Saturday, July 30, 2016


And the battle between hackers and Sony continues! There's a new exploit for the Playstation Vita and PSTV called HENKaku which not only wedges open a backdoor for homebrew apps, but makes the process incredibly easy. You go to the HENKaku web site on your system, click the orange install button, and wait a little while for the exploit to install. It may take a few tries, but it's far easier than all the hoop jumping that was necessary to hack the Vita in the past. Bravo to Yifan Lu and his team for making this happen.

So hey, July is almost over, and now that the vicious summer heat is behind me I probably ought to start updating this blog more frequently. I told the guy from VGJunk that I was going to write a guide to the multitude of weird power-ups in Capcom games (like the tiny robots, strawberries, and that pinwheel thing that's worth a kajillion points), but I never got around to it. Maybe that'll actually happen in August... provided I don't get a lot of Brainy Smurf types running in to tell me everything I missed. (It's going to be an abridged guide, for the sake of my sanity. Deal with it.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

So, How's 'Bout That NX?

We still don't know a lot about Nintendo's mysterious NX... but the latest rumors from Eurogamer suggest that it'll take a page from modern tablets (and those 1980s robots that combine to form even larger robots) by adapting for every situation. The system comes with two controllers, which either clip onto either side to make it an ordinary handheld game system, or can be detached for (slightly awkward) two player action. Finally, the system can slot into a docking station, making it compatible with television sets and possibly increasing its performance. The NX is supposed to use a more advanced version of the Tegra processor found in Nvidia's set top box, the Shield. However, even with that extra horsepower and even with the docking station, Nintendo's machine isn't expected to be much more powerful than the Wii U. Color me underwhelmed.
An early protoype model of the NX.
(image from Big Bad Toy Store)
Also, there's a new Layton game in the wings for the 3DS and smartphones starring Hershel's daughter. I don't really have much to say about this, but the title, Lady Layton, has stuck this earworm into my brain for the rest of the day.

(There's a Duran Duran version of this song, because someone thought that would be a good idea. Someone needs to think a little harder.)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Genesis and Chill

There's been a strong surge in viewership lately... leaving me feeling a little guilty as I haven't posted here in over a week. So let's take care of that, shall we? I'll give you guys a reason to come back, whoever you happen to be.

So, we're seeing a lot of news from Sega over the last few days. The biggie is that there are two new Sonic games coming, which wouldn't be all that exciting if it weren't for the fact that the first is a throwback to the blue hedgehog's 16-bit days, designed by Christian Whitehead and Stealth. The former was responsible for porting Sonic CD to, well, practically every modern format imaginable, and the latter took it upon himself to make a proper port of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Boy Advance after Sega phoned in theirs. 

This new, yet somehow old Sonic game is called Sonic Mania, and it will be released early next year. There's also a 3D Sonic game planned for 2017, but... well... we all know how those go. Here's some footage of the game you really want, courtesy of Engadget:

Slightly less exciting is the current deal on Bundle Stars, which lets you add a fistful of Sega Genesis games to your Steam account for five dollars. I already had a few dozen of these games from past Humble Bundles, but this helps fill the gaps in my collection. Better yet, Steam Workshop lets you play "chill" versions of these games with infinite lives and energy, making nutbusters like Comix Zone and Alien Soldier slightly less impossible. You can also play games like Mega Turrican and Cool Spot that were never meant for distribution on Steam, but that's just between you and me, okay?

Last, and... er, last is the news that Sega will release another one of those heinous Sega Genesis clones to compete with Nintendo's upcoming NES Classic Mini. It will once again be manufactured by AtGames, and it once again won't be worth a damn due to off-key sound and a lack of save states. Thanks to US Gamer's Jeremy Parish for the warning... er, scoop.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something μ

There's no play like home! There's no play like home!
(image from Nintendo)
I guess I wouldn't be much of a nerd if I didn't mention this! Nintendo is making a bold first step into the TV Games market with a miniature version of its first console, featuring over two dozen of the best NES titles... and Ghosts 'n Goblins. Nobody knows for sure what hardware it uses or the quality of the emulation, but here's what we do know: it has an HDMI video port in the back, you can plug Wiimote peripherals into the front, and it'll cost sixty dollars.

There's one other thing... you can't add games, or remove them in the case of Ghosts 'n Goblins. But that's pretty much par for the course for a TV Games unit, isn't it? When those games include Kirby's Adventure, the Super Mario Bros. trilogy, and a wealth of third party hits including Final Fantasy, it's hard to complain about what you're not getting. Not that it will stop the internet, mind. The NES Classic Edition will be available in November, just in time for the holiday season.

In other left field Nintendo news, you can purchase Turbografx-16 games for your Wii U right now, should you be so inclined. Right now, R-Type, Bonk's Adventure, and New Adventure Island are available, and more should arrive in the near future. Galaga '88 would be nice, Nintendo! Or heck, even a port of Pac-Land that doesn't look like it was beaten half to death with an ugly stick.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Profiles in Obscurity: Vic Tokai

Sega, Nintendo, Capcom, Bethesda, Electronic Arts. They're all names that should be instantly familiar to players; towering monuments in the gaming landscape. However, for every major developer, there are at least a dozen more which struggle to find an audience. These blips on the radar tend to fade with time or blink out entirely, the victims of a rapidly changing, fiercely competitive industry. 

It's easy to forget about these companies, but they're never gone from your mind completely. Occasionally you'll think back to one of the games they published and ask yourself, "Who were these guys? Where did they come from, and what the heck happened to them?" I've often wondered this myself, which is why it seems like a really good time to debut a new feature here on Kiblitzing. From time to time, I'll dig into the history of one of these companies and share what I've found here. It's a bit like those "Where Are They Now?" features on the evening news, except this is a bit closer to "Who Are They, Now?"

(image from Giant Bomb)

VIC Tokai seems like a good place to start! This early NES publisher is probably best remembered for introducing Americans to Golgo 13, the sniper of exceptional skill and negligible personality. Seriously, I'm pretty sure this guy communicates exclusively with gun fire and ellipses.

Part Dick Tracy, part James Bond, all boring.
(image from
Anyway. It may not seem that way to Americans, but VIC Tokai has been around a lot longer than the NES. Sega Retro reports that the company started in 1977 as a Japanese cable provider, and started calling itself "VIC Tokai" a year later. (If you were wondering, the "VIC" is short for "Valuable Information and Communication," or the slightly more digestible "Video Information Center.") Its parent company, Tokai, goes back even further, supplying the Japanese with natural gas since the 1950s.

VIC Tokai dipped its toe into the computer market by selling hardware in 1982 and designing business programs a year later. It wasn't until the mid 1980s that the company got involved in the video game business, teaming up with Seibu Lease to create some of its most memorable titles. (As well as some of its least. Heh.) Over time, the two companies cemented a reputation for gleefully quirky and ambitious NES titles like the aforementioned Golgo 13, Kid Kool, and Clash at Demonhead. 

Still weird as hell after all these years.
(image from Giant Bomb)
A few quick notes about the last two games. Kid Kool, a Super Mario Bros-ish side-scrolling platformer with slippery control and springy flagpoles that vaulted the player forward, became a franchise for VIC Tokai, with similar games being released for the Master System (Psycho Fox) and Sega Genesis (Decapattack). However, Clash at Demonhead is more fondly remembered in America for its odd merger of Mega Man's wide eyed, brightly colored art style and Metroid's deep, if sometimes obtuse, gameplay. To this day, the game still gets loving tributes from indie comics and popular gaming forums.

Trouble Shooter for the Sega Genesis (shown above) and its Japanese-exclusive sequel were the last VIC Tokai games with the company's distinct look and feel. After 1993, VIC Tokai stopped creating software in-house and published games for other developers, including Gremlin Interactive and Kronos Digital. It's probably not a coincidence that Kronos' miserable Criticom for the Sega Saturn and Dark Rift for the Nintendo 64 were VIC Tokai's last US releases. At the turn of the century, VIC Tokai abandoned the video game industry and devoted itself fully to cable television and the internet.

Now VIC Tokai is Tokai Communications, one of Japan's leading ISPs. Its partner from the 1980s, Seibu Lease, seems to have slipped through the cracks... information about the company is scarce, suggesting that it may either have been absorbed into Tokai or was shut down in the 1990s. However, the always handy Game Developer Research Institute has an interview with Seibu Lease employee Shouichi Yoshikawa, which sheds some light on who designed VIC Tokai's most memorable games, and where those employees went after leaving the company. 

Yoshikawa himself has retired from game development, but lectures future game designers on the tricks of the trade. So while the VIC Tokai of the 1980s is long gone, there's still hope that one of his students will bring back that style in a faithful homage. Hey, it worked for La Mulana.

(Special thanks to Encyclopedia Gamia, Sega Retro, the GDRI, and Wikipedia for providing valuable information for this article.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Old Grudges Die Hard

I was recently reminded of this excerpt from Next Generation magazine, posted on Hardcore Gaming 101's Twitter page a few weeks ago.

Note that Next Generation magazine was intended as an intelligent alternative to kid-friendly publications like GamePro and Nintendo Power. Note also how very far from intelligent the editors sound when they arrogantly dismiss shooter fans as "fogies" and use terms like "almost retarded" to describe the gameplay of G-Darius, regarded today as one of the high points of that series. This self-absorbed, technophilic propaganda was so common in Next Generation that one imagines the editors sniffing their own farts from wine goblets as they extol the virtues of cutting edge titles like, uh, Urban Decay.

"I didn't ASK to become the secretary of balloon
doggies! The balloon doggies DEMANDED it!"
(image from
I don't know where the writers of Next Generation are now... all the reviews in the magazine were written anonymously, demonstrating the foresight that the articles themselves lack. Wherever they may be, I'd like to inform them that the 2D games they worked so hard to kill have made a spectacular comeback, and cordially invite them to savor the fruit of my colon after a three course meal at the local Taco Hut.

Ah, that felt good. Speaking of Hardcore Gaming 101, I'd like to thank editor Kurt Kalata for telling me about Pharoah Rebirth+, one of the best indie games I've played in quite a while. Imagine Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, except set in Egypt and with seven stages instead of SOTN's massive playfield. And oh yeah, the hero is a rabbit with a pair of shape-shifting ears. The game was seven dollars during Steam's summer sale, but it's well worth the cost even at its usual asking price of ten. Also, it's in 2D, so it really ought to stick in the craw of whoever was writing those crap Next Generation reviews.

EDIT: It was actually HG101 contributor Federico Tiraboschi who wrote that Pharaoh Rebirth+ article, although it was technically Kurt who first told me about it. (Nice save, Jess. Heh.)