Bigger, Badder, Back!

  • Reading time:2 mins read

Yes, that’s Vince’s aborted title. I needed to use it somewhere.

So. I’ve not yet finished transcribing the interview, but for those of you who downloaded the .mp3 — recall that question that Brandon asked Ben Herman & Co., regarding Playmore‘s future now that they’ve got back the rights to the SNK name?

I wondered, based on what Mr. Herman told me earlier, whether Playmore intended to revert their name to SNK since they’ve now got the opportunity. When Brandon asked (in my absence), they were… immediately and suspiciously quiet. They weren’t allowed to comment.

As it turns out, Playmore remains Playmore. It’s Sun who’s now become SNK NeoGeo (to match the US, Korea, and Hong Kong branches) — the Sun who publishes all of Playmore’s games; the Sun who manages all of the NeoGeo Land arcade centers; the Sun who recently absorbed Brezza (as I had guessed), making them an in-house team; the Sun who, as a result, was now responsible for developing most of the material that they were publishing.

Sun is Playmore’s main practical division. They handle pretty much everything. And now they’re SNK again. Take a look. If you recall, a year ago the Playmore group was a perplexing web of names. I devoted several entries, just trying to work out what was where. You had Playmore at the top, and then Sun, Brezza, and Noise Factory jointed off of them on the one end. SNK NeoGeo Korea, USA, and Hong Kong stretched out in the other direction. Megaking was more closely involved; the Korean branch of the company was a joint venture between them and Playmore. Evoga and Uno Technology also seemed pretty closely tied into things; it was hard to sort out who had a share in what.

Now, Brezza and Sun are one unit; Sun is now SNK. We’ve got two US branches (arcade and consumer). Aside from Noise Factory and Playmore prime (as it were), everything’s SNK again.

So. Yeah. Some more confirmation for my intuition.

I’m going to go finish that transcription, now. Seems about time.

And Tingle is not gay.

  • Reading time:1 mins read

In the most recent EGM (or at least the one handed out at E3), Eiji Aonuma admits that two dungeons were cut from Wind Waker. He claims that the decision was made because game was “just too big” as it was.

Considering how small the game is in its current state, and how awkwardly its flow is broken at those points, somehow this explanation doesn’t… exactly ring true. Again, the game was rushed. This doesn’t sound like the kind of thing for a Nintendo director to speak up about, though. Nintendo has enough problems already.

However: Yes.

So was I the only one who really picked up on this, or what?

It’s almost like casual jeans day.

  • Reading time:7 mins read

Game:

A few days ago, having recently acquired my very own copy of Truxton I uncloaked my Genesis — for the playing thereof.

Truxton, I found to be almost identical to Fire Shark — only… not as much fun. I can’t get past the beginning of level two without some dumb ship popping out of nowhere and running into my back before I know what’s up.

Still. It’s there. And now so is my Genesis. Being it that I’m on this Castlevania kick — again — I pulled out my Majesco-republished (and thereby terribly-boxed) copy of Bloodlines. As not entirely bad as this game is, I’ve rarely bothered to play it past the second level or so. The game is difficult — but in a more floaty way than I expect from Castlevania. It lacks some charm. As applaudable as Michiru Yamane‘s music might be, her sound effects are entirely loathsome. All in all, the game is just kind of… well, again — it’s there.

On one default set of two continues, I managed to get to… what I think should be Dracula’s final form: a big, fake Mode-7 demon with a face in his crotch. I might even have beaten him; I had the pattern down and everything. He didn’t have much life left. And yet: I didn’t dodge when I should’ve.

Still. Bloodlines. Last form (?) of last boss. Not bad, I say. Dare I suppose, better than you.

If you’ve actually beaten the game, don’t tell me. Let me feel special for the moment.

Movie:

The Italian Job: Sure.

It’s got energy. It’s certainly nothing special in its own right; all I could think of, from the premise on out, were the observations of Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. Still, it’s very well-made. It has a great sense of momentum. The plot doesn’t follow through on any of the stupid possibilities that it coudl have; it manages to dodge away — fairly — every time it approaches a potentially-unsatisfying easy answer. Not once did I feel insulted or cheated. I felt tense when I was supposed to feel tense. I cared when I was supposed to care.

I think the whole Napster bit could have been minimized. The movie also acted as a rather obvious commercial for those mini cars (which I don’t believe are real Minis, as such — not that I know anything of, or much care about, cars). Still, not enough to overly stretch my patience.

So. Yeah. For what it is, it’s certainly worthwhile. There’s not much to study, but it’s enjoyable just in the fact that it’s so unusually competent. It feels more European than American — which might explain the previous observation.

UPDATE:

According to Ebert: “This is just the movie for two hours of mindless escapism on a relatively skilled professional level.”

Didn’t I just say that?

Music (and… Game, again):

Harmony of Dissonance: seriously, this game has to possess the most powerful soundtrack in the whole series. Most Castlevanias have really impressive power-melodies. The NES trilogy: if Bach (not J.S.; perhaps a lesser Bach) were aware of 20th century music, this might be what he’d have come up with. Circle of the Moon has some of the most lush, layered, driving, just plain fun music in the series.

However: the HoD score is the only one to really make me feel anything in particular. The more closely I listen, the more impressed I become. This isn’t just videogame music. There’s something else going on here; a certain kind of genius, or at least wild inspiration. The contrasting melodies swirl into madness, creating a dark updraft for the player — instilling an unsettled momentum into his musculature.

The bass takes up the central melody role, holding the piece together while the lead stutters incoherently. The entire piece pulls in its legs, rotating more and more tightly, getting all the stronger — until it snaps; it lets go, carrying the player to sanity with one key breeze. There’s but one escape, and the music finds it — yet it doesn’t stop. It must keep going while the player remains dazed from the last bit of overstimulation. It has places to go. It can’t let the player loose to drift away. It can’t break the atmosphere.

All of the parts speak to each other. They’re not just there to fill out the orchestration, as in so many other soundtracks in this series. They argue. They trade off. They team up. They go in their own disparate directions, then crtash back together again. They listen. They respond.

This soundtrack knows what it’s doing. It has an intelligence to it. It has a personality unto itself. It would be worth talking to.

Again, I can’t say that about the Aria of Sorrow score. That music is just… nice. And appropriate. It’s… there. It has no personality of its own — and I imagine that’s probably the whole intent. People screamed so much about the HoD score that Igarashi must’ve told Yamane to give him something more typical this time around. It looks like it’s worked, given the popular reaction.

Sigh.

See, this is where informed feedback could do a developer well. I’ve slowly been poring my way through the free magazines that I got at E3 — and, man. I’ve yet to see one thoughtful critique. One interesting, well-considered argument. The obviously lousy games get bad scores. The high-profile games get good scores. The ones in between are gernally analyzed on the basis of a few random observations which might or might not have anything to do with the intent of the game in question. It’s hard to tell.

HoD gets a 9.5, because it must — although note is made of the terrible soundtrack. In this case, the reviewer doesn’t even bother to explain that it sounds like NES music (!). Then, neither does he vaguely brush off its composition, as in so many web reviews. Not enough space to explain. Must conserve words.

Metroid Fusion gets a 9.5. Why? Because it must. Show some respect for the Gameboy game of the year, people. Everyone knows that Metroid is flawless. Reword the press release, and perpetuate the consumer cycle. Even if it’s not perfect, so what. It’s one of the best games ever. Must show the proper respect. Mustn’t question the publishers (aside from Acclaim; they’re okay to bash at will), or they might complain. Can’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Since E3, I’ve come to the realization that the game industry — at least over here — seems to be made up of a million frat boys, all in it for the ride. And I’m not just talking about the “journalists”.

Let’s talk about the journalists, though. Brandon asks two or three well-informed questions. He listens to the responses, and asks follow-up questions. PR guy, astonished, comments that Brandon “should work for CNN”. So: how has everyone else been acting? Brandon was only being professional.

Then I remember the reviews I see on IGN and — particularly — Gamespot: the big sites. Then I remember the way news travels — rarely credited or researched with so much as a phone call. Then I overhear Tim’s experiences with a particular site to which he contributed for… about two or three weeks. Then I come home and I read the fucking press releases.Then I read the magazines.

I… was going to say more, but I’m beginning to tire — both of this subject, and in a more general sense. Maybe I’ll pick up this thread later.

For now: EGM continues to be not-all-that-bad.

Backal notes

  • Reading time:1 mins read

So. Games of the show? In no order, I proclaim thusly:

For those of you out there with copies of Aria of Sorrow (I’m talking to Doug and maybe Justin Freeman here), have you looked at the instruction booklet? It’s prettier than it needs to be! I count that as an extra-duper plus!

But then, I guess any halfway decent instruction booklet is bound to impress me, coming (as I am) off of a nigh-lifelong string of Sega systems…

So Sega’s about to kill off at least five of their ten dev teams. Care to take bets on who? Hint: It’s not gonna’ be AM2 or Sonicteam.

Hitmaker‘s president is going to become the next president of Sega, so they’re still in. Amusement Vision is responsible for all of Sega’s hardware, and is Sega’s primary link to Nintando. Plus, the AV head is in charge of all consumer development at Sega, last I heard. Overworks has Sakura Taisen, so there’s no getting rid of them.

That leaves Wow, Sega Rosso, Smilebit, UGA, and Wavemaster.

We can get rid of Sega Rosso and lose… nothing. Wow is amusing to have around just on account of how charmingly awful they can be. I do wonder about Wavemaster, as they’re responsible for nearly all of the sound and music in nearly everything that Sega does.

What really bums me is the Smilebit and UGA probability. These are probably my two favourite Sega teams — and yet they’re also probably amongst the least profitable, on account of how artsy they are. Most of Smilebit’s stuff has flubbed over the last couple of years, in some cases more inexplicably than in others. UGA’s stuff is just plain anticommercial.

Still, these guys embody — at least for me — the heart of what Sega is.

One of the reasons I was so concerned about the Sammy merger is that Sammy intended to mess around with Sega’s dev teams. Looks like it’s gonna’ happen anyway, though.

I’ve a feeling this mandate came from CRI.

Grr. Fie and demons.

Still resting. Will write up the rest of the E3 stuff for IC later tonight.

Note: Bethesda wants to send me games!

Another note: Dammit, I guess I need to buy a PS2. Given the SNK support, the 3D-AGES stuff, Lament of Innocence, and a swath of other junk I can’t remember offhand, it doesn’t seem like I can avoid it any longer.

SVC Chaos

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

SVC Chaos has a nice intro.

It has a very nice intro.

It has an especially nice intro for recent-era NeoGeo productions.

It has Mister Karate in the intro.

I really don’t know what to say about the game itself, though.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Say “Guh”

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Sega hasn’t had much to say, so far. Their booth space occupies about a third to a quarter of the area devoted to Sony or Nintendo. Many high-profile, recently-announced games (Dororo, Kunoichi, Shining Force) are absent. Others, like Altered Beast, are relegated to a short and uninformative video loop.

It’s entirely possible that Sega is keeping all of the interesting stuff locked up until tomorrow, the last day of the show. We’ll see, we’ll see.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )