By request of grokyou

For many people, the 16-bit Final Fantasy games — that is, Final Fantasies IV, V, and VI — represent the definitive essence of what role-playing games should be. And why not? Though not a trilogy in the narrative sense of the word, the series’ Super NES chapters stand apart as a cohesive whole. They work together as a set in a way that you rarely see in games; unmistakably cut from the same cloth, yet each progressing and innovating in its own way.

Squaresoft managed to walk a fine line with these games. Though unified stylistically and mechanically, the trilogy demonstrated a willingness to embrace change… but only where needed. Considering what a revolution Final Fantasy IV represented, it would have been all too easy for Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yoshinori Kitase, et al. to either wipe their hands at the creation of the Active-Time Battle System and say “good enough” or else continue pursuing design innovation. But thankfully, they understood where divergence would be valuable and where it would be detrimental. Final Fantasy V improved on the ATB system and made combat the centerpiece of the adventure while VI dialed back on the complexity and challenge in order to build a larger, more elaborate world and story around the polished mechanics.

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I think it’s possible to overstate how much Final Fantasy IV changed console RPGs, but you’d really have to work at it. Look at all it did: It introduced the ATB concept that added a time-based component to turn-based mechanics, creating the sensation of a real-time battle system despite the fact that actions and turns were still technically turn-based. The idea of staggering individual turns for characters rather than executing turns by party wasn’t totally new, and it evolved out of the way most turn-based RPGs already worked by 1991. Agility and speed helped determine combat order in most RPGs once commands were queued up for all characters; all FFIV did was change the input process so that instead of issuing commands for every party member in a single go, you directed each party member when his or her turn came up according to that character’s speed stat.

A simple concept, but a brilliant one. Not only did it do away with that hoary old frustration in which multiple warriors would target the same enemy only for the first to kill it and the second to waste a turn attacking empty air, it also made abstract menu-driven combat feel tense and lively. Timing became a key factor in combat, as did knowing the possibilities of your party and the optimal action. Enemies would continue taking turns while you decided on a course of battle, so you needed to think ahead and be ready to change your tactics at a moment’s notice.

And you needed to concentrate in order to keep a mental index of your current skills handy, because — and this was FFIV‘s other big innovation — the game’s plot caused the player’s party to exist in a constant state of flux. Only the protagonist, Cecil Harvey, stood in as a permanent party member… and even then he undertook significant changes himself, completely switching out his skill set and resetting his experience to level 1 midway through the quest. Again, the concept of an RPG whose plot shaped its mechanics wasn’t entirely new, but previous notable examples of the form (Dragon Quest IV, Phantasy Star) didn’t take the idea nearly as far as FFIV.

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On the other hand, Final Fantasy V had the thinnest trifle of a plot, and (barring a single notable yet materially insignificant swap late in the game) its party roster remained consistent throughout the entire adventure. Instead, it revisited the Final Fantasy III Job system in a greatly expanded form, allowing you to reinvent your team on the fly.

Of course, FFIV‘s party had represented an alternate interpretation of the Job system; each of its party members stood in for a different Job. Cecil the Dark Knight, Kain the Dragon Knight, Rosa the White Mage, Rydia the Evoker (later full Summoner), Tellah the Sage, etc., etc. By assigning names and personalities to those class roles, FFIV created a torrid drama. FFV put its characters in the service of the bare-bones plot, resulting a game whose overall feel was more akin to that of a playground for messing around with character builds and combat tactics. Occasionally the game would railroad you into playing one way or another — notably Fork Tower, where the party had to split into two groups and one side could use no magic while the other team could only use magic. Mostly, though, you could slug your way through however you wanted, whether that entailed capturing monsters to unleash on their peers, breaking rods to cast high-level magic, throwing money at bad guys, turning the very elements against the foe, or learning monster spells to cast at will.

In order to put the utter flexibility of the game mechanics to the test, the designers threw in the series’ first proper super-bosses. Don’t get me wrong, Final Fantasy had seen its share of ultra-powerful optional foes before; the Lunar Subterrane of Final Fantasy IV included a couple of nasty extra monsters, and the fight against the top-level summoned beasts could be a strain. But the finite limitations of FFIV‘s party builds in turn limited exactly how over-the-top its battles could go. Not so with FFV, which threw in two insanely difficult fights (Omega and Shinryuu) to put players’ understanding of the play mechanics to the test.

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And finally, Final Fantasy VI.

Quite simply, FFVI tried to combine the best elements of both FFIV and FFV. Like the former, it featured a huge, revolving cast of characters with specific class traits. Like the latter, it gave every character equal access to a massive array of spells and allowed considerable customization. Like the former, its first half took the form of a linear, character-specific adventure; like the latter, the second half was more of a free-form journey undertaken according to the player’s whims.

FFVI wasn’t entirely perfect, but you can’t fault its scope, or its flexibility, or its visual punch, or its killer soundtrack. Though nowhere near as innovative as FFIV or FFV, it was stunningly polished (glitches caused by ROM size constraints notwithstanding). It was kind of easy, too, but even there Squaresoft did it right: FFVI managed to hit a sweet spot between populist appeal (an epic tale with cool graphics that wasn’t unapproachably difficult) and genuine substance.

Square tried, perhaps unintentionally, to mirror the style and evolution of the Super NES Final Fantasy games with their PlayStation sequels. But with considerably less success, it should be said. There’s just something about this trilogy that worked. I am definitely looking forward to getting to these bad boys over on Anatomy of Games.

By request of droewyn

The best and worst children in video games? Bah, that’s an easy one.

The best? My kid from Tomodachi Life.

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Even though she broke our hearts when she moved out the instant she got her drivers license. The kids in Tomodachi Life work so well because they skip the whole “cutesy rugrat” stage — they start as caterwauling infants, become fussy toddlers, and then they’re out of the house. Video games, like most media, are just awful at depicting convincing children, but Tomodachi Life is no-holds-barred realism about the harrowing hell that is being a new parent. And then at the end your baby ditches you, only coming back home long enough to crash and grab a free meal.

The worst? I’m gonna have to go with Cooke and Mack from Lost Odyssey.

I don’t know that there have ever been two other characters in the history of video games who have made me cringe harder the instant they appear on-screen than these creepy little Palom and Porom wannabes. They’re everything bad about children in media — overly precocious, shrill-voiced, and thanks to the goofy pantomime motion capture of this particular game they’re deeply and intensely creepy with every move they make.

Maybe I’m forgetting someone even more irritating, but I doubt it.

By request of mjbuckley1

Of all the blog requests I’ve received, this one ranks among the trickiest to handle, because while it’s a general topic about which I know a fair few things (Mega Man), I’ve never paid much attention to his toy variants. Mega Man has seen quite a few toys over the years! And I’ve ignored them. That’s because the early ones were entirely too lousy to bother with, and the more recent ones are entirely too expensive for their own good. Alas!

For much of Mega Man’s history, the toys have been licensed to Bandai for design and production. This hasn’t been a universal truth, mind you, but by and large they’ve been the most prominent licensee. One assumes this gave Bandai the “in” for producing the absolutely terrible Rockman & Forte: Mirai Kara no Chousensha for WonderSwan, which only goes to prove that these toys are a scourge upon our race.

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Image from Toy Archive

Bandai’s first foray into the world of plastic Mega Men was, tragically, based on the Ruby-Spears cartoon. The result was a real double-whammy — early ’90s toy technology combined with the vomitous aesthetic choices of that terrible, terrible animated series.

I do have to give the designers and manufacturers credit, though: These things are spot on. They’re a perfect interpretation of the cartoon designs. But this was maybe one of those times when perfection wasn’t entirely necessary. I sure don’t need to see Mega Man’s six-pack, that’s for sure.

Anyway, they produced about a dozen of these guys, along with a few vehicles. Meanwhile, you can be sure that Keiji Inafune was sitting somewhere in an office in Kyoto watching samples come in and wondering, “What the hell is wrong with Americans?”

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Image from Wikia

A decade later, Mega Man made an aggressive foray into toy marketing on the strength of the Battle Network/NT Warrior series. This actually made perfect sense: Not only was the series a hit with the kids, it also offered plenty of opportunities for mirroring in play patterns. Since protagonist Lan carried around a pre-tablet networked device called a P.E.T. for battling his virtual Mega Man avatar with friends and enemies like, it easily opened the door for “real” P.E.T.s that “real” kids could use to have “real” battles. They even came with battle chips, the same as in the games, that players could plug in and use in their battles. I don’t actually know how this thing worked, but I assume it was a fairly simple Barcode Battler-type thing with a splash of Tamagotchi.

In Japan, there was a different P.E.T.-style toy released called the Battle Chip Gate which actually interfaced with the Game Boy Advance and allowed kids to augment their game with special battle data by purchasing specific chips. This was basically a more expensive take on the eReader, and it only tied in with a single reissued version of Mega Man Battle Network 4 (Rockman EXE 4.5 Real Operation). I feel like it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the series’ sales and popularity began to slide around this time. Even kids know when they’re being bilked.

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Ironically, the best Mega Man toys didn’t make it to market until right around the time Capcom started going around to all the different Mega Man games it had announced and putting a pillow over their faces as they slept. Bandai’s D-Arts and Figuarts series fall into the upmarket non-scale figure category forged by Figma and Revoltech, and honestly they may be the best of the entire bunch — though it helps that the exaggerated designs of the Mega Man characters being depicted lend themselves to figuration. Those massive feet and forearms really help obscure the joints, which tends to be a shortcoming for more realistically proportioned figures.

The problem? These suckers are expensive. They start at $40 and go up from there. And most of the figures they’ve released have been different stupid armor variants of Mega Man X and Zero; no Mavericks or Robot Masters or even Roll or Dr. Wily. There’s a Sigma “figure” coming, but because Sigma’s so huge they just made him into a statue. Boo on that.

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Around the same time Bandai started churning out dozens of X armor variants, Kotobukiya took a similar premium tack by producing a small selection of Mega Man snap-together models. They’re kind of figures, kind of not. You made them yourself, and could interchange parts pretty easily, but being snap-together models they were terribly fragile. I bought three of them myself — Mega Man, Roll, and Protoman — and interestingly Roll was the most detailed of the bunch. She very nearly included sufficient parts for two full models, one in the “classic” sundress character style, another in the more detailed Mega Man 8 look. Ultimately, though, the figures’ insistence on falling to pieces (which wasn’t helped by the fact that I had them displayed on my desk at the IGN offices and they were like some kind of weird magnet for people to mess with) prompted me to pawn them off to get them out of my life. It was just too sad to come to work and see Mega Man standing there with his gun arm laying a few inches away.

And so I currently own no Mega Man toys. But I suppose such things can’t last forever, since I’m planning to get this guy when he comes out…

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Bandai’s Mega Man Zero version of Zero. I figure there’s probably no harm in one. And I guess I could buy a classic Zero and pretend it’s the Zero/Omega battle that MMZ‘s spriters were too lazy to properly depict. But that’s where I call it a day.

Now, if they start releasing Mega Man Legends figures, all bets are off. But something tells me we don’t have to worry about that.

I’ve fallen somewhat out of the habit of posting to this blog of late, which I blame solely on my newfound interest in video content. First it was the radio star, now it’s the blog nitwit. I’m getting a better handle on the processes and discipline involved in creating video, so hopefully it won’t be consuming so much of my time in the future and I can continue with my usual word vomit here. My word-making time has been somewhat constrained, and my obligations to the day job come first. That’s adulthood for you.

For the moment, here’s what I’ve been doing lately instead of, you know, writing.

I’ve put together a few USgamer pieces, for which I write the script and record the voice over and, when possible, capture game footage. Someone else edits these, because my god I only have so many hours in the day. And I gotta write the accompanying feature, you know?

Comfort Food Games: Marathon 2

In case you want to read about a shooter that isn’t Destiny this weekend.

The Greatest Games for Atari Lynx

Real talk: This was a dry run for the Lynx section of Game Boy World.

10 Essential NES Games, 1985-87

Because “best of” NES lists are always about later games and tend to give the early days short shrift.

And on the personal side of things….

Game Boy World: Boxxle

Because everybody loves shoving boxes.

The Metroidvania Mission Statement

If nothing else, I’m proud of the theme music.

And while it’s not video (yet), I’ve just wrapped up The Anatomy of Mega Man 2. Patreon backers will be receiving the digital version of The Anatomy of Mega Man Vol. 1 sometime next month and the printed version in either September or October, depending on my travel schedule. It looks like I’m going to be taking a three-week trip to San Francisco, Tokyo, and London for basically three weeks out of September, so that will probably affect my ability to put things in the mail. I know. Excuses, excuses.

By request of amontillado586

Pink Floyd’s Animals is a strange album, but at the same time it also feels like perhaps the purest example of their musicianship. Maybe that’s what makes it so weird.

A 17-minute track called “Dogs” comprises very nearly the entirety of the album’s first side, and “Dogs” basically embodies the unconventional style of Animals in its totality. It’s not the longest song in the Pink Floyd oeuvre — even if you don’t count things like the “Shine on Crazy Diamond” suite as a single track, there’s still “Echoes.” However, it might be their most challenging composition — not so much in terms of musicianship as in its themes and content.

To properly understand “Dogs,” though, you really need to understand when the song happened. By 1977, the more artful musical excesses of the ’60s and early ’70s had become deeply unpopular. The world’s growing disaffection and anger had found a voice in the punk movement, and one of punk’s favorite punching bags was Pink Floyd. The band’s measured, genteel, and studio-driven approach to music couldn’t have been more different from the raw, live, and furious sound of punk, and one of the seminal moments of the movement came when Johnny Rotten sported a T-shirt emblazoned with the screed “I HATE PINK FLOYD.”

But really, the punk movement’s resentment of Pink Floyd probably had less to do with the band’s sound and more to do with the UK’s social classes, which had weakened significantly since the age of Downton Abbey but nevertheless had measurable grip on the country even in the ’70s and reflected strongly in the media. Punk was music for the working class, the kind of thing that spoke to the masses. Pink Floyd was a darling of the elite, the sort of thing that upper crust media and critics could feel good about listening to because of the way it took influences like rock, blues, and psychedelia and made them feel intellectual and safe and blessedly white. John Lydon has gone on the record saying he doesn’t actually hate Pink Floyd, but he certainly won hearts and minds by sneering at them.

In that sense, 1977′s Animals feels like a response to punk’s dismissal of the band. “Dogs,” comprising nearly half the album on its own, carries much of that mission on its own. It’s a very different kind of production for the band, largely eschewing studio gimmicks and extensive overdubs and sound clips in favor of a lean, stripped down style. While the piece still rang as a studio production — no way could guitarist Dave Gilmour perform all those overlapping parts at once — it lacked the lush textures and meticulous multipart construction of the bands’ past few albums.

Yet it’s still distinctly a Pink Floyd piece. Like “Echoes,” much of the middle section consists of slow, drawn-out chords for atmosphere and mood, lots of synthesizer and guitar noodling kept on track strictly on the strength of Nick Mason’s dutiful percussion and the pervasive acoustic guitar that keeps time for much of the piece. In keeping with the name of the song, the middle portion features overdubs of dogs barking and howling.

Between the acoustic strumming and hounds wailing, “Dogs” would seem almost to be a reference to “Seamus,” but the two works couldn’t be more different. “Seamus” was a goofy bit of blues-flavored fluff about an actual dog, whereas “Dogs” is tense, almost oppressive in its quality, and uses dogs as a metaphor for soulless, driven businessmen, laying down the basis for Animals as a musical take on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And it makes striking use of those canine yaps; the song’s one significant use of advanced studio tech involves the dog audio loops slowly feeding into a Vocoder, rending the barks and calls into alien, robotic sounds that pulse rhythmically over the slow-tempo breakdown before mutating back into organic animal noises again.

It’s ultimately this theme that makes “Dogs” seem simpatico with the punk movement. Here the band put together as vicious and pointed a declamation against corporatism as any proper adherent to the punk scene, depicting upper-class suits as feral beasts out for blood behind the appearance of propriety with their social clubs and groomed manners. And yet, like members of a wolf pack, they’re torn apart in turn by their lessers when they grow too old to keep their fighting edge — perhaps dying of a heart attack borne of rich living, or simply living out their silver days alone and unloved after alienating everyone close to them. The Vocoded dogs offers an audible statement of that culture’s soullessness without being too heavy-handed about it, demonstrating the group’s collective ability to interpret Roger Waters’ vituperative viewpoint with a light, artful touch.

The instrumental/overdub break also brings a change of vocalists; Gilmour’s richer singing is replaced in the second half of the song by Waters’ more strained, nasal performance. It’s an effective change, making the song feel even harsher and more hostile as the narrative follows its subject to his desperate, unhinged doom.

It’s hard not to see “Dogs” as a tirade against the same parasitic business managers the band excoriated in “Have a Cigar.” But while that was a broad, comical piss-take, “Dogs” is pointed and cutting. If “Have a Cigar” was The Wolf of Wall Street, “Dogs” is just plain ol’ Wall Street. It sounds like nothing else in the band’s catalog, and is honestly the last time the band worked as a creative, collaborative unit rather than just as Roger Waters’ backing band. Even more remarkably, it might be the only time a 17-minute track at the heart of a concept album ever felt truly punk.

By request of dtsund

Well, now, that’s a heck of a question. I have played a lot of games to completion — a lot — and a lot of them have been lousy. But the worst? The absolute crappiest of them all? Whew. I’ve been racking my brains over this question for almost a year and I’m still not sure.

Here’s a thought: Let’s vote. I’ll list some nominees. You make the final call.

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Killzone: Shadowfall

The crazy thing about this game is that I hated it most of the way through, but the final level? The final level is so good. It’s so different from the rest of the game, so not-loud, not-stupid, not-arbitrary — a tense stealth mission filled with quiet purpose.

Good thing I don’t have the memory of a goldfish, huh?

Shadowfall is an infuriating game, because it can’t decide what kind of shooter it wants to be from one mission to the next. Seriously, every single level has a different feel to it. Here’s one like Far Cry! Here’s one like Halo! Here’s one like Half-Life 2! Here’s one like the endless mob swarms of Call of Duty! There are signs of competence all over the game. It could have been really good, but Shadowfall never takes the time to let a concept ripen. It never explores a mechanic, spastically jumping to the next instead. And half the time those new gimmicks are so ill-conceived or amateurishly executed that they bring the game grinding to a halt.

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Battletoads

Actually, Battletoads is infuriating in the same way as Shadowfall. Rare just couldn’t settle on making a consistent game and instead treat Battletoads like a stage mechanic fun-pack. And the gimmicks aren’t executed universally well or even somewhat consistently. Anything resembling platforming is just the worst thanks to the floppy animations and enormous appendages of the stupid toads — those hit boxes and edge detection, oh geez. It’s arbitrary, it’s difficult, it often requires precision memorization yet offers extremely limited continues… Man. Battletoads is just not good. Great pause theme, though.

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Karnov

Unlike the other games, which are extremely polished and simply full of inept design choices, Karnov for NES was one of the least polished games I’ve ever played. And yet I slogged through to the end, much to the amazement of the friend I’d borrowed it from. He’d owned it for ages and couldn’t make progress beyond the second stage or so. My feat didn’t earn his respect or anything. He just thought I was some sort of freak.

I have a hard time remembering exactly what made Karnov so terrible besides unclear level goals, inconsistent mechanics, a weird item selection system that kind of worked in real-time and made picking inventory items needlessly difficult, sloppy collision detection, terrible graphics and music, crummy level design, opaque rules, um… yeah.

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Xenogears

No, I’m just kidding. Calm down.

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Haunted Castle

I guess this one doesn’t quite count because I didn’t actually beat the game. I got to the very end and ran out of virtual “quarters,” game over. But it’s really kind of impressive how terrible a game based on Castlevania can be! It does the same things Castlevania did, except it does them more ineptly and with less respect for the player. Stiff controls, cheap level designs and enemy placements, totally weird sequences that radically change the game out of nowhere… Truly a disgrace of an arcade machine.

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Sprung

According to Metacritic, the lowest score I’ve ever given any video game has been a 30/100. You see, I have a tendency to abuse my position of authority to avoid having to play the utter stinkers. But Sprung happened when I was newly formed in this world of games journalism… and also the only one at 1UP willing to give Nintendo DS the time of day in that dark pre-kite era. But it’s not that Sprung was forced upon me; I willingly offered to play it. What a mistake.

So, the idea behind Sprung, I guess, was to pray that DS would appeal to an older, more mature audience than the Game Boy family. Which it did… eventually. Not at first. Not when Sprung was a fresh wound gaping in our souls. So it was a dating sim without an audience. Cloying written, with a cast of deeply unlikeable characters and proto-bro personalities.

Not to mention unintuitive writing! Well I still remember entering into a conversation with the game’s token Asian women and being prompted to buy her a drink. It turns out I was supposed to buy her a mint julep, because she was from the South… except there hadn’t been enough dialogue spoken for her to offer any tells for her accent. This feels especially ironic now that I actually do live in the South, close to my wife’s Vietnamese cousins, who grew up in Wilmington and have the thickest Southern accents I’ve ever heard in my life. Basically I’m saying Sprung is a miserable imitation of life and should go drown in a tub of mint juleps.

TBD

I’m going to be playing a lot of Game Boy games in the near future. I bet some of them are going to be absolutely hideous.

Well, there we have it. Those are the picks that come to mind. Now, you tell me: What is the worst game I’ve ever played to completion?

Since USgamer launched last summer, I’ve been trying to build a library of console retrospectives that are, if not comprehensive, at least as comprehensive as I can reasonably create within the context of a mainstream-oriented flagship video games website that doesn’t really function as an encyclopedia of the medium’s history. I’ve been pretty happy with these pieces, especially compared to older system retrospectives I wrote at 1UP. I’ve made a determined effort over the past few years to broaden my horizons and get a fuller sense of the various factors that have shaped the medium. I’m far from an expert, but I definitely think I’ve managed to assemble some worthwhile pieces.

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The latest is a lengthy retrospective on the Atari Lynx, a system I’ve come to develop a better appreciation for of late. I decided to add Lynx games to Game Boy World, at which point I really started to study the system and learn more about it. The thing was an impressive piece of work. Yeah, it’s easy to excoriate it for its obvious failings, but I think it deserves more appreciation for its successes. Hopefully I’ve managed to present it in a fair and positive light despite not having any personal fandom or affection for it.

And, if you’re bored this weekend and haven’t read them already, may I recommend killing an hour or two with my previous retrospectives?

And more to come, don’t you doubt it.

A question for you

I’ve been experimenting with different video capture formats for my Game Boy World videos and would like some feedback on which you, the consumer eyeball, would prefer.

Unfortunately there is no single perfect solution. I like capturing GB games with the Super Game Boy frame and, when available, preset color palettes; but the only means I have of using SGB is on systems that only output lower-grade video (composite or S-Video). The RetroN outputs via HDMI, but it doesn’t read games inserted in the Super Game Boy, recognizing only the SGB itself. So, please, compare the two formats and let me know which I should go with:

Do I capture from RetroN 5 and get clean video without any of the SGB embellishments? As such:

Or do I go with the lower-grade capture solution that allows the full potential effect of games to be displayed, but with rougher and more artifacted video quality? As such:

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!

On a Game Boy World-related note, I have a long-term, paid freelance project available for anyone capable of capturing high-quality Lynx video. Drop me an email at toastyfrog@gmail.com if you are such a person and would like some American dollars. Thanks!

It’s a busy week this week, what with me being pinched between two back-to-back trips out of town while trying to help shepherd USgamer to its best month of content ever. This is our mission. We want to rock your brain.

However! I still managed to post the long-delayed episode 000 of Game Boy World, a look at the Game Boy hardware itself. There’s a chunk of text, and there’s a video.

But if watching it here seems like too much trouble for you, I’ve also launched a genuine iTunes account where you can follow all the videos I’m creating for Patreon with the convenience of never having to seek it out yourself. The content will somehow load itself into your iTunes in the background. How fabulous! You should consider subscribing.

I also took point on the first of several USgamer podcast ventures this morning. The first episode will be up soon. It will also be on iTunes! I will of course make mention of that once we have it all sorted out.

My first experience with Sony’s No Heroes Allowed, No Puzzles Either was, shall we say, less than impressive. Eventually I did manage to get the game working correctly, a few weeks after penning that non-review, and it turned out to be about as good as I expected. Albeit somewhat grindy and dependent on random drops.

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However, it wasn’t until a few days ago, as I was skimming over my trophies list, that I decided No Puzzles Either is actually totally boss. You get a trophy for each of the eight worlds you defeat, and each trophy has an appropriate numeric allusion in its title. The trophy for World 6 was “Six of the Best,” which I didn’t originally think much of until I noticed it in my trophy list and had a sudden flash of recognition.

“Six of the Best” was the name of the big Genesis reunion concert from the early ’80s, where the band got back together for a single show with Peter Gabriel to help raise money to bail out his failing world music project. It wasn’t recorded, and no album or video of the event has ever been published. I only know about the event because a flyer for the concert was flashed on-screen briefly in a Genesis documentary I watched a few times in the early ’90s.

That is a pretty ridiculously obscure reference. Not to mention pretty ridiculously rad. I would really like to shake that localization team’s hand. If only for proving, once again, that video games and progressive rock are forever, inextricably connected.

It’s been a busy week here in these parts. Currently I’m crowded into a tiny hotel room with Bob and Ray outside Philadelphia, prepping for our third and final (for now) Retronauts live panel tonight at Too Many Games. I also went to an all-day press event a few days ago. In Raleigh! I had no idea such a thing could ever happen.

Despite all of this, I’ve been working diligently at, you know, work. I must have been feeling in the mood for some soul-searching this week, because I’ve published two different pieces that explore the intersection of games with my personal life, including a somewhat difficult editorial dealing with Tomodachi Life. Sorry, it’s slightly heavy. Here’s a more lighthearted thing about Mega Man 2 instead.

It also has a video component, so you don’t even have to read.

And for those of you who are all, “Shut up, I don’t care about your stupid human emotions,” you can just learn about Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker instead. Just kidding, that game involves emotions, too. It involves sheer joy.

Finally, the Patreon I kicked off a few days ago has done really well — it crossed over to become funded pretty quickly, then hit the Metroidvania.com goal, then the Anatomy of Games video threshold, and even the retroactive Anatomy videos mark. That’s pretty rad. I doubt it’ll hit the final goal, but I’m well beyond where I hoped to be. And now I have the excuse to make a bunch of videos and play a bunch of games. Thanks to everyone who has elected to support my side projects!

Halt and Catch Fire

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I can’t quite decide whether or not I like AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, but I’m warming up to it. It’s no Mad Men, no matter how transparently and eagerly it tries to be, but it has its moments. I’m annoyed that it leans on the premium cable cliché that shrill wives exist primarily to obfuscate their husbands’ noble pursuit of manly dreams, but at least it’s putting a somewhat interesting spin on it by making the apparent point-of-view lead character much less sympathetic than his wife. I also find the guy who drives the plot intriguing, because you rarely see genuine sociopaths as lead characters. He’d work better as a Steve Jobs pastiche if they didn’t name-drop Jobs and Apple a couple of times per episode, but oh well.

I was initially a little concerned about the show, because the premise sounded remarkably similar to the novel I’ve been developing for the past year. Yes, like every jackass blogger in the world, I like to flatter myself by pretending I could ever create a work of novel-length fiction worth reading. Thankfully, the actual reality of the show isn’t terribly similar to my idea, so I can keep living my little delusion in comfort.

You don’t have to worry about me writing Mad Men-esque analyses of each episode’s themes, by the way. Halt and Catch Fire doesn’t exactly possess the same degree of symbolic grace. Like the bit last night where the financier talked in grim tones about the troubled business to the man responsible for running it, then nodded to his ranch hands to shoot an injured horse in the head. So subtle!