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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dune Rage

WARNING: *possible Dune-related Spoilers

How many Dune fans out there play video games? Can't be too many, most of what Cryo developed was Dune titles and that company went out of business some time ago. Obviously Handsome Tom, and the fine folks at TheGameHeroes don't seem to pay attention to either Dune or games in general.

If you're like me and not only a gamer, but a Dune fan; you should be outraged. If you're just a gamer, I'm about to explain why you should be pissed off too. Now before I get into this, I'm not trying to be one of those people who's about to fall through his soapbox defaming the merits of a gaming "journalist" or personality. My beef is with videos like the one above that have been produced without doing any research on the topic at all. This guy has some great enthusiasm for someone who doesn't know anything about the topic he's informing us on. 

What qualifies me to judge whether or not what he's saying is accurate? That's a good question, and I understand that Frank Herbert is dead and to most, Brian Herbert doesn't really know anything about Dune. I simply used the eyes, ears and brain in my fuckin' head... That's it... I've seen a lot of videos from these guys and others from various sources and have not been impressed with almost any of their content. For example, in a top 10 list on, it was said that Vector Man 2 was never released, and that Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Future was a Playstation 2 exclusive. Now, I don't pretend to know everything, but it pisses me off when someone from a "reputable" organization that's supposed to be representing the industry as a whole says something that is so blatantly inaccurate, it's bordering on disgraceful. This guy has obviously never read Dune, let alone any other book that didn't involve boy wizards or journeys to destroy evil jewelry.

With that said, lets pull this fucker apart and see what makes it tick.

Number 1: The who hit the what now?
Ok, at 00:19 it's already astounding how big of an asshole he comes off as. He says "The shit had hit the fan for sci-fi enthusiasts when they announced, Dune." He then goes on to laud the gameplay and story. Typically when the shit hits the fan it's a bad thing, but not for Handsome Tom here. One day he'll tell his kids about how the shit hit the fan when he met their mother. Maybe this is nitpicky and more about a blatant misuse of the English Language than a reenforcement of the point I'm trying to make here, but I think it sets the tone for the mess that spills out of his mouth next.

Number 2: Brian Herbert wrote shitty prequels, Frank Herbert wrote Dune. (spoilers)
At 00:24 you can stop watching. In one sentence this guy proves that he doesn't know anything about the game or the film. He calls the game, "The prequel to one of our favorite movies."  Obviously it wasn't his favorite movie as the events in the game AND film both clearly coincide time-wise, even if not in the same way. Somehow, I don't think the Atreides left Caladan for Dune, mined spice, overthrew the emperor of the known universe and the forces of House Harkonnen all to go back to Caladan and start over. I also don't think Duke Leto Atreides-and other assorted characters, died in the game and came back to life so they could be in the movie. There are countless examples of why what he says is stupid, uninformed, bad writing, but don't take my word for it; just watch the movie. I'm not saying the game follows the events of the film closely or at all. In fact, after the family arrives on Dune in the game the writers obviously take some creative liberties with the story. There is no mention of Dr. Yuhe and the Harkonnen plot to destroy House Atreides, and the Duke's death is brought on by his Orni being shot down by the Harkonnens. Does it piss me off that there are so many differences just here? Not really, the film's story wasn't conducive to the style of gameplay they were going for. Can you imagine playing the game as is and going through the escape scene with Paul, his mother, and the two Harkonnen terror troops? Really, this game could have happened in any universe, Dune just happened to be somewhat popular and Cryo/Virgin had a license for the IP. That's business.

Number 3: What is he talking about?
So listening to what he says in 01:27, when he starts going on about how having lots of voiceover in a Sega CD game is no small feat, I got a stomach ulcer. There aren't too many Sega CD games that DON'T have copious amounts of voiceover or live-action video scenes. Seriously, this is why they put games on CD back then. To him an incredible feat must be tying his shoes unassisted.

Number 4: He's not myopic, he's just lazy.
Ok, so it's obvious he's just reading whatever someone put in front of him or writing whatever the fuck he wants. That's no surprise. Or at least it isn't when you hear what he says at 01:29. "The character design attempted to follow the movie closely." Is that right?

Why, they could all be related for all I know. Cousins maybe?
All of the screens from the film were captured from scenes before I was 20 minutes in. That means that all this guy had to do was watch 20 minutes of Dune to understand why what he wrote down was completely and utterly wrong. The only two characters that really look similar to their movie counterparts (that I've seen so far) are Paul and his mother Jessica.

Here's how I think the writing process for their review must have gone down.

Guy-01: "Hey HT, I need you to hurry up and get that review for Dune on the Sega CD done before I kick your face in.

HT: "Shit, that means I have to play this thing now doesn't it?"

GUY-01: "I guess. You should probably watch the movie too."

HT: "You know, I watched the first 5 minutes of it, and played the game for like, a half hour before I got bored. They have the same opening, and that guy from Blue Velvet looks like he did in the movie. What if I just wing it and say the character design tries to be pretty accurate to the look of the film, and say it was a really cool game? Oh! And so people think I know what I'm talking about I'll reference Dune 2."

GUY-01: Do you know anything about the story?"

HT: "Hmm... Nope! I'm just going to assume that this is a prequel to the film because someone said it was different somehow."

GUY-01: "Whatever, where's my scotch?"

Given the content of the video, I think this scenario fits.

Number 5: I think we all get it.
There are some other things that deserve mentioning that I'll just gloss over, but honestly they don't really warrant going into. I don't think I need to tell you that the only actor from the film who appears in the intro is Virginia Madsen, who delivers the opening monologue. This rant isn't even about Dune really. It's more about checking your sources before you step forward as an authority on a subject. These are the kinds of careless,  elementary mistakes I would expect to see from a high school student writing about how much he loves "pwning noobs in Halo", while the only research he's done is taking bong hits and hurling racial slurs on X-Box Live until 3 in the morning. I would not expect this from someone representing any gaming news or media source.

So that's it. I'd love to hear you all spew some hate and prove me wrong, or even just call me petty. Regardless, I'm not going to stop you from watching misinformed videos that state the Sega 32x was solely a CD-based add on for the Genesis. Or from watching top-ten worst console lists that have the "Phantom", as the number 10 entry because they couldn't come up with 10 bad consoles that were actually released (totally neglecting the awful Apple/Bandai Pippin). If that's your speed, go for it. I don't care one way or the other. All I'm doing is correcting blatant errors that were never cross-referenced, and calling for fact-checking from trusted sources for news and information in the gaming industry. Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Big Bad Christmas

Alright, I know what you're thinking so let's get this out of the way first and foremost. I did not just go out and buy this thing willy-nilly. I got some Paypal money and ebay gift cards for Christmas so I helped myself to some cables, random bibs and bobs I've needed around my office, a component rack (that only cost $30.00!), and this bad boy.

Here's a brief history of this thing for those who either weren't there or weren't aware of it: Virtual On was released in arcades in 1995. It's a third-person, mech fighting game with an emphasis on speed and split-second strategy. The game was released in somewhat limited numbers due to the overwhelming cost of the cabinet and the size of the whole unit (which approached half a ton). It consisted of 2 full size cabinets with adjustable seats, a privacy screen, and 2 sets of twin joysticks to control your mecha. Regardless, it was an instant classic and received a home port to Sega's flagship console at the time, the Saturn. No doubt, even if you've never seen a Saturn in person, you've figured out that the default controller probably doesn't look like this.

I first encountered this beast in the summer of 1995 on a family vacation to Las Vegas Nevada. It's been a wild love affair ever since. Back then I threw approximately $100 into the arcade version. It was a great time, and you better believe I got excited when I heard a homeport was coming to the Saturn.

Virtual On
This is the original copy we bought back then. Ah, memories...
Now, my family wasn't exactly millionaires, but we did have a Saturn and a couple of games for it (not all the ones shown here mind you), but there was no way in Hell we were getting what was printed on the last page of the manual! 

Hey, who do you think you'd get if you called the number up there?
HOLY SHIT! It looked like someone had literally ripped the joysticks out of the arcade cabinet! Awesome, no? Back then I actually did call Sega Sales to inquire as to the price of the sticks and was told they went for $75.00. The biggest catch for us was that they only worked with Virtual On. Now, I was 14 at the time, and I had a priority to buy up as many older games as I could to start building our library. I didn't have the cash to dump $150 on controllers. If I had the money I'd be staring at 2 sets of these things right now. But I didn't, so we played with the regular Saturn pads for over a decade, which believe it or not worked fine... Until now that is...
The Goods
Boom!... Ok, so there's only one set. But the badass seller did include the original box and manual along with a Japanese copy of the game.
I was very excited when these came in, now I can kick ass arcade style in the comfort of my own home. The little bastards at the Laser Tag arena up the street will never see me coming. I'm not going to go into too much more detail here, suffice it to say these things work like a dream. If you want to find out more about these little gems I've included a link to my Flickr photostream below that has details and pictures of the unboxing. It's worth going there to see the box they shipped it in (fuckin' awesome)!

In summary, it was a good Christmas this year. I didn't technically add anything new to my library that I'm gonna have to defeat and write about later on AND I scored the only peripheral I've ever truly coveted (since I already have an Ascii Stick that is).

Here's the link to the set:


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Megarace and the Stink of Failure (mine)

Call it what you want, I'm not here to sugar-coat anything. The fact is that I have not and most likely will not ever beat Megarace. I could only run through the same familiar tracks so many times before I would eventually get sick of this thing and pack it in. I still enjoy playing the opening levels to this game, and I still think Lance Boyle is hilarious, but I can't seem to wrap my mind around this game's ancient mechanics any longer and have found myself in the dank pit of "I just don't give a shit anymore" when I couldn't catch up to certain cars. This game might be fun in another ten years but I somehow doubt it; the poor thing hasn't aged very well. So what got me to quit, you ask?

This fucker!
Orbital Junkyard 1 is the bane of my existence. Infact, this may be the very stage that got me to give this game up over 14 years ago. It is a relentless barrage of twists, turns and bullshit ammo-killer spots on the track. Once your ride runs out of ammo (the "EN" gauge on the dashboard display above), the only way to win the race is to smash these guys into the side wall.

As grimly satisfying as the sound this makes is, this is not the most effective way to kill anyone in this game as it can take FOR-FUCKING-EVER.
An even worse option is to try and attempt passing your opponents. Now I know what you're thinking, "It's a race. Isn't that, I don't know, sort of the point of race? You know, passing people?". On any other occasion you'd be right, but not when you're talking about Megarace. In Megarace all other cars on the track MUST BE VANQUISHED. Meaning blown up by either ramming them into the side wall, or blasting them with your laser cannons. If you pass an enemy their car will explode in about oh, HALF A LAP or so. That means if you fancy losing then by all means pass the one car that shows up at a time, just don't expect to win as other cars won't spawn until the one you passed mysteriously blows up on its own offscreen.

What the fuck are you thinking you asshole?! What makes you think you can win a race just by passing cars? You must be some kind of crack-baby tard-face to come up with that goofy notion.
I can say this much about Megarace now. I still have fun playing it from time to time, and the music and graphics are (to me), still damned impressive, and I still get a kick out of Lance Boyle's antics. However, this style of gameplay all but totally died out with the eventual failure of the Sega CD and the emergence of actual real-time 3D. It seems sort of quaint now, and honestly, I don't think anyone who didn't experience it then can really appreciate it now.

So yeah, browsing my library I've determined that there are way more fun games here that warrant beating.