And Tingle is not gay.

  • Reading time:1 mins read

In the most recent EGM (or at least the one handed out at E3), Eiji Aonuma admits that two dungeons were cut from Wind Waker. He claims that the decision was made because game was “just too big” as it was.

Considering how small the game is in its current state, and how awkwardly its flow is broken at those points, somehow this explanation doesn’t… exactly ring true. Again, the game was rushed. This doesn’t sound like the kind of thing for a Nintendo director to speak up about, though. Nintendo has enough problems already.

However: Yes.

So was I the only one who really picked up on this, or what?

It’s almost like casual jeans day.

  • Reading time:7 mins read


A few days ago, having recently acquired my very own copy of Truxton I uncloaked my Genesis — for the playing thereof.

Truxton, I found to be almost identical to Fire Shark — only… not as much fun. I can’t get past the beginning of level two without some dumb ship popping out of nowhere and running into my back before I know what’s up.

Still. It’s there. And now so is my Genesis. Being it that I’m on this Castlevania kick — again — I pulled out my Majesco-republished (and thereby terribly-boxed) copy of Bloodlines. As not entirely bad as this game is, I’ve rarely bothered to play it past the second level or so. The game is difficult — but in a more floaty way than I expect from Castlevania. It lacks some charm. As applaudable as Michiru Yamane‘s music might be, her sound effects are entirely loathsome. All in all, the game is just kind of… well, again — it’s there.

On one default set of two continues, I managed to get to… what I think should be Dracula’s final form: a big, fake Mode-7 demon with a face in his crotch. I might even have beaten him; I had the pattern down and everything. He didn’t have much life left. And yet: I didn’t dodge when I should’ve.

Still. Bloodlines. Last form (?) of last boss. Not bad, I say. Dare I suppose, better than you.

If you’ve actually beaten the game, don’t tell me. Let me feel special for the moment.


The Italian Job: Sure.

It’s got energy. It’s certainly nothing special in its own right; all I could think of, from the premise on out, were the observations of Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. Still, it’s very well-made. It has a great sense of momentum. The plot doesn’t follow through on any of the stupid possibilities that it coudl have; it manages to dodge away — fairly — every time it approaches a potentially-unsatisfying easy answer. Not once did I feel insulted or cheated. I felt tense when I was supposed to feel tense. I cared when I was supposed to care.

I think the whole Napster bit could have been minimized. The movie also acted as a rather obvious commercial for those mini cars (which I don’t believe are real Minis, as such — not that I know anything of, or much care about, cars). Still, not enough to overly stretch my patience.

So. Yeah. For what it is, it’s certainly worthwhile. There’s not much to study, but it’s enjoyable just in the fact that it’s so unusually competent. It feels more European than American — which might explain the previous observation.


According to Ebert: “This is just the movie for two hours of mindless escapism on a relatively skilled professional level.”

Didn’t I just say that?

Music (and… Game, again):

Harmony of Dissonance: seriously, this game has to possess the most powerful soundtrack in the whole series. Most Castlevanias have really impressive power-melodies. The NES trilogy: if Bach (not J.S.; perhaps a lesser Bach) were aware of 20th century music, this might be what he’d have come up with. Circle of the Moon has some of the most lush, layered, driving, just plain fun music in the series.

However: the HoD score is the only one to really make me feel anything in particular. The more closely I listen, the more impressed I become. This isn’t just videogame music. There’s something else going on here; a certain kind of genius, or at least wild inspiration. The contrasting melodies swirl into madness, creating a dark updraft for the player — instilling an unsettled momentum into his musculature.

The bass takes up the central melody role, holding the piece together while the lead stutters incoherently. The entire piece pulls in its legs, rotating more and more tightly, getting all the stronger — until it snaps; it lets go, carrying the player to sanity with one key breeze. There’s but one escape, and the music finds it — yet it doesn’t stop. It must keep going while the player remains dazed from the last bit of overstimulation. It has places to go. It can’t let the player loose to drift away. It can’t break the atmosphere.

All of the parts speak to each other. They’re not just there to fill out the orchestration, as in so many other soundtracks in this series. They argue. They trade off. They team up. They go in their own disparate directions, then crtash back together again. They listen. They respond.

This soundtrack knows what it’s doing. It has an intelligence to it. It has a personality unto itself. It would be worth talking to.

Again, I can’t say that about the Aria of Sorrow score. That music is just… nice. And appropriate. It’s… there. It has no personality of its own — and I imagine that’s probably the whole intent. People screamed so much about the HoD score that Igarashi must’ve told Yamane to give him something more typical this time around. It looks like it’s worked, given the popular reaction.


See, this is where informed feedback could do a developer well. I’ve slowly been poring my way through the free magazines that I got at E3 — and, man. I’ve yet to see one thoughtful critique. One interesting, well-considered argument. The obviously lousy games get bad scores. The high-profile games get good scores. The ones in between are gernally analyzed on the basis of a few random observations which might or might not have anything to do with the intent of the game in question. It’s hard to tell.

HoD gets a 9.5, because it must — although note is made of the terrible soundtrack. In this case, the reviewer doesn’t even bother to explain that it sounds like NES music (!). Then, neither does he vaguely brush off its composition, as in so many web reviews. Not enough space to explain. Must conserve words.

Metroid Fusion gets a 9.5. Why? Because it must. Show some respect for the Gameboy game of the year, people. Everyone knows that Metroid is flawless. Reword the press release, and perpetuate the consumer cycle. Even if it’s not perfect, so what. It’s one of the best games ever. Must show the proper respect. Mustn’t question the publishers (aside from Acclaim; they’re okay to bash at will), or they might complain. Can’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Since E3, I’ve come to the realization that the game industry — at least over here — seems to be made up of a million frat boys, all in it for the ride. And I’m not just talking about the “journalists”.

Let’s talk about the journalists, though. Brandon asks two or three well-informed questions. He listens to the responses, and asks follow-up questions. PR guy, astonished, comments that Brandon “should work for CNN”. So: how has everyone else been acting? Brandon was only being professional.

Then I remember the reviews I see on IGN and — particularly — Gamespot: the big sites. Then I remember the way news travels — rarely credited or researched with so much as a phone call. Then I overhear Tim’s experiences with a particular site to which he contributed for… about two or three weeks. Then I come home and I read the fucking press releases.Then I read the magazines.

I… was going to say more, but I’m beginning to tire — both of this subject, and in a more general sense. Maybe I’ll pick up this thread later.

For now: EGM continues to be not-all-that-bad.

Backal notes

  • Reading time:1 mins read

So. Games of the show? In no order, I proclaim thusly:

For those of you out there with copies of Aria of Sorrow (I’m talking to Doug and maybe Justin Freeman here), have you looked at the instruction booklet? It’s prettier than it needs to be! I count that as an extra-duper plus!

But then, I guess any halfway decent instruction booklet is bound to impress me, coming (as I am) off of a nigh-lifelong string of Sega systems…

So Sega’s about to kill off at least five of their ten dev teams. Care to take bets on who? Hint: It’s not gonna’ be AM2 or Sonicteam.

Hitmaker‘s president is going to become the next president of Sega, so they’re still in. Amusement Vision is responsible for all of Sega’s hardware, and is Sega’s primary link to Nintando. Plus, the AV head is in charge of all consumer development at Sega, last I heard. Overworks has Sakura Taisen, so there’s no getting rid of them.

That leaves Wow, Sega Rosso, Smilebit, UGA, and Wavemaster.

We can get rid of Sega Rosso and lose… nothing. Wow is amusing to have around just on account of how charmingly awful they can be. I do wonder about Wavemaster, as they’re responsible for nearly all of the sound and music in nearly everything that Sega does.

What really bums me is the Smilebit and UGA probability. These are probably my two favourite Sega teams — and yet they’re also probably amongst the least profitable, on account of how artsy they are. Most of Smilebit’s stuff has flubbed over the last couple of years, in some cases more inexplicably than in others. UGA’s stuff is just plain anticommercial.

Still, these guys embody — at least for me — the heart of what Sega is.

One of the reasons I was so concerned about the Sammy merger is that Sammy intended to mess around with Sega’s dev teams. Looks like it’s gonna’ happen anyway, though.

I’ve a feeling this mandate came from CRI.

Grr. Fie and demons.

Still resting. Will write up the rest of the E3 stuff for IC later tonight.

Note: Bethesda wants to send me games!

Another note: Dammit, I guess I need to buy a PS2. Given the SNK support, the 3D-AGES stuff, Lament of Innocence, and a swath of other junk I can’t remember offhand, it doesn’t seem like I can avoid it any longer.

SVC Chaos

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

SVC Chaos has a nice intro.

It has a very nice intro.

It has an especially nice intro for recent-era NeoGeo productions.

It has Mister Karate in the intro.

I really don’t know what to say about the game itself, though.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Say “Guh”

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

Sega hasn’t had much to say, so far. Their booth space occupies about a third to a quarter of the area devoted to Sony or Nintendo. Many high-profile, recently-announced games (Dororo, Kunoichi, Shining Force) are absent. Others, like Altered Beast, are relegated to a short and uninformative video loop.

It’s entirely possible that Sega is keeping all of the interesting stuff locked up until tomorrow, the last day of the show. We’ll see, we’ll see.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Shadow Over Bethesda

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

Neither Vince nor I were entirely sure what we were doing in Bethesda’s private room. While I am as fond of Elder Scrolls as anyone who might be me, I’m not really as versed in Bethesda’s catalogue as I might be.

What we ended up with was a brief demonstration of a couple of the developer’s most recent projects — both licensed, both examples of why a popular license is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of game design.

We stepped in to the middle of a lengthy overview of Pirates of the Caribbean. For a game based off of a movie based off of a theme park attraction, the design is surprisingly deep.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

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by [name redacted]

I can’t really argue with Leon. This guy is sleek. He controls well. He’s the best brawler in the entire series. More importantly, his game is interesting.

Essentially, Lament of Innocence is the evolution of the classic Konami brawler that the new Turtles game should have been. It’s fast, tight, varied, stylish, and generally involving to play.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

SNK – The future is now…again.

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

Although we’ve got a more in-depth interview tomorrow, I couldn’t resist myself. Almost wholly by accident, I managed to stumble into a lengthy conversation with Mr. Ben Herman, president of the newly-reformed SNK NeoGeo USA. He was unexpectedly responsive, friendly, and open to the obsessive Insert Credit style of curiosity.

In brief, here are some of the most prurient items of discussion.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

‘window-shopping in an empty store’

  • Reading time:2 mins read

by [name redacted] and tim rogers

The president of Nintendo of America is named George Harrison. Somehow I had overlooked this fact up until today. Mister Harrison revealed that Donkey Kong “will remain a lovable ape” and that Mario “will never start shooting hookers”.

More intriguing, however, is the fact that Satoru Iwata speaks English. While he still needs a translator to help with more complex ideas, Iwata nevertheless manages to express himself with some appreciable degree of competence.

The Nintendo conference was comfortable, if not particularly informative. Outside of the multiplayer Pac-Man performance and the Will Wright announcement, there wasn’t much new to see. The swag wasn’t thrilling, either; just a paper sack full of press material and a ribbed tee shirt.

Since Brandon had to be elsewhere, I was given the rare opportunity to impersonate him and infiltrate the show. As it turned out, I never even needed his ID; his business card was enough. Given that Doug got in and that he wasn’t even on the list, perhaps my nefariousness was without need. Darned if I didn’t feel like a super spy, though.

A super spy eating uncommonly delicious raspberry muffins, that is to say. The buffet was… well, you really had to be there.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GCN/Nintendo)

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by [name redacted]

Miyamoto comes from an older school of game design, from a time when we didn’t know as much as we do now — and so we didn’t know what was impossible. We also had little history, so it was up to bards like Miyamoto to create one for us.

With a handful of details, a rough outline, and his whims, Miyamoto spins tales for his audience. With every telling and every audience, his stories go down a slightly different path. No one performance is more accurate than any other; the truth is in the telling. Save the odd sequel, every Zelda game is a new beginning, with a new, yet always familiar, Link and a new Zelda. It’s getting so there are nearly as many interpretations as of Journey to the West or the legend of King Arthur. And for the same reasons.

Legends like these are ancient; they’re from a world before our linear sense of time and our concrete idea of history. Back then, the world moved in cycles. The seasons came and went; life flourished and waned — and then it began again, a little different, mostly familiar. Reality is in the moment and in that faith in the cycle.

The way that videogames age, this cycle has turned into a death spiral. Every five years there’s a new generation of players, with its own collective assumptions and its own built-in innocence to history. For each new wave of gamers, the story must be adapted and retold again.

The problem is this modern concept of progress. Whereas only a few generations ago one year was much the same as the next, technology has now placed us on a non-stop rocket train to anywhere-but-here. So our perception is warped from the speed, and so we are blinded to the cycles that used to define our reality.

Our rhythms have been broken, replaced with the dull whine of progress. The future is our salvation, while the present is a blur and the past is our collective shame. We live in a society that has invented history as a straw man for our pursuit of an illusory perfection.

Wind Waker is a game caught in an unfortunate dilema between these two world models.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Phantasy Star Collection (GBA/THQ)

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by [name redacted]

Phantasy Star II, on a Game Boy. How surreal.

Here we’ve got one of the most important videogames of all time, prohibitively expensive at release for the then-new Sega Genesis. Now the game rests on a 1-1/2″ x 2-1/4″ silicon wafer, shouldered by both its predecessor and its successor. Together, the three games now go for less than thirty dollars, and are accessible anywhere you can tote your Hello-Kitty-pink Gameboy Advance.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Metroid Fusion (GBA/Nintendo)

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by [name redacted]

So, a new Metroid then. How is it this game took eight years to make? You’d almost think it was designed by Nintendo.

Though I have digested only a sample of the system’s bountiful and no doubt noble bounty, I feel it safe to conclude that Metroid Fusion is so far the best game to be set loose on the Game Boy Advance.

Which is not to suggest the game is flawless. Because, well. The game is flawed.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Diction of Dissonance

  • Reading time:2 mins read

I haven’t been around much (in the sense that I have, but just haven’t been communicative), but to make up for that I’ve actually sort of been doing things! Kind of! Maybe! I guess!

Beyond the things which are actually interesting: this will all look pretty familiar to nearly anyone reading me today, but that article of mine is up on Insert Credit. It was supposed to be a review, except that it took so long to scrunge together that it has transformed into a “feature”.

Me? I don’t like it. Cluttered, disjointed. The review, that is. Next time I’ll be working with fresh ideas, so it should go a bit more smoothly. And Brandon says the response has been good, whatever that means, so there’s room for even more out of whence this particular article didn’t come!

Also not sure why he linked the site, twice.

So. Um. E3? Tim made sure that it’s clear that he’s going. Am I going? I have the option, right in front of me. I won’t have to pay for a hotel, in theory. I just have to figure out how to get there.

Why haven’t I gotten my macaroni and cheese, yet? Tell me. I must know.


Is it just me or does Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich rock the socks off the… uh, guards of Fort Knox? It’s all in the timing.

Harmony of Dissonance

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by [name redacted]

Harmony of Dissonance is director Koji Igarashi’s attempt to rescue the Castlevania series by wresting control back from the supervision of Konami’s Kobe studios. Whereas KCEK’s Circle of the Moon was set pretty much outside established continuity, this new game is Castlevania in function as well as in form. Though maybe no better or worse a videogame its own right, Harmony is in nearly every respect a vastly superior Castlevania.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Caffeine buzz kicking in. Heart rate critical. Crankiness engaging.

  • Reading time:5 mins read

Yesss… I think perhaps I shall throw together that review. After looking through my usual collection of sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that almost no one else writing about the game has more than sixty percent of a personal clue toward the subject at hand. Come to think of it, it’s actually rather rare that I see more than a few mediocre hints at background knowledge — or even a strong desire to grap the inner essence of a particular work — in the analysis of those who would consider themselves to be game critics.

Even on fan-run sites, I feel like I’m running through a consumer reports analysis — more often than not, by someone without a whit of either aesthetic discipline or deep background in the essence of gaming. I’m not trying to sound pretentious here, as greatly as I might neverhteless be succeeding at it. I just mean — well, hell. You get the obvious hacks, but as often as not the people you’ll find reviewing movies in any respectable sense have some kind of claim to authoritativeness (whether or not their opinions end up being valid in the end). Yes, they’ve seen Citizen Kane and the works of Kurosawa and Wilder and Hitchcock. They’ll agree to the genius of Buster Keaton, and at least one Marx Brothers movie will be in their top five list of favourite comedies. They’ll understand pacing, framing, and they’ll have most of the tiresome “rules” of cinema memorized, so as to amuse themselves by checking them off during the more mundane features imposed upon their time. They might disagree as to what makes a great movie, but they’ll at least be qualified to have a public opinion.

This is, I fear, yet another extension of the current attitude toward gaming as an expressive medium. At best, videogames are generally considered little more than a profitable form of enterttainment. Even Miyamoto, of all people, considers it a mistake to think that videogames can be art. Hell, art isn’t in the object; it isn’t in the medium; it’s in the method. And frankly, although still immature, videogames have more expressive potential than any other medium out there. Hell, some of the most cherished art in the world was originally intended as crass, throwaway entertainment. I’m not about to compare Yu Suzuki to Shakespeare here, but you see what I’m getting at.

But that’s exactly what makes decent coverage all the more important — we’re at the early stage of a form of human expression quite possible greater than any previously devised. Even now it’s usually pretty easy to separate the pure throwaway entertainment from the worthwhile experiences. And then compare a developer like Treasure or Sega’s United Game Artists to the likes of Square or (ugh) say, Take-Two Interactive. There are some very different motivations going on here. Then check out a company like SNK. How do you explain them?

There’s so much humanity here that it seems amazing that it could be overlooked. And yet no, all people see are machines. It’s worse than the flak that electronic artists and musicians used to get up until a few years ago, since at least people are well used to the visual and aural arts. Again, the medium is still in its birthing throws. Look at the pain film has gone through. Some people even now still don’t comprehend photography as an artistic medium — and there will be any number of excuses, from the ignorant to the elite. But behind all of it, you still have humans pulling the levers. And as often as not, they’ve got something to say. In some cases it might just be “give us money!” In others, it’s a deep respect for the fans. In other cases you’ve got individuals working their butts off to form and maintain fleshed-out, vibrant universes.

Shenmue is art. Anyone who can’t appreciate it on that level will probably not be impressed. And you know how people have reacted to this game — particularly in the US. I could slap every single person I hear trash the game because of how supposedly boring it is, or because it doesn’t cater to his or her every whim. Christ, people. To appreciate art, you have to take it at its own level! But then we’re back to where we started. Videogames are meant to be entertainment. Even Miyamoto will tell you this. But you know what? Miyamoto is an artist. He’s a slacker art school kid who was hired as a favor to a relative who worked at Nintendo in the early ’80s. He’s not an engineer. Whether he chooses to admit or believe it himself, what he creates is as often art as it is entertaining. Never trust the artist to judge his own work, people. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about; he’s only the conduit for his vision.

And damn my ass, I forgot that I’m supposededly working.