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.

Everblue 2

screenshotThe “vacation game” came into its own as a genre beginning around 1999, with it games like the Aquanaut’s Holiday series, Kita he, Boku no Natsuyasumi, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, and others. They are vacations not just because of their generally-idyllic settings and touristy gameplay tasks, but in the way that their gameplay often offers a vacation from other types of games, with simple operation, simple goals, and preferably little irritation to stand in the way. While it may be easy to pass this style off as shallow and slight, it’s refreshing to take a break from memorizing moves and level layouts once in a while.

Everblue 2 is another example of the style. Continue reading

Killer7

Ž€This game would really have been better off not being a game at all.

I didn’t go into Killer7 expecting much, so what I found, with regard to its presentation, visual design, interface, and music, sort of smacked me upside the head and made me pay attention. Disregarding the actual gameplay elements, Killer7 is a multimedia animated presentation quite unlike anything I’ve seen yet.

Continue reading

Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

JP coverI finally cleared Capcom’s latest entry in the Onimusha series, and I can definitely see why they’re dropping the number and going with “new” (shin) instead. While the game shares many similarities in style and basic templates with its predessesors, the execution is almost completely different this time around.

Continue reading

Resident Evil 4 wrap-up

adaI finished Resident Evil 4 on Sunday. It was a pretty flat, unmemorable experience for me, for the most part, just because it went so easy on me. The Mercenaries subgame shows just how versatile and developed the mechanics are for skill-based play, but those in charge of the game generally chose not to exercise the mechanics for the bulk of the game. I didn’t start to get a real visceral thrill from the game until the second disc, where enemies’ running speeds pick up and crowd-management tactics become very important.

I generally hated the QTE sequences that interrupted cutscenes, because they feel like a cheap way to add arbitrary difficulty when the player generally doesn’t expect it. They combine the worst of pure trial-and-error play and randomized structure and generally aren’t much fun, I think. The first Krauser battle was the worst example of this. I’m not sure why the creators decided to introduce this kind of difficulty when they could have just made things more interesting by making the existing gameplay more difficult.

The QTEs worked best when used during the more traditional boss battles, like in the bits where you have to jump on a Gigante’s back to slash at its Plaga. Speaking of boss battles, the second Krauser battle brough to mind The End battle from MGS3, except it was so scripted that I didn’t get quite the same thrill from it.

Now, I hate to be so unfair as to have only negative things to say, so: Mercenaries is excellent. It’s basically PN03 2, only with a timer to manage, no acrobatics, and inventory management. Sure, the mechanics are those of RE4 proper, but the kill combo system is the same and the scoring system is similar. Actually, Mercenaries is even more of a proper arcade-style game than PN03. There’s a clock that must be kept filled via powerups; levels are contiguous instead of broken into bites, allowing longer combos and many more ways to attack a level; levels must be learned and layouts must be taken advantage of for high scoring; finally, there are no continues. It’s great fun, and I plan to play a lot more of it. (I do kind of wish Ada could flip around like Vanessa Z. Schneider, though…)