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Procyon's blog

2:50 PM on 04.21.2010

BaltimoreDC NARP Countdown: 2 days

2 more days to go until the guests will be arriving for the MD/VA/DC (+ PA) NARP, and the house is still in a bit of upheaval. But I'm working on it. The big thing is that I will be having maids over tomorrow to clean up the house from top to bottom before anyone arrives. People who I've shared this with have often asked me why I don't have the maids over AFTER the party. Well, the truth is I have neglected some of the upkeep in certain areas of the house, primarily downstairs, and it really is in need of some TLC. Cleaning up after the party will be easier if the house is starting from a good point.

Tonight will be mainly about cleaning off many surfaces, like the kitchen table, the coffee table in the living room, etc. It's amazing how much clutter I have. But I am positive I will be able to stash it all away during the party.

The next task will be to do a superficial test of all the systems, make sure they work, count up all of the controllers, etc. I managed to find my second GBA SP, and charged both of them up, so they are good to go for the Zelda: Four Swords fest.

There's been a lot of Bomberman talk in the email thread lately. I would honestly love to provide everyone with the opportunity to play 10 player Bomberman on the Saturn, but I neither have the multitaps or enough controllers on my own to make that a possibility. I only had one chance in my life to play it with 10 people, and it was the most Bomberman fun I've ever had in my life. It gets quite literally insane.

I haven't really gotten any responses to my recently posed questions, so I won't ask anything specific here, but if you have any comments or suggestions for the party, please share them. Thanks.   read

2:32 PM on 04.20.2010

BaltimoreDC NARP Countdown: 3 days

Three days to go, and the preparation is well underway. I figured today I'd talk about what I will definitely be setting up around the house as far as game stations go. For those of you who checked out my [url=]game room post[url], that is but a sample of what to expect (although the ferrets have sadly passed away and the cage has since been removed from the room, so... no more stinky ferret pee smell.)

In the living room, the Xbox 360 and BlindsideDork's PS3 will be set up on the 46" flat screen.

In the office, I will connect the Dreamcast to a 22" widescreen VGA monitor.

Somewhere in the kitchen, probably on the dining table, I will set up a GameCube on a 27" TV for the proposed Zelda: Four Swords play through and other GameCube/GBA friendly games like Vs. Pac-Man.

On the opposite side of the kitchen on one of the counters somewhere, I will set up an Atari computer on a 13" TV, just for nostalgia's sake.

Downstairs in the basement (by the pool table), we will have a Saturn and a PS2 available to be played on another 27" TV.

Also in the basement, the Wii will be set up connected to the 34" HDTV tube.

Basically, if you can't find something to play on, I can't help you. Again, people are also welcome to bring their laptops and use the wi-fi.

Anyone got any useful suggestions?   read

4:05 PM on 04.19.2010

BaltimoreDC NARP Countdown: 4 days

So I'm pretty psyched to be hosting the next BaltimoreDC NARP. I figured I'd "vent" my excitement by blogging about it in some fashion each day until the NARP arrives. The topic of today's post will be: Why did I want to host a NARP?

Let's face it; for those of you who have attended a NARP, it's a pretty big undertaking, right? You got tons of people coming, some of which you know well, and some of which you don't. You need a fairly ample supply of food around for some quick grill meal making, let alone a seemingly infinite supply of snacks on hand nearly all the time. You need a space big enough to comfortably house people who will be crashing and staying over. And you need a fairly good number of systems set up for play. So the decision to be a NARP host can be a little daunting.

In considering whether I had the stones to step up to the task, and whether I could even come close to doing as good a job as my predecessor Hitogoroshi, I thought about where I live, which is basically bumblefuck northern Baltimore county. To many of the local Baltimorians, this is a bit of a hike in an out of the way area. But when I thought about all the people who would be driving from DC and VA, I realized the distance for them to my place wouldn't really be that much farther than it was to get to Hito's place.

2009 was a rough year for me personally, and in anticipation of 2010 being much better, I wanted some way to celebrate, and with a group of people who would appreciate the style I like to celebrate in as much as me. I have been to few parties that have been more fun for me to attend than the previous NARPs, so this seemed like a good decision. When talk sprang up about having a NARP at the beach in Ocean City, I wanted to provide people with an opportunity to attend a "traditional" NARP that wouldn't come with a lot of financial obligation. So I made the choice to volunteer my place and host the next NARP.

I hope to see as many of you there as possible. There was some confusion about the date, and I'm sorry that Agent Moo got kind of screwed out of coming as a result (although there's still a chance he can make it.) I'm excited and the preparations are well underway. At the moment there are at least six planned TVs/monitors to be set up, with more possible.

For those who will be coming: What are you most looking forward to?   read

10:07 PM on 11.17.2009

Can there ever be another "Mario"?


There, that was me blowing off the dust on this blog that I haven't used in like... forever.

So I saw some kids playing the New Super Mario Bros. game on a Wii at a Best Buy, and I overheard some older kids who were passingg by scoff and remark, "who cares, it's just another Mario game," and the young punks shuffled off to go smoke crack or something, I dunno... but it got me thinking.

Do we live in a day and age where it's no longer possible for new cartoon-ish mascots to appear and shoulder an entire franchise on their own the way that Mario, Sonic, and a slew of impersonators once did in the later 80s and early 90s? The youngest ones that I can think of today are Ratchet and Clank, and to a lesser degree, Jak and Daxter, and they're both pushing 7 years old now. Blinx the Time Cat certainly didn't make it that long.

It seems like long ago, franchises were developed around personalities, whereas now they are developed around concepts. We are in an age where the majority of video games aspire to achieve a hyper-realism, looking realer than real, and the characters that occupy those spaces aren't really characters, they are purely avatars for the player to project themselves on to.

When we were young, it was fun to pretend we were Mario, or Link, or Sonic. These days, it seems like the only chance kids get to do that when it comes to video games is through TV license games like Spongebob or Naruto. There doesn't seem to be a market anymore for developers who want to establish their own creations. I'm not suggesting that the following examples were the best that video games ever had to offer, but that means no more Kirbys, no more Crash Bandicoots, no more Earthworm Jims, no more Bonks, no more Ryus and Kens, no more Spyros, no more Sly Coopers, and no more Bubsy the Bobcats (although I can live without him...)

Has that era of gaming completely vanished? Is it poised to make a come back? Ever?   read

4:40 PM on 12.02.2008

SSF2THDR Guide: Opinions wanted

The challenge of putting a game guide together on a wiki is how to present information in a concise enough way to give players all the information that they want or need, without overwhelming them. At StrategyWiki, we have also been dealing with the challenge of presenting information about a series of games such a Street Fighter II in a way that cuts down on the amount of redundant information that gets presented. To deal with that, we've incorporated nearly every version of SF2 into one Table of Contents. Each game has their own move lists, but each character page references the moves from each version of the game, so there's a lot of cross population of information.

With the release of SSF2THDR, it seemed only natural to bump the number of SF2 games covered by one, and treat it like any other version created, rather than start anew with a brand new guide. But the question remains: is this in fact the best way to present this information? A lot of people will have a variety of opinions about this, and no one way can truly be considered the "right" way, but I wonder if we've come as close as we can. I know that some people are going to like it, and some people are going to hate it, but the most important question is can everyone understand it.

I'd like to solicit opinions from the Destructoid community on the choice of layout that we have built the SSF2THDR guide upon. I'd really like to know what your opinions are concerning the ease of ability to understand and navigate around the guide for both hardcore players, and potential novices. You can go directly to the guide and start browsing around, or have a look at the snapshots that I provided. How would you improve upon it? What, if anything, really needs to change? Of course, if you see a mistake, by all means, feel free to fix it. It is a wiki after all. Thanks in advance, and feel free to ask me questions if you have any.


12:37 PM on 08.29.2008

I'm back, and I need to take a (GP2X) Wiz...

Well, I've been away for a while, wallowing in my own sorrows (see my previous post) but I think I'm ready to come back and focus on what's most important in life: video games and talking about them with other video game lovers. Cuz let's face it, my social life has always taken a back seat to my love of games. Why should one measly failed marriage change that? (Don't worry, I'm not bitter... much.)

Today my thoughts are focused on one thing: the GP2X Wiz. Historically speaking, it's extremely rare for me to buy the same product twice unless it a "junior" model of an existing console. I bought the Atari 2600 jr., the top-loading NES, the SNES jr., the PSOne, and the PS2 Slim. And I bought a handful of GBA models, but they were limited editions. If I end up purchasing this GP2X Wiz, it will literally be my fourth GP2X purchase. So what the hell am I talking about? Feast your eyes on:

Now, the only thing that's really attracting me to this model is the 533MHz clock rating on the ARM processor. That's over double the original speed, which means that the stuttering SNES emulation on my white F200 model should be a thing of the past. Can't say I'm fond of turning the right hand buttons into a second d-pad, but I don't think it will matter too much in the long run. As long as I can Shoryuken with ease on the left side, I'll make due. The built in rechargeable battery is a nice touch as well.

I know there are a couple of Pandora fans out there, but despite all of the supposed "progress" being made to that system, it's still vaporware as far as I'm concerned, and I am highly unconvinced that it will live up to all of it's supposed promises. It easy to claim that the device will have everything under the sun and the kitchen sink, and that the battery will last a bajillion hours, but somehow, I just don't think so.

So I will probably break down and invest in one of these and replace the two I already have at home (and really need to sell... any takers?) I will try to jump back on my usual style of blog, posting about my continuous chronological adventures with Famicom games that I write strategy guides for on StrategyWiki. That is of course, if people are still interested in hearing about them. I know some of my write ups have been hit or miss. But it's fun to share some of the uncovered gems that I come across on occasion with all of you.

Update: Irony of ironies, I did end up taking a leak right after I wrote this post ^_^;   read

1:59 PM on 07.09.2008

Things in life that games don't prepare you for.

Before I start writing this post, I just want to say up front that there's no need to call the Waahmbulance. I'm not writing for sympathy, or a whole bunch of "cheer up, it'll get better, you're better off" comments because I know that's not what this community specializes in. What it does specialize in is humor, and I really need to laugh right now.

So my wife is leaving me. No it's not another guy (or another girl), no I wasn't an asshole, no it wasn't any of the usual dumb shit that a wife leaves a husband for. After being married for a little over 2 years, and being together for over 7, my wife decided that being married simply isn't for her. She didn't want to be responsible to anyone else in the world but herself, and she realized that her continuous denial of the fact that I actually worry about her when I don't hear from her hurt me quite a bit. She doesn't want to hurt me anymore, but she doesn't want to change either, so she decided it was time to leave, even though we still love each other very much.

The thing is, I had this beautiful half black, half Japanese gamer chick for a wife, and at the moment, I don't see how I'm possibly going to replace her with someone else. Early on when we were going out, I wasn't sure if she was exactly the right girl for me. I used to think it was because of the race difference (I'm just boring vanilla) but now I'm starting to wonder if I didn't know something was up way back then. All of my friends, mostly game developers, thought I had found the holy grail: a hot chick who likes games. And I felt that way as well, so I made it work. And to this day, I would have continued to make it work because of my "never say die" attitude towards marriage. She finally decided we could never be happy if we kept going the way we had.

When we first got married, she said she wanted the same things out of life that I did. She's finishing up her degree in Japanese language, and she had an opportunity, just a few months after our wedding, to go to Japan on an exchange program. It was 3.5 months, and I knew it would be hard as hell to live without her, but I thought what the heck, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I figured when she got back, the ball would roll back in my favor, and she would dedicate herself to the marriage. Instead, she was so inspired by living in Japan, that the ball actually rolled further in the opposite direction. She wants to spend a year there, and I just don't want the same thing. I want to plant some roots and build a family.

So now I find myself in the unenviable position (or is it?) of being single again at 32. I was never good at the bar game, and I think I come across way too much like a gamer geek when I write profiles on on-line dating sites, even though I'm just trying to be honest. I have more dimension than just my interest in games, but that's hard to communicate. Anyway, I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that it's over, even though a very small part of me holds out hope that she will change her mind. I guess I'm just a Pac-Man who has lost his Mrs. Pac-Man, a Link without a Zelda, a Mario missing his Peach.   read

1:09 PM on 07.03.2008

Suishou no Dragon: The Square game you never played

Nor would you have, it was a text / point-n-click adventure for the Famicom Disk System that was only released in Japanese. That is until a ROM hacker known as Mute translated the game's Japanese text into English in January of 2003. After playing through it and translating some of the walkthroughs that I could find, it turns out that the game is incredibly short. You can finish it in under half an hour easily. You can take a look at my English guide for the game right here.

As a concept, Suishou no Dragon is interesting. It seems to borrow from a ton of the typical sci-fi anime cliches that exist, and meshes them into some playable storyline. The problem is, this storyline seems to live in the absence of any supporting or background material. You never really learn much about your character, or Cynthia and Nial, the friends that you are attempting to rescue. You have no idea why the old lady doctor is so willing to help you and provide you with free space scooters. The game just sort of drops you in to the middle of someone else's life, tells you what you need to do, and lets you go on your merry way. Perhaps the instruction manual filled in a lot of the back story and the existing relationships, but I'll never know.

So if you get past the whole "I don't know who the hell I am, or why I'm doing this stuff" part and get down to the doing, what you find is your typical point-n-click adventure game, where the pointing and clicking takes the form of an on-screen arrow that you move around with the d-pad. When you need to move to another location, you cycle through all of the available directions and select one. I often don't like point-n-click adventures that have random solutions such as "touch item X that you collected with item Y in the room," because I don't have the patience to sit there and try the 200 different combinations of items that are available. But this game really has very few items and interactive objects on the screen, so it felt "solvable."

Most of the solutions are fairly intuitive, while a few seem like red herrings (the whole monument on the planet of Alias thing with the tablet for example). But really the story is so short and you can pretty much get through the game without a walkthrough except for possibly two or three moments. As far as I know, nothing ever became of this franchise, but it is notorious for one piece of trivia: When the game came out, a popular Japanese gaming mag thought that other mags were stealing their material. So they intentionally placed a bogus article in one issue, about being able to enter a secret code that would let you play strip rock-paper-scissors with the girl illustrated above. They did it just to see if any other magazine would steal this "secret" and print it. Pretty like the whole EGM Sheng Long in Street Fighter II thing (which was an intentional joke on their part,) players were trying like crazy to get a little anime girl to play rock-paper-scissors and take off her clothes. That's the only real lasting legacy that this game ever had.   read

8:30 PM on 07.02.2008

The most common gamer dilema: WTF do I play?

So it's about 9:30pm for me, and I'm sitting here staring at my not-so-meager collection of games that I have. Between the Wii and the 360, I have about 20, not counting downloaded games. Make that around 50 if you count GameCube and Xbox games, and chalk that up to a crapload if you want to count PS2 games. And I'm just trying to figure out...

WTF do I play?

I'm in one of those "no particular game" moods, where I'm not really deeply into any one game at the moment, and I'm finding it hard to figure out what direction to lean in.

Now, to be fair, part of the problem is I'm 32, and I just don't have the same amount of time and energy that I used to have, say, 10 years ago. So the thought of plopping down on the couch and diving into an RPG or playing more GTA4 for hours is not as appealing. It's not the playing of the games themselves that's not as appealing. It's the idea of staying up late, going to bed at some retarded hour, and getting up early for work the next morning that's the problem. And I don't even have kids! (yet...)

So it's hard to pick a game that I know I won't be able to tear myself away from in less than 2 hours. So that still leaves a bunch of choices. How about a fighter? Soul Calibur IV is coming soon, I could bust out SC3 for shits and giggles... but nah, I didn't have too much fun with that. I might as well stick with SC2 and play as Link. Or how about Beautiful Katamari on the 360? Well... I already did the biggest level in the game and rolled up the whole earth. What else? Oh, I started playing through Boom Blox, why don't I pop that back in... no wait, my arm is still killing me. I know, I could play Guitar Hero III, but there's the one song I can't play on Expert and it pisses me off...

See, this isn't something I normally go through, it just strikes me every now and then when I'm exceptionally bored. Normally, I fill this time working on StrategyWiki, but I'm just not in the mood right now. I think I'll just turn on Cartoon Network and watch Adult Swim...

So how do you decide: WTF do I play?   read

2:32 PM on 07.02.2008

A cast of thousands: Pac-Man

Yeah, you read right. Old school Procyon is going to rave about an old school character in a serious attempt to shed light on why I think Pac-Man is one of the greatest video game characters ever created, as opposed to a humorous attempts to get some laughs.

When you think about all the mascots that there's ever been... Mario, Sonic, Bonk, Megaman, Simon, Crash, even Ratchet... they've all been venerable and memorable characters, but as icons, they've only ever come to represent the development houses that created them, respectively; Nintendo, Sega, NEC, Capcom, Konami, Sony (early), and Sony (later). None of these characters (with the possible exception of Mario in the early days) have ever been strong enough the represent the entire video game industry. Sure, Pac-Man could be equally labeled as being nothing more than a Namco trademark, but it's actually surprisingly hard to find an average person who realizes that Namco created Pac-Man, and not Atari like I frequently hear from people. About the only other character who seems to be able to universally represent video games is a Space Invader (and the middle guy of all choices.)

But it goes deeper than that. Every video game pits a player in a theoretical battle of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, team A vs. team B, and while some let you blur the lines a little bit, most of them shoe-horn an ethical model into the game to provide a motivation. Why do you destroy Space Invaders?: to save the earth. Why does Mario fight Donkey Kong: to save Pauline. Why does Donkey Kong Jr. fight Mario: to save Donkey Kong (deep, right?) But why does Pac-Man battle against the ghosts to eat all of the dots? Because that's what he does. There's no moral and ethical implication there, it's simply his nature to eat, and he does what he's good at. He will even eat the ghosts if he can, but most of the time, the ghosts present a danger to him.

In this sense Pac-Man becomes a blank palette upon which you may prescribe any number of aspects to, according to your whims and desires. Does Pac-Man eat dots in order to save his family; his home town; the world? Are the ghosts evil for trying to stop Pac-Man, or are they merely protecting the dot farm that they worked so hard to grow, and now they need to stop this maniacal eating machine from devouring their winter stores? It's entirely up to you. You get to decide whether Pac-Man is noble or delinquent, wise or insentient, worthy of respect or completely corrupt.

Unless someone has specific cause to see him as a problem-maker instead of a problem solver, I think most people tend to portray Pac-Man in their own minds as a simple fellow who simply does what must be done for the good of those around him. He sacrifices without complaint. He performs his duty for as long as he is physically able to, and does not quit until he has no more chances left to try. In this respect, he may appear analogous to an idealized Japanese employee, one who works tirelessly for the benefit of his company asking for nothing more than the chance to return to work and do it again.

Speaking for myself personally, I have always seen Pac-Man as a noble soul. He may not necessarily be a natural born leader, as he typically operates on his own, but he is willing to step up and settle a score as an individual than to drag someone else with him into his fight. He may not be the wisest or smartest character, but he always does what he believes in his heart to be the most good, and never intentionally causes any harm. He doesn't see a problem with eating ghosts, because they can't die, they merely go back to their base and regenerate. Nor does he blame the ghosts for trying to stop him, because that is their job; that is what they do. And if my perceptions about Pac-Man are correct, then the world would be a much better place if there were a little Pac-Man in all of us.   read

9:06 AM on 06.30.2008

Long MAME update is long

I don't know how many members of the community care about MAME or emulation. I imagine many people kind of figure that MAME is a little passé. But that's exactly why I decided to write this blog, because if you take a look at one of the latest "whatsnew.txt" files (Check it here), you will see a tremendous amount of effort being put in to fixing bugs in games as old as Qix, Joust, and Choplifter.

These days, MAME really isn't considered the phenomenon it was just a couple of years ago. We live in an age when, whether you like it or not, emulation is a fact of video game life. It's not just an underground hobby anymore, it's also a commercial product. Between compilation discs put out by Capcom, Namco, and SNK, and the entire Wii Virtual Console library, emulation is a mainstay.

When I looked at the update to unofficial build v0.1257, I was astounded to see so much work being put into a project that is well over 10 years old. Thoughts about the legality of ROMs aside, MAME is, far and away, the only way that many people in a much younger generation than my own will ever have to experience the roots of video game history. Sure you can encounter the not-so-rare Pac-Man/Galaga combo at a few arcades, but you don't rarely see anymore Dig Dug or Donkey Kong cabinets. Centipede has been included in a number of console compilations, and is even on XBLA, but if you're not playing with a trackball, you're not really playing Centipede. That control method is as integral to the play experience as the graphics and sound.

It's too bad that once video games are released to the market, the underlying code used to produce them can't get the same TLC that MAME does, and as frequently. If it did, we wouldn't see so many bugs that linger on in the 1s and 0s burned on to the disc years after they were published vanish with patches. We'd live in this near flawless land of perfectly running code, and we'd even engine upgrades long after a game was published. And maybe that sort of thing is possible as the market shifts from retail shelf space to digital downloads. I'm not saying this prediction is realistic, it would just be kind of cool.   read

5:55 PM on 06.29.2008

Crackout - It's not what you think.

Early on in 1986, Taito took the basic gameplay made famous by Atari's Breakout, and gave it nice facelift. They released a game that, while not legendary in everyone's book, was certainly a genre defining game; Arkanoid. Arkanoid was more than a paddle and ball game, you could gain power-ups by breaking certain bricks and catching the capsules that fell out, and players generally enjoyed it. So it seemed only natural that this successful game would make it's way to the popular Famicom platform, and it did... but not before someone else beat them to the punch.

Someone at Konami must have liked Arkanoid very much, because they decided to make a very similar game and release it on Nintendo's Famicom Disk System platform. They called it Nazo no Kabe: Block Kuzushi, or "The Riddle of the Wall: Block Destroyer." The irony here is that they completed the game and got it to the market almost two weeks before Taito released Arkanoid for the Famicom. It would take several years before Nazo no Kabe saw the light of day outside of Japan, but localization company Palcom saw fit to release the game in Europe. A prototype was designed for the American market, but was never released. The new name of Nazo no Kabe in Europe? Crackout. (Catch the guide right here.)

The odd choice in names aside (an obvious play on the more familiar name of Breakout), this game is actually pretty sweet. It differs from Arkanoid in quite a few ways. While Arkanoid plows through a set of stages, Crackout breaks the game into four sections of 11 stages each. In Arkanoid, you get power-up capsules from the bricks you break, but in Crackout, you can only get them from the enemies that you hit. One of the power-ups includes a rocket that you can launch up at the screen, and then press the button once more to bomb a section of the wall. This is needed to clear bricks that are trapped inside unbreakable silver bricks.

Probably the wackiest departure from Arkanoid is the dancing lizards. Throughout a number of stages, you will encounter these dancing lizards that must be defeated in order to advance to the next stage. Functionally, they are a lot like the large Doh enemy at the end of Arkanoid, but they occur much more frequently, and have a tendancy to move around as well. They must be hit several times, and they change colors as they get closer to being defeated.

I know paddle ball video games are pretty passe these days, but they're always good for a little laugh every now and then. I think this would actually make a fairly good candidate for a Wii Virtual Console game, but then again, it's so easy to outdo with a better WiiWare game (and there already is one, kind of.) Nevertheless, it was on my list of games to cover, and cover it I did. Coming up next will be that unusual Square text adventure Suishou no Dragon (or Crystal Dragon).   read

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