SCROLL Collection on StoryBundle

For anyone who bought a couple of issues of SCROLL, or none at all, or who would love a chance to gift it to someone against their will, there's the April StoryBundle, a site offering themed ebook bundles in the "pay-what-you-want-and-how" model. Every single current issue of SCROLL is available as a collection (sub-bundle?) among the other great books in the "Video Game Bundle 3.0."

This marks a few firsts for SCROLL: first, it's just a phenomenal deal; it's a one-and-done digital bundle of every issue without having to go through a shopping cart, and it's the debut of ebook editions (.epub and .mobi) of SCROLL, as well. For the time being, StoryBundle will be the only place to get the ebook editions, and while they're not up to the visual level of the "real" magazine, they're lightweight and good for just absorbing the material, especially on an e-ink or other dedicated ebook reader. I'm also a proponent of getting SCROLL out there on as many DRM-free "formats" as possible, so this was a great opportunity to light a fire under myself and bring the magazine to a new place.

Once again, that's all eleven current issues of SCROLL (leaving at least the forthcoming issue 12 hanging, but that's on me) for at least a few dollars, plus some other great game-focused books as well -- particularly Atari Inc. and Service Games, if you're looking for more industry history. If you like it, support it!

Kickstarting SCROLL Issue 10

Coming off the release of SCROLL 09, it's time for me to get started on the next issue. With every issue, I try to keep the cover subjects secret, just because (and because sometimes I change my mind halfway through), but you do get hints towards the end of the issues on the "Next" page. However, this time I'm lifting the veil and telling you ahead of time: SCROLL 10 will be about the Boku no Natsuyasumi (My Summer Vacation) games.

Those who know me well enough probably saw this coming. Among my closer circles of friends, I've tried to make My Summer Vacation known, if for nothing more than its status as my favorite video game. Of course, I never expected everyone to love the game for the same reasons I do; it was just a vain attempt to raise awareness. And believe me, my love of it is not because it's Japanese, or artful, or somehow innovative -- it was a confluence of elements that appealed to me, and it came at the right time.

The reason for this transparency: the first SCROLL Kickstarter campaign, which starts right now and runs until May, with the  aim of getting issue 10 off the ground. But why this one? Because aside from including the series retrospective typical to SCROLL, this issue will also feature a big interview with Kaz Ayabe, the creator of the My Summer Vacation series (and most recently Level-5's Attack of the Friday Monsters). SCROLL hasn't been a place for developer interviews (partly why I get a little skittish when people call it "journalism"), but I figured this was the best reason to finally get a real, meaty interview with someone, and why not the maker of my favorite game? Ayabe has already agreed, and it's pretty much going to happen either way, but the expenses associated with going to Japan, pulling off the interview (thanks 8-4!) and such will be kind of a strain if I try to pay for it all by myself. 

On the other hand, making this into a Kickstarter project presented a good opportunity to reinforce how special this issue will be. Backer rewards will include a special variant cover of issue 10 (the regular version is on the top-right), and combinations of that, an art print, a complete set of print issues, and another SCROLL first: letting people write a little (emphasis on little) something for it. This naturally leads to more costs, as I'll be buying the issues myself and sending them out as opposed to leaving it all to MagCloud, but I feel the $8,000 goal is reasonable enough to invite people to chip in and help, and with any luck, we'll get there.

This campaign also overlaps with the Retronauts revival Kickstarter project, which I'm a part of. For the record, the issue 10 project has been in my mind for months, as opposed to the sudden shuttering of 1UP just one month ago and the fast decision of a few friends to keep Retronauts alive. It's not the best timing, as someone will inevitably turn up their nose in doubt, but it was unavoidable on my end. Like the rest of SCROLL, this project is entirely my own doing, and it's for one issue instead of a whole enterprise.

All the extra reward details can be found on the project page, and as I say there, thanks for checking this out, and thanks in advance for your pledge. Stay tuned for additoinal project updates all the way through the production of the issue. Additional thanks to Jacob Smiley for being a good sport and already getting some amazing art for the issue. See you in the solstice.

Screen Refresh

Hi, and welcome to the new SCROLL. For 2013 I thought it'd be nice to refresh the site along with the magazine, and generally give people something nicer to look at. Though I'm sure I'll still be tweaking the design for a few days after this post, I nevertheless think this new setup lends a bit more "permanence" compared to the old blog. In general, I've rethought what I want to do with SCROLL (which you can read on the About page), and I hope the next year of the magazine will reflect that.

But today, right now, it's all about this new stuff:

  • Issue 09. Of course! I'm probably prouder of this one than any other so far, as it's exactly the kind of thing I should've been doing content- and design-wise.
  • Year 1 price drop (PDF). Issues 01-04 are now permanently half-off, at $2.50 per PDF issue. If you're a new digital buyer, consider picking one up along with issue 09.
  • A new logo. Sort of? It's basically the old one, just brought in a little tighter. But I do think that ends up making it stand out better.
  • Issues first. The original site's blog form wasn't conducive to selling the magazine, which is supposed to be the real draw. Now there's a separate Issues page, and it's first on the list when you visit the home page. I'm not very good at blogging "for me," so the old site wasn't conducive to me putting extra content on it, either. Will that change?! Maybe not, but now I can look at my own site and not feel pressured.
  • A Facebook page. It may be a little too late, but there is one now! Please Like it at your earliest convenience.
  • Something else. We'll see.

'History of Portable Consoles' at 1UP

Recently, the most SCROLL-ish article I've written yet didn't put in SCROLL was published today at 1UP: The Hysterical History of Portable Consoles (I do take full responsibility for the title), which is, as it says, a history of all the different attempts to shrink game systems into utlimately expensive portable units, and revists such "gems" as the Top Guy (which I had almost forgotten about!), the TurboExpress, the Nomad, and all the other failures in between. Not to mention the recent wave of retro handhelds like the SupaBoy, which I doubt are demonstrably better than the old '90s attempts, but they're all goofy regardless.

Ridge Racer's Hairpin Curve

In the past week or so I've been playing Ridge Racer Unbounded, a game I've been interested in for the better part of the year. When it was first revealed, It was shockingly amusing to see almost no one share my measured interest, and instead spew a lot of angry kneejerk responses -- mainly just repeating "fuck Namco" -- as if the company had made some bold proclamation that they wouldn't make any more Ridge Racer games except this one. I wrote about this episode in SCROLL 02's end-of-issue editorial to frame a larger point about pre-entitled people getting their panties in a twist over a game they just found out about and won't get to play for at least a year. But now it's almost a year later, Unbounded is finally out, and the reviews from critics and impressions from folks online are largely positive, or at best, not very mean.

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I'll admit that the initial anger towards Unbounded was, to a degree, understandable. Word of it came just a little while after Capcom announced their Devil May Cry reboot, which went with a different kind of hero and a general tonal shift that didn't meet anyone's expectation. The pervading view was (and, er, still is) that Japanese giants are scrambling to keep up with the West by tossing their beloved franchises to Americans and Europeans who hang a little too long onto the word "reimagining." And so the collective gamer mood swings continue every quarter, all based on childish fears that someone new will come into their club and squeeze them out. Yet for every blatant molestation of a dormant series, there's a perfectly respectful treatment that everyone can agree on.

For me, Unbounded sits somewhere in between. Besides some music tracks borrowed from older Ridge Racer games, Unbounded is not a Ridge Racer game in the least. But even to an understanding guy like me, it's still kind of uncomfortable. The graphics are bleak, the cars are generic, the shoehorned "story" is never heard of past the intro movie, and the physics feel too realistic, focused on a drift button that immediately gets you swingin' along the road. Even if you nail that mechanic, the game's challenges are needlessly difficult from the get-go, almost devoid of the curve Ridge Racer games usually have, with cutthroat AI opponents that can toss you off the track even before lap one gets started. A course editor is a welcome addition, but when the developer-made courses are obviously cut from the same cloth, with the same road shapes dressed with the same patterns of buildings, the main campaign loses a bit of its appeal. Compared to its immediate competition -- Burnout, Split/Second -- it's just average. So why worry?

But is it actually fair to compare Unbounded to the rest of Ridge Racer? Given that it's obviously supposed to be something else, does that mean it automatically fails at being the original something just because it has its name on it? I don't think so.

Slow and steady

Ridge Racer fans get a lot of guff, usually indirectly, in reviews of recent sequels that call the games samey, too traditional, and other well-worn platitudes. And like other "threatened" fans of things, they have a standard set of defenses, and one of the main ones is the claim that RR games are just simple and proud arcade racers like always, and that the games themselves have always been just fine. I agree with that, but that's because I love arcade racers, so of course I'm going to recognize and deal with sameyness, because I still want the fun that I know I can rely on.

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But I'm also starkly aware that Ridge Racer games have not been putting butts in seats. Since the PlayStation 2, they've only come once a generation, right at the beginning, and then never on the same system again (except Ridge Racers 2 on PSP). At the PS2 launch in Japan, Ridge Racer V was pretty much the best game you could get (and Tekken Tag), because the rest of the lineup was unanimously decided to be crap. With the Western PS2 launch, that wasn't so much the case, because then you had SSX, Madden, and several more worth caring about. It was even less the case when the PSP arrived: most people talked up Lumines, Wipeout and Metal Gear Acid. And now even less so with the PS Vita, where people are drawn in by Uncharted, Wipeout (again), Lumines (again), Rayman, Marvel, and the 20-or-so other launch games. And it's extra precarious, too, because the newest Ridge Racer has been widely panned for having no real single-player modes, not running at 60 fps, and relying on paid add-ons to pad out what's otherwise a husk of a game. That may be expected and even work with Ridge Racer Accelerated on iOS, but could Namco not foresee RR Vita averaging two out of five stars on the PlayStation Store user ratings?

Nevertheless, when "fans" voice their opinion about Unbounded -- and I put that word in quotes only because I can't prove exactly how loyal everyone's been to the series over the years -- the underlying question is, why put the words "Ridge Racer" on it in the first place? The answer doesn't really require a communications degree. Ridge Racer, despite a glacial slide into irrelevancy, is still a brand a lot of gamers recognize. If you like racing games and were big into the PS1, this is a given, and you don't need to play any new ones to remember the name. This is what Namco banks on, and they still make Ridge Racer games, so it makes business sense.

And if they wanted to sign on Bugbear to make a racing game, what reasonable choice did they have but to include the brand of their only active racing franchise? Frankly, this isn't 2004, when everybody was trying to make their own Gran Turismo. Capcom and Konami had theirs, but Namco had the most, and kept throwing in racing games with wild abandon. Ridge Racer! MotoGP! Alpine Racer! Street Racing Syndicate! Not to mention R: Racing Evolution, a sort-of-not-really Ridge Racer spin-off that tried to be more like a sim, but ended up so thorougly boring that it evolved itself into the bargain bin. And that was the one they really tried to push -- ports on every console, ads all over the place, and almost no payoff. 

Since then, the playing field has leveled out, and that's just made it even harder to get a foot in. Racing games, at least on this side of the world, are a two-course meal at this point: You play either Gran Turismo or Forza, and those wanting something less realistic are playing Need for Speed, or more often than not, Real Racing HD. With an ever-dimming spotlight for racers that aren't simulations or at least have real cars in them, if you were a Namco executive, you'd probably start looking for workable options elsewhere, too.

Basically, Ridge Racer is the Dynasty Warriors of racing games. They're both around for system launches, their sequels rarely have any sweeping changes, and they both have a marginalized sect of loyal fans that grumble amongst themselves when a big website predictably gives new installments a bad review. But they're both still around, with no clear end in sight. I don't see Unbounded changing that whether it succeeds or fails, especially when Ridge Racer's lack of change has only made it more unique. The hyper-stylish cars plastered with names of Xevious enemies, the gorgeous track designs, and the insanely unrealistic drifting are what's remembered most, not another game where you break stuff. You should probably get used to paying $5 for new cars, though.

Shifty Supercade

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You might remember the beginning of Valiant Comics, when their first big titles were under the "Nintendo Comics System;" officially-licensed comic books featuring Super Mario, Captain N, The Legend of Zelda, and a few others. It was potentially a great opportunity to get original stories from games that deserved them, but the comics were essentially extensions of the TV cartoons -- obviously Captain N, but even Mario and Zelda took more elements from the shows than the games. That said, they were all better than you'd expect, with the Mario stories in particular being genuinely funny, sometimes even deadpan. Their four books continued apace for just one year, when Nintendo parted ways, and Valiant continued on with their original superhero titles. Meanwhile, Archie scored Sonic the Hedgehog, which is the longest-running video game comic in the Western world.

I bring this all up to frame a recent development in game comics that had me thinking of Valiant: ShiftyLook, a comics site/imprint/thingy owned by Namco Bandai, but with the comics themselves done by contributors from Udon and Cryptozoic Entertainment. ShiftyLook's current lineup re-imagines three old Namco games (and one new one) as twice-weekly webcomics. And these really aren't Namco games that the average comics reader or gamer would remember. You'd have to be some retro game nerd who makes his own magazine to recognize or give a damn about Xevious, Bravoman and Sky Kid comics in this day and age. Given that, I was interested in what ShiftyLook was doing, and started reading what they have so far and thought I'd share some impressions. (Note that I base all this on the first month of strips, so whatever I describe may change one way or the other as months go on. Maybe I'll revisit them here in the future.)

One of Cryptozoic's strips is Xevious, which is pretty much my favorite Namco franchise, so I was drawn to this comic first. The setup is familiar: aliens are attacking Earth, starting with Peru (so far the only reference to the Nazca Lines in the game), but everything else about the story seems to take a sharp left turn. The hero is Oscar, nickname "Mu," a young guy from Argentina who joined the national air force to fight the Xevious (why not "Xevians?" They're aliens from the planet Xevious!). And apparently the Argentinian air force are the ones who fly the Solvalou ships.

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The first strip has a tongue-in-cheek air about it, or maybe that's just the utterly strange dialogue coming from Oscar. Regardless, that doesn't seem to be the actual intent once you keep reading. Oscar left his almost-fiance Eve to join the battle, but then discovers she joined up right after. How did he just now find out? Was she drafted really quickly? There isn't enough time and not enough panels to find out, because the next skirmishes are just around the corner. Despite some liberties in the characters and setting that make this comic look and sound like G.I. Joe plus emotions, it seems to be progressing towards something closer to the actual Xevious backstory, as Mu and Eve are both figures in the original "mythology" -- methinks I'm not the only one who's read the HG101 article.

Sky Kid is one of the Udon strips, and is ostensibly the most faithful to the game, with its world of anthropomorphic birds in endless dogfighting combat. Humorously, the comic is tonally similar to Xevious, opening with serious introspection and touching flashbacks, and me once again not knowing exactly if I should be taking this seriously or not. 

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Bravoman might be the "webcomic-est" of the whole lineup: it's kiddish and features jokey two-character dialogues with distressing regularity. It sits in between Sky Kid and Xevious in terms of faithfulness: Bravoman and the Alpha Man and Dr. Bomb and most everyone else in the game are here, but it doesn't follow anything else about it. What started out normally is now mostly just character introductions to familiarize people with Bravoman again. The comic feels like it's just playing with a toy box of characters, and that's probably because the writer had never heard of Bravoman before. My question is, will Pistol Daimyo show up? How about the talking telephone box? I mean, really, you guys should've given me a call.

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Alien Confidential is the other Cryptozoic strip, and is based on a Namco game that isn't even out yet -- an iOS game with a more serious look than the comics -- so I don't really have much to say about it. Essentially it's a slightly goofier version of Alien Nation with a little bit of Men in Black, told through flashbacks of a former alien-busting agent. It is the fastest-moving one of the lineup so far, though, with the flashbacks being mini-arcs of only a few parts each. They just don't seem to be tied together, though that could be the point.

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Artistically, there's nothing wrong with these comics: they're done by professionals who clearly know a thing or two about ink 'n' color (iffy dialogue aside, I like Xevious and its slight watercolor look the best), and are written with relative creative freedom -- all good starting terms for a tie-in. Is that freedom bad, though? I'm not entirely sure yet. Valiant's Nintendo comics were based on the cartoons more than the games, and when they had to get creative, it mostly worked out. And years before that, game comics had to get extra, uh, interpretive because the games had practically nothing to work from (that link is Galaxian, by the way). If ShiftyLook's comics simply run long enough to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end, that's fine. Rather, I think the immediate issue I have is with the concept of serialized, serious, short-form comics. Soapy superhero arcs are bad enough in the trades, but to have them portioned out daily in syndication is maddening, because more often than not you have days where absolutely nothing happens, or a tiny something happens and ends with a pregnant pause, and you have to wait at least 24 hours for the next one (48, in this case). Furthermore, not everything has to be serialized: Bravoman looks like it's meant to be a regular gag-a-day strip, but then it keeps introducing characters. And introducing, and introducing... It doesn't have to be Garfield, but Garfield was ready to go by strip two.

Nevertheless, ShiftyLook stands out immediately because its comics are based on games that no one outside Japan would care about -- no better way to get attention from me, anyway -- and on the whole, that's kind of what's bad. While I can understand the creators wanting to introduce characters and slowly build up the story as weeks go on, they're still making comics about unappreciated games with stories where not enough happens on a regular basis. It's worth noting that the site launched alongside a few big Namco and Namco-related releases: Soul Calibur V, Tekken 3D, and Street Fighter X Tekken, any and all of which would have made perfectly fine serialized comics, and in Udon's case, would be right up their alley.

Plus, if the site doesn't have ads or any other way to make money, then just what are they trying to accomplish? This is Namco we're talking about here; a company routinely criticized by their "fans" for doing more harm than good by overdoing DLC and making questionable sequels and reboots. Where and how do free webcomics fit? Well, to paraphrase ShiftyLook pre-launch, they want to re-expose these franchises with the possibility to expand them into other media, be it animation or even new games. And as another promotional image read, "No character is too obscure. No franchise is too dead. No husk is too decrepit. They can all be revived. Your voice will be heard." OK, well, I challlenge them to make a Phozon comic.

'Where Are They Now' at 1UP

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Today 1UP posted a fun (i.e. not very serious) new feature from yours truly: Where Are They Now, a roster of people who were in and around video games in the '90s, mostly, and where they went from there. Not all of the entries were my idea (the cover artists are kind of a stretch), and I imagine most people will just giggle at J.D. Roth on the first page and not read the rest -- totally valid -- but I did enjoy figuring out where people ended up, not the least of which being Mr. Yukawa from Sega. Turns out he was doing commercials for them way before Dreamcast, too:

Funnily enough, this feature was originally for the next issue of 1UP's own MagCloud-published magazine, which would have further extended my tentacles across that space, but it was shifted to the web. It probably works better here, anyway.

Shell Shock

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Last Thursday, I posted a tweet. A typical tweet, if you know me. I was bringing attention to a ridiculous iOS app I found: "Ninja Turtles" by Namphuong Star. All you need to see are the screenshots and read the description. Like, seriously, go look; I don't need to paste it here. For anyone who tracks new additions to the App Store, it's a fly in the ointment, but nothing out of the ordinary (and from what I gather, nothing but ordinary on Android Market). It's not to me -- I've seen a decent number of shitty apps made by anonymous shysters from all around greater Asia, but "Ninja Turtles" floored me. It has all the elements of top-shelf insanity: painted-over Contra background? Turtle-colored hero? Everybody's clothes made of gradients? This is special stuff, because even most of the awful copyright-infringing games at least have some sort of direction to them, like its makers know what they're ripping off. This, though, is especially hilariously bad. Not to mention $4.99.

And oh lordy, did this sprout legs. Usually when I tweet something that hits, it balloons to 20-ish retweets within half an hour, and quickly peters out. And, well, it was the same with this. I mean, I'm known, but not so known. So I expected that to be the end of it, though maybe one of my like-minded colleagues would pick it up for their blog like other times. As it turned out, when I wasn't paying attention, "Ninja Turtles" leapt off Twitter and hit the blogosphere, which may as well have been a dream come true: It was getting lots of attention, and none of it good, as it deserves. There was one curious commonality among all those that picked it up, though: except for GameSetWatch, where I've been reliably sourced before, no one outside Twitter linked to my original tweet, if anywhere else at all.

Despite how that sounds, this post is not me saying I should have been sourced. I don't care. And if I did, I'd still understand why I wasn't: 23 retweets is peanuts no matter how many more thousands of followers some of those RTers had, so in all likelihood, the biggest number of people who saw it in the first half of the day was probably from John Gruber's site, where he got it from the Twitter of developer/follower of mine Shaun Inman. That night, though, Namphuong's mutant "Ninja Turtles" made Kotaku, and all bets were off.

For me, the coverage instead added a new layer of amusement, based solely on the tones of the posts. GamePro: coated in sarcasm. Kotaku: analytical with an extra toe-dipping into Namphuong's catalog (brave!). GameSetWatch: bemusement; the most apt response. (Danny also has a keen eye for retarded rip-off apps.) Destructoid: 70% horror, 30% snark.

In contrast, the last sites to pick it up on Sunday and Monday -- VG24/7, Develop, MCV, Edge and GamePolitics -- filed bone-dry posts, all seemingly written with an inference that this game's appearance on the App Store was some sort of one-in-a-million fluke. But if anything, every one of these posts are great case studies in how these sites and their editorial voices treat a lot of their coverage. Develop even asked for comment!

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So, again, I'm not looking for a linkback; I'm more fascinated with a phenomenon that shows the real worth of a worthless game. Though if I do say so, I haven't noticed anything I brought up like that spread that far for... well, ever. And if you wanted to split hairs, you could say the real "source" is the App Store anyway.

I'm also not trying to denounce game journalism -- there are people much "better" at that -- although it is a little disconcerting to see the lengths to which the Sunday-Monday group went to try and push a story out of something that is A) not the least uncommon, even for the puritanical App Store, B) probably already covered by them in the past with different example(s) and C) best mocked into oblivion than warned against. And for all the sourcing these sites do do in much of their posts, the fact that some didn't bother or just ended up linking to the other guy with the same-sounding story is a slight fumble, especially when other tweets are linked to, copied, or screencapped all the time.

But right now I'm more concerned that we might not even be hitting the second wind yet. I'm half expecting this thing to show up on CNN.

Update: Shortly after this post was published today, "Ninja Turtles" was finally taken off the App Store. Damn! I changed the Store link to a Google-cached version. There's also a new notable piece of coverage from The Escapist, where they're apparently calling a few innocuous negative user reviews an "outrage." Uh, OK. It's sad to see, but Apple and the media at large have swiftly killed whatever joy there was to be had about this shameful little game.

Update 2: For an in-depth examination of Ninja Turtles, please see Hardcore Gaming 101's Kurt Kalata give you the skinny in this article.

Dragon Quest Podcast at Crunk Games

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Last year, a couple of months before SCROLL started, my reliable partner Alex Fraioli and I put up a special one-off podcast on our old site, Crunk Games. The subject was the Phantasy Star Online series, since it had just turned 10 years old, and was one of the few game series we can share experiences with (Alex is teetering on the edge of being a lapsed gamer, but he's a great guy, really).

This year, we've done pretty much the same thing, but with Dragon Quest. We sat down -- this time with him in my house instead of vice-versa -- and just went down the list of DQ games, talking about each one. If you've read issue 02, there isn't a whole lot new other than the fact that the guys who wrote most of it are now speaking out loud to each other, and that we speak about Dragon Quest X more, now that everybody knows what it is.

Nevertheless, it was great fun, and now we just need to think of the next series to talk about. Go ahead and have a listen to our new Crunk Games Podcast Special: 25 Years of Dragon Quest.

Covering Famicom Music on a Famicom

Musician Ken Matsuzaka -- who I know best from a series of piano covers -- updated his YouTube page with a new set of videos from a recent live performance. Together with a few friends, they put on a small concert of familiar Famicom chiptunes, except that it was all performed through an actual Famicom. Each member of "NES BAND" controlled a different sound channel with their own keyboard, and pulled off some near-perfect recitations of the music and sound from games like Super Mario, Binary Land, and more. Most chiptune acts are just one guy or gal, so seeing a full band come together to produce the music is extra cool. The above video is a short medley that serves as a nice sampler, but do click through and check out the other ones, particularly the lengthy Dragon Quest III medley.

Noobow

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Noobow is deceptively great: it's a Game Boy game based on a license (the eponymous Noobow, mascot for a line of cute merchandise), but, ah, it's made by the masters at Irem, and it's a clever puzzle platformer. There are no HUD elements or any onscreen direction, but you're nevertheless encouraged to keep an eye on your surroundings when you come upon the next little roadblock. Various items are littered around the world, and it's your job to waddle Noobow over and use the item, either for obvious means, like creating a platform, or more trickier ones, all in the interests of completing a rather adorable goal at the end of a stage. The video shows all of this (and the nice music! Of course!), and you can see it's a prime example of unique design for the platform, and something rarely seen for years since.

Legendary Mistakes

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The Mega Man series used to be built on fan input. Maybe you know about the boss design contests that the development team would promote in the NES days, before the next big sequels would come out. They would field submissions from all over Japan (and North America for Mega Man 6). It was kind of remarkable, both then and in hindsight, to ask for the public to help create the defining parts of each sequel, and then to choose and immortalize the work of a select few. It was also perfect timing, as Mega Man was in his prime. Back then, you'd be silly not to expect a new Mega Man every year or two.

Capcom took that to the next level, or tried to, when they announced Mega Man Legends 3 last year. Fans would have been perfectly happy with an MML3 that was already near-done, but Inafune and the team invited Japanese and American fans to get on the web and start sharing their opinions and creative contributions whenever possible. But now that's all for naught, and those now-disappointed fans understandably feel indignant. To them, they were strung along and ultimately gutted, in the end getting nothing but nebulous excuses and wasted time.

In my view, Capcom was in much too deep to cancel it, and shouldn't have. There was simply too much invested in it, mostly from the fan side, but they went ahead and killed it anyway. How could they not? Forgive me for sounding like a scorned fan in denial, but I'm serious. I was saying it months ago, before cancellation even seemed like a possibility. "Can you believe the backlash if they actually canned it?" Not to mention that Capcom has one of the most consistent backlash records of this generation!

Well, I can't say they're bad at surprises.

One type of response to the news was the belittling kind. "It's just the reality of the business;" "It happens all the time, but this time it was just in public;" "No use crying over spilt milk," etc. It's a response that may sound more level-headed compared to the incensed fans, but unfortunately, the situation isn't that black-and-white. What Capcom did was get fans riled up and excited from the get-go, then did their best to maintain that excitement on a regular basis. With announcement after announcement, news post after news post, contribution after contribution, blog after blog, and especially the promise of the "Prototype" demo, the development team wanted, and got, a whole lot of people wanting this game regardless of how many of them were registered in the Devroom.

Capcom went forward with an unprecedented development plan -- one that no company, least of all a Japanese one, had ever really attempted. And on top of that, it was a plan for a sequel in a series that had 10 years of incubation and fostered its own faithful audience. Given that, the mere brushing off of the cancellation as a "business reality" doesn't hold water, because that only represents one side of the story. Again, there was no real precedent, and the company willingly tied in the emotions of hundreds of thousands of hardcore fans and interested observers.

So, how could they not finish it? By cancelling it anyway and continuing to say it's an experiment. However, the public wasn't told that at the beginning. Go ahead, visit the last page of the Devroom blog, keep going up, and see what the tone is like. A whole lotta excitement and recruitment. For months on end, those posts don't even so much as whisper the suggestion that this was not a guaranteed game. It was guaranteed in-development, but you can take that in any dozens of ways. It wasn't until Masakazu Eguchi's February 2011 blog post -- the infamous "Declaration of Resolve" update where it's revealed the project was not even "greenlit" yet -- did people start to feel uneasy. That was seven months after the reveal, and roughly a month since the decision of Aero as the heroine.

They made grand implications of transparency, but this wasn't transparency, it was translucency. And for that, people have every right to be less than understanding of the situation. If Capcom was wanting to involve people in the "development process," they failed out of the gate. Now, I know it's impossible to share everything, because you still have to be reasonable when you're a multinational game publisher. But what's unreasonable about a rough, just-a-few-bullet-points outline of the development schedule? How about any advance notice of Capcom's approval process? Instead, we got blissful ignorance and jumping to conclusions, with a big blister of hurt ready to burst as the months went on.

From USA Devroom Liaison Greg Moore:

The team developing this game provided in-depth articles detailing the various processes that going into this game's creation, from voice recording to the creation of 3D character models. They talked about the office atmosphere and all of the ups and downs of the game development process with a degree of candor that was, to be perfectly frank, often quite concerning for the rest of the company. (via)

That makes some sense. You always hear (if not experience) the big bosses not seeing things in the big picture, acting like the old farts they usually are when a new thing doesn't entirely fit with the way things have always been done. It's understandable that they'd think the Devroom was getting too loose-lipped. On the other hand, no, they weren't. Those aforementioned posts on the voice recording sessions and character modeling were about as inside as it truly got -- and those were the ones with photos. Many significant bits about the game were planned to be announced later and redacted in posts. We got daily updates on other things now and then, and they'd tell us about some meetings, but all with varying degrees of exposition. Sometimes they overdid it: recognizable Capcom producer Jun Takeuchi was only referred to as an "official." If anybody was really worried about exposing trade secrets, I don't think it was happening here -- besides, I doubt anyone at Capcom makes 3D models or character profiles dramatically different than other companies. Most of it wouldn't be out of place in a "making-of" featurette or an art book. So Capcom's explanation comes off as another arbitrary pointing of blame meant to band-aid the situation. I guess that's the level of exposition they wanted all along.

In hindsight, the entire undertaking was woefully half-baked. Infaune and the team should have taken the path of least resistance: Announcing the project when it was already greenlit, and then inviting the fans in to contribute all that they could from that point. With that, you get two things: pre-existing assurance that the game won't fall off the map, and pretty much the same level of fan enthusiasm and contributed talent featured in the final product. After all, it worked 20 years ago when those Mega Man boss design contests went on; when making the story and stages was already going full-steam, and the only big missing pieces were the bosses. But what of Inafune's leaving? Simple enough: if he still left within the same timeframe, then management could have much more easily canned the project privately before it even got to the public phase. And as long as it was kept secret, no tears (or blood) would be shed.

But perhaps the ultimate ideal would be, instead of making Mega Man Legends 3 a game that tried to involve the public in development, they could have just not made it Mega Man Legends 3. If this were a wholly original property, yet went through all the same steps as MML3, then there's no doubt that if it got cancelled, the only people who would take it personally would be the people who actually contributed to it, and not thousands of other fans who just wanted to see a sequel in a series that ended -- with a question mark -- 10 years ago.

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Ah, but that's the catch-22, isn't it? You want to get people fired up, so you go with something big and familiar, but if it was something new and different, the level of excitement probably wouldn't be the same. And to go back to my "advance notice" point, the project would probably would get less attention if the team was more upfront about the approval process -- why pour your heart into temp work? Basically, it was apparent that based on what Inafune has said over the years, getting MML3 made the Crazy Way seemed to be the only way. That's the actual "business reality."

On the whole, the story of Mega Man Legends 3's development makes for a great narrative. A new idea leading to a reconstruction, the will of the people gathered, and then the loss of a leader, mounting struggles, and an eventual collapse, with the same people now furious, and a host of questions that will likely forever go unanswered. Not just the how and the why, but the more cynical questions, as well. Would the game have been any good anyway? Would it have been a highlight of the 3DS library? Would it just be a critical darling? Would anybody but a small percentage of Mega Man fans in their 20s and 30s buy it? Sadly, those questions don't matter, since they're about what could have happened and not what did. What did happen was a year of hope, excitement, fun, interaction, and wishes seemingly come true. And what's left? Disappointment, anger, posthumous PR idiocy, and most obviously: no game, anywhere. All from one mistake. And the lesson learned isn't any better.

Tall Tales

Did you happen to see the news last week about Charlotte Toci, the Bandai Namco Europe community manager (or "junior community manager," apparently) who wrote some posts on Facebook responding to a fan asking about the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, and if BN would still localize it and bring it out (Vesperia on PS3 has a new character and other stuff left out of the original Xbox 360 version)? Toci said no, and that it was because Microsoft paid for the game's 360 exclusivity outside Japan. The original post was actually from April, but didn't get wide attention until recently. Here's Exhibit A:

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Again, the original post was from April, but that's not the funny part; it's the fact that when it resurfaced on forums and the like, it floated for a week. A week! That's like a year in nerd rage reckoning. More than enough time to verbally crucify Toci, Bandai Namco, Microsoft, Sony, and whoever else the delightful Tales fanbase wanted to peg. Meanwhile, BN said nothing; Toci said nothing; nerds continued flogging. Why? Who really knows. Maybe nobody pinged BN (or enough); maybe most people just saw it as BS and let it blow over. After all, Vesperia PS3 is two years old, and the ship had likely sailed regardless of the method.

So it wasn't until a week after its resurfacing, when enough people had made a fuss of it, when Toci admitted she was not being totally authoratative, and apologized:

A few months ago I replied to a fan who asked me why Tales of Vesperia wasn’t localized in Europe on my Facebook page. I replied that it was because of a Microsoft exclusivity, thinking that that was the reason why, even though I didn’t have any official information on that.

I was wrong to do so, and sadly my reply was relayed on many websites, thus sharing a false information to fans around the web.

I would like to send my sincere apologies to all the Tales Series fans I have wrongly informed, and Microsoft & Namco Bandai for any damage that might have been caused with this.

As ridiculous as it is, I won't say Toci should be condemned or fired or never trusted again -- that's dumb, and it's not always the best way to get a point across. With any luck, her lesson has been learned, and she can continue her job. And it's not like her saying otherwise about Vesperia would completely reverse any hatred directed at Namco regarding Tales games anyway (yeah guys, keep calling them "Scamco," that's bound to get you what you want).

It is, however, a misfire when a company gets someone to be a friendly voice that more or less does speak for the company, then unexpectedly breaks off the leash, and everybody just stands there. So, the most troubling part of this to me isn't how long the misinformation was out there; rather, it's the thought process of someone at the front gates of a company in an industry they clearly don't have the right idea of. If Toci really believed that Namco was paid off to keep Vesperia on 360 outside Japan -- enough to say so confidently in a public venue without checking with anyone -- then I start to wonder what inspired that. What if it was predicated on the more ignorant views of the video game industry, where people ceaselessly presume the entire business is founded on one big unending cycle of bribes? Would you want that to be the voice of your company?

But I get that sometimes, for some companies, they're not looking for a "voice." For them, a community manager is tantamount to an intern with a salary; a peppy guy or gal who doesn't need years of industry experience but can still properly promote the products and draw people in. Meanwhile, the comparative "grown-ups" continue producing the games or handling the "real" PR. And even then, sometimes the company doesn't know what to do with them -- but hey, everyone else has a community manager, and we need a Facebook page and a Twitter account, so get on it.

I think that community staff, Junior or not, should be more than just contest-givers; they should be internal journalists of sorts. Of sorts -- ideally, they're hired to help humanize the company, to learn about it, and be as reasonable as possible to fans (or non-fans), and if a good question comes up that they don't know the real answer to -- like if Tales of Vesperia on PS3 is ever coming out -- they should be inspired, allowed and welcomed to send a query straight to the top and get the best possible answer, even if it's going to piss fans off. Again, that's my ideal, but if you have the wiggle room to hire more than one of them, how about exercising twice the potential? For what it's worth, Toci originally gave a nice, human response, which is respectable -- but imagine how much more respectable if it was truthful.

Then again, with this particular situation and subject matter, sometimes the biggest problem isn't on the inside...

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Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Dancing Eyes

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Dancing Eyes (Namco, 1996)

Gratuitous titillation seems to be the M.O. of the Japanese game industry these days, at least if you go by the stereotypes. But there's a touch of truth to it, as the number of ways you can ogle cartoon girls in games is larger than ever. But when it came to out-and-out pandering, Namco was ahead of the pack. In 1996, using their expertise in 3D polygonal graphics, they produced the arcade action game Dancing Eyes (no relation to the Gary Stewart song... probably).

Namco recently announced a remake of Dancing Eyes, which is, so far, a Japan-only game for the PS3. But there's perhaps no better time for it to appear, given what I said at the start. In it, you control a cute little monkey, running along a grid that's laid over some surface that needs to be broken away, be it a schoolgirl's uniform, a magician's box, or a tree stump with mischievous twins inside.

Most of the time, though, it's going to be women whom you must disrobe by clearing the panels on the grid. You do this by holding the action button to set down a peg, then run along the grid trying to complete a whole shape while avoiding the enemies honing in on you. You don't have to connect the ends -- as long as you complete a whole shape, you can watch it get cleared away. Your "reward" for beating the stage is to (typically) watch the model prance around in her skivvies or otherwise play around with the "set" she's on.

On the surface, Dancing Eyes is not original -- plenty of other girlie arcade games, like the Gals Panic series, employed a variation of Qix's gameplay to get the player to slowly reveal a picture of a scantily-clad woman. But Dancing Eyes was the only such game to use real-time polygons, and Namco used that to their advantage by letting you walk all around the model as you cleared the grid. And in some cases, you can see the girls "breathing" as they patiently stand there waiting for their clothes to be destroyed. Yeah, well... that's worth a multi-page psychology paper right there, but nonetheless, it was one of the game's unique selling points. In the context of 1996, the game also looks amazing. It makes you wonder what kind of HD embarrassment the remake will bring!

Despite the groan-worthy sexism going on, Dancing Eyes doesn't really take itself seriously. As soon as the third stage, the game starts taking an absurd turn as it introduces cows and aliens. It shows that if you take out the suggestive material, you can still have a fairly fun game on your hands. Of course, it wouldn't have nearly the same appeal, would it? And it wouldn't be getting so much attention, both back then and now with the announcement of the remake. And as a matter of fact, there's plenty of eye candy for everybody...

See? It's inclusive, and totally realistic, to boot!

Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Snow Bros. 2

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Snow Bros. 2: With New Elves (Hanafram, 1994)

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Maybe you remember Snow Bros. It was most prominent as an NES game published by Capcom, but it started as an arcade game by Toaplan, makers of many legendary shoot-em-ups. Wikipedia records Snow Bros. 2 as Toaplan's final game, which seems like an odd swan song after years of sweet-ass shooters -- all on the opposite end of the "cute" scale as Snow Bros., mind you -- but it really isn't so weird for a game with such a weird gameography to begin with.

If you don't remember Snow Bros., or are at least foggy about it, let me educate you: It's Bubble Bobble where the screen moves in the other direction (up). You use your attack to ensnare enemies and then use it to mow down the rest of the enemies, hopefully creating an explosion of fancy treats and trinkets before moving on to the next stage.

In the original Snow Bros., you were just the Snow Bros., Nick and Tom; a couple of identical, rotund, animated snowmen (snowboys?). In the sequel, you can choose from a variety of funny characters such as th--

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Oh son of a bitch.

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Augh!

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Why! Whyyy?!

Well, despite all of... that, Snow Bros. 2 is actually pretty normal. It's a nicely done sequel to the original, but it's not much more than that. The big thing is that you can play with four players simultaneously, but the game isn't too hard on your own, either. Like Bubble Bobble, it's basically an endurance run to see how many stages you can get through before you finally start to slip up or grow bored.

The characters have their own unique elemental properties -- they don't all shoot snow -- but their attacks don't change up the gameplay that much. Given that, I found it odd that you can all choose identical characters if you want. Again, Snow Bros. 2 isn't terrible, but it falls into the trap of a lot of other arcade sequels that were only "sequels" as a method to extend the longevity of the series, in the off chance that someone had a Snow Bros. game languishing in their arcade forever (certainly more common in Japan than anywhere).

In closing, a safety tip: don't rescue princesses near train tracks.

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Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Mirai Ninja

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Mirai Ninja (Namco, 1988)

I kind of like Mirai Ninja (lit. "Future Ninja"). The thing is, there isn't a ton about it that's actually likeable. On the surface, it's basically Namco's take on Taito's The Legend of Kage: You got your ninja guy, he moves real fast, he jumps real high, and the game has really spacious levels. But this one is set in the future, after all, so it's automatically more badass. It makes ancient history look like ancient history! And in every respect, the game is so unabashedly '80s it's hard to hate. For starters, the music is fitting with the theme, and could have easily been from your favorite sci-fi anime. That's thanks to Namco's master maestro Shinji Hosoe, who did the music for almost every late '80s-early '90s Namco game you can think of, and is still kicking around the industry.

I mentioned anime, but the funny thing about Mirai Ninja is that it's a movie game. Namco wasn't known for their movie games back then, but this is different because Namco actually had a stake in producing the live-action film of the same name. It was released in the US as "Cyber Ninja" (the game never showed up), and it's, um... interesting? Click that link and note the giant walking mecha houses in the intro, which also show up in the game. It's nothing if not faithful!

But Mirai Ninja is still a movie game, and so in accordance with the unwritten law, it's not that great compared to other great arcade games that year. Again, it's basically Legend of Kage, complete with deceptive difficulty: You can pretty much sprint through the first few levels without taking much damage, but then the game starts throwing more enemies at you at once, and makes bosses even bigger assholes. Naturally, this would be easy to deal with under normal conditions, but by default, you only get one life, and continuing puts you back at the beginning of the stage. Come on, Namco, did you expect everyone to love everything about Mirai Ninja that they'd see the movie dozens of times and play the game dozens more regardless of how much it beat their brow?

Still, I like Mirai Ninja. It's not friendly, it's not super original, but what it lacks in unoriginal gameplay it pays back in absurd character and level design that sometimes does feel like an over-the-top Japanese action movie. Go figure.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Hotdog Storm

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Hotdog Storm (Marble Inc., 1996)

Arcade shoot-em-ups weren't always the "bullet hell" stuff we see now (and I really should find a less tired term to use next time) -- the shift towards that occurred in the late '90s, when the genre sort of leveled out in quality and wasn't really drawing in players like they used to, and without the strong competitive component of fighting games to keep them going, shooters were all but headed underground. And Hotdog Storm was one of the harbingers of the decline.

Not that it's a bad game, though. But for starters, Hotdog Storm is not a run-of-the-mill name, and if you're like me, that will be your only reason for playing it. (I'm not sure anyone figured out what it's supposed to refer to; the emblem on the title screen suggests that it's the name of the fighting force you belong to.) Unfortunately, I have to burst your bubble: The game doesn't live up to the title. Right after the title screen, you'll see that it's another jet fighter shooter where you blow up big robots. Yay. And this was in 1996, right about when all that stuff finally got long in the tooth, and a year after Cave debuted with the first DonPachi.

But, again, regardless of Marble not having the best timing in history, Hotdog Storm is a capable shooter. The graphics are decent, with a clear Raiden influence -- explosions are common, and shrapnel flies everywhere once something's destroyed. And most of the enemies, not just bosses, use sectional sprite parts to make the mechs hover and "breathe," an animation technique that wasn't used too often.

This isn't even like Dino Rex, where you think you're just playing something kind of crappy, and then all of a sudden you're thrown into Crazy Land. The only other food imagery is in the high score screen, which features flying hot dogs and condiment bottles. Maybe that's where they got the idea for the name -- someone was staring at their After Dark screensaver and decided to bring the flying toaster concept over to hot dogs. And yes, I am struggling to find something else to write about Hotdog Storm. Basically, it's worth playing just for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of shooter history.

As an interesting historical point, despite being inferior to Cave's games, Hotdog Storm ran on the original hardware developed by Cave for use in their shooters of that period. But I suppose it stands to reason that no matter how great your hardware is, and no matter what innovative games are made for it, you're going to get some lesser products from people that may or may not have tried their best to just get something good out there. All things considered, I do think the makers of Hotdog Storm tried. And at least they're really great at picking names.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Pistol Daimyo's Adventure

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Pistol Daimyo's Adventure (Namco, 1990)

Namco is credited with pushing arcade shoot-em-ups forward with Galaga and Xevious, though they rarely stepped out of those two universes afterward, except Dragon Spirit and Dragon Saber, which aren't too mechanically different from Xevious anyway. For the most part, they let other companies concentrate on that genre while they went ahead and tried to innovate in others. Namco's straight-up shooters were more about looking different than being completely different.

Enter Pistol Daimyo. It was one of Namco's few horizontal shooters (Ordyne being among them), and was not at all serious. The cartoony style lampooned many tropes from Japanese history and mythology and simply turned it into an absurd shooting game. It wasn't the first "wacky" shooting game, since the aforementioned Ordyne and Konami's Parodius came years before, and it definitely doesn't seem like something that Namco was putting a lot of marketing muscle behind. This seems more or less like a passion project (or at worst, a goof-off time-filler) for the team that made it.

Pistol Daimyo's Adventure is notable for a few things. OK, it's notable for one thing: you play as a daimyo with a giant gun fused to his head, and who flies around by rapidly flapping fans he's holding with his feet. His origin is a mystery, but few would want to question a guy with a gun on his head. Technically, Pistol Daimyo's Adventure is a spin-off of Bravoman, as the Daimyo first appeared as a boss character in that game. He's been redrawn and refitted here, as his "Adventure" takes place in his home world of Feudal Japan But Crazier (my nomenclature).

Indeed, this take on ancient Japan certainly paints an odd picture of the nation. You'll be fighting angry frogs, throngs of ninjas, giant whales, entire battleships, and more as Pistol Daimyo slowly floats along the countryside. If nothing else, it looks consistent; it's not so absurd as to throw digitized people or large sexy women in your face like Parodius or PuLiRuLa does. It's just a big damn fun cartoon.

But the true defining characteristic of Pistol Daimyo (the game) is that it's unrelentingly difficult. For something that looks like it's meant for kids, it starts bringing the hurt from the get-go. And since this was before the days of bullet-blanketing shooters like DoDonPachi, the difficulty doesn't come from the volume of bad things coming at you as it does the speed and the volume. Most of the enemies are made with their own movement patterns, so there's lots of grouping of enemies who jump or fly or run in their own ways, leaving you with few "outs." Quick reaction time is important, but if you've been playing too many recent shooters, where most of the time you're making incremental movements to avoid waves of bullets you can clearly see coming, then you might need some readjusting. Regardless, for a clever shooter that's as challenging as it is baffling, simply look down the barrel of Pistol Daimyo.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot: Dino Rex

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.

Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.

Dino Rex (Taito, 1992)

We all know Street Fighter II. It burst onto the scene in 1991 and changed everybody's notion of what a "fighting game" could be, becoming one of the marquee arcade games of the decade. Naturally, lots of other game companies from all around the world saw what Capcom was accomplishing and started the early '90s wave of fighting games. We also all know about Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter, and the bajillion fighting games made for SNK's NeoGeo.

Taito's response to this phenomenon was Dino Rex, which at the time was pretty damn unique: an all-dinosaur fighting game based in a world where the giant reptiles inhabit the earth along with a race of tribal humans that capture and pit the beasts against each other for sport. Everybody else making a fighting game was using human martial arts masters 'n' stuff, but here was something different, and so early on, at that.

If the concept sounds familliar, it should. Atari's Primal Rage had a similar approach, featuring prehistoric creatures battling for supremacy, but it came out a few years later. And Dino Rex is no Primal Rage. The dinos themselves are made up of no more than two colors each, making the whole game easily replicable in your own home after taking a trip to Dollar Tree and grabbing any two toys that resemble dinosaurs. And considering that real dinosaurs didn't have a ton of color variation to them, some of the dinos in the game are given easily-recognizable colors. Such as the T-Rex, who was given a bright purple hue that isn't immediately hilarious in the least.

Artistic re-creation of Dino Rex character select screen

The toy comparison is apt for another reason. Imagine for a second what trying to control giant dinosaurs in a fighting game would be like. Yeah, it's not much different than clacking those cheap action figures against each other. Part of it's due to the game's poor collision detection -- landing an attack can often whiff even if you're right up against an opponent, or go the other way and keep you trapped as the other player juggles or tackles you. Even the smaller dinos feel as rigid as the bigger ones.

So, basically, Dino Rex just isn't that good, and ended up forgotten for a reason. Anyway, after you get a feel for the controls, and defeat your second opponent, you head to the next sta--

Hold on.

Wait. Wait. Seriously.

What's-- did I black out for a second?

Oh my lord.

So, basically, Dino Rex is fantastic.