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Showing content with the highest reputation since 08/15/2009 in Blog Entries

  1. 3 points
    Realizing I haven't posted a blog entry in well over a year is kind of becoming an annual event here in my Retromags world. I'm not as active as I should be, as I'd like to be, and much as I wish I could promise to change all of that, I don't make promises I can't be certain of keeping. One of the most recent things I blogged about was the question of what happens when one's desire to keep up with gaming flounders, and as it turns out, there's still no cut-and-dried answer to that. Playing video games used to be my go-to hobby, something I maintained with an excessive interest. I followed up on new systems, stalked new releases, anticipated new console systems, read magazines and books and really anything I could get my hands on that would tell me more about my favorite hobby. Now? Well, now I'm a woman in her early forties for whom gaming is still exciting, but only in the familiar sense. I am a "gamer" only insofar as I own video game systems and will occasionally turn one of them on to play for a bit. An hour or so of "Dragon's Crown" here, a two hour stint with "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance" there, and the occasional play-through of an RPG from the 16-bit era that brings back all the memories of what being a gamer in the 90's meant: lines at arcades for Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat machines, the console wars, EGM vs. GamePro vs. GameFan, and so forth. I'm more interested in what was than what is or what will be. In other words, I'm clinging to a past which recedes further away from me with each passing day, and in the worry that one day I will have only memories to occupy my thoughts, I'm struggling to pack my banks full of all the good ones. The best ones. The ones that made me who I am today. I'm also feeling the same way about a lot of other things in my life, especially music. Music hasn't always been enormously important in my life, but once I realized what it was, what it could do, and how much fun it was to make it, I've been obsessed with it. Not obsessed in the way that, say, a vinyl collector will obsess over finding a perfect-condition LP, but rather obsessed with it in the sense that I use it as a landmark, to recall feelings and put me back in the frame of mind I was in when something happened. "How does that relate to gaming, Areala?" I'm getting to that. Be patient. Welsh singer Donna Lewis released her first album, "Now In A Minute" in May of 1996. If those names don't mean anything to you, then maybe the title of her hit single will: "I Love You Always, Forever" was the most-played, most-requested song on pop radio stations the year of its release. If you lived ANYWHERE within earshot of the FM band, you heard this song. Maybe you hated it, maybe you loved it, maybe you were indifferent to it, but I fell into the second camp. Her voice mesmerized me with its breathy, ethereal qualities. To this day, it conjures up memories of the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, where I spent a lot of time back at home and travelling with my mom and my brother to visit relatives. He'd just graduated high school, after all, so everyone was eager to lavish attention on him before he moved off to college. One of the things I loved to do back in my high school and college days, as far as video games were concerned, was get online and play one of the text-based Multi-User Dungeons, or MUDs, that you could find all over the place before "Everquest" and later "World of Warcraft" pretty much wiped them out. MUDs were free, online, open-world games that used an Infocom-style parser to input commands. The difference between a MUD and a normal text adventure was that when you quit playing "Zork", everything about the world stopped because you were the only denizen. A MUD, on the other hand, was always on (except during server upgrades or maintenance periods), and open to multiple players at all hours of the day and night. I spent a considerable amount of time in college, and even afterwards, MUDding. Most MUDs didn't have sound, and the ones that did used it for very small things, like a quick MIDI tune when you accessed their login screen, or a few bloops and beeps when you gained a level or died. Therefore, while MUDding, I often would put in my headphones and listen to a CD. And that summer, it was Donna Lewis more than any other band which dominated my listening time when I got online to interact with my friends. While "I Love You Always, Forever" is a catchy pop tune, and is the obvious choice for a hit radio single, I've always felt there were much stronger songs on the album than that one. If I had to pick a favorite, it wouldn't be that one. I love every track on the album, but the one which always stood out to me, mainly because of my background as a gamer and love of fantasy role-playing, was "Agenais." Much of the meaning of Donna's music is left up to your own interpretation, but this is clearly based on an idea or a dream she once had, perhaps a story she read that fired up her imagination. It's the closest I think I've ever come to closing my eyes and believing, honestly BELIEVING in my heart, that I truly was somewhere else. "Agenais" was every special area of every MUD I ever played on, where other people just like me came to congregate, tell stories, and live separate virtual lives unencumbered by the weight of reality and released to realize our fantasies. It truly was, in Donna's words, a "beautiful, magical place". What always fascinated me about the story she relates within the lyrics, however, is how one arrives at Agenais. You don't go soaring up into the clouds, you don't climb a mountain, you don't jump on a rocket ship and blast off to a different planet or sail across the sea to a new continent, or walk into the trunk of an enchanted oak tree. You float. To reach Agenais, you float to a golden crystal palace, lit by blue flames, where dancers twirl, wearing long, silver veils and white lilies woven into their air. You reach Agenais by closing your eyes and floating down. Like you were in a dream. Lewis's song is fairly basic, but infused with so much imagination that I've been in love with it for twenty-plus years. MUDding, for me, was floating down to Agenais. What else could it be, with carefully-crafted underwater cities, treetop mansions, dragon lairs, and all manner of pixies, fairies, goblins, elves, dwarves, wizards, halflings, gnomes, warriors, clerics, angels, thieves, bards, and all the rest? Lewis's final, whispered refrain, the minor-key musical notes accompanying it, have always carried an air of finality for me. As we get older, the fantasies of our youth become harder and harder to hold on to. Other things in life take priority, and many of our hopes and aspirations are put on hold while other things happen. In "Agenais", however, I have a four-minute remembrance of good times past. I link it to friendships made across thousands of miles. I link it to sleepy car rides back to Indianapolis late in the evening. I link it to my virtual persona, who now slumbers away in the database of some disconnected server, a collection of bits and bytes which, like all of us, slowly decay as the years go by. All that is left of her now is my memory, and the memories of those who knew her. In a hundred years' time, it will matter to no one that once, "Areala" existed in a realm called "Land of the Lost Unicorn", in the guise of a pixie cleric who followed the tenets of Moradin's True Neutrality in an effort to bring balance to the land. The people she met, the friends she made, the adventures she had, the enemies she fought, the puzzles she solved, the gear she obtained, the lives she touched, will not matter. She, in a sense, has already gone "floating down to Agenais". It's a somber thought. But not a bad one. Because, though the life of "Areala, Priestess of Moradin, wife of Carla, antagonist of Cougar, friend of Aspenamy, compatriot of Quenthel, nemesis of Belial, and Mayor of Lost Unicorn Village" may one day be meaningless to everyone else, it will have had value to me. And one day, hopefully later rather than sooner, when I myself find myself floating down to Agenais, I will carry that memory and many others with me into that labyrinth of golden rose-red colours. I'll have Donna Lewis, and music, and video games, to thank for that. And people like you who visit Retromags and help keep the retro dream alive for the rest of us who all have our own private visions, our own personal Agenaises, our own unknowable memories of what gaming meant. Thanks for reading. I'm heading to bed. *huggles* Areala
  2. 2 points
    Hey there, Retromags. Long time no see. The reports of my death were spot on, as you well know. My life had indeed been taken, and the killer is you. It all began innocently enough. Almost exactly 4 years ago to the day, I uploaded a single cover. Almost an entire year passed before I uploaded a second. But then only 2 days later, I uploaded a third…a fourth...fifth……All told, 12 covers were uploaded that day. And then the day after that, an additional 25 covers were uploaded…and so it continued. Over 16,000 gallery uploads later, I was a broken shell of my former self. Uploading covers was a daily ritual and on occasion reached as many as 100 in a single day. Every morning, the first thing I did upon waking was roll over, turn on my phone, and check Retromags for any activity that had occurred since last I checked, which of course had been moments before I went to bed the night before. The first thing I did upon arriving home from work was log in to the site and upload a fresh batch of covers. Sometimes I would spend nearly every free hour of my weekends working on covers or editing magazine pages. As I said, my life had been taken from me. I succumb easily to addiction/obsession. Knowing this is the reason I’ve never experimented with any kinds of drugs or other physically addictive habits – because I know I’d get sucked in completely. To illustrate my point, I once made the mistake of installing a multiplayer game on my phone. It was a terrible game if viewed objectively, but I played as part of a team of other users, and the cooperative nature of the gameplay compelled me to play it at every opportunity so that I could rise to the top and become a leading member of the team…which was incredibly disruptive to my real life. You see, the game could be played solo at any time, but that was just basically training for the team battles, which occurred in 20 minute sessions every 4 hours, 24 hours a day. I soon found myself trying to make every battle, regardless of what else was going on at the time. I found myself playing while out with friends, while driving a car…hell, I even set alarms to make sure I didn’t miss the battles that occurred during my sleeping hours. It wasn’t healthy, and luckily I eventually forced myself to quit cold turkey. That was several years ago, and I haven’t installed any games on my phone since, nor will I ever again. Moderation isn’t something I’m good at you see. So when it came time to take a cold hard look at my relationship with Retromags, this is what I realized: I needed to quit. Completely. Fortunately, I had an extremely busy period coming up at work. I’ve been swamped with stuff to do on nights and weekends for the past month, so not visiting Retromags was more or less necessary for me to stay on top of things, anyway. So I seized the opportunity and quit visiting the site entirely. I still received emails of new posts in threads I had followed, so it was hard to resist logging in and joining the discussion, but I knew that if I did, I’d be unable to resist falling back into my old habits. The irony of it all is that during my abstinence from the site, I’ve come to realize that I honestly have no business hanging out at Retromags in the first place. Phillyman has recently scanned over 100 mags with at least 100 more on the way. I should be thrilled, and yet, looking at the list of those 200 mags, I realized I had no desire or intention of downloading a single one of them. My interest in gaming mags used to cover just about everything, but in recent years I’ve discovered that the only mags I have any desire to look at are computer gaming mags from around 1988-1998 or so. Newer (or older) computer gaming mags, or mags about video gaming just don’t interest me at all anymore. Furthermore, I began to feel that it was silly spending so much time working on a site about gaming mags when I never even played any games. In 2018, I played exactly ZERO games, on any platform. Not even so much as a round of Minesweeper. ZERO. Yet I spent an ungodly number of hours adding content to this site, whether covers, ads, or magazine scans. I fell extremely behind in my comics reading (a hobby I actually DO enjoy) because I was spending all of my free time here. I had to stop, so I did. I won’t say I’ll never be back. In fact, I definitely WILL be back. I’ve still got donated mags to scan, and I’ll get them done eventually. Whether I’ll edit them as well or just go the Phillyman route and upload them raw to be someone else’s problem, I haven’t decided. And I’d surely be lying to myself if I said I’ll never upload another cover or add another mag to the database. But I’m going to work hard to police myself and limit the time I spend on the site. In the past month, despite being incredibly busy with work, I’ve STILL found time to do all sorts of things I never had time to do back when I spent all my time here. Hell, I even played a few games I’d been meaning to play forever but never got around to (the MSX version of Metal Gear, for one.) So… TLDR: I’m still around and will still contribute, but I’m going to try as hard as I can to stay away as much as possible. Even as I acknowledge my lack of interest in its content, I still feel connected to this site. I still think of it fondly, but it’s harmful to me in ways that can’t be avoided through any other means than distance. Don’t take it personally. And if E-Day ever scans that Game Player’s PC Buyers Guide he bought on eBay, I’ll totally be back to download that sucker.
  3. 2 points
    I've needed to write this since Wednesday morning, but I haven't been in the proper emotional state of mind to do so. I still might not be, and if that's the case, I beg your forgiveness but also your indulgence. Yes, this is political. No, I don't want to stir shit up. Yes, I want your comments. No, I won't delete dissenting viewpoints. Emotion ultimately fuels everything we do, but too much emotion can be as damaging to the body as overfilling the gas tank is to your vehicle. It's taken days to siphon off the excess of what I've felt since that first sinking feeling Tuesday night that Donald Trump would win the White House. Here's what's left: I'm hopeful, and I'm scared. Let's talk about fear. For those of you who don't know, I'm a white, college-educated, college-town-dwelling lesbian from Indiana. Two years ago in 2014, my state declared same-sex couples had the right to marry. One year ago, the Supreme Court agreed and told the GLBT community to make with the festivities. And while I have only been married to my wife for a little over two years, I first met her in 1995, we began dating in 1996, and came out as a couple to our parents in 1997. This past October I turned forty, which means we've been together for half my life. She is my life. I would give up anything else, including my own life, before I would give her up. But even in a reasonably-liberal college town, we've not been unscathed by bigotry's claws. I've been harassed on the street by people I don't even know, who don't know me, only that I'm holding hands with another woman. A decade ago, my car was vandalized: tires slashed, windows broken, the word 'Dykes' spray-painted across the hood. In 2003, my immediate supervisor was fired by the owner of the bookstore where I work because of discriminatory harassment based on my sexuality. Despite this, I was not raised to be a victim. Chances are, unless you're a very close friend, you don't know about these things because I had those fights, I dealt with them, I moved on, and chose not to dwell on them. I have to dwell on them now, because I'm not at all sure when I'll have to have those fights again now that Republicans control the Executive, Legislative, and before long, the Supreme Court. I worry because of this: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2802 That's the "First Amendment Defense Act", a bill introduced to the House of Representatives by a conservative Republican from Idaho in June of 2015. Its sole purpose is to promote discrimination under a banner of religious freedom, by forbidding the government from taking punitive action against any individual who believes that "marriage" is anything other than one man and one woman, or that sexual activity should be confined to heterosexual married couples only, and use that belief to deny services or any other benefit as long as those beliefs are "sincerely held" (as if there's any such thing as a litmus test for 'sincerity' when it comes to issues of law). Furthermore, it provides legal cover for those who choose to discriminate in this way regardless of the consequences to those facing the discrimination. I guess my sincerely held belief that public businesses and services should be open and accommodating to all isn't worth legal protection. FADA currently has 172 co-sponsors. The sister bill in the Senate, introduced on the same day by a Republican Senator from Utah, has 37 co-sponsors. Both bills have been referred to separate committees and have seen no further action in over a year. That's the good news. The bad news is Donald Trump has promised to sign FADA into law as soon as it crosses his desk, which means I will have no recourse or access to justice or equality if someone decides their personal religious beliefs overrule my basic humanity. This is not preserving religious freedom, it is giving aid and comfort to those who actively seek to hurt and debase others. Is this a United States of America any of us want? Add at least one, and possibly as many as four, Supreme Court nominations for the new administration, and there's a real chance people like the ones who introduced and co-sponsored these bills will go all-out in rolling back the rights of people like me. I could very well go to bed married and wake up to discover my marriage has been dissolved or rendered legally invalid for the purpose of all the rights it grants us, ranging from the ability to make medical care choices for the other in case one of us is disabled, automatic property transferal in the event of a death, legal exemption from the compulsion to testify against one another in court, to the simple matter of filing our taxes as 'Married, Filing Jointly' instead of 'Single', in all fifty states. (News flash to people who hate gay marriage: you've heard of the 'marriage penalty', right? Yeah, getting married if you don't have kids makes your tax burden go up. Splitting up our marriage means we pay less in taxes, so if you really want to stick it to us, leave our marital rights alone so we can continue our increasing financial support of our public schools.) This is terrifying, and we don't even have children to throw into the mix to complicate things further. That's why I'm afraid. But there's another word in the title for this blog post, and that word is Hope. I derive that hope from the knowledge that Millennials now outnumber Boomers, and on a whole are far more accepting of those who aren't exactly like them. I derive that hope from the fact that, in 2001, public opinion against same-sex marriage in the US stood at 57%. Today, fifteen years later, opposition to same-sex marriage sits at 35%. Even among Republicans, support has been growing slowly since 2012. I derive hope from the fact that, in the two years since Jessica and I signed our marriage license in the county clerk's office, we've not faced a single problem of discrimination related to our status as a married couple. I derive hope from the friends who are already writing letters to their representatives and senators, reminding them that the will of the people doesn't involve hatred of those who aren't exactly alike. Most of all, I derive hope that Donald Trump did not mean all the things he said and promised, that he will take a more moderate stance, that the man we elected turns out to be more like the Donald Trump who wrote this book in 2000, the registered Democrat, the guy who appeared on Oprah back in 1988 calm, collected, and all business, throwing out reasonable ideas and suggestions for how things might be done differently. Right now, it's too early to tell. January 20th is still two months away. I wish that hope was all I had. But fear's right there too, gnawing on my insides. I'm terrified of seeing what I've fought to have for so long taken away. I'm terrified for my wife, who is not a fighter, who doesn't get political, who just wants to live her life, and who has no idea how to confront bigotry head-on without breaking down. It's easy for people like her to lose hope...and I'm afraid I don't have enough in my own reserves to keep both of us going if the worst comes to pass. So that's that. I'm afraid, I'm hopeful, and I know only one of those two can win. I need all of my friends now more than ever. Please don't turn your back on me.
  4. 2 points
    The above song, "Santa Monica," comes from Savage Garden's self-titled debut album. It's the final track. Chances are, unless you're a huge fan of the band, you've never heard it. It got no radio play, there was no official music video, it's just one of those songs the world glosses over. It's also the one most completely out of place on the record. It's no pulse-pounding dance club track like their breakout hit, "I Want You". It's not a poetic profession of love like "To The Moon and Back" or "Truly, Madly, Deeply", their other two hit singles that year. "Santa Monica" is a quiet, low-key, un-rhyming introspective about being all alone in the middle of the gigantic mass of humanity such is California. It's not the song I bought the album for. In fact, I had no idea what the song was even about before I heard it, but it is, in my opinion, the best song on that record. I've never been to Santa Monica, but I've felt exactly what Darren Hayes is singing about nonetheless. Replace "Santa Monica" with my college town and this is my life. It's been two decades, and I've still never found a song that captures and encapsulates 'me' the way this song does. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is a series of statements you respond to by indicating how closely you associate yourself with them, and your options are ranges of agreement or disagreement with those statements. There are a bunch of online versions of these tests you can take for free, most of them take about 10 minutes, and their results are fairly accurate. The answers you provide will be tabulated, and the test will return one of sixteen different personality types based on eight different characteristics and how you weigh towards each one (Introversion vs. Extroversion, Perceiving vs. Judging, etc...). The end result will be a four-letter code that corresponds to four of those letters, and probably a graph to show where you're closely aligned with both given aspects, or whether one side tends to greatly outweigh the other. If you want to take a quick one and see what I'm talking about, try this one: http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test I've taken this test numerous times throughout my life, and the result has been the same every time: INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). Those interested can read a nice, long description of what that all means here, but basically it means that at my best I'm a strong force for good and diplomacy, and at my worst my emotions grind me down into a bland wreck of a person who barely has the energy to interact with the rest of the world. Right now, that second part is where I'm at. It's a fight with myself I've been engaged with since I can remember, and INFP's are particularly prone to it because we live almost completely inside of ourselves. I've never been afraid of emotions, but I have been afraid of what actions I know those emotions could cause. In other words, I don't fear anger, but rather I fear what being overcome with anger could lead me to do. I don't fear sorrow, but I do fear what could happen if I spend too long being sad. More than once in my life, I have voluntarily spent periods of time in a stress center, which is a euphemistic way of saying I've allowed another group of people complete control over my life because I, an otherwise functional adult, was incapable of doing so. This is not weakness and it is not surrender, it is recognizing a problem exists that I am woefully unprepared to handle by myself. It's no different from recognizing that, rather than attempting to treat a broken arm at home, I would heal faster and receive better care by going to the hospital. It is also a problem that stigmatizes a large population here in the United States. People who have no issue going to a doctor to receive assistance with a cancer diagnosis look at people who suffer from depression and ask, "Why don't they just grow up and get over it?" Imagine the absurdity of asking someone who had a leg amputated and replaced with a prosthetic, "I don't get it...why can't you just walk like everyone else? Why do you need a new leg?" Depending on the day and my mood, I can get lost in a crowd of one. I could stand in the middle of Time's Square, on New Year's Eve, at midnight, and despite the crushing throng and overwhelming noise, the potential exists that I could feel just as alone as I am sitting here, writing this blog post in my office. My wife is outside working in her garden. My dog is outside running around, enjoying the sunshine. I am alone, and this is when I thrive. This is when I fill my reserves of energy, when I re-fuel the tanks that drain so quickly when I'm forced to be around large crowds of people. If I don't get this time, regularly, daily, I will retreat inside myself until I find it, and I will stay there until I feel safe enough to come out. This isn't something I can control, it's an automatic response like the nervous system reacting to pull your hand away from a hot surface. It is not something I enjoy. It's more like having an off switch that could be flipped by anything at any time, and never knowing what might activate it. But I have made peace with it over the years. I'm 39 years old, and I understand things will be this way up until the point that I no longer exist. The cost I pay for not being an extrovert is enormous in this society: I don't have a massive social network of friends, I don't garner energy by spending time with people, and my refusal to participate in social events is often seen as dismissive of those involved. Movies get this wrong all the time, where the introverted girl with the glasses just needs someone to yank her into the spotlight and let her shine so she can finally see what it means to be living. This does not work any more than ripping the shell off a turtle and putting it under a heat lamp would improve its well-being. Doing so would, at best, severely harm the turtle, and at worst, kill it. The turtle does not need to be removed from its shell in order to live a better life, the turtle needs the world to understand that it needs its shell to survive the life it has. Who is the most difficult adversary a Warrior Nun faces? Herself. She can get lost in a crowd of 10,000 or a crowd of just herself. She expends considerable energy dreaming of worlds that exist for no one but her, pursuing dreams that cannot possibly come true, and aspiring to goals that she cannot achieve, and suffers the heartbreak of seeing those dreams shattered, those goals unrealized, those worlds vanishing in the blink of an eye. And yet... Here she stands. Or sits. Or reclines. Still dreaming. Still planning. Still making goals. Still idealizing the hell out of everyone, hoping for the best, knowing she'll be disappointed, she can't win, that just over the hill there's only another hill, and the aftermath of every battle leaves room only for a new fight to begin. She would have it no other way. And neither would I.
  5. 2 points
    Retromags member Softballchic and I spend a lot of time talking most nights, and it's often about video games: what we like, what we dislike, and what we're really good at. Last night the topic of achievements/trophies came up. On the PS3/Vita/PS4 model, acquiring every other trophy in a game rewards you with a final achievement, a Platinum trophy, which showcases that you've not just finished the game, but COMPLETED the game. By the time you acquire a Platinum in most games, there should be little ground left unexplored. I only have three games in my collection which I have enjoyed to the point I went after the Platinum: Borderlands, Fallout 3, and Dead Space. Of those three, only Dead Space requires you to complete the game at the highest difficulty setting in order to earn the reward. Her question for me was why Dead Space prompted me to not only attempt but complete a play-through on "Impossible", and what made me inclined to do so for that game versus the many other games in my library that reward you for playing at a higher difficulty. Why, indeed? I had to think about it for a couple of minutes, but I slowly worked out and talked through my answer with her as I gathered my thoughts. I did it for Dead Space because Dead Space made me think my way through the challenge. Dead Space is one of the greatest, most atmospheric survival horror games of all time, and at "Impossible" difficulty (which isn't unlocked until you've beaten the game once), it gives you absolutely no quarter. Ammo is scarce, enemies have more health, and dish out significantly more damage to Isaac when they attack. A sequence early on in the very first level has you running from your first enemy encounter since you're unarmed; hectic on Easy or Normal during your first play-though, it becomes downright murderous on "Impossible" as a single mistake will result in that Necromorph tearing off your head mere minutes into play. Why would I do this to myself? The answer is: "Because Dead Space understands difficulty balance far better than most other games, and requires the player to make active observations about the world around them in order to counter-balance that difficulty." In other words, Dead Space gives you all the materials you need to create a working hypothesis of how its world works, and from that infer what may be required of you if you set the game to a higher difficulty level. Not only that, it requires you to specifically adopt a play style which seems counter-intuitive in order to have the best chance of survival, and chances are the first time you play Dead Space, you will do exactly the opposite. An "Easy" run through Dead Space and an "Impossible" run through Dead Space are two completely different animals. At this point, it's impossible to discuss playing the game without some spoilers. I'm not going to give away the ending or anything, but I am going to talk about weapons, encounters, and tactics for dealing with some generic situations which may spoil the tension if you know about them beforehand. You've been warned. So Dead Space does the typical difficulty spike like every other developer does when it comes to Impossible" mode: enemies soak up more hits, and they hand out violent beatings the same way McDonalds now serves breakfast: all day long. The difference is, that's where most games stop with the whole "balance" thing. If an enemy you can kill in ten seconds on Normal takes fourteen seconds and twice as much ammo on Hard, many developers think that's all it takes to challenge the player. And I don't mean one or two devs, I mean nearly all of them, even some of my favorite studios which made some of my favorite games. This is how Naughty Dog handled Uncharted. Bethesda's done the same with every Elder Scrolls game since Oblivion. Bungie and Halo. iD Software with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. The list goes on. But isn't that kind of lame? If harder modes in your game simply force the player to fight longer and expend more ammo to achieve the same end result, then what are you really doing except making the player endure something more uncomfortable? Some developers, like Konami with Silent Hill 2 and 3, offer better choices. Those games let you fine-tune the experience, giving separate difficulty levels for combat and puzzles, which is awesome since Silent Hill's combat mechanics are a little on the loose side, and it lets you enjoy at least three different play-throughs where you can be surprised (and intimidated if you don't know your Shakespeare) by the puzzles. I don't mind this as an option, but it does make for a lot more work on the developer side, since now they have to come up with three or four times the number of puzzles they would traditionally. Dead Space (and I'm only talking about the first game here, because holy hell do parts 2 and 3 fly off the rails at this point) handles the difficulty transition so elegantly you might not notice anything beyond the more powerful enemies, so let me point out how it succeds where so many other games fail. Dead Space requires the player to figure out the rules of the game's world, and adapt to fit them. For instance, my first playthrough was similar to everyone else's: I was looking for new weapons, anxious to walk around with a full arsenal of three or four guns/tools I could swap out depending on the circumstances. Because of that, I got ammo drops for all my stuff, and it seemed like the game handed out ammo in a random fashion: this locker had pulse rifle clips, this storage bin had fresh pack of blades for my ripper, and this guy dropped a canister of fuel for my flamethrower. By the end of the game, I had grabbed every weapon from the shop, had ammo for all of them locked away in my Storage area, and felt like a roving badass capable of taking on the world. This is exactly how the developers expected you to play the game for the first time, and if you try playing this way on "Impossible" you will watch yourself get torn limb from limb in a continual orgy of carnage because it will. Not. Work. This will come as a vicious surprise despite the developers giving you fair warning about it in three different ways. Were you paying close enough attention to pick up on them? Because I sure as hell wasn't my first time through. The first is the presence of the "One Gun" trophy, a reward for finishing the game using nothing but the Plasma Cutter. By its very nature, this trophy's existence relays a crucial fact to an observant gamer: it is possible to finish the game using nothing but the very first weapon you find. This may sound the same as beating Resident Evil using only the knife, or Silent Hill 2 with nothing but the nail board, but it's not even in the same galaxy for three reasons: the plasma cutter is an obscenely powerful and accurate weapon in its own right; it can be upgraded throughout play using your limited supply of power nodes to do more damage, hold a larger clip size, and reload faster; and playing without the other weapons allows you to focus on upgrading it to the exclusion of everything else but your own suit, ensuring you can make it powerful enough to keep it viable though all twelve chapters. A Knife-only Resident Evil run, on the other hand, gives you no way of turning your blade into a zombie-dismembering, one-size-fits-all tool of the apocalypse. The second is something you're likely to notice only if you're making a "One Gun" run, or are very observant when playing normally. With very, very few exceptions, the game always drops ammo for the weapons you are currently holding. There are a couple places where you will always get a pulse rifle clip or a rack for the line gun whether you're armed with them or not, but otherwise the game will only spawn ammo for the weapon(s) in your inventory. In other words, the more guns you lug around, the less chance you have of getting the ammo you need right then and there. At lower difficulties, this isn't a problem, since you can always spend money at the various shops to load up. On Impossible, this is a death sentence. Money spent in shops needs to go towards power nodes and upgraded rig suits, not more ammo for your oversize arsenal. Ironically, though it sounds like the worst idea in the world, one of the best ways to tackle Impossible mode is to limit yourself to just the plasma cutter, thus earning both trophies at the same time. The third is Stasis. Your first time through the game, Stasis feels like such a gimmick, one the devs used to give you a new way of solving puzzles. Can't get through that short-circuiting door because it slams too quickly? Hit it with Stasis and run on by. Need to slow down a rapidly-spinning metal object so you can grab something behind it with your Kinesis attachment? Stasis to the rescue. Using it on enemies is practically an afterthought, with a couple of exceptions for a boss fight here and there, and up until the last chapter or two it honestly feels like cheating since it turns otherwise normal fights into "shooting fish in a barrel"-style carnival games. And while you can upgrade your Stasis using some of your valuable power nodes, it's hardly necessary considering how rarely you use it in life-threatening situations, how freely the game drops Stasis recharge packs, and how frequently you encounter the recharging stations after points when you've used your Stasis to get past a particular obstacle. Only a complete screw-up requires as much Stasis as the game implies you need, right? You can see where this is going. Only a complete screw-up requires as much Stasis as the game implies you need on the lower difficulty settings. On an Impossible playthrough, that Stasis meter on the back of your suit is all but a second health bar, because if you're not using it, then you're taking more damage than necessary, and if you're taking more damage than necessary, you're spending money on health packs instead of better armor, and that means you're dying. Those power nodes which feel wasted on Stasis upgrades during a standard run? Those are among the most valuable improvements you can make on Impossible, because mark my words, those recharge stations you ran by laughing at before will be the only thing saving you from violent dismemberment this time around. Dead Space encouraged me to earn the Platinum not because it made the game harder, but because Impossible mode fundamentally altered how I needed to approach the game, thus making it an intellectual as well as a physical challenge. Its hard parts seem insurmountable when you start, but only until you re-wire your playing style to compensate. It's more than just making enemies tougher, it's forcing the player to pay attention, acknowledge their limitations, then turn around and use those limitations to their advantage. You don't brute force your way through Impossible mode; trying that shit will get your spine stomped into the deck plates. You finesse your way through Impossible mode, which in turn makes you feel like even more of a bad-ass once you've finished. So what video games have you gone back to experience at higher difficulties? And did you enjoy playing them, or was your experience one of frustration and/or annoyance? Let me know in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading these ramblings from your humble Warrior Nun.
  6. 1 point
    There are two websites in the world providing original scans of Japanese gaming magazines. Retromags, which offers a small collection of Japanese mags scanned mostly by me. And RetroCDN, which hosts low-resolution scans provided by a native Japanese scanner. It's no mystery why these scans are coming from people living in Japan (well, the two of us, anyway.) We have the easiest, cheapest access to the mags. But what's interesting is that all of these scans are being hosted by websites based outside of Japan. For me, well sure - I'm an American, even if I've been an expat for 9 years. But the other scanner is Japanese. Why not host them at a Japanese site? Well, because there is no such site. There simply aren't any magazine preservation sites in Japan. The entire thing is seen as not only illegal, but unethical by the majority of Japanese (whereas I think it's safe to say that we here at RM may acknowledge the technical illegality of providing magazine scans, but have a far more lenient view on the ethical implications, so long as the mags being offered are old enough to meet our cut-off dates). I recently was reading a thread on 2ch, a textboard that is probably Japan's largest and most influential online community (which ironically and fittingly, was founded by a Japanese while attending university in America). In it, users were discussing websites that offered high resolution scans of gaming mags. All sites referenced were foreign, and none were offering complete scans of entire magazines, just select pages. Also, to be fair, these were relatively new mags being discussed, not old stuff like we offer here. The following is my translation of select comments. As you can see, there were a couple of people OK with the idea, but most seemed appalled. Btw, lest anyone think that the Japanese are as puritanically ethical regarding copyright as these posts might make it seem, I'd like to point out that in the years following the mass acceptance of CDR burners, countless shops in Japan opened up "CD rental" sections, allowing you to rent music CDs. And there, either right next to the CDs themselves, or else right by the check-out counter, spindles of blank CD-Rs were also being sold. But I'm sure the two had nothing to do with each other.
  7. 1 point
    I feel like I've hit the wall, both creatively and when it comes to gaming. I've so far ignored this current generation of games, as none of the "next gen" systems on offer feel like they have anything to offer me, and yet this creates a conundrum for me. I honestly cannot remember the last time a game absolutely blew me away, and yet looking back through the past, through my own memories, I can see dozens upon dozens of instances. Some of them were gaming "firsts", such as the first time I saw 'Super Mario Bros.' in action and realized games could be larger than one static screen like the arcades offered, my first encounter with 'Resident Evil' where I learned the potential games had to terrify, or the first time I wandered through a fully-realized 3D city environment in 'Grand Theft Auto III' where you could just drive around and explore without being tied to missions or even time limits. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize it's those "firsts" that have given meaning to gaming to me ever since I was little. Playing 'Dragon Warrior' on the NES, my first real RPG experience. Watching Sonic burn through stages at warp speed on the Genesis. Two-player racing battles in 'Super Mario Kart' and 'F-Zero'. Taking my first steps in the City of Vilcabamba level in Lara Croft's shoes within the 'Tomb Raider' demo. 'Tomb Raider' was twenty-one years ago, the summer of 1996, and while there have been other games like it, nothing has matched that feeling of immersion, of danger, of solitude and exploration. Twenty-one years. I was nineteen. 'Silent Hill 2' turns sixteen this September. I've never played another game that was so good I wanted to keep playing, but took me to places so awful to contemplate that I had to put it down just to process what I'd witnessed. I was twenty-four when Jess gave me the game for my birthday that October. Others have come close, but none have matched the horror of James Sunderland's journey through hell, searching for his wife Mary. I could go on like this, but it just makes me depressed. I have close to fifty games in my PS3 library, and not one I can name has left me with the feeling that I've experienced something life-changing. Have I had fun? Absolutely! I loved the 'Tomb Raider' reboot of 2013. 'Bionic Commando: Rearmed' is a fantastic port/update of the NES classic. 'Just Cause 2' is awesomely explosive open-world entertainment, and 'Saints Row 2' and its two sequels have picked up the mantle 'Grand Theft Auto' ditched when they opted for gritty and obnoxious realism over the comedic joy and silliness that comes from playing a video game. Nathan Drake's antics in 'Uncharted' are entertaining, but is Naughty Dog doing anything different from what Core Design did years ago and Indiana Jones did a decade before that? Even the lone game in my PS3 library I could name that gave me that kind of 'first' experience is nothing more than an HD port of two PS2 games. 'Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga' was ground-breaking in its mixture of fun and simplicity, but again, I'd played it already a few years earlier when it was 'Lego Star Wars' and 'Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy'. Then I think: 'Dead Space'. 'Dead Space' came closest. It did a lot of things right. But just like the 'Alien' films, 'Dead Space' became a victim of its own success. If the first game was a claustrophobic journey through the unknown, the second was the big action set piece where the protagonist went from ordinary survivor to badass hero, and by the third it was clear the people behind the series had lost all touch with what made it great in the first place. So, for the sake of argument, I'll say 'Dead Space' fits the mold, the requirements, for what I've been seeking. 'Dead Space' came out in 2008. That was damn near a decade ago...what the hell happened to it (and to me)? Scanning the shelves, my gaze settles on 'Heavy Rain'. 'Heavy Rain' was bloody magnificent, I don't care what the haters say, but 'Heavy Rain' came out in 2010. Seven years later, what is there to match it? What is there to look forward to when it seems so many game companies are playing it safe? Can the field evolve further? I don't mean in terms of technological gimmicks like motion controls, touch screens, and VR headsets. I mean in terms of 'firsts', and meaningful firsts at that. 'Parasite Eve' blew me away in 1998 with its cinematic storytelling and exploration of a New York City at the turn of the millennium under siege from a sentient biological threat. Its sequel ditched the RPG elements, opting for a more straight-up survival horror presentation, and its most recent incarnation for the PSP, 'The Third Birthday', abandoned the Parasite Eve name all together in favor of a pseudo-sequel starring an Aya Brea who feels nothing like the original, who sight-jacks her way through a tired third-person action shooter. Where is the sense in this? Though I never played sports, save for a stint in cross-country and track in high school where I was average at best, I feel at this point in my life like a has-been, looking back on her youth, vainly trying to hold on to memories of her glory days on the presumption that things will never change, in denial of the fact that not only will things change, but that they already have. Maybe I'm asking for something I can never have. People could point to the eruption of building sandbox games like 'Minecraft', but I've played 'Minecraft' and found it too complicated and too time-consuming for my tastes. I can watch other people play it on YouTube and enjoy myself vicariously through their creations and interactions with the world and other players, but I feel like I've aged out of the demographic who can pick up and play it or its ilk. So here I am, stuck between two worlds, aged out of one and left pining for another. The truth is, for me, there likely will never be another 'Tomb Raider' moment, another 'Resident Evil' moment, another 'Parasite Eve' moment, another 'Silent Hill 2' moment. Video games are no longer made for people my age. Controls are too complex, single-player is often an afterthought, and so much that we see walks the line of utter safety. Another 'Call of Duty', another 'Halo', another 'Medal of Honor', another clone, another me-too, another waste of my time. Whether I outgrew gaming or it outgrew me, I don't know. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I have my memories, I have my flashes of inspiration, and I have the thankfulness that I was there to experience it all. I literally grew up with video games. But like so many of the friends I made as I grew up, life happened, people moved on, and so have I. Just as it would feel awkward to sit down with an old friend I haven't seen in fifteen years, it feels awkward trying to re-kindle my relationship with video games. I want to be the same girl I was twenty years ago, reading through the magazines, eagerly watching the commercials, lapping up coverage of everything interesting me, visiting the rental stores to try new titles, cracking open new demo discs, and immersing myself in that world. I want to be. But I can't. Whatever that was, whatever I had, I've lost it. It's left me, hopefully to take up root in someone else's imagination. I hope it's found another girl who watches trailers on YouTube and finds inspiration, who doesn't have room in her house for massive Lego builds but has plenty of RAM on her computer to play 'Minecraft', who grew up reading "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and now picks up the PS4 controller to play through 'Outlast' or 'Resident Evil VII'. I hope she finds what I lost, nurtures it, makes it a part of who she is, and goes on to draw inspiration from it. Because I think it's done with me. And I don't see it coming back.
  8. 1 point
    The recent death of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, who starred in such memorable films as "They Live" and such immemorable ones as "Hell Comes to Frog Town" and "Sci-Fighter", really got me thinking about movies that were ahead of their time in one way or another. So I'm not boring my readers to death, I'm restricting myself to the five best examples that I believe fit this mold and I'm only allowing one John Carpenter flick on the list. That said, here are my picks: 5) John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) Let's get one thing straight: Carpenter's sci-fi horror epic is not a remake of the 1951 film "The Thing From Another World" no matter what you have been told. Literally the only thing (no pun intended) these two films have in common is a set-up which can best be described as, "A creature from another planet terrorizes a bunch of humans in an isolated setting." Carpenter's film is what the 1951 version should have been in the first place had it not decided to ignore virtually all of the John W. Campbell, Jr. short story ("Who Goes There?") upon which it was based. John Carpenter did not remake "The Thing From Another World", he made a film which made up for the fact that the 1951 film failed to make it in the first place. His is perhaps the first cinematic apology where one director looked at the work of a previous one and said, "I'm sorry, he got it all wrong. Let's fix that." Or at least it's the first one that actually followed through on that promise. Let's get another thing straight: I love "The Thing From Another World." It's a beautifully-shot, excellently-produced, competently-acted black-and-white scare-fest from an age when the biggest thing the Western World had to fear was the Red Scare of Communism. Like the 1956 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", it holds up to this day as its own film. But let's not for one minute pretend it bears more than a passing resemblance to the original story which inspired its creation. Carpenter's film was ahead of its time for many reasons, especially the practical effects and make-up of Rob Bottin which still hold up to this day, but it was hamstrung by a release date that saw its tale of alien invasion and body horror derailed by Spielberg's heart-warming story of a boy trying to help a gentle extra-terrestrial find his way home. After audiences were done crying over "E.T.", they weren't interested in viewing aliens as the bad guys and the film languished at the box office until people re-discovered "The Thing" in all its g(l)ory thanks to the video rental market. 4) The Blob (1988) I don't care what you think about the 1958 original, where a going-on-thirty Steve McQueen tries to pass as a teenage heart-throb and manages to beat back his outer-world adversary using an ordinary fire extinguisher. On the other hand, I care quite deeply what you think about the 1988 remake which had exactly one purpose: to take everything they couldn't show in the 1950's and rub your nose in it until you felt the need to take a long shower. The entire horror franchise is built around the idea that there are rules all great horror films follow which determine who's still alive when the credits start rolling, and the first thing director Chuck Russell does with his version of "The Blob" is to gather up all those rules into a neat little pile and urinate on them. The 1988 Blob-fest doesn't care if you're supposed to be the hero of the story. It doesn't matter if you're the guy riding to the rescue. It doesn't matter if you're a scrappy kid, or a beloved family pet, or a virgin, the hero's love interest, the heroine's love interest, the well-intentioned secondary character with the heart of gold, or any of the other tropes which should guarantee your survival because sometimes, though no fault of your own, shit happens and you're gonna die. Russell's version of "The Blob" pre-dates "The Walking Dead's" 'anyone can die at any point for any reason even if it's just because the writer is a sadistic prick' attitude by twenty-two frigging years, which is probably why most people don't have the first clue it even exists. It doesn't help that neither Matt's younger brother Kevin Dillon nor Shawnee Smith (who you know from the "Saw" series even if you don't recognize her by name) are exactly big-name draws at the box office. This Blob got lost amid horror's declining late-80s years as movie-goers began to tire of horror films becoming nothing but sequel-generating cash cows where the bad guys were the most charismatic people on the screen and got the most cheers, even when they were butchering innocent teenagers. It fits into no molds of preconception, relentlessly toys with the audience, and does not shy away from showing any of the face-melting, body-digesting, small-town-consuming horror we've grown accustomed to seeing today. Also, by some coincidence, the screenplay was developed by Frank Darabont, who would go on to create "The Walking Dead" a couple decades later, and features Jeffrey DeMunn, who would go on to play Dale on "The Walking Dead". Ain't life funny like that? 3) Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) "New Nightmare" bombed because audiences at the time didn't understand what Craven was trying to do. They went in expecting a brand new installment of "Freddy Krueger slices people up with his wit and razor-claws", and instead got their brains handed to them by a director postulating a more metaphysical reason for the existence of the horror film. As opposed to entertainment, what if horror films existed to take the 'bite' (or 'slash', or 'machete') out of something truly scary? The idea of a horror film taking itself seriously at a meta-level was about as difficult a pill for audiences to swallow as the previous year's attempt to do it with blockbuster action flicks, "Last Action Hero." Audiences were not ready to see people like Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund playing Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund respectively. "New Nightmare" dared to forge new ground and ask some serious questions about the role of the horror movie in today's society, and it was met by yawns and jeers from an audience who only showed up to watch half-naked bimbos scream and run up the stairs when they should have been running out the front door. Two years later, in 1996, Craven would be given a second chance to confront a similar theme with "Scream", but let the record show he tried to drag us into uncharted territory with "New Nightmare" first. Sadly, like with Crazy Ralph in the "Friday the 13th" films, none of us was willing to listen the first time. 2) Cannibal Holocaust (1980) People went absolutely ga-ga over "The Blair Witch Project", a low-budget feature shot using no-name actors wandering around in a forest and arguing about who was more lost and exactly how screwed they all would be if they didn't get home by the end of the weekend. This "found footage" genre of film exploded overnight, garnering a ton of praise for its unique premise, and spawning a slew of imitators like "Paranormal Activity", "Cloverfield", and "[REC]". What everyone forgot was that twenty years earlier, Italian director Ruggero Deodato used this exact same "found footage" technique to frame "Cannibal Holocaust", his own entry into the splatter film genre. You thought the marketing campaign behind "Blair Witch" was crazy, with all of its claims of being a true story? Well, none of the people behind the production of "Blair Witch" ever got dragged before a judge to find themselves indicted on murder charges. See, the no-name actors and actresses used by Deodato actually signed a contract before filming began, the terms of which required them to disappear from their own lives for a full year after Holocaust's release. In theory, this was supposed to lend credence to the whole idea that, while half of the film was comprised of actual footage shot by Deodato and using a named actor like Robert Kerman, the other half was comprised of the legit footage shot by a group of documentarians who were actually assholes and got what was coming to them. in other words, Deodato's intention the whole time was that people would think these people were really dead. It didn't help Deodato's case that the special effects on Holocaust were ridiculously effective at conveying the death, impalement, and dismemberment of cast members, and he was forced, in the middle of an Italian courtroom, to re-create the film's most iconic effect (a woman impaled through the groin with the tip of the pole protruding from her mouth) to prove it could be done without actually driving a pole through a young girl's torso the long way. It also didn't help that the animal deaths shown on screen were not faked in any way, which kinda lent credence to the theory he might have been batshit insane enough to murder some humans if he thought doing so would pay off in the verisimilitude department. Deodato eventually got the charges dropped when he was able to get the supposedly-dead documentary film crew to show up in court (not an easy thing to do when your stars are living completely incommunicado in a pre-Internet and pre-cell phone age), thus proving that they hadn't been ground into cannibal chow in the jungles of South America. After that fiasco, the "found footage" genre of horror film fell out of favour for the most part until Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez proved it could be a money-maker again in 1999. 1) The Mist (2007) I watched "The Mist" at a midnight showing on its opening day in November of 2007, by myself, in a theatre where there were maybe fifteen other people who, like me, had nothing else going on. By the time the credits began to roll, I felt like I had gone the distance with Rocky. The novella, by Stephen King, is one of my favorite short horror stories of all time, and I have a personal theory that the only person who understands how to translate King's work to the big screen is Frank Darabont. "The Mist", "The Green Mile", "The Shawshank Redemption"...all of the best films made from King's prodigious body of work have been helmed by this man, and it's clear he 'gets' King like no one else. I was expecting to have a great time. What I absolutely was not expecting was to get the ever living hell scared out of me, my mind absolutely screwed with, and an ending that took the next logical step from where the novella leaves off. No, I'm not spoiling it--if you haven't seen it, I refuse to tell you anything else. Go watch it right now. "The Mist", both the novella and the film, is a dark, dark journey down into the twisted roots of human psychology, groupthink, and what happens when all of society's rules go out the window and our safety nets we all take for granted are uprooted and blown away. But Darabont's film gleefully bends, twists, and shatters the rules of an ordinary horror film with a screenplay that goes out of its way to prove even the most well-meaning and heroic protagonists can be wrong, with devastating consequences. Like Chuck Russell before him, Darabont has no qualms handing out fatalities to the deserving and the undeserving alike. We don't even know the state of roughly half the people trapped in the market at the end of the film, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is a choice made in the ending, a twist from that in the book, which King himself was so impressed by that he's gone on record saying he wished he'd thought of it thirty years earlier when he wrote the story. Said twist has made "The Mist" one of the most debated horror films of all time, with one camp deriding it as being pessimistic and nasty, and another camp hailing it as a cinematic triumph. I've never had a horror film brutalize me psychologically the way I felt after leaving the theatre in the aftermath of "The Mist." At the end of most films, you hear the audience start to stir, stand up, walk around, applaud, etc... At my screening of "The Mist", nobody got up. Nobody walked out during the credits. There was no applause. Only when it became clear Darabont wasn't going to offer up some slice of hope in a post-credit sequence did people begin to talk. It's a talk that keeps going to this very day.
  9. 1 point
    I just saw WarGames again for the first time in 20 or 25 years and I love how a magazine ad for computer games is basically what starts everything. The power of a magazine, huh? I tried to identify the magazine used in the film and it turns out that not only was it a real magazine but it's been scanned and put online. It was an issue of Creative Computing from September 1982. https://archive.org/details/creativecomputing-1982-09
  10. 1 point
    Holy crap, it's been well over a year since my last blog post. How on earth does that happen? I guess 2014 just got away from me, that's all. There's really nothing else I can say beyond that. I haven't abandoned the blog or anything, I just don't have all that much to say about gaming at the moment. Most of my work here on Retromags as of late involves the magazine database. Just as few minutes ago, I put the finishing touches on the index for issue #50 of Computer Gaming World, and before the day is out I'll probably do issue 51 as well. Why not, after all? For those who didn't see the topic posted on the forums, Indiana legalized same-sex marriage on June 27th. That day, my partner Jessica and I made our way to the county clerk's office to obtain our license. We exchanged vows, a kiss, signed our names on the certificate, and it was official: I was now Mrs. Areala. Things seemed tenuous for a while afterwards. The attorney general filed a challenge, and suddenly it wasn't clear if we would be considered legally married or not. After several other states challenged, the cases as a whole were brought to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and we could breathe again. A further challenge to the Supreme Court was met by the court electing not to hear the case and side with the 7th Circuit's ruling. It looks like the Supreme Court will be deciding this case before too long though, because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled the opposite way in another case involving a different state's ban on same-sex marriage. So it's back to holding my breath, wondering if the rights every other married couple obtains automatically will be stripped away from us, our license invalidated, and the discrimination against me for having fallen in love with another woman continued. Guess we'll be filing our taxes separately again this year, even though the Federal government says we're legally married. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that reason will win out over fear. I don't discuss politics on the Internet mostly as a personal choice, because you know what they say about opinions. But this last year has certainly been a rocky one for myself and my wife. We have been together now, living exclusively as a couple, for seventeen years. That's longer than most heterosexual marriages last in this country. I'm as committed to her now as I was the day I took the chance to tell her that I'd fallen in love with her, and I'm still as ecstatic about our lives together as when she whispered back, very quietly, that she loved me too. Video games are slowly evolving to include same-sex relationships among the characters, and more to the point they're positive ones, not flamboyant stereotypes. It shouldn't be too much to ask for the same treatment by the real world. In any case, the blog's been quiet for a bit because I'm been working to scan covers and index magazines, not because I don't have anything to say. There's only so many hours in the day, and I have to prioritize. So I haven't abandoned writing here, there just hasn't been anything worth saying more than working for the site over the last year. I hope you'll forgive my silence. *huggles* Areala
  11. 1 point
    <p>Dear #gamergate,</p> <p>I don’t know if you’ll read this letter. I have not written to you before. We have not really spoken.</p> <p>While your message to us has, more often than not, taken either the form (and I do not mean to belittle you for it; the matter at hand is far more complex than any single person can handle alone) of the shouting of a rhetorical exercise, copy-pasted from a database of talking points, full of debate gymnastics, smoke and mirrors, reflections, presumptions, conflations, agitations, and pot-kettle-black, I respect the things that you have said in earnest.</p> <p>I wish I knew what they were.</p> <p>I respect the fact that you considered video games important enough to act upon. I value your contribution to the video gaming community. I fully understand that you may feel strongly about any one particular point of contention that has arisen during #gamergate. You probably, truly, want to make things better for all of us. From this vantage point, I can even somewhat understand the sentiment of pushing forward with #gamergate in order to âcleanseâ the gaming press of its embedded flaws – personal, shared, or cultural.</p> <p><span id="more-54200"></span></p> <p>I see that you feel strongly about the matter. Perhaps you felt – at some point – that the ends justified the means.</p> <p>But we <i>must </i>focus on the strife and the suffering that this witch-hunt on women is causing. Now. There is no time to waste. Please do not do or say anything you’ll come to regret later.</p> <p>I am not saying that you are guilty of hideous criminal activity by association, or that your participation in the movement makes you a bad person outright. What you may not have realized, however, are the ways in which your presence is being both abused and misused by others, and how you may be inadvertently, unknowingly making a contribution to this abhorrent behaviour.</p> <p>Letâs ignore, for the time being, the fact that the foundational premises perpetuated by the movement are demonstrably, fundamentally false. Letâs instead look at the purported offences; letâs say that a developer really did sleep with a journalist in exchange for coverage (even though this never happened).</p> <p>Would this particular act, or situation, truly justify the means or the ends of this movement as they are now? Would this be a foundational, pivotal moment for a consumer-oriented movement in video games? How much punishment or reprimand should this really award to the parties in question? And even if there did exist âcollusionâ – letâs say, a mailing list for discussion, or a degree of combined, co-ordinated effort involved with the âGamers Are Deadâ series of articles – are these words really such an affront to your being and your principles so as to allow and legitimize bomb threats and the suffering of others?</p> <p>Even if #gamergateâs premises were all true, and if #gamergate had a foundational, solid, bulletproof agenda, I do not believe any of the people under fire would come to be removed from their positions. We may, of course, see many of them quit their jobs voluntarily, or exit the business altogether, but this is a fact that you should carefully consider, as I do believe it only affirms and reaffirms the tenor regarding #gamergate that has already been established elsewhere:</p> <p>Your participation in the movement is making private real human beings afraid, terribly afraid. Not just Twitter handles. Real people. It is making them angry, terribly angry. They are both afraid and angry that you are, actively or passively, contributing to their constant misery.</p> <p>Dear #gamergate,</p> <p>Whether or not a #gamergate member condones the harassment (clearly you do not), whether or not s/he participates in the movement <i>earnestly</i> and <i>innocently</i>, s/he remains firmly entrenched and embedded in a screaming, swelling, yelling lynchmob that is asking for the heads of innocent people, 24/7, no rest, no sleep, only fear, and then using these heads as props for the aims and goals of the movement.</p> <p>You may not be the one asking for blood outright, but youâre still watching this very real lynching from the crowd – maybe even yelling words of encouragement, maybe silently nodding from the stands.</p> <p>Maybe you even thought, for a moment, that she or he deserved it? Maybe you did. Maybe you didnât. No matter – you were still a participant. It doesn’t matter who the main executioner is; the target was already dead, having suffered a death by a thousand cuts. Maybe you never came to realize how every single new person standing in the crowd adds more fuel for the fire, more false justification to the actions of those that are perpetuating these evil, hideous acts.</p> <p>Believe you me – they see you. They want you. Without you, they have nothing. âSee, these people are siding with our actions! They too think they deserved it! We have the numbers on our side!â</p> <p>Your presence – your number! – in the movement is being used as justification for these acts. While being used as justification is not direct encouragement, it still caused people to act more; harder; faster; tougher; bolder! Even the most good-intentioned tweet – a minor criticism, or an aside – can contribute to the lynchmob mentality; by now, weâve seen how this hashtag can turn any moment into a stressful skirmish, an attack, an assault, with people upon people piling up on folks. Whatâs worse, this groundswell can take aim – in addition to the more prominent, more public targets – both actively and passively at <strong>private individuals earnestly trying to do whatâs best for video games</strong>.</p> <p>I hope that you will consider whether your participation in the #gamergate movement, whether it was a tweet, a forum post, or a comment on a blog, has at any point contributed, in some way, to the encouragement, justification, cover-up or participation in the harassment of others. In innocent suffering.</p> <p>As long as you say #gamergate does not condone harassment, #gamergate will never do a thing to stop it.</p> <p>Could you do something to stop it? Probably not. Nothing you do or say will stop these monsters.</p> <p>But you can step out yourself. You can excuse yourself, and nothing bad will come out of it. There will be no backwards steps. The points of contention, the issues that are real – ethics in journalism – they will not go away.</p> <p>What are privacy, safety, and well-being worth? Whether it was the âGamers Are Deadâ articles, or someone else that said or did something that offended you, #gamergate, offended you as a person, offended your ethics, your identity, #gamergate, I want you to consider whether all this toxic air, this in-fighting, this harassment and above all this vast, god-awful collateral damage – active and passive – on so many private persons simply doing their job is fair and okay, and whether your presence in the lynchmob is having an adverse effect on the well-being of others.</p> <p>It’s not too late to pull back and pull out.</p> <p>Please don’t do or say anything you’ll come to regret later.</p> <p>Best,<br /><a href="http://twitter.com/martynzachary" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">@martynzachary</a></p> <div class="feedflare"> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?a=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:D7DqB2pKExk"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?i=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:D7DqB2pKExk" border="0"></img></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?a=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:gIN9vFwOqvQ"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?i=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:gIN9vFwOqvQ" border="0"></img></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?a=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:V_sGLiPBpWU"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?i=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:V_sGLiPBpWU" border="0"></img></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?a=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:qj6IDK7rITs"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?d=qj6IDK7rITs" border="0"></img></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?a=dJ-a5ZXB7nc:xMayYdNJM_c:6et-BrRH4jw"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/slowdays/slowdown?d=6et-BrRH4jw" border="0"></img></a> </div> <a href="http://www.slowdown.vg/2014/10/16/dear-gamergate/" class='bbc_url' rel='nofollow external'>Source</a>
  12. 1 point
    There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters. It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.” *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.) Dear Ellie and Joel, I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps. Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now. Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive. Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments. But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways. A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it. Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand. Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together. Godspeed to both of you.
  13. 1 point
    I stumbled across this on eBay today, someone that is selling a complete set of Nintendo 64 games. Source
  14. 1 point
    "It's Gotta Be The Shoes." With that five-word tagline, Reebok launched a sneaker fad for the 90's over which people went absolutely apeshit. And just as with every other great product innovation, there had to be cross-promotion. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ate Pizza Hut pizza, Modern Warfare soldiers drank Pepsi, Alan Wake used Energizer batteries in his flashlight, and vampires wore Pumps in that classic NES title, Drac's Night Out. What's that? You've never played Drac's Night Out? You've never heard of Drac's Night Out? Eh, doesn't surprise me since Drac decided to stay inside at the last minute (maybe he had a fang-ache). Whatever the reason, the game was never released (though a prototype build eventually found its way onto the Internet years later). Consider Drac's Night Out one of the better casualties in the product placement wars. I mean, let's face it, there's no way in Transylvania a game boasting a protagonist clad in the most expensive athletic shoes produced at the time was going to be any good, right? Depends on who you ask, I suppose. Opinion on the prototype seems sharply divided: some lambaste it for being crap, others embrace the fact that it's unfinished and consider what might have been. But now, thanks to the magic of Retromags and a copy of GamePro issue #15 from Oct. 1990, you can see why history and preservation is so important. Here's yet another awesome example of why gaming magazines rocked back in the day. The editors got to play works-in-progress, and their requirement of a multi-month lead time on their publication dates meant it was entirely possible for them to review a game only to have that game disappear or re-emerge as something completely different later on. In any case, the object of Drac's Night Out is two-fold. First, one must deal with the interlopers who've decided to crash your castle. Once they've been murdered by your exceptional variety of traps, you move on to the next phase which is to take your carriage to town and find your true love Mina for a little midnight snack of the red variety. No, not Twizzlers. If you're really having problems in town though, there's a solution: strap on your Pumps, give them a couple of pumps for good measure, and suddenly you can run faster and jump higher than any vampire in history! Whatever happened to shapeshifting into a bat, transforming into a dog, or assuming mistform? More to the point, who had athletic shoes in 19th Century Europe? Nobody ever said video games were historically accurate. So here you can see yet another reason to comb through the annals of gaming yesteryear. I certainly never knew Drac's Night Out was planned for release, and would have had no reason to go searching for information on it had it not been for this article. Have you unearthed any long-buried secrets from your time spent browsing through the Retromags archives? Why not tell us about them on the forums! We'd love to hear about your finds.
  15. 1 point
    I always thought somebody should make some kind of board game based on the Aliens universe. They've made plenty of video games based on the property after all, on everything from the 2600 to the modern-day consoles with the pending release of Aliens: Colonial Marines. There was also a fun "Aliens vs. Predator" collectable card game released in the 90s. Surely somebody somewhere thought about a board game, right? Well, they did. It was called "Alien", it was released in 1979 as a board game tie-in to the film, and...well, let's just say video games aren't the only crap produced by licensing agreements. Your mission was to use YOUR alien to kill the other players while trying to stay alive long enough to get to the escape pod and screw everyone else out of life. You know, just like what DIDN'T happen on screen. *sigh* OK, so any other bright ideas? Turns out there was. Called "Intruder", it came out in 1980 and while it's not officially part of the Alien mythos, it does a damn sight better job of portraying the isolation, horror and teamwork aspects of the film than the official version. Best of all, it's built for solo play. After I found out about this, I had to track down a copy (thanks, Craigslist!). Here's the rundown on why you might want a copy for your own. "Intruder" doesn't try to copy the Alien film exactly; it plays a lot faster and looser with the storyline than purists will be comfortable with. But that doesn't matter. It replicates all the important parts though and manages to create a fairly tense atmosphere through the use of mystery. At the start of the game, you have your crew (an assortment of command types, scientists and engineers) all working in different sections of the Prometheus, a scientific research station, when something goes wrong. An alert plays over the intercom and one of the specimens (known as the Intruder) escapes from its holding pen, upsetting a number of other research animal cages along the way. All of them scatter throughout the station, and it's up to the crew to find and destroy the Intruder before it kills them all. Face down, all the critters and the Intruder get mixed up and distributed across the map. Now you don't know what's a harmless puppy or a zealous xenomorph. Great. Your crew now have to decide what tactics they're going to use to defeat the Intruder: do they set out at once with a bunch of cages to try and catch as many lab animals as they can to eliminate confusion, or do they try to manufacture some makeshift weapons (like shock prods or flame units) and wait for it to come to them? Do they try to tranquilize it with some sleep darts and re-cage it? Lure it into the freezer to put it on ice? Bust into the armoury and grab some gas grenades and blaster pistols? Lure it to the outer deck and blow it out the airlock? Panic, set the self-destruct system and get to the escape shuttles? A combination of all of the above? Well, who wants to be a hero, right? Unfortunately, time is not on your side. So while you can spend time breaking out the heavy weapons or researching makeshift weapons, any time you're not spending trying to catch the Intruder is working against you. Because just like the movie, as time goes by, the Intruder gets stronger. It starts at Life Stage 1 (facehugger) where it's relatively weak but still deadly enough to kill the unwary. At this point, it's still possible to get it into a fresh cage by force alone. But leave it to its own devices long enough and it'll mutate. At stage 2 and each subsequent stage, it gains new powers and your options for dealing with it diminish: it might develop an immunity to fire, making those flame units worthless; it could grow strong enough that no cage can hold it; God forbid, it might even develop the ability to clone itself (and then you're REALLY screwed). Leave it alone too long and you can wind up with a creature immune to vacuum which shrugs off blaster fire and poison gas like mosquito bites and lays eggs everywhere. Hence, the self-destruct option. What follows is usually a mad scramble of personnel to cobble together some cattle prods while a few brave souls venture out with portable cages and try to pick up a few of the distractions and maybe tranquilize the Intruder if they're lucky (and it's not immune). The Intruder (and all the hidden markers) move randomly via die roll, and the game map has all potential exits from each room marked with numbers so it's kind of self-running. The element of luck is also invoked when fighting the creature, trying to catch/cage an animal, and when the Intruder mutates and gains new powers. Finally, the Intruder gets a nice dose of indirect help each time it kills a crew member: this sends the rest of the humans on the ship into a panic and forces them to reconvene in the Command Module at the center of the ship to decide what to do next. In an amusing instance, killing an Intruder (if there's more than one on board) also triggers this, but as a "Yay, we got it!" celebration instead of a panic. Then the noises start coming through the air vents again...the designers clearly understood the horror film tropes. At the end of the game, you're rated on victory points based on how well/poorly you did: speedily dispatching the creature gives you bonuses, while losing members of your team results in penalties. The game can also end in a draw condition if you are forced into the "least attractive" options available, like self-destructing the ship or blowing an Intruder with the 'immune to vacuum' attribute out the airlock. Nobody said it was gonna be easy... While the rules for Intruder read like they were produced by a group of lawyer computer programmers, with sections, subsections, and sub-subsections galore, they're actually very easy to follow despite being pretty dense. There are a lot of state-based rules set up to account for various actions (such as under what conditions an escape shuttle can be launched, how the self-destruct sequence can be set, when the door to the freezer can be opened, what happens when caged animals are dropped in panic, etc...), so learning them all can take a while. Consulting them in conjunction with playing several games seems to be the easiest way. Depending on factors of luck, the game can be over in a matter of a few turns or drag out over 30 minutes or more. There are rules in place for multiple players, so it's not strictly a solo venture (though it works best in this capacity, I think), and it plays fast enough that you can get in several games over the course of a few hours. I really like Intruder, and I recommend it for anyone who's a fan of the Alien movies and enjoys playing games with healthy doses of randomness and suspense.
  16. 1 point
    Let's Read: Nintendo Power #5 Ninjas didn't just suddenly become popular with the arrival of Robert Hamburger's "Real Ultimate Power" website, that was more just the icing on the cake. For the real birth of the ninja power lovefest in the western world, you have to go back to the 1980s, when ninjas were sort of like the Nazis of film and video games. You could have them commit all sorts of heinous crimes (like kidnapping presidents or hijacking arms shipments) without anyone in the world batting an eyelash over improper stereotyping, and you could massacre them by the hundreds on-screen without anyone raising a single word of objection. Well, there was the problem of the BBFC over in the UK deciding that "ninja" was a dirty word and banning it from public usage (which is why TMNT was known as "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles"), but aside from the Brits, ninjas were pretty much everywhere and fair game for anyone or anything to use as they saw fit. Enter Tecmo, who made an arcade game called Ninja Gaiden. They decided to translate it for the home market, and completely revamped the whole storyline into what has become one of the best-known and most-difficult NES games to ever roll off the conveyor belts. And that's the cover story for issue number 5 of Nintendo Power! While last issue might have stuck Mail Box towards the back of the mag, this month's issue brings it straight to the front again, where we hear about the NES being used as a means of bribery...er...incentive...for three boys to get good grades in school and perform their chores in a timely fashion. We've also got a picture of a woman showing off a Zelda box from the top of the Great Wall of China, an 83-year old man at a retirement home who bought the NES and started his own gaming club there (how freakin' cool is that!), some clay artwork with a Super Mario 2 theme, and a teacher who is concerned that Nintendo games aren't helping kids learn more than just hand-eye coordination, but goes on to defend both Zelda titles as great learning experiences. Okay... Picking up from where Issue 4 left off, there's another seven-page Zelda II feature that shows how to navigate and beat the fifth and sixth palaces, and the sequence required to enter the seventh and final palace. Anybody who hadn't slaughtered the game by this point was now well-equipped to do so. Before there was E3, there was the Consumer Electronics Show (or CES)! Nintendo's own Nester takes us behind the scenes in a four-page tour of the Winter show, including preview reports showing that Mega Man 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among other games, are on their way. The fifth page of the feature is a combination ad for the Power Glove and an entry form for a contest to win a trip to the Summer CES. Howard Phillips is there to whet everyone's appetite in a little cartoon where he offers the idea that a little title called Super Mario Bros. 3 might, just might, be revealed there. Talk about incentives to cut up a magazine... After that excitement, it's time for the meaty cover story: Ninja Gaiden is here! This eleven-page feature gives you a run-through of the first half of the game, as well as teasers for what to expect in the last three Acts. The between-level cinema sequences are highlighted as one of the strong-points for this title, giving the game a way of telling a story that would eventually evolve into the FMV that we all recognize from games today. There's also a discussion of some ninja tools of the trade and special training that ninjas went through in order to become the feared foes of the day, and Real Ultimate Power would be proud to learn about the ninja's ability to set entire mountains on fire to cover his escape. Hudson's Adventure Island gets a short review next, with a four-page write-up of the first stage, and a fold-out poster that gives the full map of all four areas of the first stage. The back of the poster features some excellent Strider artwork by Kazunori Aihara, showing the protagonist in the act of "beaming down" to Earth at the start of a mission. The poster segues nicely into the brand new Previews section, which showcases not only Strider, but Cobra Triangle, The Adventures of Bayou Billy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well. Strider gets a three-page feature, including a map of stage one. Cobra Triangle gets a two-page, hand-drawn map of the first stage and a plethora of screenshots. Bayou Billy really comes out ahead of all the rest, with a six-page feature that not only gives previews of the first seven stages, but also manages to put a spoiler image from the credit roll right on the first page of the feature (thanks a lot, Nintendo Power...)! The four bad boys of shell get four pages devoted to their quest to stop Shredder, including maps of the game's first two areas as well as a map of the underwater sequence in Area 2, where the Tutles have to disarm eight bombs, that shows where all the explosives are placed; a fabulously useful little thing for anyone who was every frustrated by this sequence. It's on to Counselors' Corner to provide frustrated gamers with some much-needed assistance for the likes of Bionic Commando (finding the machine gun, bypassing the barriers at the start of certain stages, and finding the helmet), Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (how to get to Brahms mansion, and where the daggers can be found), Blaster Master (beating the bosses of Stages 3 and 4), Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (because apparently two features in the last two issues of Nintendo Power aren't enough to tell you how to do everything), and Mickey Mousecapade (how to get out of the infernal woods area of the game by finding the secret door). Brian Ullrich, one of Nintendo Power's own editors, gets his picture at the end of the section as well. Howard & NESTER manages to be fairly amusing this issue, with Nester venturing into a library in search of a book to help him write a report, then getting thrown out of the building when Howard turns up in his daydream to ruin his Zelda fantasy. Yes, it's formula, but it works. Classified Information gets eight full pages this issue, with hints on bionic arm usage and level building in Bionic Commando, a stage select code for Golgo-13, a continue code for Milon's Secret Castle, some bonus stage and continue information on Hudson's Adventure Island, tips for getting a larger financial reward from the President at the end of Operation Wolf, a full-power code for Spy Hunter, a stage select code for Zanac, a glitch in Wizards & Warriors that lets you rescue the princess without actually killing the evil wizard, a way to glitch the weapons in Double Dragon so you can retain them even when the game thinks you shouldn't get to keep them, a couple strategies for dealing with Ironknuckle in Zelda II and a way to transfer thousands of experience points to a newly-created character once you've beaten the game, the trick to making the invisible platform appear in Berkeley Mansion in Castlevania II (as well as a plea for information on how the different endings are obtained), a quick tip on turning strong enemies into weaker ones for Legend of Zelda, some hints and strategies for Skate or Die, and finally some extra shortcuts one can take during a game of Super Mario Bros. 2. Whew! Welcome now to the Top 30 where all kinds of moving and shaking have been happening. Super Mario 2 is still on top by a huge margin (over 22,500 points vs. the measley 5,600 points that Zelda II earned in the #2 spot). Contra, Castlevania II, and Bionic Commando all raid their way up the charts, and Metroid clings tenaciously to the #10 position. New on the charts this month include Blades of Steel (with a #8 debut), Blaster Master, Rampage, Mega Man II, Paperboy, and Bubble Bobble. The Power Pad Playoffs '89 showcases a real match between two teams: the red-clad Power Pros, and the yellow-clothed Nintendo Nuts (I'm not making this up...). The competition starts off with World Class Track Meet, where the teams end in deadlock after four events. They move on Dance Aerobics, where the Red team inches out a victory to put them ahead. Finally, in the event to decide it all, Super Team Games gets a rollout, and despite some tough competition from the Nintendo Nuts, the Power Pros wind up taking the gold. Of course, this is Nintendo Power, so there's the obligatory reminder that everyone is a winner with the Power Pad. Video Shorts starts off simple with California Games, then moves into the bizarre with Taboo: The Sixth Sense. Both Nobunaga's Ambition and Desert Commander get tapped for strategy games, Mappyland and Flying Dragon get some attention in terms of action-style games, and of course, what's a good game preview without some licensed titles? Airwolf and Predator fill that particular mold, with the latter getting just one screenshot. Those of you who actually played the game no doubt are aware that the Predator license was just dumped into a nearly-completed side-scrolling game that Activision was working on at the time, which resulted in a game that made nearly no sense (Predator ghosts? Military badasses who don't have any guns and run around punching spiders? Seriously, WTF Activision?). But for taking the cake, there's just no topping this month's NES Journal feature, which reported on the development of Nintendo's own A.F.D. Reality Game System for the NES. These games would feature real-life situations, such as bathing dogs or job training simulations, including the outlandish Home Ninja Workshop which purports to teach people how to scale walls without ladders, conceal themselves under furniture, and other ninja-worthy skills. If the clues dropped throughout the article weren't enough to register on your radar, though, Nintendo gives up the gag by revealing what the A.F.D. really stands for: April Fools' Day. Good one, Nintendo! This is followed by some more tomfoolery involving a trivia quiz which is obviously a joke, a celebrity player profile of Shalane McCall (whom you will probably never have heard of if you didn't watch "Dallas" back in the 1980s), and a chance for all to see just how satanic Legend of Zelda really is with a quiz page featuring Link holding a shield with an inverted cross on it! (Don't tell Jack Thompson...) Nintendo starts what will be an annual contest in the pages of this issue as well, with the Nintendo Power Awards '88. All told, there are 8 categories: Best Graphics & Sound, Best Challenge, Best Theme & Fun, Best Play Control, Best Character, Best Ending, Best Player vs. Player, and finally, Best Overall. The number of choices varies by category: most have 5 options, but Best Theme & Fun has six, Best Overall has 9, and Best Character has a whopping 10 options. Following all this is a feature that easily wins the "Should Have Been In The First Issue" award, the Rating System. This breaks down the different categories that Nintendo uses to rate games for Nintendo Power, and explains what each one means. While this may be a no-brainer for adults, for younger children this would have been a considerable help. There's also an ad for back-issues of the magazine available only to Nintendo Power subscribers that lets you acquire them for their cover price ($3.50) plus a buck for shipping, which isn't a bad deal at all. Ahh, Video Spotlight...how we love to rag on you for showcasing the full frontal nerdity of the world. The vote is still out on whether or not being featured in this issue helped Brian Michaels of Rockford, IL get a date to his prom, but that's nothing compared to father Vance Evans admitting to the world that he named his son "Kelly." And no, he isn't confused about the gender...he enclosed a picture of his son to prove he really is a boy. Good on you, Mr. Evans...you have not only doomed your son to a life of ridicule but admitted it publically in the pages of a nationally-syndicated magazine. You, sir, are made of fail. Pak Watch drops some tidbits about Capcom continuing its run with Disney properties, some whispered rumours about Bandai making an NES game out of the Star Trek V property (they're correct, but the game is cancelled before completion), the Power Pad only games Street Cop (which was released in Japan the year before as Family Trainer: Manhattan Police) and Athletic World (likewise released as a Family Trainer program in Japan earlier), some news about Chessmaster and Batman, four arcade games that are coming home (Bad Dudes, Super Dodge Ball, Guerilla War, and Thundercade), "junior" game versions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy aimed at a younger crowd, and Stealth Eagle which is to be the first flight sim on the NES. Oh yes, and Dragon Warrior is coming really soon, we promise, and a ton of other titles like Guardian Legend and John Elway's Quarterback have likewise been delayed. Next Issue wraps everything up by getting gamers stoked for more on TMNT, more on Ninja Gaiden, and...wait for it...Mega Man II! Sadly, there's no letter from Howard Phillips this issue because they had to finish printing out the names of everyone who won the Nov/Dec issue contest. Maybe next time?
  17. 1 point
    Released in 2003 to very little fanfare by a company that was known only for producing driving simulators, Kya: Dark Lineage came out of nowhere as a 3D platformer that was ambitious to make itself heard in a world that was already overcrowded to the point of bursting. No doubt, many gamers looked at the simple cover art and the fact that it was developed by Eden Games (who?), and dismissed it outright as being unworthy of their attention without even the respect of a rental. This is a shame of epic magnitude, because while it is not perfect, Kya: Dark Lineage was an utterly beautiful entry into the platforming world that managed to incorporate the standard elements of running, jumping and climbing with a minimal application of stealth techniques, long-range fighting, puzzle solving, up-close fisticuffs (with upgradable combat moves), and the ability to ride about the world on currents of air and even slip-and-slide through levels on the back of a helpful dinosaur-type creature or hop on your own magic board to traverse the kind of downward-sloping terrain that would have given the entire cast of SSX a case of vertigo. The surprise here is that Kya successfully uses ALL of these gimmicks in ways that are fresh and enjoyable and unique to create a very complex and yet easy-to-learn game with a world that is constantly expanding and opening itself to new means of exploration for the titular heroine of the story. And while the story isn't the most original plot in the world, it still manages to hold its own. Kya is your typical blue-haired teenager, angry with the world because her father left her a number of years ago without saying goodbye. She now lives with her half-brother Frank in the city, but one evening, Frank makes a startling discovery: Kya's father left behind some of his work, hidden in a secret room that was walled off until Frank broke into it. And as Kya and Frank explore the room, looking at the books and charts and weird stuff he left behind, they accidentally activate one of the relics. This creates a portal that draws Frank and Kya into an alternate dimension. Kya is found by the friendly critters of the realm, the Nativs. They save her from an ambush by the nasty bad guys, known as the Wolfen, and lead her back to their village where the Nativ elder has some alarming news for her. Frank has been found as well...but not by the Nativs. The cruel master of the Wolfen, known as Brazul, has found her half-brother and is determined to commit a number of heinous acts upon his person. Just as Kya is reeling from the knowledge of her half-brother's capture, the elder drops the other shoe. Brazul is none other than the man who walked out on Kya years ago, warped by some dark power that has led him to create the army of Wolfen that have pushed the Nativs nearly to extinction. But with Kya's help, maybe, just maybe, the Nativs can push back, defeat Brazul, and rescue Frank. Kya's game. But are you? This world is beautifully rendered, with a European flair for pastels and lightly blended colours, and a draw distance that seems to go on forever. Indeed, an early item you can acquire is a telescope that allows you to zoom in on distant locations and see just how much detail has been devoted to the game's setting. The world of the Nativs and Wolfen is composed of large "island" landmasses, free-floating in the etherical sky of the dimension, and getting from one area to another often requires a lot of jumping, climbing, hanging off of ledges, free-falling, riding your magic board, or even flying through and riding on the currents of air that rush through various points of the land. Frequently, you'll crest a hill after a long climb and have to stop to admire the vista that's just been revealed to you. Frequently, you'll also enjoy flying through the air while trying not to slam into the spiked vines that grow out of some of the walls and attempting to land on one of the large, explosively-soft plants that will break your fall at the end. Bungie jumping without the bungie cords scares the crap out of me, but Kya takes to it as effortlessly as the Nativs do, and the introductory sequence of the game does a very good job of introducing the mechanics of sliding through tubes, sneaking past Wolfen, and riding the air currents as well as your basic running and jumping. A later tutorial shows you the ropes of hand-to-hand combat. Kya: Dark Lineage never shows you your goal without giving you an idea of the means to succeed, so if a new gameplay mechanic is necessary to proceed, you'll always know what you need to do. Knowing what you need to do and doing it right are often two different things, and it's not uncommon to go flying off the side of a sliding sequence or find yourself crashing into the walls while in free-fall. Thankfully, Kya operates on a strict policy of no lives and automatically returns you to the start of whatever challenge you failed. This is a nice change from the "load the last save" mentality of many platformers (especially Tomb Raider), and with practice it's quite easy to master these segments and reap the rewards of advancing the plot. The magic of Kya isn't so much that it is a perfect game, because it's not: the voice-acting is slightly better-than-average, the story is quite derivative of the "only you can save us" plot bunny that has been hopping around since the days of Super Mario Bros., and it suffers from the occasional glitch like accidentally clipping through a wall that can grind your play to a halt and force a section restart. What is magical about Kya is the fact that it so successfully pulls together so many of the various tropes of the platforming genre (running, jumping, smashing boxes, puzzle solving and fighting) then adds the additional elements of free-falling, magic boarding, and stealth into the mix without becoming a game that is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Kya does everything it sets out to do, and it does it quite well. Anybody who is a fan of the likes of Rayman, Crash Bandicoot, Prince of Persia or Super Mario 64 owes it to himself or herself to at least try Kya out. And I'll bet you dollars to Nooties that you'll have just as much fun with it as I did. Sadly, though not unsurprisingly, there was meant to be more to the Kya franchise. The ending leaves our heroine facing an enormous cliffhanger that was clearly meant to be fleshed out in a sequel that was never greenlit due to lackluster sales, much like the similarly criminally-overlooked classic, Beyond Good & Evil. What does exist though is a very well-done project that everyone involved with should have been quite proud of, and a shining example of how it is still possible to create magic within the "all-been-done-before" platformer genre. Because while platformers began with an overall-clad, moustachioed Italian plumber, Kya proved in 2003 that they don't have to end with him. It's just a shame too few of us took notice of that fact.