Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Year Gone By: 2015

Well, here it is, 2016 already. Let's do a quick recap of the previous year just to make sure we're all on the same page, shall we?


Kind of a dry month. I spent some time struggling with Yumi's Odd Odyssey, a game that thanks to the recent closure of Agatsuma Entertainment will be harder to find this year than it was the last. It's already been purged from Steam, although it's still available on the Playstation Store and Nintendo's eShop. (But for how long? HOW LONG?) Sony also had a pretty sweet sale, with several of the best games on PSN at fire sale prices. I already had many of them from previous sales, but hey, it's the thought that counts!


(Image from GameHall)
This was a month to love for fighting game fans thanks to a PSN sale featuring several great titles, including my personal favorite King of Fighters '99. Sure sure, it was the PSOne version, but it holds up remarkably well on the Vita when you turn on fast loading. (On the PS3, not so much.) Weirdly, KOF '99 started out at $3, but dropped to $1.20 during a flash sale at the end of the week.

Speaking of fighters, I also discovered the existence of a Street Fighter II port for, of all things, the Virtual Boy. I guess it's no stranger than Casey Kasem hosting the Weekly Top 40 countdown months after his death...


Alley Cat was the featured game of the month, an infuriating yet strangely alluring action title on PCs that would have been right at home in an early 1980s arcade. Alley Cat is also famous for its delightfully demented imagination, with the title character swimming through eel-infested fishbowls and catching mice that peek out from the holes of a massive wedge of Swiss cheese. I also pinched pennies to build a makeshift entertainment center and played entirely too many RPGs... while finishing absolutely none of them. Curse my short attention span!

In more depressing news, it was revealed that former gaming giant Konami was making a hasty exit from the industry. Turns out the company wanted to pursue other interests... you know, like making slot machines, running fitness centers, and, uh, tormenting employees. Oh well, I'll always remember the good times, back when Konami was rocking the four flags logo.


(Image from Toys 'R Us Inc.)
Club Nintendo came to an end this month, but not before leaving its members with some keen consolation prizes. I can't even count the number of games I got from this promotion, so it was hard to see it go. (Nearly a year later, we still don't even have a proper Club Nintendo replacement. What's the hold-up, Kimishima?)

I also took the time to wistfully remember the game buying process at Toys R Us in the 1990s (it was complicated enough to give Rube Goldberg a headache, but that was part of the fun!) and reviewed every game in SNK's Arcade Classics collection for the PSP. I'm still amazed there were people who paid two hundred dollars for turkeys like Sengoku and Burning Fight...


The high-tech filters in RetroArch gave old favorites for the Game Boy and Atari Lynx a charmingly old-tech look, and I became briefly infatuated with the recklessly ambitious Vita port of Borderlands 2. Sure, it crashes at the worst possible moments, but you gotta give Iron Galaxy credit for having the, uh, brass to attempt it. There was also a lengthy interview with yours truly that seems horribly self-indulgent in hindsight, but in my defense, the readers demanded it! The reader, I mean. It was just one reader. But really, that's like a quarter of my audience right there.


June was a month of console restoration (I mean, look at this grody GameCube! It must have been pulled straight out of Morton Downey Jr's lungs!) and hacking. I also got a brief taste of Playstation 3 ownership (before the blasted thing sputtered out on me...) and sent Street Fighter's Ryu into battle against the increasingly odd cast of Super Smash Bros. Punching Pookas and tossing fireballs into P-p-peahats seems like the fever dream of a video game-obsessed elementary school student, yet here I am doing it in real life! Unless the past thirty years have just been a hallucination and I'm in bed right now with a thermometer under my tongue. More orange juice please, Mom.


Satoru Iwata, the charmingly goofy and impossibly talented CEO of Nintendo, succumbed to cancer this month. He was harshly criticized near the end of his career, but Nintendo may not have gotten its second wind in 2006 with the original Wii if it hadn't been for his leadership. I spent the month celebrating Iwata's contributions to Nintendo and Hal Laboratory... while giving web sites that conveniently reversed their opinion of the Wii U the stinkeye. (Coincidence, my ass.)  Speaking of Nintendo, the fabled CD-ROM unit for the Super NES made a public appearance in July, an exciting discovery for grizzled old console war veterans like myself.


More console restoration happened this month, along with a handful of random observations and a half dozen GameCube reviews. Also, despite some initial reservations, I wound up buying a New 3DS XL anyway. What can I say? The purchase was a lot more tempting after K-Mart slashed the price in half. You'll find my detailed review of the system here. I really don't regret getting this, by the way, but it's mostly because of the IronFall hack and the dozen great emulators that came with it.


Playstation games were the focus this month, including Pocket Fighter, Tomba!, and the alleged sequel to Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross has a completely different art style from the original and the bewildering combat system isn't even from this planet, but sure Square, you tell yourself whatever helps you sleep at night. I also posted several of my drawings from Miiverse, because I spend more time scribbling silly comics on my 3DS than actually playing games. Seriously, I've done the math. I logged over a hundred hours on Miiverse last year... the only thing that came close to that figure was Super Smash Bros. at sixty hours.


I intended to celebrate Oktober-Fist this month, but I ultimately crumbled and went with Anne Lee's Kusoge-month instead. Who can resist the chance to kick duds like Battle Monsters, Back to the Future II, and Keith Courage in the chops? I also brought a dusty old Wii back to life and gave the editor of VGJunk some much deserved props for his exhaustive review of Vampire Savior, the third game in the Darkstalkers series. There was also a slightly embarrassing anecdote about the last time I went trick or treating, but the less said about that, the better...


The Nintendo Badge Arcade made its American debut this month, shaking kids of loose change while irritating adults with its chipper pink mascot. I complained about him, a lot. I still do, actually. I think I might have a problem. On the plus side, I found a way to customize the badges I won, which I guess is worth the eighteen dollars I spent on what I described earlier as a “carnival of sadness.” (Did I mention I might have a problem?) Finally, I reminisced about the Odyssey2, my first game console. It wasn't terrific- in fact, far from it- but when you're eight years old, you take what you can get. And really, KC's Crazy Chase with the Voice module was a pretty good consolation prize.


Ho ho holy crap this was not a good month for gaming. First, I broke up with Sony's misbegotten Playstation TV after a brief honeymoon in September. Then I bought an Android stick to replace it, but that was even worse! At least I managed to rekindle my love for the PSP with a stack of cheap games I found at a thrift store. And oh yeah, I finally got an excuse to post that clip from Keio Yugekitai. It's sure to become a holiday tradition!

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