Hello again.

This site has been sadly neglected for some years now. I’ve been busy with lots of other things, but I still do find time to play video games now and then. Unfortunately, I don’t have the headspace left over to write for this site the way I used to, but if I can keep it up, I’d like to keep posting here in a more casual manner.

So! To begin, here’s my retro gaming setup.


I live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and before this I lived in Manhattan. I moved here from Utah a few years ago and didn’t take much of my gaming stuff with me.  Between the sense of detachment I get from mobile games’ touch controls and the bloated, sluggish, on-rails experiences common to big console games these days, I was missing the kind of quick, immediate experiences I grew up with. Plus, having a stressful job and little time outside of it has made me appreciate the concentrated feeling of arcadey gameplay.


So I sought out an easy system to get into and out of at my leisure: an AV Famicom. It’s hooked up to a 13″ Sony PVM video production monitor. I’m not using any fancy video tricks here: just composite video and the monitor’s mono speaker. Sometime or another I’ll install one of viletim’s NES RGB kits. For now, this works fine. Hiding under the storage basket is a modded PStwo.

My favorite video game shop in the city is Video Games New York, which is an enthusiast-oriented destination in the East Village. It’s dusty, crowded, and completely packed with games going back to the 2600, both import and domestic. The selection of imports is so wide-ranging that the shop reminds me of stores I visited in Akihabara and Osaka’s Den Den Town back in 2007. Last time I was there, I was slightly inebriated and raided the stacks of cart-only Famicom carts. These are a recent addition to the store, and they’re starting to show variety beyond sports and shogi titles.


From left to right: Commando, Ninja Jajamaru-kun, and Milon’s Secret Castle.

Commando is a title that I used to play on PC in a fairly terrible CGA port. I was never good at the game, and the controls didn’t help much. The NES version is a more-than-competent arcade port for the time. I haven’t got far in it so far, but it’s interesting that the focus isn’t on killing every enemy on the screen: it’s about killing just enough that you can advance and avoiding the rest, because the bad guys never stop coming at you.


I played Milon’s Secret Castle when I was seven or eight years old at a friend’s house. I didn’t have a NES growing up, and so I was always really excited to get to visit a friend that did have one. The game’s pretty technically excellent for a 1987 Famicom 2D platformer, though it’s heavily derivative of Super Mario Bros’ sprite design. It plays more like a relative of Metroid, though, with obscurely hidden doors and items everywhere. Key items give Milon abilities that allow you to return to areas you’ve already visited and reach new areas within them. In a manner common to free-form games released in the 80s, instead of leaning on established domain knowledge in the streamlined way more recent games in this genre do, Milon’s has its own set of internal rules that must be puzzled out on their own. And the game ain’t easy from an action perspective, either: I suck, so I haven’t got past the first boss yet.



Ninja Jajamaru-kun is an arcade-style platformer that I see as being the game that basically put Jaleco on the map. A lot of people would recognize it as the title that was paid homage by the Haggleman games contained in the DS version of Game Center CX. Even though Jaleco’s programmer(s) circa 1985 apparently couldn’t manage to coax more than roughly 15 frames per second out of the engine, the game manages to be decent fun and reasonably cute. I have a soft spot for games themed around traditional Japanese folklore and horror, so I’m pretty charmed by it regardless.

This little guy looks suspiciously like a racist caricature, though:



Anyway, again, hello, and hopefully there will be more informal posts like this going forward.

Carrying on the Simple Spirit: Tekkou Hohei

Since the all-but-demise of D3 Publisher’s Simple series of budget games, I’ve missed its particular blend of hooks-and-wire, no-budget ingenuity in gaming. It’s improbable for that type of development model to exist in the form of disc- or cartridge-based releases in the game industry’s current climate, and D3 hasn’t moved its business model into the downloadable realm beyond a few token releases.

Lately, however, I’ve started looking at homebrew and otherwise independently-developed games available on Xbox Live Arcade’s Indie Games section. Certainly, there’s an awful lot of underdeveloped, unplayable, undergrad-CS projects full of programmer art among the 2000-plus titles available on the service. But at the same time, there are games that show plenty of ingenuity and make excellent use of the resources available to the small teams making them.

The first of these I want to look at is Tekkou Hohei (鉄鋼歩兵, which translates as Steel Infantry), a mecha shooter made by a Japanese team of two members. You pilot a robot that’s reminiscent of Front Mission and fight other robots in arena-like stages using small arms, rocket launchers, and plain old mecha fists.

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Welcome back.

Or, rather, should you be welcoming the site back? It’s been asleep for a while (several years!), but updates will continue on a semi-regular basis. There are now several writers on board, and there will be a greater variety of interest areas represented.

Personally, since the release of dive, I’ve been spending my free time mostly on photography, but I have managed to play the odd game here and there. Last year I moved from Utah to New York City, which means I’m now in close proximity to a Book Off store and its vast selection of cheap PS1 and PS2 imports – prime material for this site.

Stay tuned. Good to have you (us) back.

Influences and accessibility in Tomb Raider: Legend

Lara's looking nicely humanized these days.It’s always fun to pick a console’s remains after its death for cheap goodies that are worth playing. The original Xbox has hit this sweet spot, and as I still have a perfectly-functioning black box, I don’t have to worry about backwards-compatibility issues. I’ve been rifling through the budget bins with a taste for Western titles with good writing and an adventure bent. The first of these I’ve finished is Tomb Raider Legend.

Before Legend came out, there was a lot of speculation that it would be the game to save the series after Core Design’s bumblings, and it had a lot to live up to. Clearly, it was successful. Since I’m only just now playing the game, after all its promises have been fulfilled, I can thankfully evaluate it on its own merits.

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