Monday, November 30, 2015

MOS: Peace forever

Super Vehicle-001 Metal Slug (most people just call it Metal Slug), which I mentioned in yesterday's entry, took Contra's side-scrolling army-of-one premise and injected it with a new level of personality. The result was one of the most gleefully violent and punishing quarter munchers of the 90s, and one of the Neo Geo platform's best-loved titles.

Players tenacious (and wealthy) enough to finish the game are rewarded with one of two endings. In the single-player ending, the camera follows a paper airplane which sails over a now-silent battlefield littered with the bodies of the enemy soldiers you killed on your mission. A grieving female also appears, mourning over a battlefield cross.

I always thought it a stroke of genius that this game, which appears to enshrine wanton violence, would find a way to make players feel terrible about all the killing they had done.

The two-player ending is more upbeat, with the airplane gliding over scenes of enemy soldiers relaxing and enjoying the frivolity of armistice.

Both endings conclude with the above variation on the Game Over screen emblazoned with "PEACE FOREVER!"

This concludes Month of Screenshots. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Star Wars Battlefront: Imperial Walken

Christopher Walken impersonations are a dime a dozen, so I try to avoid them. But when there's an Imperial stormtrooper who looks exactly like Christopher Walken, what do you expect me to do?

MOS: Maybe just let the frog go

In one of the most mysterious and seemingly unnecessary displays of localization meddling ever seen in the history of games, Chou Wakusei Senki: Metafight underwent graphical alterations to its introductory sequence, changing from a serious tale of near-future interplanetary warfare to Blaster Master — a story about a boy whose frog got irradiated, grew to a giant size and escaped underground.

Take a moment to think about this. The game's concept was originally "aliens attack; kill aliens." This is a tried-and-true formula. Countless games before this one (including commercial tours de force like Space Invaders and Xevious) had made good use of the alien trope. And clearly the trope wasn't getting tiresome for gamers, or else how do you explain the subsequent success of games like Metal Slug and Contra?

So a game that would have been just as successful in the US as it had been in its native Japan received a new (and decidedly idiotic) opening cutscene depicting Jason and his pet frog, who — OOPS — jumps onto a big box marked "RADIOACTIVE" (that just happens to be in Jason's backyard) and grows to the size of a minivan. Then the frog — OOPS — jumps down a yawning sinkhole which also just happens to be in Jason's backyard. Jason follows the frog down the hole and — OOPS — happens upon a gnarly-looking pink tank which just happened to be underneath Jason's backyard.

He then finds a pilot suit and helmet (which fit him, even though he's a kid) and concludes that the only way to save his frog is to lay waste to the hitherto unknown world of mutants that populate the subterrain.

Is it me, or is the alien attack scenario more plausible?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

MOS: We cannot win the War on Drugs

Winners don't use drugs. Winners sell drugs and use the proceeds to turn themselves into freakish human-head hovertanks.

In their 1988 arcade game Narc, Williams Electronics started a tradition I would eventually begin calling the "final boss is a total joke" phenomenon. Seen also in Smash TV and Total Carnage, this phenomenon was characterized by ridiculously durable (and tragically ugly) boss characters. In Narc, it's Mr. Big, the drug-kingpin-turned-Photoshop-nightmare. He's got a gigantic portrait of himself (pre-transformation) labeled "ME."

Just because the game is anti-drug doesn't mean the developers weren't tripping their faces off when they came up with this wackiness.

Fun fact: 1988 was also the year of the formation of the band Mr. Big, although their big hit "To Be With You" wouldn't appear until 1991, in between the releases of Smash TV and Total Carnage.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Ops III: Frumpy, dumpy pants

More Team Deathmatch as the Battery specialist, AKA "Future Miley Cyrus." Her War Machine weapon is dependable and addictive, but usually results in a lot of mess.

MOS: Locket clutch

There is a cliché in anime where a character will show resolve by clutching a locket, pendant or some other sentimental trinket. The pilot of the D117B Axelay space fighter also does this.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

MOS: Morph ball; Varia suit; bikini with moon boots

The only thing more mindblowing than the Metroid ending in which you find out Samus is a woman, is the Metroid ending in which you find out she's stacked like Tetris.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MOS: Nintendo butt

(It occurred to me after writing this that "8-bit butt" would probably be a funnier title, but what ever.)

River City Ransom was revolutionary in its success at combining fighting, stat management and shopping into one whirlwind of a game. Something that stuns me about the game now, however, is what a good job American Technos did localizing it for the West. Japanese signage was translated or changed altogether. A multitude of purchasable items that would make sense in Japan but not so much overseas were reimagined. Even the character graphics were overhauled to change the game from a Japanese story of rival rockabilly hooligans from various high schools to a Warriors-like gang drama.

One such change resulted in a quaint neighborhood sento (public bath) being changed to a "health club," presumably to prevent Western audiences from saying, "Public bath? WTF?" All the same, however, patronizing that establishment results in the same shot of Alex/Kunio's pixelated posterior as he towels off.

Kids playing this in 1989 never got tired of laughing at Alex's butt.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MOS: I thought the uniform was optional

High school girls + frenetic ninja combat + breakaway clothing = Senran Kagura. If any one game should serve as representative to the mainstream otaku genre (the genre I hold responsible for the Japan's declining birthrate), it should be a game from this franchise.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus for the PS4 features a mode called "Georama" (might as well call it "Pervy Tableau"), in which the player can arrange up to five of the game's playable characters in a scene like this one. To be fair, I doubt many other players are putting the characters in scenes like this, but this image captures the bullying that would most likely take place in an all-girls, all-shinobi, all-ridiculous underwear education institute.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The joke wasn't funny until I made it funny

MOS: Sassy assassin

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was one of my all-time favorites on the original PlayStation. Having learned about it via a gameplay video of the Japanese version on a demo disc, I was hyped about Tenchu before I even had a chance to play it. The English version's voice acting was a very special kind of bad, but many people remember it for Ayame's line:

Your arrows are like you: weak and twisted. I fear them NOT.

Only that's not what she says. What she actually says is:

I fear them....NAAAAAAHT.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MOS: Before & after

I need a break from the ugliness of Technocop and the stupidity of Bionic Commando. That's why today's screenshot is from Fallout 4, a game that allows you to create as pretty (or as ugly) a character as you want...and proceed to have that character interact with a whole game's worth really goofy-looking NPCs. I finalized my character as this tough-as-nails blonde gal, imagining a backstory that involved her leading a secret double life, balancing her rose-colored domestic existence with her job selling state secrets to the Ruskies.

The backstory helps take my mind off the fact that, for most of the game, she runs around looking like a kid with epilepsy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

MOS: Busted

Oh my god, it's Technocop. This awful game for the Sega Genesis (Megadrive) was an uninspired mix of Roadblasters and Elevator Action (minus the elevators, plus a gun that causes every enemy to disintegrate into a disgusting mess on the floor). It was pretty forgettable, but the title screen, with its inept use of perspective and its duckfacing, cross-eyed hero, really stayed with me. On top of that, keep in mind the audio that accompanied this screen:

Technocop! [Blam, blam, blam] Busted. [Cue theme music that sounds like a robot with diarrhea]

You might be wondering why it's called Technocop. Is he a cyborg? Does he listen to Messiah or maybe Lords of Acid while he callously blows suspects away with his ridiculous firearm? Nope, he just has an arm-puter:

This futuristic bit of techno-tech reveals to us that the perp is a 23-year-old construction worker named...Dah Butch? Dan Butch? Dam Butch? Who cares, details, details. Point is, he's massive (clocking in at a mighty 230 mass) and should be considered dangerous.

I'd also like to point out that someone living in this squalid tenement seems to think that Dance Dance Revolution rules.

Technocop was absolute garbage.

Friday, November 20, 2015

MOS: Beware of the elevator

It was cool that the NES port of Bionic Commando allowed you to tap into enemy communications and spy on their evil doings. What's less cool is that doing so revealed their most embarrassing weakness: elevator phobia.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MOS: Crisis of conscience

No words are uttered in the ending cinematic of Mega Man 2, but the implication is that the title character begins to question his purpose. His goal of protecting the peace could only be achieved via the destruction of every other comparable robot. Mega Man's circuit brain struggles with this contradiction as he walks home (a journey that apparently takes an entire year, if we're to take the ending's visuals literally), and finally we see his helmet sitting abandoned atop a hill overlooking an idyllic town.

Mega Man 2 was the first NES game I ever finished and the introspective nature of this ending took me by surprise the first time I saw it at age eleven. It was years before I saw a video game ending that would come close to the poetry and interpretability of this one.

Black Ops III: Light means heavy

More Black Ops III multiplayer, this time playing as the Ruin specialist. The only thing this guy has ruined is his hygiene with that mudflap on his chin.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

MOS: Shoulda brought my Segway

At the opening of Super Castlevania IV, Simon Belmont stops in his tracks and freezes, shoulders hunched in dread as he realizes Dracula's front door is about six miles away from his outer gate.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

MOS: Cayde-6

With the singular advent of everyone's favorite wisecracking robot, Destiny officially has the market cornered on funny metal guys. Thank you, Cayde-6, for changing Destiny's script from a self-indulgent jargonfest to a self-aware one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

MOS: Commander Elliot Stabler

Just as is the case with movies and TV, it can be nice to see a familiar face in a game. In the campaign mode of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, the player is introduced to the world of future-techno mumbo jumbo by Commander Taylor, played by Christopher Meloni (of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit fame). I'm not very far into the campaign mode yet, but I'm hoping for a surprise appearance by Olivia Benson.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I never want to hear the phrase "selective grief" again

I will lay out in plain terms why putting a French flag filter on your Facebook profile image does not constitute "selective grief."
  1. All grief -- and for that matter, all emotion -- is selective. Humans aren't capable of anything but selective emotion. The opposite of "selective grief" would be "total grief," in which we express grief for every single grief-causing thing that happens in the world at any given moment. Guess what, nobody has enough time on his hands to show "total grief," because bad things happen every minute. Selective grief is the best anyone can do.
  2. It's not grief, it's a profile photo. A picture on Facebook doesn't constitute grief, nor does it prove the act of grieving. It's not even designed to do that. By Facebook's own description, the French flag filter is meant to "show solidarity with the victims" of the Paris terror attack. Selective grief? No. Selective Facebook participation, maybe. But again, what other kind of Facebook participation is there?
  3. Westerners are numb to the idea Middle East violence (yes, that means you too, Lebanon) through no fault of their own. When a terror attack happens in Paris, it makes big headlines because we aren't used to it. That's what makes it "news." The Syrian civil war, on the other hand, has been spilling into neighboring countries since it began in 2011 (and into Lebanon since 2012), yet it took an attack on Paris to bring some people's attention to this fact. Which people are those? Mainly the ones whining about selective grief.
I now consider the matter closed. "Selective grief" will henceforth be added to my list of Phrases That Trigger My Auto-Ignore Response. It'll be in good company there, with friends like "law-abiding gun owner" and "War on [anything]."

Black Ops III: Melt the guns

Tomorrow's Month of Screenshots entry will be from Call of Duty: Black Ops III. In the meantime, here's a sample of my multiplayer incompetence.

MOS: You know how to spell it

From a cutscene between the second and third stages of Double Dragon II: The Revenge on the NES. The protagonist yells "hold it!" at a helicopter that's already ten meters off the pad, and then succeeds in jumping high enough to G-R-A-S-P the boarding ladder. What a game.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Bad Dudes is a mindnumbingly repetitive arcade beat-em-up in which two titular dudes in white pants and tank tops go on a 'roid-fuelled rampage to save president Reagan, who has been AND I QUOTE: "kidnapped by ninjas." On finishing the game, Ronnie (who doesn't know how to use commas, let alone fix the economy) shows his gratitude by suggesting a fast food run and then uttering what reads to me like a scary, robotic laugh.

BONUS: In the Amiga port, the ending is even better/badder:

Friday, November 13, 2015

MOS: Approach to Narshe

There isn't much to the opening credits sequence to Final Fantasy VI, but for me it's still the most memorable prologue in the entire series.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

MOS: Get your sticky hands offa me

Sniper Wolf was just about the coolest character I had ever seen when Metal Gear Solid came out. With Quiet, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's answer to the question "who's hot in the world of Russian sharpshooter ladies," Kojima has outdone himself. Quiet's first appearance in the game, a snipers' duel punctuated by her interminably calm humming, sets the tone and establishes her as a scary, superhuman assassin whose actions do all the talking.

And here we see Snake wiping his bloody mitts all over her. Stop it, will ya?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MOS: The underground is overcrowded

I meant to write a post about Terraria back when I first got hooked on the Vita version in 2013. I logged countless hours, mostly on my train commute, digging ever deeper and building ever higher. I've since graduated to the more full-featured Mac version, although I still find it hard to get used to playing it with keyboard and mouse.

A lazy analogy would be to call Terraria "2D Minecraft," but what I like most about this game are the aspects that defy that description. Terraria takes the building and crafting elements that form Minecraft's core and re-install them into something slightly more game-like. It also helps that the game's art style, modelled after the 16-bit era, is more aesthetically pleasing to me than Minecraft's everything-is-made-of-cubes schema.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MOS: Everything's normal

At some point the design minds at Konami, a company associated with perfecting the shoot 'em up game genre, went koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs and started an offshoot series of titles whose sole purpose was to parodize the emblematic Gradius series. The appropriately titled Parodius series took the visceral satisfaction of flying what is essentially a gun with wings through space, replaced all the sprites with seemingly random objects and characters, filled the soundtrack with wacky renditions of public domain music and, just to make sure you took it seriously, ramped up the difficulty level.

I like to think the initial planning for a Parodius game consists mainly of a big brainstorming session where nobody ever says "no."

Suzuki: How about sumo wrestlers?

Muta: How about a hybrid cat/pirate ship?

Takano: How about volcanos?

Araki: Yeah, volcanos. With faces!

Hasumi: And instead of lava, they spew eggplants.

Endo: Absolutely. How about a giant Vegas showgirl?

Monday, November 09, 2015

MOS: Peach assault

As I mentioned in the most recent episode of Fight Meee! Killer Instinct, I had the pleasure of joining the second closed beta test of Street Fighter V. Getting matches wasn't easy, but when I was able to find opponents, I found I had the most success with Rainbow Mika, the loud-talking Russian pro wrestler girl. In the absence of Blanka, she has a fighting chance at becoming my main. (Note: I fully expect Blanka to appear on the SFV roster at some point, but I need a character I can call my own until then.)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Watch Dogs e05: Autumn sunrise

An old game finds new ways to make me angry. Watch our superhacker friend Aiden fail time and time again to complete the task at hand.

MOS: Synaesthetic egg

Sound Shapes, a platforming game with an interactive soundtrack, went free to PlayStation Plus members this fall in Japan, depriving many PS4 owners of any excuse not to play it. The player's nondescript avatar (the blue-and-yellow-fried-egg-looking thing in the upper left of this still) bounds from screen to screen, touching triggers that cue variations in the accompanying music as it goes. Taking into account its robust level editor and a nice selection of DLC in the form of additional levels (and therefore additional songs), it's very much a title worth checking out.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

MOS: Enslaved mountain dwarves

Shadowgate was a tedious point-and-click adventure game that felt like some whiz kid's final project for a 1991 Intro to Computing class. It starred an unseen protagonist who, left in the dark without a torch for too long, would with 100% certainty fall and break his neck, ending the game. The high-fantasy setting made for plenty of unbridled nerdery, but of special note was this description, which used to send my sister and me into fits of laughter every time we read it:

The stones in these walls were probably cut by the hands of enslaved mountain dwarves.

This has to be one of the nerdiest sentences ever written.

Friday, November 06, 2015

MOS: I can't feel my butt, oh wait, yes I can

If the girls from Dead or Alive 5: Last Round are always fighting, how come their legs aren't all bashed up? Half the women I see showing their legs in public look like they fell down a flight of stairs, and I doubt many of them are powerbombing their girlfriends into electric fences.

Am I over-thinking this?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

MOS: All we have to do

From the original PlayStation version of Final Fantasy Tactics. If I remember correctly, this character's next line was, "Ain't nothin' to it but to do it."

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

MOS: Kinda makes you think, don't it?

Being the good-looking game that it is, expect the Month of Screenshots to include at least a couple of entries from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Here, the Boss is introduced to the natural splendor of Afghanistan. The brown sand. The brown grass. The brown horse. This game features every possible shade of brown.

FIGHT MEEE! Killer Instinct e05: Revenge is paramount

The Jago episode goes a little better than the Thunder episode did.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

MOS: Backseat ninja

From Ninja Gaiden for the NES, a game that could fairly be credited with popularizing dramatic cut scenes in video games. There's nothing inherently funny about this line...until you consider the fact that the person being scolded for making too much noise is a ninja.

Monday, November 02, 2015

MOS: I can fix it!

Today we have one from Mad Max, a game about driving around the post-pockeyclyptic desert in a spiky deathmobile. There is also a subplot where the title character demo-derbies other drivers to death and then commemorates their misfortune by taking pictures of the resulting wreckage.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

MOS: I'm the guy with the wolf on my head

Our first entry in the Month of Screenshots is from Destiny, the game that has predominantly occupied my PS4's disc slot since last fall. Other challengers have stepped up to the plate, to be sure (and we'll see some screenshots of those challengers in the month to come), but Destiny's ever-changing plate of offerings — and the fact that I hear about these offerings online and via word of mouth from one of my co-workers, who also plays Destiny — ensures that I occasionally log in to see for myself what's going on.

At the end of the last Iron Banner event (in which I participated as diligently as my schedule allowed), I took this selfie at the Tower to bask in the satisfaction of having earned this wolf skin cloak. It may be a game about humanity's last-ditch efforts to escape destruction at the hands of an invisible force called the Darkness, but in the end, I think humankind's guardians are mainly motivated by fashion and gear envy.