Well, you'll get used to it. And while we're at it, have a crappy Game Boy Advance translation of the same game!").

Speaking of which, it's pretty clear to me from recent events that Sony will be shoving Grand Theft Auto down our throats for the next couple of years, just as they had with Tomb Raider in 1997.  As a result, other game companies will be expected to follow suit with their own controversial games.  It's a sad irony, really... ten years ago, Nintendo took the sex and violence out of video games, but soon, you won't be able to publish games without all of that crap!

I was talking to a friend about this and he pointed out that the music industry is faltering thanks to the major labels pandering to teenagers with soulless, forgettable fluff.  I'm convinced the same thing is happening to video games, and the only way this crap will be flushed out is with an industry slump... not necessarily a crash, but I'd like to see Sony lose just enough revenue to make them step back and think about what they're doing to their customers and the art of game design as a whole. 

June 2, 2002...  Knock Your Block Off

Man, I didn't realize people were reading this site on a daily basis. I guess I'll have to start updating more often... there's no way I could update daily (let alone write articles that frequently) but I'll try to add something new to the front page every week.

This'll give me the opportunity to gripe a little bit about my recent trips to Blockbuster. I recommended going there for really cheap games in a previous update, but now I'm not so sure. The prices are still great- I was able to get a copy of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for about twelve bucks- but lately the clerks there seem artificial and a little pushy, like they're the long lost sons and daughters of the fast-talking, hard-selling Fuller Brush Man or something. I come in to look at games, and they try to sell me just about everything else in the store, from copies of Harry Potter to the stale ice cream treats in the corner. C'mon, guys, I appreciate the low cost of the games, but if I want all of that other stuff, I'll specifically ask for it. And even if I do make an inquiry about something like, say, a satellite dish service, I'd like to be able to think about the purchase for a little while rather than being pressured into signing a contract right away. It's a big investment and I'm gonna need some time to consider it.

Before I go, I wanted to give you guys a couple of links to check out. The first is Shawn's Little Corner of Cyberspace, a personal web page written by a friend I met on the Toastyfrog message board. The second is Kelvin's Den, by the creator of Macropod Madness and Eleven Will Die. I've done some artwork for both of these guys and although I can't recommend it to all of my readers, the ones who actually like my character Byron might enjoy it.

Speaking of Byron, here's a picture of the little tyke while you're waiting for the premiere of my upcoming, sure to be trashed by Something Awful art site Rogue's Gallery.

May 19, 2002...  School's Out for the Summer (also, MAME shooters)

Yes! No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks... and best of all, plenty of time to update The Gameroom Blitz. Now that all my college courses for the semester are finished, I've got plenty of time to work on not only this site, but a new one that should be available in another couple of months. I'm finally confident enough about my artwork to start an on-line portfolio, and I think you're gonna like what I'll have available on Rogue's Gallery. In addition to THAT, I'll be doing more comics and drawings for Chris Farrington's site and helping a couple of friends design an intense shooter that hearkens back to the good old days, when video games were all action and no pointless filler. What the heck, as long as I'm making plans, maybe I'll even spend some time at the college gym, working on losing all the weight I gained over the winter. Heh heh, dare to dream, right? :D

Anyway, since I've been gone for so long, I guess I owe you guys a pretty big update. Fortunately, I've been squeezing in the occasional game between finals, and my contributors have been really generous over the past month, so it shouldn't be a problem. In fact, now that I have all of these MAME discs, I'm thinking of starting a brand new section devoted to arcade emulation. There are just so many games to talk about, including dozens with characters, themes, and play mechanics so strange I'm amazed they were released at all. Take Puchi Carat, the Breakout/Bust-A-Move hybrid overflowing with cute, sometimes barely dressed anime characters. It's pretty, it's sooo pretty, but the somewhat random gameplay prevents you from playing strategically (and what good is a versus puzzler if you can't plan your moves in advance?). Then there was Dangun Feveron, the shooter that thinks it's a dance and rythm game. Nevertheless, it is excellent... nothing's ever going to top Radiant Silvergun but this comes a lot closer than the dozens of cookie-cutter Raiden/Aero Fighters clones available for MAME. Twin Cobra 2 was a fantastic shooter, too... the gameplay itself was fairly standard, but it has some of the most effective scaling effects I've ever seen. Your helicopter will change altitudes at certain points in each round, and it's very exciting to watch your chopper cut through clouds and race toward a city teeming with enemies. Finally (well, not REALLY finally, because there are too many games available for MAME to talk about them all here), there was a rather odd title that took place on a circuit board. You played as a little spark, trying to reach the end of the circuit while blasting resistors and avoiding other sparks. Great... it's like I'm taking my unbelievably dull Intro to Electricity class all over again.

I've been doing a little collecting too, a hobby that's been facilitated by the incredible prices at Blockbuster Video. As much as I hate to praise a company that's owned by Viacom, I have to give them credit for slashing the prices of their overstocked games to lows even my local pawn shops couldn't hope to top. "Wow, what a difference", indeed! I didn't think I needed a copy of Konami Krazy Racers, but at $6.99 there was no way I could resist it (by the way, it's actually a pretty good kart racer, even if Konami's characters were the last ones I'd imagine in a game like this). Dreamcast games were even more ludicrously cheap, averaging about five dollars a pop... if they were priced any lower than that Blockbuster may as well have thrown them away. Naturally, I was drawn straight to the Capcom fighters on the shelves and took those home... I didn't really want Street Fighter III: Third Strike before, but a five dollar price tag tends to change one's mind really quickly about a purchase. The same goes for Power Stone 2, although after playing a half hour of this frustrating button masher I'm starting to wonder if I should have just left it alone and bought Spiderman instead. Oh well, I can always make more trips down there, and I strongly recommend that you do as well. You'll be really surprised at what you'll find... quite happily surprised if you're a Dreamcast or Game Boy Advance fan. I've heard rumors of really cheap Playstation 2 games, too (how does ten dollars for Maximo strike you? Yeah, that's what I thought...), but by the time I went down there all they had left was a less than generously priced State of Emergency. You'd better head to your local Blockbuster sooner than possible if you want any hope of getting the best Playstation 2 games for a great price.

Now it's time for a few retractions (pan camera to the gun pointing at Jess's head). Even though I didn't mention any names, the friend referred to at the end of my last post insisted that I take back what I said about him, making a veiled threat that we would no longer be friends if I failed to comply. So, I've drawn a line through the offending comment. I hope that's enough, because said "friend" has been treating me quite poorly lately and I don't feel like bending over backwards to satisfy him. If he responds with more threats, they'll just go in my junk mail folder along with the bank account transfer schemes, herbal Viagra ads, and all the other useless crap I don't read.

April 8, 2002...  Ain't Nothing But Mammals

I'm not sure where I stand on this whole furry issue. At first, I thought they were just a bunch of guys drawing animal characters. Then, I was convinced that they were weird fetishists, chasing a fantasy that could never be realized. Now, I'm back to my original opinion. I don't like that there's pornography in furry fandom... after all, if I wanted to see cats doing it, I wouldn't have had mine neutered. But then again, there's no part of the Internet that hasn't been infested with porn... believe me, I've gotten enough advertisements for get well hung quick schemes without even asking for them to know that this is the case. So right now, I'm willing to treat furry fans with a little dignity. A little more than they're getting from Penny Arcade, anyway.

Well, I'm off to the forum. Since I just changed my mind about something, one of my more argumentative friends will almost certainly be there to invalidate my opinion.

April 5, 2002...  Arcade Goodness

I had to fix some of the pictures on the web site anyway, so I guess I'll post another quick update. I went over to Jeremy's house yesterday and finally got to challenge his girlfriend Pam to a few matches of Capcom vs. SNK 2. She is indeed a very skilled Chun Li player, although I was able to win a match or two against her. I was a little surprised by that... Jeremy warned me that she was able to deny victories to even the most tenacious players in Japanese arcades, and I honestly didn't think I'd be able to do any better than they had. I guess this means I've gotten a whole lot better than I was seven years ago, when I first started enjoying Capcom's fighters (thanks largely to Darkstalkers, which is still one of my favorites). Either that or Pam was throwing those matches. :P

On the way home from Jeremy's, I decided to stop at a pool hall in the Greenville area. There wasn't any particular reason to do it... I just felt like letting the owner know that I was still alive and interested in picking up any arcade equipment he planned on throwing out. So I step inside and notice a handful of old coin-ops near the back, including Defender, Tempest, and Ms. Pac-Man. I don't know if it was the intensity of the games, the Ozzy music in the background, or the arcade atmosphere, but it was the most exciting and enjoyable video game experience I've had in a long, long time. I thought about asking Jeremy to change the description under my name whenever I post on his forum, but now, I think I'll wear the title he gave me with pride. My name is Jess, and I'm an arcade-o-holic. I love the brilliant simplicity, the intense, demanding gameplay, and the high-impact graphics of arcade games. They're the embodiment and the definition of everything that matters most to me about this hobby. Forget the mindnumbingly slow RPGs, convoluted adventure games, and clumsy first-person shooters. I want my heart, mind, and fingers to race as I desperately try to stay alive in the face of hundreds of relentless enemies. To put it simply, I want a REAL video game.  

April 4, 2002...  You Will Be Assimilated (the editor buys a Playstation 2)

I give up.

Actually, I gave up a few days ago. I tried to hold out... I clung to the Dreamcast far longer than even Sega could. But I had to crumble eventually, and I did just that when I found a Playstation 2 for $200 at my local pawn shop. Now, after years of complaining that Sony was winning the latest system wars without really earning the victory, I own a Playstation 2.

And y'know, I kind of like it.

There are plenty of reasons to like it, too. First of all, it's a great system. You wouldn't have known that judging from its earliest games... frankly, Byron has filled diapers that were more appealing than schlock like Orphen and Street Fighter EX 3. However, it looks as though everyone's gotten used to the system's tough to use hardware, as there are plenty of games available for it and some of them are very enjoyable. Take Grand Theft Auto 3, for instance. Even if you're not comfortable with the idea of stealing cars and flattening their owners with them, you have to admit that it's quite an improvement over the previous games, with more intuitive control and a lot of attention to detail. Then there's Virtua Fighter 4 and Capcom vs. SNK 2, two of the best fighting games around... in fact, some would argue that they ARE the two best fighters ever made.

Secondly, it improves the Playstation games you already have... you just have to be careful about which games you pop in if you turn on options like texture smoothing and fast loading. For instance, texture smoothing will usually draw ugly square borders around sprites, so you might want to think twice about using it with something like Street Fighter Alpha 3. However, that game's 3D counterpart, Street Fighter EX, looks a whole lot sharper when this feature is toggled on. N20, Fox Interactive's excellent yet strangely unnoticed answer to Tempest 2000, looks even more attractive, since it pumps out more detailed polygons that blend together more smoothly than EX.

Finally, there's the DVD compatibility. I hadn't strongly considered upgrading to a digital video disc player until fairly recently. Now that I own the Playstation 2, though, I don't really need a dedicated player... I don't spend a lot of time watching films and don't need any of the advanced features people say the PS2 is lacking. Even without them, it's pretty clear that the DVD format is an improvement over VHS. The picture quality doesn't look any better if you're using an RF modulator, but when you hook the system up to something more sophisticated, like, say, a composite monitor, you'll definitely notice the difference. Furthermore, DVDs offer quick playback from checkpoints on the disc as well as dubbing in other languages and additional footage. The Paramount (ick) comedy Rat Race really benefitted from this, since there were several great scenes featuring Cuba Gooding Jr. that were cut out of the film. With a DVD player, you'll get to watch the cartoony Cuba crack under the pressure as fifty Lucille Ball impersonators act out an episode of the series, complete with Lucy's obnoxious whine. If you rented the tape, however, you'll be cheated out of both this and Cuba's battle with professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, two scenes which I personally think made the film better and more complete. Sony's constant, exaggerated hype gave me plenty of reason to doubt the Playstation 2, but it turns out there was something special about the system after all. I definitely prefer it to its competitors, even if it isn't as powerful as the X-Box or as... um... small as the GameCube.*

* Sorry, I'm really grabbing at straws here. What was so special about the GameCube again?