Outrage Trigger

I finished Douglas Coupland’s Jpod over Thanksgiving. It’s pretty much a revamp of his fascinating mid-‘90s geek subculture pastiche Microserfs, but this time it’s about modern-day game programmers bouncing off each other in a series of interconnected plot threads and ersatz observations about life in this gosh-darn-kerazy world of McDonald’s and Google and E-Mail Tony Hawk Jpeg Karaoke Internet Hug Machines.

Something else bothers me. It’s not the fact that none of the book’s characters is particularly appealing or the fact that Coupland lazily inserts himself into it as part of some irksome post-post-modern folding act, or the dozen or so pages of nothing but pi digits. That’s all annoying, but what really bothers me is this self-written profile of the main character.



I've underlined the problem. Who really prefers the PlayStation port of Chrono Trigger, with its unnecessary anime video clips and loading times, to the original Super NES version? No one, that’s who. And it’s not like our hero is ignorant of 16-bit games; there’s a scene where his co-workers are screwing around with Super Metroid on an emulator, an emulator presumably capable of running the superior form of Chrono Trigger.

For shame, Mr. Coupland. If this blatantly incorrect detail is your idea of a joke, it’s still a grievous, inexcusable, and potentially damaging error that I demand to see corrected in future printings, or at least on that website. I'll start an online petition if I have to.

Scar Removal

I recently started playing Final Fantasy Tactics in preparation for the enhanced, retranslated port that hits the PSP this Wednesday. It’s made me realize that, as much as I love the game, a lot could be improved with a simple, cohesive rewrite of the dialogue.

And while that’s what we’ll supposedly get with Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, I hope the localizers preserved one little exchange just before the first battle, in which the royally enlisted knight Agrias Oaks has some words with the soldiers of Prince Goltana.





No, not her beautiful face!



Her noseless, abstract, largely indistinct face. The same face that most of the other characters have, actually.

I’m always amused when authors go out of the way to tell us that a particularly tough female character is also attractive, especially when it adds nothing to the story. It’s often clumsily used in print, and when it comes to films, comics, videogames or any other visual medium, it’s much more effective to simply show the uncommon splendor of a fierce young woman or mind-controlled cyborg werewolf ninja superheroine. But some can’t leave it at that. Metal Gear Solid introduces Sniper Wolf as “Beautiful and Deadly” instead of describing her combat abilities, and, in the often grim fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin insists on telling us that Arya is indeed a pretty little girl underneath her many layers of plot-accrued grime, because God forbid that a murderous, lice-ridden tomboy should be ugly.

Returning to Tactics, I wonder why we need to know that stern, matronly Agrias there is actually Beautiful and Deadly, despite having the exact same all-but-featureless face as everyone else in the game. Did it figure into some discarded subplot about her, her knightly duties, and scars? Too bad Agrias and the rest of the game’s recruitable characters get only cursory development once they join your party, so we’ll never know for sure.

Prototypical Treasure

I recently found not one, but two things that combine my overbearing fondness for Treasure games with my love of stupidly obscure trivia. From the September 1995 issue of EGM comes this preview of "Guardian Warriors," which all good Treasure nerds (and anyone who reads the lower caption) will recognize as an early version of Guardian Heroes.




What's different? Well, the game's story mode apparently has only two playable main characters, as opposed to the five available in the final game. One of those leads is Serena Corsair, while the other is, strangely enough, a white-clad version of Valgar Reinhart. He isn't playable in the final version's story mode, though he has a prominent role as the standard semi-honorable bad guy who turns halfway good once the real villains are unmasked.

And now, an early version of Alien Soldier, Treasure's blisteringly hard Mega Drive action-shooter. These shots come from the May 1994 Gamefan, back when the title had a Slab Bulkhead human hero instead of the bird-headed cyborg seen in the final.



For comparison, here's a shot of the released game's main character and one of the bosses seen above.



And here are huge scans of those Alien Soldier and Guardian Heroes previews. The shots of Alien Soldier are lumped in with early Light Crusader screens, but I never liked that one enough to compare it now. Even my Treasure fetish has limits.

The Red Star: A History in Covers

It was actually the Xbox version I played, but OH FUCKING WELL


I'm playing The Red Star demo. I still live in Ohio. And Acclaim is still in business.

It impresses me. I'm aware of the nicely illustrated and unsubtly allegorical comic on which it was based, but the game really sells me by marrying two old-fashioned gaming staples: shooting enemy soldiers and beating the crap out of legions of street punks. Except instead of palette-swapped thugs, I'm pounding on the fur-hatted minions of an evil URRS dictator named Troika. Yeah, the URRS. I guess calling the end boss “Joseph Stallen” would’ve been too obvious.

The cover art looks like a lazy mock-up, but hey, it’s a fun action game set in a Soviet Russia full of sorcery and high technology, and I'm going to pick up The Red Star when it hits.

A few weeks later, Acclaim goes under, and amid all the gloating of now-grown ‘80s children still bitter over Total Recall for the NES, some choose to mourn the fact that the company's gone to the grave with what might have been its best game in years.

2005



The Brothers Karamazov: The Game.

What? XS Games is publishing The Red Star for the PS2? For only twenty bucks? Sure, they haven’t set a firm date for it, but the important thing is that it’s coming and that the new cover art’s better. I bet it’ll be out soon, because the game was pretty much finished by the time Acclaim sank, right?

Right?

2006



Boris Badenov confirmed as a hidden character.

I'm checking ebgames.com every month to see when The Red Star is coming out. And it’s always the next month. Always. But the new cover suggests that someone's doing something somewhere with regard to the game. Even if Makita's going to catch her death of cold.

But it’ll be out soon. XS Games wouldn’t screw with us. Surely we can rely on the company that published Superstar Dance Club #1 Hits and gave The Castle of Shikigami II the worst translation ever.

2007



OH GOD A TWO PLAYER MODE

OH GOD AWESOME LASERS

OH GOD A BOSS battle thats not all that interesting I guess

Wow. They’re bringing it out. They even have a website and a press release. And they say it’s “available now.” So I’ll just head over to ebgames.com and…

IN SOVIET RUSSIA man that shit is old

Aw fuck. But I'm sure this will be the last delay. I just know it.

That Was Not The Way of It

It doesn’t really shock me that voice actors play many versatile roles. It comes with their trade, after all, and I’m no longer amazed that Tara Strong is in Powerpuff Girls, Final Fantasy X, and Gurumin. Or that Shion’s voice actress from Xenosaga II is also Ty Lee in Avatar. Or that John Di Maggio and Phil LaMarr are in damn near everything.

But after I’d sunk over 50 hours into Final Fantasy XII, this DROPPED MY FUCKING JAW.





Consider me shocked, Keith Ferguson.

Gunstar Blues

I have important news: Gunstar Super Heroes is only $10 at Toys R Us. If you have even the remotest, vaguest, slightest, subtly lingering fondness for games that let you shoot things, blow them up, and feel good about it all, you must buy this.
 

Yeah, it’s short and the less useful weapons from the original Gunstar are gone, but Super Heroes is still an amazing little game, and one that I’m still playing regularly even though I bought it back in 2005. It’s very much like one of those classic action titles that’s worth picking up again and again, not for high scores or actual progress, but just because it’s fun. It’s fun to ride a scampering robotic minecart through a gauntlet of bombs and gunfire, it’s fun to jumpkick your way to the top of a pyramid, and it’s fun to destroy tiny, innocent villagers’ homes for power-ups. It’s also perfect for playing in short bursts on the subway, since you can access any Gunstar sub-stage once you’ve cleared it. Just skip that fucking helicopter level.

I’m still surprised that Gunstar Super Heroes didn’t catch on, considering that today’s gamers are so desperate for decent old-school action games that they’ll praise mediocrities like Ninja Five-O, Scurge: Hive, and Sigma Star Saga. If you can bid sixty goddamn dollars for a game duller than Wrath of the Black Manta, you can spare ten bucks for Gunstar.

Semantic Nonsense

A new scandal arises. The GameBoy Advance port of Final Fantasy VI apparently censors the original’s scene of Celes being beaten by a guard while chained to the wall. No longer punched, she now just falls to the floor, apparently overcome by a case of the vapors.


Such editing was also present in the Japanese release, which means that Square Enix has caved in to Nintendo’s family-friendly policies across the board and denied us our right to see 16-bit sprite women shackled and abused. Seriously, though, I'm not sure why this should bother me. It's not a defining moment for the character, nor is it a famous scene in the game.

Others have complained about Square’s new translation changing the dialogue in Ted Woolsey’s original 1994 adaptation. In the GBA release, Kefka now says “son of a sandworm” instead of “son of a submariner.” Riots may ensue.


And there’s more gay innuendo surrounding Sabin.


The translators even take deliberate potshots at insanely devoted Final Fantasy VI fans. You know, I was once thinking of buying this GBA remake. I’m definitely getting it now.