Posts from January, February, and March of 2004.

March 31, 2004... Waiter, There's Stealth Action in My Metroid Game

The Vectrex review page... it's alive!  ALIVE!!!   Er, uh, sorry.  I teamed up with Brian Pacula, the former editor of The Good, The Bad, and The Eight-Bit and one of the Vectrex's most devoted fans, to bring you reviews of two dozen games for this unique console.  If you've never heard of the Vectrex, imagine what would happen if you fused a classic Macintosh, the original Game Boy, an X-Box (for extra girth), and the arcade game Asteroids together.  You'll not only get a pretty good mental image of the system, but you'll understand why I used the Frankenstein analogy at the beginning of this paragraph.

Well, enough about that.  It took some therapy, but I've worked through the trauma of seeing Tails' butthole in Sonic Advance 3 and have gone back to playing the Game Boy Advance.  I managed to beat Metroid Zero, but not before suffering through a brand new scene in the game which forces Samus to sneak into a ship full of cranky crustaceans, "armed" with nothing but a wimpy pistol.  When fully charged, this pathetic excuse for a gun freezes the relentless, razor-armed lobsters in place for about three seconds, making it only slightly more difficult for them to surround you and fry you to a crisp with their own, far more deadly weapons. 

Just when I started to question Nintendo's sanity for including this incredibly aggravating stealth mission in the game, I retrieved Samus' space suit, and the tables quickly turned on the merciless space pirates.  I tell you, there's never been anything more sadistically satisfying in a Metroid game than exacting revenge on the Chozos by blasting every last one of the bastards into crab cakes.  The only way it could have gotten better is if the designers had included a melted butter attachment for Samus' laser beam, although judging from what I've seen, that seems to be the only weapon the game DOESN'T have.

March 29, 2004... Pics in the Mix

I discovered over the weekend that all it takes to keep me entertained for hours on end is a video capture card and some cable television access.  There's so much you can do with the snapshots... just look at the bottom of this page!

Anyway.  The Vectrex feature is just about finished... all I need to do is plug in an introduction and it'll be ready for publication.  I'd write it now, but I'm suffering from a bit of writer's block, which will hopefully pass in the next few days.

March 23, 2004... Video Game Invasion of Privacy

Sorry I haven't been updating lately, folks.  I've been really busy, filling in for my manager at work while he's been away.  Let's do a little catching up, shall we?

First, the documentary Video Game Invasion recently aired on GSN, the channel once known as Game Show Network.  It wasn't the embarassment that Spike TV's Video Game Awards was, featuring important video game designers like Howard Scott Warshaw and Nolan Bushnell instead of barely dressed dancers and professional wrestlers (they don't use steroids anymore... or any less!).  However, the fact that it was on a Sony-owned network became obvious when skateboarding champion (and shameless corporate schill!) Tony Hawk announced that "the Playstation left Sega's Saturn in the dust" and illustrated why with bogus footage.  The producers ran clips of the Playstation game Tomb Raider next to footage of War Gods, the atrocious fighting game which was never even released on the Saturn.  Aww... that's OK, Sony!  Not every system can be as good as the Saturn, especially yours, but I'm sure a little self-delusion will help soothe your savage penis envy.  Heck, if you're lucky, you might even be able to get a few of your dumbest fans to believe your slander and lies.

Well, enough about that.  There's a beta version of Sonic Advance 3 on the Internet now.  I've given it a test run and I didn't think it was anything special... in fact, the only thing that stood out in my mind was Tails' apparent wardrobe malfunction at the beginning of the game.

Funny how it only takes a single pixel to turn the world's cutest video game mascot into a perverted orange flasher.  Oh well... at least we know what he uses for propulsion while he's hanging in mid-air!

March 19, 2004... All Crimson, No Glory

Well, I've finally played Death Crimson, and I must say that it really does live up to its reputation as the worst light gun game- and perhaps the worst game EVER- on the Sega Saturn.  No words (not even swear words!) can describe how viciously, maliciously bad this game is, but for the sake of humanity, I'll try.  Death Crimson sucks.  It sucks the white from paper, the Corinthian from leather, and the eleven herbs and spices from a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, the scientists hired to handle them, and their immediate relatives.  Death Crimson will abduct your eyeballs, drag them to a secluded forest, and sodomize them until they squeal like pigs.  Its symphony of destruction will haunt both your dreams and every waking moment.  Dream Crimson is the scourge of the seven seas, a plague upon the land, and a threat to the entire galaxy.

The designers (or more likely, designer) of Death Crimson should be convicted of a gun crime and thrown in prison forever.  In fact, this is the most sinister use of a firearm since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  You'd be better off playing Area 51, Mighty Hits, or even Russian Roulette with a loaded weapon.  At least you'll die happy, knowing that you never, ever had to experience the indescribable horror of Death Crimson.

March 17, 2004... Card Captors

I would have finished the Vectrex special by now had it not been for my latest toy, a video capture device which I've been using to take pictures of practically everything.  Although it's distracting me from my work on the Blitz now, this will ultimately be beneficial to the site, because it will allow me to take pictures of games on systems that are currently impossible to emulate.

But anyway, back to the Vectrex feature.  I should have it done by Monday at the latest.

March 15, 2004... No Can Dunk, But Good Fundamentals

Good news, everyone!  We're delivering a package to a planet of oversized, undersexed Amazon cavewomen.  Oh wait... no, that wasn't it.  The Vectrex feature should be finished in a couple of days now that I've received Brian Pacula's reviews.  Also, Bender's banging some robot who sounds like Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls.

March 12, 2004... Rondell Sheridan of Blood (or, that's so Dracula X)

Well, I finally got my hands on Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, the elusive TurboDuo version of Castlevania.  I can understand why people were so excited by the game now that I've played it... it's arguably the best of the old-school Castlevania releases, with imaginative bosses and alternate paths cleverly hidden inside each round.  However, I can't see why anyone would claim that it was better than Symphony of the Night.  Although it's a fantastic game in its own right, Rondo of Blood just doesn't have the immense scope or majestic graphics that made Symphony of the Night a classic.

What surprised me most about Rondo of Blood is how much of the game was reconstituted in other Castlevania releases.  Everything from the characters to the soundtrack was lifted directly from Rondo and dropped into the three Castlevania games for the Game Boy Advance.  Even when you play it for the first time, Rondo of Blood will seem mighty familiar to you.

March 10, 2004... Super Sicilian Siblings

I sure hope nobody comes here for up-to-the-minute video game news.  The only thing I can really report is that a sequel to The Great Giana Sisters (the Commodore 64 game whose suspiciously familiar name and gameplay earned it a lawsuit by Nintendo) was recently released for the Dreamcast.  If you've ever wondered why people get so excited about this Super Mario Bros. clone... well, I can't figure it out, either.  In comparison to any of the Super Mario games, even the first, Giana comes up short.  It's got the most aggravating level designs this side of The Lost Levels and a pointless power up system that leaves you vulnerable to attack no matter how many items you've collected.  I'll give the designers some credit... Giana's Return is more complete than most Dreamcast homebrews, and Giana's transformation from a sweet, conservatively dressed girl to Cyndi Lauper's evil twin has always been hilarious.  However, I can't really recommend the game unless you were a fan of the original (and frankly, I can't imagine why you WOULD be).

March 8, 2004... GSN: The Network for (Video) Games

There's lots more stuff on the Blitz today, including the first Advance Theory update in a long time and a review of the Saturn game Terra Cresta 3D.

I may have made the wrong call on the upcoming GSN video game special starring Tony Hawk.  The interviews with Steven Kent, the author of The First Quarter, have got me thinking that this documentary might actually be legit.  After all, The First Quarter is only THE best book ever written about the history of video games!

March 5, 2004... River City Revival

The Gameroom Blitz has received its first donation, courtesy of a friend of mine who's been a loyal reader of the site for over a year now.  Thanks, man!  I hope you enjoy the bonus articles in Full Spectrum.

Anyway, I thought I should mention that after an agonizingly long wait, the Game Boy Advance title River City Ransom EX (or its Japanese counterpart, Downtown Nekketsu Special EX) has finally been released.  It's a pretty good conversion of the NES game, and as the name suggests, the designers have thrown in some new features, including a (slightly) improved ending and more abilities for Alex and Ryan... or should I say Kunio and Riki?  The only problem is that the game's one fatal flaw has actually been made worse now that you can buy even more powerful martial arts moves.  In the NES game, once you built your character up to a certain point, you were practically unstoppable.  On the Game Boy Advance, the new attacks really DO make you invincible... there's an enhanced version of the Acro Circus where Kunio rolls along the ground, bowling over everyone in sight and often killing them with a single blow.  This attack is impossible to counter, so you can steamroll through the entire game without any trouble.  Bad move, Atlus.

Aside from that, River City Ransom EX is a lot of fun, and you'll really appreciate some of the extras the designers have added.  Just wait until you see what the last boss, Simon, has learned since you last saw him!

March 3, 2004... Webb of Lies

I have to give Tech TV's Morgan Webb-b-b-b credit... she works very hard to make me hate her.   In last night's episode of X-Play, she reviewed a mediocre side-scrolling shooter for the Playstation 2, using it as an opportunity to crucify the entire genre and to remind us how much better things are now that games have moved to the third dimension.   Funny how all the proponents of 3D games conveniently forget how frustrating it is to fall in a pit because you couldn't accurately judge the distance between platforms, or because you were handicapped by a lousy camera angle.

Luckily, there are still some sites out there that fight the good fight, like Kobun Heat, which was brave enough to reveal the truth about Sony's overhyped Jet Li: Rise to Honor ("It's not just repetitive... it's fucking repetitive!"), and Toastyfrog, which recently put the hammer down on Rockstar Games for strongarming the staff of 1UP into giving their games glowing ratings.  It's comforting to know that there are sensible people on the web, balancing out the unfathomable stupidity of the Webb.

March 2, 2004... Begging for More

Let's count all the donations I received for The Gameroom Blitz last month.  OK, just carry the three and... ah, there we go!  I received a total of ZERO dollars for the site.  I think I'll go out and spend that money on a breath of fresh air.  Maybe I'll splurge and get myself a tall, cool glass of water to go with it.  Oh yeah, nothing goes down as smooth as the taste of bitter rejection!

Full Spectrum was such an overwhelming success that I think I'll do it all over again!  You know the deal, folks... send in a donation (five dollars is a good place to start, but more would be even better) and I'll send you a password for the site's exclusive content.  Last month was a review of the film Joysticks.  This month, we've got a brand new feature.  The only way you'll find out what we've got in store for you is to send in those donations.

I just want to mention a couple of other things before I go.  I've set up a PayPal account  for those of you who find using it more convenient than sending in money orders.  Also, regular contributors to the site will get free access to Full Spectrum, but you've got to ask me for it!

February 27, 2004... Flying Felines

The ColecoVision collector's guide, she has been updated!  (arrogant French laughter follows)  I've added Opcode's recent conversion of the MSX computer game Sky Jaguar to the list.  If you're a fan of classic game systems, you really ought to pick this one up... there were never any good Xevious clones on the ColecoVision, and Sky Jaguar nicely fills that void.

February 25, 2004... The Gameroom What Now?

Hey, do you remember that one site... you know, The Gameroom something or other?  Whatever happened to that, anyway?

February 18, 2004... Beggin' for Bucks

Tony Bueno's back with another game review.  This time, he breaks out the pepper and jumps into the world of Super Burgertime.  Is it really as super as the title suggests?  Click here and find out.

Someone recently asked me if I was serious when I asked for donations earlier this month.  In case anyone else was wondering, yes, I'm quite serious about it.  I'm also quite broke, so if you guys want to see more coverage for modern game systems like the Playstation 2, you'll need to send in donations.

February 16, 2004... White Rabbit

I'm still pluggin' away at the Saturn section of the site.  This time, I've reviewed Rabbit, a Japanese fighting game that was all but ignored by players preoccupied with X-Men vs. Street Fighter.  I've given Rabbit a slightly higher rating than I did when it was the site's featured game, because it does have some positive qualities, even if it's well below the standards of the best tournament fighters the Saturn has to offer.

Getting past that, is anyone else a little miffed at Tech TV for their biased reporting?  I find myself grinding my teeth whenever the smarmy numbskulls on X-Play review Game Boy Advance games.  They always seem to pick the worst games for the system, and their comments are always dripping with smug condescencion, as if they're too good to review games for a lowly handheld system.  I swear, if I hear Morgan Webb-b-b-b refer to another Game Boy Advance title as "cute", I'm going to shove her beloved Playstation 2 up her ass.  Sideways.  With the drive door open.  And everything still attached.  Including the widescreen television.

February 12, 2004... Don't Laugh!  Those Pink Kittens Are Vicious!

Just a friendly reminder... we're running on a tight budget here at JessCREATIONS* Studios, and we could really use some outside income to keep the site going.  If you enjoy the hundreds of reviews on The Gameroom Blitz (I've counted... there are nearly three hundred reviews on this site!), you ought to show your appreciation by pledging a donation to this E-mail address.  I assure you that it's money well spent.

Speaking of money, there's talk that The Disney Corporation will be purchased by cable television provider Comcast.  Frankly, I didn't think there was enough money in the world to buy a company as large as Disney, but it seems that Comcast is determined to prove me wrong.  Guess all those cable rate hikes really came in handy for them...

Moving on from Mickey to another famous mouse, Tony Bueno has supplied us with a review of Hopping Mappy.  It's comforting to know the little runt's still out there keeping the peace and protecting the public from, uh, tiny pink kittens.

February 9, 2004... Genesis Does... Mini-Games?

I'm feeling just a little less crabby and moody than usual, so I'll take advantage of my unusually cheerful mood and let you know about a great series of games you might have missed.  Remember Bonanza Bros. for the Genesis?  It was a goofy action title similar to Keystone Kapers, and full of wacky cartoon antics.  That game went largely unnoticed in the United States, but it DID inspire a great Japanese series called Puzzle and Action.  As the title suggests, the games in the Puzzle and Action series are full of fast-paced challenges that test both your mind and reflexes.  If this reminds you of Wario Ware, you're not too far off the mark.

Anyway, there are a handful of games in the series, and they're all available for Sega game systems.  Tanto-R is the first, released for both the Japanese Genesis and Game Gear.  Ichidant-R is the sequel, with new challenges.  Finally, Sando-R is the Saturn extension of the series, with polygonal graphics and a fantastic selection of fun and intuitive mini-games.  They're so easy to pick up and play that you won't mind they're all in Japanese.

You can play all three of these games with MAME, and some of them even have variations in English.  If you liked Wario Ware or Namco's Point Blank series, you owe it to yourself to give Puzzle and Action a spin.

February 8, 2004... Miscellaneous Site Updates

I've got a suggestion for everyone who's complained that The Gameroom Blitz is too negative... suck on this for a while!

I'm sorry... that was a little surly, wasn't it?  Well, I've got good news, and it has nothing to do with cheap car insurance.  Everyone who contributes articles to The Gameroom Blitz this month will be granted access to the site's Full Spectrum content.  What the heck, it's the least I can do for my writers.  Just E-mail me and I'll send the password your way.

Also, I've made some minor updates to the profiles page.  Russ Beleski now has his own portrait... you can check it out here if you don't feel like wading through the profiles to find it.  If anyone else on the staff doesn't have their own portrait, send me your picture and I'll take care of it.

February 6, 2004... Ugh, Was That A Skynyrd Reference?

It's going to be a simple kind of update today.  I spent so much time redesigning the navigation bar that I don't have much time for anything else!

February 3, 2004... Phat Beats

Now I've seen it all.  Someone's whipped up a side-scrolling fighting game in the vein of Final Fight and Guardian Heroes, using sprites from the King of Fighters series.  And if that's not enough, they've ported it to a variety of systems, including the Playstation 2, X-Box, and of course the Dreamcast.

It's called Beats of Rage, and I must admit that I'm really impressed with the Dreamcast version I downloaded.  A lot of people have complained that it's repetitive, and, well, it is, but it also happens to be 99 times better than the other homebrew Dreamcast games I've tried.  The sprites are huge and beautifully animated, and the gameplay goes down smoother than a light, refreshing wine cooler.  It could use more moves- try to vault over an opponent in your grasp and you'll only knock him away with a lame backhand- and roughing up dozens of clones of Ralf and Shermie to the tune of Streets of Rage themes is to say the least surreal.  Nevertheless, the designers have done a fantastic job with the game, and I look forward to the updates that are planned in the future.

You can get your own copy of Beats of Rage from this address.

February 3, 2004... Grab That Cash with Both Hands and Make a Stash

As promised earlier, The Gameroom Blitz now has premium content.  This month, we're offering all the miniature reviews from last September and an exclusive feature that's never been published on the site (or for that matter, anywhere else!).

If you want to get in on the action, here's what you'll need to do.  Send me an E-mail at and pledge a donation to the site.  When I get your donation, you'll be sent a secret code which grants you access to the site's Full Spectrum content.

If you like what I'm doing with the site, here's your chance to prove it by offering your support!

January 29, 2004... No Zoo for You

Another Saturn review is comin' right at 'ya!  This time it's Shienryu, a vertically scrolling shooter which most gamers will know as the budget Playstation release Geki-Oh: Shooting King.

If you're wondering what happened to the comic that was once regularly published on The Gameroom Blitz, well, I'm thinking about pulling the plug on it entirely.  I used to love drawing comics when I was younger, but recently, it's become a frustrating and time-consuming process.  I personally think that time is much better spent writing reviews and other content for the site.  I'm not saying that I'll quit drawing entirely, but if you're expecting new installments of Zoo Logic, you'll be waiting an extra, extra, extra long time for them.  I apologize to any fans of the comic, but my heart just isn't in it.

January 26, 2004... How Do You "Groove On" Something?

I've been meaning to redesign the Sega Saturn page for years, but so far, only one review has adopted the new layout.  Well, now that total's been bumped up to three.  I hope you'll enjoy these brand new reviews of Groove On Fight and Mighty Hits.

Speaking of the Saturn, I hope you'll forgive the picture at the top of the page.  After playing Final Fight Revenge for the first time in years, I just couldn't resist posting it on the site.  I think Higher Voltage said it best... when it comes to Poison, ignorance really is bliss.

January 23, 2004... Dual Screens Means Double the Skepticism

Everyone's talking about the latest Nintendo game system... but most of what they've been saying hasn't been very flattering.  There have already been multiple comparisons to Nintendo's last daring but ultimately foolish attempt to change the face of portable gaming, the Virtual Boy.

I honestly DO think that the creator of the Virtual Boy had some posthumous influence on Nintendo's upcoming dual-screen portable.  However, it's more likely that the inspiration for the Nintendo DS was taken from an older Gumpei Yokoi invention, the multi-screen Game+Watch.  These dedicated handhelds really did offer an enhanced gaming experience, with more rounds and complexity than their single screen counterparts. 

However, the Game+Watches cost only fifty dollars a pop, and it was understood that each one could only play a single game.  The Nintendo DS will cost significantly more... and people are going to expect a lot more entertainment for their money.  Nintendo's going to have to bust their butts to keep the system adequately supported, because third parties are going to be very hesitant to approach it.  Also, they're going to have to put some powerful hardware in the Nintendo DS for it to handle two screens at once.  The IQue player they released in China might be just the ticket... it's cheap, fast, and compatible with the Nintendo 64, which already has a strong software library.  It also handles polygons well, making it easy to create the multiple camera angles necessary to take full advantage of the system's dual screen design.

I can't imagine the Nintendo DS being a financial success, but if they play their cards right, Nintendo could win over a lot of skeptical players with this system.  Heck, it's happened before... just look at Sega's Dreamcast.  Who thought THAT was going to be a fan favorite six months before it was released?

January 21, 2004... Peter Pepper Picked A Pint of Praline Parfait

In this update, Tony Bueno serves up two scoops of cynicism in his review of the Burgertime sequel Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory.  I'm sure Tony would have been a lot happier with that other Burgertime sequel Diner... I've reviewed that on the bottom of this page.

I hate to do it, but I'm tempted to introduce (gulp!) premium content to the site.  I've been broke lately and the misfortunes just keep on coming, whether I can actually afford them or not.  Donations from readers would help me tackle these expenses, and even give me a budget for game rentals, resulting in more frequent reviews.

January 19, 2004... A Little Something of WHAT?!

The Vectrex special won't be finished for a couple of weeks, so here's a little something to tide you over until then.  I've got a long way to go before it's done, but I think it's off to a good start.  Give it a peek and let me know what you think of it.

January 16, 2004... Faulty Tactics

With this update we conclude John Roche's series of strategic RPG reviews for the Game Boy Advance.  In this final installment John looks at Onimusha Tactics, the surprisingly subpar portable extension of the Onimusha series.

January 14, 2004... Celebrity Doubles

Instead of a tiny game review on the bottom of this page, how about we try something a little different today?  Something like... oh, I don't know... an update of Fighter's Misery, perhaps?

I looked at some preview pictures of Konami's upcoming Silent Hill 4 and was shocked by the main character's striking resemblence to Jodie Foster.  Prior to that, Capcom had introduced characters to its own Resident Evil series who looked remarkably like Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio.  I can't help but wonder how long game companies will be able to get away with this before these stars strike back with a lawsuit.  After all, their likenesses are a big part of what makes them marketable, perhaps even more so than their acting talent.  Companies like Konami and Capcom are using those likenesses without the consent of their respective actors, and they're not getting a dime from the sales of games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil.  I predict that there will eventually be a Hollywood backlash, similar to what happened when Metallica took a stand against Napster at the turn of the century.  These days, video games are bringing in even more money than movies, and the actors who wind up in these games without even realizing it are going to want a piece of that pie.

January 12, 2004... ApeXTreme: Who Knew It'd Be Vaporware?

You'll notice I dropped a link to On-File on the end of the navigation bar.  It's a little project of mine that I've resurrected years after it dropped off the face of the Internet (you can thank Xoom and NBCi for that).  In case you've never heard of it, On-File is a video game fanzine archive, which currently features the work of over a dozen talented writers.  It's on Geocities right now, but it'll be moving to the greener pastures of FEFEA in a week (you can thank The Lost Levels' Frank Cifaldi for that).

So what's the deal with Apex's new game console?  Right off the bat, it earns a strike for its ridiculous, unimaginative name.  Really, with a name like ApeXtreme, you half expect one of the launch titles to be Donkey Kong Wakeboarding.  If that weren't bad enough, the ApeXtreme is the first game system that not only uses PC hardware, but is specifically compatible with PC games.  I've said this about the XBox in the past, and it's even more true in the case of the ApeXtreme... why buy a system that's a watered down computer when you could just, you know, BUY a computer?  I'm sorry, but a game console with limited applications and absolutely no exclusive software is a hard sell in my opinion, and I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.

January 10, 2004... In and Out (no burger, though)

I've made a couple of changes to the links page.  Making its debut is Kid Fenris, a cleverly written pop culture site featuring one of the best articles I've seen on the Internet in a long time.  In it, the editor puts the hammer down on terrible video game box artwork, ranging from overly beefy depiction of Strider in the Genesis translation of Capcom's sleek side-scroller to the air brushed blunder on the front of the Guardian Heroes instruction manual.

On its way out is Sector: NGP.  It's not a bad site, really, but it hasn't been updated in over a year.  Worse yet, it's home to the most rude and arrogant message board this side of Yerf.  I've taken more than enough abuse from dispicable, self-worshipping bastards like Chad "SignOfZeta" Gombosi, and the last thing I want to do is subject my readers to that kind of treatment.  Trust me, folks, you'd be a lot happier visiting a forum with some semblence of civility, like the Retrogaming Roundtable at Digital Press.

January 9, 2004... Mario Bros., Hold the Super

Exciting news for NES fans... there's a European translation of the original Mario Bros. that's a good sight better than the one released in America.  The enemies are larger and more detailed, there's less flicker, and the control is more flexible... this time, you can shift direction while you're jumping.  The arcade version of Mario Bros. is still best, but it was nevertheless gracious of Nintendo to fix all the mistakes they made with their first NES translation of Mario Bros.  If only they'd given their conversions of Donkey Kong and Popeye the same treatment!

January 7, 2004... Metal Schmuck

I don't have much to contribute to the site today... fortunately, John Roche has come to the rescue with another game review.  Kudos to you, John!

I recently played Metal Slug 5, and while it's more exciting than the latest Samurai Shodown game, it's still pretty obvious that the series is running low on inspiration.  It starts out strong, with rockin' heavy metal music and a fun journey through an ancient, trap-laden temple, but Metal Slug 5 starts to peter out as you progress.  The worst part is at the end of the game (spoiler alert!), where you fight a boss who seems horribly out of place.  The designers never bother to explain what he's doing in the Metal Slug universe, or why he's fighting you.  When you defeat him, he doesn't die in a satisfying explosion... he just flies away, presumably to battle you later in Metal Slug 6.  You can't help but feel cheated by this cop-out ending, which offers no sense of accomplishment, no closure... just disappointment.  After the credits stopped rolling, I wondered why I even bothered to pick up the controller in the first place.

January 5, 2004... Tech Meets Dreck

Well, that wraps up the holidays.  Darn, I'm gonna miss 'em.

I heard recently that TechTV and G4 were planning to merge in the hopes of drawing in more (or in G4's case, any) readers.  I've been giving this some thought, and have come up with a winning game plan for the combined network:

*  Cartoon Network is bringing in fantastic ratings with its Adult Swim programming block.  TechTV's replacement needs to fight tooth and nail for this hip late night audience.  The network has already made steps in the right direction, but there just isn't enough video game coverage (thirty minutes?  Come on...), and TechTV's selection of anime' is lackluster at best.  The video game review shows need to be expanded to an hour, perhaps even two, and TechTV should kick lame Japanese cartoons like Soul Taker to the curb and replace them with more compelling animated series.  JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is an exceptional show that's long overdue for an introduction to the United States.  TechTV's programming executives should take a chance on this series... I think they'll be pleased with the results.

*  TechTV shouldn't completely divorce itself from shows like Call for Help and Fresh Gear, which provide viewers with useful information about the latest technology.  Even though they can be a little dry, they do serve an important purpose.  However, there's a lot of shows on the network that aren't of much use to anybody.  Thunderbirds are Go! is an outdated relic that's horribly out of place on the network.  Robot Wars is a better fit, but it's hard to get as excited about the show as its host, Craig Charles, seems to be.  It's time to dump those chumps and replace them with the best programming G4 has to offer.

*  The one thing TechTV most lacks is comedy, which would help keep the viewers glued to their seats after watching several straight hours of dry educational television.  Believe it or not, nerds have a sense of humor too.  Unscrewed with Martin Sargent, a late-night talk show that's best described as a geekier, less gross Tom Green Show, is the only series on TechTV that aims for its viewers' funny bone, rather than their frontal lobe.  The network should consider more comedic programming... one promising idea is a series showcasing the best Flash cartoons on Newgrounds.

January 2, 2004... Samurai Shodown and Seasonal Swag

Dah-dah dah-dah dah-DAH... today's my birthday!  Dah-dah dah-dah dah-DAH... I'm gonna have a good time!  And you'd better believe I will, thanks to all the great stuff I got between Christmas and New Year's.  Over the holiday season I picked up my first MP3 player, a tiny, shiny Yepp loaded with songs from the band Weezer.  Sure, it's not an iPod, but who needs twenty gigs worth of music, let alone three hundred less dollars in their pocket?  I also picked up a USB joypad with a countless number of buttons (the perfect backup controller!) and received a handful of gifts from my friends.  These included the first Saturn emulator that actually worked with my computer and some miscellaneous items from Digital Press, including two packs of Topps cards featuring popular Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong.

Mario from the Donkey Kong cards doesn't look much like the pleasantly plump plumber we've all grown to love, more closely resembling an extra from a Popeye cartoon.  The only difference is that the big hairy brute who's got his girlfriend is a gorilla, rather than Bluto, who is... hmm.  Well, I guess there really isn't that much of a difference after all, is there?

Well, it's time again for some commentary on a freshly released video game.  This time, it's the long overdue return of the Samurai Shodown series, brought to us by SNK/Playmore and their accomplices at Yuki Enterprises ("Do I detect a little hostility there?"  Yes you do, and there's more coming).  I guess I should be thankful that Playmore is bringing SNK back to its roots after two disasterous years of Aruze ownership.  However, gratitude is the last thing on my mind when I play a game like Samurai Shodown V. 

It's more accurate to describe this game as a regurgitation, rather than a sequel.  The vast majority of the characters and backgrounds in Sam Sho V were pulled straight from the previous games, and the new fighters are nothing special... the designers have thrown in evil versions of series favorites Haohmaru and Nakoruru, as well as a few more freakishly coiffed samurai (I swear, their hair looks more pointy and dangerous than their weapons).  The worst part is that the bosses have become ludicrously cheap, even by SNK standards.  There's a guy who frequently stops in the middle of the match to have a snack, refilling half his life bar in the process.  He's teamed up with three goons who do everything from tripping you up to grabbing you from behind, freezing you in place.  Most dumbfounding of all is that this dude isn't the game's last boss, but the fucking comic relief!

Another great big annoyance is that the death blows have been removed entirely.  There are no character-specific fatalities, no sword-splitting final blows, not even the couriers running offscreen with a straw coffin containing your expired opponent.  Even the blood is milky white.  In the place of these Samurai Shodown trademarks is a new "enlightenment" mode which is anything but.  Achieving a higher state of mind in Samurai Shodown V is even more difficult than it is in real life... notice that tiny discoloration on the far edge of your life bar?  You've got to continually sacrifice your rage meter and leave yourself open to attack to (slowly) increase its size.  Then, when you're on the verge of death, you've got to destroy your rage gauge entirely and enter a joystick motion the computer never recognizes to earn three seconds of slow motion.  Bright move, Yuki.  I'm sure Samurai Shodown fans were willing to give up everything they loved about the series for a cheap special effect blatantly stolen from The Matrix.

I'm amazed that Playmore has the audacity to charge three hundred dollars for games on an obsolete system, that could have been designed in a freeware utility like MUGEN.  If the president of the company's balls were any bigger, he'd have to consult Dr. Luke Skywalker for a vasectomy.