Takeshi’s Challenge, Part 3

February 24th, 2012

[This entry is dedicated to my brother. It’s his birthday today! Also, I guess this series is going to become a full playthrough, eventually. Previous episodes: Part 1, Part 2.]

My boss feigned surprise for all of two seconds before accepting my resignation.

And just like that, it was over. For my ten years of service to the company, I was given 500,000 yen — a pittance, really.

Luckily, I’d managed to funnel a nice 100,000-yen bonus my way after accidentally upping the interest rates on a few of our high-balance accounts some months back. I felt a little guilty about it at first, but considering that my severance pay was a goddamned disgrace, it was only fair.

You ever walk around town on a weekday afternoon with several hundred thousand yen in your pocket? It feels nice. It makes you want to explore the neighborhood and toss some money around.

I’d passed by this place every day on my way to work, but never went inside before today. These guys offered everything from foreign language instruction to guitar lessons to jazz dance practice. I didn’t have anything else to do with my afternoon, so I decided to sit in on a few classes.

I picked up a little bit of Hintabo while I was there. It’s sort of like Pig Latin, only more confusing.

Next up was a lesson on hang gliding. “Why not?” I reasoned. “Sure beats trying to sit through Yakuza vs. Yakuza.”

I jumped at the chance to learn a few shamisen chords. I always liked the way that thing sounded.

I also learned how to breakdance and picked up my pilot’s license. It was a productive day.

The sun was setting by the time the place closed, but I wanted to see what else had sprung up in the neighborhood since I’d last visited.

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A Birthday Wish

February 14th, 2012

It’s my birthday, and that means I get to post about whatever I want. With that in mind, here are the top three Internet rhythm game videos that have animals in them.

This first one is fairly straightforward. A pudgy cat observes in bored silence as its owner hits every note in a hard Guitar Hero song. His post-song celebration is obviously not appreciated.

I love this one, and I can’t explain why. A guy repeatedly plays a distorted segment of Rush’s “Working Man,” as a rather large iguana watches with interest.

It’s the collision of specific yet incongruous interests that makes this beautiful. I can’t guarantee you that this is the first Internet video in which a man practices a warbly, fake guitar solo for a cover of a Rush song while being observed by his pet iguana, but it’s the only one I’ve found so far.

I wonder if the iguana’s impressed? It’s hard to tell.

This final video really speaks for itself. Not even Linkin Park’s acclaimed blend of rap and rock can stop kitten cuddles.

The Annotated Jurassic Boy 2

January 1st, 2012

New Year’s Day often begins in a confusing haze. You may not remember much of what happened the night before, nor can you explain the aftermath.

This year, for instance, I woke up to find that, during the previous night’s festivities, I had fully produced a tool-assisted speed run for Sachen’s quintessential NES platformer Jurassic Boy 2.

It’s annotated throughout. Happy 2012!

[Credit: This video was inspired by Frank Cifaldi’s wonderful Mr. Gimmick annotated longplay. It may have also been inspired by Kentucky Deluxe brand whiskey.]

Takeshi’s Challenge, Part 2

December 26th, 2011

I woke up sweating.

It was freezing outside, but under those blankets, I felt like I was roasting alive. I had a lot on my mind, I suppose. I’d been fretting about my yearly bonus at work, and my dreams were a feverish mixture of financial failure, attempted murder, and my own death, many times over.

I kicked off the blankets and looked at the clock on my nightstand. It was two hours before the alarm was set to go off. Might as well go in to work early, I reasoned; maybe that’ll make my boss forget how much I’d been slacking off over the last few weeks. Well, months. Years, actually.

[Takeshi no Chousenjou is now fully playable in English, thanks to a fan translation released by KingMike and friends. It’s the best Christmas!]

It didn’t take long for my nightmares to sync up with reality.

My bonus was only 200,000 yen, just like in my dream. I briefly considered the possibilities.

I was feeling pretty sick, but the chief was never much for sympathy.

Or ass-kissing, for that matter.

Paid vacation? Man, I wish.

Paid vacation and then quitting? That wouldn’t go over too well.

And I wasn’t prepared to re-explore that particular scenario.

Instead I took a long lunch and decided to walk around town to clear my head.

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Reprint: Pikachu’s Nightmare

November 30th, 2011

Video Game Vocal Trax: “Cybertek,” A Windows Movie Maker Tribute To Tommy Tallarico

October 31st, 2011

Despite his recent discovery and encouragement of That which will bring about the End Of Days, I have a grudging respect for game music composer Tommy Tallarico. He created some great stuff with the Sega Genesis’ sound hardware, and his Video Games Live concert series does admirable work in promoting video game music as an art form.

His music credits extend as far back as 1993’s bizarre non-game Color A Dinosaur for the NES; incredibly, he’s not afraid to talk about the experience. More recently, he contributed to the PETA parody game Super Tofu Boy, which makes for a wonderfully obscure footnote in one’s career.

One particular track from his discography stands out, however. “Cybertek,” a song from the Sega CD game The Terminator, is Tallarico’s take on the rave genre. It plays in the background of the game’s Tech Noir club stage. To discuss it further would spoil the experience of a first-time listening, but it suffices to say that it’s a remarkable piece of work.

Obviously, the song deserves a tribute that could only be produced with Windows Movie Maker 2.6. After capturing a handful of screenshots and scripting a high-concept music video, I partnered with Movie Maker expert Bridgeport Cat to bring my vision to life. I think she did a bang-up job.

Video Game Vocal Trax: Catz (Nintendo DS)

September 21st, 2011

It was Christmas, 2006. I wanted to get a present for my girlfriend, who 1) loved cats, and 2) was totally into the Nintendo DS. Since Nintendo had yet to produce a cat version of Nintendogs, I got her the best thing available at the time: Ubisoft’s Catz.

The game itself was fine, if a little primitive in comparison to later pet-raising games for the DS. It let you use the DS stylus to pet fuzzy little kittens, and that’s really all I wanted. At the time, it seemed like the perfect Christmas gift.

Unfortunately, it also had a vocal theme song.

There’s just something about the singer’s voice, the low-quality sound sampling, and the way it crackles through the DS speakers that makes this song incredibly depressing. I gather that it’s supposed to be a song about a newborn kitten looking forward to a bright future, but the delivery makes it sound more like a baby animal dirge.

It’s the first thing that plays when the game powers up, too, so it instantly saps away all desire to brush virtual kittens. My girlfriend described it as producing a “Li’l Brudder” kind of effect — it’s just not possible to enjoy the game after you’ve listened to a song about a weak, possibly crippled kitten who isn’t yet aware of the hardship that awaits him in life.

(The title screen isn’t much help, either. Those poor kitties seem so sad! And just look at their misshapen little triangle heads! Why?)

To my surprise, I found out recently that the song wasn’t an original recording produced specifically for Catz. “Meow Meow Lullaby Remix,” as it’s called, was originally written for the charity album “For The Kids Too!” It’s performed by Nada Surf, who you might know for their ’90s hit “Popular.” What a strange discovery that was, by the way. It’s like finding out Butthole Surfers did a track for Mario Teaches Typing, or that Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the theme song for a Korean Sega Master System game or something.

The full version of “Meow Meow Lullaby” is here (warning: do not under any circumstances watch the meme-filled video itself), and if you want to hear Nada Surf drop the f-bomb while performing it live, that’s also an option.

Super GB Booster

August 15th, 2011

Several years back, a few of my friends from Kentucky came down to visit. With them, they brought — among other things — some beer, an Atari Jaguar, and a giant plush crab. It was a weird weekend. At one point we ended up playing SoulCalibur with Dreamcast fishing controllers.

Another highlight to that weekend was what you see above. The Super GB Booster was an unlicensed pass-through cartridge that allowed you to play Game Boy carts on the Nintendo 64. A similar device was also released for the original PlayStation.

Despite being an aggressively unofficial piece of hardware, it worked pretty well. Games ran full-screen with minimal hiccups. If but for one small problem, it would otherwise be an acceptable alternative to the Super Game Boy and the GameCube’s Game Boy Player.

The problem? The Super GB Booster did not output audio.

Well…that’s not entirely accurate.

To clarify, it didn’t output Game Boy sound effects and music. It did play an endless loop of something else, in an attempt to hide the lack of actual sound emulation.

The result has an interesting effect on any game you plug in to it. Below is a simulation of the Super GB Booster experience.

[photo credit: Retro Gaming Life]

Vocals of Phantasia

July 19th, 2011

Last week at GameSetWatch, I wrote about a new Spanish fan translation for Namco’s light gun shooter Time Crisis. Along with translated text, it features rerecorded dialog that required the efforts of seven different voice actors. It’s remarkably well-done, especially when considering that dubbing is rarely attempted in amateur game translations.

Below is a previous experiment in fan dubbing. “Vocals of Phantasia” was a translation patch released for Namco’s Super Nintendo RPG Tales of Phantasia several years back. The intro’s pretty funny (is she singing words?), but skip to 2:07 for the best part. Trust me, you need to hear this.

Isn’t it great? Every line is spoken in a muffled hush that’s less sotto voce and more “I’ll wake up my parents if I make too much noise.” I find a new thing to laugh at every time I watch this, from the sleepy “Though I am close to death I have never been more alive,” to the classic “Wait god of thunder hmm.”

Nintendo of America tried to outclass Vocals of Phantasia with its own dub, released for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. Amazingly, it succeeded. It succeeded in the best possible way.

Video Game Vocal Trax: NARC (Arcade)

July 4th, 2011

In 1988, Midway released NARC, a side-scrolling arcade shooter in which players waged a literal war on drugs. And prostitution. And dumpsters.

While it’s admirable that someone finally had the guts to craft a revenge fantasy against the armies of jean-jacketed PCP addicts and perverted clowns that once terrorized the streets of America, Midway’s fascination with extreme violence undercut the anti-drug message a bit. Though arresting drug dealers is presented as an option, NARC makes it explicitly clear that the preferred solution is to explode them with rockets and let their severed limbs rain from the skies like confetti in a Fourth of July gore parade.

NARC is also a very loud game that wasn’t afraid to show off its digitized voice samples. When a NARC cabinet is turned up to maximum volume (as is its default setting), an otherwise unassuming video arcade is transformed into a dissonant carnival of UUUGHs and BLAAAAGHs and YOU’RE BUSTEDs. And whenever a player’s credit ends and a new high score is earned, everyone within 200 feet of the machine is treated to this:

Also worth mentioning is the background music that plays during NARC’s second level. It’s not a vocal track…or at least, it wasn’t, until it was covered and released as a B-side by the goddamned Pixies.

Lyrics are here, if you’re having trouble deciphering them.

I guess if man is five, then the devil is six, and if the devil is six then AW NAW NAW NAW THE NARCS MAN