Archive for May, 2010

Have You Ever Heard of “Moe”?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

[Source: Actual NIS America PR letter]

I had, actually, heard of “moe” at the time of this writing, but was not fully aware of its meaning. The explanation here did little to clarify.

Years later, I still have little idea of what “moe” means. From what I can tell, it’s something along the lines of “Like pedophilia, only slightly less creepy.”

Aside from the cover letter above, I’ll always remember Ar tonelico because it hated me and wanted to ruin my life. It was assigned to me at Hardcore Gamer Magazine under mysterious circumstances (anime RPGs are not exactly in my realm of expertise), and the preview I wrote for it ended up not actually making it into the magazine.

The in-progress localized version that I played was buggy and machine-translated. Lines of text spilled over the edges of dialog boxes. Characters spouted reams of gibberish when approached. It was pretty great.

It stopped being great when it froze after I tried to save my game. On a memory card that didn’t belong to me. Which I had also used to store save data for Okami — a very, very, very long game that I was in the middle of reviewing at the time.

The card was hosed — it crashed the PlayStation 2’s memory card manager. I was able to extract my Okami save by loading the data in-game and swapping cards, but as far as I know, the affected card is still basically unusable. I bought its owner dinner at Whataburger as an apology.

It’s worth noting that save problems still exist in the final version, though they probably (hopefully) aren’t as catastrophic.

Lesson learned: When playing buggy preview code, don’t ever try to save your game.

Lesson learned #2: “Moe” is a very popular Japanese word used in Japan.

iPhone Game of the Day: My Virtual Girlfriend

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

My Virtual Girlfriend is a fully 3D, girl dating simulation game with lots of humor and mature themes.

You start out by filling out a dating profile similar to those found on the popular dating websites, including a little info about you, as well as what aspects you like to see in a partner.

Once the information is gathered it narrows it down to the top three choices based on your preferences and offers you to select one lucky girl to have a virtual relationship with.

Takeshi’s Challenge

Monday, May 17th, 2010

As a kid, I had dreams. Nothing big. Nothing unachievable. I just wanted to be a race car driver. I figured there were so many professional drivers out there racing in so many leagues that I’d fit in somewhere, anyway.

It sounds weird to say now, but I spent years mentally preparing myself to be a mediocre race car driver. I didn’t need to grab the checkered flag every time, I figured, but if I could manage to be just good enough to keep my sponsors happy, I could probably race cars for the rest of my life.

Do kids usually think about things like this? Maybe I’m weird.

Today, I work in the sales department at Niko Niko Loan.

It only recently sunk in that, at my age, I’d never be a race car driver. As a result, my performance this quarter was…well, let’s just say that it could’ve been better. I wasn’t exactly a model employee to begin with, but when the layoffs started, I just couldn’t make myself care anymore.

My boss called me into his office today to give me my performance review and my annual bonus. The last few months had been especially rough, and I was really looking forward to that bonus. I figured it would raise my spirits enough to coast me through the next few weeks, at least, until reality caught up to me.

My boss greeted me with a severe look.

“Son, you’ve been slacking off lately,” he said.

I swallowed. Seconds passed. I tried to think of something to say that would lighten the mood, but nothing came to mind.

“And sorry to say it,” he continued, “but we can’t afford to hand out big bonuses to people who can’t pull their own weight around here.”

“From now on, I hope to see better results out of you.”

I took the wad of cash he thrust at me — my bonus.

It was 200,000 yen.

Two thousand dollars, as thanks for a year’s worth of sheer hell. So much for that family vacation. And I guess those credit card bills are going to have to go unpaid for another few months.  How am I going to break this to the wife?

I left the room in a daze, not really knowing how to react. After a few seconds’ thought, I knew that whatever I was feeling right now, I needed to say it to my boss’s face.


Another Golden Axe Discovery

Friday, May 14th, 2010

While taking screenshots for the last entry, I tried out every version of Golden Axe supported by MAME, just for the hell of it. I was half-hoping to find the rumored bootleg edition that had been hacked so that enemies spurt blood and collapse into a pile of gore when killed.

Sadly, the Rated M for Mature version of Golden Axe doesn’t seem to exist. As Hardcore Gaming 101 notes, the closest we got to such a thing was the Japanese release, which — you may want to sit down for this — has blood dripping from the words “Select Player” on the character selection screen.


After letting the game loop through its attract mode a couple of times, though, I discovered another difference that HG101 didn’t catch. This delightful little vignette is exclusive to the Set 4, Japan version of Golden Axe, and is not found in any other official release:

(Please send your children out of the room before clicking through.)


How to Hate Golden Axe

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

A few days ago, I decided to investigate something that I had been wondering about for a long time — Golden Axe’s bizarre scoring system.

It’s the most mysterious part of what is otherwise a very straightforward beat-’em-up. There is no high score table, and your score is never displayed at any point during gameplay. When you lose all your lives or finish the last level, though, you see this thing:

The hell?

Doing some searching, I came across this video:

First of all, thanks, Internet, for finally introducing some math to my Golden Axe experience. Basically, if you want to play for score in Golden Axe, you need to finish off every enemy with a kick or a throw. To do a kick or a throw, you first need to complete a long combo string, which leaves you open to attack from surrounding enemies.

Your final score is divided by your number of deaths, so there’s some skill involved in mixing scoring opportunities with survival. High risk = big reward. Basic stuff.

At some point, though, some jackass discovered that you could exploit the game’s magic system to “kill” a single enemy multiple times before he or she hits the ground after a fatal blow. Using this method, scoring is less about skillful combat and more about strategically kicking those little elf turds so that their magic potions pop out in a cluster, allowing you to cast magic several times in a row after killing a boss.

I can’t imagine that this mechanic was an intentional decision on the part of the game’s designers, but it works. Follow the strategies in the video above and you’ll achieve scores that will impress anyone who a) is aware of the intricacies of Golden Axe’s scoring system and b) happens to be watching during the ten seconds in which your score is displayed before it disappears forever.

Given the obscurity of this knowledge, I wondered if I could use it to easily take over the Golden Axe leaderboards on Xbox Live. Better still, I found out that savestate abuse did not invalidate leaderboard scores. Hmmm.


From Panda Conspirator to Beloved Wife

Monday, May 10th, 2010

One of the reasons why I love Capcom’s Strider so much is because it’s packed full of so much stuff. The game is a patchwork of incongruous art, half-finished ideas, and schizophrenic level design. Somehow, though, it all gels as one jumbled, wonderful whole.

One particular element, though, always struck me as being especially weird. Tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of the third level are three stacks of artillery shells. You don’t need to destroy them (they’re not even worth any points), and you might never see them in a normal playthrough.

Destroy the top row, though, and you’ll uncover this little guy.

He does a little dance, rotates his head a full 720 degrees, and then disappears, never to be seen again.

Strider Hiryu later crossed paths with another stuffed bear in a background cameo appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 2.

This, according to Internet legend, is a tribute to the troubled programmer of the unreleased SuperGrafx port of Strider. Depending on who’s telling the story, the guy either suffered a nervous breakdown or committed suicide after cracking under the pressure of strict deadlines.

But really, what’s with that panda? More than 20 years after the game’s release, an explanation was finally given in this recent interview with Strider’s designer Kouichi Yotsui:

“The graphic staff and planners will sometimes conspire against the planner and put something in without his knowledge. For Strider, someone put a panda in the battleship’s cannon room without my knowing. The person who did that later became [Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune]’s wife, fully supporting her husband’s success.”

Yotsui also claims no knowledge of any programmer suicides or breakdowns in regards to Strider’s creation.

The panda was, apparently, snuck into the game by someone who simply likes pandas.

Well, hell.

iPhone Game of the Day: Sperman

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Feel the semen in your haaaaaand!
(Protect your ovum while you can)

(This might not be safe for work? Maybe?)


Wizard Week: Finale

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Sandwich Islands Publishing had two more volumes in its Awesome strategy guide series that I’ve neglected to cover until now. As much as I hate to end Wizard Week on a downer, the full story must be told.

I know what you’re asking yourself right now: “What are these? Are they video game strategy guides? They claim to offer all the latest strategies and hottest cheats, but if that’s true, where are the wizards?

Faced with declining interest in 16-bit consoles, Sandwich Islands Publishing’s cover designers resorted to drastic changes for Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets 5 and Awesome Super Nintendo Secrets 4. These changes included the elimination of its cover mascots.

Predictably, without a wizard, dragon, or sorceress to guide their purchasing decisions, gamers were confused as to whether these guides offered awesome secrets or not, and they sold very poorly. It should go without saying that these two books were the last volumes in both series.