Friday, December 14, 2007

I love my dead grey console: Part 3

psone print

Readers of the alert persuasion may remember the acquisition of a PSOne (the micro, slim, white one) from the Goodwill by myself (along w/ other things) way back.1 More recently, you would maybe also remember my dusting off of the ol' big gray box PlayStation, aka PSX to fire up the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics and Grandia. The space between those 2 events is filled by, in addition to the acquisition of Dreamcasts + Genesis cartridges, the fact the acquired PSOne had a effed up motor. It would power up, but it could not read game discs. Sadness.

Until the other day!

A trip to the bank & the hardware store provided ample circumnavigation to hit up the Goodwill, where I found jack of all shits except a fuggin' cherry PSone, bagged w/ all necessary cables & a controller, for an easy TWENTY wingwangs!

Now, clearly, I had no true NEED for a PSOne, being possession of a PSX, but at the same time I had a terrible, terrible NEED for a PSOne. So the PSX, the good ol' gal, is now safe once again in her plastic storage tub in the attic3 & tis' the PSOne which resides beneath the telly.

Not satisfied (clearly not satisfied!) w/ merely swapping out identical consoles,4 I get back to some of those Atlus PSX games I researched but never purchased, along w/ some other stuff I'd sniffed out. In short order, games, via the post, were promised onto me.

ATLUS strategic JRPG, Hoshigami? Secured!

A strategic JRPG w/ a Pokemon monster-collecting element? Eternal Eyes, come to poppa!5

Do I have the spare time to play not one but 2 new tactical RPGs, on top of a host of incomplete games?6

No sir, I do not. I do not.7

I have a problem.


1 I love my dead grey console: part 2, October 5, 2006.
2 Grandia, October 1 2007.
3 Along w/ the Intellivision, the back-up Dreamcast, the back-up's back-up Dreamcast, and the SNES I still need to get a functioning controller for.
4 I really can't express the lack of room the PSOne take up. As other "retro" console types know well, the battle for space and organization when maintaining multiple platforms is hard fought. Suddenly having a given console possess a mere half the footprint it used to is a godsend.
5 While I was well aware that the original PlayStation was host to a bevy of RPGs essentially unmatched before or since, I was (vastly) unaware of just how many of them were of tactical nature.
6 Ah geez: Grandia, Final Fantasy Tactics, Phantasy Star II, Shenmue, Jet Grind Radio, Maken X, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2. And those are just the ones I'm truly vested in...
7 Let us not forget mention Dragon Warrior I & II for my Gameboy Color (or GBA, I s'pose) that's in the mail. Or that I've been eyeballing the numerous versions of Harvest Moon lately. Funny story abt the 1st Dragon Warrior: my 1st console was the 1st Sega Genesis, but prior to that I got my kicks off renting a NES for the weekend. Somehow, I got a hold of a copy of Nintendo Power that had the map or the walkthrough or something for DW1 (prolly kifed it from someone). When a NES was rented, I selected DW as my rental title of choice, then, being clever, but having no concept of 'leveling', I attempted to go to some ruined city and get the +30 sword or whatever. I failed spectacularly at this task, 'course, cause yr s'posed to go the easier dungeon or castle or whatever first. Sadly I didn't figure this out and played mario instead or something. So, I will extract a certain, shall we say, REVENGE against DW when it arrives: who's the clever one, now, eh?!?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Down the bar tonight, I bought a red/black DS Lite + 5 games off a kid needs to make rent. Told him I'd sell it back to him for the same dough when he's flush again; we'll see.

Sos anyways, couple months ago, Kathy Contradiction's favorite son rolled up north to hit up Pax. DDT loaned me his digimal cam'ron, but failed to print up the radtastic Reviewiera stickers we'd discussed. Thus did I take a half-dozen snaps over three days, and network not at all.

Well, maybe I networked a little bit. In this vasty line, I began a series of 'bservations that'd continue th'ought the 'vent.

Pax Line to Nowhere

Foist, I noticed DS'. How many? Somewhere 'round infinity. Anything you trained yr eyes on that wasn't a DS sorta stood out. Punchline: I didn't see 8 PSPs that weekend. Standing in that 'posterous line, I began idly to finger my micro--not like that!!--simply to remind myself that things other than the DS existed. The kid behind me (looked like the singer dufus from Dagger of the Mind) had his DS in this nerf armor thing: I asked him can I fondle that, caress, and he surrendered the item. After cataloging it digitally, I pumped out the cart, just to see: he blanched as I eyeballed his Harvest Moon cart.

When I returned his lil' brick and 'parently 'barassing cart, he turned to his escort and thoroughly ignored the ol' Fat Man. I started reobserving the line: the shot above does no justice to this congregation. Lotta pasty, doughy flesh, and the novelty tshirt concession at this event would pay off a purchase of Mars.

I began to worry that the DS' would somehow cross-connect (using their built-in WiFi!!) and comprise a wholly new class of entity, along the lines of City Come A-Walkin'. Some new god, glinting dull silver and looming...

Eventually I broke free from the line, and hit the showroom floor. Obviously, my first stop was at the outpost of the greatest retail experience in my three odd decades on your homeworld: Pink Godzilla.

PAX Pink Godzilla PAX Pink Godzilla 2
PAX Pink Godzilla 3 PAX Pink Godzilla 4

Clockwise from top left:
That's. A. Lot. Of. Games.

That's. A. Lot. Of. Games. From a farther angle, with humans for scale.

Look very closely. The two--of all possible options!!--games on display 'pon monitors: the Japanese version of River City Ransom and a Dreamcast import shmup. (Trizeal or Trigger Heart Excelica; I forget which and am too plowed to research. I love you all.) River City Ransom and a late-era Dreamcast shmup. Pink Godzilla receives the first-ever Reviewiera Gets It award! Henceforth this award shall be known as the Pinkla!!

That fourth shot is a mix of the second and third.

I bought Electroplankton. Made my way 'round the corner, and was smitten by Alien Hominid. So I bebought it.

After all this Gross Consumption, I needed time to wander. I did. I wandered past the Nintendo fiefdom many times. Each time, I watched somebody play Metroid Prime: Corruption. Each time, I was disappointed in the look of the game, and the feel I could feel from 2.5 meters away. Each time I was disappointed for the 10 or so minutes I couldn't stop watching somebody play Metroid Prime: Corruption.


Off in a dusty corner, I saw a kid wearing a bag marked "Bag of Holding".

PAX Bag of Holding

Every ounce of nondouche I possess went into not knocking him over and turning his bag inside out.

Looky! Coswork!

PAX Halo

I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of actual booth babes. So I took a picture of this statue instead. The best booth babe, for the record, was the one for the Conan game.

PAX World of Warcraft

Oh, this was 'some. Saw her lounging 'round 'pon the 'mazing beanbags established for handheld gaming. Asked JGR's my favorite game can I take yr picture, she says Yah but lemme put back on my boots. Totally above and beyond! Nicely done, Gum!


Right near her were two dudes duded up in Phoenix Wright 'umes, but (a) PW drools and (ii) they weren't cute.

Two of my favorite things on your Earth are Metroid and cute.

PAX Metroid Hat

PAX Metroid Shirt

At the time, I wasn't aware of the assy 'nets trope "I has one ____"/"Oh noes! I lost my ____!" Thus was I substantially more charmed by this gal's homebrew shirt than perhaps I ought've been. But NO-ONE can front on her Metroid hat!!

I would seriously wear that hat.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Last and First Men

Marbury Garnett

Fat shot me a txt a while ago that Stephon Marbury was talking w/ Kareem on Steph's FSN show. I hit pause on Grandia & caught the last 20 minutes or so.

I know its been documented elsewhere that Steph is no Mike Wallace, but Steph positing questions to Kareem made me squeamish. This is not a knock against Steph - I find his show endearing & strangely comforting1 - but Steph is about my age, so his personal experience of Kareem's career is probably similar to mine. This is limited to the following:
1. A very, very, very vague memory of Kareem playing in the '88 Finals.
2. That commercial w/ the towel.
3. Game of Death
4. Airplane!
The peculiar element of this interview was the way Steph would ask, shall we say, stilted questions to Kareem, & then Kareem would just field the question like a guy who'd been dealing w/ the press since the Mariner 4 probe. Especially interesting was Kareem speaking of the importantance of planning ahead for the inevitable end of yr playing career. Kareem then mentioned something about Steph doing just this, what w/ his shoe company & "this show." That's what really caught my attention. Marybury is executive producer of his own show, which I guess isn't a surprise, but, as Fat pointed out, its suprising for an active player, especially one of Marbury's, uh, [contractural] stature, to be laying post-playing career paving stones.

Combine this w/ the reaction I get when I tell people about the $15 Starburys (overwhelmingly positive for a shoe sponsored by a player that most people don't recognize by name) & I'm left w/ an extremely ambigious & confused attitude about Marbury. I mean, the guy has a reputation (admittedly deserved) as a loser, but he is, after all, 27th all-time in career assists. For comparison, draft-mate Allen Iverson is 72nd, & MJ is 32nd.

I know Maravich is a player that gets trotted out wayyy too much for the cross-purposes of historical comparison, but I can't help but think about a certain Halberstam quote:
Now, in his tenth year of the professional game, one of the two or three highest-paid players in the league, he had a reputation in some quarters of being a loser. Even those sympathetic to him did not really know if he could play team basketball. His career was almost over and no one really knew how good he was.2
I guess this is where I'll wear the Marbury apologist hat for a few sentences.3

On 2nd thought, I won't want to go down that road.

But, in short, for the sake of making a point about the inescapable black hole that is historical circumstance, yeah, sure, the Wolves were 1st round exits w/Marbury 2 years in a row, but that kept happening for YEARS after.4 And the Nets? Did Kidd lift them to eastern conf. ascendency or did the East just finally get that effing bad after Steph left? PHX? Coach Frank Johnson? NY? Is it Marbury's fault he was brought to distract from the fact the Knicks were rebuilding-on-the-fly?

I don't know if I actually believe any of these defenses of Marbury. I guess its hard to simply say an NBA player is a victim of circumstance when basketball is highly praised as a sort of ziggaraut of individual & collection-of-individuals accomplishment. This is, after all, the game where Great Men of Stapledonian Proportions make history, & are not shaped by it.5


1 At long as his guest is someone from the NBA. I saw one where an NFL player was on & I had no idea what they were talking about.
2 Covenant of Hype, Covenant of Game January 3, 2007.
3 The Marbury critic need only point at the Wolves, Nets, & Suns all getting markedly better after his departure, usally instantly.
4 Although, in the wake of KG's departure from Minnesota, it appears there were other wheels within wheels at work in that sitch. 20/20.
5 This piece was drafted back in May. I wasn't happy w/ it so it rotted forgotten in my drafts collection. Looking at it now w/ what has transpired at MSG since, Marbury has transcended standard narratives into pure enigma. How does one describe the career of Coney Island's finest? And once you begin assigning motifs, where do you start? Or stop, for that matter? Are his on-court performanaces (or lack thereof) worth more than a footnote at this point? He's like a Rodman w/o the crazy. Or the hardware.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

that's rock in my pocket (I'm NOT glad to see you)

Our reader may remember a projekt I embarked upon 'round a year.5 back. Idea was to create some awesometastic playlists for my then-working iPod shuffle. The projekt fizzled on the launchpad when I managed to linux the little white lozenge into total non-workityness.

And that's the story of how for the past year and a half, I've essentially listened to music in exactly two situations. The first, when at work. The second, however much of a tape I can get through as I lay my head down 'pon my wadded hoody, waiting for the sweet embrace of a vodkasoda and pair of antihistimines. (Fat=Bad At Sleep.) And maybe half a peppy song or two as I struggle toward pants and shoes of a morning.

How did my relationship to music change? And why?

I don't know.

Saturday I betook myself to the Record Shop, where I did shop. Then I betook myself to the Fred's, where I did browse lengthily, with dissatisfaction, and attendant frustration. I contacted Canada, my technical advisor, several times; after onesuch contact, I espied a 'ticularly attractive little deck.

Whyfore so appealing? Lemme back it on up a sec. While back, I scored a Wii. (Thoughts on same: pending.) While after that, I scored an SD card for't. Turns out that SD card ain't worth much in my Wii at the mo'. (Fat's forsworn porn for a while, so what need has he for capacious storage?) Back at Fred's, I do see a walkman...internally but a single gig. But with SD card 'spansion!!

For fifty wing-wangs, irresistable. Anyways, I didn't resist.

Being who I am, I turned the music-filling process into a PROJEKT. The natural dividing line is between the onboard gig, and the pair of gigs of SD card seated so snugly within its characteristic compartment. Still I do crave avoision of the utterly familiar: thus...a rule:
Rule One:
Onboard storage shall allow one (1) album per artist only.

(I made an immediate exception for Neurosis, as Pain of Mind and Given to the Rising--the two records I put on there first--are utterly distinct. More or less two different bands there.)

And so-ly have I spent most of the past three days glaring at my intrepid, plucky laptop, screaming "why must you rip things so slowly!? Why aren't you faster!?" In the comments, I shall limn the current contents, with occasional annotations, on account of it's fun to have music in my life again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

tippity-tappiting to the beated it!!

The latest title to fall to my Undeniable Gaming Skills is a new rhythm game from Official Publisher of Reviewiera, Atlus. I am rhythm stylus ninja! Take that, Ontamarama!!

There's a little bit of premise, and a tiny bit of story, but we're talking about a rhythm game here. I care about, in descending order:
music listenability
playing fun/playing challenge
everything else.

Let's move through these in an unappealing, haphazard order.

The graphics are...exceptionally...meh. You control either Beat, a boy (blue, looks a lot like Mega Man on roller blades) or a girl (pink, I wish she looked like Roxy but no). There are no portraits--nor animations--of them the GBA couldn't handle with detail to spare. Nor of anybody else. Nor any backgrounds of interest. Keyword here would be "bland".

But playing the game is simply tits. It's the first Atlus game I've played where the default difficulty level actually falls into my sweet spot: you have to pay attention, and you have to try, but if this happens, you'll beat the game without that much trouble. At its hardest, the Normal difficulty level is comparable to the hardest Easy levels of Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!. (The inevitable comparison, as a Japanese rhythm game easily accessible in these United States.)

Ontamarama plays like so: atop the bottom screen, notes scroll across a bar, and into a circle. Once the note reaches the circle, you have to hit the D-pad in the direction the note requires. The better the note is centered when you hit its direction, the bigger the score. And the better the song'll sound. Easy-peasy.

Except the notes show up on the bar..."empty". You gotta fill'm. You fill'm by using the stylus to tap lil' critters floating 'round on the bottom screen. These critters? Ontama. Different colors of Ontama correspond to different directions the notes'll require. So sometimes it'll get all hectic and you'll need to plan what Ontama you'll clear. While tapping to the beat with your other hand.

More complexities exist, but those'd be the basics: two hands doing two completely different tasks to the beat. Hard mode gets preposterous, requiring yr stylus hand to abandon the screen to go dick around on the face buttons. And then return to the screen to clear yet more Ontama. I won't be progressing terribly far in this mode.

The songs are all pretty palatable. I mean, I like j-pop, at least the versions of it I get from Ouendan, Jet Grind Radio, and to a lesser extent, Space Channel 5. And Ontamarama's tunes are pretty much along those lines. There's some rocky stuff (with guitars, yo) that I find enjoyable on its own terms, but there's also good pairing of slow melodies with fast beats, and a song or two with truly nifty off-beats.

The presentation is generous: plenty of extras to unlock, stuff you can buy to make the game easier, and all the songs you've cleared can be played at any time. Doing this gets in-game currency that allows unlocking later. (If you want to get good at Hard mode, play through the Normal campaign WITHOUT "easy start" and "guard". Fucking trust me.) Later on you get some sets of songs to play through, which is strangely compelling as well. All of these options are, upon reflection, stolen from Meteos. Good lift, fellows!

The reviews have suggested that Ontamarama is a good starter game, a good introduction to the genre. I'll buy that...on Normal. On Hard? This is a savage challenge and I don't care how good you got at Ouendan or SC5. Even on Normal, score-chasing options abound. Those of us who like pure play experiences with real opportunities for playing with personal style are bound to have a dynamite time.

I am such a player; I indeed had one TNT-based week with the cart, and it's still in my travel roster. I give it one Fat scowling at his DS at the coffee shop out of ten. (But if you want a real--and really long-winded--review, peep Pete Sellers.)

recently in retail and...surprisingly little rage, actually

For worthless reasons, Frank Contradiction's only son had to betake 'isself out inta the hinterlands to-day. When I finished up my tedious, expensive errands, I thought to duck into the Freddy's; for there is no better antidote to boredom and irritation than SHOPPING.

In one corner lay the electronics. I scanned the Wii, the DS sections, noticed the vestigal GBA and 'Cube slivers there imbricated, heaved a sigh, and turned to leave. Wherupon I discovered a coupla cardboard towers fairly bulging

Made a quick phone call to Canada, who seems to've lost steam on his DS Zelda, but he stood staunchly 'gainst the notion of new purchases. He turned down Gunpey and a tank game for an infinitesimal ten wing-wangs. I didn't even bring up the GBA stock, since he's essentially racist against older systems. (Seriously, I don't get a week under me without him telling me about the "rumours" about the DS2, "rumours" gleaned from gizmodo or someplace, and "rumours" I think would be better-labled "wild, desperate speculation and fanboy wishlisting". Nary a week!)

I yoinked the bum a copy of Gunstar Super Heroes anyways, since it was only 5 motherjumping wing-wangs. Xmas coming, natch, and I need something to set next to his copy of Metroid Prime Pinball. For myself, Tank Beat, which got awful reviews but is mebbe worth a look since it was by Milestone, whose Chaos Field and Karous both compelled me pretty thoroughly. And Rebelstar: Tactical Command, cuz maybe someday I'll want to play another turn-based strategy game.

Heck, I got a coupla Hamiltons to drop on myself, no? Imagine my stoke-levels when the register jockey requires merely fifteen bucks total! (A guide for the perplexed: pretty stoked. Pretty damn' stoked.)

Rebelstar can live in its shrinkwrap next to Super Robot Taisen 2, which I scored for a ten-spot a couple weeks back off the clearance rack at my more local Freddy's. Eventually I'll go through another hermit phase and bust out the turn-based ass-kicking.

Tank Beat, like all actiony DS games, will get a fair bit of play until I hit a mission I can't beat in like three tries, at which point I shall carry it around for a couple weeks, then dump it into the Session beer boxes housing my DS games. There it can tell war stories with Nanostray, Transformers, MechAssault, and the like.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Set My Seaman Free!!!

My my my, where has the time gone? My daily gaming fix for a good 6-7 weeks were derived from raising some Seamen, which died, then successfully raising some more - and setting them free. Yes. The game ends w/ you "setting yr seamen free." Its how "I beat Seaman." As brilliant as Seaman is as a game, the endless juvenile jokes derived from it ("I have to feed my seaman") garners it some sort of separate, special accolade.

Seaman print

6th grade humor aside, the most impressive facets of Seaman were:
1. Just how worried I would get I was going to run into a food shortage and that my Seaman would starve. Especially after my first attempt resulted in me booting up the 'Cast one day to find a floating-upside-down Seaman. This point underscores the actually quite stressful mechanics of trying to keep a creature alive w/ limited resources.

2. This was probably the missus' favorite game to watch.1 This was attributed to the fact she liked that Seaman talked shit at me. Also, she liked the fact that he kept evolving, and would come running when a transformation began. I mention this only because I find the subject of "games people who don't play (many) games like" an interesting topic. The missus' fave game is Ms. Pac-Man (a fine choice), but she does have the distinction of having beat the original Zelda, which I can't say I have. She's also the one who found our Intellivision and like 10 games for about $6 at the Goodwill bins a year ago, and then proceeded to rock Popeye. She also enjoys kicking ass in Streets of Rage.
In other departments, the Shenmue Experience has progressed to the Forklift Operator Simulator stage, having graduated out of Harbor Loitering Community College.

I've never played a game where you go to work, and have to actually play out the work2, but that said, I'm enjoying it immensely (I've made quota everyday!). Enjoying it so much, in fact, that the acceleration of the plot + increase in fist-fights is kind of disappointing seeing as I don't want the forklifting to end.


1 A distinction previously held by Shenmue.
2 Tho' Grandia does have a swabbing-the-decks mini-game.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

a new season's cusp, whore

A hulking figure lurches towards the hoop. A basketball is tiny, dwarfed in his vast hand. Suddenly, he twitches, lays the ball up, and misses.

"Dunk the fucking ball, you big monkey motherfucker!!"

No, I'm not suddenly racist, I'm screaming at Donkey Kong.

Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is the latest game (DS) to fall victim to my undeniable skills. I scored the cart up in Seattle, a couple weeks ago: used, for just under a Jackson. It'd been on my radar for a while, since it had the reviewputation of having some of the best graphics on the DS, and the Penny Arcade chaps'd discussed it at length on the first podcast of theirs I ever heard.

A new purchase was basically out of the question, though. I've given SquareEnix more--MUCH more--money than I need to've, and I've got a pretty solid allergy to Mario products.

Beating it was a simple, though difficult matter. The reviews are right: this is a HARD game. Part of the difficulty is in the chaos-and-unpredictability level of the Marioized sport. There's a ton going on, from panels on the floor to crap floating in the air to people bombing the court to the hoops themselves moving around of their own (fucking) volition. Sometimes yr players can't hardly move, and sometimes they fall down if you try to move 'em too fast. Your opponents throw crap around, and I'll be damned by hell if I know how they always manage to snag the available rebounds. All that being said, there's what, four cups to win, each with three rounds, one game per round, and a fourth round for the last cup? Each game comes down to five minutes, so this isn't the longest cart, stripped down to the games you win.

But it might take a bit to win a round. Yer playing three-on-three, but there's no, uh, basketball here. Mario characters and their idiosyncratic relationship with physics. No plays, no way to call for a pick. No substitutions. If you manage to get a teammate open and hit 'em with a pass, there will always be time for an opponent to catch up. There's a ninja character: leave him open long enough, he'll conjure three separate portals in order to dunk the ball on yr sorry ass.

I never got a single offensive rebound. I screamed--frequently--about unexpected enemy manouvers. And I lost a ton of games. Most every shot I took seemed to melt into slow-motion, allowing an opponent to arrive, to challenge my shot. Somehow, though, I never felt like the game was unfair. I lost five-minute games by 200 points, and felt certain that, if I only played right, I could win the rematch. I can't give praise much better than that.

Less than a beer after I finished the game, I restarted a mid-level tournament, just to try to better my performance. The wins...are...satisfying.

I could add details, but the crux is this: if you like fast games, slightly dumb, with a high level of difficulty, but a plausible level of beatability, then you'd prolly like this game. In context, it's nearly as good as MechAssault, and the experience was essentially identical. MechAssault gets the nod because it was substantially longer, and maybe because giant robot warfare is niftier than fantasy basketball. Oh, and the soundtrack for Mario is intensely remininscent of the atrocity that was Capcom vs. Marvel 2. Incredibly bad.

While I was writing this, I started up another midlevel tournament. I'll prolly finish it before I pass out. And tomorrow, before I head out for coffee, I'll prolly trade out the cart for MechAssault--it's been too long since I've snuck a Puma behind enemy lines.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Red Hot Flower of Hysteria

Fat's just finished Gibson's latest, Spook Country, + is following it up w/ a complete re-read of the entire Gibson werks.1 I have most recently rolled through Sterling's Globalhead & Shiner's Lost Cities of the Heart2, & currently need to resupply the unread book pile & am trying to figure out how to dispose of my copy of The Confusion w/o resorting to book burning. A'yup. We're those motherfuckers - sitting in the corner of the bar, talking about fucking SCIENCE FICTION, in front of everyone, OUT LOUD.3 Maybe its clear from previous writings, & maybe not, but we're kinda passionate about the subject. If anything, our hero-worship of the original 'cyberpunk' literary movement fuels a general critical eye towards a lot of stuff.4

I'm a bigger fan of Bruce Sterling than most, I gather. I thought Holy Fire was intriguing, and I think Islands in the Net is fantastic.5 I think I appreciate Sterling a bit more because I've read Last and First Men (1931) by Stapledon & I've read (& love) the Cheap Truth propaganda from 1983-86. Both lend a lot to Sterling's writings - not that there's a secret code or anything, but more of a "oh, I know where this guy is coming from here" kind of thing.

So. When me & Fat get to rappin' about the skiffy, I almost inevitably end up referencing Cheap Truth. I do this frequently but since I don't carry my printed version w/ me ALL the time, I usually end up getting something I said about CT quoted back at me by Fat & realize I may have mis-represented the source. So, partially as an exercise to piece together what are some of the more influential parts of CT, for me, & also to give Fat some real bonafide quotes, I provide the following bibliographic/annotated Cheap Truth.

CHEAP TRUTH 5: Exploring a 21st Century Pop Ideology

Issue 5 includes the humorous "mom + dad really like..." piece. It gets indirectly quoted & referenced by me frequently for the bits about made-up swear words & lack of sex &, indirectly, made-up drug names.
This year Mom and Dad really like STARTIDE RISING by David Brin and Greg Benford's AGAINST INFINITY. STARTIDE RISING especially; I mean, this is the kind of writing that Mom and Dad grew up on, full of "Golly's" and blushes and grins. And aren't those dolphins cute? They talk in poetry that sounds like it came right out of READER'S DIGEST. They'd rather hear that somebody "muttered an oath" or came out with some made-up word like "Ifni!" than be told that they really said "shit" or "shove it up your ass, motherfucker."

No sex, of course, or maybe just a noise in the night in somebody else's tent. And it has a nice moral, too -- something Mom and Dad have always known, though it hasn't always seemed that way these last couple of decades -- that WE are better than THEY are, and that's enough to pull us out of any trouble, particularly when THEY are slimy alien scum.

The Benford book is scary in spots -- this Ganymede place they're trying to fix up seems almost REAL in places, and this terraforming isn't anything like the way Uncle Frank went about fixing up his cabin by the lake. But everything's okay, because the hero, Manuel (isn't that a foreign name?) is everything they would want a son of theirs to be: a perfect neutered little adult. He doesn't curse or masturbate or even THINK about girls.


Nothings really fundamental here, for me. But a nice commentary, nonetheless, on the state of the sciffy ghetto, drawing comparisons between the more-read authors & junk food. Then, the 1st reference to Gibson's Neuromancer (before it won everything) as REAL literature that tastes like junk food.
There's a saying: "REAL programmers don't eat quiche... they eat Twinkies and Szechuan food." This kind of junk-food mentality is true of your typical SF fan, too. Your REAL SF fan doesn't read Priest. He doesn't read Dick or Ballard, either. He reads David Brin and Larry Niven and Anne McCaffrey. Junk food for the brain.
Certainly they like the taste of NEUROMANCER (by William Gibson, an Ace Special, $2.95 (Gollancz L 8.95)). I mean, this is high-tech enough to satisfy the most acned sixteen-year-old hacker whose only sex life is getting his modem on-line with an X-rated bulletin board. Never mind that it shows you how the future may very well BE, never mind the political issues, this guy knows what it's like the be plugged IN, man.

CHEAP TRUTH 10: Son of Kent State.

Here's a fun one: a breakdown of the 1985 Nebula award nominees. Includes a funny crack about Heinlein. More interestingly, further mention of Gibson's Neuromancer. Great joy at it being on the ballot, IN ADDITION TO Shiner's Frontera, a Sterling short story & others. A sort of moment of victory for these skiffy upstarts.
The 1985 Nebula Awards will be handed out on May 4, fifteen years to the day from the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio.

Once again the armed might of conservatism faces the radical vision of a new generation, this time across the distance of a ballot. The voices of repression range from the senile babblings of Robert Heinlein to the California vapidity of Larry Niven to the moist-eyed urgency of Kim Stanley Robinson; arrayed against them are William Gibson, Lewis Shiner, and Jack Dann. Can they prevail?

Every year Heinlein cranks out another volume of brain-dead maunderings; every year the sycophants cry "Heinlein is back!"; every year they lie. Even if JOB (Del Rey, $16.95) were a good book, or even a readable book, which I assure you it is not, why would anyone want to give this man a Nebula award? Plenty do, and it's for the same reason they gave Henry Fonda an Oscar for a movie as wretched as ON GOLDEN POND -- because he was no longer dangerous.


You've already heard about Gibson's NEUROMANCER (Ace, $2.95), and if you've got any sense you've already read it. This book had half again as many recommendations as its closest competitor to get on the preliminary Nebula ballot, and its brilliant depiction of a credible future has appealled to the sense of wonder in even the most hardened of intellects.

CHEAP TRUTH 12: Punk Postures

This is prob the issue that gets misquoted/misrepresented by me the most. I figure by this time Neuromancer had wom the triple crown (Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick awards) & the 'movement' is starting to get attention & press which its not really used to. The standard move, of course, is to knock yourself down a few notches, so what follows is an attempt to critique Neuromancer.
Now that NEUROMANCER has garnered so many accolades, maybe it's time to sit back and see just what heights have been climbed. The book has, yeah, STYLE -- that gritty fascination with surfaces signalled by the opening line, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." Wonderful! TV as symbol for numbed reflexes, anomie, pollution, savage commercialism. And that slick style carries us forward on a garbage-reeking tide for... about a hundred pages.

Gibson, like Ballard, concentrates on surfaces as a way of getting at essences. All those brand names, Braun coffee makers, quilted consoles, obsessive attention to what everyone wears, glistening green ice cities...

But then you become uncomfortably aware that Gibson doesn't actually KNOW much about computers beyond brand names, and you are enmeshed in a standard pulp plot. The last third drags terribly, suspense hissing out like a puncture in a bald tire. (Indeed, all the guff about penetrating computer defenses depicted as a field of sensations -- this has become an instant freeze-dried cliche, a far cry from the actual experience and complexities of machine intelligence. Pretty, but not convincing.)

The tough characters never gain depth. The protagonist's inability to change, or even to shake his drug habit, creates a feeling of immobile futility. The promised confrontation of the artificial intelligences occurs virtually offstage, and we get no sense of their alienness.

Is this "punk SF" as Ellen Datlow keeps calling it? There are uncomfortable resemblances between the punk rock style of the '80's and the duckass ambience of the '50's, to be sure ... a sense of postures struck for rebellion, but without any emotional foundation deeper than distaste. Other than adolescent rebellion, soon to be quenched by the ebbing of hormones, there seems little heft to all this.

There is little true anger in NEUROMANCER or in punk rock. The rest is posturing, and finally rings hollow. Even NEUROMANCER's last sentence, "He never saw Molly again," echoes the older tough-guy postures of Chandler, whose first novel, THE BIG SLEEP, concludes, "All they did was make me think of Silver-Wig, and I never saw her again." Uh-huh. Gimmie a sim-stim, Fred. And double on the ennui.

If SF is to give us new lands, it will have to try harder than this. NEUROMANCER has little thought in it -- surely the shabby old corporate-run future, with Japanese electro-dominance, can't be counted as a new idea? -- but much attention to the cosmetics of a time only slightly beyond our own.

So -- punk WHAT? Actually, what do the purported punk SF writers have in common? Stylish Gibson, antic frazzled Sterling, the pure-hearted and liberal Robinson, hot-eyed Shirley -- all over 30, perhaps, but what else? I see no commonality of vision. Vague similarities -- bedazzled by technology, fond of street-savvy brutality, some preference for ravaged landscapes -- also link them with a horde of other SF writers.

But to become a movement demands some generational agreement, a narrative thrust... and something new. Only our habit of roping writers into eras makes us unite them. NEUROMANCER's dominance of this rather weak year for novels does not herald a revolution or a revelation.

CHEAP TRUTH 15: Report on the Sophomore Dress Code.

Really getting into that "how do we keep this raw energy going?" thing, now. More of what we saw in CT12, but more drawn out, more skeptical that anythings really "new" at all. You should prob just read this one in its entirety.
Sure, kids. We all want to think we're the first to discover sex and dissolution and good writing. The truth is that the wonderful new IDEAS that we're always trumpeting as the justification for SF High School's revolutionary edge over boring Mainstream Central High are available three for a quarter in your local pop science magazine; even better, try PARADE, right after the "Personality Profiles" and before the cartoon about the dog. What we call a revolutionary idea in SF is usually something like Del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" or Godwin's "The Cold Equations" or Gibson's "Burning Chrome." "What a novel idea -- instead of having the robot be an emotionless machine, make it neurotically emotional, like a real woman, only better! Have it be THE PERFECT WOMAN!!" "What a neat idea -- instead of having the stowaway be a criminal, make it a young girl! And have the spaceship pilot throw her out the airlock instead of saving her, to prove that THE UNIVERSE IS INDIFFERENT TO PEOPLE!!!" "Wow! -- instead of having the computer expert be a nerd, make him a glamorous, existential criminal! He acts like Humphrey Bogart and loses the girl in the end! Not only that, he PLUGS IN INSTEAD OF USING A KEYBOARD!!!"


Ah, the last CT. By this point, 'cyberpunk' is the new black, &, I gather, CT got a mention in RollingStone. So, editor Sterling does what any self-respecting DIY-type would do, & kills CT to save it. Lots of good stuff in this one, but I count the faux interview between CT & Sterling's alter-ego Vincent Omniaveritas as one of my faves.6
CT: Vince! Heard you were dead.

VO: (grunts) Not a scratch on me. CT, though, is definitely history.

CT: How come?

VO: (with a heavy sigh) A lot of reasons, really... First, Sherry and I have a kid on the way.... Yeah, thanks, we're thrilled about it too.... I have a book to do... And we bought a house. I had to change addresses, so it's a proper time to put an honorable end to this phase of operations. We don't want the next 12th Street tenants to be deluged, and possibly mentally harmed, by CT's twisted mail.

CT: Why on earth stop now? When the stuff you've been touting is really taking off?

VO: That's the very reason. I mean, when CHEAP TRUTH was mentioned in ROLLING STONE I knew the end was near. For CT to be cultural currency for those clapped-out yuppie breadheads... Jesus, what's next? The WALL STREET JOURNAL?

CT: But wasn't publicity the point?

VO: The whole point of CHEAP TRUTH was that anyone can do it. All you need is something to say, and a xerox. You don't need a clique or a bankroll or PR flacks. But now I've got crap like that, so I've changed. CT was a garage-band effort and looked it, deliberately. But I'm not a garage-band guy now. I've taught myself how to play, I got my own label and recording studio, I'm even big in Japan. I could lie about it, and pretend I was still really street-level, but it would be bogus. It would betray the who le ethos of the thing. Truth plus lies always equals lies.

Besides, a lot of the original freedom is gone. People know who I am, and they get all hot and bothered by personalities, instead of ideas and issues. CT can no longer claim the "honesty of complete desperation." That first fine flower of red-hot hysteria is simply gone.

CT: You sound bitter about it.

VO: Fuck no, man, the thing did exactly what I wanted it to. It was a successful experiment and had a big pay-off for all concerned. But it has limits. It's too small to get into the really heavy issues, at length. And it's okay as a straight propaganda broadside, but it's not much use as a forum for balanced discussion.

The work has to come first. The publicity can handle itself now. It's already a fucking juggernaut, so I don't see much point in getting out to push. I got better things to do.

CT: So you're saying you've cut a successful niche for yourself, is that it?

VO: The skiffy establishment, such as it is, still doesn't have the foggiest idea what we're up to. They think we're a bunch of PR hustlers, an inch deep, all candy-flake and chrome. They read CT and think, "gosh, what a hip publicity stunt, this year's model, they can't mean it, though." (Pauses, then bursts into sinister laughter)

CT: What about your readers, though?

VO: If they miss what CT offers, let 'em start their own zines. It's easy!


But for now I'm hanging up my shoes. I did what I wanted and I'm quitting while I'm ahead. Could be THE COMPLEAT CHEAP TRUTH will appear as a retrospective, with a copyright and everything. Oh, and everyone shoul d buy the new Arbor House collection, MIRRORSHADES: The Cyberpunk Anthology ($16.95). It's a solid memento of the scene and has the best single summary of Movement ideology.

Someday I may try another zine. But CT's too big now and people lean on it too much. I wanted to point at the mountaintop, I don't want to be the mountain myself.

CT: I guess I see... Any final words?

VO: I hereby declare the revolution over. Long live the provisional government.

CT: Same old Vince... Goodbye all.

"First fine flower of red-hot hysteria?" Love it!

This final faux-interview reminds me that the other influence is bits & pieces of John Shirley interviews. That though, I suppose, is a bibliographic project for another day.


1 If I understand correctly, this is the big 8 novels, including the Burning Chrome short story collection, but not The Difference Engine.
2 Globalhead's the weakest of Sterling's short story anthologies (that I've read). I rate A Good Old Fashioned Future as best followed by Mirrorshades. Shiner was fantastic. Highly recommend that one.
3 Science Fiction, aka "skiffy."
4 Its very important to recognize cyberpunk as a literary movement, which as most literary movements go, lasted only 3-5 years, &, also like a lot of literary or artistic movements, as Fat pointed out once, really boils down to a few writers demanding that people write better books. The other important half of the cyberpunk movement, I think, was a reaction of Reagan's America.
5 I find Islands in the Net to be a brilliant criticism of traditional sciffy protaganistic figures: 1. the super-science outlaws (Granada), including a super-science assassin; 2. the tiny super-science futuristic nation-state (Singapore), a tired trope, really, dating back to Spartans defending their fellow drunken homosexual pedophile Greeks from the educated new world order of oriental pan-nationalistic not-as-white-as-us people; 3. Rogue ex-military types, complete w/ their own nuclear submarine! this one boils down to G.I.Joe & Megaforce-type shit; and, finally, 4. the super-educated ex-reporter now romantic w/ chiseled features roving around the desert in his dune-buggy as the now uber-rebel/revolutionary. The fact none of these people/nations "win," but instead the the ideas/forces personified by a small-business entrepreneur married mother-of-one from Texas brushes w/ brilliance for me. Everyone else prob thinks its boring. DUHHHHH.
6 You can maybe see some of that style aped a bit in the style of the Transformers piece I did way back.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I've been putting my old PlayStation through its paces again of late. Even went so far as to give it a good cleaning, buffed the stencil of the super-deformed Ultraman off, & even purchased an extra controller + an extra memory card for it.1


2 games, both previously uncompleted in an prior age, caused me to dust off PSX & add it to the existing spaghetti factory1 behind the teevee: Final Fantasy Tactics & Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete. Having recently vanquished Lunar Legend on the SP, I was reminded that I DID, afterall, still have a save file for Lunar 2. I did fire the game up, but then found myself completely w/o interest in actually going steady w/ it about 2/3rds through the 1st combat.

Fat has been, on & off, here + there, for the last year or so, sung praises of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance when I would kind of whine about needing something new to play.3 I kept countering, "but I have Tactics for PlayStation!" I'd also gotten it in my head to start seeking out games by developer publisher, namely, Atlus. Then I discovered two things:

1. Atlus developed published a bushel of games for the PlayStation, mostly RPGs + strategic RPGs. Which is fine by me.
2. These games fetch a premium price in the online marketplace.

I have yet to acquire any of these Atlus titles, tho' I have dropped the previous ideal of only buying old games complete w/ case + manual. I did, however, grab MakenX, the only U.S.-released title Atlus did for the Dreamcast.4

Anyway, I'm putzing along through Tactics, enjoying myself, & then, one day, Fat calls me, + tells me he's at his Goodwill staring a glass-case full of PSX games. We proceed to do this phone analysis thing where he goes through what's in his hands & I use the web a bit to figure out if they're worth having or just total crap. I end up settling on Alundra 2 + Grandia out of the available titles, though retrospectively Alundra2 was a mistake & I should have dished out the extra wing-wangs for Wild Arms 1 AND 2.

Grandia had me w/ the opening movie. This is something that does not happen much anymore, since opening movies, like game trailers, tell you a lot about the game's windowdressing, but jackshit about the actual game. However, Grandia's opening movie told me one thing for sure: that the game had a style heavily cribbed from Hayao Miyazaki. Specifically, elements of the worlds present in Nausicca, Castle in the Sky, and Howl's Moving Castle. As a quick reference, I would reference 3 points as being Miyazaki-influenced: (1) airships, (2) a somewhat industrial revolution/steampunk atmosphere, and (3) the main characters are children.

Justin from Grandia

The use of children as main characters is a peculiar trait of JRPGs. There's a certain idealism (and, I think, some very Miyazaki-ian whimsy) to the idea that CHILDREN can leave home and travel in a world of adults, heft real weapons, kill monsters, transverse the globe, and Save the Fucking World, all the while being TAKEN SERIOUSLY by same adults.5

Hell, in Grandia the lead, Justin, wants to go 'adventuring' in the 'new world,' and his ex-pirate mom, who, delightfully, enjoys hitting Justin in the head w/a frying pan, LET'S HIM! So he get's on a steamship, w/ the little 10 year old orphan from next door, and away they go.

Grandia also features what I now realize is one of my favorite mediums: 2 dimensional sprites on a 3-dimensional rendered background. You then use the left & right triggers to rotate the map while still being able, if you want, to move the party w/ the d-pad. Xenogears is also done in this way (albeit somewhat better), although I'd never realized how key this was to me enjoying Xenogears until I experiencing the same setup in Grandia.

The combat system is also uniquely refreshing. You still issue commands to each party member when its their "turn," but then characters physically run around battlefield to make their attacks, as do your enemies. The character then does not simply return to their point of origin. No two-lines-facing-eachother rubric here! This system was a little disorienting the first few times, but quickly became delightfully chaotic, as when everyone's actions overlap nicely all sound f/x blur into the din of battle! Nice!


1 Also MISSED the opportunity to buy one of those 4-way controller splitters so you can play the Crash Bandicoot racing game w/ 4 players. I don't actually own the Crash Bandicoot racing game, nor do I have 4 controllers, but I'd keep an eye open for it if I had the 4-controller add-on.
2 Speaking of cable + cord spaghetti, I must recommend the
Digital Press site. Its not necessarily the best, but those giant Sears catalog-esque game guides look pretty sweet, & I just love that opening sentence: "short attention spans, library-sized collections, consoles precariously wired in spider web fasion. Sound like you?" Yes. Yes it does.
3 Keeping w/ the 'short attention span' tag via DigitalPress, we've recently deduced that a main tenant of the retro-gamer's passion is the ability to find a game for a given console that you've never heard of or never considered before, absolutely fall in love w/ it, then find some other game existing under the same criteria - which is so affordable! - and completely abandon the game you were playing. Fat's been playing fucking Shenmue for like 2 years now for Christ's sake!!!
4 A first-person slasher. Where you ARE the sword. You take control of different bodies in order to defeat Satan. Or something. I like it. I got pretty far. Then I stopped. See previous note.
5 When I pointed this out to Fat, he concurred, noting a particular game where the party (made up of, duh, 13-16 year olds) were joined by a master swordsman - who was 17. A weaponsmaster. 17.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Live & alive @ PAX w/ the Fat Contradiction (Day 2)

here follows further txt dispaches filed by Fat Contradiction, in attendance @ PAX2007:

Watching an amazing Saturn commercial. 3 minutes of a karate guy (Segata Sanchiro) frowning, training, beating up ppl found NOT playing Saturn. Sega!
-11:06 a.m., 8-26-07

Ulala had a Japanese maxipad ad. Golly. This panel had a LOT of fun on Youtube...
-11:13 a.m., 8-26-07

Just tried to set up a MP:P match w. 'Owneress'. There are time when all I can say is 'that's really clever, actually.'
-1:31 p.m., 8-26-07

I'm done. Gotta find some bento and a bucket of gin for the train, 'n'm out!!
-2:38 p.m., 8-26-07

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Live & alive @ PAX w/ the Fat Contradiction (Day 1)

here follows txt dispaches filed by Fat Contradiction, in attendance @ PAX2007:

Fat's well. Well HUNG!! Well, he's well-hungOVER, anyways. I'm gnawing on a breakfast, and abt to miss a panel on Japanese gaming culture: Mimosas FTW!!
- 10:22 a.m., 8-25-07

dark clouds out on the horizon (fevered, my hands feel like 2 balloons). The Adonal Foyle era has ended. The Oakland Warriors are poorer for the loss.
- 10:39 a.m., 8-25-07

Gum cosplay; photo secured!!
- 4:05 p.m., 8-25-07

Winding down I think. Another run thru the main exhibition hall, then prolly done for the day. Liquor awaits!!
-5:04 p.m., 8-25-07

Crazy but hilarious Metroid girl costumery - photos obtained! Also...I has one SECRET. Possible further updata (im)pending.
- 6:08 p.m. , 8-25-07

Update. I have pwned nary a noob. 'Adamantium' played a dozen matches of Metroid Pinball 'gainst me. He sent many metroids onto my screen, playing valiantly, and with honor.
- 7:54 p.m., 8-25-07

And I absolutely TAXED that delicious candy ass eight times! Taste my mastery, nimrod, like yr supple mother did this morning! Wipe the SUCK off, loser.
- 7:59 p.m., 8-25-07

Seriously, tho. Nice game, dude.
- 8:00 p.m., 8-25-07

Thursday, August 23, 2007

on the eve of distraction: Fat goeth to PAX (what rough beast slouches toward Washington)

It's rarely difficult for me to pack--what I lug around on the daily is more than enough to carry me thru a couple days of travel or whatever (I Dress for Adventure). Seriously. I never leave the house without at least the following:
DS or other beloved little handheld
Leatherman multitool
Benchmade stabbing knife
arm warmers (in case of inclement, typical Oregon weather)
extra layer in case of chill (ranging from extra tshirt to extra hoody)
brace of pens/pencils
travel mug for coffee
chewing gum
largish purse, or, during the rainy season, giant purse
small flask (in case of snakebite...or untenable, awful, wretched sobriety)
spare pair of socks, in case of waterloggedtoeitis

This means that rolling to PAX is largely a matter of finding my large flask and throwing a couple of pairs of extra socks into my giant purse. Maybe another tshirt... (And all available chargers, of course.)

The fun part is always choo-choo-choosing the media to lug along. Trains are dull, and hotel rooms aren't much better, and I didn't co-found a videogame fansite to not play videogames in dull environments while at a videogame convention. My DS has been waning a hair of late, so all I really wanted to take along was
Star Trek Tactical Assault, so maybe I could finish it, finally
Gunpey, because I just can't quit you, Gunpey
maybe Sprung, which Canada found for me at Fry's for a fucking five-spot.

Gibson's new one, Spook Country--I've always had good luck reading new books when I roll up to Seattle, and. Well. It's Gibson's new one.

For my beloved little micro, I wanted to pull along
Metroid Zero Mission, which I hit a wall on today, but which is pretty much all I need to play lately
River City Ransom, because sometimes nothing else will do (and gimmie a break: noway is Daddy leave-behind the democratically-elected OFFICIAL GAME OF REVIEWIERA)
Polarium, because sometimes you have to stare at some static puzzles instead of moving pictures
and I'd had a strange craving to play Yoot Saito's rather good Tower.

Kept nagging at me, though: I knew I had to prepare for the awesome social possibilities offered by the DS and its delightful wire-free fi. I mean, I never leave the house without Metroid Prime Pinball anyway, so of course PAX wouldn't be any different. Then, last night, after a boneriffic lap dance, I finally checked the schedule.

There's a lounge, all day every day, entitled "Handheld Lounge". There's an abberrant hour and a half labeled "PSP Games", but the remainder is like most of my time: wholly dominated by DS titles. And certain blocks of time are to be devoted to, I would assume, tournament-type play. So I had to dust off
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!

So there's three games I've barely touched for eons. At all of these, I'm sure to soak up abuse and failure. --I expect to be at least competitive at Metroid Prime Pinball, but then again, competing with the sort of people willing to travel to a videogame convention? Man, fuck me. Fuck me! With any luck, I shall exhibit a typical Reviewieran level of sportsmanship and decorum, however...

Confidential to DDT: please keep some time freed up o'er the weekend in case I need you to bail me out of some ass-eaten Seattle jail cell, after clubbing some doughy putz about his scabby melon after attracting that two dozenth sniggering headshot.

'K. Off to recheck the schedule, and top off those flasks.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

hill, thrill, bust that grille

Sitting at the coffee shop, I browse a recent issue of Wired (a crucial component of my initial 'nets experiences, along with Juno and Jerry Pournelle). Sept 07 issue. 'S got this midsized article on how Bungie fungeneers Halo3, monitoring playtesters to optimize routes through maps, weapon balance, enemy strength and like that. After a while, Clive Thompson drops the following sidebar atop p145, which I thought might make intersting fodder for DDT's burgeoning work on why games are nearly as good as o'er-caffinated self-touching.

Predictably I've been unable to avoid annotations.

Blood, Guns, and Research

While Bungie is using science to make better games, researchers are learning more and more about gameplay itself. Among the findings so far:

It's just as fun to die. A group of Finnish scientists wired gamers with skin meters, cardiac monitors, and facial electromyographs and found that getting killed in a game produces the same positive emotions as beating an opponent or completing a level.

Okay. This actually sound right to anybody? Look into yr parts, people; even a Finn should know better. T'other night, DDT and I burned thru nearly 60 Soul Calibur matches on his well-loved Dreamcast. Believe me when I tell you that my emotions upon dying were NOT the same as when surviving to fight again.

I concede, tho', that there's something to these Finnish savants: the only thing that makes me want to take up the controller more than a winning a losing streak. Properly-administered losses feed the habit as well as any other experience, it would seem...

Fellowship matters. Researcher Jonas Heide Smith ran a study with 19 gamers and discovered that even hypercompetitive players tend to help others. Desire for fairness in play, it seems, is as strong as the desire to win.

Yah, sure. Sounds pretty close. Dr Smith needs to sharpen up those categories a little, tho'. Remember this test-site that distinguished nicely between a desire to win and the desire for a robust challenge, and identitfied which is stronger for particular players. Both of these desires would, I suspect, count as Dr Smith's "hypercompetitive" category, but will result in very different styles of play... I should find that site again: there was a little questionaire that pegged me pretty accurately, as I recall.

It's OK to cheat--a little. In 24 interviews with gamers, researcher Mia Consalvo discovered that "a majority of game players cheat"--though they also have strict social codes governing what's acceptable. Consulting a game guide: cool. Using auto-aim software to target opponents: uncool.

Who the holy living FUCK promoted game guides to "cheating" status? Is reading the cunt-lapping MANUAL cheating now? Are my macros cheating at text editing? Is using porn cheating at masturbation?

When I used to fax out Mortal Kombat II move lists, was I vectoring to some vasty arcade-based cheatz0r epidemic? How about discussing equipment optimization and counterattack strategies in Super Robot Taisen? Am I cheating when I spam Ifumi's Wing Layer attack thru the first level, grabbing high scores that'd rate on the high score lists over to

All that being said, cheaters suck and should be flogged with a hawser.

All that being said, I'd love to be able to cheat at Metroid Prime: Hunters. So very tired of being a headshot magnet...

Games are good practice. A study in the February 2007 issue of Archives of Surgery found that laparoscopic surgeons who excel at videogames make 47 percent fewer errors and work 39 percent faster than their peers.

Sigh. Okay, just for the record, let's have a quick little round of "correlation and causation are not the same thing". The reasonable explanation for this finding is NOT that videogames make people better at surgery. (Trauma Center, a DS surgery game, for example, is wholly awful.) The proper hypothesis is that people who are good at fine motor skills (like surgery) are good at fine motor skills (like [certain] video games).

Even the authors of that study wouldn't be claiming that playing a couple hours of Minesweeper a day makes for good surgeons. Or solitaire. Let's unite against sloppily-formulated premises, mkay? Mkay!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I have a problem.

Diligent readers may have picked up on the vibe that the crux moment, such as it is, of the Reviewieran experience occurs in the post-market economy. The CD-Game Xchange. The local Goodwill. The used rack or clearance rack at a primary retailer.1

"So you guys are cheap, big fecking deal," you say.

True, but the Pleasure of the Deal lies in the Thrill of the Hunt. It might seem, shall we say, loser-ish, to venture to Goodwill, espy a copy of Streets of Rage 2, think that US$4.99 is too much, go to the Xchange, see that thier copy is $9.99, grab Vectorman for US$3.50 instead, then go BACK to the Goodwill & get that copy.

And then, 1 day, you wake up & you have the pictured collection, acquired entirely at a single Goodwill, & every single thing for US$4.99 or less.

Annotated Collection

A. Dreamcast microphone.
B. Dreamcast VMU.
C. Dreamcast 4-in-1 Memory Unit.
D. Ecco the Dolphin
E. Beyond Oasis
F. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Hyperion Heist
G. Bio-Hazard Battler, a pretty rad shmup.
H. Contra: Hard Corps.
I. Partially obscured for good reason: Sonic Shuffle.2
J. Soul Calibur.
K. Shenmue.
L. Phantasy Star Online 3
M. Resident Evil:Code Veronica4
N. Sonic Spinball
P. Golden Axe II5
An Ms. Pacman Genesis cartridge has been accidentally excluded.6

Also not pictured: 3 Dreamcast consoles, 4 controllers, at least 1 more VMU & a third-party MU.

Also, the Genesis console Fat found for me at his Goodwill.


1 Okay, "clearance" isn't exactly "post-market," but its really close. "Pre-post-market" close, even.
2 The stuff of nightmares.
3 A truly great day: I acquired the 4-in-1 MU, the mic, Soul Calibur, Shenmue, and Phantasy Star Online all one rainy Wednesday evening! I also got the rare Gundam: Side Story, or whatever its called, tho I sold that to Fat. None were more than US$4.99
4 I'm surprised to admit how much I've actually played this version of Resident Evil. I've dabbled w/ at least 2 versions on the PlayStation, & was completely uninterested. This one hooked me (sorta), tho. Go figure. Maybe I just never cared for Raccoon City.
5 Fat found Golden Axe II & Sonic Spinball for me @ his local Goodwill.
6 The vast majority of my Genesis collection being cartridge only - no case, no booklet - I am faced w/ a looming crisis. For tho' I can survive w/o the booklets, the lack of cases gets under yr skin. I figure I have 2 options: (A) Buy shitty sports games that ARE in thier cases, like Joe Montana Football & multiple editions of NBA/NFL/NHL/MBL 19xx. Take the game home, throw cartridges in a shoebox, throw shoebox in the toilet, take now empty case, print out a different slipcover from the 'nets, & taa-daa I have a case for the games I actually, y'know, like. (B) Order ONE HUNDRED empty cases from these guys. Which is too much? Spending $3-4 to get an individual spare case? Or dropping $40 for 100 empties?


Looks like I'm not the only one who enjoys whipping out his beloved pink public...and playing with it.

The charmingly-named Flynn de Marco (nee Fruit Brute) over to Kotaku has lately pointed out some hideous accessories for the DS Lite. Yeesh.

I am the great white hunter

Hit up Goodwill between burritos and work. Thru a layer of thick plastic and packing tape, I glimpsed a confusion of familiar shapes. What manner of bagged treasure awaited me?

I'd trucked around my trusty 'Casty, my 1st Dreamcast, last night, and had become worried about its standing up to such rough treatment. (I don't have a carrying case.) Now, I've got a backup, Jocasta...but when I saw this lovely little lady hanging around the mean streets of 15th & Broadway...I just had to pounce.

So now I've got another Dreamcast, Castandra,
three more controllers,
two more VMUs,
two big 4x memory cards,
a light gun (!),
a controller-extender cable,
and another copy of Crazy Taxi.

Oh yeah--there were a couple Game Boy games in there: James Bond and Donkey Kong. I do so love the way Goodwill bundles their electronics...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Because You Demanded It!!

Latooni appears to wear the maid outfit all the time now.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

this week in mild frustration

Hanging out, drinking a little beer at Collision's work, I pulled out my DS. This incurs a bit of scorn from the public--you don't have to be a videogame fansite contributor to understand that bars are not normal venues for handheld gaming. But hey. For some reason, I cannot get my great grey lil' guy to connect to my house's wireless, so when I want to play Spark Wars, I have to do it down the pub.

Also, I really really like playing Gunpey.

image yoinked off of gamepro; I play mostly as this guy

Gunpey's a puzzle game; you've got the standard rectangular play area, 5 rectangles wide, 10 tall. Shoving up from the bottom come line segments, four kinds:

^ V / \

You move the segments up and down (only) in their columns, trying to make continuous lines across the play grid. When such a line is made, the segments disappear. If the segments reach the top, as usual, you lose.

It's great on its own, but also comes with a whole raft of (typically) great Mizuguchi touches: strong musical integration, lots of cumulative collection elements, and the like. The game is framed as a "gunfight": you pick a character, and the game sends you off--in yr charming, retarded little spaceship--to another character's planet. You play until one of you loses. Either it's gameover, or you move on to another planet. Win four or five of these, you unlock a new character! Takes about half an hour, usually, on normal.

I've got two characters left to unlock, and I've had those two characters left to unlock for, uhm. Months now. This isn't our usual sort of Reviewieran malaise, either: I play this game a ton. I'd been trying to beat it on hard, but my skills have plateaued, and it becomes clear that I'm never going to crack that code.

I fire it up last night. I'm playing along, on normal. Battery's a little low, sadly, but hey. Just playing to kill some time anyways.

But things get weird. I'm playing...really well. Cranking through, I end up having a MONUMENTAL battle with Vincent:

image yoinked off of mojodojo

Seriously, I play against him for better than 20 minutes. Total game time is like 35 minutes at this point. See, I was playing so well that I could actually also monitor the numbers. My previous high score? Like 627,000. This game? I'm at like 850,000. I finally beat Vincent, absolutely sure I've just beat the game, unlocked my second-to-last character!

And then there's another battle. Jesus. I'm gonna crack a million!! Noway can this clown beat me. No. Way.

Then my battery died.

In other news: Wow. His pokemans let him show you them. All of them. This guy...might be the anti-Reviewieran par excellance. Our OCD is always ADD: I've gotta have all of this! No, wait! All of THIS!!

In other other news: some folks have been out on front on this one: Nintendo has...abandoned us. I don't always agree, but then there's this:
one of the few upcoming games I'm stoked on? only being sold at goddamned WalMart. As a retail enthusiast, as a raving Marxist, this news couldn't be any worse.

Looking at Nintendo's website offers no better news. Flush with their crushing successes in these dark, casual times, previous failures are being swept under the rug. Want any support for the GameCube? Well, yer not gonna get it from the manufacturer. Crimony, the only thing about the system that everybody liked was the WaveBird, and you can't get one anymore! Fuckers.

In final news: why, yes, that IS a PAX pass I'm wearing!! Ayup: Reviewiera is sending an envoy to PAX. I'll be the pasty six-foot redhead in all black. Who will you be?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I beated it.

image hosted by photobucket

Our dedicated fanbase may have discerned that tho' Reviewiera undertakes many a videogaming projekt, most of these campaigns flame out, tire out, are eclipsed by the new kid on the block, get boring, cease to be rewarding1, get frustrating, require too much MU, seem awesome at 1st but then end up sucking. And so forth.

Personally, my ratio of games completed-to-not-completed isn't too bad due to a sterling PlayStation service record2. Since those halycon days of leveling, alcoholism, & leveling, things are less productive. I've beated Advance Wars II & Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation.

And that's it.

Pokemon:FireRed? Got bored, got interested again, got bored again at Pokemon Mansion, or whatever. Still pissed I can't catch a Scyther.

Drilldozer? Love the way it looks, love the way it plays. Somehow always end up buying something else...

Much beloved Astroboy? Got really really far, like to the brink of victory, & got burned out on the 3rd or 4th consecutive sub-final-boss fight in a row.

And it was after this burnout I decided I dearly wanted to sink my GBA SP teeth into a JRPG level-fest. For sentimental reasons related to the never-finished-on-the-PlayStation Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, I was gravitated towards Lunar Legend, a GBA port-thing of the original Lunar: Silver Star, originally for the Sega CD.

Lunar's got the combat system, sorta, that I remember from Lunar 2. The hallmarks of the Lunar series (in my mind) are strong & frequent voice acting, & well-drawn & frequent anime-style cut-scenes. The anime scenes make for nice stillscreen asides in the game, tho' sometimes these seem a bit a silly. The voice acting, of course, is gone, &, sadly, the script has not picked up the slack. There's 7 playable characters but they're pretty predictable. I mean, christ, Taisen has like 3 times that many playable characters but at least they make me chuckle.3

Aside from these, admittedly, matters of taste, there are some major gameplay faults.4
1. You cannot "free-roam" the world map. You can only take "roads" from set point to set point. In other words, outside of dungeons, there are no random encounters. I believe that a prime tenet of JRPGs & rpgs in general is the ability to leave of the confines of city & town & wander hither & thither.

2. This may be more of glitch than a flaw. If you port something to a portable system like the GBA, you have to add an on-the-fly save option so that when you have to get off the bus or your boss is going to be coming by or whatever you can just save, shut down, & go back to the boring world for a bit, until later. Lunar has this, but when you do so & then turn it back on, you continue where you left off w/ all yr HP & MP recharged. I'll admit, its kinda sweet to do every dungeon in ONE FUCKING TRY but it kinda takes the challenge out of it.
So yeah, I beated it. The reward was I could put the game away knowing I NEVER HAVE TO TURN IT ON AGAIN, not that it was that bad, just nice to not have it nagging me like those other games.5

That, & that now I get to play Taisen2.6

image hosted by photobucket.


1 Stimulation of the brain's reward center being, in my interpretation of ludology, the primary appeal of video games. 'Course, different games reward you in different ways.
2 Fat suggested a theme months ago where one lists every game, going back to the dawn of time, one has beaten DEFEATED. Hence I end up the CGA-graphics Afrika Korps strategy game or maybe Duck Tales on a rented NES. Not including that kind of stuff, the graves of defeated PS games read as follows:
Final Fantasy 7-9. Legend of the Dragoon. Siphon Filter 1-3. SuikodenII. Thousand Arms. Xenogears. Front Mission 3. Legend of Mana. Parasite Eve 1-2. Dino Crisis 2. And whatever the last edition of NBALive on the PlayStation was. Games never finished (not including stuff I never liked so never really tried): the 1st DinoCrisis. Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire (which is FUCKING AWESOME!!! The only reason I can't beat it is my generals die of OLD AGE!!). Bushido Blade II. Lunar Legend II: Eternal Blue (lot of regret, there).
3 Excellen, you fucking tease...
4 In Phantasy Star II, for example, you barely see the playable characters' faces, much less get to know what they're talking about, what their hopes & dreams are, etc. But I LOVE that game b/c the RPG play element is strong.
5 Looking at you Shenmue, Space Channel 5, Jet Grind Radio ( I swear, I'm really close to the end in this one!! SWEAR!!!), Phantasy Star II (cart battery probs), Astroboy, Drilldozer, Pokemon, uh, probably others.
6 That Atlus logo came up the 1st time in Taisen2, a solitary tear marched down my chiseled cheek...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

they're from texes, mac.


Since somehow Fat/myself have managed to open up the full can of worms regarding our proclivity of "tex" messaging, I figured I'd dig out these particular gems, from about the summer/fall of '04.

Gin the Hard Way Part II: Shot in the Place with Who's to Blame. Chapter Seven.
- fat C.Collision.
"So the Rock comes home one night and finds Vin Diesel's little brother in bed with his wife. Rock shoots him in the place, he bleeds out, dies. Vin has to get revenge, even tho' his brother was sleeping with another man, cause, you know, its family."

"Then what?"

"Dunno, chili cookoff, prob'ly."

- fat
A little context. Fat & me, we used to... do things. Things like rent A Man Apart (starring Vin Diesel), AND Walking Tall (starring the Rock!!) & watch them back-to-back. Or Catwoman & Elektra. There are others, which, ....blur... to one another... [shakes head as if shaking off a deep sleep] Anyways, we haves this standby joke for getting through the tougher segements of these... things. We make a self-propagating joke about "I can't believe the director butchered yr original script like this" & so forth, which is both kind of funny because it places the blame for a movies' suckiness DIRECTLY on the person SITTING NEXT TO YOU. Anyways, like I said, its self-propagating, which leads to Fat texing me movie titles & treatments which are these sort of frankenstien bastard lovechilds of all these other movies.

"Shot in the place" is a ref to A Man Apart. Diesel's (Vin, not Shaq) wifey is shot. In the..., uh, place. Its very unclear in the scene exactly WHERE she's been shot. This is pretty common in film, I s'pose, I mean, all that matters is (a) the character's been shot, so they can
(b) begin their death scene. The plot is advanced. Mission accomplished. Simply shot them in the place.

Gin the Hard Way, though, that's is all Fat Collision.


texes is the reason

My own ambitions for the site aside, it's probably pretty clear that posts here are iceberg protrusions of conversations vast, cool, and implacable between DDT, yrs truly, and longtime site contributor Bob Macajew. Being modern folk these three of us, many of these invisible conversations are conducted via technology, taking the form of asynchronous bleats and blats between men.(1)

It's happened before, us explicitly mining these tex-blasts for post material, but before to-night, no post had taken the form of JUST one such interaction. Anyways, thought it would be fun to blort out a bunch of the ones that've stayed in my inbox for a while, b/c they rarely fail to make me fucking chuckle. Annotated where appropriate. In chronological order, because history is important.


Glad to hear yr pink handheld is firmly grasped.
(11apr2007, 7.03.07)

Heh. I'd gotten trapped on a bus or two, needing to visit bike shops w/ (duh) non-functional bikes. Been struck by the intensely awful nature of public transportation. As Collision pointed out to me once, public transit combines no fewer than three intolerable things:
(a) waiting
(b) other people
(c) unavoidable smells

I communicated much of this, prompting the above response.

Luckily, a little River City Ransom took the edge off of that rotten bus time.


I found my sister's GB Color today, along with Mario cartridge. Kife!
(19apr2007, 13.42.27)


JGR's got its hooks in me like Advance Wars 2. Stupid capt. Onishima!
(23apr2007, 16.33.57)


Yeah, sure, I'm into Nintendo pride. I don't hate the other consoles, I just don't think we'll ever get along and are better off living in different rooms.
(25apr2007, 16.00.56)

The joke here: the in-house Nintendo rag is called Nintendo Power. (I subscribe.) Anyways, to a lapsed punk like Canada, the phrase "[blank] Power" is always going to trigger thoughts of the contrast between "white power" and "white pride", because punks are ever involved with skinheads, who make such a distinction. The distinction takes EXACTLY the form limned here, with Nintendo Power meaning "Nintendo consoles are superior to other consoles and should control all other consoles, possibly owning (pwning?) them".

I regard this tex as one of the subtlest amazing jokes I've ever had in my life.


I got the dog back! Take that Noise Tanks!
(4may2007, 11.52.55)

Somebody's playing Jet Grind Radio!!


I just realized that what Phantasy Star is thrift on is TALKING. No blah blah blah HERE. At least not as far as I've gotten.
(9may2007, 14.57.05)

Somebody's playing Phantasy Star!!


Responding to my valentine to River City Ransom:

I understand where you are coming from, but RCR remains a port. Best port, maybe. Best overall's not saying a lot about games more specifically designed for the GBA.
(16may2007, 6.46.48)

That valentine itself was a drunken fleshing-out of a series of texes I sent from fave hangout Beulahland:
The 'nets are right. In a certain mood--when willing to treat the low as high--River City Ransom is as full of delight as any GBA Game. Thus it's the...
(16may2007, 00.13)

Official game of Reviewiera!!
(16may2007, 00.15)(2)


The following is his side of a conversation DDT and I had while I wandered around the mall, looking for video games to buy.

Also, True hoop ran a piece about Tim Duncan being into D&D and asking his teammates when he was a rookie to call him Merlin and that he likes fantasy video games. Duncan a JRPGer? Fucking with my head!
(31may2007, 16.53.25)

Now I just want an interview where, I dunno. He says he thinks Penny Arcade is awesome, or something.
(31may2007, 16.59.56)

I pointed out that this was unlikely, and posited another unlikely desire: Duncan's got like three Dreamcasts and thinks the PS3 is for morons.

What if it's 4 'casts, and he won't stop talking abt Shenmue?
(31may2007, 17.05.34)

Well, clearly, this would make me cream my jeans.

Eventually, I called him up and freaked out over "who the fuck reads the Arthurian tales and identifies with MERLIN!?!".


Holy Shit. Just got on the bus in Shenmue. Disk 2!
(21jun2007, 22.42.54)

The warehouse district. Kind of a letdown.
(22jun2007, 6.44.30)

Somebody's playing Shenmue!!

I have often referred to this section of the game as the 'most accurate warehouse district loitering sim EVAR'. I agree that it's a hair tedious. But I insist that this (sort of thing) is what makes the game as a whole so incredible.


Devastatingly slow one day at work, I throw out to Canada--my housemate--something like "shitty day to forget my DS".

Where be it, lad? For I shall take on the adventurous quest to bring it to you! It will start in some fell dungeon, no doubt...
(22jun2007, 13.06.41)

I live in the basement. "Fell dungeon" is a little harsh, but not exactly unfair. He'd been playing a lot of Oblivion, I think, explaining his verbal style.


Just finished Drilldozer. Great game. Thanks. Yer right tho, couple levels short...
(28jun2007, 1.58.50)

He got a DS Lite for his birthday. I shopped and shopped for an appropriate DS game, but in the end just had to support Drill Dozer with one more purchase. Such a wonderful game, such a marketplace failure.


Try the bars after dark! SEAMAN is pretty great, btw.
(1jul2007, 17.41.37)

Sometimes, apropos of NOTHING, I send somebody something that I think is funny. DDT had recently (over drinks) reminded me of the amazing dialogue sequence in Shenmue where Ryo has to wander around asking people "do you know where I can find some sailors?", so I sent him that question one afternoon. Predictably, his response was perfect.

I believe my response to the second sentence of (t)his tex was "Huh huh."


(1) My loser buddy Collision is lately obsessed with linguistics and Thomas Pynchon.

Re: linguistics:
He got the nerdiest tattoo I have ever seen: Saussure's speech chain above a fIREHOSE quote: "very important, two dudes talking. everything ain't just two dudes talking."

Re: Pynchon:
He often quotes with much approval and relish a line:
"men who saw this as a chance to rattle at length at a world that was ignoring them".

Collision no doubt believes our tex habits are us, ratt'ling at length at those small parts of our worlds that maybe won't ignore us...

BTW, "tex" is my slangvreation for "text message". It's necessary because I find it difficult to pronounce "texted", a verb I need to use CONSTANTLY. I drink a lot. I have a thick tongue.

(2) I immediately backed down a bit. Not because I wanted to back down. I was just being nice. This site is a collective (project); it's not simply my sandbox.

Well, I prolly don't get to just declare that. It's perfectly in line w/ our, ah, steez, tho. But likely it must cede pride of place to Advance Wars II, Super Robot Taisen, Astro Boy, and Drill Dozer.
(16may2007, 00.18)

I regard the first two texes I sent that night as the purest exponent yet of my conception of Reviewiera.

That third tex is interesting mainly because I for no clear reason (I was fucking obliterated) limited the field of 'possible official games of Reviewiera' to GBA games. Almost certainly the official game would be a Dreamcast game. Almost.