Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Dreamcast! I painted you pink

About ten years ago I had the idea to do a siiiiick black and red paint job on my Dreamcast and it looked like complete dog shit--mostly because I had no patience, knew nothing about spraypainting and used flat finish colors with no topcoat. Lots of paint scratched off immediately, followed by years of scuffs and embarrassment every time I looked at it.

I still know nothing about painting but I'm a little more patient and I have some 1000 grit sandpaper to smooth out mistakes, so I decided to go with something less brutal but much prettier!

Getting decent photos as always, was a chore, but you get the idea here. Going with a two toned pink look instead of two different colors was a better approach, and the gloss finish gives it a candy coating, jewel-like look that I'm way into.

I painted the Power and Open buttons the darker pink, then lightly sanded the paint off the face of the buttons so only the etched words and barely visible edges of the buttons were colored. Ended up being a pretty nice effect!

In the future I'd like to sand it smoother and put a glossy topcoat on the shell to really make it durable and bright. I'm bummed that there are still a lot of mistakes here but to the casual observer it looks pretty flawless, so I'm satisfied for now!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Horror Games For October - Mr. Bones (Sega Saturn)

 This game is WEIRD AS SHIT

And why does the game have an advertisement for itself, on its own package?

If you haven't seen Zono Interactive's Mr. Bones you haven't seen one of the most fascinating, diverse and spoooooky experiences on the Sega Saturn. It is just so strange. The plot (told through numerous CG and FMV cutscenes) involves a certain blues-loving skeleton as he tries to escape the mad scientist DaGhoulian, a maniac who wants to "purify the world" by eliminating all conflict between good and evil by simply erasing everything that isn't evil. He will do this by playing a giant set of magical drums to animate the dead!

The most fascinating thing about this ol bag of bones is the variety of gameplay you deal with from stage to stage. Level one "Grave Escape" is an autoscrolling chase stage in which the player, controlling a sharply defined polygonal skeleton, must escape an army of pre-rendered skeletons through what is essentially an FMV movie of the stage (think the backgrounds in Space Channel 5). The result is a beautifully rendered stage, but overlaid with blurry, low res FMV skeleton characters chasing a high res player character--very eerie in its crappiness, but I imagine it was pretty impressive back in the day.

"The Mausoleum" is a continuation of the previous escape but now the action takes place on a two-screen-wide rooftop as enemies try to swat you off before charging you head on. The controls in this game feel quite awkward and the game suffers for it in my opinion, but stick with it. Unfortunately, losing your one life will boot you back to the title screen where you must use the level select menu to go back to where you were--a continue option would be nice here.

Stage 3 is a traditional "walk to the right" affair, and at this point you might think the game's early gimmicks are leveling out and it's going to become a normal game; then Mr. Bones comes upon a blind blues guitarist in a remote cabin and we experience what this game is probably best known for:

"Now ya'll can't talk but you can listen--and maybe even feel!"

Impromptu skeleton guitar solo! Now it's a music game in which Mr. Bones must use the D-pad and buttons to win over the skeleton army with his sick riffs. There are no instructions in this stage, you just have to feel it. I should point out at this point that the soundtrack is excellent, composed and performed in large part by rock and blues legend Ronnie Montrose. In addition to the kind of light horror music you would associate with a game about skeletons, the guitar in this game is absolutely legit.

Win over all the skeletons by playing well and you're on to a trio of stages that made me stop playing for a while: Night of the Bats, Dawn of the Bats and Day of the Bats. which bats have taken all of your body parts aside from your skull and spine and you must retrieve enough bones to solve a simple puzzle at the end of the stage. Oh yeah, this is a thing that can happen by the way! Take a big enough impact from an enemy and a bone may fall off: lose your legs and you can't damage enemies from jumping. Lose your right arm and you can't attack with your skeleton laser (also there are skeleton lasers in this game). Once you're down to just a head you're in trouble so make sure you always pick up spare bones when you find them. These stages suck balls, they're very vertically oriented and precise jumping is very difficult. Get used to falling down onto Frankenstein monsters.

I haven't beaten the bat stages so I've yet to experience what comes next personally, but I did watch ahead a few stages on Youtube and I truly believe you must stick with it because the gameplay just keeps changing and getting stranger. Here's a shot of Mr. Bones navigating an alternate dimension of evil while a man in the soundtrack waxes philosophical about how even newborn babies have the blues--if you aren't planning on playing this game,  I strongly urge you to watch a playthrough.

Mr. Bones really seems like a passion project made by skeleton loving madmen; I've never seen anything quite like it. This is a little late for my October Horror Games posts but it's got enough skeletons to stretch Halloween straight through November. If you've got a Saturn, get it! It currently fetches about $30 on the secondary market so it's a bit expensive for a used game, but such a great gem to have in any retro game/skeleton collection.

Recommended for: Sega Saturn owners, skeleton enthusiasts, blues enthusiasts

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October Horror Games: Gregory Horror Show (Playstation 2)

Oh man, where to begin with this thing? Gregory Horror Show was originally a collection of CGI shorts (very short--each episode is only two and a half minutes long) that aired for 88 episodes on Japan's TV Asahi network.

The first two seasons of the show involve a person who finds themselves lost in the middle of the night, coming upon a decrepit hotel run by a deranged mouse named Gregory. The hotel appears to exist outside of normal time and space, acting as a sort of purgatory that the guest cannot escape. As you can probably tell by the art style, Gregory Horror Show can be categorized as "light horror". There are lots of creepy and dreamlike situations offset by such completely goofy characters as Catherine the blood-obsessed lizard nurse, an anthropomorphic set of scales named Judgement Boy, and a zombie creature simply named Dead Body. You can watch all of the episodes on YouTube so check them out and see what you think!

In 2003, a GHS video game (of all things) was released by Capcom (of all companies) for the Playstation 2 in Japan and Europe. The story is similar to the first two seasons of the TV series; players choose a male or female guest and try to escape Gregory House while interacting with the sinister proprietor and other weird characters. Thanks to the help of Neko Zombie and Death himself, the player learns that by collecting the souls of others one could somehow find their way back home.

Gameplay wise GHS is unique, combining RPG and puzzle elements with stealth based Survival Horror. By observing the guests of Gregory House through keyholes and by talking to others, players must learn their weakness and exploit it to make the guests' souls appear so that they can be collected. After that watch out--the guest will try to catch the player if they see them again and subject them to a "Horror Show" that drains their mental health gauge. Losing all of their mental health due to Horror Shows or simply not maintaining it with sleep and item use (it drains automatically over time) will end the game with the player going mad and becoming a lost soul themself. If it weren't for the game's sense of humor and huge amount of character it would be pretty damn dark, though I still think it has its moments (the soundtrack in particular is incongruously creepy compared to the character designs).

This game is not the easiest to get hold of. If you know the language you could go for the Japanese version, but a used copy goes for over a hundred dollars. If you have a modified or European PS2, however, it can be gotten quite a bit cheaper! I found mine on ebay last year for $20, though I think the price has gone up since then. Even if you live in the States the boot screen for the game allows you to change the frequency for NTSC TV sets, so there's no problem there. All things considered, your best bet would be emulation.

Writing is not my forte, so I'm unfortunately selling Gregory Horror Show short for you guys. If you can get it: get it! Or at least watch a Let's Play. It's a unique experience that deserves a larger following.

Recommended for: fans of cute horror, weird art style, dark humor, stealth gameplay

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October Horror Games: Splatterhouse (PC Engine/Turbografx 16)

Good luck finding a game that screams HALLOWEEN more than the legendary Splatterhouse. First released in 1988 in arcades, the original horror platformer saw two sequels on the Sega Genesis and then lay dormant for 17 years until it was brought back in 2010 as a 3D God of War style beat-em-up.

One look at the cover art tells you that this is not a game that leans too hard on its plot. In fact, the cover really tells you all you need to know about it: there's a house,  and splattering happens. Like most arcade style games of the past Splatterhouse is a fairly brainless, pattern-based affair that is carried (and carried well!) by its presentation. I've got a few more pictures to post though, so let's get into the plot anyway.

Floor breaking into pieces, revealing the purple brain matter beneath? Disembodied hands crawling out of the woodwork? Looks like you're living in a SPLATTERHOUSE

So what's the game about? Parapsychology student Rick Taylor and his girlfriend Jennifer get caught in a thunderstorm one night and take refuge in a sprawling mansion deep in the forest. They're attacked by creatures and Jennifer is taken away--Rick blacks out and awakens to find that he is wearing the TERROR MASK, a totally not copyright-infringing piece of headgear that gives him the unearthly strength he needs to splatter his way through the house and rescue Jennifer! Beginning with the second game the Mask actually begins talking to Rick and becomes a character in its own right.

This screenshot is from the western Turbografx version; Rick's mask design was changed to avoid any copyright problems with the producers of the Friday the 13th franchise.

The real highlights of Splatterhouse are the boss battles, each one distinct and requiring a different approach. Take the Boreworms in Stage 1: you land in a room full of carnivorous, bloated creatures that leap from piles of gore strewn about the floor. Take care of them quickly or you'll get overwhelmed. One of the more creative ones is pictured above: a room possessed by a poltergeist comes to life and starts throwing all its furniture at the player! Once you think you've beaten it there's one more surprise that killed me the first time I played.

Splatterhouse wears its horror movie love on its sleeve--the main character looks like Jason Voorhees, the titular Splatterhouse is called West Mansion (likely named after Dr. Herbert West from Reanimator), one boss has had his hands replaced with's just terrific. The soundtrack is also full of wonderful 80's style horror synthesizer music:

These cute anime ghosts are strangely out of place for such a Dark And Brutal game

Give Splatterhouse a try this Halloween! It's short and kind of difficult and deserves an 11-out-of-10 on the Halloween-o-Meter.

Recommended for: anyone who likes horror and classic arcade games, people who agree that Splatterhouse is the most badass name given to any video game ever

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October Horror Games: Echo Night 2: Nemuri no Shihaisha

Thanks to the long shadow Dark Souls has cast on the video gaming landscape, From Software needs no introduction. Other than the hardcore action RPGs they're currently famous for, you may also know them for their (very) long running Armored Core franchise; students of retro gaming have probably also discovered the difficult and nearly inscrutable King's Field, AKA From's "proto Dark Souls" series.

I'm willing to bet, though, that a majority of people haven't touched on From Soft's other franchise, a series of quiet and moody first-person adventure games known as Echo Night. Rather than throwing you ass-first into a hostile and brutally difficult environment and expecting you to hack your way through, Echo Night takes the player across time and space to lay the souls of the dead to rest by entering their memories (or echoes) to reunite them with lost loved ones, find an item that was special to them, etc. It all sounds very sweet if you don't consider that some of those souls have been driven mad and want you dead--only by escaping or avoiding them until you find out and give them what they need can you progress through the game.

That's a basic primer of the Echo Night franchise that should give you the gist of how each game works, though the mechanics and settings of each game will vary. For my first October Horror Games post (about time) we'll have a look at the only game in the series that never officially reached the West--Echo Night 2!

The subtitle of Echo Night 2 is Nemuri no Shihaisha, which translates to "The Ruler of Sleep". I find that title much more appropriate than the one given by the recent fan translation, "The Lord of Nightmares". However, given that Tom and Gemini have made it possible for everyone to finally experience the game I'll happily overlook the creative license.

So what is it about? Players assume the role of Richard Osmond, a man looking for his missing girlfriend Rebecca. She was last seen at a certain library; upon arriving at the library he finds a book that she had been investigating and blacks out, finding himself in a sprawling manor. Most of the lights are out, and nearly every person he encounters is a ghost, appearing as black shadows of their former selves. Richard soon finds a woman sleeping in a glass casket suspended from the wall--a woman who looks exactly like the missing Rebecca. Who is she and why is she trapped? What caused the deaths of nearly everyone in the mansion? I have no idea because I haven't beaten it yet!

As mentioned before, there is no combat to speak of in Echo Night 2. Gameplay revolves around exploring the mansion and surrounding areas, including occasional trips into the past lives of the house's dead inhabitants. Though some will chase the player throughout the mansion and attempt to kill them, most spirits can be spoken to and will either directly ask you for help or hint that they need something, leaving it to the player to puzzle out what it will take to put them to rest. The entire game has an odd, somewhat dream like quality to it that From Software expertly achieved back in the day. Don't expect stunning graphic or fluid controls! If you know the developer's pre-Souls output you'll know what to expect, but everyone else will have a bit of an adjustment period if they want to tackle Echo Night 2. And you should!

Recommended for: From Software fans, people looking for a Halloween game that is somewhat clunky, off-kilter and creepy

Friday, October 9, 2015

Splatoon Dump

Oh, hello! Been a while. I'm still doing things, mostly on Tumblr. After a year though I thought I should post a few things I've been up to lately.

Just as a way to ease myself back into blogging again I wanted to dump a few Splatoon related drawings I did recently. If you see a squid named Hashbrown in-game that's me!

The logo I made for my Splatoon squad, Sea Minus! I'm the only member.

 A little comic I made about how Splatoon's 2.0 update increased the knockback Bubbler shields take when hit by enemy fire--I imagined that an unstoppable attack like the Killer Wail would send you into outer space, haha.

The struggle of ink rollers trying to get up walls. When this was posted on Tumblr I ended up with tons of people (some of whom I believe were angry roller users) explaining how rollers can ink walls...all I wanted to do was make a funny animation!

Halloween is on the way, so there'll be more soon.