Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wrapping Up 2013

It feels like ages ago that I did my Favorite Albums of 2012 (and I guess it was a couple years ago.) I'm now a year behind, so to get caught up I made a quick little video of me babbling on for way too long, discussing my favorite albums of 2013.

Why a video? I guess because it allowed me to insert some sound snippets, so you could actually hear the music instead of just reading about it.  Sort of like my original concept for Chrontendo as a video series.  The thing goes on way too long, since unlike Chrontendo, I simply let the camera roll and started blathering with pretty much zero planning ahead  of time. Also, the sound is kinda bad, partially due to the echo, and some heavy handed use of noise removal. The camera picked up quite a few background hums from the fridge and so on. Since the Video Nasty series also involved filmed opening sequences, I'll get a clip mic at some point.

For those who don't want to watch the video but are curious, here's the list:

Deafheaven, Sunbather
Mebbe my favorite record of the year? Dunno. It's kind of hard to pin down what genre of of music this is. Black metal bent dragged kicking and screaming into shoegaze?

Run the Jewels, s/t
Two of my favorite records of 2012 were those from Killer Mike and El-P. Now they made a record together?

Anjo Gabriel, Lucifer Rising

Super-obscure stuff here. Sort of alternate soundtrack to the Kenneth Anger film, done in a giddily psychedelic style.

Gorguts, Colored Sands
Surprisingly great reunion album from the famous Canadian 'technical' metal band.

Chelsea Wolfe, Pain is Beauty
Local girl makes good with a couple great gothy singer-songwriter LPs, then splits town and releases more high-profile stuff like this.

Russian Circles, Memorial
Wolfe also turns up on the new album from these latter day post-metal  bigshots.

Botanist, IV: Mandragora
This one-man weirdo-metal project from the Bay Area percussionist Otrebor is finally starting to get some aboveground acclaim.

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
Earl's earlier mixtape was probably the most interesting release from the whole Odd Future Wolf Gang crew. He disappeared for a year or two before suddenly re-emerging with Doris, his official debut.

Kavinsky, Outrun
Highly entertaining and beautifully packaged disc of 80s infused synth music from this French electronic musician and associate of Daft Punk. One song ended up in the movie Drive.

The Lion's Daughter and Indian Blanket, Black Sea
Sort of an underground collaboration between a metal band and a folk band, both from Missouri. More people oughta hear this record.

Julia Holter, Loud City Song
A great collection of artsy tunes from this Los Angeles singer-songwriter.

Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
First record in four years from this noisy British electronic duo. Somehow a couple of their songs were used in the 2012 Olympic ceremony.

Atlantean Kodex, The White Goddess
Fantastic piece of epic-sounding fantasy metal from this German band. I hope these guys aren't neo-nazis or anything, because this record seems to be a concept album with a pan-European, pagan theme.

Oranssi Pazuzu, Valonielu
Great piece of Finnish psychedelic black metal (as Encyclopaedia Metallum categorizes them). I could use more psychedelic black metal in my life.

Rob, Maniac (Original Soundtrack)
No one liked the remake of Joe Spinelli's grimy slasher movie, but damn, the soundtrack was sweet. Robert Coudert is yet another French musician with ties to Daft Punk.

Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Not quite a ear-opening as Monae's previous record, The ArchAndroid, but her mix of soul, hip-hop, rock and electronica remains just as spectacular as ever.

Earthless, From the Ages
The newest LP from the reigning kings of California stoner rock.

John Wizards, s/t
First LP from this South African band. People have said they sound a bit like Vampire Weekend, only good.

Chvrches, The Bones of What You Beleive
Ultra slick debut album from this Scottish popsters. The Scottish have always been good at making cheery pop music.

Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
Another good record from this prolific electronic musician.

I also pointed out a few select reissues, including the ultra-rare psyche classic, Dark's Round the Edges; the latest in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series; and Light in the Attic's 3 LP set of private press new age music, called I am the Center.

There you have it folks. Please feel free to tell me how tragically mistaken my choices are. Hopefully sometime after Chronsega 8, I'll do something similar for my favorite records for 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Few Decisions Made

Hey everyone. I'm been putting some thought into how to handle the new series on YouTube, and almost everyone seems to be in agreement that it would be best to use a separate channel.  This is certainly not a bad idea, since not everyone who is into Chrontendo would want to see the movie stuff, and vice versa. Honestly if it weren't for the non-family friendly nature of the series, I don't think it would be a problem. I know people watch Chrontendo at work and so on, so I'll probably end up spinning this off onto a separate Dr. Sparkle channel. I'm not sure if YT allows the same "user" to have multiple channels.

As for concerns of the account getting shut down for various reasons: I don't think this will be a huge issue. In terms of copyright, I know YT will shut down accounts if they get multiple takedown requests from rights holders. But plain-old content match notices are pretty uneventful.  I dunno if you've noticed, but 99% of my videos' content is copyrighted material. I usually just acknowledge them and then ignore them. The Chrontendo account is still in perfectly good standing with YouTube. For most people, content matches only become a problem if they have their channel monetized.

If any of you have uploaded your own videos on Youtube, you'll know that content matches tend to be weird, random bullshit. There isn't a correlation between the copyrightedness of your content and the odds of giving a content match. Music seems to get hit more than video. Sometimes I have no idea why a content match was triggered. So content matches are clearly bogus. At least one episode of Chrontendo isn't viewable in some countries because of a match on some completely obscure Japanese game. Yet I never get matches on any well known games.

In terms of violence, nudity, etc in the videos being a problem.  Well.... kids, it's time for some real talk. (spins chair around and sits down with arms crossed on chair back.) I don't know if you guys dig too deep into the dark recesses of YT, but... there is plenty of sex to see there. You should have no problems finding graphic nudity on YT if that is what you are looking for. Or even if you're not. One fellow told me that after their child was born, they went looking for breastfeeding tips on YouTube and instead found tons of vids that are pretty blatantly aimed at dudes with a breastfeeding fetish. At this point, softcore porn is a sizable YT genre. These aren't obscure vids; some of them rack up millions of views. Heck, if you want to see Cannibal Holocaust, you can watch the whole damn thing on YT:

Anyhoo, I've got a bit of work to do before the debut episode is ready. It might come out around the same time as Chronsega 9. To answer one specific question about which films will be covered: there are three categories of so-called Nasties.  The core 39 Nasties being the ones that ended up on the final DPP list of prosecuted films. Forest of Fear/Toxic Zombies was one of these 39 "true" Nasties. Additionally, there were films that were on the list for a while but were eventually dropped. And finally, there is the DPP Section 3 list: films that could be seized from shops under the less serious Section 3 provision. There are some pretty mainstream films on the Section 3 list, including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing, etc.  Just to give us a wider pool to choose from, I'll select films from all three. Some pretty obscure, interesting films found their way onto the Section 3 list, so I can't ignore that.

Lastly, I've been told I forgot to upload an MKV version of Chrontendo 48. Whoops.  I've rendered one and am uploading it now.

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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

You Input is Requested

Those of you who read the Twitter feed have already seen this, but I'm soliciting opinions from folks who have clear memories of playing SNES games on the real hardware.

You might be wondering why I'm asking about this. Please don't read anything into this. I'm just looking for input on representing SNES games.

The video below is around 8 minutes, and asks you to chose from three options on three different games. Your choices should not all the be same letter, so if you say "B is best on all three," I'll be suspicious. The best way to see the video is by downloading the full version from the link below. The video is pretty damn big, 500 MB but Mega usually downloads really fast.  Just click on "Download to your computer," and it will start downloading, and THEN ask you where you want to save the file. That seems backwards, I know.!b8B3nY4Q!M4dLltMAi1dADBSXkJQ2DH8JrgWO_jBRMxTQx85fnSE

If downloading is not an option, you can watch it on Youtube here:

However, the YT version will be have been reprocessed and will look different than the original video.

Just tell me in the comments below, or on the Youtube comments, which version looks/sounds the best for each game. I'm curious about the colors on Zelda. I remember the colors being quite soft and pastel-like, but I'm not sure which version looks the most accurate.

Thanks for your assistance.

And, yes, I know how hilarious it is that I missed that first coin in Super Mario World. I haven't played that game in years, OK?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beertendo goes British!

Hello everyone! Today brings the return of Beertendo, with a very special episode. But first, a few announcements.

Don't bother checking the site for an April Fools Day post/video/etc this year. I think we can all agree that this kind of shit is played out. If I think of anything clever next year, maybe I'll work up a little somethin' somethin'. If you are absolutely starving for April Fools content, I suppose you can always rewatch the Chron-CD-i video.

Also, Chrontendo Episode 48 has obviously not dropped yet, despite it's promised arrival date of 3/21/14.  I was originally hoping Ep. 48 would be a quickie episode, but I've decided to add in the 1989 arcade game roundup. Anyway, it's coming along, and will hopefully be complete soon. To tantalize you guys further, I'll point out that Ep. 48 will feature American Dream, Coconuts Japan's pseudo-RPG slot machine game! Starring your favorite 8 bit mascot, Pachio-kun! Please contain your excitement.

Try to contain yourselves, people

Today, however, we are pleased to announce the thrilling fucking return of Beertendo, a recurring feature where I drink beers, and ... write about them. This installment will look at the wonderful, horrible world of British beers! To maintain the British theme, please keep Arne's Rule, Britannia on repeat while reading this post. Maybe picture me wearing a Beefeater outfit, or perhaps dressed like Austin Powers.

The story of British beer is one of glory and grandeur, followed by inevitable decline, much like the Empire itself. Many of the styles we Americans drink today originated in England: porters, stouts, pale ales, barleywines, etc. During the early years of the USA, British ale was the primary inspiration for our own beer, and this remained true until the influx of German immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. Like so many other things, brewing in the UK suffered during the rapid industrialization of the 20th century.  By the 1960s, a series of corporate buyouts, takeovers and mergers had consolidated the country's brewing industry into 6 major brewers. Today, many of the great British breweries have been absorbed into same multinational conglomerates that own the big North American and European beers. Additionally, lagers have displaced traditional ales as the preferred style among young British beer drinkers. As a result, if go into a typical London bar nowadays you'll find Heineken, Guinness, Stella Artois, Bud, and Foster on tap, just like you would anywhere else in the world. While quite a few traditional breweries still exist in the UK, many of the legendary British ales, such as Bass No. 1, Thomas Hardy's Ale, or Courage Imperial Russian Stout, stopped production some years ago. (Though after a 30 year hiatus, Wells and Young's began brewing Courage IRS again recently - for the US market. Though they did start selling it the UK again a year later.)

English beer fanatics rebelled against the lager encroachment in the early 70s. The Campaign for Real Ale was launched to promote traditional British brewing. The Great British Beer Festival, a yearly beer competition, was launched a few years later.  Today, "real" ale, meaning cask brewed ale, has a pretty solid fan base in the UK, and a decent selection of these beers are imported into the US.

Those of you who were around in the mid-90s might recall that British beers were considered pretty hip at the time. Drinking Bass or Newcastle* was a sign of sophistication. My wife actually liked some swill called Watney's Red Barrel.  Perhaps your town had, like mine, a British pub type establishment which served Fuller's, Courage and Worthington, along with fish and chips and shepherd's pie. Today, however, I''m going try a few smaller English beers, all of which fall into the "real ale" style.

Bluebird Bitter is probably the most well known beer from Coniston Brewing Company, a brewer founded in the mid '90s that specialized in ales for the CAMRA crowd. The bottle states that it is "Award Winning," and Coniston's site lists an impressive number of medals from various beer festivals.

It pours a nice orange color with a thin head of foam that resolves into a slender ring with a bit of lacing. I got very little smell from it. Bluebird has a relatively light body with that sort of creamy feel that British brewers seem to value so much.

It definitely has that distinct, British flavor to it. It might be the Challenger hops. It's a very pleasant, unassuming beer. Sort of a earthy malt flavor with a wee bit of bitter hops and a slight metallic taste. Alcohol is pretty low, 4.2%, though Coniston's website claims a shockingly low 3.6%.  Mild flavor. It's not really a memorable beer, however. It seems like an average pale ale style beer to me. I'd rate it "good" but it almost seems....just a little too timid.

Next up is Adnams Broadside. Adnams is a Suffolk based brewer that's been around since the mid 1800s. Broadside seems to be their flagship ale, and has won "Best Bitter" awards at the Great British Beer Festival, and similar festivals. It's a dark golden color, with a bit more alcohol that Bluebird: 6.5%.  Again, it produces a head that quickly disappears.

Sorry, had to use a stock photo.
Much like Bluebird, it's a very creamy, slightly sweet beer. As is typical of British beers, the malt is forward. Hops are pretty subtle. There's sort of a woody, nutty flavor. Just like the Bluebird it has this metallic aftertaste that seems characteristic of British beers.

Again: this beer is good tasting , but so polite, almost unassuming. It doesn't make you jump out of your chair and scream "damn! that is one fine tasting beer!"

Moving along, we have Fuller's 1845.

Another stock photo. I was ill prepared for this post.
Jeez, i guess the British like putting years on their beer bottles - Broadside sports a prominent "1672." Some major nostalgia for the glory days of the empire I'd wager. In the case of Fuller's, 1845 was the year the brewery was founded.

At 6.30 ABV it's a bit stronger than the typical English beer. 1845 is a bit darker than the other two ales, but has the same rapidly vanishing head, though the Fuller's starts out pretty thick and foamy at first.
Compared to Bluebird or Broadside, the Fuller's is bursting with flavor. Very prominent roasted malts and yeasts dominate. The hops are pretty slight, but one thing that stands out is the molasses flavor, with sort of a licorice aftertaste. There are hints of a old musty, woodsy taste. In my opinion, this beer is much more interesting than the two above. Fuller's seems a bit more aligned with the tastes of US beer drinkers. You often see it at British themed bars in this country, and a wide range of Fuller's brews are readily available in US stores. All the Fuller's beers I've had have been very tasty, with the Fullers Vintage being my favorite. The funny thing is that despite Fuller's being around for over 150 years, both Vintage Ale and 1845 were introduced in the 1990s.

My takeaway from this is that it's clear that beer geeks in the US and UK have pretty different tastes. Traditionally, European beers are very malt-orientated; in the US we tend to downplay the malty, bready flavors, and instead, hoppy beers are enormously popular.  The American beer scene is much less beholden to tradition, and bizarre beer experiments are the norm. Big, powerful, high-alcohol beers are prized in the US, while in the UK they tend to go for smoother, more subtle flavors. There are many, many fantastic beers from the UK, but many of the CAMRA-endorsed cask ales I've had were a little on the underwhelming side.

If you were to ask me what my favorite British brewer is, I'd say Yorkshire's Samuel Smith Brewery, without hesitation. Smith's greatest accomplishment must be the mighty, mighty Yorkshire Stingo. A "strong ale" at 9.0% ABV, Stingo is huge, bursting with flavors: malty, fruity, sugary, oakey. Pretty much everything you could want in a British beer. It's brewed only once a year, and is a bit pricier that other Samuel Smith ales, but it's clearly worth it. Smith's stuff is readily available in the US, and I see it even in places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. If you've never tried the Oatmeal Stout, Imperial Stout and Taddy Porter, get these beers NOW. They are a steal.

I'd rate these beers as:
Bluebird Bitter: B
Adnams Broadside: B
Fuller's 1845: B+
Yorkshire Stingo: A-

Checking on BeerAdvocate, I see readers rate these as 87, 86, 92 & 92 respectively. RateBeer gives them a 67, 91(!), 99 & 97.

*No longer brewed in Newcastle, and now owned by Heineken.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Let me point out that, first of all, the new episode of Chrontendo is ready. You can download it in glorious 60 FPS in its purest version here on Archive.  Or you can stream an inferior, yet HD version on Youtube. Take your pick. I'll warn you that the Youtube version might screw up various flicker effects however.

Before I go into the specifics of the new episode, I'd like the discuss the obvious question that many of you might have, "Why was there such a huge delay with Episode 47? What exactly have you been doing for the last several months?" Should I even attempt to answer these kinds of questions? On one hand, Chrontendo is something I do on my own time, absolutely free of charge. I can stop doing it anytime I want, no questions asked. On the other hand, Chrontendo isn't really free. I've asked something very precious of you: your time. I've created these videos, and you've invested your time watching them. Since so many of you have graciously invested many hours of your own lives on Chrontendo, I feel I owe you a great deal.

An idea of how much editing goes into a long complicated segment like "Mother."

The simplest answer I can give you is that I've been busy with life in general. Dr. Sparkle is a guy with a wife, two dogs, a full time job,  a daily commute through traffic, a sink that is always full of dirty dishes, a mother who's not in the best of health, a mother-in-law and father-in-law who aren't in good health, a lawn where the weeds never stop growing, floors that always need the to have dog hair vacuumed off of them, laundry that always needs to be goes on and on.  Every day I get up, rush off to work, arrive home in the afternoon, have a bit of time to relax, then start making dinner, eat dinner, do dishes, and then... the day is over.

Don't get me wrong; I do have free time to do things I enjoy. I often haunt the beer stores, looking for the latest beers to arrive. If you love beer, you need this kind of persistence, and sometimes it pays off. I was able to score a few bottles of The Abyss recently, as well six-packs of Bourbon County Stout, the Firestone Walker limited release beers; all kinds of great stuff. I also enjoy shopping for records. My town has about 5 good record stores, and good records are like good beers: they go fast. You need to spend a lot of time shopping. I also bought a fancy record cleaning machine recently, and let me tell you, scrubbing records takes time. I spend a lot of time listening to music, reading though music sites, listening to music on Youtube, checking sites for pre-orders of limited edition LPs, and so on. Music is a time consuming hobby.
This is what a fancy record cleaning machine looks like. And it's the first LP of All Things Must Pass, German pressing, in case you're wondering.

Another time-consuming hobby: playing videogames. Sometimes I like to like to play non-NES games. Also, watching movies. I'm paying for Netflix, so I might as well try to use it. I'm so far behind on my movies, I haven't even seen that last Batman movie yet. And don't even talk to about the stuff I've bought during Steam sales or on Humble Bundle. (Suuurre, I'll get around to playing Spelunky one of these days.)

It looks bad, then I remember all the Humble Bundle game codes I haven't redeemed yet...
Here's the scariest thing of all: as you get older, time seems to contract. For you younger folks out there: this phenomenon is real and it will take you by surprise. The older you get, the faster time moves. Weeks feel like days, months feel like weeks. I'm not joking. It will happen to you, and when it does it will be terrifying. At some point, you will realize you're used up about 50% of your life, and then the panic sets in. There's no way you can prepare for this, so consider yourself warned.

On top of all this, I think I got out of the habit of working on Chrontendo when I tore apart my office. The computer I use to create Chrontendo on was unplugged for a while, and once I got everything set back up, it wasn't easy to get back into the flow.  Not that I'm trying to blame outside circumstances. There's only one reason for the delay, and that's me.  Procrastination, laziness, bad work habits -- these things are what caused the recent slowdown.

I've made a commitment to get episodes out more frequently, and also to release more content on the Youtube channel. For the sake of the viewers I will do my best to fulfill that commitment.

I'll keep the rest of this brief. Three big games this episode:


Nintendo's first RPG. While Mother is clearly inspired by Dragon Quest, Nintendo attempted to make it stand out from the many other DQ clones by giving it a 20th century American setting and a storyline involving alien abductions. Mother was created by the Japanese writer/media personalty Shigesato Itoi, which gave the game a bit more prestige in the public's eye. The crazy thing about Itoi was that he became famous as a copy writer. That is, a guy who writes the text for advertisements. The idea of a famous copy writer sounds pretty absurd to us here in the West, but somehow in Japan it was a real possibility. Hardcore Gaming 101 did a pretty good look at Itoi recently. It's essential reading if you want understand who this guy is and why his involvement with Nintendo was a big deal.


Just like Bionic Commando, Capcom created two separate games called Strider: one for the arcade and one for the NES. The arcade Strider is non-stop action, while the home version focuses more on story and exploration. Unlike Bionic Commando, the NES Strider is clearly inferior to the arcade version. It's mostly a well made game, but lacks that little bit of magic that made the console Bionic Commando so great.

Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Grafitti

A bit of an oddity, SWG is one of those "parody" games, in which a serious game is given a goofy, super-deformed makeover. But this isn't a quickie knockoff of the original Splatterhouse; it's a completely new action platformer which borrows a number of elements from the original, but still manages to feel very different than the arcade game.


Cobra Triangle

Yet another NOA game developed by Rare. Once again we are treated to Rare's beloved isometric perspective. Also, the title seems to be two random words thrown together, in the classic Rare tradition.

Cosmic Wars

A rather obtuse military strategy game in the Famicom Wars/Military Madness tradition.  Cosmic Wars is mostly remembered for being a Gradius spinoff, though it seems pretty well constructed.

Takeda Shingen 2/Shingen the Ruler

The second game in Hot-B's short lived series of Nobunaga's Ambition knock-offs. In fact, this is the last game in the series. Unlike the first one, Takeda Shingen 2 received a US release. You might recall something very similar happened with the Black Bass series.

Moeru! Oniisan/Circus Caper

The weirdest game this episode, in terms of its release history. Moeru! Oniisan was an awful looking platformer based on an anime series. For reasons unknown, publisher Toho decided to have the game completely reworked and released in the US as Circus Caper. The extent to which everything in the game has been altered is surprising. Yet the resulting product is so unappealing and terrible, I don't understand why they bothered.

Captain Ed

Another extremely strange game, Captain Ed is one of the least visually interesting shoot-em-ups I've seen in a while. The mechanics are also quite strange, as the background poses a greater threat to you than the actual enemies do. Even odder, all these bizarre mini games are thrown in, which have nothing to do with the shoot-em-up sections.


Classic kusoge-style port of a Taito arcade game, courtesy of our good buddies at Micronics.

Kyuukyoku Tiger/Twin Cobra

Exact same thing as above, only the game is not as bad. We already saw a better port of this game in Chronturbo 3.

Defender of the Crown

Published on Konami's second label Ultra Games, this is a port of the 1985 Amiga hit. It sort of reminds me of a landlocked dumbed down version of Sid Meier's Pirates.

Magma Project - Hacker

Rather improbably, this is a port of Hacker, the old Activision C64 game, reconfigured into the form of an RPG. The lone FDS game this episode.

Melville's Flame

An unpleasant looking RPG/Strategy game hybrid that resembles Square's Hanjuku Hero (covered in Episode 38.

 Famista '89: Kaimaku Han!!

Namco's Family Stadium series has now officially been rebranded as Famista.

Meimon! Daisan Yakyuubu

A nicer looking anime tie-in baseball game from Bandai, developed by Human.

There we go. Another 15 games. Next time, we finish up August and move into September 1989.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More F.E.A.R.

A couple posts ago, I broke my strict retrogaming format and wrote up an almost-sorta-modern game, F.E.A.R., a strange hybrid of FPS & horror game. Since I was sort of on a F.E.A.R. roll, I decided to give the two lesser-known sequels a shot. Today then, we'll take a very quick look at F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and F.E.A.R. 3 (no subtitle.)

F.E.A.R. was released at the tail-end of the PS2/Xbox generation, in 2005.  It retained the older, Half Life style of FPS gameplay, that of walking into rooms, shooting shit up, grabbing ammo, and guzzling health packs. F.E.A.R. 2 was released in 2009, in an entirely different era of gaming. Its contemporaries were COD: Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed II and Infamous, yet F.E.A.R. 2 still retains its predecessor's formula, albeit with a significant graphical update.

F.E.A.R. 2 has truly entered the era of Next-gen graphics.

The first F.E.A.R. game ended with the scary girl from Ring Alma Wade dropping some kind of Akira-style psychic nuke on the town of Fairport, then presumably killing the protagonist and the few remaining supporting characters. No surprise then, that F.E.A.R. 2 introduces a brand new protagonist, a standard issue FPS military dude named Sgt. Becket. The game's opening act takes place during the events of the first F.E.A.R. game, as Becket and his squad break into the luxury penthouse of the CEO of Armacham Technology. If you recall your F.E.A.R lore, you'll know Armacham was the evil corporation behind the whole supersoldier/Alma fiasco. At the level's end, you see Alma nuking the city, and you get knocked unconscious and squirreled away to some hospital with a city-sized top secret research facility in the basement.

You encounter evidence of all kinds of weird experiments in F.E.A.R. 2

Now, I don't pretend to understand the plot of the F.E.A.R games, but this time it somehow involves Alma returning and harassing you with spooky hallucinations and flashbacks. Also, the Replica soldiers return, though I have no idea who is controlling them. And, in a shocking plot twist, it turns out Sgt Becket is also the subject of an illicit supersoldier project. In F.E.A.R you traveled from location to location via helicopter, but in the sequel your ride has been downgraded to a humble armored transport vehicle. Locations seen the the game include the destroyed remains of Fairport, an elementary school which has yet another secret research laboratory in the basement, and best of all, a nuclear power plant which houses (once again) a secret research laboratory.

Horrible products of human experiements gone wrong fill F.E.A.R. 2.

Gameplay wise, F.E.A.R 2 is almost exactly the same as the prior game. Use guns, grenades, and slow-mo to take out groups of enemy soldiers, who shout things like "He took out the whole squad!" on their intercoms. Between firefights, expect to see freaky hallucinations, specters appearing/disappearing, lights getting dim, and so on, as Alma tries to fuck with you.  You actually get a few "hands on" encounters with Alma, as she runs and claws at you, and you need to frantically tap the mouse button to beat her back. These QTE events are one of a few new gameplay features in F.E.A.R 2. There is also one cool scene set on a moving train.  And best of all, you play one section from inside a heavily armed mechsuit, which is capable of raining massive destruction down upon enemy forces. Other that that, expect to do a lot of climbing ladders and hitting switches.

Among the coolest parts is operating a powerful mech-suit.

The one area that distinguishes F.E.A.R 2 from the original is its visuals. Aside from the obvious improvements in PC graphics in the intervening four years,  the developers have put a lot more eye candy into this game.  The storage rooms, service tunnels, and courtyards of F.E.A.R have been replaced with much richer environments.  The elementary school, for example, is crammed with books, posters, children's drawings, overturned desks, etc. The streets of the destroyed town of Fairport are suitably grim, with crashed airliners, piles of rubble and its residents turned into silent ash statues. There's much better use of large scale environments, particularly when you must make your way down the edge of the massive crater where Alma set off her A-bomb, or when you encounter the imposing cooling tanks of the abandoned nuclear facility.

F.E.A.R. 2 contains a good amount of striking visuals.

F.E.A.R 2 is also a bit gorier and grimmer than the first game. Aside from blood and guts spilling more liberally, the theme of human experimentation, in particular experimentation on school children, is pretty disturbing. While not as original as its predecessor, it's probably the most enjoyable of the F.E.A.R games to play in 2014. However, what would a F.E.A.R game without a totally WTF ending?  Like the first F.E.A.R., the game feels likes it's setting you up for a final boss fight against Alma.  I should point out Alma appears in the second game in adult form and struts around nude most of the time.  The game's climax (heh) finds you running around in dream world while engaging in QTE battles with a former team mate. However, the little cutscenes makes it clear that while this is going on, Alma is... how shall I put this? ...riding you like a wild pony.  Yep, you basically get raped by Alma in F.E.A.R. 2. The battle ends abruptly and the final image is the visibly pregnant Alma grasping your wrist and forcing your hand to touch her stomach.  UGO even put in on one of their click-baity lists, this one about weird game endings. (Monster Party also made the list.)

Alma mostly appears in her adult, butt naked form.

Someone must have liked F.E.A.R 2 because two years later a sequel was produced, not by original developers Monolith, but by a smaller company called Day 1 Studios. Previously, Day 1 had worked on the console ports of F.E.A.R, and had also produced a little loved FPS called Fracture in 2008. Perhaps as a result of the development changing hands, F.E.A.R. 3 (or F.3.A.R., as the title screen actually says) changes up the formula quite a bit. It also rewrites the story a bit, bringing back several characters from the first game, despite that fact that every single person in that game died. Yes, the "Point Man" is back, having somehow shaken off Alma's mid-air attack at the the end of F.E.A.R.  He's been captured by Aramacham and is being kept in a South American prison. I don't recall the game giving you any good explanation for this. I'm also not sure why Armacham has a prison in South America.  F.E.A.R. 3 begins with a cutscene of Paxton Fetel coming back to "life" in ghost form, complete with the Deadman-like ability to possess living people.  He's on pretty good terms with the Point Man, despite having been killed by him, and even helps him bust out of jail. Fetel acts as the narrator/tutorial dude/travel guide guy throughout the game, frequently materializing and giving you some advice. As for the Point Man, he's gone from a faceless pair of gun-wielding hands to an angry looking, bearded guy who appears in the between level cutscenes.

This is you, in all your cutscene bad-assery.

F.E.A.R. 3 goes out of the way to give your nameless character a bit of backstory, including between level flashbacks depicting the childhood of Fetel and Point Man while being raised as super soldiers. You get your first glimpse of how much different F.E.A.R 3 is going to be from its predecessors quite early in the game. F.E.A.R. 3 is very much informed by newer FPS games, and features a slower style of gameplay involving heavy use of cover.  Instead of running into a room and mowing down enemies in slow motion, you'll find yourself crouching behind crates, waiting for enemies to poke their heads up for a second so you can fire a round or two into their skull.

Many, many boxes and crates to hide behind.

Add in a regenerating health system and you've got much longer, more deliberately paced firefights. The slow mo also feels sort of gimped; either you move slower while it's turned on, or it runs out sooner. I'm not sure which. The result is that you spend a good deal of time slinking around behind boxes, since stepping out into the open will get you sliced into tiny pieces by a hail of bullets.

On top of this, F.E.A.R. 3 tosses a an achievement system that has popups appearing every 2 minutes congratulating you on using cover for 60 seconds or killing two enemies using slow motion. This ties into an RPG style experience meter, which grants you longer slow mo meters, the ability to hold more ammo, and so on, as you "level up." This is done by finding certain glowing corpses, which you can "psychic link" to. I'm not sure what exactly the "psychic link" is, but it makes the corpse disappear and grants you experience points. I actually think F.E.A.R. 3 handles this better than the earlier games, in which you increase your health/slo mo bars by snooping around in out of the way corners, looking for glowing syringes. Another interesting feature is the ability to replay a level as Fetel, who uses psychic powers instead of weapons.

F.E.A.R 3, the RPG?

At times, F.E.A.R. 3 is barely recognizable as a horror-themed game at all. After you escape the dreary prison level, you end up fighting Armacham soldiers in the sun-drenched streets of an unnamed Latin American town. This level would not look out of place in a COD game. After hijacking a helicopter and flying it back the US (what kind of range do helicopters have, anyway?) you soon end up duking it out with more soldiers in a typical middle-class suburban neighborhood. In the first half of the game, the F.E.A.R. secret laboratories and and dark service tunnels are entirely missing. Alma, and some other scary ghost/monster thing, turns up from time to time, but the horror content has been dialed down a bit.

It is, however, extremely gory. Disgustingly so.

Despite this, there is plenty of creepy stuff in F.E.A.R. 3, much of which is based around apocalyptic anxiety. The freakiest level in the game's first half takes place in a ruined Costco, which has been taken over by zombie-like gangster/skatepunk cultists. Some pretty creepy stuff pops up in this level: banks of flickering wide-screen TVs, weird shrines everywhere, human carcasses hung on meat hooks in the freezer. The quasi-undead cultists continue to come after you even once you've blown off limbs, and eventually start strapping dynamite to their chests and bum rushing you. These guys appear without any explanation, but eventually Fetel theorizes their brains were "burnt out" by the Alma induced nuke. The influence of 28 Days Later and similar apocalyptic narratives can be heavily felt in these levels. The net result of all this is a game that feels less like earlier F.E.A.R. games and more like.... well, a lot of stuff that isn't F.E.A.R.

The destroyed Costco is one of the better levels.

I'm not saying F.E.A.R. 3 is a bad game. It's a reasonably decent FPS with a bit of spooky stuff in it. I wish it fit in better with the previous games. I wish the it made even the tiniest bit of sense. (A US city is destroyed by a huge explosion, has subsequently fallen into mass anarchy, and weeks later a private corporation's security forces are going around killing survivors? Why hasn't every available US Army/National Guard been deployed to the area? Has the US government somehow collapsed?) It also just seems wrong the way the game makes Alma & Fetel into good guys, more or less. Alma actually appears and rescues you from Armacham forces early in the game.  Apparently Alma's end-of-F.E.A.R. 2 pregnancy figures into the game at some point as well.

Trashed suburban homes represent anxiety over the death of the middle class.

Bottom line: I initially decided to to plow all the way through F.E.A.R. 3 just so I could say that I finished it. However, around halfway through, after almost completing a lengthy level, the game lost my save file and made me restart the entire level. Yep, F.E.A.R. 3, just like F.E.A.R. 2 does not allow you to manually save your game, but instead using a single slot autosave feature. I'm not sure what happened, but I wasn't willing to replay that entire area, and I just called it quits. No big loss, I guess.

F.E.A.R.: I give this a solid B
F.E.A.R. 2: B+
F.E.A.R. 3 : C+

There you have it, the F.E.A.R. series in a nutshell, minus the expansion packs. Now you don't have to play them yourself!