Thursday, December 07, 2017

The War on Christmas will be fought musically and we will all lose

Today at work somebody decided it would be a good idea to play this hour-long "disco Christmas" mix they found on YouTube over the loudspeakers in the lobby. It's actually not an hour-long mix, but rather a half-hour mix played twice in a row. I don't know who thought this kind of track was a good idea but it isn't. It's the musical equivalent of war crimes.

Truth be told, a lot of it isn't what most people would call a "disco mix" at all. It starts out with some kind of Trinidad beat, and it has an irritating tendency to return to the same pop chorus over and over again, while only the intermittent Christmas carols change. The singing is incredibly vanilla, like a sedated Abba. It was so bad that we all broke down laughing around twenty minutes in, where it keeps alternating between Christmas music and Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" (or, as they sing in this version, "On the floor, on the whooooooo!").

Or did we all break down laughing? Maybe it was only myself. And maybe I was crying, not laughing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A month's worth of YouTube updates

Since the last time I posted about my YouTube channel, we've had Bringin' It Back videos of Shadow Dancer and Double Dragon, a no-commentary long-play of Super Castlevania IV, a new Dead Rising episode and a handful of IKINARI! Podcast episodes.

Click here to binge watch.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The time Whilce Portacio drew Wolverine with two left feet

It totally happened. I had this in poster form on my bedroom wall as a teenager. After having the poster for a couple years, I noticed there was an issue with Logan's feet.

At least Psylocke looks good.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Blaster Master part 2 of 2

Saved the world / rescued my frog. Also got a sweet hybrid tank out of the whole thing. And my hair turned blue.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hanamaki Matsuri 2017

Four years ago I wrote about the Hanamaki Matsuri, a three-day festival in my wife's hometown in Iwate Prefecture. Since then, a few of the food offerings have changed, but not much else. Unless you count the fact that, in 2015, the event actually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records with the most mikoshi on display at a single location (114).

This year there were only 104 mikoshi, but it's still the same good time it always was.

That last picture is from the shishiodori (deer dance), in which a hundred men and women in scary, predatory deer costumes jump around while playing noisy drums. It's probably the single coolest thing about Iwate Prefecture.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gameplay without commentary...what a novel idea

Just in case there are people out there who actually don't find my impromptu lyrics to game music endlessly hilarious, I'm going to try uploading a few long-plays without commentary. No commentary means less editing, which makes such videos a relatively low-stress form of easy content for my channel. Here's the first half of Blaster Master for the NES.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Another podcast episode

From now on, the IKINARI! Podcast blog will be the primary place to go for links to audio and video episodes. I've added a permanent link to the right, although it will take me a while to get it looking pretty, I'm sure. Head over there to check out our first full-format (three-host) episode! It's about scary things.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Introducing IKINARI! Podcast

More NES gameplay! The Bringin' It Back playlist gains a three-part assault on Double Dragon II: The Revenge. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Incidentally, this game has some masterful box art.

In Prey, I run across a new, terrifying enemy: the Phantom. He's a scary guy who hangs around at the opera, apparently.

But wait. Here's the really big news. Get a load of IKINARI! Podcast, a new attempt at meaningful, games-related discussion from my co-workers and me. For the pilot episode, we took on a topic that was a little too big for us: Games as art.

If things go well, we plan to continue making this podcast weekly for as long as it takes us to run out of discussion topics, or get discouraged because nobody listens to us, whichever comes first.

Watch the video below, or listen to the audio-only version here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

There are so many gameplay videos

Audience: How many gameplay videos are there?

Jesse: Well, there are so many, I don't feel like pasting in the code to embed them all individually.

[laughter, applause]


[chilling silence]

Since my last post, I uploaded the last six episodes of my Resident Evil 5 series, plus one additional Mercenaries Mode video in which I sing a lot. Here's the entire RE5 playlist:

In Overwatch, I killed the entire enemy team with Junkrat's ult and I still haven't gotten over it:

I started playing Prey, and am now two videos into that series:

And for my proudest announcement, we have a new feature: Bringin' It Back, in which I clear classic games from my youth. So far there are episodes for River City Ransom, Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Never be bored again

Though it may seem like the very concept of life in Japan ought to be an endless source of entertainment and fascination in and of itself, expats do occasionally become bored. Want to know what we do when we get bored?

We directly translate the kanji that make up the names of places around the Tokyo metropolitan area into English, then assign them a North American state or province where they'd seem "at home." For example:

Akabane → 赤羽 (red+feather) → Red Feather, Wyoming

Akabane is a major station in Kita Ward, Tokyo. Its name is made of two kanji characters: 赤 (aka, meaning "red") and 羽 (hane, meaning "feather"). The -hane makes a euphonic change to -bane, making the full name easier to pronounce. And "Red Feather" sounds like the name of a town one might find in Wyoming.

Now that you've got the basic principle, let's do some more!

Ueno → 上野 (up field) → Upfield, New York

Nippori → 日暮里 (day living village) → Livingston, Vermont

Uguisudani → 鶯谷 (nightingale valley) → Warbler Valley, Virginia

Shinbashi → 新橋 (new bridge) → Newbridge, Connecticut

Saginuma → 鷺沼 (heron marsh) → Heron Marsh, Alberta, Canada

Jiyugaoka → 自由が丘 (freedom hill) → Liberty Hill, Texas

Roppongi → 六本木 (six pine trees) → Six Pines, Minnesota

Ochanomizu → 御茶ノ水 (tea water) → Teawater, Massachusetts

Occasionally, English isn't the best target language for this game. "Yokohama," for example, means "beach to the side," but good luck finding a town with a name like that in the US. The Spanish equivalent, however, seems much more believable:

Yokohama → 横浜 (side beach) → Playa al Lado, California

Akihabara → 秋葉原 (autumn leaf meadow) → Prado Otoñal, New Mexico

Or maybe French is more your bag(-uette).

Aoyama → 青山 (blue/green mountain) → Montbleu, Montana

Ikebukuro → 池袋 (pond bag) → Sac du Lac, Wisconsin

See? It's fun.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Let's end GameStop

According to my records, I’ve visited the US about six times since I moved to Japan in 2003. No matter how many times I go back, I’m consistently stunned by the same thing every time: GameStop. Or rather, the fact that GameStop still exists.

GameStop really, really should have gone bankrupt by now. Capitalist Darwinism should have wiped its smug mug off the face of the Earth. I cannot begin to estimate the number of times I’ve seen a GameStop, thought to myself, “Hey, I wanna go in there,” and about five minutes later thought, “Why did I go in there?” I cannot recall a single visit to a GameStop store in my lifetime that did not result in disappointment, frustration or rage.

Why talk about this now? Q1 2017 has been a parade of negative publicity, from questionable policies to slipping share prices. This is in addition to what has been a years-long train of horror stories told by current and former employees and customers of the company that shed light on what is an increasingly dysfunctional organization. Bad press about GameStop is nothing new, and it never seems to go away.

From my perspective, the whole thing is amplified by a number of factors which, together, serve as ample evidence for the thesis statement, “GameStop is the worst ever and must be destroyed.”

1. In America, “pre-owned” means “in terrible condition.”

This isn't GameStop's fault, but it sure doesn't help their cause.

GameStop deals in pre-owned product, and in the US, this means they sell trash. Sorry for the awful generalization, but consumers in the US just do not take good care of their digital media. It’s like they’ve all got McDonald’s beef patties where their hands should be. I worked at Hollywood Video for a few years while I was a student and witnessed PlayStation 2 games being rented in brand-new condition, then being returned five days later looking like someone had used them to play Frisbee with the family dog. In what I estimate to be 30 percent of cases, a new DVD or disc-based game would be visibly damaged after one rental. It was as if our entire customer base consisted of three-year-old children who wore Freddy Krueger claws at all times. True story: A customer returned a copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 that had snapped clean in two, telling us that his child “threw it at the wall.”
To put my observation in context, in Japan, rental discs stay comparatively pristine for a long time (although I'm speaking only about Japanese rental DVDs, blue ray discs and music CDs; game rentals aren't a thing here.

For a GameStop customer, this prevailing culture of not giving a shit means that buying any pre-owned product from them is like Russian roulette – but with worse odds. And since I don’t get to try my purchases out until I get them back to Japan, returning them to the store isn’t an option. I guess I could ask the sales clerk to show me the disc before selling it to me, but that brings me to point number 2…

2. GameStop’s sales staff excel neither at customer service nor in their knowledge of games.

GameStop employees don't answer customer questions in the interest of guiding the customer to a purchase that will make the customer happy. Most of the time, they only answer questions in such a way as to show off their own esoteric knowledge and oh-so-valuable opinions about video games.

Customer: [Indicates a copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for the Xbox One] Is this a good shooting game?Clerk: Well, it's fine, but if you really want a good shooting game, you should check out Timesplitters on the PlayStation 2.Customer: I haven't owned a PS2 in years.Clerk: Yeah, well, that's your loss.

Exactly who has benefited from this exchange? Nobody. The clerk has made public his superior knowledge of now-hard-to-find games that came out at the turn of the millennium, so good for him, I guess. He also, however, displayed zero knowledge on the game about which he was asked.

I was in a GameStop with my friend a few years ago and we came across the game Brütal Legend.

Friend: Have you played this? It's not bad.Me: it the same genre as Darksiders? I wasn't so into that.Friend: Only a little, but it's more like...Clerk: [Standing at least five meters away] Darksiders is awesome and so is that game right there! You should absolutely buy it!

Serioiusly, what the hell? Nobody asked the clerk for his opinion, but he just couldn't contain himself. Either this "sales technique" has worked for him before, or he's got an irresistible compulsion to join every game-related conversation within earshot. And it's not like my friend and I were talking loudly. The GameStop guy would have had to eavesdrop on us pretty hard to hear what we were saying. Or maybe it would be easy for him to hear, because most GameStop stores don't have many obstructions on the store floor, which leads me to my third point:

3. GameStop stores waste unbelievable amounts of space

There's a big GameStop near my mother's house that has what I estimate to be about 1000 square feet of retail space. Guess what's in that store? Less than two and a half walls' worth of shelves. And that's all. In the middle, where a normal store manager would arrange point-of-purchase displays and island gondolas, this store had enough empty space for a pro wrestling ring. After looking at one wall's shelves, I felt like I needed to run to the opposite wall, climb up the shelves and do a flying elbow drop.

I visited this GameStop in 2013, saw how empty it was, and made a mental note that I shouldn't expect it to still be there come my next visit to the US. But upon visiting in 2015, the empty GameStop was still in business. And still empty.

GameStop is rarely the most affordable source of used games, but that point is underscored in this case; I can't help but feel like every product sold there has to have its price inflated slightly to compensate for the fact that the store's management don't know how to use space efficiently.

4. GameStop renders products impossible to resell

This is the absolute worst, and the reason I've resolved never to shop at GameStop ever again.

I tend to sell games that I've finished to used game shops. This keeps my collection from getting out of control and allows me to spend more money on other important things, like food for my daughter. (Quirky, I know. Feeding my child is sort of a hobby of mine.)

But good luck re-selling anything you purchased from a GameStop, because they apply price stickers indiscriminately. They'll put a price tag directly onto a game's case, defying you to peel it off. But don't peel it off, unless you like your game cases adorned with patches of sticky residue which rob them of their resale value, not to mention make them disgusting to handle and doom them to be perpetually caked with dust and garbage. On one infuriating occasion, I purchased a used copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance that had a price tag applied not to the plastic case, but to the paper artwork inside the case. Obviously it would be impossible to peel the sticker off without ripping the artwork, which is why I still have the game despite no longer owning a PSP.

And when there's no case, they stick the price tag directly onto the game's instruction manual, or even directly onto the game media. In another PSP example, I bought a used copy of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories from the GameStop in Appleton, WI's Fox River Mall. Because there was no case, they had put the price tag directly onto the UMD, and then put that into a plastic baggie (which raises the question, why didn't they stick the price tag onto the baggie instead of onto the UMD?). With the price sticker on it, the UMD didn't fit properly into my PSP, so I peeled it off. Presto, one sticky, lint-magnet copy of GTA:LCS.

Maybe the store is called GameStop because it's the final stop for physical software resale, before the games are finally too messed up to change hands any more.

Again, I must contrast this with my experience in Japan, where second-hand games look like new, and can continue to look like new for as long as their owners take care of them. In this regard, visiting the US is like taking a time machine back to the barbarism of medieval times...a forgotten age when men beheaded each other for the slightest scorn, women were bought and sold like so much cattle and Gamecube discs didn't work because they were plastered with dirty glue and dead insects.

Put all this in the context of any other kind of retailer. You wouldn't buy from a furniture store whose cashiers second-guess your home decor choices because their manager told them to "push the leather sofas." You wouldn't buy from a record store whose discs are scratched and unplayable. You wouldn't buy from a bakery whose bagels are covered with stickers.

We all need to quit shopping at GameStop.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Up to my neck in gameplay videos

I have a lot of videos to link here, so let's go about it in an organized fashion. First, here are the most recent additions to my Resident Evil 5 playlist:

What fun! But wait, there's more. If you couldn't get your fill of zombies from those videos, you'll be delighted to learn that I've started making videos of yet another zombie game, Dead Rising. (Full disclosure: I'm so sick of zombie games...but they make for good YouTube.)

And finally, two more episodes of Fight Meee! See my hopes of ever being good at a fighting game wither and die.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Space Pirate Collection II dropped last night

Space Pirate Collection II, my second album of covers and remixes, is available for download from my page. This time it's all game music tributes, from old (Mega Man II and Blaster Master) to new (Minecraft and Overwatch).

It took me such a long time to finish this album. I hope you all find it to your liking.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The last two episodes of Watch Dogs

Pour one out for [SPOILER ALERT] Clara.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My brain wrote a children's book while I slept

Last night I dreamed that my wife and daughter had just come home from the library with a children's book, whose title I initially misread as Ramon and the Big-Ass Hotel. After doing a double-take and inspecting the title more closely, I found it was actually the equally-unlikely Ramon and the Big-Arse Hotel.

The story revolved around Ramon, a young boy who wanted, more than anything, to live in a hotel. The hotel in question was a massive, red building whose only exit was a spiraling ramp leading down to a deep pit full of foam rubber chunks.

Except for the title, which needs some work, it's my opinion that this children's book would be a massive hit and should be written as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Resident Evil 5 e08, Watch Dogs e18-19

New videos of Resident Evil 5 and Watch Dogs. Watch them with someone you love.