Combination of Murder in the Cathedral if it took place in Dark Souls, the opening segment of EarthBound mixed with Les Chants des Maldoror, Scooby-Doo cantos by Baudelaire, Space Funeral if penned by Pierre Klossowski, rotting away in Irondequiot, New York – if I can live up to this “fucking shit,” I’ll, uh, I dunno, buy myself a Sega Dreamcast. – nilson May 4, 2016
covered in ketchup and mustard
grassy motherfucker with crab’s claws
claws and grovels into the dirt behind the abandoned
contemporary art building
the old El Nido Triangle,
unburies his – 100th bible – while
buskers and babes watch from the misty sidelines
moaning and sighing in sign,
moist waffles, moist in the puddles of mud–
Steven Howard Jr., now Sony
executive Dr. “Crab” Spencer,
freelance child psychologist,
who reduced his whole train staff into
biblical pages, paces around the office,
its sandy beaches vacant and holy,
et al. Read More
Title: Monster Party
Developer: Human Entertainment
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.
Someone on a game forum recommended this to me and I hadn’t heard of it, so I wasn’t sure at first why he recommended it. The topic of discussion was frustrating SNES games, but there are frustrating games that are difficult but satisfying, there are overly obscure games, unforgiving games, and sometimes games with just awful design. Which one was Jim Power?
Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D is I guess a misleading title. It recalls to mind something like beloved The Lost Vikings (1992) or Virtual Bart (1994), video game narratives that feature time travel or virtual realities, narratives that have no rules. Jim Power promises 3D, as well, whatever that could mean on the SNES (Star Fox?).
The game was developed by French developer Loriceil, who came out with a handful of Commodore 64 and MS-DOS games in the 1980s that probably not a lot of people have ever heard of and a few hits like Golden Eagle (1991) on MS-DOS. Eric Chahi, who later designed Another World (1991) had his start at Loriceil, so the studio isn’t too obscure.
In 1992, the studio came out with what seems to be their biggest hit, Jim Power in Mutant Planet, which was co-developed by Digital Concept, and features music from the incredibly talented Chris Hülsbeck, who worked on the Amiga/C64 version of R-Type and sci-fi run and gun Turrican (1990). A year later, The Lost Dimension in 3-D would be released.
Wikipedia seems to go to great lengths to make sure its readers are aware that Lost Dimension is not a sequel to Mutant Planet. The two have the same first level, though Mutant Planet looks, sounds, and maybe plays much better. Hülsbeck’s music can be heard in Lost Dimension, but it gets a bit garbled in the translation, though I might be biased. The first level’s theme is my favorite, and it’s pretty rockin’.
Both games have a striking resemblance to Turrican, both in terms of gameplay and sound. It’s funny to think that Loriceil wanted to make a Turrican-clone and actually went out of their way to get Hülsbeck to do the sound, but I’m just speculating.
According to this, publisher Electro Brain actually packaged stereoscopic Nuoptix 3D glasses with the game, which would make the parallax scrolling backgrounds appear 3Dish. I can’t even imagine this. I felt so sick after playing it for about three hours and went straight to bed.
Title: Dark Souls
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: From Software
This is a continuation of my Dark Souls writeup. For part 1, click here.
– – –A Living World – – –
Players’ first taste of Dark Souls is Oscar, Knight of Astora, an essentially faceless and nameless knight, tossing a rotting corpse down into their dungeon cell from high above. The corpse holds the key to said cell. This situation is entirely misleading, that there are NPCs who will actively help players on their quest. Lordran is not a place where a knight in good-guy armor normally gives players the key to their escape, which players will realize quickly once they stumble upon Oscar’s dying body several moments later. This scene is the real Dark Souls, the one where even a fully equipped knight can be felled by the tutorial stage, which does not bode well for players, who control a frail decaying frame of a person. Death is not permanent, though, in Lordran, as players will realize, and there exists a convoluted hierarchy of undead social classes, including the mindless Hollowed, which all undead are destined to become. Later, players can return to where Oscar died and find him turned into a Hollow enemy, which blindly attacks the player.
Many NPCs met during the player’s travels will eventually turn into an insane Hollow, and many nameless Hollowed undead can be seen dotting the game’s areas, banging their heads into walls and writhing on the ground, their charred skeletal bodies jarring dried blood stains on an already disturbing surface.
Title: Dark Souls
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: From Software
I’ve been reading through Ted Hughes’ Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow (1970) again and I’m glad to report it is just as forceful and gross as it appeared to me several years ago. The collection of poems catalogue the myths of the titular character Crow, a vile, feathered trickster god, part Prometheus, part mystical guide, as he picks apart, explores, and often brutalizes his bleak and jagged surroundings, scrounging up meaning in a biblical and heavy, polluted wasteland covered in tar and skulls. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite books of poetry.
A few excerpts:
From “Crow’s Elephant Totem Song”:
‘At the Resurrection,
The Elephant got himself together with correction
Deadfall feet and toothproof body and bulldozing bones
And completely altered brains
Behind aged eyes, that were wicked and wise.’
From “Crow’s First Lesson”:
‘And Crow retched again, before God could stop him.
And woman’s vulva dropped over man’s neck and tightened.
The two struggled together on the grass.
God struggled to part them, cursed, wept–
Crow flew guiltily off.’
‘The gold melted out of Hercules’ ashes
Is an electrode in Crow’s brain.
Drinking Beowulf’s blood, and wrapped in his hide,
Crow communes with poltergeists out of old ponds.’
From “Crow Blacker than ever”:
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing Heaven and Earth together–
So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank–
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.’
– – –
While playing through Dark Souls, the agony certainly never diminishes. Even the back of the box reads, with no remorse, “PREPARE TO DIE”. There is no glorified battle of good versus evil, no promise of beauty, of wonder, no fun in sight. Only tension, “incredible challenge,” and death. Like Hughes’ poems, there is zero compassion, no light, and at the first sign of humanity and its weakness, the cragged landscape will fold over and swallow all life whole.
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.
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.