Month: September 2012

What’s Wrong with a Little Simplicity?

A couple of weeks ago, Double Dragon Neon was released on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade (where I go under the name SupplePlum842, possibly the most inexplicable and gayest username I’ve ever come up with).  I downloaded it because it was free to me as a Playstation Plus subscriber, and because I’ve had this bizarre affinity for the Double Dragon series.  In an older incarnation of my website I even went so far as to ponder how to do a reboot of the series (it was … weird.)  I never even owned any of the games growing up (although I do have fond memories of playing the first one on NES with a friend; especially its bizarre prototype of a one-on-one fighting game.)  I’ve always had a fondness for beat ’em up games (a.k.a. brawlers) including Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and games I later discovered through emulation, such as the amazing Violent Storm (which I consider the height of the genre.)  So I have to pay a certain respect to Double Dragon, which was really kicked off the genre in the form it’s most recognized as.  I even felt compelled to buy Double Dragon game on the iPhone, which was kind of tough to play so I never got very far in it (what a waste of $4!)

The first time I played Neon I got my ass kicked, hard.  I was trying to play it like old school brawlers where you basically have to act like a punching bag that occasionally punched back; it was ultimately a way of attrition.  There was no blocking in old brawlers. There’s technically no blocking in this game, but there is the ability to duck, which does effectively the same thing (preventing damage) but in addition puts the player in Glam Mode (ha!) which doubles damage for a short period of time.  This is key to playing the game!  Once I figured that out the Normal mode seemed almost too easy.  Overall I’ve been really enjoying the game.

But I’m kind of alone in that respect.  I was surprised to see reviewers’ general sentiments that this is a mediocre game.  Complaints ranged from the game being too difficult, too simplistic, and too short.  Apparently, having a brawler where all you do is brawl is insufficient.  I suppose that’s true; games like God of War, DMC, and their ilk are the modern equivalent of brawlers and those can be summarized as fits of fighting interspersed with duller down time taken up by exploration and puzzle solving.  Fighting games are also often slammed for similar brevity; many reviews for Soul Calibur V praised it for having the most refined combat engine yet, however they kvetched that there was too little else to do besides fighting.

Maybe it’s just because I grew up in an era where a game was nothing more than what it was.  Platformers just consisted of your character running from left to right and jumping a lot while role playing games were almost entirely menu-driven affairs (up until Final Fantasy VII introduced snowboarding, racing, and a real-time strategy to the mix.)  Nowadays, it’s simply not enough to do one thing (even if it’s done well.)  Every game needs to be a hodgepodge of other genres in order to hold the player’s attention.

Or maybe I enjoy Double Dragon Neon for all the wrong reasons.

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Better Dredd than Dead

Or exploded.

I saw Dredd 3D yesterday (and then Ted at a second-run theater, on was on an -ed thing apparently.)  I have to admit to rather enjoying it.  It’s violent and simple.  Sadly, nobody bothered to see it. So why?  Is it because people still have a bad taste in their mouth over the 1995 Judge Dredd movie?  It seems like a difficult task for movie promoters, especially in an era of reboots and remakes, to explain to an audience exactly what their expectations ought to be.  It also doesn’t help that some 17 years after the last movie, Judge Dredd is still a relative unknown to the American public.  Since their only frame of reference, then, was the previous movie the assumption that this new Dredd movie had to be connected to it (aside from sharing the same character, of course) was natural (despite the unusual length of time since the last movie.)  But why should that matter?  Many people who are fond of the James Bond movies are unaware that they are (very loosely) based on a series of books, and don’t really allow their experiences with the previous movies affect their outlook on other ones.  I mean, most fans will insist that at least one of the seven actors who have portrayed the actor in major motion pictures was the worst.  Yet they stuck with the series.  Even after the failures that were Batman Forever and Batman & Robin people flocked to see Batman Begins; I never heard anyone balk at it, saying “oh, Batman?  From that lousy George Clooney movie?!”  Is it because these were established series that people were willing/able to put up with a bad installment?

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: A House Infested Will Not Stand

“Oh, we have guests!”

An old, abandoned house in Ypsilanti, MI has been condemned. It was “infested” with squirrels and raccoons.  Also, it was falling apart.  Well I don’t know about you, but I think the cuteness quotient of the building’s occupants more than makes up for any negative impact it might have had on the neighborhood’s dollar value.

Always remember the 99%

I don’t mean that 99% of the population that doesn’t control the majority of the wealth in the world.  I mean another 99% … the 99% of the world that are assholes.  Never forget that at any given time, most of the people around you are insufferable pricks.  Two recent examples from my life:

  1. I don’t like being touched.  I think it comes from being bullied growing up.  I’ve just come to associate any unapproved touching (hugs, pats on the back, whatever) as an invasion of my personal space.  I’ve learned to tolerate it at work because I know that making a scene–or even just expressing my dislike of being touched–will only cause problems later on.  I would have thought that I could be comfortable letting my “friends” outside of work know that I don’t like being touched.  Alas, that’s not the case.  More than one of them, upon being told that I’d rather not be touched, have then become all the more insistent that they just need to give me a bear hug or something.  Because they’re assholes.  They think they’re being friendly, but anyone who is eager to do something expressly because they know it makes someone uncomfortable is a worthless piece of shit.  Sadly, I can’t let them know they’re pieces of shit because someone like that is simply incapable of recognizing such a thing. Even if told.
  2. I was recently at some get together and somebody mentioned a reboot.  I said “oh, God, I hate that stupid word,” as I prepared to launch into a diatribe about how overused it was by Hollywood in movies and TV shows.  The person I talked to was all too eager to immediately say “well then I’ll make it a point to use that word as much as possible throughout the evening.”  Why? Because he’s clearly an asshole.
There are no nice people in the world.  When it comes down to it, everybody is always just too happy to mistreat others. 

Kickin’ it at the Small Press Expo 2012 (Part 3 of 3)

They all kind of look alike, and their noses are too pert.

The most interesting thing that came out of my experience at SPX this year was at the panel titled Mark Newgarden Presents: Cartoonists and Comics On Camera.  The animated works were typical of the time with lots of random singing, characters dancing/bouncing inexplicably and humor that people laughed at because they felt they were supposed to.  This dated humor is dated.  Although one of them, an animated short about an ugly woman trying to find a man, had a political joke (something about William Jennings Bryan‘s chances of being elected.)  It turns out that such topical humor really really doesn’t age well.  More interesting were the live action short films that really showed off the attitudes of the time and some remarkably modern comedic sensibilities.

First was a retrospective on comic strips (from the 1940’s or so) and their creators. I learned about some interesting strips that I’d never heard of but would like to track down collections of, including Gasoline Alley and Joe Palooka. Other featured works were classics like Buck Rogers and Dick Tracey.  One amusing aspect of these older works was the matter-of-fact acceptance of racial stereotyping, from the Sambo-like depiction of black characters to the description of the villains in a military-based comic as “the meanest Japs” (and I think that film predated America’s entrance into WWII!)

The most eye-opening experience however was a short film titled “Silly Night,” starring Jefferson Machamer (produced by the hilariously misnamed “Educational Pictures.”) This 1937 piece would have been right at home with the random, pothead humor of today’s Adult Swim lineup.  Let’s try to summarize this piece:

  1. Machamer is woken up by his black butler (who has a pompadour?) by pressing various hidden buttons on a … cartoonish family crest? posted over the bed.
  2. Machamer sketches a pretty girl jump roping.  This is then followed by a minute of watching a women–dressed like the girl he sketched–jump roping … ON HER TOES!  That must’ve hurt.  Also, she apparently wasn’t wearing a bra (woo hoo!)
  3. Machamamer then sketches a pretty girl surrounded by juggling clubs.  This cut to a young woman surrounded by juggling clubs to kicks them away and dances for a minute.  Okay?
  4. Finally getting out of bed, Machamer and his butler walk out into his ballroom? where he’s surrounded by dozens of gorgeous women in dresses (of course.)  Some of them are playing poker and one asks the butler if her hand is any good, and he makes a remark about a lot of black spades.  That might have been racist; I don’t know.  Machamer tell the ladies he wants them to draw a mural of him and one of the ladies eating a hotdog “romantically.”
  5. The women draw the mural and then he has them line up so he can judge which is prettiest.  There’s some typical slapstick (he says one woman is a “knockout” and then she suddenly has boxing gloves on and punches him.)  
  6. A winner is picked and they go off on a date.  Do they take a car? No, they get into a rickshaw pulled by the butler (although there’s a joke about Machamer needing to borrow some cash from him.)
  7. They get to a restaurant.  Some random couple happens by and the girl says it’s her boyfriend’s birthday and asks Machamer to draw a sketch of him.  Machamer agrees and draws a less-than-flattering sketch of the young man.  The woman admires it for a moment, recognizes that her boyfriend isn’t handsome, and then dumps him immediately.
  8. At some point another random couple started dancing.
  9. A taxi driver started singing the song Puff Your Blues Away (that could soooo be a pothead anthem.)
  10. Machamer got arrested for causing trouble (I forgot how.)  In his jail cell, he drew an open window on the wall and hid under the bed.  When a cop saw the empty room and open window he busted in and ran into the wall, knocking himself out.  Machamer then escaped through the open door.
Did that make any sense to you? No?  I can tell you that the room was full of people dumbfounded by what they’d witnessed.  It was an incredibly enjoyable, random, bit of comedic history.  I wish it was available on video somewhere; this guy’s work was way ahead of its time (or maybe just oddly in-tune with modern sensibilities.)