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.
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.
Title: Kingdom Hearts
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…?).
Title: Legend of Mana
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…