Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Games - Daimakaimura / Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Halloween is fast approaching! I'm depressed about it actually...the best part of Halloween is October 1st through the 25th. After that all I can think about is that soon it will have come and gone and then what will I have? Thanksgiving? Get that shit out of my face.

So as usual I didn't have time to do all the stuff (photos, posts, comics, label designs) that I had planned for October but if I only get one more blog post this month I might as well make it about one of the best, most Halloween games ever--Ghouls 'n Ghosts.

Yeah, two Makaimura posts in a row, I guess I've been a bit obsessed with it this month. Ghouls 'n Ghosts improves on the original Ghosts 'n Goblins in every possible way: Arthur feels more maneuverable, he can attack upward and downward, enemies have more detail and character, and there is even an awesome Gold Armor powerup that gives the player a charge attack (sadly Arthur isn't wearing his silver armor underneath the gold--take a hit in gold armor and you still go back to your underwear).

Screenshot credit:

I really have nothing new to add to the Ghouls 'n Ghosts discussion when there are such excellent writeups on the subject already, so please enjoy the spooky photos. As you can see, my candles + blacklight obsession has been upgraded with the purchase of a fog machine! I'm confident that these are, to date, the most dramatic and heroic photos of the Ghouls 'n Ghosts packaging available online.

Bonus photo that had great fog effects, but not enough light on the subject.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Games - Makaimura / Ghosts 'n Goblins

We join our hero as he finds himself surrounded on all sides by the horrors of hell!

With the possible exception of Splatterhouse, you can't get any more Halloween than Capcom's Makaimura/Ghosts 'n Goblins/Ghouls 'n Ghosts franchise. Each game follows the forever put-upon knight Sir Arthur on his journey to save the unimaginatively named Princess Gwynevere (equally unimaginatively named Prin Prin in the Japanese version) from the undead forces of darkness--in the series' original iteration, literally led by Satan himself. Later games have bosses named after other judeo-christian figures like Astaroth and Samael, which makes one wonder how the hierarchy of the demon world works. 

 The Reaper's bony grip is closing around our beleaguered Makaimura, when suddenly...

This game's legendary difficulty needs no introduction; even with mid-level checkpoints and infinite continues I have yet to beat this piece of shit. And let's not fool ourselves, it is a bad game compared to the arcade version. Unfortunately, Capcom's first few Famicom games were not actually ported by Capcom but rather the developer-for-hire company Micronics, who were also responsible for Athena, Super Pitfall and the DRRRREADFUL Ghostbusters on NES.

 A tall, gray savior appears! The forces of good prevail!

Though the 8-bit version pales in comparison to its arcade cousin (and especially the multiple excellent sequels on SNES, Genesis, GBA etc.) this game holds a special place in my heart. Challenge yourself with Ghosts 'n Goblins this Halloween!

Oh no!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Constellation, page 8

At least Exie is out of the damn poison cave. Just one more circle of hell to go before the end of the story.

I haven't done a page for Constellation since March! It was my Halloween Resolution to get back to work on it, especially since there are only a few pages left (hopefully). I like what I've done so far, though the pacing is almost certainly awful...maybe when I'm done with this one I can do another, better comic.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Games - Rule of Rose

2006's Rule of Rose is a difficult one to write about for a few reasons. The primary reason for me at least is that I haven’t played it in years, and when I did play it I didn’t make it very far into the game; I got the semi-english Asian version before there was any news of it being released in the west so a lot of objectives were unclear to me. Additionally, the actual gameplay was clunky and difficult to wrangle even back in 2006.

You take the role of Amanda, a 19-year-old orphan who finds herself in the clutches of a group of cruel children calling themselves “The Red Crayon Aristocracy”. Much of the game is spent trying to find out just what the hell is going on, why deformed children are trying to kill you and why the Aristocracy is tormenting you. Things get weird after that.

The interface has an animated chalk drawing effect that looks striking in motion.

Unfortunately for Rule of Rose, its nature as a psychological horror game centered around children led to some dramatically overblown misconceptions of content (specifically sexual content) that led to a lot of controversy, particularly in Europe. These claims were debunked but make no mistake—the game is bleak, weird and uncomfortable, though not sexually explicit. However, due to my inexperience with the game I invite you to read up more about Rule of Rose from people more qualified than myself.

As I recall, Rule of Rose was released at a budget price in the United States, quickly became scarce and now goes for a premium on the secondary market; as interesting and strange as the game is I can't recommend it at the price it commands nowadays. If you want to play an eerie, dreamlike horror adventure and have the patience for slow, oldschool style gameplay you should give it a shot on emulator!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Duck Hunt Dog’s OTHER Game

...and the Most Unlikely Licensed Game Nintendo Ever Made.

Lately, the internet has been abuzz over the new Smash Bros. For 3DS (a title I can only imagine was chosen to keep parents from getting confused). Specifically, a lot of people are excited about the return of the most judgmental video game Dog ever made:

People who grew up with Duck Hunt on the NES are kind of conditioned to hate this guy, but he’s so cute in Smash Bros. I was won over instantly. A lot of people have called it the Dog’s first appearance in 30 years, but DID YOU KNOWWWW? Not counting the fact that he makes appearances in the Warioware titles, the Duck Hunt Dog was a featured player in a 1989 NES game you’ll be forgiven for never having heard of: Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting!

So, why is the most famous video game dog’s other game so obscure?

I picked it up for three bucks at a used game store simply because I wanted more Zapper games to play; imagine my surprise when this generic looking cart turned out to be a first-party Nintendo title. My theory on the game’s obscurity is that Barker Bill lacks the rich ‘duck hunting’ narrative of Duck Hunt and the good package design of every other Nintendo-developed game—it’s not surprising that no one lists it in the greater Nintendo canon. The game’s title sounds awfully generic too, but not in the good old ‘black box’ style of Nintendo’s launch games. Even worse, the label art definitely has that ‘cheap third party release’ thud to it. One of the most interesting reasons it’s likely escaped your notice is that it’s actually a licensed* game with a property that 100% of its target audience is too young to have ever heard of:

It’s Barker Bill’s Cartoon Show, kids! You know, the 15 minute TerryToons clip show that ran from 1953-1955? No? I’ve never heard of it either. If you know TerryToons for anything it would be Mighty Mouse, but the studio had quite a catalog of 1930’s cartoon shorts that they drew from for the Barker Bill show. I won’t bore you with the history lesson in an article about the Duck Hunt dog, but more info on Barker Bill’s Cartoon Show can be found here.

Here’s our hero now, with his lovely and trusting assistant. But Barker Bill doesn’t introduce cartoons anymore—he blows shit up.


After a wild shot brings the title screen crashing down and nearly ending the lives of the game’s mascots, the real star of the show makes his appearance. He's cute! And missing his white muzzle fur, for some reason. Once you hear the laugh though, you know you're dealing with the genuine article. At this point we’re brought to a rather sparse game selection screen.

I say rather sparse, but to be honest there’s exponentially more content here than Duck Hunt. Why, then, do I like Duck Hunt better? I guess it’s just got that X Factor, man. I would say it’s Hip Tanaka’s soundtrack, but he actually reprises his composer role here. The charming super-simplicity of his older work is missing, however.

Dog’s game is Balloon Saloon, a game that is short on saloons but long on balloons. Also, a cardboard rabbit family. The gameplay is simple: balloons float out from behind the rabbits in an unpredictable arc and you must kill them. An interesting mechanic borrowed from Duck Hunt is the 3 round magazine for your gun—but because the balloons fly out continuously rather than in two-duck waves, using up three shots without popping the onscreen balloons isn’t a guaranteed miss for you. Instead, you simply have to wait a second or two while your character reloads. Doing well leads to faster, more erratic balloon patterns and eventually the dog will begin popping up where the balloons do to trick you into shooting him and losing a life. That’s right, you can shoot the Duck Hunt dog, and you better believe I was gunning for him.

Run out of lives(from letting balloons get away/shooting our friend) and it’s game over, complete with a classic mocking laugh from the dog. So should you play it? Sure, why not? It can be found extremely cheap for a real copy, and of course there’s nothing to lose from giving it a try on emulator. While somewhat repetitive and lacking the archaic charm of Duck Hunt, it’s cute and mixes up the action with a variety of game types. And of course, any collector should have a copy of Barker Bill's only video game, right?

You can skip Bandai Shooting Range though, it blows

*Actually, the game may not even be licensed; Barker Bill's Cartoon Show is probably in the public domain.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween Games - Gargoyle's Quest 2

That's right, there is a franchise of horror themed action RPGs featuring THIS asshole:

Left: Gargoyle's Quest 2 (NES). Center: Ghosts n Goblins (arcade). Right: Demon's Crest (SNES).
 Red Arremer, the near-undefeatable enemy from the Ghouls n' Ghosts series, is the protagonist and he still does that same infuriating walk. I'm getting ahead of  myself, though. This is Gargoyle's Quest 2!

The first thing you will notice about this game is that it is, ostensibly, a role playing game. RPGs were so hot in Japan that all sorts of games would adopt superficial trappings of the genre, and if there was ever a game that didn't need it this is one of them. You collect items to progress, but they sit in your inventory as unusable story triggers--basically, go to one place and clear a sidescrolling stage to get something that another character wants. On rare occasions you can actually select the item in your menu to use at one specific spot, but the main attraction, and what Gargoyle's Quest 2 deserves praise for, are its action stages.

By the time Gargoyle's Quest 2 was released the Super Nintendo/Famicom was well established both in Japan and  North America and developers (particularly top notch developers like Capcom) had learned to squeeze every drop of performance out of the nearly decade-old NES/Famicom. That isn't to say that the game is particularly complex, but graphically it's one of the most impressive on the system (Coincidentally, the sequel Demon's Crest/Demon's Blazon is for my money the most beautiful SNES game ever made).

Some of the boss characters are impressive to look at but unfortunately very predictable and easy to beat.
 The game looks great and as much as I love to hate Red Arremer, he's fun to play as. Beating a boss or progressing in the story will earn you enhanced jumping ability, flight duration, physical defense and projectile attacks. By the end of the game you have the power to jump ridiculously high and hover indefinitely! It would be fun to wreck things in Red Arremer's final form but at that point in the game you only have a single stage and a very underwhelming end boss to defeat.

Gargoyle's Quest 2 is getting more expensive on the secondary market...I got my copy last year for about 30 bucks and it seems to be trending around 60-70 on eBay lately. It's not particularly difficult either--I beat it in about 2 hours and I've seen speedruns of around 30 minutes. Assuming you don't get stuck at a certain terrible jump in Gaza Valley like I did, it's a fun, spooky Halloween game to breeze through this month. Especially if you're a Ghouls n' Ghosts super fan like me!


Yes, I built a rendition of Ghosts n' Goblins stage 1 for my cartridge to hang out in.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Labyrinth at Nishimori - extra screenshot

Just for fun, here's the screenshot you didn't get a good look at in my last post--this one was viewable on the TV but here's a clearer version.

More Halloween stuff to come!