Friday, May 30, 2008

Djinn of Nordic Descent

As is perhaps typical of that Fetishizer of the Facile, Lafayette "Fat" Contradiction has once again latched his attentions to (what I thought was) a mere side-thought in one of my writing. This times, it’s the (what I am now calling) Element of Display Distinction.
Also, display as a concept and a reality, including the elements of design and set-up (what kind of shelf? what order? etc), is a critical distinction which sets any sort of hobbyist collection apart from mere archiving (a mere matter of semi-accessible storage).1
Upon further reflection, I perceive a murky delineation on my part. I will now attempt to clarify.

The distinction at play is between collections where Display Elements are almost as important as the collection's content, and collections where Display Elements are not (in which case, elements such as accessibility are more important).

It’s the difference between a couple fistfuls of Genesis carts in a shoe box shoved under your tv stand, and a shelved row of games in cases with printed, color covers.

And let's face it: there's a whole breed of joyless collectors out there who buy Stuff and immediately store it in the attic, basement, or closet w/o ever removing it from its packaging. I feel secure in positing that Reviewiera is not habitat to this breed.

However, the degree to which the Display Element is present in a given collection easily falls victim to circumstance. After all, one cannot prominently and colorfully display games in cases if one has no cases. And, if one has cases, one has need of a color printer, and a resource for games covers from which to print, before she or he can have a games case with a colorful cover.

The short of it, then, is that I've further tinkered with custom Genesis cases.

Since my initial foray involved my Genesis RPG stalwarts of Phantasy Star II and Shining Force, the next subject was clearly Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom. III, however, is lacking in appealing cover art, North American, Japanese, or otherwise. Undaunted, I searched for manual art, concept art, and similar peripheries (though not fan-art), and found success with the color cover of a manga spin-off.2 This became the centerpiece for the new cover, of which I'm quite satisfied.

Phantasy Star III

At some point in looking for Japanese cover art I had stumbled across the French Mega-Drive site Guardiana, which has a plethora of Japanese versions.3 Of particular interest was Gunstar Heroes, the Japanese version's manga-style cover of which quite accurately reflects the game's on-screen busy-ness. Ranger-X, a personal Genesis fave of mine, features the titular mecha in artful repose.

Gunstar Heroes, Ranger X

More recently, another bevy of Madden cases facilitated a simple "what should I make covers for?" projekt. Beyond Oasis is a game I really want to like, and really want to play, but every time I slot it up on the Genesis or the Nomad, I only dink around for a few minutes and then decide to do something else. Still, it was called Story of Thor4 in Japan and Europe, and I like the Japanese manga-style (again) cover art for it, so I made it a hybrid, keeping the N.American name intact.

Sonic & Knuckles is a game that I do, in fact, like. I just don't play it often. Generally, games which lack save points don't see much eyeball time w/ me. Which doesn't mean I don't like them. I just don't have the time laying around to make that kind of a push.5 The cover I cobbled together's mostly a less-cluttered Japanese version, w/ some text from the N.American release on the back.

Beyond Oasis, Sonic & Knuckles

Since I was already making covers for games I respect but don't play, and since the subject of Sonic had been broached, I figured the 1st Sega Genesis game I ever owned should have a cover & case of its own: Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the pack-in that came with the Genesis I presented with for Christmas '91 or '92.6 Sonic n' Tails are taken from the Japanese cover, and the back cover stuff from the N.American edition. The Japanese cover wasn't the best resolution so I ran it through a filter a few times and gave this, I dunno, cel-shaded look?

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

You may have noticed I'd developed a bit of a set style by this point: GENESIS big on the front, usually 90degrees CCW; GENESIS in white font w/ black background at top of spine. More white background than on the original covers. I figure this is more in line with the SegaCD/Saturn/Dreamcast style of spines/layout. Of course, I had to tweak my Phantasy Star II and Shining Force covers to fit this new style.

Phantasy Star II, Shining Force

Finally, most importantly, the new and expanded view from the shelf.

Custom Covers

Way better than a pile of carts shoved behind my PS1 and DC games.

-d.d.

1 "Hybridization," Feb. 22, 2008.
2 Or something like that.
3 Although, sometimes frustratingly, usually at a lower resolution.
4 To clarify: a Arabic-themed, or at least Arabic-inspired, action-RPG, with Djinnis, a very Sinbad-esque main character (poofy pants), etc., with the word "Thor" in the title, and no hammer to be seen anywhere.
5 S&K is also a rather fine (and successful) example of the proud Sega tradition of add-ons and peripherals. S&K is "stackable", with a game slot under a hood on top of the cart. You put S&K in your Genesis, and then you can put either Sonic 2 or 3 in the S&K slot and play those games with Knuckles. No one ever really talks about the implications of this I but I kinda figure it as the first instance of "new content" for a new game.
6 In typical teenager fashion I wrangled my parents into getting one, and then basically got bored and walked away from it, leaving my sisters to develop freaky brand loyalty to Sonic 2: I got them all the plug-n-play version of Sonic 2 two Christmas' ago, and then they preceded to blitz through the first 4 or 6 levels like they'd never stopped playing, oh, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Six-Sided PokèHexagram

One year and a half (80+ hours) later, eight gym badges adorn my fanny pack, 92 balls tucked securely within. The path of Victory Road, I have fugging walked. Venusaur. Pidgeot. Gyrados. Persian. Raichu. Rapidash – the dread Six-Sided PokèHexagram, my daily bread.1

The Elite Four of the Pokèmon League, SOUNDLY have I beaten. TRAMPLED, even. No thrill of competition, no baited breath, no tooth and nail for me. Only a barely impeded series of knockout blows, leaving but the barest of scuffs on my beloved Pocket Monsters, and a pile of unconscious Elite Four Pokèmon, their trainers doubled over from the repeated gut punches I hath delivered UNTO THEM. I have, verily, thoroughly, BEATED IT.2

If Fat were here, and not in Oakland, he might comment that my recent Campaign of Completion3 feels a bit sad: for each game beated, a door of pleasure closes.4 I'd take it a step further: the Campaign of Completion is downright millennial.

In the Reviewieran tradition5, all things are possessed of a deeply autobiographical element. This element lends significant metaphorical context to objects such as molded plastic6 or video games, and also to books7, film8, music, even basketball9, so that the object's sum total meaning is greater than by itself.

There's nothing earth-shattering to this methodology, but it does allow us an escape trajectory from the usual decaying reviewing orbit. So, with video games, for example (frequently), typically noted merits and shortcomings such as graphics, control, story, whatever, are eschewed in favor of the number of hours spent drinking beers w/ Fat in his basement10, or whether the Missus likes distractedly watching the game while I play it, whether it possesses moreishness, or how it compares to similar experiences with other games. It’s a review which includes factors in no way dependent on the object being reviewed. It’s a purposeful celebration of the subjective.

In the context of the ongoing Campaign of Completion, Shenmue isn't just a fave Dreamcast game I finally got around to beating.11 It’s the crown jewel of the Greatest Dreamcast Goodwill Score Ever. 12 It’s the missus, great with child, snickering as she half-watched Ryu's fumbling attempts to find sailors.

Phantasy Star II, the Genesis component of the Campaign, was purchased online for cheap, on the condition that I replaced the save-state battery on my own13 (a process by which I lost all my save data – TWICE, the first time because the battery was not secured… securely enough, the second because the battery actually pooped out, so, yeah, I've gone through the first few dungeons on Mota two or three times). Its basically the only Genesis game I've ever put significant time into other than Sonic2, way back in circa 1993. It’s the game I texed my adoration of to Fat when I moonlighting as a boat worker last summer. It’s a game which appeals to me strongly enough that I've taken up the hobby of custom game cover design.14

Final Fantasy Tactics, the front of the Campaign of Completition least likely to be, uh, completed, has perhaps the weakest autobiographical links. I've owned this game since 2000 or 2001, when I played it frighteningly close to the end, then walked away from it entirely. This current round has advanced to the beginning of the fourth and final chapter, a route mostly walked during a five-week period where I played the part of Mr. Mom before acquiring my present job, firing up missions during the short periods that the kids slept.

Then there's our current topic: Pokèmon FireRed. This game was a gift, actually, from Fat hisself on the occasion of my 30th birthday. That was over a year and a half ago. As I recall, it was my 5th GBA game.

More generally, all four of these games represent the vanguard of my various gaming venues: Dreamcast, Genesis, PSOne, GBA. Beating these select games, thence, is heavily weighted b/c personally it represents a sort of moving on to the next level, rather than the previous pattern of losing focus and just purchasing another 3 games.

So, you see, the Campaign of Completion is about the end of an era.15 The games played become the stuff of legend, so that new games might stride the earth. And the display shelf(s) gains some more balance between games played, being played, and yet to be booted up.

-d.d.

P.S. Our 100th post!

1 Grass, Flying, Water/Flying, Normal, Electric, Fire.
2 This being a peculiar penchant I like to call the "I have you now," wherein you over-level, either by design, mistake, or a combination, and then totally destroy a boss or final boss, therein not only beat the level/game, but, in a sense, beating the games own mechanics. Affectionary Diet thinks
all games should end this way, and I'm inclinationed to agreement.
3 A 4-pronged offensive: Shenmue, Pokemon, Phantasy Star II, Final Fantasy Tactics (PSOne). Shenmue was 1st to fall. Phantasy Star II is slated to be the 3rd.
4 Indeed, sadly, w/o Shenmue, the Dreamcast is considerably less… well, just less.
5 F
at once expressed an inkling to lay out some directional markers for what may or may not be considered CANON by the Church of Reviewiera. I thought about his inquiry on my way to work the next day, inbetween bouts of crawling the sewers below Merkovia in Lunar Legend. My feeling is that this quest, although interesting, is fundamentally flawed, perhaps, since, in Reviewiera, the supreme law of the land is Some Stuff Is Better Than Some Other Stuff. This tenet is tempered w/ the idea that That Stuff That Is Better is a completely subjective value judgment unique to the individual.
6 Like stikfas!
7 Like the cyberpunk movement!
8 Like Transformers!
9 Like the Warriors vs. Bucks!
10 The time we drank beers Fats basement (no specific cite availabe).
11 see: the Streets of Dobuita are Never Lonely.
12 see: I have a problem.
13 Fixing Phantasy Star II
14 Hybridization
15 Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 kinda blows.
Make no doubt, its still the giant robot strategy game with colorful fight animations you know and love, but lets just say I now appreciate Final Fantasy's habit of not making direct sequels a little bit more. Taisen2 has a few new mechs, some new moves (Chain Attacks, which are fuggin' rad), some new mechanics (support actions broken out a bit more), some new characters, and the signature animations are either new or dressed up (also fuggin' rad).
But that's pretty much it. The story is even less interesting than the first installment's hodgepodge giant robo anime homage – an element underlined by the recycling of backgrounds for the story breaks.
Oh yeah, battle maps from the 1st game get recycled, too.
So, Taisen2's been languishing in my GBA Special Player since I beat (the rather disappointing and anti-climatic) Lunar Legend. Back in the workforce, I fired up Taisen2 a couple times during lunch, and quickly found myself wondering if there was anything else I needed to do (read: this game is boring as fuck). After bitching about it w/ Fat when he brought Palomcid over to visit Ivon, and also visiting Taggart Island (which necessitated me taking Taisen2 out of the GBA), I decided Taisen2 was going back in the box. And it was time to get back to Pokèmon: FireRed.
It was from here that the Campaign of Completion began.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

it's a small world after all

Last year, I went me to some Pax.

Whilst there, I was most impressed by this young lady:


Apparently, I wasn't the only one, as the centerpiece of this year's ad campaign seems to be...

Eerily familiar!

Okay. I should go fix my abysmal resume.

-Fat