Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Had No Idea Dark Void Was That Old

While I am eagerly awaiting the release of Dark Void on the 360, I found out a little piece of info on the game.  Namely, it was originally supposed to be an NES game.  I discovered this when Capcom announced that they are releasing the original, unreleased game for the DSi.

The game, renamed Dark Void Zero, is pretty much an 8-bit precursor to the current-gen version.  The game was originally created to fully utilize the arcade version of the NES, Play-Choice 10.  This arcade cabinet, which gave gamers a chance to play from a selection of 10 NES games, used two monitors, one stacked on top of the other.  The top screen was used to let players know the controls of the game as well as its objectives.  The original Dark Void was designed to use the top screen for in game menus, area maps, etc., meaning that it was sort of a precursor to a lot of adventure titles on the DS.  The game also pushed the limits of what was graphically possible on the NES.  Once they were almost finished with the game, Capcom got wind of the Super Nintendo and the fact that the Play-Choice 10 just was not very successful in arcades.  Dark Void was shelved indefinitely; even the archival material was damaged, making it one of those lost games that may have had some promise.

Around two decades later (First, Castlevania: The Adventure, now this game.  I'm beginning to notice a pattern, here.)  Capcom decides to use the idea for current-gen systems.  To mark the occasion, and to give gamers an opportunity to experience some lost video game history, the original game has been announced as a download for DSiWare.  From what I see on the video below, it kind of plays like Mega Man with jetpacks, which kind of reminds me of The Rocketeer NES game.

I've been thinking about getting a DSi one day.  If I do, I may have to try this game out.

Kaiser out

New Year's Resolution? Kill Dracula!

This monday marked another point in the hit-or-miss offerings on the Wii Shop Channel, but there is one game release that would definitely count as a "direct hit."  At last, the long anticipated Castlevania game for WiiWare hit consoles all over the US.

Turns out, though, that it's actually a remake of a long forgotten chapter in the history of the Belmont family.  The new game is called Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, which refers to the first Castlevania to come to the Game Boy in 1989.  Following the quest of Christopher Belmont to stop Dracula from resurrecting once again, it actually takes place one century before Simon's foray in the original NES title.  Unfortunately, Castlevania: The Adventure was mediocre, at best, which disappointed Game Boy owners at the time.

Fast forward exactly twenty years. Konami reveals that it dusted off this game, gave it a serious overhaul, and re-released it to the gaming public.  I say exactly twenty years because the ReBirth version was released in Japan on October 27th of this year (while the original was released in October 27th of '89) and the US release for both versions was in December, though I don't know the actual release date of the original game.

So, as the game celebrates its 20th birthday, the question stands: has it aged well?

Considering the fact that the original was an uninspired attempt to bring the franchise to the portable market, ReBirth is a complete makeover.  This game is the equivalent of that forgettably frumpy girl from elementary school that turned into an unattainably hot woman once she got to college and the only thing you can think of when you see her is, "Damn, I wish I had been a lot nicer to her back then, so I could TAP THAT ASS!"

"You snooze, you lose, punk-ass.  Bitch be mine, now.  Blah!"

Not only is this game a significant improvement of the original, it's actually a step up from the NES games.  I've known a lot of people who played the original Castlevania games and each of them complained about some of the really fucking annoying things that repeatedly get you killed: swarms of medusa heads, not being able to attack on stairs, damage knockback pushing you off that moving platform to your death.  Guess what?  You won't find any of them in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth.  No knockback damage, none.  Medusa heads are still there (this wouldn't be a Castlevania game without them), but you won't have schools of them trying to fly up your ass while you jump from platform to platform.  Yes, you can use your whip on the stairs.

Some things are exactly like they used to be, though.  You have to climb the stairs just like you would in the old games.  By the way, remember how you couldn't swing your whip upward, diagonally, or in any other direction than straight ahead?  Yeah, that's back.  But, they did bring back the whip power up where you can shoot fireballs with it, so it's a decent trade.  To be honest, the way it's set up, I didn't feel the need to whip diagonally, anyway.  That's what's good about this game.  The difficulty stems from it actually being "challenging," instead of "retarded."  You won't find yourself in a situation where you'll ask, "How the fuck am I supposed to do that?"  This game relies perfectly on skill, which makes this game more appealing to people who usually hate frustrating platform games (myself included).  If you die in this game, it's your own damn fault.

Actually, I've noticed that I've unlocked a feature called "Classic" mode.  I tried it out a little bit, but I'm not sure exactly what it does different from "Normal" mode.  Given the extras I unlocked in Contra ReBirth, I wouldn't be surprised to find more.  (Update: "Classic" mode only affects the physics of Christopher Belmont's jumping, making it as difficult as the traditional NES games.  Learned that the hard way; won't be using it again.  Also, from what I've read, it seems there are no other extras in the game.)

Despite a minor setback with the insanely hard Gradius ReBirth, Konami's ReBirth titles are doing a great job of reinvigorating these classic franchises from the NES era.  Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth definitely refines the retro gameplay that its predecessors set and reintroduces the story of this forgotten Belmont.  This time, doing it right.

Though why they used this crappy music, instead of some classic Castlevania tunes, for this trailer is beyond me.  

Kaiser out

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hokuto Musou Ken!

I may be in the minority, but I enjoy the Dynasty Warriors games, known in Japan as the Musou series.  Though most people find the games tedious, I enjoy the wholesale slaughter of thousands by my hand.  Now, Koei has brought their significant death toll simulator to an intellectual property that is perfect for it:

Fist of the North Star

The game, entitled Hokuto Musou, is seeing a Japanese release sometime next spring.  Needless to say, this game needs to be brought to the States.  We missed out on the awesome fighting game that Arc System Works released in arcades and on the PS2.  I'll be damned if another Fist of the North Star game doesn't come here.

This is not the first anime game from the Musou series.  Koei released Dynasty Warriors: Gundam (Gundam Musou) a couple of years ago (didn't really care for that one, though).  Since that one came Stateside, I've got my hopes riding on this game doing the same.

As a taste of the violence to come, here's the recently released teaser for the game.

Omae wa mō shindeiru...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All Fear Kaisernacht Eve

Now most holidays have iconic images.  Christmas has the nativity of Jesus and Santa Claus, Hanukkah has the Star of David and the Menorah, and Kaisernacht, well...

...Kaisernacht has Godzilla.

Tonight, when the clock strikes 12:00 am, Godzilla will rise up from the waters and decimate all the despicable boys and girls (trust me when I say there's a lot of them).  He's kind of like Santa Claus and the H-bomb rolled into one.

This year, Abdominus is joining in the festivities, as well.  With a giant radioactive lizard and a gargantuan yeti with adamantium abs, Earth is pretty much doomed.

I recommend all of you find shelter, now.  Unless you're a fucking dipshit, then just stand outside and gawk at the giant creatures that will be your doom.

Oh, turns out there is one Kaisernacht song after all.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free Savage Worlds Pulp Adventure!

Okay, so it's been a while since I posted anything remotely about RPGs, much less Savage Worlds, but Triple Ace Games released a free full-length .pdf adventure for their Daring Tales of Adventure series that they "officially" ended a few months ago as a little present for all the fans.

Thank you, Triple Ace Games.  Your Kaisernacht present is highly appreciated.  If you've never checked out the Triple Ace Games website, go there... now.  They have a lot of great Savage Worlds adventures for different genres and the site has shitloads of freebies.  Plus, check out their Hellfrost campaign setting (I did a short review of it a few months back).  It's perfect for these cold winter months.

Kaiser out

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Kaiser for the Season

Around this time of year, everyone celebrates some form of Chanuchristmakwanzaakkah.  Whether you light reindeer for seven nights, hang the menorah on the front door, or wait for Santa Claus to come, dressed in his finest dashiki and riding on his magic dreidel, you celebrate some holiday or another.

Well I have my own holiday for this season, too.  I call it Kaisernacht.  Basically, families get together and offer me food, gifts, and sexy women (okay, maybe not the sexy women, but I'm trying to start a new tradition here).  In return for their kindness, I give my loved ones gifts to let them know that they should do the same thing for me next year.  We'll be celebrating our 30th annual Kaisernacht and it is sure to be a big hit.  Of course, my friends and family still say they're "celebrating Christmas," just so they don't weird out the neighbors, but I know a Kaisernacht party when I see one.

Unfortunately, there are no Kaisernacht songs, so they usually just play Christmas carols or classic rock - one of the two.  To be honest, I'm really fucking sick of these damn Christmas songs.  If I have to hear that one song by Wham one more time, people will be slain and the first in line will be George Michael.

So, to make up for these shitty songs, I searched for some of the most metal Christmas songs I could find.  It really wasn't all that hard.  I picked one sung by none other than...

Whatever you celebrate, may it be fucking awesome, and a joyous Kaisernacht to you all (make sure to get me some really cool shit).

Kaiser out

P.S. - Kaisernacht is actually an event celebrated in the Croatian town of Opatija.  In July, they dress up in old, courtly dress to commemorate the Austro-Hungarian monarchs who came to the town as a royal resort.  My Kaisernacht is in no way affiliated with theirs, but if the Croatians want to give me some presents, I will not object.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Forgotten Worlds - Bygones of the Arcade Age

There are many video games from the early 80s that stood the test of time.  With their simple, but addictive gameplay, games such as Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man are still considered classics by today's standards.  During those days, the graphics weren't as advanced as they are today and the only thing a gamer focused on was getting the high score.  In 1983, a new kind of arcade game changed not only how people made games, but also how they saw and played them.  One of the most eye-opening arcade games of the era (and one of my personal favorites) was Dragon's Lair.
I remember seeing the game for the first time.  Mom dragged me to the mall when I saw it at the very front of the arcade there.  The colorful animated scenes wowed me.  I begged my mom to let me hang out there while she went shopping.  Of course, she said that leaving a four-year-old in an arcade was a bad idea.  I asked if we could stop in there for a while, but she didn't want to.  She preferred letting me rot in the Purgatory that was the clearance section of JC Penney, but I digress.

It all began with a man named Rick Dyer, who wanted to do something different with electronic entertainment.  The man had lofty ambitions, some would say too lofty, as he continuously tried to create the next great gaming experience.  It was a vision he fought hard for and, though it may not have been completely realized, it did produce some of the most interesting arcade games.

Mr. Dyer decided to focus on a reletively new technology for the basis of his vision, the laserdisc.  Capable of doing things that no other media could at the time, he used it to create a different kind of video game.  He used the talents of former Disney animator Don Bluth, who had just made a name for himself with his movie, The Secret of NIMH, to create a video game that used traditional cel animation instead of pixel based sprites.  The final product, Dragon's Lair, was released and it blew people's minds.  No one before had seen a game like it.  Not only did it use hand drawn animation in place of graphics, it also had a continuing story, which means it was one of the first arcade games to have a real ending.

The premise was simple.  You played as Dirk the Daring as you navigate through a dark castle and face numerous challenges in order to rescue the beautiful Princess Daphne from the clutches of the dragon Singe in his lair.  At certain points, the player used the controller to direct Dirk away from danger (avoidance is pretty much the name of the game) as well as attack enemies.  Make the wrong move and Dirk bites it in any number of hilarious ways.  Of course, this meant that you could not have Dirk go wherever you wanted.  You pretty much had to figure out when you needed to use the joystick and which way you needed to go, so there is a lot of trial and error that made playthroughs lengthier.  One you've figured out the patterns for each scene, you can beat the game easily.
While the gameplay wasn't the most challenging, the real fun with Dragon's Lair was in the total experience.  Don Bluth is a fantastic animator and this game is solid proof of that.  Dirk is pretty much one part heroic and one part spaz.  Like I said, some of his death animations are pretty funny.  Despite him being the main character, you don't get much dialogue out of him.  Mostly, he grunts when he's exerting himself and makes those "oh shit" yells when there's trouble.  I think the only words he actually says are, "wow," and "uh oh."
Then there's Princess Daphne, the hottest video game girl of the 80s, which isn't hard, considering most of the other women were sprites with little detail (Yes, having a thing for Ms. Pac-Man is fucking creepy!).  In an interview, Don Bluth said that he spent a lot of time looking at Playboy magazine for his inspiration of Daphne.  First off, I can totally see that.  Second, Don Bluth must be one awesome motherfucker to use Playboy as a reference for his work (If only he did that for some of his other work.  I think Titan AE was the only movie he did where the female character had a sexy moment.).  When you find her, she's trapped in a magic bubble and she has this speech on how to free her while she's posing seductively.  Of course, you really don't need pay too much attention to what she says, as it's all exposition, so if you're too busy ogling her, it's okay.

Play Dragon's Lair now, My Lord!

Due to it's cutting edge technology and fantastic animation, Dragon's Lair became a runaway hit.  People dropped shitloads of quarters into the machines for a long time.  The game became the Holy Grail of arcades during its time and Rick Dyer had seen his vision come true.  For an encore, Dyer and Bluth used the same formula in the rising science fiction craze with the equally popular Space AceSpace Ace did make some improvements over Dragon's Lair.  It was harder than its predecesor.  Plus, it also featured branching choices,which allowed you to decide, at certain times, on which path you want to take to beat the game.  This hiked up the replay value as you couldn't see all there was to see in one playthrough.  Dyer would return to the idea with the highly ambitious, but not as successful Thayer's Quest (without Don Bluth, this time).

The problem with Thayer's Quest was that it was not as fast paced as Dragon's Lair or Space Ace.  The player had to journey through different fantasy realms, collecting items and facing all sorts of puzzles and challenges.  As such, the game was a more thought provoking excursion that didn't translate well to the rapid quarter-plunking of arcade machines.  It also suffered because the game used up all the space on one side of a laserdisc before the quest was over.  Having someone turn over the disc to continue playing was definitely a bad idea in a place such as an arcade.

By 1985, Rick Dyer decided to take laserdisc video games one step further.  He developed Halcyon, the first video game console to use laserdisc based media.  Halcyon was actually an advanced computer that utilized laserdiscs to recreate the feel of full motion video gaming at home.  Dyer also designed the Halcyon to be an intelligent computer, utilizing such things as voice commands, in order to make it more like its inspiration, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  A home version of Thayer's Quest was released for the system and other games were set up for future release, which might have been great, had they seen the light of day.

The Halcyon's downfall was imminent, though, as the system's price point was insane.  Take a wild guess how much the Halcyon cost at retail?  Would you believe it cost $2,500?  After calculating for inflation, that's a little over $5,000 by today's standards.  Could you imagine paying that much for a video game system?  Well, people in 1985 felt the same way.  The Halcyon never made it off the ground.  Only a number of prototype units were ever made.   Most of them were bought by a bunch of rich fucks who had that kind of disposable income.  At that point, it seemed that Dyer's dream was over.
Regardless, the advent of laserdisc arcade games had other gaming companies trying to make money in the shadow of Dragon's Lair.  Numerous copycats were made to cash in on the craze.  Some were good, some sucked.  Some even integrated sprites with full motion video to give the player full control of a sprite based object over a video background.  Due to the high price and unreliability of the hardware, laserdisc games fell into obscurity.

That is until Dyer came back in 1991 with a new laserdisc game, Time Traveller, which is the only arcade game that utilizes a primitive holographic technology.  Released by Sega, it became another quarter muncher for Dyer, though it wouldn't hold interest for long, with games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat coming to arcades.  The technology was pretty much considered a flash in the pan gimmick.  Sega would later work with the laserdisc technology that Dyer pioneered to start their foray into CD rom console systems.  Later, in 1998, Dyer would complete the saga that was started with Thayer's Quest with Shadoan on the PC, which finished the main character's quest by having the player go to the final two realms that were left out of Thayer's Quest due to laserdisc's limitations.

While Dyer released Time Traveller, Don Bluth had finally brought almost a decade of labor to fruition with Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp.  The project was started after Space Ace was introduced.  As Dyer went on to work on other projects, Bluth decided to go back to where it all started.  Unfortunately, the project had numerous obstacles, mostly due to the already waning interest in laserdisc games.  Bluth's company continued to work on the project while they made their money on a steady stream of movies.  When the 90s saw a resurgence of laserdisc games, due to Dyer's Time Traveller as well as the crop of games from American Laser Games (Crime Patrol, Mad Dog Mcree, etc.), Bluth saw the opportunity and brought the Dragon's Lair sequel to life.  Though the game was just as good as the original, most people had enough of laserdisc games and it wasn't as well received as it should have been.
  Personally, I have fond memories of Dragon's Lair II, as it was the only one of the games I actually got to play in arcades.  My jaw dropped when I first saw it at my local bowling alley.  The first Dragon's Lair was such an elusive myth to me that playing the sequel was like a dream come true.  Every time I got my allowance, I immediately went to spend it all on the game (okay, maybe I saved up some money for comic books and video game rentals).  It was only there for a summer before they took it out.

Which brings me to my personal quest to play these games again.  I've owned a couple versions of them.  My first copy of Dragon's Lair was on the Sega CD (yes, I owned one).  Looking back, it was a terrible version, but it was the only way I could play it.  Then, I got a Dragon's Lair Collection on PC that had all three games on one disc (or was it two?).  The problem with that version was that the game popped up on a window the size of a playing card.  Increasing the window size slowed it down.  Then I got the 20th Anniversary Collection, which brings the two Dragon's Lair games and Space Ace onto DVD.  While this has so many extras and goodies, it also has problems with certain DVD players which have a significant pause when doing an action on the DVD remote.  Trying it on the PS2 doesn't help either.  Actually, the game works best on the XBOX 360.  In addition to the Dragon's Lair Collection, I also own Thayer's Quest and Shadoan on DVD (I actually found Shadoan at a dollar store, as it was discontinued not long after it was released).

From what I've read, they've actually released the full version of Dragon's Lair for download on the Nintendo DSi today, which is surprising.  It's amazing that you can have a full motion video game on a handheld system that still uses cartridge based technology.  Maybe this will give Dragon's Lair an outlet to reach new gamers.  We all know those kids need some schooling about the old days.

I could probably keep going about Dragon's Lair.  There's been action figures, a short lived cartoon show, even Dragon's Lair 3D, a mediocre action platforming game for the previous generation of consoles (They hyped it as that you can control Dirk's every move.  Honestly, so what?).  I've been going on long enough, though.  Needless to say, Dragon's Lair will always hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart.

And even though the technology and novelty of laserdisc games has been surpassed, Rick Dyer's vision has still been instrumental in the creation of the past few generations of home console systems.  It was his pioneering that helped give rise to the Playstations and the XBOXs.  Though he was light years ahead of the times, his dream was not impossible.  Thank you, Mr. Dyer.

Kaiser out

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Savage Wiimote Prosthetic Apocalypse

Right now, I would imagine a lot of Wii owners feel like they got the short end of the stick. I've read articles on the major video game websites (Destructoid, IGN) that have been showing some disappointment and disenchantment with what companies have been creating with Nintendo's recent technology.

I will have to admit that there are a lot of Wii games that are nothing more than piles of shit, whether it be some lazy shovelware, a lame ass PS2 port, or some dumbed-down kids title that most kids wouldn't even play. Despite this, there really are some gems for the Wii out there. Some of these gems have even slipped under the radar (I could probably do a few "Games you should know about..." segments on some of these titles; maybe I will). The Wii does have some strong titles, such as MadWorld, House of the Dead: Overkill, and the new Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (not to mention the fact that all three of these titles are rated M).

Here's the thing: every system is going to have some terrible games.  Let's not forget the titanic disaster that was Lair for the PS3. And have you seen the independent games you can download through XBOX Live?  I wouldn't even wipe my ass with most of them!  All you have to do is just buy the good games.  Yes, there are good games out for the Wii and, no, you can't count them on one hand.  With the Wii Motion Plus, Nintendo's even fixing the limited responsiveness the Wiimote has.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about, anyway.  There's something for the Wii that's far worse than those crappy shovelware games.  I'm talking about those shitty attachments for the Wiimote that every cheap-ass toy company decided to make.  Obviously, it's not enough to pretend that your Wiimote is a bat, so someone made an attachment that makes your Wiimote look like a bat with a serious growth problem.  Now kids don't have to do anything dangerous, like use their imaginations, when they play.  Crisis averted!

I actually went to a dollar store last night and saw a varied assortment of these attachments.  Some of these attachments are just so damn pathetic.  I couldn't resist taking a few pictures to show you what kind of crap they came up with.  Just so you know, I took these with my camera phone, so the quality's not so great.  You'll definitely need to click on the thumbnails to get a better look.

Parents, have you ever found your kids playing table tennis on Wii Play and said to yourself, "I just bought a perfectly good table tennis set and the kids don't even play with it."  Well tell those kids to turn off the game and fire up the table, because you just got them the new Wii Table Tennis Attachment Set.

That's right.  What better way to have them play everyone's favorite party game than to slap a real paddle to the top of their Wiimotes?  And if the kids complain that they'd rather play with the Wii, tell them they're using their Wiimotes to play this game, so, actually, they are playing with the Wii.  Now shut up, kids, or we'll flush your gerbil down the toilet.  And remember, the only thing better than using the Wii Table Tennis Attachment Set is using an actual set of real table tennis paddles, so what's the fucking point?!

Next up is the jet ski handlebar attachment.  This thing uses both the Wiimote and the nunchuck as handles to steer your way through the waves and onto victory.  Because jet skiing on the Wii is so popular, kids of all ages will love using this.  And since motorcycling games are only second to jet skiing games in terms of popularity, this can also double as motorcycle handles.

There's only one problem.  I'm sure that most of these jet ski and motorcycle games actually require you hold the Wiimote between your hands and steer, just like in Mario Kart Wii.  When held properly, the fulcrum should be in the center of the Wiimote.  With this attachment, the Wiimote is used as one of the handles, making the fulcrum of steering six inches away from where it needs to be.  Does this sound problematic to anyone else but me?  Wouldn't it make more sense to have a place for the Wiimote in the center of the thing?  Using this is just going to make you feel like you're riding a shitty bike with terrible steering.  Who thought this was a good idea?

Of course, you have the golf club and the tennis racket attachments.  Those things have been around ever since the Wii came out.  They're small, crappy, unrealistic, and pointless.  You've seen these things cluttering up the shelves of your local GameStop for years.  I wonder, though, how many of you have seen one of these on the store shelves.

Just like the package says, it's a frying pan attachment.  No shit.  Does anyone really need an attachment like this?  I can understand if this were a real pan and was marketed to husbands who have wives that are too busy playing the Wii to make them dinner, but making a frying pan so you can play the Cooking Mama games is just retarded.

Look, there's even a cooking utensil attachment for the Wiimote.  I don't know how stupid you have to be to want something so ridiculous.  You can even fold down the utensils you're not using.  So, in essence, this is actually a swiss army knife attachment.  That doesn't help its case, though.  It still sucks.

You may have noticed that some of these attachments have a sticker on them that says, "Compatible with Motion Plus."  Um... yeah.  I don't see how a cheap piece of plastic that I've so dorkily attached to my Wiimote will interfere with the complex control of the Wii Motion Plus, but I feel so much better now that you told me.

I've saved the worst for last.  So intrigued I was by this phenomenon of ridiculously dressing up your Wiimote, that I decided to find out what else they made for the quirky little controller.  I want you guys to take a wild guess as to what this attachment is for.

If you said sex toys, not only are you right, you're also highly perverted.  I wish I was kidding about this.  As a gag, I tried to look up "wiimote dildos" on Google, hoping to find someone's hilarious mock-up of the Wiimote with a fake penis slapped onto it.  I have to admit, finding info on this product (and it is a real product) was way too easy.  I expected I would have to do some serious digging.  Nope.  I immediately got numerous articles about this very same product.

It's called the Wii-wee (okay, I made that up, but I couldn't resist).  This was actually created in Germany.  While it doesn't have any use for any Wii games, there is a computer program that allows you to control the vibrations of it.  You can even go onto Skype and mess with someone else's Dildomote, making for extremely disturbing virtual sexcapades.  You can go to their website and see a video where they are made fresh daily.

What does this mean?  Well, you can forget about the Grand Theft Auto games, the Manhunt games, even that "No Russian" level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  The most shocking video game experience for a kid is when they come home to catch their mom on the couch, fucking the Wii.  Therapy bills will be through the roof.

Fortunately, there are a few good Wiimote attachments out there.  Of course, there are the guitar controllers for Guitar Hero and Rock Band that allow you to pop the Wiimote in without having to go through the hassle of switching back to a regular controller after you're done or want to switch instruments.  My favorite, though, is the Nerf gun.  Not only is it better than Nintendo's own contribution to crappy Wiimote attachments, the Wii Zapper, you can also use it as a real Nerf gun.  Now that is awesome.  Don't bother getting the stupid game that comes packaged with it, just get the gun sold separately.

Now I'm off to see if I can find a Wiimote attachment for a plasma battle axe; that is to say that I am going to find me a plasma battle axe.

Kaiser out

Monday, December 14, 2009

Random Awesome - Every Time I Damn Well Feel Like It.

Recently, I've come to the realization that Random Weirdness is starting to get tired and old real quick.  Part of the problem was that I felt I had to find something strange and, sometimes, funny.  The other part is that I made myself do this on a weekly basis.  Every Monday, I had to find something new.  Sometimes, there just isn't anything that everyone hasn't already seen which does not suck (and how "random" is it when I do it on a regular schedule?).  I'm scraping the bottom of the barrell because I let myself get tied down in my own expectations.

Well fuck that shit.  I am nobody's bitch, least of all, Monday's.  Random Weirdness dies today.  I will take its lifeless husk and create something better.  Just like a cyborg, I will rebuild it and make it the be all and end all of random crap on the internet.

I give you the birth of Random Awesome.

Keep in mind that this won't be a complete departure from Random Weirdness at its best.  Some of those videos were already awesome in their own right.  It's just that, now, when I see something awesome, I'm  gonna post it... well, whenever I damn well feel like it.  No more waiting for Monday to post some kick-ass video and no more Mondays spent digging around through a bunch of shitty videos to find something odd enough (Cromsblood was right, that Voca People video was pretty sucktacular). 

So, without further bullshitting, let's get this behemoth rolling.

This video is proof that mixing two classic sci-fi series can produce some kick-ass results and that Jon Pertwee was one of the best actors to play The Doctor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Teaser...

So I was playing around with MapTools again this morning and I created a scene that developed into another hint on the secret project I'm working on.  At first, the only criteria I was going for was that it had to include a human sacrifice.  Everything else sprang from there.  Pretty much, it's a band of adventurers and barbarians interrupting this dark ritual in order to save a lovely maiden from becoming the fuel for grisly blood magic.  It's not much, but enjoy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Recently, I've been putting blogging on the back burner and have been focusing on other things.  I've been investing most of my time on a top secret RPG project.  While taking breaks from that, I've been playing around with an application I downloaded called MapTools.  I found out about this program from The Savage Blogger (which is a pretty good blog for Savage Worlds fans.  Check it out.) and am having some fun with it.

If there's one thing that's damn near impossible for me to do, it's getting my friends together to run a game session.  Everyone's got an excuse: "I have to work in the morning," "I'm tired," "I'm having sex with five women in a UFO."  It's so hard to get people to come together at someone's house.  So the prospect of playing RPGs over the internet sounds promising.  All you need are some friends with computers and an internet connection (which shouldn't be hard) and you can set up an online gaming table.

MapTools lets you create your own battle maps, complete with buildings, terrain, objects, and creatures and player characters to keep track of battles.  I have heard of other programs, but I'm kinda liking what I'm seeing so far with MapTools.  There is a chat function, but, as The Savage Blogger mentioned, Skype would work well with this.  If you want to check out MapTools, go to their website, which has all the applications, tutorials, and resources you need.  I definitely recommend the tutorial videos, as they help you get around the program and make the most of it.

To give you a simple example of some of the things you can do with MapTools, I made a little scene with cavemen in a skirmish against some lizard men.

Not to mention that this is a tiny hint on the secret project I'm working on.  (Those who already know are sworn to secrecy under penalty of making you wish you were dead.)

Kaiser out

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Forgotten Worlds - Bygones of the Arcade Age

I grew up in a time where you could go just about anywhere and find, at least, a decent video arcade.  From the huge, neon gilded arcade halls that enticed the young with electric wonder, to the sequestered game rooms of bowling alleys, movie theaters, etc.  I remember a really good arcade at this truck stop in the country (we went there a lot because they had a decent buffet - my parents went through a buffet phase).  Hell, there was even one time, while we were vacationing in Panama City, FL, that my younger brother and I spent an entire night at a great arcade there while our parents did some boring tourist crap.  I can't even imagine how much money in quarters we blew on those games.  Some of my best childhood memories were found in these arcades.

Now, arcades are kind of a neglected relic in America.  They're still doing okay in Japan, but arcade games have been too easily replaced by home gaming systems.  This is especially true now that consoles have surpassed arcade games graphically and allow people to play online, because who wants to go outside to play video games?  Sure, you can still find some around, but most of them seem like shadows of their former selves, filled with stupid golf and deer hunting games and far too many DDR machines (just how many of those does one arcade need?).

For a while, I've had this dream of opening up a new video arcade - one that has all the classics from the golden age of gaming (by that, I mean the 70s, 80s, and 90s).  It would be full of all the games I grew up playing and some of the ones I wish I could have played.  I had the perfect name for the place: Forgotten Worlds.  Not only is it the name of a Capcom arcade game, but it seems perfectly fitting for a collection of the classics of a bygone era.

Unfortunately, I'm not getting my hopes up for that dream to come true (the problem is that a lot of these games are hard to find in good condition, making arcade collecting a difficult treasure hunt).  Instead, I'm going to take you guys through some of my favorite arcade games from my younger years.  This is Kaiser Crowbar's Forgotten Worlds.
If you were to tell me, as a kid, that someone perfectly combined two of my favorite pastimes, arcade games and RPGs, I would have said you were full of shit and thrown you to the desert wyrms that lived in the sandpit in my backyard.  But, in the 90s, Capcom did just that, not once, but twice.  When I saw Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom in the arcades for the first time, I shit enough bricks to make my own city.  While fantasy arcade games with RPG elements were nothing new (just look at King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, and Cadash), this brought it to a brand new level.  Never before had someone so seamlessly integrated a lot of the classes, rules, and creatures of D&D into a brilliant side-scrolling brawler.  Dare I say it, this game was Nerdvana (Yeah, I know.  I went there.  What about it?).

Of course, the game wasn't exactly like playing D&D.  It didn't have a "Roll a d20" button, no saving throws, no THAC0 listings.  Actually, I don't think I would play a game that was that painfully adherent to the rules (and those games were made, just for the PC).  Tower of Doom captured the feel of playing D&D without all the bookkeeping.  It's what a D&D game should look like.

If that's the case, I want to know who was the Dungeon Master for that game, because I want in on that campaign.  The adventure takes place in the classic D&D campaign setting of Mystara, which is, pretty much, your standard fantasy fare.  You and three friends can play as a Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, or Cleric and go around rescuing villages and defeating vile beasts.  Both the Fighter and the Dwarf are you standart brawler types, while the Elf and the Cleric can utilize magic spells to get an edge.  Of course, there are also items you can throw at your enemies, such as daggers, warhammers, and even rings with magic spells stored in them that the Fighter and Dwarf can use (A little tip for you, if you ever get to the boat and you fight the troll, make sure to have a ring of fireball or a few flasks of oil, as the thing will not go down permanently unless you burn his body).

Of course, what would D&D be without the monsters.  Capcom scoured the Monster Manuals to give the players plenty of creatures and enemies to slay.  I couldn't believe how psyched I was to fight the Manticore or the Black Dragon for the first time.  And the Lich?  Holy crap, that was awesome (if you didn't know, liches are my favorite D&D adversaries).

There were also multiple paths you could take throughout gameplay.  While you still played through the same storyline and ultimately end up at the same destination, this allowed players to play different levels over others.  The first choice allows you to either hunt monsters down in a cave in the mountains, or come to the rescue of a beleaguered village.  Either way, you end up at the next stage, you just take a different route.
Since this game was immensely popular in the arcades, Capcom decided to follow it up with Shadow Over Mystara which continues the adventures of our heroes with some added features.  First off, new player characters were added to the mix: the enigmatic Magic-user and the swift and sexy Thief.  Not only that, but there were two versions of each character, so two people could play as the Fighter at the same time, just with different looking armor.  They also improved the equippable items in the game, such as armor.  There was a row of icons on the bottom of the screen that let you know what items you have equipped.  The graphics were slightly improved, but the overall look remained.  Unfortunately, I never got to play this one in the arcades, but a friend of mine had the Dungeons & Dragons Collection import game for the Sega Saturn and I did get to play it then.
This has to be one of my all time favorite arcade games.  I did see a working cabinet of Tower of Doom somewhere (though it wasn't in the best of shape).  To make me feel better, here's a montage of some of the beast slaying action.  As always, this was taken from YouTube and was made by amitrius17, so I take no credit for it.  I just think it's awesome.

Kaiser out

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kaiser's Metal Moment - Beauty and the Beast

Thanks to Steel Legionnaire Akari Hoshi for the idea.

In the metal scene, "Beauty and the Beast" refers to the musical aesthetic of a female vocalist singing in an angelic voice over metal backdrop and has become extremely popular in recent years.  The sound had its start in the late 90s with the goth metal scene.  Wanting to take some of the elements of death metal while taking out some of the brutality of the music, goth metal bands started experimenting with operatic singing and orchestral music to develop a new sound that kept in line with gothic themes.

Eventually, many of the groups who started out in goth metal expanded their musical horizons.  The most natural evolution was into symphonic metal, as the two mutually arose from the same sources, and, to a lesser extent, progressive metal.  Today, with the height in popularity, "Beauty and the Beast" groups run the gamut of musical styles - even going so far as to have commercial based rock bands, such as Evanescence.

Which can be a problem.  The thing is, most people caught wind of this sound when Evanescence came onto the scene.  The issue is that there are other bands who have been around longer that have been labeled copycats.  Evanescence Amy Lee is talented, as she's the only reason why the band has done well, but she is not even the tip of the iceberg.

So today, I'm going to take a look at some of the bands behind the "Beauty and the Beast" sound, as well as show you some of the lovely ladies that lend their voices (it doesn't seem to be any coincidence that a lot of these women are attractive).  I'm also adding a playlist of songs at the bottom of the post to kind of give an idea of how each of the bands utilize female vocals to create their own sound.

First off, let's start with Nightwish.  Considered to be one of the premier "Beauty and the Beast" groups, they created moody, atmospheric songs that still retain a biting edge.  Actually, their bassist, Marco Hietala, is my favorite "Beast" vocalist out of these groups.

Nightwish began with Tarja Turunen, who brought a rich, operatic voice and classic beauty to the metal scene since 1997.  She was dismissed from the band in 2005 due to her husband and commercial interests creating a schizm between her and the band.  The song I picked for her tenure in Nightwish is the fantastic "Wishmaster."

After Tarja's dismissal, the band hired Swedish singer Anette Olzon, who was originally in a radio friendly classic rock group, Alyson Avenue, before joining Nightwish.  She has a more playful beauty, like some dark, mischievous pixie, which is also evident in her voice.  Her voice is not operatic, like Tarja's, but is much more versatile, which is why I prefer her (though I do like Tarja).  The best way to describe her singing would be to say it's like a "Dark Lullaby."  Most alluring is her swedish accent.  I love swedish female vocalists.  Though she is only featured on one album, Dark Passion Play, I found it hard to pick a song that really captured everything about Nightwish's new direction with Anette.  There are so many good songs I could have picked, but I chose "Sahara" because I felt it encompassed the range of sound for both the band and Anette.

Next up is Epica, who have a similar sound to Nightwish.  Even though they have explored the avenues of symphonic, progressive, and power metal, I feel their sound has been kept truer to their goth roots.

The singer for Epica, Simone Simons, is a lovely, fiery haired siren.  She joined the band in a typical fashion: her boyfriend at the time was the guitarist (nowadays, she's dating the keyboardist of power metal band Kamelot).  While Simone has that mezzo-soprano voice you hear so often in these bands, she does use it effectively to create a signature sound for Epica, which is evident in "Another Me 'In Lack'ech'."

Since we're on the subject of Epica, Mark Jansen, their guitarist, created the band after leaving another group, After Forever.  These guys are one of the most divergent of all the bands as their sound is firmly grounded in symphonic, progressive, and power metal.  They are also very fond of doing cover songs, most notably Iron Maiden's "The Evil that Men Do," but I've seen them also do Heart's "Alone" and a rousing version of Europe's "The Final Countdown."  Sadly, the group disbanded at the beginning of 2009.  It was an amiable break-up, since they all just decided that they didn't want the group to get stale.  Nowadays, they're all working on their own projects and I wish them all the best of luck.

The woman behind the driving lyrics is the sultry Floor Jansen.  I like her voice a lot.  She can passionately belt out lyrics like a rock singer or soar with an ethereal soprano.  I loved her stage presence in the videos I've seen and the way she moves is hot.  I've never seen headbanging look so sexy.  I chose their song "Discord" as it nicely showcased their symphonic and power metal chops as well as Floor's vocal range.

An adventuring party enters the village.  They seem to be weary from their flight from Dragon Plume Mountain.  This is Battlelore.  To be honest, I discovered these guys while I was doing research for this post.  They combine elements of goth metal with power metal, folk metal, and melodic death metal.  They are sometimes labeled as "Fantasy Metal," as most of their songs are inspired by The Lord of the Rings.  Not only that but, well...

They dress like they just got back from their SCA meeting (that's the Society for Creative Anachronism).  Despite the fantasy kitsch, I actually like these guys.  They're unique in a few ways.

As you can see, there are two women in the group.  Kaisa Jouhki, the one to the left, is one of the singers, while Maria Honkanen, on the right, plays keyboards and the flute.  Also, the vocals are more equally shared between Kaisa and the guttural "Beast" voice of Tomi Mykkänen.  "Sword's Song" showcases their penchant for melodic death metal and the vocal tag team of Kaisa and Tomi.

Sirenia, which takes it's name from (duh) the Sirens of greek myth, but also shares that name with the order of animals that the manatee belongs to, are another one of those bands that keep to their gothic and symphonic metal roots.  They do, however, infuse their goth stylings with healthy doses of death metal.  There have been four women in Sirenia that took up the microphone.  Now that I think about it, Sirenia has only put out four albums, which means each one had a new singer, which means the present singer better find another band soon.  On their first album, At Sixes and Sevens, Fabienne Gondamin lent her voice.  Though it looked like she was nothing more than a session singer.  I couldn't even find a single picture of her.  Oh well.

Singing on An Elixir for Existence was Henriette Bordvik.  She had a very wispy, innocent voice that went well with the goth aesthetic.

On Nine Destinies and a Downfall, Monika Pedersen presented her voice and her set of... lungs to the group.  She did the creepy little girl voice well, but also had a rich, womanly voice.  It also didn't hurt that the photos and music videos she was in showcased her breasts... I'm sorry, did I say her breasts?  I meant to say her tits - her big tits.


Finally, on their new album, The 13th Floor, they recruited Spainiard Ailyn as their new singer.  Again, the vocals are light, airy, and innocent.  They keep the sound, just change who's making it.  Enjoy your fame while you can, Ailyn.  You'll be gone before the next album.  Since I didn't want to bother with all four singers, I picked "The Mind Maelstrom" from the latest album, due to it's death metal flavor.

Earlier, I mentioned Evanescence.  Despite having a talented predominant female singer, the music is, by no means, metal.  If Amy Lee were to ever join a metal group, then that would be fine, but Evanescence is strictly rock music.  This next group would also say that they have broken free from both the "metal" and "goth" brands, as well.  Pretty much forming around the same time as Evanescence, Within Temptation started out as a more goth metal group, but have moved away from that and became what they call "symphonic rock," which sounds about right.

Their singer, the lovely Sharon den Adel, has gone from somber arias to soulful rock ballads and her voice has more than adapted through the changes.  I've included two songs from this band.  "Deceiver of Fools" gives a taste of their old goth days, while "Frozen" shows the direction they have taken.  While it does sound similar to Evanescence, I feel that the band, as a whole, make the song, unlike Evanescence, who are riding on Amy's coattails.

Finally, I bring you Lacuna Coil.  This group has already made a name for themselves using the contrasting vocals of Andrea Ferro and the gorgeous Cristina Scabbia.  Early in their career, they dabbled in goth metal sensibilities.  Nowadays, they are gravitating toward a more alternative hard rock sound, but still keep the dark themes at its core.

As for the fairer half of the vocalist team, Cristina is smoldering.  Her vocals are sultry, yet fierce.  And, holy crap, is she ever hot.  I chose "Devoted" because, while it has a more modern sound than most metal offerings, it does have that gloomy atmosphere that Lacuna Coil have proven to consistently evoke.

After looking at these bands, you may notice I'm not giving much notice to other members in these bands.  I'm focusing mostly on the ladies, whose pretty faces grace magazine covers, articles, and promotional posters.  This is exactly my point, as this is how a lot of the music industry, especially in the States, see things.  During my research, I have checked out quite a few bands that follow this exact formula.  Not all of them are good.  I watched some videos where a beautiful or sexy young woman was dancing in front of the band, holding a microphone.  But when they opened their mouths, nothing but crap came out.  There have been quite a few copycats out there and the "Beauty and the Beast" method has become a bit crowded.  I do enjoy most of the bands that I featured in this post, but one of these bands on here I don't really care for (I'm not going to tell you which one).

What I'm trying to say is that it takes more than a beautiful woman, even if she is a great singer, to make a band.  A lot of these bands are great beyond that pretty face and lovely voice.  I didn't get into this type of music just because of the ladies.  Despite the "Beauty," you still need the "Beast."

Anyway, I want you guys to check out the playlist below and enrich your appreciation for this kind of music.


Because I am fucking awesome, so, vicariously, everything I enjoy is also fucking awesome.

I thought you guys would have figured that out by now.

Kaiser out