Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Dr. Sparkle Sidequest

My Goodness! It's a top secret preview of my new project, only available to those who read the blogs or check the Twitter account! So this is a soft launch, sort of a pilot episode of this new series, not viewable on Youtube without the link.

This thing doesn't even technically have a title yet. Uh, if you have any clever suggestions let me know.  This is a film-related video series, focusing specifically on a bizarre phenomenon that's always fascinated me, the "Video Nasties." I have a filmed intro in this video where I give some explanation as to what exactly a video nasty is. In short, there was a moral panic in the UK during the early 80s over imported horror films on VHS tape. This lead to a number of video tapes being straight-out banned. Much of the outrage over these so-called video nasties was fueled by sensationalistic tabloids.

In most cases, police would simply raid video stores, seizing tapes that looked morally objectionable. Eventually an official list of seizable video titles was compiled; the videos on this list comprise the filmic corpus known as the 'video nasties'; films that were so violent and revolting it was illegal to sell them. They range from well-known horror/sleaze classics such as Lucio Fulci's Zombie or Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust to completely obscure stuff like the movie covered in this episode. It's a fascinating list of films, and I'm sure we'll make some great discoveries working through them.

The format is this: each episode I examine another film on the list, sort of at random (but not really). I plan each episode to be around 15-20 minutes in length. This pilot has a long introduction from me, so it runs a bit over. There are a few potential problems with this series. One: most of these films are copyrighted and this could lead to requests for their removal. And, Two: the content on these could fall afoul of YouTube's content standards. Supposedly you aren't allowed to show too much crazy stuff on YouTube (though there's plenty of it to be found if you look.) Anything that gets pulled from YouTube should be able to exist on Archive. Consider this episode to be test run for the series.

Here's the video:

If you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, etc, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

About Damn Time

Update:  Chrontendo Episode 48 is now up on Archive. Despite Youtube now having 60 fps capabilities, downloading the Archive version is still the way to get the best looking form of Chrontendo.

Your eyes do not deceive you. There is, in fact, a new episode of Chrontendo available for your viewing pleasure. If it's any consolation, this episode is absurdly long. Longer than Chronsega 8. A little over an hour and 50 minutes.  This is mostly due to the 1989 arcade roundup, which is a good 50 minutes or so by itself.

The exciting news is that Youtube is now supporting  60 FPS videos in the 720p and 1080p formats. At the moment, this option is only available in Chrome, and, apparently the Nightly version of Firefox.  If you click on the gear to choose your desired resolution and see a "60FPS" next to 720p, then you know your browser supports it. Episode 48 may be found on Youtube here.

A downloadable 60 FPS version will be available on in the near future.

1989 was a banner year for coin-op games. It was the year beat-em-ups took over arcades. We'd already had Double Dragon, a massive hit a couple years prior. But '89 saw the release of Golden Axe, TMNT, Final Fight, and so on.  It wouldn't be long before Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat created a fighting game mania that swept beat-em-ups into the dustbin of history, but for 2-3 glorious years beat-em-ups were the kings of the arcade.

The glory days of beat-em-ups

Aside from beat-em-ups, we have a number of interesting shoot-em-ups, most notably Zero Wing and XMultiply. Also, puzzle games, such as Klax, Atari's polygonal 3D sci-fi racer, Stun Runner, Capcom's peerless action game, Strider, and many others.

As for the Famicom/NES, the results are a little less promising. Episode 48 covers the tail end of August 1989 and most of September. There were a lot of US only games in September, so we cover half this time and will pick up the rest in Episode 49.  At this time, there were really no US companies developig NES games, so instead we get treated with stuff from the UK (Rare and Zippo) and Australia (Beam Software.)

In terms of notable games, we mostly have two Japanese-developed ports of successful US computer games: Kemco's Uninvited and Pony Canyon's Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Uninvited the third and final of the three Icom Simulation games released for the system. LIke Shadowgate, it is noted for its colorful, unfair, and frequent deaths.

Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar was once a serious contender for "greatest RPG ever made." Today it feels like one of the better old school RPGS: better than Wizardry but still sort of tedious. The gimmick here is that instead of just killing everyone, you need to morally improve your character. This is mostly done by killing lots of monsters, but also by giving gold coins to beggars you meet in town.  Pony Canyon's port gives it a Dragon Quest inspired makeover.

On the flip side of the coin, we have a few US-only pieces of crap.  Hi-Tech's Hollywood Squares (developed by Rare) and LJN's Sesame Street ABC (from Rare associates Zippo Games.) Both are quickly knocked off pieces of crap that are best ignored, though Sesame Street is actually a little brazen in just how little content it gives you: a mere two minigames.

To reach the deepest depths of horrible game design we must turn to Beam's Bad Street Brawler. A port of a computer game released under several names, including (the Lou Reed inspired?) Street Hassle, BSB is game design at it's laziest. A tediously repetitive single-plane beat-em-up, BSB almost cruises by just on it's weirdness. Aside from the fact that the protagonist looks completely different in-game than he does  on the title screen and the between-level illustrations, BSB has trench coat clad flashers giving you powerups, and gorillas attacking you with bananas. Character designs have been radically altered from the computer version; what was originally a little old lady throwing a purse at you is now a very short circus strongman throwing dumbbells at you. Unfortunately, all this wackiness can't distract from the sheer monotony and frustration of the game.

The rest:

American Dream

Japanese game design at its wackiest.  Another game in Coconut's Pachio-kun series, American Dream dispenses with pachinko entirely and instead gives you an pseudo-RPG where you conquer New York by playing slot machines. (gambling tip: slot machines are for old ladies and scrubs. Don't play slots.) American Dream finds itself in the unfortunate category of games that are both apeshit crazy and boring as hell. Hardcore Gaming 101 covered this one a few years ago.

Gekitou Pro Wrestling!!/Tecmo Wrestling

Tecmo had some very popular sports series, such as Tecmo Bowl, but their wrestling game never took off.  Its most notable feature is the announcer doing nonstop commentary.

Marusa no Onna

A high quality Capcom adventure game, based on the popular Juzo Itami movie, A Taxing Woman. Capcom would release another Itami related game later in 1989.

 Idol Hakkenden

Also a high quality adventure game, developed by Natsume. This is another game based on the novel  Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, though the samurai of the novels have been replaced with young singing 'idols.'

Chuuka Taisen 

This the third time we've encountered this Chinese themed shoot-em-up. It's still not very good.


A sort-of port of Data East's arcade game. Totally unremarkable, but the ZX Spectrum version was one of the best selling games on that system, for reasons understood only by the British.

Jordan Vs Bird: One on One

Milton Bradley hired Rare to port the EA computer game to the NES. Inferior sequel to the much loved One On One, with Micheal Jordan swapped in for Dr J.

Ochin ni Toshi Puzzle Tonjan!?

Oddball puzzle game mixing Sokoban, mahjong tiles and pigs.

Racer Mini Yonku: Japan Cup

Not even a real racing game. Konami and Tamiya bring you this game about racing little electric toy cars.

Tanigawa Koji no Shogi Shinan III

The final game we'll see to bear the name of the famed shogi master Tanigawa Koji.

Next up: I'll be unveiling a couple miscellaneous vids, unrelated to gaming. Then it's onto the new Chronsega.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Housecleaning and Announcements

Right. I know that everything has been pretty quiet on the Chrontendo front for quite some time.  It sure feels like Chrontendo has become the Dresden Codak of videogame blogs lately. Let me assure you that at least it's not turning into the Achewood of game blogs. Not anytime soon, anyway.

Hell, if Chronogamer can suddenly bring back his project after a few years, I can keep this one going.

Chrontendo Episode 48 is completely recorded and is being edited now. I'm not going to speculate about an actual release date. Depends on how things go in the personal life.

I'll be doing a bit of maintenance on this site, such as updating links etc. Most of you will be aware of this, but another big player entered the chrono-gaming arena a while ago.  Jeremy Parish started doing a Game Boy video series, in a very sensible one-game-per-episode fashion. The series starts here:

Currently he's up to 18 games. So anyone hoping I would do a chron-Game Boy thing now has a perfectly acceptable alternative.  Parish even sounds a bit like me.

I know there are a number of  other chrono type gaming projects out there. I  have a bad habit of finding out about one, thinking that I can remember it instead of bookmarking it, and then forgetting what it was called. Please fill me in on any that you know about, so I can add them to the links.

I also have a couple non-gaming projects going on, one of which has already surfaced.  The Jaxxon Appreciation Society is an in-depth look at Marvel's Star Wars comic book series, which ran from 1977 to 1986. Jaxxon was, of course, the bipedal green talking rabbit that appeared in the series. My inspiration was Matt Yezpitelok's Superman '86-'99, dedicated to the John Byrne reboot era Superman comics. JAS just launched last week, and so far it's got the first two issues in the can.

Also in the works: more frequent updates to the Chrontendo Tumblr. Specifically, regular status updates, to let you know how upcoming episodes are progressing.

You may have heard that Youtube has unlocked 60 fps capabilities for HD videos. At the moment, this only works on Chrome. I'll upload Episode 48 in 60 fps form and see how it works. I sure hope it will be compatible with other browsers soon.

That's it for today. Check back soon.