Monday, October 29, 2012

NESquest #32 - 1942

(1942, November 1986, Capcom)

Ever played the classic arcade titles Pirate Ship Higemaru, Sonson, or Vulgus? Ever even fuckin' heard of them? God knows I haven't, but they were the historic inaugural titles of a company that would go on to revolutionize many aspects of the way we play games today. Beloved by gamers worldwide and boasting one of the most loyal fanbases ever, that company is known as Capcom. Today, we journey through their fourth arcade offering released after the nameless wonders above, 1942.

You had to be a MAN to pilot one of these babies!

Set in the Pacific theater of World War II, you play as the creatively named Super Ace, who is apparently the baddest pilot ever to sit in a cockpit as he is sent with zero allies to take out the entire Japanese Air Force en route to Tokyo. Quick question, does anyone out there have a clue why in tarnation it's called a theater? Theaters certainly existed then so what was the connection between a large scale battle and something people were watching Casablanca in? I can't help but get visions of powerful generals eating popcorn and watching warlike shit going down. Anyhoodles, Super Ace, probably named so because no fuckin' way Nintendo was going to promote a game around a famous pilot named Dick Bong (I'm not shitting you, look him up), tears through the skies in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which intrestingly enough, was the sole aircraft being produced in the United States during the Second War. 1942 also began the first successful franchise for Capcom, branded the "19xx Series". Now usually, I go into the history of the companies when first reviewing one of their games but Capcom will be delved into later when there is a game with not as much history behind it. Believe me, they deserve their own entry but that's not how we do things 'round these parts.

Well, we can't see his bottom half so perhaps "Commando" is the perfect name?

It would be foolish not to point out that so far, 1942 has the most bizarre manual ever. First off, it has CAPTAIN FUCKING COMMANDO on the cover, looking absolutely nothing like the incarnation we know today.  Apparently, Capcom was going for a style akin to the Black Box games as 1942 is the first of the "Captain Commando Challenge Series". If that wasn't strange enough, the guide is 2 pages of game instructions and five pages of those old memo pages Nintendo used to throw into the manuals. What in the wide wide world of sports would you possibly write in those for a game like this? After "Blow shit up without getting blown up", your pages are pretty much spent. I digress.

It can be really easy to lose the enemy planes when things go green.

From the moment you press start, you know exactly what you're in for. Super Ace and his magical P-38 firing infinite rounds from it's majestic machine guns at anything in his way. Ace controls very smoothly and the shooting is great in that your bullets won't go through anything without it's intended result. There are a few power-ups that are obtained by dropping everything you are doing and firing at red planes if they ever pop up on-screen. My personal favorite being the two little baby Super Ace planes that will join the formation and fight alongside you until they take a hit. Now that I dwell on it, the shooting and the side by side ships have a little bit of a Galaga feel to them, which is never a bad thing. There is a special rolling move that I never messed with because it caused more inadvertent death than the time Paris Hilton swam in Galveston and fish started floating inside a 10 mile radius. Even fried shrimp at Joe's Crab Shack was around $79.99 for awhile because of the shortage we all suffered over it. True story.

Somewhere around the end of stage 8, shit gets real.

The graphics, while bright and vibrant, are responsible for some of the earliest cases of flicker. Flicker for you younger cats out there is when shit just starts disappearing from the screen though the game still thinks it's there. In other words, there will be a death or two caused by the dangerous abrasiveness of air until you blow up that is, revealing the out of time Stealth fighter that just caused your demise and a few curse words. As for the sound, well, I'd like to meet the guy who was in charge of audio for this game, tie him to a chair, and force him to listen to me play this game at full blast until his eyes bleed. The very first time in the quest where it became impossible to deal with, therefore the Japanese had to be killed to a few Kyuss records in the background. Surely I could die easier knowing "Green Machine" was my soundtrack on the way down to the icy waters below. However if you're a sickfuck and would like to give it a shot yourself, just have a buddy, spouse, kid, homeless wino, or anyone just whistle as loud and as obnoxiously as can be mustered directly into your ear the duration of your gaming experience. That is the sound of 1942. The good outweigh the bad however and it isn't hard to turn the volume down and pretend that you are given 2 lives at the start than 3, because one is going down no matter how good you are.

If you liked the original, check out the tremendous remake on Xbox, 1942: Joint Strike.

7/10 A timeless classic and one of those games you can pick up and play at anytime without having to invest alot of time and brain power into. Press start and start sending Japanese fighters to hell while dodging and holding onto a little luck. The fast pace is fairly close to the arcade version but the flicker and sound bogged it down just a tad for me. Still, a 7 isn't a 2 or anything so it's worth checking out and loads of fun for you shooter fans.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Beyond The Controller - Retro Gamer Girls

Welcome back cats and kittens! I thought about trying this a long time ago and am now going through with it. Beyond the Controller is going to be a series of interviews with various writers/programmers/fans/youtubers/podcaster/collectors/etc to give everyone a little behind the scenes look at various personalities within the retro gaming community. I have a few of these lined up and it's a project I find exciting, so if you don't like it, eat dookie! And we're off....

Welcome to the first installment of "Beyond The Controller" and thanks for agreeing to be on here! I think a few refusals to my interviewing are due in part to the wonderfully colorful language I like to partake in through my writings but perhaps if those who refused see how subdued I am with these, they may loosen their buttholes and lighten up to where they'll come on. That being said, today we have Zoe and Wanda, collectively known as Retro Gamer Girls. They have a neat little Youtube show and I swear by the fingertips with which Miyamoto drew his first Mario with, if you try their show out, you'll be shocked by how awesome it is only 6 months in. So first question, what led to the creation of the show?

Z- It was Wanda actually. For me it was anyways. I have been carrying my NES games around with me for years but I had lost my old system. She got me one for my birthday. After playing them and then realizing how much fun it could be finding games I’ve never even played I loved the idea. 

W- It was really a combined effort. One day we were talking about it and thought: “hey, would could play games and have fun on camera!” I was crazy nervous because I had never been on camera before (at least not as an adult). Once we made it through the first episode I was like, yeah, I can do this!

So would I be correct in assuming you both have been good friends for a while now? You sure couldn't hate each other and pull this off.

Z- We have been together for 2 years now. We got along from the very beginning and it didn’t take much to see how good we were together with many things. 

W- Yeah, she’s alright ::giggles:: Are you kidding? I love doing the show with Zoe!

The music that kicks off the show is freakin' righteous! Where did you ladies get the track and is it available for download?

Z- I actually wrote that track specifically for the show. I used to be in a rock band and I still have my equipment. It comes in handy when you start other projects. I haven’t actually thought about putting the song up for sale or download. It’s an interesting idea. 

W- Zoe is an amazing musician! When she created the track and I listened to it for the first time I was immediately impressed! It randomly comes on my iTunes and I rock out every time.

I also saw the shout-out to your YouTube Channel ( by none other than Jay of The Game Chasers. Was this a chance meeting and he was cool enough to plug your work on the spot or had you had any correspondence?

Z- We actually have talked more with Billy than Jay. Though I have talked to him a few times when they did their live streams. They are really good guys. When everyone came to Vegas for the Classic Gaming Expo it was pretty much just meeting friends in person for the first time. 8 Bit Eric, NesComplex,  Gamester81 and many others. They have been really nice. I feel kind of bad because I was so in game finding mode I didn’t realize when some of the other youtubers came up. 

W- Jay is an awesome dude; very down to earth and friendly. But like Zoe said, everyone that we met at CGE was very cool.

Back along the lines of The Game Chasers, who else out there are you big fans of and don't miss any of their videos?

Z- I think there were three major influences that I refused to miss a show. One obviously was the Game Chasers. I discovered them after watching the Retro Hunters. I wish they hadn’t retired but I totally understand why they did. The third was Little Miss Gamer. I loved how not like the boys she was and how her reviews seriously reflected her personality as opposed to a character. 

W- I second what Zoe said! 

This one is for Zoe, with your game donations vid, I could feel your pain, as you seemed to initially be squeamish of the thought of doing "pick-up" videos. My site has reviews and nothing in-between whatsoever as I feel the same way and use Facebook for the "filler". My question is how long did you think about filming that one before you did it? Reason I ask is I recently moved and had to publish an "I'm moving" post but must've stared at my screen forever trying to decide on doing it or not. You?

Z-The donations vid was a really hard choice to do. I think the only reason I actually said ok to doing it was the sheer volume of stuff my friend had given me. I am really big on giving respect and credit where it is due. And when he gave it to me I was in awe. It may be the only one I ever do. Who knows. 

Did you both make goals for The Summer Challenge and will there be a follow-up video to it? I'm personally intrigued as to how far you got in Ghosts N' Goblins as that game has the power to make me go from feeling like a great, confident gamer to a monosyllabic, weak mess within an hour.

Z-sadly the summer challenge failed before it started for me. As you saw I had those three games lined up and two-mystery games (aka I hadn’t picked them yet) lol. With almost losing my home then my mom’s heart attack over the summer things got really busy. So sadly I never got to do the challenge. Though I can say I have beaten Bugs Bunny’s Birthday blowout. I really don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be. 

W- Wait, there was a summer challenge? ::grin::

So you are both Monster drinkers. What are your favorite flavors and your least favorites? My heart always steers towards the o.g. green can as my fav and the apple/vomit Heavy Metal as the shits.

Z- Actually that was the first time I have had one in ages. I try to avoid heavily caffeinated drinks. I have recently gone on a no dark soda cleansing. The monsters seem to be a necessary evil for the show. We film so late at night they help us keep going. I started drinking it back in the band days. They were a backer for the band and gave us the stuff free so I couldn’t argue. I prefer the light blue low carb ones. I did like the classic green ones but they give me the shakes. Not good. lol

W- As a Red Bull drinker, it wasn’t until I met Zoe that she recommended Monster. I had tried a few different varieties but love the blue one. Wait; does it even have a flavor name? I seriously have to pace myself because I can go from docile to Cornholio in just a few sips!

Have you had talks with some of the other prominent "gamer girls" out there such as Alana (Retrogamergirl) and Heidi (stopxwhispering) and if you have, how are your relations with them?

Z- I have spoken with Alana a few times on youtube. She is really nice. I like her videos on how to repair old games. I have never even thought about doing that kind of stuff so it was interesting to see. Heidi on the other hand I have not met yet. I am sure our paths will cross in time. 

W- I actually haven’t spoken to them yet. I should! Hey girls, if you are reading this, hit me up! 

How long on average from the time you hit record to the time editing is totally wrapped does it take to produce a Retro Gamer Girls video?

Z-It really depends. A basic episode will take maybe 2 or 3 days. The ones where we go to expos and cons clearly take much longer because there is a lot more footage to sift through and place in the show. Not to mention we have a lot more to actually discuss when we film.

W- Zoe is the film and editing brains. I am just there, taking up space! Haha. 

I'd like to applaud you ladies for not falling into what I call the "Let's Play Trap" where the wad is shot in the first video or two so to speak and the rest is two people causally playing games and barely saying anything useful for a hundred 10 minute long videos. It seems like you're staying creative and fun with it so that rules. Now then, what goes into the decision process on what game the focus of a video is? 

Z- It really depends on what is going on at the time. Obviously the first episode was in the heat of the Michael bay/TMNT fiasco. And the Dr. Mario was something fun while we discussed the events of the expo. I think my main intention is to keep it as entertaining as possible both from us and the games. Even if the games aren’t so popular. I think a lot of them get bad reps that they don’t deserve. And I would like to fix that if I could. Otherwise we just plan them out. We have a few upcoming we planned but most of the time it seems to just be what is happening at the time. 

W- I love that we are flexible with the game selection. As for keeping it creative and fun, it helps to throw in some humor and related topics. And sometimes we are totally random and that is definitely part of the fun. We are big on themes and enjoy interesting topics. Gotta keep it fresh!

Do you script anything or just hit record and roll with it? I'd be shocked if it were scripted because judging by the YouTube comments and my own opinion, the conversation flows so organically and smoothly that you're either the greatest actresses the world doesn't know yet or you're unscripted and having a genuinely good time playing. Which is it?

Z- nothing has been scripted as of yet. I would love to do some videos where there is some acting and such. But the reviews are just us sitting real time in front of the TV playing the game. We may have ideas of what we want to talk about but that’s it. 

W- Dude, nothing is scripted! I just get on camera and go for it. Sometimes I am funny (or so they tell me!). Zoe and I feed off of each other and we have a beautiful thing going! 

Any sage advice on those who see your vids and would like to give what you do a shot?

Z-I think the main thing is if you want to do shows like ours you need to stay away from characterizing yourself. Shows like the angry video game nerd and such are great. But if you aren’t careful you will accidentally fall into the realm of acting and being a character. Just be yourself and have fun with it. 

W- I agree! As someone with NO experience in making videos or ‘acting,’ I just jumped in and have given it my best shot. So I would say confidence. If you are confident and positive, your videos will follow suite! Plus it helps to team up with someone who knows all the technical stuff (like Zoe!). She really is the heart of the operation.

And there ya have it, a fun interview with two awesome people within our kooky little world. HUGE thank you to Retro Gamer Girls for taking part in the first, but far from last installment of Beyond The Controller! Make certain to check out their Youtube channel here Retrogamergirl's Youtube Channel and LIKE their Facebook page at RetroGamerGirls on Facebook.

Stay tuned as this week bring the beginning of the Capcom reviews and another entry by A.C. Sativa in the NPC series!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NESquest #31 - M.U.S.C.L.E.

(M.U.S.C.L.E., October 1986, Bandai)

So far, as it pertains to the first wave of third party offerings, Bandai has shocked me twice. Once with the average, which is of course better than shitty Chubby Cherub and the next being the hidden gem of Ninja Kid. Today's venture into the quest takes us into the second wrestling game to be released that fateful day that the third party doors were blown open, Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere or as it's commonly called, M.U.S.C.L.E!

Easily in my top 5 toys from my youth. I would've done some cuh-razzzzy shit for a pack of these I tell ya.

As a younger lad, I can safely say I fucking loved M.U.S.C.L.E. As a hardcore wrestling nutball even then, anything featuring anyone who's goal in life was pinning everyone he saw was gold to me. They presented a nice alternative to the WWF figures at the time, which were so goddamned cumbersome and heavy that you could probably kill an irate bear with them. These were tiny pink (later colored) intergalactic wrestlers who came many to a pack and even had it's own bitchin' belt container to hold your finds in. What I didn't know at the time was that they were based off of a Japanese series named Kinnikuman. Why they didn't dub the cartoon like they did everything else and port it here is beyond me, as it just might have been a hit. I'd bet the farm that wacky wrestlers that look like either a pissed off pyramid or a happy peanut would've gone over huge with the 80's kiddos. Be that as it may, Kinnikuman is still alive and well overseas and the story is still ongoing with an unbelievable sense of continuity for the amount of episodes I'm told.

Can you feel the realism? CAN YOU???

Describing how worthless this game is seems like such a daunting task that the only way I can properly do it justice is to lose my fucking marbles and give my opinion in rhyme:

Translation: Time to bust a freestyle bee-yotch!

The gameplay of M.U.S.C.L.E. blitzes me with cold shivers
There isn't this much useless plastic in the face of Joan Rivers
Tag Team Wrestling may blow hippos, but this is about on par
I could bang my ballbag against the controller and get just as far
Pushing B throws a punch that refuses to hit even once
A causes your wrestlers to leap right past each other like moronic cunts
Is there some strategy somewhere in this disaster I missed?
Or just wait for a random power-up so I can miss it and get pissed?
Oh, if only there was something worthwhile here to shill
But once the power is turned on, it's straight the fuck downhill
Programmers had the sack to give three different rings
Changing the color of the mat won't stop this debacle from happening
So all in all where does M.U.S.C.L.E. truly rank?
I'd rather stick my dick in fresh blood and hop in a shark tank

....yes....a shark tank

2/10 Don't even try it. Don't "game chase" it. Don't buy it. Don't download it. Don't waste the finger energy it would require to hit start. Seriously, if you want to try something new and feel the need to torture yourself, then eat a few tacos laced with shaved glass and wait a few hours. Even that sounds more appealing than another minute of my life spent trying to find words to describe this fucking thing. God knows, I've spent long enough already. It had sequels, making this a rare occasion where I'm going to forego the history and future titles and try and forget any memory of having played this in the first place. You're on your own kids!

I don't really care if the game tarnished your legacy, just PLEASE COME BACK!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

NESquest #30 - Ninja Kid

(Ninja Kid, October 1986, Bandai)

Sometimes seeing the world in only 8 bits can send you into non-sensical bouts of insanity and cause you to stomp on every turtle on the planet with everything you have, sending women and children fleeing in terror. I have also deduced that eating random mushrooms does not make one bigger nor give one another chance at life but rather can make you vomit uncontrollably or yearn to roll in fields of grass whistling "Magic Carpet Ride" for ten hours straight. So I took a SNES break and played some Final Fantasy IV, sue me, it's a great fucking game. Now then, where were we? Ah, another Bandai game which could either be an auto-stinker or pleasantly suprise me a la Chubby Cherub. No way lightning strikes twice so with zero expectations and rolled up sleeves, let's dig into some Ninja Kid! 

:Kitaro translates into "Phu-King Boring"

Another Bandai game based on an anime that flipped the script upon arriving in the U.S., this was originally titled "GeGeGe no Kitaro", based on a one-eyed boy named Kitaro who attempts to keep peace between humans and ghost spirits. He is also 350 years old and has a decaying father but the more we delve into this weird shit, the more off-track we get about the game so suffice to say unlike Q-Taro/Chubby Cherub, this story is going strong to this day through manga and animation and sports more episodes than any anime maniac could digest in one lifetime. All Kintaro references were removed for us on this end and we were given the gift of the most generic of generic names, Ninja Kid! The change is actually welcome as he goes from a bland every kid to a goofy-grinned blue-haired kickass ninja type of fellow. The other changes are minor save for an enemy or two here but the core games remains the same. Could Bandai possibly not suck twice in a row?

Now THAT'S a fucking Ninja Kid!

This game is far deeper than I would've given it credit for. If I was suprised about Chubby Cherub not being a total shitfest, I'm five times as shocked at Ninja Kid. The saga begins on an overworld map where there are three temples you must beat to get to the end of the level where a boss awaits. Sometimes, there will even be a mini-boss ready to send you to ninja hades at the end of the regular stages, giving a true sense of "oh shit!" that alot games of the time tried and failed at. Throughout Ninja Kid, whistles are found that can either have you fight alongside a Pegasus, a huge pissed off eagle, or an old witch who's attack is so strong, I swear I wouldn't be suprised if she was Gandalf's fuck buddy for a century or two. There is a great variety of levels to plow through, so I'll briefly touch on how they work.

Why is it even called Poison Field? 

POISON FIELD - As easy as it sounds, Ninja Kid must collect 10 spirits that float in the air while dodging whatever comes his way. Sounds like a breeze but in later stages when shit explodes into 8 way death flames, it can be one of the most trying of stages.

One of the humongous sub-bosses. Beating these turds takes very precise, sniper-like shots to move on.

GUERILLA WARFARE - Fair enough. The premise is to kill a set number of baddies that try to make life miserable. Most of the time, this is the fastest part of the game to get through as the anti-ninja's out there can't really match firepower so they can be mowed down akin to a small stage of Contra.

Maybe whistling "Magic Carpet Ride" DID work? Kids, do shrooms!

DOG FIGHT - Ninja Kid dresses up like Snoopy and commands a plane that looks alot like the Red Baron's, Just bullshitting. NK hops on a kite and like in Warfare has to take out a set number of antagonists. This is by far the easiest mode to get through as the targets fly by so quick that you can just manuver behind them everytime and gun their nuts off. No fuss, no muss.

It's a Taco Bell fart that gained a soul!

BLAZING INFERNO - This is the motherfucker of the game. There are ten candles scattered throughout the level and the object is to use this tiny flame that follows you wherever you go to light them all. Sometimes, it can be a glorious pain in the ass to dodge shurikens and knives while trying to get the little firey booger to do what you want it to. Like most old games though, once you get the hang of it, it isn't impossible and forces you to keep trying.

A favorite early form of Shangri-La. Out of nowhere, after all the serious death faced, here comes a dude with a guitar firing notes at you.

After these stages are over and done with, sometimes Ninja Kid is whisked away to fight one of the aforementioned sub-bosses. Most of them are cakewalks and don't up the difficulty throught the game like the stages do. All of them take one shot to the weak spot and back to the map you go. When the entire map is clear, it's time to take on the main badass of the game, a Demon Lord named Shangri-La, who takes many forms as you go on. They are varied and keep the challenge new and intriguing throughout as very different strategies are required to defeat the different transformations he goes through. If any of these NES games from '85-'86 was begging for a rewarding ending, it would have to be Ninja Kid. As for the graphics and controls, the sprites are nice and big and the stages have differing motifs to them that look exactly what they were shooting for. One stage looks like a cold, mountainous valley, another gives the warm feel of a sunny, bright springvale, and so on. The mini-bosses are also the biggest to date for the NES which is saying something. The only real negative I can see graphic-wise is with the enemy variation within the levels can be lacking at times but if I'm going to complain about that type of shit in a 1986 game, I'd better start cavetching about all the colors used for Zoomers and Rippers inside of Metroid. The sound, while nothing to hoot and holler about suffices and doesn't really distract to the point of neededing to dive for the mute button. The main song does loop a bit but the stages are over with quickly enough that it wasn't worth marking off for. In all, Ninja Kid is a hell of alot better than I expected it to be and my only true gripe is the lack of an ending. 

Make it past this Stage 6 Assholus Maximus and buy yourself a trophy. Seriously, he is controller replacing hard.

8/10 I just can't look past the scope of what these guys were going for nor fault very much of what they did end up accomplishing. Some people like Coke, some people like Pepsi, some people love Ice Climber, I really liked Ninja Kid. This blew away the first wave of third party games and it is a shame that more people didn't try this involving, challenging, quite fun title. Two Bandai games I thought were going to be the hippo shits have actually suprised me. Maybe the world IS ending soon!

The M 7 on the left side of the screen? Yeah, my trophy is on its way. Good luck making it this far, it gets tougher than old elbow skin.