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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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Dark Souls20

Title: Dark Souls
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Date: 2011
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.’

From “Crowego”:

‘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.

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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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WEST CAMPUS, out of my league:

far below us, kids our age scramble around a
frozen vodka fountain in the dim plaza,
their laughter immense but barely audible, their
search for eternal youth lengthy and sudden.
Stoic, he closes his blinds until only
an orange halo filters in from outside,
illuminating these Oxford sheets,
scratchy, unfamiliar,
, enveloped in pale high school musk,
the occasional wool sock.
A soft whir hums out of the play
station and that
green beep, tumbling disc spinning
on its axis,
a chair dragged across the chipped floor
accompanies his bright mumbling. For
a moment, all is chthonic,
two
teenagers holding their breaths…

…But Then:
the shattering rumble of the
start screen floating mid-flight
somewhere beyond iridescent
Titan
narrows into the harsh glare
of the tv screen,
bouncing back images of a lone idiot
dashing down Kowloon descending into Hell.
“Should I kill
these guys?”
Four tribal hollowed-
out men stand static in treetops, prostrated,
unconcerned, diseased, and in prayer,
my eyes droop for hours, my brain,
steady, my dick–

“Do you want to go to latenight?”

“What time is it?”

In a foreign eatery with gravel floors, my
head on the table, dizzy, he pours us seltzer
and we make fun of and adore four
prostitute girls, je t’adore, je t’aime then
like soil we return to his dorm room. My
sneakers are still wet and
we’re both wearing matching gray jackets.
In the underground tunnels, hooded gypsies
carry baskets of laundry on their heads and
winter’s howl throttles
thin black window panes and I
shiver and swallow my gum
and finger for my phone and remember at 3am I’ll
be out there, dashing and
cursing my luck.