Monday, February 26, 2018

My 2018 4iF Challenge - Avenging My Childhood

February means a lot of things, like roasting prognosticating rodents, bitching about the Super Bowl halftime performance, throwing soybeans at people, and gorging upon Paczki doughnuts in defiance of the annual "New Year, New You" crowd who spent the last month trying to coax you into joining them for a morning jog, even though the mere gesture of opening the front door resulted in what felt like the embodiment of my love for humanity standing in the middle of Oymyakon dripping wet and naked. Plus, I'm all out of polar bear repellent, so you'll just have to go on and freeze to death without me. Thanks.

Least importantly, February means it's time once again for the 4iF challenge. If you didn't know, it's a challenge from former Joystiq editor Mike Suszek to play and finish any four games within the shortest month of the year. That's the only rule. If you play a game, reach its ending, and repeat this three more times before March, then you've succeeded. For me, I usually choose four games I have never played, but this year was different. This year, I changed things up by choosing four NES games that I never finished as a child. There are plenty of those to choose from, too, including Battletoads, Dragon Warrior 3, all three Double Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Legacy of the Wizard, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Paperboy, Metroid, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, Kid Icarus, Blaster Master, Adventure Islands 1 and 2, A Boy and his Blob, Bump 'n' Jump, Simon's Quest, Ghosts n' Goblins, Low G Man, Smash TV, Willow, Kung-Fu Heroes, Section-Z, Amagon, NARC, Mendel Palace, Faxanadu, and Xenophobe, but the four I went with are ones I was already determined to finish some day (unless I died, of course, because that would make it kinda difficult to actually... you know.)
I began with an oddball from Bandai that quickly became a favorite among YouTube gamers to point at and go, "Look at that weird shit! See that weird shit?! That shit is weird! ...gimme all your views om nom nom nom nom nom nom!" up until about 2011, when a prototype of the game was sold on a Japanese auction site, revealing numerous changes that had been made prior to its US release. From that point onward, many have been working on the restoration of the original game (The J Prototype for this is available on the TCRF site.) Oh, and new YouTubers still do the whole "Look at that weird shit!" shtick from time to time. OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!
The blood was changed to slime for the title screen, but was left dripping everywhere else.
Since the NES console was marketed towards children, Nintendo maintained numerous restrictions on all of its games, minimizing things like blood, gore, nudity... *whispers* religion ...all the especially naughty stuff, but many developers were able to get around censorship, and this game is full of exceptions.

What didn't stick around were all the major copyright references being made throughout the game, which is also why the title was changed from "Parody" to "Party."
Though this may be the most drastic example, depictions of Jason Voorhees, Gremlins, Dracula, Alien, The Mummy, Daimajin, The Thing, and Audrey II were also changed to avoid legal issues.
Even without these changes, Monster Party stands out from other NES games by featuring a hefty cast of quirky and totally original bosses; a simple, yet strange storyline about helping an alien gargoyle named Bert (complete with an appropriately unpleasant ending); and a memorable first round that commonly scares first-timers during its abrupt change in tone. The seventh round is memorable, too, because it features an extra boss (a palette swap of the spider) that will prevent you from leaving the tower. In other words, once you get the key, head straight for the exit.

None of this, however, really bothered me when I first played Monster Party. Why would it? Super Mario Bros. was my proper introduction to the medium. Expectations for realism were set pretty low right from the start. Granted, the change within the first level of Monster Party caught me off guard, but, for the most part, games from the 8-bit era were filled with nonsense. Without somebody online to emphasize just how bizarre something like Monster Party truly was, I ended up accepting everything it offered. My bat can deflect attacks? It already does that with baseballs. Bert merges with Mark? That sounds like something an alien could do. The first boss is already dead? That's a free victory for me.

As for the rest of the game, many of its minor enemies are easy to avoid, but if one of them drops a heart or capsule to change forms, then it's a good idea to farm respawns of it until the power-up stops appearing. Building your health is especially important for the final area, because you have to survive three major battles, then deal with the Dark World Master. Losing to him means repeating the entire round. Aside from that, death isn't all that punishing.

It's a surprisingly short game, especially if you don't stop to kill everything in front of you, making Monster Party a perfect candidate for your next 4iF challenge.

What follows is a trio of arcade ports from Data East, a small and mostly forgotten game developer who blessed us the lesser-known classics of Joe & Mac, Rampage, BurgerTime, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pinball machine, along with its catchphrase "Coin-A-Bunga, Dude!" And before I continue, I would just like to pay my respects to whomever was brave enough to have a shirtless, bald, and significantly overweight man as their company's mascot.
Bad Dudes is a semi-recent addition to my collection that I bought alongside StarTropics and Metal Gear 2: Snake's Revenge, because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hand Snake's Revenge to Paul for his birthday unless I got something for myself, as well.

There's not really a whole lot to type about the game. The president was kidnapped and you must single-handedly rescue him from an entire army of ninjas (DRAGON ninjas), a bulky cyborg, and Karnov. That's it. It's essentially an action hero film from the 1980s. As a reward, you get to eat a hamburger with Ronald Reagan on the arcade version and with George Bush Sr. in the NES port. The Japanese version rewards the dudes with a statue. It's not edible.
Not a fan of these two? Well, Action Adventure World by 8bitDuane provides a fantastic rap of Stage 2 and Stage 5 (they use the same music) that finishes with an amazing Obama impersonation. There's also a remix of the Bad Dudes rap by Yellowsnow, which I prefer over the original.

There are seven (go to next) stages with four items you can pick up throughout. These include two weapons, a can of cola for health, and a clock. A fucking clock! (Was there ever a real purpose for adding timers to levels in old video games?) It's also worth pointing out that the nunchucks may look like they have a longer reach than the dagger, but there's no difference between them, just like Blade and Striker. Both are equally BAD in a good way.

Staying true to its arcade roots, the NES port throws more ninjas at the player than he can safely defeat. Holding the attack button to power up your punch can potential take out multiple enemies at once, but these guys will be racing towards you from both sides constantly. It doesn't help that the controls and hit detection are unreliable in this, either. I've taken plenty of hits right after watching my dagger go straight through the face of a green, hopping swordsman or heavy-hitting stage boss.
If you're lucky, he'll continue to run right into your weapon until he drops.
Too bad I'm not a lucky person. 
Players are provided with an extra life at the end of each stage and three continues before having to start over. While it may only take about half an hour to beat the entire game, two of those stages are auto scrollers, and it's agonizing to wait them out as you try to get back to where you left off. Of the four, this game required the most out of me, and though I was quite satisfied with myself after managing to defeat the leader of the dragon ninjas, I have no wish to ever play this again.
The sequel might be worth checking out.
Going from Bad to Radical, I decided to save the best for last and popped my cartridge of Kid Niki into the RetroN 5.
As was frequently the case, the box art was changed to better suit the presumed tastes of the western audience.
Data East may not have been the actual developer for this game, but it was the publisher for the NES, Apple II, and C64 ports. These were followed by two sequels on the Famicom (so I never got to play them) and a unique, simplified platformer for the Game Boy (Japan only, as well) that reused music from original. The only other appearance of Kid Niki I had access to was by unlocking him in the title screen of Kickle Cubicle.
Despite the obvious graphical differences, only screenshots from the arcade version
were provided on the boxes of all three ports.
Though superior to the other ports, Kid Niki can still manage to be an ugly, MS Paint-looking game on the NES during a few of the stages.
In 1987, we got Punch-Out, The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Simon's Quest, Final Fantasy, and this.
Utilizing a sword that spins, radical ninja Kid Niki is able to take out nearly every opponent with a single attack, but as the game progresses, enemies will begin to swarm you, much like in Bad Dudes. Unlike in Bad Dudes, however, Niki is a one-and-done protagonist who will have to periodically inch his way across these sections in order to survive. Unlimited continues are a godsend.

There are a bunch of secret rooms to uncover. Even if some of them only provide you with bonus points, they can also be alternate routes for reaching the boss. Some of the most problematic obstacles (like those RANDOMLY-MOVING DEATH BUBBLES in stage 4) can be partially avoided thanks to these hidden spots.
Jump three times to trigger the fish, then drop into its mouth.
You'll become poop.
Attacking a boss will always knock the spinning sword out of Kid Niki's sweaty palms, and for the first three levels, this is merely obnoxious. Beginning with the green grub of stage four, bosses will take this opportunity to either attack or force you to run back and forth through a gauntlet of their own projectiles. Though not nearly as dangerous, the stone samurai will continuously force the player into a stalemate by losing its own weapon to block yours.
With perfect timing, one is able to strike the stone samurai while it is moving towards you.
I don't recommend it.
The safest method here is to stand off to the left of the screen, allow it to slowly move towards you, then quickly retrieve your blade before it can by minimizing the distance for your weapon to fly backwards.
At the end of the game, Kid Niki will face off with the stone wizard once to rescue Princess Margo, and, again, across the rooftops of the wizard's castle. He doesn't put up a strong fight, but he does utilize a decent variety of strategies, and the whole thing feels like a proper way to conclude a ninja battle.
In Japan, Link was going through the same phase around this time.
As I mentioned before, I did, in fact, save the best for last, for, you see, I ended my 4iF challenge with the man himself!
"This is the ideal male body.You may not like it, but..."
Heh, memes.
So, how did this brave warrior turn into a regular villain for some games, a boss for others, and as the final opponent in the Fighter's History series?
If I were to guess, it may have something to do with the story used in the Famicom version. See, the arcade game depicted Karnov as a man collecting map pieces that would lead him to a great treasure, and the player can witness him playing in that treasure after defeating a generic-looking dark wizard, while the NES version has Karnov recovering the Treasure of Babylon from a dragon named Ryu, because the religious aspect of the Famicom story was not permitted in its western release.
In this version, Karnov lived his life as an evil man and was forced to become a servant to God. Since a powerful dragon with an army of demons (and hopping muscle men) was terrorizing the land and stealing all of its treasures, this became Karnov's opportunity to redeem himself.
Now, as a guard in Heaven, there was no need for a sequel, but what about all the evil things he did during his life? That's why I think later Data East games have him as a recurring enemy. They depict moments of Karnov's life prior to the events of his own arcade title. Maybe not, but it's a fun thing to think about. Had Data East not filed for bankruptcy, who knows how much we could have learned about the man. Same for his relative, Atomic Runner Chelnov the Nuclear Man who also received his own arcade game and was a playable character in Fighter's History.
As for the NES port, Karnov actually fixes a lot of the coin-gobbling flaws found in the original arcade, such as allowing him to take an extra hit before dying, unlimited continues, the ability to pause and cycle through your inventory, and smaller sprites to prevent the screen from becoming cluttered and impossible to maneuver around. Data East also added a shield and a screen-wide explosion for clearing away enemies. The explosion won't work on bosses, but the boomerang does, and that thing is an instakill item. Don't waste them!
Karnov still has trouble moving around, and his slow falling action leaves you open to projectiles, which there will be a lot of, because even the Tyrannosaurus Rex is just going to spams fireballs at you.
Now that I look at this, the king of dinosaurs is kinda tiny.
He's still a major threat.  
And you need to keep moving forward, because going backwards will respawn enemies, and you don't need more enemies shooting at you, because Karnov is fat, slow, and full of chocolate.
Thanks.
Karnov ends with a whack-a-mole fight with Ryu the Dragon that strips you of power-ups. When you defeat him, it's assumed that Karnov has retrieved the Treasure of Babylon, except you won't get to see any of that, because it's just a black screen with white text.

I see Karnov as a flawed masterpiece when compared to other Data East titles... at least with the NES version. It provided a much more enjoyable experience than what I got out of Kid Niki and Bad Dudes, but the ending is anticlimactic, and that left a tightly-coiled 8-bit turd right on top of my happiness: "Hurray! I successfully completed my 4iF for this ye... what's that smell?" Sigh... to the best of my recollection, the only Data East game on the NES I might consider to be better than Karnov (with exception to its ending) would be Captain America and the Avengers, partially because it has hilariously terrible voice acting, and partially because Joe & Mac is a heck of a lot better to play on the Super Nintendo. If you've got the means to play Karnov, then do so. Monster Party, too. The other two... whatever.

I might try for a 4iM next month in hopes of redemption. Last year, I failed miserably thanks to Spelunky. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to complete that game just once, but I was proud of myself when I did... after nineteen days. I was surprised that I still managed to finish Day of the Tentacle and Psychonauts before April, but I only managed about half of Yoshi's Woolly World on the Wii U before I ran out of time. At that point, I didn't care, because Woolly World is fun (a lot of fun) and I was compelled to put in the time and effort for a 100% completion.
I even bought all three Yarn Yoshis and the Poochy amiibos.
They're super cute. (Obviously, I'm not.)
Regardless of what year you're reading this, if you participated in the 4iF challenge, feel free to mention it. None of my friends were willing to try, so I feel kinda lonely being the only one to do it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pay more. Play less.

I played an awful lot of games in 2017. I'm certainly no Let's Player or any other kind of YouTube personality that centers his content around the medium, but back when I was completely obsessed with anything by Blizzard (including Silicon & Synapse's Rock n' Roll Racing), playing their games was almost all I ever did with my free time. I spent five years with just World of Warcraft, and, prior to that, I managed to peak at a whole TWO games within a single orbital period by alternating between Starcraft and Diablo II. Quite the variety, eh? Obsessing over a single game was a relatively common thing for me to do as a child, despite how often I tell others that I don't enjoy replaying games or re-watching movies. I should point out that I can't say with total confidence that I simply loved these games so much that I just wanted to keep playing them, because there was a lack of alternatives (and money) to consider, as well.

Today, there are all sorts of free games to play online, and, for less than a Benjamin, one could bloat his digital library over the course of a single seasonal sales event. As a young and unlikable mutant, I would have been happy with just being able to afford a single new game once a month. I never imagined I would be able to someday gorge upon this inexpensive smorgasbord of interactive creativity that is practically impossible to properly keep up with. Of course, being the caring dumbass that I am, I can't help but think that the gaming market has become a little too generous with all of these incredible prices, frequent sales, and free-to-play titles that don't even have in-app purchases. With all of that in mind, it's no surprise at how many have become spoiled and disrespectful towards those hard-working folks who are willing to spend months (possibly years) of their time creating one of these experiences. Imagine your own game on Steam and its overall score is being lowered by reviews that only say, "No ultrawide support," "...can't run at 4k," and "Dis Suck de nutz," all while people complain about a $10+ price tag being too much to ask for something that isn't provided by a major developer. 

My favorite example of this comes from the $10 price increase (originally $15, now up to $25) of Shovel Knight back when it was announced the complete edition was going to be renamed as Treasure Trove. Everyone who helped with the Kickstarter campaign or bought Shovel Knight prior to the change would still receive all new content for free, but that didn't stop a rather loud group from whining about it... you know, the people who never bought the game to begin with. Despite being on sale during special events, despite free updates and added features, and despite the option to pay nothing for the soundtracks (original and DLC) on Kaufman's own Bandcamp, Yacht Club Games has been repeatedly accused of greed from many of those who were waiting for a significantly higher price drop from its original cost (60% or more), claiming that because other people already paid for content and stretch goals through the Kickstarter campaign, everyone else should be equally entitled to every piece of that content now and forever for less than ten dollars. "It's not a bad game, but wait until it's on sale." If it's not a bad game, then why not pay them the full price for it?
And since I'm in a bitching mood, quit leaving negative reviews about Children of Zodiarcs not being as lengthy and well-developed as Final Fantasy Tactics! It's a crowd-funded title by a studio of eight people. Square Enix didn't make the fucking game. Cardboard Utopia did.  
On the other end of this discussion, questioning the $60 price of triple-A titles has been going strong for several years now, but with minimal hard evidence (i.e. straight-from-the-horse's-mouth figures) to really understand how challenging this dollar amount is to maintain for many developers, consumers are left to merely speculate as to whether or not it's a serious issue. Typically, everyone who isn't an investor is only provided an estimated final cost and, perhaps, some numbers to go with the general aspects of the process, like marketing, which can sometimes amount to half the overall budget of the game's production. That may sound bloated and inefficient (because it is), but it's not as if one could just make several accounts on various social media sites for free and simply tell their consumers about upcoming releases as many times as they want... because who would pay attention to anything a small publisher like EA or Activision might want to post about on their official Twitter account or Youtube channel? Then again, refusing to tell us what we want to know is kinda like telling us what we want to know. 

So, does anyone really believe selling a well-crafted sequel to a popular franchise, such as Street Fighter, FIFA, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Call of Duty, Forza, and NBA 2K, at $60 is far too risky of a business decision? Call of Duty, Star Wars, and NBA 2K, in particular, are among the top-selling games of 2017, despite the numerous, vocal complaints about their excessive, rapacious methods for attaining yet more money through microtransactions, overpriced DLC, special edition packages, loot boxes, and advertising tie-in deals. Clearly, having the best-selling games, circumventing income tax, possessing a strong resistance to economical recessions, and being able to indulge in ridiculous tax breaks (within the US) just isn't enough when trying to amass the necessary level of wealth to become literal gods.

On the plus side, EA did take a temporary hit in their stock value during the outcry against their pay-to-win tactics, but that's over now, and the company is up nearly 20% from last year's numbers, so I guess that means they will no longer need to have microtransactions in SW:BFII.
...except they were never needed to begin with.
A popular argument in favor of these practices is the rate of inflation. The dollar bill isn't worth what it used to be, right? Thing is, these major developers are already dodging taxes, overworking staff, and tacking on additional fees while hamstringing the gaming experience for not paying them. The cost of manufacturing and distributing videos games has never been cheaper, nor easier, and many of these budgets seem to be primarily at the fault of the developers and the expectations they created through deceptive advertising and poor decisions, especially those that are made in hopes of copying the success of other games. Even with those massive budgets, triple A developers are doing quite well. Some are even making billions just from the microtransactions alone, yet they continue to grow increasingly voracious by killing off every ounce of pleasure one might have hoped for from purchasing one of these money sinks. It's like paying $60 to walk into a strip club. It got you inside, but you can't drink, eat, or have any fun with the ladies unless you continuously fork over more and more cash every moment you're there. They claim selling games at its current price isn't sustainable for them. Seriously, for them? Bloody fucking... sigh.

The average weekly paycheck has not properly kept up with inflation, either. The last time I researched the matter (googled it), the buying power of a low-income worker was no stronger now than it was back in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the buying power of many high-income positions has roughly tripled since that time, all while dragging the good name of several major businesses through the mud for the sake of short-term profit alone. Fuck the customers. Fuck the company. Get it. Bleed it dry. Get out. Now, with that kind of mindset, what would happen if the price of AAA games did go up? Certainly nothing benefiting the players. There was (and is) no proven evidence to justify microtransactions and loot boxes in these premium titles to begin with, so an extra ten or twenty bucks would simply mean a pricier base game (a hollowed-out version) and everything else would remain the same, because they always demand more. I suppose claiming that would require evidence of my own, right? Well, no, since this blog entry is for my personal amusement, and greedy people being opportunistically greedier every chance they get has proven itself to be true every moment of our lives. Bungie's been actively proving my point (and the point of every other gaming complainer on the matter) with every new disingenuous, formulaic apology they've made about how they continue to mishandle Destiny 2. I gotta ask, "Why are there still people playing that anyhow?" Isn't Monster Hunter World out already? Doesn't that have better scores than even the pre-fucked version of Destiny 2?

If this was another fighting title from Capcom, I'd totally understand.
There are all sorts of underhanded methods being utilized...
And patented!
...at the moment, but, currently, the bad words in the industry are "loot boxes." Thanks to the overreaching of EA and their mishandling of the Star Wars franchise to allow loot boxes to give an advantage to paying players, not only did this cause an uproar among gamers, but it also garnered the attention of major news outlets, which led Disney to intervene and have all microtransactions temporarily removed, since they didn't want the bad press of encouraging children to gamble. As a result, Battlefront II launched a few hours later as a slow, unplayable mess that had to be re-balanced and updated to compensate, because of how blatantly obvious the pain of grinding became without the loot boxes to help speed up the process. Yeah, it's not gambling, of course, because those are optional. It's all optional...
...and all the options are terrible.
Utilizing the same logic, it's also optional to see a doctor when one of your legs are broken. Hey, want to unlock a non-pink Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker? That'll be forty hours of gameplay for each one. That's how it works, everybody. Pay the fine or enjoy the grind!

Besides, you always get something in return when you buy one. It's just like baseball cards! Exactly like baseball cards... except those are tangible purchases with the possibility of being sold or traded for equal-to-greater value so long as the individual has them (and hasn't smeared them with stains and boogers and bent the corners like a complete idiot, because they're baseball cards, not playing cards, you disgusting pig!) You could even glue them to your body and turn them into a set of armor. Samurai card armor, that would allow you to stand directly in front of a pitch and guarantee you a home run when struck by the ball. Try it out for yourself. In reality, you'd be lucky if they were similar to baseball cards. Rather than unboxing entirely new weapons, skins, and gear, some publishers only offer you parts of those weapons, skins, and gear. At that point, it's like buying a pack of baseball cards, except they're all ripped up into pieces for you to tape back together. To offset this frustration (if that's actually possible), you can exchange the pieces of those copies (isn't that sad to say out loud) for near-worthless currency, kinda like the Boyer play money that you can redeem to turn yourself into an advertisement for Mallo Cup. Then again, at least you can enjoy the candy after you open it. If it was up to EA, they'd hollow out the food and hide it in separate wrappers with higher odds of receiving relish, mustard, and tartar sauce, instead, all while leaving you to ask yourself why you didn't just settle for the heart-shaped Reese's cups. Then, you realize how dumb that is, because Reese's is now controlled by Konami.

It's pachislots... for breakfast!
Loot crates, prize boxes, expensive mystery shit pouches filled with shit-flavored shit, or whatever you want to label them as, only provide you with fictional stuff and are absolutely not like packs of baseball cards. They seldom have any value outside of a particular game, especially if they are part of a multiplayer experience where an item will likely no longer possess even that little bit of value once it completely the developer ends support for the servers and your purchases completely disappear. It's also worth questioning the validity of these things when one reads about the dodgy tactics being utilized to maintain loot boxes in other countries, such as the workaround Activision Blizzard used in China to have players buy in-game money, and, as a result, would then receive loot boxes as prizes for doing so, rather than buying the boxes directly.

For the few games where these randomized prizes can be bought and sold for actual money, players are enticed with the prospects of skin gambling, an unsavory practice that frequently results in rigged outcomes. It seems to also encourage under-aged gambling, as there have been several reports of kids taking their parents' credit cards and blowing thousands of dollars on these sites. It doesn't sound appealing, either: Skin gambling. *shivers*


It seems like no good can really come of microtransactions and loot boxes within AAA titles. Major developers claim they are a necessary means of staying in the black, but lack any and all reasoning outside of sheer greed to prove those claims. The rest of us already know the answers, but let's ask them anyhow. "Couldn't you, at the very least, sell these items directly? And, if not, could you provide us with the numbers to properly verify your statements? If your high-budget video games are unsustainable in their current state, why even bother?"


To clarify, I'm mostly fine with this on free-to-play apps, though I rather see direct purchases for their items, as well. Offering prizes with fractional win percentages to ensure obsessive completionists go bankrupt is disgusting and abusive no matter where one finds them. 


You know, Nintendo's current method seems to be the most respectable. At $60 ($40 for the 3DS), Nintendo likes to retain the full price for many of their first-party games far longer than that of any other publisher. Maybe it's a long-term strategy to ensure they get back what they put into their product, or maybe they're milking the star power of their biggest franchises. Possibly both. Probably both. Regardless, it seems to help minimize excessive, randomized, and various piecemeal methods for additional profit. Heck, even the Amiibo paywalls are slightly more tolerable. Despite the exclusivity arrangements with major retailers and sheer number of them being created with every new game (there's nearly 150 of those things to collect right now), at least a person can decorate his home or work area with them. They're even a popular background choice for Youtubers with game-related videos. Nintendo's doing a fair job of not allowing these vulturous business practices to ruin the fun experience we've all come to expect from their products. They are definitely a bunch of assholes when it comes to seizing and demonetizing Fair Use videos about their content, and periodically forcing wonky control setups that many of us don't really want to "get used to" in order to play, but they're eccentric and obnoxiously overprotective about their brands. It's frustrating, but somewhat understandable (mostly frustrating), and, most importantly, a heck of a lot better than what the others big companies are doing.


As I typed (for whatever reason) at the start of this lengthy, boring post, I played an awful lot of games in 2017. The variety is there and it's affordable. I appreciate that immensely, and I do what I can to support those who make my hobby feel rewarding. I know I'm not the only one, either. Many games, like those on Newgrounds, GameJolt, and itch.io, are free AND completely devoid of all in-game purchases. Sometimes, leaving their creators with a helpful review or a supportive remark is all they really want. I guess what I'm typing is that telling me "it's just optional" is basically another of saying, "don't even bother with our products." 


Thanks for the warning. I'll be sure to heed it. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Blind Disappointment

Alright, so I had never done this before, and will likely never do it again. I've seen and heard a mixture of responses to loot crates, mystery boxes, and whatever other names might be given to a container of random junk. For me, a Halloween-themed variation sounded appealing, and the first to mention this to me was through an email from Crunchyroll.

Had I looked at the store page first, checked out the reviews, and delayed my decision to mull it over, I would have ignored this immediately. I didn't, the email skipped the store page entirely to take me to a processing step, and the only things to cross my mind were, "I wonder what sort of vinyl figurine I will be forced to give away," and, "I hope the imported candy will be an assortment of weird and unique flavors I can't find around here." For those of you who collect paper dolls, figurines, models, puppets, body pillows, or whatever the fuck else is available to the otaku community, you probably saw the word "vinyl" and know immediately what kind of toy it was. I didn't.
There are Funko Pop figurines of probably every fictional, nonfictional, and superstitional being to ever be conceived, and they are all as ugly as sin covered in shit and Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is also shit, but in its purest liquid form. Each one has the body proportions of Betty Boop and the cold, dead stare of ex-girlfriend who also happened to be an anthropomorphic shark... or maybe she was just a regular shark, but it was a rebound relationship for both of you, so I don't know why she hates you so much right now. I thought the break-up was mutual.

To add insult to the injury, only a few pieces of candy were of any value. Two of the... I think the promise was "Filled to the brim with snacks, exclusive items and other goodies for you, pay ONLY $50 for an $85 value!" Those are the words of Crunchyroll itself. The box I received was mostly empty, but I didn't genuinely believe it would "filled to the brim." I was, however, expecting to receive goodies that didn't amount to individually-wrapped sticks of regular gum, a bag with an entire THREE mints, and standardized options, like plain M&Ms and E.L. Fudge Cookies, except in much smaller amounts by companies that, I'm guessing, charge more for their versions of these snacks, because they come in a key-shaped package or resemble panda heads. In fact, the only treats I received that I was happy to have tried were a bag of puffs that I have no clue what they were suppose to taste like and a small glass bottle of matcha soda. That's the sort of stuff I wanted. I can buy chocolate and gum in any grocery store!

There was a promise for two CR exclusive items, but the only one I got was a metal pin of the site's orange logo. Perhaps the second item was the set of Crunchyroll Hime stickers that were already used on the damaged, near-empty box everything came in.
Gee, thanks a bunch!
The package also came with three Horror films from Asia: The Commitment, Witch Board (Bunshinsaba), and Red Eye. The highest score among them on IMDb is Witch Board with a whooping 5.8/10, and the reviews for each did little to raise my hopes.
Witch Board is also known as Ouija Board, since the story revolves around bullied teenagers trying to call upon a spirit to curse their classmates. Things go too far, there's a lot of fire, and the film's budget couldn't afford to hire an actual child to read the lines in the beach scene. I don't even know there was dialogue at all in that scene. Special effects took the form of setting stuff on fire and a long-haired girl slowly raising her head to reveal cloudy contact lenses. Oh, you get to see that a lot in this one. If you don't watch it, you won't be missing anything.
Red Eye takes place within a haunted train and centers around a newbie attendant who sees all sorts of spooky shit taking place around her. There are plenty of secondary characters receiving their fair share of the supernatural, but no one is really fleshed out, so watching somebody die probably won't leave much of an impact upon the viewer. The effects in this one are a heck of a lot better than in those found in the other two movies, but, using that logic, Roba is the best-looking member of the Problem Solverz, so interpret it however you want.
The final flick is easily the most boring. It tries to sell itself with three gory covers. This one is the least offensive, I think, and I remember seeing in in the movie. The other two, a girl with her mouth sewed together and the other holding her removed eyeballs in her hands, were nowhere to be seen, though I may have been yawning when they appeared.

The whole thing is about a group of cute girls making wishes at a haunted shrine and promising to do something in return for having their wishes granted. The wishes are silly and dumb, there are too many characters to care about, and scares are almost entire provided through bad dreams. The acting is comically atrocious, there are two scenes involving aggressive hair, and there's nothing cohesive about it. I don't even understand what the significance of the beginning was.

We sell movies of similar quality at the store, and those generally cost $5.99, unless they have a proven fan base or cult following. The figurine of L is $9.99, and good luck convincing me that tiny pin of the CR logo is worth more than five bucks, but we'll say $7.99 just to be generous. So, in all, I don't even believe the candy properly brought the value of this box up to the $50 I spent, let alone the $85 it promised itself to be worth. Was this the usual bad luck I experience on a daily basis, or are nearly all blind buys like this?

I found a link on Youtube to another sucker this year. Some of his candy is different, but otherwise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr2zMFeV1yk.

Really, I just wanted to try an assortment of rare candies. Maybe level up to 100 with them and become a competitive member of the community. I was already in a terrible mood this month. Chops, in particular, knows what I mean, so receiving this was especially disheartening.

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, I did manage to complete four "scary" games for the month, blog about them, and finally discovered a copy of Monster Party for a reasonable price at Lukie Games. Even with S&H, it was cheaper than the least expensive copy currently on Amazon.

To celebrate, here's the first and only remix I have ever found for the game: Bertn1991.

I hope everyone else had a Happy Halloween. I'm expecting the rest of this holiday season to be a bummer. Sigh... so much for positive.

**Update 11/7/17**

I just now received my shipping confirmation for my already-delivered package.
...fucking idiots.
**Update 11/8/17**

I was asked to review my purchase, but since that product was removed from the store about a week before Halloween, I won't know if it'll be posted next year or if it was automatically deleted.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spreadin' that Halloween Cheer!

Probably the last game for the Halloween season, since I still have to type up another SUPER (not super at all, actually) IMPORTANT (not this, either) post before the end of the year, though something I had on my Steam wishlist went up for sale recently, and it was extremely cheap too, so I might attempt to squeeze that one in during these last few days, or I may save it for 2018. Who knows (or really cares)?

I thought I was being clever by choosing something that wasn't spooky or specifically related to Halloween, but I later found out that this was recommended alongside all of those games anyhow during the October sales on Steam and Humble Bundle. Good job snuffing out even that tiny of bit pride, life. I always appreciate it. It's because I smiled that one time during the first week of the month, isn't it?

Expansions included!
Plague Inc. Evolved is the full-package version of a popular mobile game that has been praised for being somewhat educational about pathogens and the impact they can have on the human population. Your job is to infect and kill everyone before they can develop a cure.  It may be a simplified perspective on the matter, but it's a fun one that allows the player to name the plague.
This is probably far less amusing that I think it is.
After a few rounds of it, I began to wonder if painting the town red was all there was to Plague Inc.. It certainly felt that way.
I still enjoyed naming my lil' killers.
...and the answer I received was, kinda, but not quite. As one would assume, the selection of miniature murderers do offer subtle (and some not-so-subtle) strategy changes, though it does revolve primarily around staring at a map, clicking bubbles, and cussing out Greenland...
Fuck you, Greenland!
You ain't green! You ain't nuthin'!
Players start out with using bacteria, which is a straightforward spreader that refunds the DNA you use to allow for some flexibility. Following that is a virus, which mutates frequently, so it's difficult to keep a low profile long enough to infect everyone before they start working on the cure. Then, there's the limited mobility of fungus, a parasite that consumes all the DNA one would normally collect from spreading the infection, a slow-to-adapt prion that is difficult to cure, and a bunch of far more entertaining choices (including an official movie tie-in) that provide unique skill trees and new options for controlling your plague.
Lead the zombie apocalypse, turn a worm into a god, be encouraged to change everyone into vampires (but ignore that option and feast upon them instead), or hand over control to a bunch of damn, dirty apes. There's bonus points in it for ya if you can win without actually creating zombies.
These special plagues come with unique body scan images to properly visualize your progress and unlock new gene modifiers that better suit their particular mechanics.
Apes, vampires, and zombies come with a new enemy working with those trying to develop a cure, and, least importantly, the spreading color is different for each of them (orange, yellow, and purple). Wait, no, orange is for the worm and red is for zombies. I would have thought it might be black, or maybe black for vampires, but, no, zombies are the standard red... I guess zombies like red.
I did this. This is my fault.
We got a new fryer in the other day and I just really wanted to wipe out all of life as we know to test it out. (#freshcrispyregrets)
While playing, headline news will provide you with important bits of information, special events to unlock tricky achievements, and, for lack of a better way to phrase it, stupid shit.
Admittedly, I chuckled a few times.
Speed running is available, as well as a multiplayer mode, and there's even a scenario creator to play around with.
The are official scenarios are also worth checking out.
Now, for those of you reading this that are Amish or technophobic, the developers, Ndemic Creations, have provided a non-electronic version of Plague Inc. in the form of a colorful board game for just under fitty bucks. I don't know if that is a good price or not. I don't buy many board games nowadays, since I don't have any friends to play them with anymore.
I made myself sad again.
Ndemic also has the Neurax worm as a plushie, along with the nano virus and bio weapon.
It won't control your mind, but it might make its way into your heart. 
And the soundtrack is available for purchase on iTunes and Bandcamp, along with a small selection of t-shirts that can be found on Amazon. Then again, everyone sells t-shirts. Then again again, not everyone provides one that emphasizes your frustration quite like "Damn You Greenland!".
Did I mention I like naming my plagues?
Needless to say, so I typed it instead, the people of Ndemic Creations really know who to whore out their property, but the game is good, so they whored it out respectfully.

I find Plague Inc. to be addictive, and new scenarios are still being added by the developers (including a mad cow disease). It can feel a little samey, I will admit that, but when a typical playthrough doesn't take up more than fifteen minutes of your time (and can be saved for later anyhow), the game turns into a great time-killer for when you're sitting in front of your computer waiting on Crunchyroll to upload the next episode of Dragon Ball Super, even though it's already an hour late! I definitely recommend it, especially on PC or console, since I don't have a smartphone to try out the mobile version.

All that's left to do is to show off some more names:
Looks like somebody failed to Control his own Damage!
Yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk!
Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Roblox...
They are all murder simulators!
OH NO!!!
Ok, I'm done.