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Mighty Pinto's blog

8:03 PM on 12.13.2011

Modifications: Brutal DOOM

I've always been a huge fan of DOOM. I remember playing it for the first time on my Uncle's (then) state-of-the-art 486 PC, blasting demons and imps with a plasma rifle while my relatives talked or played cards or whatever the hell it was I thought adults did at the time. I remember being so stoked when I finally picked up DOOM II back when I was 12 years old, losing many hours of sleep trying to get past the Cyberdemon at the end of the Refueling Base (Mission 10), and then going to middle school the next day and telling my friends all about it.

Cut to 17 years later; I'm pushing 30, working full-time, but I still manage to sit down and play some Doom every now and again; but the hard truth is that the game hasn't aged well at all. Sure, there are dozens of source ports and mods that make the game look prettier, or change the textures and monsters. Hell, there are mods that change EVERYTHING, turning the game into a whole different entity, but in the end, Doom just doesn't thrill me the way it used to. Here's a scary thought: in 2013, Doom will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since then, First-Person Shooters have gone through twenty years of evolution. Even with all the OpenGL enhancements and particle effects, playing Doom in 2011 just feels awfully anachronistic.

"You know, we never talk anymore..."

Still, how do you breathe new life into a game that's nearly two decades old? That's the question modders and mapmakers have been trying to answer through their creative efforts over the years, and while some of these efforts are indeed admirable, most of them fall short in recapturing what made Doom so goddamn fun to play back in the early '90s. That is, until a user named "SGT_Mark_IV" came along.

"SGT_Mark_IV" is the online handle for the creator of Brutal DOOM; a .pk3 file for use with popular Doom source ports GZdoom and Skulltag. While it works with most vanilla WADfiles, it does not play nice with mods that change the weapons, monster sprites, etc. This might be a turn off to some; but I didn't let it faze me. I picked up the GZDoom version since I didn't have Skulltag on my computer, and loaded it up with Doom II. What I expected was a run-of-the-mill gore .wad that added a few extra death animations. What I got, however, was the most fun I've had playing DOOM in over 17 years; so much so that I can't play the original games without this mod anymore. It's impossible for me to go back.

While "Brutal" does add an EXTREME amount of blood and gore, what makes it so great is that it tweaks the game to be very fast-paced and tense, effectively re-balancing the damage, monsters and weapons while leaving the core experience intact.

The first change I noticed was the default starting weapon; you are given a fully-automatic assault rifle instead of your original pistol, complete with an alt-fire zooming function for headshots. Yes, enemy sprites now have an extra hitbox for their heads, making them slightly easier to take down if you aim high. Additionally, your fists are now silent; enemies will not be alerted to your presence if you throw a punch. This allows for stealth kills on weaker enemies, and if you're lucky, you can actually perform a silent takedown, snapping a zombie soldier's neck while his buddies just mill about unaware. Even better, your fists can throw jabs (left-click) or more powerful hooks (right-click), and there's even a "mighty foot" function (a la "Duke Nukem 3D", activated by the "Q" Key) that will knock back enemies and stun them for a split second, making it incredibly useful against Pinkies (demons).

All the other weapons function more or less the same; though some have alternate fire modes: The Super Shotgun can fire one barrel at a time, the chaingun (which now CHEWS through ammo) has a spin-up/spin down mode for impoved accuracy (at the cost of mobility), and the Plasma Rifle can fire several bolts in a shotgun-style spread. With all these advantages, there are two huge drawbacks: One, all weapons now have splash damage to a degree, meaning you can't fire a BFG 9000 into a crowd of demons just to clear a path without sustaining MAJOR damage (or just exploding outright). The other big drawback is that weapons (save for the BFG 9000 and the minigun) have to be reloaded, giving any nearby enemies a free shot if you're not careful.

You can also pick up unique weapons off of certain dead enemies, like the Revenant's missile launcher (pictured above).

Even some powerups have been reworked: armor and health bonuses give you 2% instead of 1, and the invisibilty artifacts have been taken out completely. In their place are "helper" marines, other doomguys that have been taken hostage by the forces of Hell. Free them with a melee attack, and they will fight by your side for the duration of a level (or until they die, which will happen more often). Most of the time they're equipped with assault rifles, but if you're lucky, they'll be packing a plasma rifle or even a rocket launcher. The downside, though, is that these guys are not good with navigation; if they're atop a high ledge or in a tight corridor, they'll end up bouncing into the walls like they were inside a pinball machine.

They're EXCEPTIONALLY good at shooting things, though; and in the end, isn't that what counts?

Now, with all these items at your disposal, you might be thinking the game will be too easy. Well, you'd be wrong. You're going to NEED all that extra help because the monsters have been tweaked as well. The forces of Hell are now three times as aggressive, do ungodly amounts of damage (even WITH armor equipped!), and are four times more accurate with their weapons. Not only that, they have new secondary and sometimes TERTIARY attacks that will catch even the most experienced doomer off-guard.

PROTIP: He doesn't want to give you a hug.

The Imps are a perfect example: Their fireballs are faster and more powerful, but what makes them really dangerous is their lunge attack. In the original game; imps would just mill about, and would scratch you if you were dumb enough to get close. Now, if you're within three feet of one, it will LEAP forward , closing the distance to rip you open. Also, height plays no factor, so imps that are above you will leap off of crates and catch you by surprise! It gets even worse; some enemies (like the Cacodemon) can strafe now, Pinkies will deliberately charge to your side to try and flank you, and some enemies have had their weapons improved...the Spider Mastermind's minigun, for instance, now fires EXPLODING SHELLS(in an earlier build, it had a BFG installed. Consider yourselves lucky).

However, as tough as the new enemies are, it's even more satisfying when you kill them. The death animations are just so damn fun to watch: exploding heads, severed limbs, watching those goddamned imps holding their intestines as they bleed out, then running up and kicking off their stupid, ugly heads I HATE THOSE THINGS--

*ahem* uh...sorry. The crowning achievement in the gore department, though, has to be the new and improved "Berserker" pack. They still last for one level, and sometimes enemies will randomly drop one when they die. Needless to say, if you see one, GRAB IT. You won't be disappointed.

"I'm just saying, this is gonna end badly for one of us."

The Berserker pack has two modes: "Smash" mode, which is the old-fashioned "punch enemies into blood paste" mode from the original game; and then there's "RIP AND TEAR!" mode, which lets you perform enemy-specific "fatalities" that trigger a special death cutscene where you watch Doomguy mercilessly eviscerate a monster in the most heinous ways possible. These fatalities are not wholly aesthetic, either; depending on the strength of the monster, you can get a 10% to 30% health bonus from a R&T kill. Even so, I preferred "Smash" over "Rip and Tear!", as I felt the fatalities took me out of the game a little. The silent takedowns I can accept because you're trying to AVOID a firefight, but as far as the fataIities go, I mostly reserve them for killing the last monster in a group (or finishing off a really strong monster, like a Baron of Hell), or if I'm low on health (as other monsters can't harm you when you're in a cutscene). There are other fun things you can do with it as well: remember the lost souls? Those floating, flaming skulls? Yeah, well you can actually GRAB them out of midair (in Rip and Tear mode only), then toss them at other enemies! Even better, you can actually pick up exploding barrels and throw them.


All in all, Brutal DOOM does an excellent job of taking an already-classic game and giving it a complete overhaul. Hopefully id and Bethesda take a peek at this, and use some of the gameplay elements in Doom 4 (whenever THAT gets released). The latest version is v0.13 (which you can get here), and SGT_Mark_IV is already working on the next version, so if you want to check on its progress, check out his Youtube account here.

And for the TL;DR crowd, here's a trailer that a fan put together. I suggest you watch it, because the screenshots I posted do NOT do this mod justice. You have to see it in action. Or, you could just download it on a whim and try it for yourself. Either way, if you're a fan of Doom, do NOT pass this up. Trust me.   read

6:36 PM on 08.25.2009

The "Done" Pile: Shadow Complex (SPOILERS AHOY, MATEYS.)

Most of you who still remember me know that I wrote a little musing back in April about Metroids. Now, while those little bastards still bug the ever-living hell out of me, I still love the other conventions of the series; mainly the exploration, discovery of new items and the like. Hell, half the fun of those games is going back to an area with an item you needed, then blasting a hole through whatever wall/door/enemy that blocked your path. That, I feel, is what made the series great.

Granted, Shadow Complex took everything great about the Metroid franchise (minus its vile, head-sucking namesakes of course) and gave it a serious overhaul. While I still whistled the "Item Collection" tune every time I picked up an armor upgrade, that isn't to say the whole game felt like a Metroid "clone". In fact, Shadow Complex did an excellent job in separating itself from the franchise that (mostly) inspired it. Jason has to rely more on sneaking around in the beginning to avoid getting shot full of holes by the bad guys, who unfortunately don't start out as little weak space-beetles that shuffle back and forth. No, these are fully-armed, fully-trained secessionists, and they will completely F you up if they see you. Well, they will on the harder difficulty levels, anyway. If you're playing on easy, they may as well be weak-ass space beetles. Still, the game proved that the age-old tradition of "blowing up every single square inch of rock to find a hidden passage" still works, even over twenty years later.

However, the only gripe I had with the game was its length. As Impressed as I was with the game, I felt it could've been a little longer. Okay, a LOT longer. I remember getting to the lake at the very end of the game (actually, that happened YESTERDAY), feeling my eyes light up as the lake drained to reveal an impressive-looking hidden fortress that made Cobra's Terror Dome look silly and laughable in comparison. I originally thought that this was only the midway point, and that maybe I'd have a whole other section of the complex magically open up and allow me access to a whole new host of goodies.

Ten minutes and two nuclear launches later, I found myself staring at the end credits. Part of me wasn't too surprised; I mean, it's a frickin' MetroidVania. Most of them don't usually run over two hours or so. But a tiny nugget in the back of my brain hungered for more; it demanded more items to collect, more bad guys to shoot/punch/catapult/disintegrate via curbstomp, and although I immediately started over on insane, it just didn't have the same impact as earlier. I kept saying aloud to myself "Man, I already killed these guys. It's just not the same!"

I don't know, I guess I've just been spoiled in recent years, what with all the 40-hour epics the big game companies keep churning out year after year, sucking the hard-earned funds out of my bank account and keeping me glued to my TV screen. Maybe I just lost the romance that I once found in playing a 2-hour game over and over just to find every last item, and for what? Just to say that I did it? That I wasted Zod-knows how much time, effort and energy guiding a fictional character through air ducts and hangars just to find every last grenade pack? Holy Crap, what have I been doing with my life? I could be out shaping the world in my own image, helping usher forth a new golden age for Humanity!

...ah, screw it. I still gotta beat the Master Challenges!   read

7:11 PM on 05.18.2009

The "Done" Pile: Street Fighter IV?

Wow, it's been a while since I've done one of these Cblog things. While I'd like to say that I've been inundated with work, or spending my free time working with the folks at Infinite Bits, in reality it's mostly due to Street Fighter IV, that ill-gotten, time-sucking vampire that Capcom put out back in February. I can't recall a night in the past three months where I didn't get online and try to stomp people with M. Bison; whether I was successful or not usually depended on what kind of mood I was in (and if I'd played a little Contra 4 just to fire up my reflexes a little before jumping online).

During my three-month obsession with SFIV, I can safely say I've developed a love-hate relationship with the game much like I had with the entire R-Type series. I always get into a bad mood whenever I play the game; whether it be some spammer who got in a lucky Cannon Spike or whether I stupidly dashed forward and got Metsu'd in the Face, I always end up leaving the game angry. Needless to say, I never play with a headset on...mostly because I end up uttering things that would make a Nun tear her own ears off. Yet I'm always on without fail, trying to salvage my pitiful Championship Ranking (I'm currently stuck in G2-D for those who are wondering...go ahead and laugh, I don't care!) or just keep myself from getting stuck in some Blanka player's cross-up, I'm always on, desperately trying to improve.

So why am I putting this game on the "Done" pile along with Phelios? Well, mostly due to the fact that I will never truly be "done" with the game at all: Even if I unlocked every achievement, beat every challenge and conquered every one of those stupid, annoying trial stages, I know I'm still going to be online every weeknight, going up against Scrub Kens who think the Shoryuken is the best move every created, and Zangiefs who think that the Lariat will protect them from everything. I'll be on to crush them, to stomp out any thoughts they might have had about spamming their way through the ranks, and to bring them into the loving grip of the Pax Bisonica.

So, I find it only fitting that I retire SFIV from my "Currently Playing" list so I can focus on the forthcoming titles coming out in June (namely Ghostbusters), that and I was simply sick of seeing it on the list in the first place.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to beat Mission:Impossible. Wish me luck!   read

7:11 PM on 03.25.2009

What about Videogame Fan Films? (shortblog)

I realize this probably should've been my "Expanded Universes" blog, but I didn't discover this video until after I'd posted that Gradius/Life Force Anime blog. Still, we all know about Video Game movies and the horrors that lie within the deepest recesses of video game Fan Fiction, but what about those souls who slave behind a camera, rather than a pen or a word processor? Those masochistic souls who spend hours upon hours editing with Adobe Premiere (or Heaven Forbid, Windows Movie Maker) out of love for a specific title, like this video here:


I found that lumped in with countless versions of the Official Splatterhouse 2009 Comic-Con trailer. I know it's not much, but hell if it didn't impress me. It's rare to see something like that on YouTube by accident; especially since when I deliberately search for fan-made material, the best I can come up with is a film someone made in their backyard, followed by a thousand "VGMV'S" (that's Video Game Music Videos for those who hate acronyms) and a hundred thousand "Reviews" by 13-year-olds who weren't even alive when the game originally released. It's a shame that we won't see stuff like that in our local cineplexes, but I'm content to watch it on the internet for free.   read

6:38 PM on 03.11.2009

The "Done" Pile: Phelios

Since I've recovered from my cold, I figured I'd try and start a series of blogs with a central theme (partially inspired by the Dragon Questiing series I've started reading recently). Now, I've seen a couple of gaming "To-Do" Lists, and while that's all well and good, I figured it'd be a whole lot easier to just beat a game, then reflect a little bit on it after I've finished. Hence, the "Done" pile.

Anyway, this week's title is "Phelios", a rather nifty little shmup for the Genesis by Namco, which I'd picked up in Orlando whilst accompanying the fine folks at Infinite Bits to Otronicon. Loosely based off of Grecian Myth, the game stars the Sun God Apollo, who's questing to save his lover, Artemis, from the clutches of the evil Typhon. Now, I know this game takes a few liberties with the source material (and after all, it's not like they had copyright infringement in Ancient Greece or anything), but having read a few of the Greek Myths back in high school, the overall story just seems a little creepy...mainly because Apollo and Artemis are supposed to be brother and sister.

"Ugh, quit leering at me like that, Apollo! It's disgusting!"

Anyway, incestuous overtone aside; Phelios borrows a little from to the top-down stages of Life Force; the player can equip up to two "option" satellites to augment the power of his Burning Sword of Justice, as well as three different sub-weapons: a typical "Homing" shot, a powerful "Beam" weapon that shoots a continuous stream of energy, as well as the "Across" shot which ricochets off of walls, which is extremely useful in enclosed areas. Even without all those nifty bells and Whistles, Apollo can still charge his sword to fire a powerful fireball capable of decimating entire waves of baddies. Nevertheless, the game was pretty challenging, and while there is a Novice Mode, it only takes the player through the first four levels, ultimately ending with a battle against Antaeus.

No, this isn't Antaeus, this is "Ladon", a dragon borne from the blood of Medusa. Also pictured, the "Beam" weapon in action.

Naturally, I took the "Advanced" route. There wouldn't really have been any point otherwise; Antaeus is hardly worthy of being a final boss. I mean, he's supposed to be this giant warrior who would challenge mortals and gods alike to wrestling matches, and he would use the skulls and bones of his crushed opponents in order to construct a temple to his father, Poseidon. Sounds pretty badass, right? Unfortunately, in the game they reduced him to some flying upper-torso that shot a paltry stream of fireballs. I know there was no way the could've made the former description actually work in 16 bits, but I would SOOO love to see that concept in something like God of War III (wishful thinking).

The same goes for the final boss, Typhon. According to mythology, he was supposed to be this huge monstrosity who had the upper torso of a man which was as tall as the sky; with two hands that had 100 dragon heads on each. His lower body was composed of millions of serpents, kind of like a Hula-Skirt of the Damned. Not as hardcore-sounding as Antaeus, but still pretty cool. However, in Phelios, the developers apparently opted for this design:

"Mwa ha ha, Apollo! I have naked pictures of your sister! If you hope to get the negatives back, you must face me in combat!"

Still, despite the change in design, I still had a heck of a time taking him down...even with Phelios, the Sword of Light in my hand (pictured), it still took nearly 50 fully-charged uber-beams to finally put Typhon under, all the while dodging toxic death-bubbles and multidirectional lasers that fired from his crotch. Still, through luck and twitch relfexes I persevered and rescued my, my, I just don't know anymore.

I don't think I need a witty caption for this's about 7 flavors of wrong all on it's own...*shudder*

After beating the game, it unlocked an "Expert" mode, but the only difference I saw was that the enemy bullets moved slightly faster than in advanced mode. I turned the game off, thinking to myself that it would be there the next time I turned the game on...but naturally, I was wrong. Apparently, I would have to beat both "Advanced" and "Expert" modes in one sitting, and let me tell you, dear readers, that I just don't have that kind of patience. So, as far as I'm concerned, this game is officially on the "Done" pile. It's available for the virtual console if you want to give it a go, if you can forego the initial creepiness.   read

7:00 PM on 03.09.2009

PC Classics: "SYNDICATE"

Ahhh...World Domination. Those two words, when combined, never fail to put a huge smile on my face. There aren't too many games that let you play around with such a wonderful concept; the most notable of which being the ever-so-quirky "Evil Genius" for the PC. However, back during the mid-90s (before MTV went on its downward spiral into Pop Music Hell and movies like Johnny Mnemonic were considered cutting-edge cinema), there was a up-and-coming game designer by the name of Peter Molyneux, who was currently riding high on the moderate success of the "Populous" series and looking for a way to cash in on the "Cyberpunk" sub-genre, which was itself riding high in a popular culture that had little to no idea what the internet actually was, much less how it worked.

Now, as with most things, I have a love-hate relationship with Cyberpunk. I love the gadgets, concepts and dystopian landscapes that are present within the genre, but there just weren't too many good plots to go with them (the only notable exception being the film "Strange Days", which I still absolutely love and adore...though I know I'll never see those "squid" receptors in my lifetime. Shame, too...those things would revolutionize the porn industry...). See, Cyberpunk usually follows a basic formula: Shadowy Corporations rule and control every aspect of human life, theres a blue-collar protagonist who either comes across some key information/special device/macguffin that EVERYBODY wants, and he and a street-smart teenage girl (which is supposedly MANDATORY), try to find a way to activate/sell/use the macguffin, all while keeping one step ahead of some generic thugs/Yakuza/professional assassins in order to strike a blow for the oppressed proletariat.

And so, there were Cyberpunk games as well, most of which followed this very same formula to the fricking letter. However, as with "Strange Days", there was an exception to the rule....and that exception was Bullfrog Productions' "SYNDICATE".

Before you ask, no, that is NOT Dr. Manhattan.

SYNDICATE was unique amongst Cyberpunk games in that you weren't some dork hacker out to stick it to "The Man". You WERE "The Man" in Syndicate; the head of a shadowy, sinister corporation out for one thing and one thing only:


Ooh...I think I just got a little bit tingly there!

SYNDICATE was my game of choice back when I was an acne-faced, 13-year-old punk whose only forays into the PC-gaming world were DOOM, Carmen Sandiego and Cyberia (which I'll review at a later time). Much like Doom, there was no real plot to the game other than "Make your own corporation, then conquer the world through assassination, racketeering and brainwashing." Of course, since you were the corporate big-wig, you don't want to get your hands dirty. Luckily, you have a cadre of specially trained (and freshly brainwashed) "agents" at your disposal. Load them up with weapons, fit them with cybernetic enhancements, then let them loose on the streets to do your bidding.

The greatest thing about Syndicate was that it gave free reign to the player: Need some more agents? Bring along a Persuadertron and brainwash yourself some recruits! Can't snipe that public official? No worries, just mow down the whole fricking crowd with a hail of gunfire! Whatever it takes to get the job done, right?

Unfortunately, there are other Shadowy organizations populating the game world, and none of them like some newbie punk muscling in on their turf. So, in order to protect their investments, they send out their own Enemy Agents to deal with your antics. In the beginning, they aren't that tough; but by the end of the game they'll pull out all the stops to crush you, up to and including rigging their agents to explode shortly after death. Of course, as the game goes on, you can access your R&D Labs to fit your agents with deadlier weapons and enhancements, such as lasers, miniguns and energy shields. Not only that, you could use drugs to further enhance the agents' speed, strength and accuracy in the field.

Since a screenshot can't do this game any justice, here's some gameplay footage I found:

All in all, Syndicate was a blast to play; although it got insanely hard near the end. There was also an expansion pack (American Revolt) which was even harder than that; allowing the player to actually call in airstrikes when things got way too hairy (and they always did). Sadly, there was only one sequel, "Syndicate Wars", which was released for the PC as well as the PsOne, as well as a watered-down port of the original game for the SNES:

Really? Deactivate Cyborgs and Disarm them? At least you can still mow down civilians...

After Syndicate Wars (which was nowhere near as good as the original), Molyneux went on to produce such games as the "Dungeon Keeper" series. After EA bought out bullfrog, he moved onto "Black & White" and the "Fable" series. It's a shame, too, because I'd love to see a re-make of Syndicate with updated Graphics and online multiplayer; where people can make their own organizations, and send their cyborg agents against one another within major cities, while everyday citizens are caught in the crossfire. Even better still, groups of people can team up and form even bigger organizations, with each player picking a specific agent for online play! The possibilities are endless, and I think it's high time this game got a facelift.   read

4:34 PM on 03.02.2009

8 Things You Didn't Want to Know about Mighty Pinto (but he's gonna tell you anyway)...

Alright, well I'm suffering from a massive cold, and I don't have enough creative juices flowing through my head to warrant a work of amazing quality. So, I figured I'd just jump on the bandwagon and do one of those "X-Number of things you wanted to know" blogs...just because I can. Anyways, without further ado, let's get this over with so I can take some Ny-Quil and lie the hell down.

#1: I was banned from playing Double Dragon as a kid.

Double Dragon was one of my first true gaming obsessions; yes, even before Contra (which I'll get to in a bit). It was a far cry from what I'd played at the time; having been weaned off of Sesame Street games on my parents' old Atari 2600. I thought the NES was all about jumping on turtles and eating Mushrooms, but Double Dragon opened my eyes...and I would always ask my folks to rent the game for me every weekend so I could try and beat it. However; as I learned each new move, such as the Jump Kick or the Elbow Punch, I just HAD to try it out myself. I'd spend hours doing fake martial arts moves in my downstairs living room, until one fateful day when I'd accidentally roundhouse'd a marble vase which sat on the coffee table, shattering it into about a dozen pieces. That was the last time I saw a copy of Double Dragon for about five years. My folks enforced the ban as a reminder not to be stupid enough to mimic what I see on TV, video game or otherwise. Thankfully, they finally caved in and got me the Gameboy version when they saw that I'd smartened up.

#2. I can beat Contra in one life using the standard pea shooter...


...though I will admit I can't do it consistently. It's no easy task, especially since I get so antsy toward the end and second-guess myself into making a mistake. I don't remember what spurred me on to try and attempt it at first, but I think I was just bored with tearing through the game with the spreader. I just kept limiting myself; no 30-life code, no spreader, no powerups at all, no lives lost, the list goes on and on. I used to even videotape my own gameplay and play it back to see where I screwed up the most! I'm glad I spent my pre-teen years on something worthwhile rather than wasting it on trivial things, like joining a sports team or discovering girls. Still, it makes for a really neat party trick!

#3. Metroids terrify me.

Even in Dessert Form, they still make my flesh crawl.

These little jellyfish bastards have haunted my dreams ever since I was a wee Pintobean. I don't know what it is about them that makes them so damn disturbing, but I'm pretty sure it's because they're like an unholy fusion of a jellyfish and a fucking VAMPIRE. The first game wasn't that bad, mostly because they were only in Tourian and they didn't make their trademark "SCREEE!" sounds. It was really the second game that made them terrifying; they "SCREE!"d, they were EVERYWHERE, and they could mutate into bigger, nastier threats. That, and every time I ran into one they'd play that awful music:


Seriously, these things make my flesh crawl. Over the years, I had thought I'd gotten over my deep-seated fear of these creatures; that is, until Metroid Prime came out. Let me tell you, it's one thing to see a Metroid gliding toward Samus in 2D, it's another to see one COMING RIGHT FOR YOU. O_o

#4. I used to write to game companies with suggestions...

...and believe it or not, Konami actually responded. Most of what I wrote were usually requests for Arcade ports for the NES, and in Konami's case I believe I was writing them for a NES port of the Aliens arcade game (which I'd loved as a child, and is the sole reason I got into the film franchise to begin with). I even drew pictures to go along with it (yes, I was that dedicated), and they sent me a letter in the mail saying they couldn't do it because they were already on a very tight release schedule and they couldn't accommodate my request. I figured that would be the case, but I didn't care, I was just totally stoked that they actually wasted the time and paper to send me a form letter! Though I didn't see why they had to send back the pictures I drew....jerks.

#5. I once had a phone Conversation with Orson Scott Card.

It was for a job I had taking phone orders for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he called up to order a crapload of Xmas gifts for his relatives. I struck up some generic conversation while he pointed out what he wanted. I didn't really know who it was until he completed the order and I asked for the name on his credit card...

Me: "May I have the last name as it appears on your card, please?"

OSC: "Card."

Me: "And the first name?"

OSC: "Orson."

Me: [Brief Pause] "...your middle name wouldn't happen to be Scott, would it?"

OSC: "...yes."

Me: "The guy who wrote Ender's Game?"

OSC: "Yeah, that's me."

After that point I didn't really say much, I just finalized the order in a very awestruck, monotone voice. Afterwards, he gave me a link to his website at the time, and wished me a happy holiday. Alright, so it wasn't much of a conversation, but dammit I talked to a real-life published author! That people know! THERE!

#6. I am obsessed with shmups.

I know I mentioned this in my R-Type blog, but I figured I'd just state it again for the record. I love shmups; they are my single-greatest weakness. If someone, ANYONE hands me a copy of Gradius (including it's sister games and spinoffs), I will sit down and play the ever loving CRAP out of it until my fingers are covered in huge, red blisters. The first shmup I ever played obsessively was Galaga; whom I learned from a single mother who would drag her two kids with her to the arcade at my local mall. She would literally stand there and play the Galaga machine for two solid hours, usually racking up a good 800-900k score. One day, I just had to ask her how she got so good at it, and she took me through the basics. I eneded up going from a 100k to a 400k score easily, although I'd never been able to reach anywhere as high as she could. I don't remember what her actual name was, but she'd always set her initials as "KIM". Since then, I've played hundreds upon hundreds of shmups....though I will admit I'm not really a big fan of the "Bullet Hell" subgenre that's been getting so popular recently...with the exception of DoDonPachi. I looooooves me some DoDonPachi.

7. I Love Chiptunes/Game Tunes.

I have countless game soundtracks on my iPod, as well as countless original chiptunes. My favorite chiptune artist at the moment is Haruhisa "Hally" Tanaka; who's made several catchy tracks such as "Charhang Strikes Back Again!" as well as the ever-amazing "Sprite Bells". You can find most of Hally's work in .nsf format at My favorite chiptune/game tune of all time would have to be Zuntata's "Daddy Mulk" from the Ninja Warriors arcade game:


8. I got fired from my first job because I went home 3 hours early to finish Xenogears.

Not much to say here, I had to go to work JUST as I reached the second-to-final boss, "Deus". I completely forgot that I had a shift that night, so naturally I kept looking at the time clock, just wishing it would move at least 3 hours ahead. I was so sick of the job to begin with (I bagged groceries) that I just decided to punch out and just not come back. My boss must have called the house 3 times, but I didn't answer back until I'd beaten that fricking game. He was less than happy that I'd skipped work way earlier than I was supposed to, but I didn't care. Needless to say, they fired me the next day. Of course, I was about 17 at the time, so I'd just put down "Quit because of school-related demands" on my resume.   read

6:50 PM on 02.25.2009

Earthbound: Threed in 3D

This is going to be a short one tonight; I just ran across this while I was perusing Youtube (alright, alright, I was really on to check my subscriber count...don't judge me), when I came across this nifty little video by a user named Cswavely:


I almost brushed this off as a simple 3D demo, but after seeing the added events like UFO crash and the face appearing on the circus tent, I nearly fangasm'd. He also put up 3D versions of Onett and Fourside; though I still like Threed the best out of all of them. Still, I thought it was a rather impressive effort, and for a moment I believed that maybe Nintendo could release a pseudo-3D remake of the game on the Wii; but then I remembered the struggle just to get the original onto the Virtual Console; not to mention they STILL won't bring over Mother, yeah. Still, a man can dream, right?

....right?   read

6:08 PM on 02.24.2009

FreeScare #1: Mall Monster

I'd just read Colette's review of the WiiWare horror game LIT this week; and while it looks interesting, my current lack of funding prevents me from purchasing a Wii just to play it. So, what's a poor IT tech working for next-to-slave wages supposed to do in a situation like this? Simple. Scrounge the internet for a freeware title with similar gameplay, and while I didn't quite hit the nail on the head in terms of finding an app that mirrors LIT's gameplay without the cost, I did come somewhat close with what I'd found..well, in terms of theme, anyway:

I know, the title sounds cheesy, but hear me out. Getting lost in a mall can be a pretty scary experience when you're a kid. Hell, it happened to me once, and I'd never forgotten how relieved I was when my mother came to pick me up at the front of that Steinback's...but a nagging thought always hung in the back of my head as we walked back to the car: "What if she didn't come back for me? What if I'd been left there all day, alone and forgotten, while the store clerks closed up shop and went home?"

That's the premise of "Mall Monster", a nifty little freeware game made at the Digipen Institute of Technology. You play a kid (at least it's supposed to be a kid, he/she looks and moves more like a big red penguin or something) who's been locked in the local toy store inside the River City Mall. The entrance is barred, the lights are off, and there's no one around to ask for help. Luckily, you managed to pick up a small toy flashlight lying around (that doesn't run out of batteries, thank God) to help you find another way out. Bursting with newfound confidence, you head out into the main aisle of the toy store, flashlight in hand, ready to face the unknown.

That's when you hear the footsteps. Looks like you aren't alone after all.

It's very rare that I come across a game that works so well with so little, but "Mall Monster" managed to creep the ever-living crap out of me when I first played it. The game takes a "less is more" approach in that you never actually see the monster; the only way to avoid it is to listen for the sounds it makes. Unfortunately the monster has good ears as well; so it hunts you down using the exact same method, leading to a very tense cat-and-mouse game that'll leave you on edge for hours. The game is played in a top-down view, but to simulate the fact that it's pitch-dark, the game uses a fog-of-war to limit your visibility to the cone of your flashlight, which gives the monster a huge advantage as it patrols the darkness, ready to turn you into tonight's blue-plate special.

To help you avoid this fate and secure your escape, there are various Macaulay Culkin-esque "traps" lying around in each level. Most of these, like the bubble solution and the "poppers", are mainly used to startle the monster and alert you to its presence. When that happens, a huge yellow arrow appears to point out what direction the monster is coming from. However, your main weapon in this game is silence. The quieter you are, the harder it is for the monster to track you. The problem with this is that the levels are quite large, so you'll be tempted to hold down the "Sprint" key and haul ass toward the nearest ventilation shaft; your only means of escape.

There isn't much variety in terms of gameplay; the basic formula for each level is "Stay Quiet, find the ventilation shaft, stack x-number of items to reach ventilation shaft." That's it. However, with the areas being so large, and the monster constantly on your ass, it's not an easy task...even on Easy mode. There are six difficulty levels in all, three of which have to be unlocked by beating the game once on the three default modes (Easy, Medium and Hard. Go Figure.).

The atmosphere of the game is extremely scary; there's no music whatsoever (save for the main menu screen), and the only sounds are the sounds either you or the monster make. Of course, while silence is your weapon, the monster has one as well: FEAR.

Whenever the monster gets close, your heart will start pounding faster and faster as it draws nearer and nearer. If you don't find some way to calm yourself down, you'll faint, which in this game is the equivalent of ringing the dinner bell. If you faint, you'll remain unconscious for about four seconds; and while that doesn't sound like a lot, it's more than enough time for the monster to close the gap and move in for the kill. I'm not kidding, that sucker is FAST. So fast, in fact, that every time it showed up on screen I couldn't hit the capture button fast enough to get a shot of it!

There is also a multiplayer mode, which features a co-op version of the main game, as well as a modified version of Tag (in which one person plays the monster and stalks his friends), Freeze Tag, and another mode called "Blob", in which one player starts as the monster, and turns the other players into monsters until only one is left.

All in all, Mall Monster is a pretty fun and scary time-waster for those less-fortunate gamers who don't have fat enough wallets to warrant a whole new console. It's a free download, so just Google it and you won't be disappointed...but remember to play it with the lights off!   read

5:07 PM on 02.17.2009

My First Blog: R-Type Reflections...

I don't know what's wrong with me. For the past month or so, I'd been dutifully traning in anticipation for Street Fighter IV. Super Street Fighter II HD Remix has taken up most of my free time, and I'd managed to regain most of my skills as well as my (totally platonic) love for M. Bison. However, on February 4 of this year; two weeks before Street Fighter IV's street date, Tozai games and Irem dropped a bomb on me:

R-Type dimensions, a re-release of the first two R-Type games, in all their arcade glory. Now, anyone who knows me (and since this is my first-ever blog, none of you do) knows that I am obsessed with shmups. If anyone hands me a game that involves a wee lil' spaceship and the ultimate goal of blowing crap up, then I'm immediately signed on. R-Type is no exception, in fact, it's probably my unhealthiest gaming obsession. I own all the core games in the series, except R-Type III: The Third Lightning for the SNES. Hell, I even own the Playstation Re-Release of the first two games (R-TYPES), and I STILL threw down for the XBLA version...not only that, but it completely took me off my Street Fighter kick. I've already forgotten about my 100-win achievement, and I'm constantly checking the Dimensions leaderboards day after day to see if I cannot rise above my paltry 233rd place on the R-Type Classic roster(though it's probably dropped further than that while I'm posting this).

It's not like I'm any good at these games, either; with most shooters, I can usually run through them on a single credit if I'm focused, but no matter how much I play any game in the R-Type series, it always manages to catch me completely off guard. It is one of the most soul-crushing, ego-destroying games in existence; but no matter how much it beats, crushes, incinerates, or maims me, I still keep coming back to it like a battered housewife with a fresh purple ring around her right eye. I guess I could say I have a love-hate relationship with R-Type: I love it...but it HATES me.

Well, hello there! And you are?

So then, why do I keep coming back to it? The story? It's a shmup, the story is cookie-cutter at best. Well, okay, it's a little more fleshed out than most; what with humanity retroactively screwing itself over, but really, the main story is always the same: "The Bydo are attacking! We need you to blow shit up!" Nothing new here, move along. So what else...let's see... look kinda familiar...

Gameplay, then? There's very little deviation in the series gameplay-wise; the only exception being R-Type Tactics (R-Type Command in the US) for the PSP. The core gameplay remains the same throughout each and every title: Move to the right and shoot. The only game that took risks with this formula was R-Type Final, in that depending on how well you performed, you could branch off and access different versions of a stage, or a different stage altogether, increasing the replay value. That, and having 101 different unlockable R-Series fighters didn't hurt, either.

Seriously, we gotta stop meeting up like this.

Could it be the visuals? Well, sure, there is that. The Bydo DO look pretty creepy, especially in the fourth installment: R-Type Delta. In fact, I dare say that Delta was and still is the most visually appealing of the series, even beating out Final. The sheer amount of detail in each stage was staggering; even in the first stage, it really felt like you were flying through an actual city. Wrecked cars litter the streets, no two buildings looked exactly alike...hell, they even put in little phone booths! Of course, paying attention to the background led to a lot of accidental deaths.

So, I guess all that's left is the series' notorious difficulty curve. Could it just be that I'm just a closet masochist? A twisted, deranged little freak who enjoys being mentally and emotionally crushed by failing over and over at a series that's been around for more than twenty years? Doomed to continue the cycle whether or not Irem churns out new games in the series, just for the sick, secret pleasure of being punished repeatedly, endlessly throughout time?

Well, I guess so. Still, I guess it's cheaper than hiring a Dominatrix...that and I don't have to worry about welts.   read

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