FALL 2010

Posts from October, November, and December 2010.

December 16, 2010... Remember Me?

Sorry it's been so long since the last update, folks.  In all honesty I feel like the site has come to a crossroads... or perhaps just the end of the road.  My enthusiasm for video games just isn't what it was when The Gameroom Blitz made its online debut nearly fifteen years ago, and if this site is going to continue, something will have to change.  Either I'll have to rediscover my love for the hobby or this site will need to go in a different direction... and if that happens, it could hardly be called The Gameroom Blitz.

Also, I'm heinously, dangerously, morbidly broke.  If you've got any money to throw in my tip jar, now would be the time.  My deepest gratitude in advance.

November 16, 2010... Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...

Activision just took the axe to another internal game studio, this time Bizarre Creations of Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars fame.  Naturally, although the developer is dead, the games it created will be kept clinging to life for the rest of eternity, passed from one cut-rate design team to the next like a joint in Eric Foreman's basement.  Aren't these morons ever going to realize that game design is a creatively driven process, and that developers aren't interchangeable?  That should have been abundantly clear when they played musical chairs with Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk... those two series haven't been the same since.

In happier news, more information about Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has been leaked to the press.  At this point, every member of the cast has been revealed, short of a couple of possible surprises.  Here's the run-down, courtesy of the always juicy Joystiq:


Albert Wesker
Chris Redfield
Frank West/Chuck Greene
Jill Valentine
M. Bison
Mega Man/Mega Man.EXE
Mike Hagger
Rad Spencer
Red Arremer
Ryu Hoshino
Strider Hiryu
Viewtiful Joe
Tron Bonne


Captain America
Incredible Hulk
Iron Man/War Machine
Iron Fist
Misty Knight
Super Skrull
Squirrel Girl
Victor Delacroix

It's probably worth mentioning that the list is a little generous, with entries in red being unconfirmed as characters.  So while the roster is a little Marvel-heavy at present, that could easily change if a couple of these characters turn out to be wishful thinking on the part of Joystiq's anonymous source.  It's also possible- actually, make that very likely- that some of these characters will be offered as downloadable content after the game is released.  It's the way the industry works these days, folks.

Capcom's side of the list has more Resident Evil and Devil May Cry characters than I would have preferred, with Albert Wesker, Chris Redfield, and Jill Valentine representing Raccoon City, and Dante and Trish running for DMC.  (Sorry.)  However, Capcom's thrown a few crumbs to crusty old gamers like myself, including a projectile-mad Arthur from Ghouls 'n Ghosts and several of the ladies from Darkstalkers, who seem forever doomed to appear in crossover games like this.

As for Marvel... wow, I feel totally lost here.  I'm not a huge comic book fan, and many of these characters have had absolutely no television exposure, even with several Marvel cartoons on basic cable.  Taskmaster?  Victor Delacroix?  Misty Knight?  Who are these guys?  I wasn't even familiar with Deadpool until Bea Arthur died a couple of years ago... if you had showed me his picture before that, I probably would have mistaken him for Slade on Teen Titans.

Much of the appeal of a game like this comes from recognizing its stars, and from the excitement of seeing them come fist to face with popular characters from another universe.  It's why Marvel vs. Capcom and its sequel were so successful, and why the Japan-centric Tatsunoko vs. Capcom was anything but in the United States.  I can't help but wonder if Marvel vs. Capcom 3, with its roster of head-scratching obscurities, will meet the same fate because of this.

Nevertheless, I'll be paying close attention to this game when it's finally released in February.  Obscure or not, these fighters have some brilliant ways of laying the smackdown on their opponents.  Case in point: during one of her super attacks, She-Hulk stops an oncoming car with her bare hands, then flips it over her shoulder to her unlucky opponent, who's flattened, then blown up in a cataclysmic explosion.  If the game is half as fun to play as it is to watch, I won't be able to resist a purchase!

November 13, 2010... Return to Duty

I'm back, and with a new review, no less!  Check it out here.

Hopefully future updates will be more frequent now that Christmas is just around the corner.  I can't actually afford anything that's coming out, but at least there will be plenty of news to cover... and I can always fall back on Atari 2600 and Xbox Live Indie games, should I feel inclined to write more reviews.

One game I've been playing a lot lately is Juno First, which Konami released just before the golden age of arcades came to a close.  When I first discovered it in the 1990s, I was quick to dismiss it as a crass attempt by a Japanese developer to mimic the distinctly American style of early game design, right down to the cacaphonous sound effects and explosions that litter the screen with scrapnel. 

Years later, I'm more convinced than ever that Juno First is Konami's best impersonation of Eugene Jarvis... but just because it's shameless doesn't mean it's not fun!  The game is best described as equal parts Beamrider and Defender, looking like the former with its grid that stretches out into the horizon but playing like the latter with a ship that lays down heavy laser fire and can move forward and back.  The tension mounts quickly after you finish the first couple of stages, with aliens crowding the grid and heat-seeking swarmers joining the fray.  When they get too close for comfort, you can tap the warp button for a brief escape, or pick up a stray astronaut to declare a temporary cease fire.  Well, the bad guys have to stop firing, but you don't!

Juno First has become a personal favorite of mine at the arcade a block from my house.  They've got several dozen games there counting the titles on their two Multicades, but I keep coming back to this one because it's a tantalizing challenge.  Just cracking six figures left me with a sense of accomplishment... I can only imagine the thrill Tom Gibson must have felt when he reached a score of seventy-five million points.

All right, that's it for now!  I'll catch you all in a couple of days, after I finish my latest exam.

October 29, 2010... Inafune Devida, Baby

We interrupt this hiatus for some shocking news... Keiji Inafune, leading developer at Capcom and the creator of the venerable Mega Man series, has quit the company, claiming that he's done all he can for the company and that it's time to make a clean break.  Well, a clean break would be leaving after Mega Man Legends 3 was finished, but we won't split hairs.

October 23, 2010... Drawing a Blank

I've got to take a break from the site, folks... the motivation just isn't there.  Frankly, I'm shocked that the Blitz has lasted as long as it has.  It feels like it's been running on fumes for years, aside from occasional sparks of life like the Conan O'Brien piece I'd written over the summer.  I wish I had the enthusiasm for writing that I did when I was a teenager... that drive coupled with the skill gained from eighteen years of experience would make me a juggernaut among semi-professional game journalists!

Anyway, here's a new banner for you to enjoy while I search for my muse.  Also, here's a map should you be foolish or brave enough to try to beat the game that inspired it.  By the time you actually reach the end, I might be updating again!

October 19, 2010... The Mark of Genius

First things first... Capcom has cooked up a crossover so completely unexpected, it makes the Marvel vs. Capcom series look like The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones.  Are you ready for a Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright team up?  You'd better be, because it's happening whether you're prepared for it or not.  I'm skeptical that these two very divergent series will work together, but Capcom's never been one to let a little thing like logic stand in the way of corporate synergy!

So hey, Nintendo recently announced the 25th anniversary of its premiere game system.  As Jeremy Parish noted on his own site, nobody really knows for sure when the NES first hit shelves in the States... it was leaked out to a handful of test markets before making its official American debut in the fall of 1985.  However, I'm willing to let Nintendo fudge the numbers for the sake of their (and my) convenience.

Parish also discussed the impact that Super Mario Bros. 3 had on his childhood, but I'm going to go back even further, to the first game in the series.  It seems hopelessly primitive by today's standards... even Shigeru Miyamoto himself has admitted that he's a little embarrassed by the awkwardly drawn sprites in retrospect.  However, in 1985, Super Mario Bros. was a quantum leap ahead of what had come before it.  

Prior to its release, games had typically restricted players to a single screen, mostly because the hardware of the time didn't handle scrolling well but also because the scope of games were typically limited to two or three simple objectives.  "Shoot these guys, avoid their shots, and hit this guy with a bullet before he escapes for bonus points" was the norm for a lot of video games in the early 1980s.  More daring titles like Adventure and the Swordquest series tried to stretch those boundaries, but hardware constraints left them frustratingly abstract and obtuse.  If you managed to figure out how to buy a shovel in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark without a guide, you're either very lucky or very lying.

Super Mario Bros. not only tore down the walls of early game design, but did it in a way that felt natural to the player.  You could figure it all out by reading the half page of instructions printed on the arcade game's control panel, or from five minutes of trial and error in its less punishing NES counterpart.  You're here, the princess is over there... go save her.  There are some things you can touch, and others you shouldn't, but it's never hard to tell the difference between them.  New concepts and techniques are introduced at just the right pace, so you're never overwhelmed but never bored either.

There was room for improvement in Super Mario Bros., as there always is with industry trendsetters.  It's pretty clear why the graphics cause the Miyamoto of today such distress... that stiffly drawn, big-nosed Mario looks jarringly out of place in the Mushroom Kingdom, like a G.I. Joe action figure that somehow stumbled into the land of the Care Bears.  Also, Mario's slow acceleration and exaggerated momentum makes precise movement a challenge in all the wrong ways.  It's tough to inch him to the edge of a platform, yet agonizingly easy to overshoot it once he's built up some speed.

However, the design of Super Mario Bros. is at its very core flawless.  It demonstrates a keen understanding of human behavior, and taps into the need for positive reinforcement and the curiosity of the unknown to make itself profoundly compelling, even a quarter of a century later. More than Bowser, his turtle soldiers, or even Mario himself, the most important character in Super Mario Bros. is that flashing question block that beckons you to punch it open and reveal its contents to the world.

October 15, 2010... Krome Alone

Wow, so much crazy stuff has happened today that I can barely keep up with it all!  From the top...

* Fable II was recently made available on the Xbox Live download service for the low, low price of, uh, no price at all.  There's been speculation that this was intended to spark interest in the upcoming sequel, but given the fact that there was no promotion or advance notice of the giveaway, it's more likely that Microsoft just screwed up.  It's a happy mistake for anyone who grabbed a copy before the price went back to fifteen dollars, though!

* Namco celebrated the rescue of Chile's trapped miners with crass promotion for its video game Mr. Driller, starring a little excavator who's frequently crushed by falling debris.  The ever-dimwitted readers of Joystiq didn't seem to see a problem with this, claiming that everyone who complained was being too sensitive.  All right guys, let's seal you in a dark cavern for three months and see if you have a sense of humor about the situation when you finally get out.

* Here's the biggie... after months of struggling to keep its head above water, Krome Studios closed its doors for good.  It will likely spell doom for Microsoft's Game Room, which was a promising idea that never quite found its footing thanks to shaky emulation and limited third party support.  It also closes a chapter for the video game industry... back when it was known as Beam Software, the company was responsible for some of the best (Super Smash TV) and worst (Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum) games available in the early 1990s.  Their work will be missed.  Well, some of their work will be missed.

Special thanks to Joystiq and Tiny Cartridge for the scoops.  I love 'ya, Joystiq, but seriously, your readers are some of the dumbest organisms to ever draw breath.

October 12, 2010... Vanishing Act

This has really been a peculiar time for video games, hasn't it?  Sega recently announced the recall of multiple titles, including all the lackluster entries in the Sonic series (of which there have been many) and an Outrun game originally available from the Xbox Live and PSN download services.  Outrun Online Arcade is getting the axe due to an expired licensing agreement with luxury car manufacturer Ferrari, but the Sonic games are being taken back from stores in a desperate attempt to salvage the brand name.  Did I say "desperate?"  Let me squeeze "stupid" and "pointless" in there somewhere too.  The damage has already been done, Sega.  Most of those terrible Sonic games are several years old now... you're not going to pull them off store shelves when they've already migrated to clearance bins and the homes of unfortunate fans.  I swear, this is the kind of Keystone Cops-style marketing that's given Sega-Sammy its own dismal reputation...

October 10, 2010... Stones and Sticks and Wolves That Are Dicks

(Yes, rape is referenced in this post.  If this is a source of discomfort for you, I'd suggest you sit this one out and enjoy the Dairy Queen menu instead.)

The recent events over at Penny Arcade have left me thinking about sensitivity, and the endless tug of war between preserving one's own independence and showing empathy for others.  I'm sure nobody wants to be a bastard on purpose, but people will often lash out when they feel their freedom of expression is threatened.  Let's face it, there's a harsh climate of righteous indignation in this country, and it seems like these days, anything you say will offend someone.

So I can understand Gabe and Tycho's reaction when someone called them out for posting "triggers" that could aggravate post-traumatic stress disorder in some readers.  Frankly, I didn't know this was a thing... I was aware of the condition's military cousin shell shock, but didn't realize that PTSD was a serious issue off the battlefield, or that a flashback could be sparked by the description of an event similar to the one that caused the trauma.

The trauma in question was rape.  Penny Arcade is known for making sport of touchy topics like this... after all, this is the comic where a robot regularly has its way with fruit and the two lead characters have gruesomely killed each other at least a dozen times in as many years.  However, it seems that for many afflicted with PTSD, there's absolutely no room for humor in the subject of rape.

Personally, I didn't find the comic that started this controversy especially offensive; at least, no more so than any other Penny Arcade comic.  Yet at the same time, I wonder when we as a society decided to change rape from a subject reserved solely for therapists to a source of entertainment.  There's a show on television that revolves exclusively around sex crimes, and I just don't see the point of it.  I'm okay with frank discussions on rape; how the survivors can deal with their pain and how such crimes can be prevented.  I'm just not sure that we should be using it to exploit the base instincts of television viewers while selling them insurance and luxury cars on the side.

Anyway.  I don't think Gabe and Tycho were acting maliciously when they published this comic, or even when they defended it.  They just didn't know it would affect some of their readers so severely.  I bet a lot of other people didn't, either.  Now that they do, will their behavior change?  That's going to be a better test of their judgment and character than what happened during this controversy, when they had ignorance as an excuse.

October 6, 2010... Bungle in the Jungle

Here it is, folks... the Eyes arcade game in all its semi-obscure glory.  These machines were actually pretty common in mid-Michigan (or maybe it was just this cabinet that made a sneaky migration to all my favorite arcade hotspots...) but few outside this region remember it, and even fewer still remember it fondly. 

While it may not be up to the standards of Pac-Man, or Dig Dug, or Mr. Do!, I appreciate Eyes for bringing its own twist to the well-worn genre of maze games.  It's more aggressive than the usual Pac-Man clone, with your fleshy hero weaving through corridors and picking off the evil eyes roaming through each stage.  The best comparison I can make is to the tank sub-game in Tron, except the cleaner cardinal firing in Eyes lets you concentrate solely on survival in the later stages, when the action gets intense and there's a trigger-happy eye lurking around every corner.

Now onto the news!  It seems each launch of a major portable game system brings with it at least one also-ran hoping to trim some crust off the edge of that pie.  In 2005, it was the Gizmondo, and five years later, it's this peculiar device.  Panasonic's Jungle is a high-performance portable designed especially for online gamers... the specs are high enough to shame the upcoming 3DS, but its dependence on Linux makes it incompatible with the MMORPGs people play most.  It's hard to imagine this gadget gaining much traction in a market already sewn up by Nintendo, Sony, and Apple, but at least it'll be fun for hackers in a couple of years, after the price of the Jungle drops through the floor!

October 3, 2010... Still Swingin'

You didn't think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?  Now that I've settled into my new place, I've got plenty of time to update the site on a regular basis.  Now I just need the motivation and I'll be set!

The apartment may be new to me, but the surrounding town isn't... my brother and I used to stop by occasionally when we were kids, usually to enjoy a chicken basket at Dairy Queen or to read Uncle Scrooge comics while our mother was getting an adjustment at the local chiropractor.  I've got to say, it's surreal seeing all that's changed here, along with everything that seems frozen in time.  The Dairy Queen's still there, but the building was completely renovated, going through a growth spurt while my back was turned.  The supermarket is history, replaced with a video store, a pizza place, and the requisite Family Dollar, a business that springs up in vacated buildings like a weed that grows only in urban decay.  The railroad remains intact, and reminds me of its presence daily with a locomotive that seems to charge right through my living room.

Perhaps the most pleasant (and puzzling) surprise is the existence of an arcade downtown.  I couldn't believe my ears when I was told about it, and now that I've seen it for myself I'm still rubbing my eyes in disbelief.  It's not what you'd call a retro gaming valhalla, with only a small assortment of obscure titles and a couple of Ultracade cabinets added to fill in the gaps.  However, the fact that it's even there is cause enough for celebration.  There's just something about sitting down to play Donkey Kong with a Led Zeppelin poster hanging overhead and a Bally pinball machine tucked away in the corner that feels right.

Oh yeah!  Now that I've brought up Donkey Kong, I should probably mention that someone plans to swing by this humble little arcade in the near future to defend his high score on the kooky Rock-Ola release Eyes.  I didn't catch his name during my last visit, but Twin Galaxies identifies the man as "Roogie Elliot."  (I wonder if he hangs out with a talking Great Dane and a bunch of groovy teenagers?  Anyway...)  It also reveals that he scored twenty-three million points in Eyes, blowing away all possible challengers in a game that wasn't popular even back in the game-crazed early 1980s. 

I don't know what Roogie means to accomplish by reclaiming a crown nobody else wants... unless Billy Mitchell plans to rob him of his sole claim to fame just to be a dick.  However, if he's going to spend eight hours slaving in front of a hot arcade cabinet, you'd better believe I'll be covering the event.  Hey, I don't have anything better to do either.