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hylics

Starting off a new series of super brief reviews/comments on games, books, and other stuff that I own or recently obtained. Today we’re going with Hylics, a great looking RPG Maker game, and Time of Need, one of my favorite critical books on art (yeah, yeah).

I won’t get super into Hylics right now, but I wanna say that the game looks and sounds fantastic. Mason Lindroth’s claymation/low-res artwork is fascinating to watch squirm around, and rarely are you even reminded that everything in boxed into RPG Maker tiles. It’s a testament to how far RPG Maker’s open endedness can lead to great things. The sound design is equally impressive, and definitely recalls Space Funeral’s use of Les Rallizes Denudes with its distorted, experimental guitar hums.

Hylics has something to say about Gnosticism, and while you don’t really get punched in the face by its gnostic hell world like in, say, Dark Souls, the use of real textures, bodies, and the motif of skin and transformation makes for a trippy adventure down transgression lane. It’s a short game, about two hours, though much of the length comes from how damn difficult the game is. The JRPG turn-based battles give you a decent amount of options, but players’ll probably find themselves dying frequently to the same enemies.

The writing is random to the point where it might be superfluous, and goofy NPC text is all over the place. I kept hoping that NPCs would start giving me puzzles clues or something, but that never really happened. There weren’t any lines of dialogue that stood out to me, but the writing should be taken with a grain of salt. Hylics is decidedly a game of beauty and aesthetic. Worth the couple bucks it costs.

time of need william barrett

I originally read this book when I was in high school because modernism freaked me out and William Barrett seemed to back up my notion that art of the 20th century was apocalyptic and that modernism was a problem that needed attention. Now that I’m old and boring, I know that Barrett’s not really saying anything radical, that he’s interested in sentence structures and telling it like it is about Camus and Nietzsche. It’s a fantastic read for kids interested in the development of atonality and Faulkner.

“Confronted by a world that has become meaningless, we cannot be convinced by rational arguments to finding meaning in it. But if life-giving energy flows we are able to create values, and we can then find reasons enough to find the world meaningful…Humor is a sign of vitality. So long as we can still laugh, we have not succumbed to despair.”

There’s a section on sculpture throughout history, comparing how men of different ages choose to portray man through art. I also like the cover ~

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Wall Street Kid Opening

Title: Wall Street Kid
Year: 1990
Platform: NES
Publisher: SOFEL
Developer: SOFEL

Mike went to a pretty wild flea market over the weekend, returning two NES carts richer: Monster Party, 8-bit horror classic and one of my favorite platformers, and, uh, Wall Street Kid…? 

That’s a name I hadn’t heard in almost a decade.

Wall Street Kid is a game I had when I was very young, one of those used three bucks NES cartridges kids buy because the picture looks mildly entertaining (or just because we couldn’t believe there was a game about being a “wall street kid”). It was a game my brother and I would play very rarely, and only for ten minutes at a time, one of the games that seems like it might be funny to play for a bit, then quickly becomes too tedious to be novel.

Casino Kid (NES)

Casino Kid (NES)

It’s one of the few old games I never returned to as I got older, looked at it with new perspective. Would it charming, humorous, or just awful? Would it be worthy of my kind of “weird NES game” seal of approval? 

The game was developed by SOFEL, a Japanese communications company that dabbled in Famicom and apparently Game Boy games before fading into obscurity. Their first title, Casino Kid (or $1,000,000 Kid: Maboroshi no Teiou Hen), which is based on an unpopular manga, was released in 1989, with a sequel, Casino Kid II, released in 1993. The sequel was a very late NES game, but rumor has it the game was supposed to be released in 1990 and titled The Prince of Othello…!

The games were obviously shoddy casino simulators, but had cool “JRPG walking around” segments, which I’m a sucker for. Mediocre sprites, but still cool. The garish checkered floor is to die for.

The US Wall Street Kid was released in Japan as The Money Game II: Kabutochou no Kiseki, and it was a sequel to SOFEL’s earlier game, The Money Game. The game’s scant Wikipedia article has this to say:
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Monster Party.000

Title: Monster Party
Year: 1989
Platform: NES
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Bandai

Oh, boy. Here we go.

Monster Party was released for the NES by Bandai in 1989 in the US, developed by Human Entertainment (of Kabuki Quantum Fighter fame, maybe). For whatever reason, Bandai never released the game in Japan, and this only adds to the obscurity and mystery surrounding the game.

Monster Party isn’t like most other NES games. It holds something of a cult status among retro gamers and collectors, both due to the game’s mysterious history and for its…aesthetic. While remaining in its average NES platformer obscurity, Monster Party saw a rise in its cult status after a series of Japanese Famicom prototype screenshots surfaced in the early 2000s on the internet. 

Let this be said first: Monster Party is a very strange game, a creepy, mystical video game. It’s tough to gauge how popular the game was initially (apparently it received a 6.25/10 from Nintendo Power), and I can’t comment on how the game would be remembered if the prototype screenshots never showed up, but I can say this much: the few, grainy Japanese images revealed that Monster Party was originally much darker, bloodier, visually complex, and more pop culturally-oriented than the already completely strange game we played when we were younger.

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Kingdom Hearts1_7

Title: Kingdom Hearts
Platform: PS2
Year: 2002
Publisher: Square
Developer: Square

I had never played the original Kingdom Hearts when it first came out in 2002, which is weird considering I bought the second one and played that when it was released and enjoyed it quite a bit. That was almost a decade ago. I recently picked up the original Kingdom Hearts, and after having it sit there amidst my ever growing pile of unfinished games, I popped it in my PS2 and started playing.

Everyone I talked to told me how they have all these fond memories of exploring the vibrant Disney environments, befriending charming Disney characters, even fighting Sephiroth (!) in the Hercules-themed tournament. I also recall those flashy, hyper emotional commercials blaring Utada’s “urgent” “Simple and Clean” and tugging at gamer’s hearts every twenty minutes. Disney and Square? It was like Super Mario RPG on the SNES, this kind of dream concoction, but even better looking and with more hype and J-Pop. Who knows why I never picked it up originally (probably too busy playing Arc the Lad Collection in my basement…?).

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Title: Legend of Mana
Platform: PS1
Publisher: Square
Year: 2000

legend of mana5

Square’s PS1 library of games of one of my favorite things ever.

While the SNES JRPG library is home to some of the tightest, simplest, most charming, and certainly most nostalgic video games ever put together, Square’s output during the mid to late ‘90s is as tremendous as it is classic.

Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX and Tactics, Xenogears, Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story, Saga Frontier, Front Mission, and Chrono Cross combine to make a list that is so multi-textured, so rich on narrative and world, so experimental in both gameplay and storytelling, and just so full of soul, elegance, and personality.

While most of Square’s PS1 games feature some level of grit and realism, with a focus on cinematics and high drama that was afforded with the new expansion in technology, there were a few outliers from that Square gray tone. Brave Fencer Musashi and Threads of Fate are two moderately great games that are bright and colorful, and then there’s Legend of Mana…

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Anamanaguchi: Nostalgia as Religion

I’ve made plenty of remarks over the past few years about contemporary party culture and the Dionysian. The one Nietzsche talks about in The Birth of Tragedy, which he cites as everything abstract and subjective, mystical and of music. About how partying, drinking, drug use, raves – the modern orgia – and the general chaos of being young (or acting young) and being bad (or acting bad) is directly related to the ancient Greek rituals of Dionysius, the god of debauchery and license. By losing one’s self and merging with the collective spirit, one is able to transcend physicality and consciousness and possibly encounter something mystical. This is how the ancient Greeks saw it (and I guess Nietzsche and Wagner – I’ll get to them later), anyway, and I’m hard-pressed to disagree.

Last night, I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, Anamanaguchi, in concert. It was pretty great. While the band played chiptuned guitars, a holographic montage of bad media and 90s computer graphics splayed behind and around the stage, a neon and aggressive altar. The crowd raged, pogoed, drank, crowd surfed, danced, and generally had a good time. At one point, a member of the band sent a prominent fluorescent neon light into the audience, which proceeded to be raised by the crowd, kids riding it, a modern horah.

For many of Anamanaguchi’s fans, the music is nostalgic. To claim that the band’s music is simply old video game nostalgia would be a disservice to the band and its music though. There’s many layers at work here. The NES inspired and powered music does not emulate what a video game sounds like, but instead incorporates that sound with elements of power pop, indie rock, surf rock, and new rave sounds. Visuals are also incorporated into the Anamanaguchi experience, from album covers to the band’s website, a hodgepodge of Lisa Frank colored social media and totally tumblr 90s computer art and design. Not to mention their music video for “Meow,” a hyperactive and visually stimulating homage to Saturday morning cartoon blocks, Chuck E. Cheese, Japanese culture, and growing up and being twenty-something in 2013. It’s like living in the internet and surviving off Pixy Stix, pizza, and sound waves. The visuals are in no way necessary to understanding and appreciating the music, but they do elevate the experience.

There was a moment during the concert where the audience began chanting the word pizza. It was at this moment that I noticed something mystical beginning to happen. I’ve been to plenty of concerts, from local synth rock gods Vice Grip, to the Rochester Philharmonic, to fucking Macklemore. One of my all time favorite concert experiences (this is pretty funny) was seeing post-hardcore pop punk Senses Fail in Syracuse not too long ago. The crowd was intense from years of listening to the band, everyone knew every word of every prom queen killing song, and there was a real high energy of eighth grade, 2004 nostalgia. Most people would probably disagree with me, but there’s certainly something religious about a hundred kids screaming “Just like the lady in the blue dress/you’ve got cigarettes on your breath/hair spray and some cheap perfume.” That kind of energy, no matter how goofy it might seem, shouldn’t be dismissed.

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