Game Collecting and more Capsule Reviews

WordPress just told me I should update the “about me” page so people can learn more about me. That’s silly. Don’t you learn about me by actually reading my blog?

In other news, lately I’ve held back on acquiring new video games, because I’ve developed an interest in getting CIB (Complete-In-Box) editions of my favorites. Usually, this means I just have to find the box, the manual and (in the case of RPGs) sometimes a map, item chart or unique poster, then put my copy of the game in the box with everything else and call it a day.

A lot of people think this is pointless. It really kind of is–most of the reason a lot of my games don’t have their original boxes is because they add bulk, and as a kid I reasoned that if I saved space then I could fit more games in my drawers. I realized recently that more is not necessarily better–I can’t make up my mind if I have too many options–and also, having the box kinda gives a game additional value, like I can look at it and imagine what it must’ve been like on the shelves at Sears or wherever. Honestly, nine times out of ten that’s more important than the actual game.

I like manuals because I actually like knowing the story behind a game, even if its something that’s supposed to be basically plotless like your average Gradius shooter.

Pretty much, this “quest” is only open to cartridge-era games. Games for systems like the Playstation and PSP generally come complete by default, and honestly if I own any incomplete games for systems like that, its because either someone gave them to me or I got them in some sort of lot. I do need the manual for R-Types (PS1) though.

Speaking of which, its time for more Capsule Game Reviews! Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve done these–the last one, which covered the Metal Gear series, was back in June if I remember, and the one before that was in March. Some day I’m going to compile these into a section on my blog. Anyway, lately, I’ve been playing:

Gradius Collection (PSP) – Funny thing is I actually never played this series before. The PSP has arcade-perfect ports of Gradius I-IV and a port of Gradius Gaiden from the PS1 (this marks its first U.S. release). They’re side-scrolling shooters–you’re a little spaceship that flies to the right and blasts the shit out of things. You pick up these little orange things which you use to buy upgrades–its pretty self explanatory, really. In all the games you play as a ship called the Vic(tory) Viper (in Gaiden you can choose others) and you’re fighting off some sort of sentient space virus called the Bacterian. This is probably where that one badguy from the original Dragonball got his name.

R-Types (Playstation 1) – Another side-scrolling shooter, and an example of “I’ve had it for awhile but never seriously played it.” In this one you’re an R-series fighter who is trying to defeat an army of parasites called the Bydo Empire so they won’t eat the f*** out of Earth. What’s cool about this one is that you get this little thing called a Force Pod which contains your weapon upgrades but can also act as a shield or be separated from your ship so it can do its own little thing elsewhere on the field. A true test of nerd-dom is if someone says “use the force” and you think of this guy instead of Star Wars. I also recently picked up a sequel, R-Type Delta, which is more of the same but with selectable ships, and with 3D graphics (but still 2D gameplay). They’re all quite good.

Earthbound (SNES) – Yes I managed to snag a legitimate cartridge of this game! For the five of you who don’t know, Earthbound is an RPG where you play as a kid named Ness and have to stop an alien invasion using your psychic powers, a baseball bat, prayers, and all the experience you gained from beating up Spiteful Crows and New-Age Retro Hippies. Yeah its a pretty silly game. There’s cults that want to paint the world blue, talking cows, evil band managers, living tents, and more and more. The only real problem is that I’m not a huge RPG fan anymore and they’re hard for me to get into, even when they’re good. But I’m sure that’ll change someday. I managed to snag the Strategy Guide with it, so all I need is the box and I’ll have a CIB copy! Though the box is usually as valuable as the game itself, but maybe I’ll get lucky, get it in a trade or have it donated by some charitable soul who isn’t out for money.

Penumbra Collection (PC) – This is the first new PC game I’ve played since the original Half-Life. I saw it at Fred’s, and the system requirements were low enough to run on my Toshiba laptop and it was only ten bucks, so I thought I’d give it a go. The game is basically a stealth game in first-person and with a horror theme. You’re a guy named Philip who went to Greenland to find his missing father and instead gets dogged, bugged and wormed at every opportunity. The first episode, Overture, is fun but not too scary, but the second episode, Black Plague, goes into overdrive and really freaks you out–because you’re running from these flashlight-carrying monsters who look like a mix of Resident Evil zombies and Whitley Strieber’s gray aliens, and you get no means of defense outside of throwing things (and you can’t kill these guys, either). If that’s not enough, you start hallucinating. Yeah, these games are hardcore. No surprise that they come from the indie market. The only major letdowns are that A) in the ending, your hero does something very dickish and B) the expansion pack Requiem (included in this package) kinda sucks, because it drops the horror theme and suddenly becomes a stupid puzzle game. Still, that’s two awesome games for ten bucks. Not bad, huh?

That’s it for this entry. Next time!


Thundercats Follow-Up

Man that was awesome! The heroes were out in this desert and the screen was all wavey like heat haze and then they found this “sand sea” of like water-like sand or something and they were on this ship with these lobster-people and there was a storm and the sky was all cloudy and purple and there were floating rocks and Lion-O was all going crazy and having a bonding experience with captain dude and the lobster chef tries to eat Wilykat and Kit but they saw it coming and by the way they’re cute and really funny then WHAM big tentacle eggplant monster attacks and they’re all cutting off tentacles while it chows down on lobster and then it sinks the ship and they bail while the captain fights to the death and then the eggplant thing comes back for Lion-O and eats him and everyone is like “Oh shit” but then AWESOME he’s all cutting his way out from the inside and it’s BIG and GLORIOUS and AWESOME and then there’s something about Mumm-Ra finding out where the Book of Omens is ooo man things are going places!

See, this is what I love about anime!

…Whaddya mean, this show is American? Oh, oh, that’s right, of course it is.

Actually, I did notice two hallmarks of American storytelling. The first was when the Thunderkittens wanted to join up. Lion-O gives a stock typical “we are not babysitters!” response. I understand he was upset, but why couldn’t he have instead brought up that he was going on a dangerous journey from which he might never return? Or for that matter, just ignored the kittens and kept going? Granted, Tygra or Cheetara would’ve stopped him, but that would’ve reflected his one-track attitude more effectively, and come off as less “stock.”

The second was when Lion-O gets eaten. In the brief moment where you think Lion-O is working his way through eggplant digestive tract, Wilykat yells out something like “You big slimey meanie! Give our friend back!” While the scene was still awesome as all hell, it would’ve been as awesome as two hells if Wilykat had kept his mouth and stared in terror, allowing Lion-O getting eaten to sink in for a bit before his glorious victory.

It’s been noted by others than myself (normally people who bitch about dubbed anime) that American writers like to have people talk. Part of me wants to say its a holdover from the days when we used to write cartoons as if they were radio shows, but honestly I think its an emotion thing. As I noted, both of these scenes would’ve been given a little more “oomph” if there had been less talkey. But Americans have a comfort zone about how much “oomph” they like, so when they have a lot of it, they like to tone it down, and all it takes is one kid shouting to do that.

Still, it’s a very minor thing so far. I just hope they allow the “oomph” to come through unfiltered later on.

One other thing to comment on–as you probably noticed if you watched the episode and have any literary knowledge whatsoever, this episode was basically Moby Dick with cat and lobster people, even down to quoting famous lines. It’s something that didn’t really affect me one way or the other while the episode was on, but… I’ve seen so many cartoons lately where every episode becomes an “homage” in order to cover up that most of the plots are blatantly cribbed (in fact, that was one of my criticisms of the 2002 He-Man). So right now, my stance is: if this is the only episode where it happens, its cool and it shows that the staff are all cultured and educated and all that other spiffy stuff. If it becomes a recurring trend, then it means they’re a bunch of uncreative hacks.

But ultimately, I’m optimistic for this series. So far, and I forget if I said this last time but its worth repeating: its taking everything I liked about the old Thundercats and wrapping it in a new and pleasing configuration. The Sword of Omens still kicks as, Third Earth is still an interesting and mysterious place, the cats themselves are still a band of refugees fighting for survival (wrapped around a broader quest this time), Mumm-Ra is still a dark and creepy cloaked figure who might possibly transform into something bigger at some point, and there’s still a whole lot of ass to be kicked. My god, why couldn’t the people who got this show have also gotten He-Man remake? They would’ve done ten times better with it!

By the way a DVD release has already been announced! Wow, they hit the ground running, didn’t they? (and Hasbro still has said nothing about ponies…)