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Tag Archives: chiptunes

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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Kickle Cubicle.075
Title: Kickle Cubicle
Year: 1990
Platform: NES
Publisher: Irem
Developer: Irem

I first heard of Kickle Cubicle a few years ago when Mike McCabe included it on his list of favorite games. I was surprised that A. an NES game with alliteration in its title had eluded me for so long and B. that there was an Irem NES game released in North America that I had never played.

Irem, known for their R-Type horizontal space shooters, had a small output of excellent NES games, including Deadly Towers (1986), The Guardian Legend (1988), Metal Storm (1991), and apparently action-puzzler Kickle Cubicle.

Kickle Cubicle.026

From what I can gauge, Kickle Cubicle is based on a Japanese arcade game called Meikyūjima, or “Labyrinth Island,” which is also its Japanese Famicom name. The game looks a good deal like HAL’s Adventure of Lolo (1989), a series Nintendo should revisit one of these years (Lolo confirmed for Brawl?), with its tile grid-based, block-pushing puzzle action.

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Legacy of the Wizard.040

Title: Legacy of the Wizard
Year: 1987 (JP), 1989 (NA)
Platform: NES, MSX
Publisher: Namcot, Brøderbund
Developer: Nihon Falcom, Quintet

A bit of history: in the mid to late ‘80s, the big three names in RPGs in Japan were Enix, Square, and, not Atlus, but Nihon Falcom. Falcom, who most people know for the Ys series (which range from great to awful), but they actually got their start in the RPG market with their action-RPGs, the Dragon Slayer series. Released for the FM-7 computer (and later the PC-88, with an MSX port by Square) in Japan, Dragon Slayer became the smash hit of 1984, and it can be seen as one of the original action-RPGs.

Legacy of the Wizard.047

Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family is the fourth installment of Falcom’s series, released in 1987, around the time that Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished Omen (oh boy), the first Ys game came out. For its North American release (NES), it was retitled Legacy of the Wizard, and I’m not sure how it was initially critically reviewed, but Falcom must have felt like they were on top of the world.

After doing some research, I also realized that Quintet was involved with Legacy of the Wizard, which adds some intrigue. Quintet, known for developing the flawless ActRaiser (1990), among other SNES RPGs, apparently first had their hand in Legacy of the Wizard. Well, it better be good then.

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I had the pleasure of chatting with cly5m, auteur of Seiklus fame. We chat about Dark Souls, chiptunes, and Space Funeral, you know, all the inevitable stuff.

Cly5m: 
I read a few of your posts earlier today. Nice work. I hadn’t really thought of comparing Dark Souls to my game, but maybe the similarities you mention are why it’s my favorite game of its generation. The varied but inter-connected world is definitely one of its strengths, and something I like to go for in my own games.

Seiklus (PC)

Seiklus (PC)

Nilson:
I love when games are meandering.

Cly5m: 
I was especially impressed with the hidden path behind another hidden path in Blighttown, which leads to a long segment and ends up at the lake. All that work for something some players might never see. I aspire to things like that as well.

Nilson: 
I think the “secret” ending in Seiklus is a lot like that.

I was reading some of your game suggestions on your website and you mention Startropics…that’s a name that isn’t brought up often enough.

Have you played the second one?

Cly5m:
I think I rented it, but didn’t finish it.

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Seiklus1

Title: Seiklus
Platform: PC
Date: 2003
Publisher: Independent
Developer: cly5m

I had first learned of Seiklus a few years ago when I was over at the Hardcore Gaming 101 boards, inquiring about what everyone thought the lineage of Fez (2012) was. The topic quickly devolved into a message board boxing match (which is rare for those boards, so I must’ve really asked a bad question…), but before I made it out, someone told me to look up an old PC game from 2003 called Seiklus.

One of the main things that was brought up in that topic (aside from bloodshed) was the idea that there was an “original indie game.” While our excitable gaming media usually insists that Braid (2008) is the game that put indie games on the map, I usually cited Cave Story (2004) as the game that brought pixels and small development teams into vogue. The whole topic seems to cause an endless and bitter debate between hobbyist game historians, so I was glad to find a game that I think quells the issue.

Seiklus, which is Estonian for “adventure,” a tip I got from Wikipedia, was developed by a sole author, the somewhat elusive cly5m, in 2003, using Game Maker. From what I can gauge, this is the first time anything significant had been made in Game Maker, or any game making software targeted at novice computer programmers for that matter. In retrospect, in the history of video games, Seiklus is inevitably a big deal.

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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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