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.

_R001988

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.

_R001993

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.

_R001989

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.

_R002016

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.

_R002003

 

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:

_R002008

 

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

REVOLVER360

The Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace is rife with half-baked ideas and poor production values. Its existence as a place for amateur programmers to showcase their talents and test new ideas is admirable, but rarely does it translate into an actual, solid game. I’m more than willing to pay a couple bucks for an interesting concept, but REVOLVER360 is one of the few times on the Indie Games Marketplace I felt like I paid a couple bucks for an actual game.

Continue reading

Demo Impressions: Catherine

As several staff members have an interest in Catherine, we are offering multiple opinions on the recent PS3 demo.

Impressions by Chris:

This week Index Holdings released the free playable demo of Catherine on the Playstation Store and Xbox Live in Japan. Like the good Atlus fan I am, I checked it out dutifully. Before the demo, it wasn’t entirely clear to me what sort of game Catherine would be, aside from some sort of puzzle/action game with boxes, some climbing mechanic, and horrific and nightmarish bosses.

After playing the demo, the sort of game it was became pretty clear. The narrative frame of the game is executed in a very Japanese adventure game style – which is to say it has anime movies, fully voiced cutscenes of characters talking on and on, and occasional interactive decision-making (in this case, in the form of replying to mail messages from your girlfriend on your phone). Continue reading

Romance of the Three Kingdoms X

I've got a business opportunity for you, Xu Shu...So, I’ve picked up RTK10 again lately and have continued my game as Yu Jin, except I’m serving under the Southland’s ruler Sun Jian instead of the crafty Cao Cao (who Yu Jin served historically). The AI in this game really is too dumb. I’m the only reason Sun Jian has gained any territory at all, since I’ve been serving as prefect and later viceroy for most of my game. I’ve conquered quite a bit of territory, marching steadily up north from the Southland through the middle of the central heartlands, right up until I’ve bumped into the Yuans and have started to encircle the Caos, while Sun Jian’s mostly traded a few petty cities back and forth with unambitious Southland lords. Continue reading