Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Doki Doki Arcade: The Comic

I work in a school, and sometimes, thought I hate to admit it, I'm almost ashamed to talk to the kids about video games. I'm sitting around playing Mario 3D Land and RayMan Origins, while their blowing each others' brains out in Modern Warfare 3...wtf.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Doki Doki Arcade: The Comic 3

This one might be one of the more depressing ones. I don't know.

Just as a heads up, the Gameboy pictured here is modeled on my own personal gameboy brick, which lost its screen covering ages ago.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doki Doki Arcade: The Comic 2

The comic continues. I don't think this will ever have a story or anything like that, just random gags and thoughts, probably.

For anyone wondering, BloodPot is probably some kind of space marine suffering from advanced necrosia on a mission to the planet Worse Than Hell. Titty-Ninja, the character in the back, is his mysterious frenemy. She has gun hands.

Bloodpot is also what I usually name my save files in Castlevania.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Doki Doki Arcade: The Comic

I've been feeling kinda funked out lately, so I decided to start doing a sort of comic diary of sorts. I can't promise this will always be funny, in fact it might even be kinda sad sometimes, but whatever.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friends...

Rock and Simon side by side!
As a fan of both Mega Man and Castlevania, 2011 feels like some kind of dreadful vacuum year. After the cancellation of Legends 3, the loss of Inafune, and the unfortunate Lords of Shadow, my two favorite franchises seem to be in a weird state of limbo. With the future uncertain, I thought I might take a moment to  show some love to two of my favorite games.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MegaMan Tribute Art; SECOND CHANCE

Unsurprisingly, I didn't get into Udon's MegaMan Tribute book. Fortunately, some resilient MegaMan fans are putting their unused submissions to good use in a fan book! More info on that later!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Amazing Game Music: Shiren the Wanderer

Woo, had a bit of work this week, so no new art or anything today. Instead, I come bearing the gift of music!

Shiren the Wanderer is practically a Japanese icon and has been since the Super Famicom era, but the Mystery Dungeon series of rogue-like RPGs have only recently made their way stateside. These punishingly hard dungeon crawlers are known for their steep difficulty, but standout due to their uniquely Japanese flavor and gorgeous music.

Without further ado, I present Wanderer's Fantasy, a beautiful orchestral arrangement of themes from Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Shiren no Furai.

There's something weirdly comforting about dungeon crawlers. Despite the fact that they seem totally impossible at the outset, the methodical, resource building nature of the games is surprisingly relaxing. Despite the fact that you literally lose EVERYTHING every time you die (although Shiren 3 allows you to keep MOST of your exp), eventually this stops being discouraging at all. Yes, you may lose all your items, but you inevitably find new ones. Dying just becomes part of the experience; you plan for it, expect it. I rarely enter a dungeon with the intention of finishing it, and when I do end up reaching the end I'm usually shocked.

Mystery Dungeon certainly isn't for everybody, but there is an undeniable appeal in making progress. Whether you're climbing Table Mountain or ascending Karakuri Mansion, every new level you reach is satisfying. Gamers with either a Nintendo DS or Wii console can enjoy Shiren's only two localized adventures for relatively cheap, and although the games can be a bit hard to find at retail, online services like Amazon offer reasonable prices and wide availability for both titles.

Considering I'm probably going to be trying to beat Shiren 3 for a the next few weeks, expect occasional dungeon updates!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

American Revolution d20

A typical red coat.
A friend and I have been playing around with the idea of a fantasy RPG based on the American Revolution. He's been pretty into Dungeons and Dragons lately, but feeling pretty restricted by working within the limitations of their world. Don't know why we never thought of it sooner, but we decided to make a campaign set in the American Revolution!

I've done a bit of art to get an idea of the sort of universe we're going for here. Hopefully we'll start actually playing pretty soon!

A Hessian mercenary... they mean business!
Probably more to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tower of God Game Progress

You just can't get indier than this...
 I would never in a million years consider myself a game designer, but I do like to goof around now and then. For a few years, I've VERY sporadically worked on a little platformer styled after an old school Gameboy game. I shelved this project in my senior year of college because I didn't have time to work on it, but lately have found a GREAT deal of free time and picked up "development" all over again. After about a week of work, I've just about finished the first stage, and thought I'd share.

The game is all about vertical movement, not unlike the initial stages of Kid Icarus on the NES. I decided to emphasize this by using a particularly tall screen, so the player always has a good idea of what is above and below them. For most of the actual platforming sections, the screen only scrolls vertically, but there are occasionally horizontally scrolling sections. Initially the entire screen would resize according to the scene, but I decided to just stick with the tall orientation.

The idea for the game originally came from a thought I had about a hero that fell from the sky. Having fallen from some mysterious height, the stranger would attempt to reach the heavens and discover the cause of his fall. To accommodate this concept, I thought of a Tower, the top of which is is hidden in the clouds, that the player would have to ascend. I really wanted a scene of the Tower reaching into the clouds, which was initially why I experimented with the tall screen, but it ended up suiting the gameplay pretty well.
I still have a few kinks to work out, particularly in the boss fight, which is functional but could be a bit more exciting. As soon as I'm satisfied, I'll try to get a demo up here. Until then, enjoy the screen shots!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Wii Game Makes me Want It NOW

Not long ago, Nintendo let slip the existence of Pandora's Tower, but little more than a teaser image was available. Now, the game has an official Japanese trailer, and is looking pretty swifty. This is cool for a few reasons.
1) The music is beautiful. Really classy.
2) 3D brawlers are pretty rare on the Wii.
3) There are painfully few games slated for Wii's 2011.
4) Up until this point, Ganbarion has only made licensed One Piece and Shonen Jump games, so this is their first time working on an original IP.

I'll be eager to see how this game turns out, and am already hoping for a US release.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cranky Gamer: Collector's Edition Nonsense

I've been thoroughly baffled by some of the allegedly "collector's edition" packages that have been popping up over the last couple years. Just last week I was strolling past Gamestop, or EBgames, or whatever, and saw a huge advert for the new Mortal Kombat game. Now, I get the whole franchise revival, they want people to forget all the garbage games they've made by making a new garbage game, but I didn't really think anybody was taking this seriously, after all, its Mortal Kombat. Shock and awe, the ad was for the Collector's Edition version of the game, which allegedly come with all manner of bonus crap, like art books and extra DLC costumes for your little dudes, and a figure of Scorpion. For all this fantastic crap, the cost skyrockets from $59.99 to a whopping $99.99. That's forty bucks for an art book and a toy! A toy of a character from a game most certainly rated M!Who exactly is the audience here? Adults? Man-children?

Not like this is unusual, though. The new trend when it comes to marketing mainstream, rated M games is to package it with a glorified action figure. Halo Reach's absurdly large collector's edition came packaged with statues of the game's protagonists, perfect for display on only the nerdiest of desks. Hell, Black Ops sold with an RC car for god's sake! As an adult, what are you thinking when you drop 100 bucks on a video game that comes with an RC car? Are you thinking "Yes, this is a mature game that appeals to my adult brain" or are you thinking "Squeeeeeee an RC car! Yay! Mom I need twelve batteries NOW!". Or maybe you're not thinking at all. Maybe you're just buying this ludicrous package because you were bombarded by ads telling you to do so. Who knows?

The sad truth is that it probably isn't even adults that are buying these things, at least not for themselves. This kind of crap is probably going to to 10-15 year olds across our great nation. A quick listen to the chatter in the average game of Modern Warfare reveals the average player to be prepubescent, so it's not all that surprising that Activision has become wise enough package expensive toys with their expensive, mature war shooters.

Adults, don't buy this crap. Your kid shouldn't even be playing Mortal Kombat or Black Ops, and you don't need more garbage in your house.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Angel Land Story

Did you know that long before Kid Icarus: Uprising was announced, I had planned to make a 16-bit sequel? It's true! Obviously a terribly ambitious project for a mere student, but the heart was there! As the cosmos eventually yoinks all of my ideas and gives them to people who can execute them, I was very pleased to hear of Uprising's creation. Still, I had tons of sketches and sprites dedicated to my now defunct reboot. Considering Pit is due for a return very soon, what better time to recycle all of that hard work into a comic!

So here you have it, the first page of Angel Land Story! I'll be posting these sorta sporadically over the next month or so. Next page soon!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Courage and Power: A Hyrulian Diamante

See it big here.
Link and Ganon are probably the second most recognizable pair hero and villain in the history of video games, right behind Mario and Bowser. Unlike the pair from the Mushroom Kingdom, the nightmare of Hyrule and its staunch defender are inexorably linked in a particularly clever way.

Link is the chosen hero of Hyrule's founding Goddesses, and as such he is blessed with their power. The Triforce of Courage, one of three sacred powers that maintains the balance of Hyrule, resides in the quiet hero in virtually all of his incarnations; it isn't just luck that Link is the big hero, he was chosen to stand against the might of darkness.

It is ironic, then, that Ganon as well, in some divine prank beyond explanation, was blessed by the same Goddesses; the cutthroat king wields the Triforce of Power, a gift from the heavens. Apparently the Goddesses of Hyrule are fairly impartial when it comes to picking sides.

There's something pretty fascinating about all this. Link was chosen to defend Hyrule, and Ganon was seemingly chosen to besiege it. Their fates appear to be preordained, and are repeated endlessly throughout history. So here we've got this whole predestination, balance of good and evil thing going on here, which is alot of fun.

Of course, what's so cool about Legend of Zelda is that there isn't just good and evil, courage and power, dark and light. Between these two warring extremes there's a mediator, and middle ground. The Triforce of Wisdom, not pictured above, is where its at. Passive and often in the periphery, Wisdom is essential in the balance between Courage and Power.

And THAT is why its not called The Legend of Link.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Black Sheep: Castlevania 64

C64's awesome cast
There are few 3rd party franchises that have been around as long as Castlevania. Sure, franchises like Metal Gear may still be around, but only after a LONG hiatus; Castlevania is one of few franchises that consistently had a presence in the industry for 25 years, going toe to toe with Nintendo's beloved Legend of Zelda and Super Mario. Heck, a (terrible) version of Simon Belmont was even on Nintendo's Saturday morning cartoon/shameless commercial "Captain N: The VideoGame Master". When 8-bits became 16, Castlevania was there. When handheld gaming burst onto the scene, Castlevania was there. When Nintendo's big hitters were making the jump to the 3rd dimension, Castlevania was there. Oh man, was Castlevania there.
Castlevania in glorious 3D

Understand that I'm being completely serious when I say that this game is essentially the Super Mario 64 of Castlevania; the direct and logical evolution of the 2D game's mechanics and structure into the 3rd dimension. Remember, Castlevania was not then the franchise we know it to be now, as the Metroidvania game type had yet to dominate the franchise. Hell, I don't even think "Metroidvania" was even a phrase yet, Symphony of the Night had only just come out. For now, put all that nonsense out of your mind, and think about what Castlevania meant in the 90's: difficulty, platforming, action, adventure, cheap deaths, pitfalls like mad, medusa heads, frustration. In fact, if Castlevania 64 has any true flaw, it is fidelity. The game plays exactly how a 2D Castlevania game would in 3D, and to date is probably the most accurate adaptation of the series. Unfortunately, difficulty and frustration were no longer video game staples, and sensibilities were changing rapidly, leaving Castlevania 64 in a strange position. Despite these facts, Castlevania 64 is one of the finest games on the N64. As far as action adventure games go, there is quite honestly nothing better, barring Nintendo's own Legend of Zelda games.

Most of the bosses are pretty huge
In true Castlevania tradition, our heroes travel to the depths of Dracula's demonic keep to slay the Prince of Darkness. Along the way they'll meet numerous characters, like the unsettling child Malus, the Van Helsing style vampire hunter Charlie Vincent, the devilish salesman Renon, among others. Much like the much beloved Rondo of Blood, C64 offers two playable characters; the typical whip wielding Reinhart Schneider, and the magical girl Carrie Fernandez. They each have their own play style, and although they largely share the same levels, there are a few stages that you'll only see as one or the other. Their story lines are also unique, providing a good reason to try playing as both. Reinhart's story largely centers on his romance with a young vampiress, Rosa, whereas Carrie's centers on her conflict with a fellow witch, Actrise, but both are pretty interesting, as far as Castlevania plot lines go, which brings us to one of the games strong points; the plot of the game changes based on what you do! Based on how quickly you beat the game (there is a in game clock that figures into puzzles), and how much money you spend at shops, you'll fight extra bosses or receive different endings.

You WILL see this screen frequently
 Branching storylines aside, the scale of this game is truly impressive; each stage is huge, with tons of secret paths and items, and plenty of tricky platforming and nasty enemies. The stages are all very distinct, and offer a ton of variety in both design and gameplay. Sometimes you'll find yourself simply heading for a goal, platforming and fighting enemies along the way, other times you'll be exploring and finding keys and items to solve puzzles. In one scene, you'll even be chased through a garden maze by a chainsaw wielding Frankenstein, in what is probably the scariest level in any N64 game. With tons of traps and obstacles, and platforming heights sure to give you vertigo, Castlevania 64 is extremely challenging, but never unfair.

Classic enemies like bone dragons appear
Of course no Castlevania game is complete without excellent music, and the first 3D incarnation of the series does not disappoint. Although there are admittedly fewer classic tracks, the music is atmospheric and moody, while still creating some truly memorable melodies. The nods to classic tunes, such as Malus playing "Sign of Blood Pulse" on the title screen or the occasional burst of  "Bloody Tears", are appreciated and of course very cool.
Rosa's Garden
In many ways, Castlevania 64 was the last real Castlevania game; future installments favored the structure introduced in Symphony of the Night, leaving the classic platforming action a thing of the past. With multiple playable characters, branching plotlines, multiple paths through the game, hidden items, a robust cast of characters, big bosses, huge, unique levels, and classic Castlevania gameplay, Castlevania 64 boasts some impressive features, many of which haven't been used in the series since. Had Konami refined the gameplay established on the N64 for future iterations rather than totally starting from scratch with Lament of Innocence, Castlevania could have maintained its presence as an icon in the industry; for now, its future is uncertain. The recent Lords of Shadow was probably the closest to Castlevania 64's structure, but suffered from some irritating tropes of modern action games, and didn't seem all that much like a Castlevania game. Who knows, maybe the DLC will fix that? One can only hope.

Personally, I want to see this badboy remade on the 3DS. Hear that Konami!? Make this happen!

The Japanese boxart. "Real Action Adventure"!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Retro Obscuro- Gunple: Gunman's Proof

My own personal take on the game.

I've always found it surprising that Zelda clones are few and far between. Since Ocarina, we've seen a handful of games lift their gameplay from Nintendo's storied franchise, sometimes with excellent results (Okami), other times with lamentably bad ones (Darksiders). On the Super Nintendo, however, there are noticeably fewer. Games like Secret of Mana and Terranigma may bear passing similarities, but the actual formula of A Link to the Past was never really copied.
At least, not the in the US. Over in glorious Nippon, ASCII Entertainment gave the world the gift of Gunman's Proof. Abbreviated as Gunple (or Ganpuru), the game was the last work of Japan only developer Lenar, released in early 1997, the grim winter of 16-bit gaming. At first glance, Gunple appears a shameless ripoff of Nintendo's classic, but beneath the surface resemblance is one of the most amusing adventure games to grace the console.
Expect to see this face alot...

Gunple is set in the American "Wild West", or at least a ludicrous Japanese interpretation of it. The entire game is set on Strange Island, I suppose named due to the anomalous nature of an island occuring in the middle of the American mid-west, in the year 1880. In terms of plot... well, I'll let the game's script do the job for me:
"In the year 1880 a pair of meteors came streaking down toward the Earth.They landed in the American West, on Strange Island. One would think this would cause a huge ruckus...But the people of that era were so busy scratching out their meager livings that no one thought much of it, and the incident soon passed from memory."

Not exactly the most dramatic story, but it gets the job done. The meteors turn out to be alien beings, run amok on earth. The first is a malevolent force, called Demiseed, that is causing monsters to appear all over. The other meteor is the interstellar sheriff, Zero. To pursue Demiseed, Zero inhabits the body of some overweight cowboy kid, and thus the adventure begins. There are shades of Earthbound at work in the writing and story of Gunple, and the game is consistently wacky and amusing.
Look familiar?

As I mentioned earlier, the game could at first glance be mistaken for Legend of Zelda; the characters, environments, menus, and HUD all look pulled straight out A Link to the Past. Even the structure, several dungeons scattered over a large overworld, appears to be taken from Nintendo's franchise. These similarities, however, only persist until players enter the first of the game's dungones, at which point the key difference becomes apparent; there are no puzzles. No push blocks, no items, no lighting torches, no nothing. There isn't a single room that can't be solved by annihilating every enemy in sight. The dungeons are filled with treasure of all sorts, but none are usable, instead contributing to your score. Essentially, Gunple is an action game.
It's a hell of an action game, too. Your chubby little cowboy, whom I affectionately nicknamed "Gun", has some downright nasty weapons at his disposal. Initially, you'll be restricted to a meager BB gun of sorts, but killing enemies can lead to powerful upgrades; a machine gun, flame thrower, and even rocket launcher, to be specific. Not only are these powerups devastating, but their anachronistic nature is downright hilarious. Unfortunately, ammo is limited, and these powerups do run out fairly quick. Luckily, the standard BB gun can be permanently upgraded, eventually to a powerful silver magnum, in a very Master Sword-esque side quest. Secret techniques, such as a charge shot and spread shot, can be learned from wandering gunmen, predating Twilight Princess' Hidden Skills by a decade! Gun is also able to perform some nifty hand to hand attacks, eventually culminating in an awesome, golden gauntleted uppercut, acquired from a balding Ryu clone deep in the mountains. There are additionally screen clearing bombs to find, and , most interesting, your hero can at any time be sprawled facedown on the floor; a combination of evasive maneuver and hilarious animation. He can crawl around in this embarrassing manner, and any errant bullets will fly right over his head. It's a cute touch, and makes combat a bit less frantic.
Baron Alps pulls out the big guns.

Of course, the hallmark of a great Zelda game is memorable bosses, and Gunple really delivers in this regard. Not only are the bosses large and visually unique, but they even have personalities! Gun will engage in conversation with each of them before the battle begins, usually culminating in a good deal of humor. Bosses of particular note are the Fighting Sisters, twin debutantes that reveal themselves to be ass-kicking Chun-Li knockoffs, Psycho Ninja Brazil Circle, brandishing twin shotgun katana and referencing Gundam with his Ninja Colony Drop attack, and finally Baron Alps, a flying gunfighter whose poncho hides some serious high tech weaponry, including a Gundam X reference. They're all generally amusing.
Despite the sad fact the Gunman's Proof was never officially localized, thanks to excellent translation group Aeon Genesis the game is fully playable in hilarious English! Or, for those who prefer to watch, there are numerous play throughs available on Youtube! Until somebody steps up to get this awesome game on Virtual Console or remade, these are pretty much the best options. I strongly encourage anyone that loves the SNES, loves old school Zelda, loves Earthbound, or just plain loves good games to take the time to experience an overlooked gem from a bygone age. It may not be the most original game around, but Gunple: Gunman's Proof has all the charm of a Nintendo classic.
Japanese cover

Relevant links:
Aeon Genesis' fan translation of the game
A quick video of the game's intro

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hoping for Safety

As I'm sure everyone knows, Japan has had a terrible disaster recently, and it is far from over. As the days have gone by, many notable figures in the game industry have checked in to let the world know of their safety. This post and image is dedicated to Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya, whose safety I have not hear word of, and to everyone struggling in Japan. Our hearts go out to you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cranky Gamer: The Ever Growing Length of Games

I won't bandy with words here; if a game is too long, I probably won't finish it. Maybe I'm simply a product of the bygone days of classic gaming, or maybe I only have the attention span of a gnat, but its hard to deny the current trend. Reviewers demand lengthy experiences, developers are cramming everything they can into their games to deliver them, but I think its the gamer that's missing out here. Here's why:
More isn't always better. As a culture, we've got a fair amount of adages and phrases to communicate that, but none so clearly as the classic "quality over quantity". Sometimes its better to have a little of something really great than a ton of something less desirable, but that line of thinking is fast disappearing in current gaming culture. Most people probably, consciously or not, have a little formula in their brain that balances cost with play time, and are unhappy if a purchase doesn't live up to the figure in their mind.
In alot of ways, this makes sense; everyone wants to get the most out of their money. To feel validated in our spending, we need concrete standards on which to make our evaluations. You can't quantify fun, not in any meaningful way, and so the next logical step is time. The thinking goes like this: "If I spent a good deal of time playing a game, it must have been worth my money". Most people will probably content themselves with this and move on.
But what are we really getting out of all that? As near as I can figure, a game is meant to be fun; the fact that it helps to pass the time pleasantly is a fine bonus. But in adding length to a game, developers rarely add any fun. In my experience, they usually do just the opposite; incorporating needless extraneous gameplay elements, reusing assets endlessly, or simply repeating the same gameplay over and over again. Action games recycle enemy models, sometimes even boss fights, role-playing games make you grind for experience, even big budget hits like Halo reuse level maps. If there's no meaningful content added, then what's the difference between a sixty hour game and replaying a ten hour game six times?
I grew up with games like Ghouls n' Ghosts and Castlevania, so my ideas on game length are informed in a strange way. Both games are fairly straight forward, and a skillful player familiar with the nuances of either game can probably complete a run through in around two hours. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well that player probably spent innumerable hours getting good at the game! Nobody beats Castlevania on their first try, and most people NEVER beat Castlevania. Our gaming forefathers knew that challenge and fun were the best way to ensure satisfaction.
There's nothing wrong with trying to pack as much content in a game as you can, and there's nothing wrong with expecting a satisfying experience when you purchase a game, so long as your measure of quality isn't a stop watch.

The Strongest Blogger That Appeared in Hell

Okay blogosphere, here I am, ready to do my civic duty! Starting today, Doki Doki Arcade will take that blogmunity by storm, delivering cutting edge musings and up to the minute updates on every vapid thought that crosses my mind.
...okay, so maybe that's not exactly right. To be more realistic, Doki Doki Arcade will probably occasionally (it took me 3 goes to spell that) be home to my warped and twisted opinions, largely on the totally trivial topic of interactive video entertainment. We're changing the world here, people.
I'll also do my best to try to create as many portmanteaus with the word "blog" as possible, but I don't predict much success.