Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding Mailbag 01.20.03

Okay, It’s my letter column. I’d like to start it off by saying it’s my one-month anniversary here at 411, but it feels like years, huh? I’d also like to say I know finally have a copy of HELL NIGHT to call my own and it only cost me 9.99£! Damn that’s sweet. If you guys are still looking for one, here’s a link a reader gave to me. It’s a bit expensive though!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004TNRH/qid%3D1042209579/026-5004367-1120406

Now for letters, although I’m unsure how many of you actually read this bitâ…

Hey man –
Just wanted you to know your columns rock. I really look forward to them
(which is saying a lot, because I find most of the stuff in the 411 games
folder deplorably written). Keep it up!
Marcus Blair
P.S. The Alucard references were really funny.

I appreciate the kudos, although I have to say NOTHING here is deplorable. Deplorable is OPM: UK.

Hey.

Saw your column, but I only breezed through it (I’m not video game fan).
But I AM a “D&D Geek”.

I quit playing for a few years until 3rd Edition came out. I LOVE
Ravenloft. That’s all I play. I saw that you mentioned it a few times, as
well as some reasons why you don’t play. Well I beg you to reconsider.

I’d like to offer you the address to the OFFICIAL Ravenloft website.

www.kargatane.com

Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

MadStepDad

I do own all the 3rd edition Ravenloft books. But I can’t find anyone to play it with over here. WAH! Although It might be fun to do an online Ravenloft PBEM. I tried it a few months back, but only two people actually played, and they were IRL friends in New Zeland, so.. .Alas.

Now it’s time for comments on European gaming. A lot of Brits came out of the woodwork for this, and I’m happy to know we have a good international audience here at 411. I was hoping for some other Euro-letters, but we’ll see.

Hello. I’m Ian and I’m a doctor and an English gamer.

Just wanted to commend you on your article on gaming in Europe. It hurt to
read because of its truth.
Here’s my opine on some of the bits…

Prices:-
I’ve lost count of the times people have started moaning about the rip-off
prices in Britain (not just for games but for cds, cars, petrol, etc etc
etc). About every couple of years some rent-a-suit government minister will
announce an Official Enquiry Into Pricing Of Stuff. This is then followed by
6 months of deafening silence before the Enquiry comes to its conclusion and
is filed in a box for the whole country to not see. The usual conclusion
might go as far as recommending 5 English pence (I don’t know.. about 3
dollars or something) be taken off the recommended retail price. We all have
stopped moaning by then and are far too worried about looking pushy to start
complaining again.

PAL:-
I know technically its sort of better than NTSC, More lines and detail or
something. And I can accept a delay in converting games to this format. But
half the time a conversion consists of a program running at half speed and
with terrible black borders around the edges. Lazy, lazy stuff.

Games Mags:-
I don’t even know where to begin discussing how much games reviews suck over
here. Every mag seems to be written by some young idiot who bases his scores
on how much free beer he can wheedle out of the games company rep. Thus all
hyped games receive meaningless 90+ scores whether they are fantastic or
products from canines rectums.
Anyone in Britain should check out teletext page 175 on Channel 4. They
provide genuinely independent reviews and are pretty well read.

Drunken Idiocy being a Way Of Life:-
Hey. Leave our hobby alone. Some of us quite enjoy it. It helps us cope with
our other problems.

Ok I’m done. I haven’t sent feedback to anyone off 411 yet but your article
got my attention. Hope you get something out of my opinion and if not…the
delete button is effective and cost-free!

Ian

Good letter. And it shows England gamers aren’t willing to take it up the ass much longer.

Please excuse me if this turns into a bit of a ramble… This is a personal bugbear
topic of mine, and my thoughts tend to emerge unbidden (plus which, I’ve already
written this email once, but lost it to IE being useless… Also, I’m focusing on the
UK here, because it’s where I am, but parts of Europe have it even worse…

Congratulations for finally being someone to explain just how bad things are over
here. Folks on the forums don’t believe you when you say how bad it is…. But it’s
worse.

It never used to be like this: Back in the Spectrum/Commodore 64 days (did those
ever make it over to the US? Because they deserve a Retrograding column….) all
the hottest games were coming out of the UK (especially Ultimate Play The Game;
made more hits than anyone else). Ultimately, the only time we ever get to see
games released over here at any sort of comparable timeframe to USA/Japan is
when Ultimate (now known, or course, a s Rare) release something.

If you ask me, the trouble is that the UK gaming market isn’t really reflective of the
number of ‘true gamers’. I reckon 95% of the UK market consists of pople with
Playstaions who have them because all their friends do, and will never buy
anything except FIFA and Tomb Raider games, and who wouldn’t recognise a
Yoshi if one came along and ate them. The other 5% are the ones who will buy
import games because there’s no other way to get them… Who understand the
difference between “A Good Game” and “A Bad Game Marketed Very Well”
(remember ‘Rise Of The Robots’? I’m just grateful I never had to play the thing…
Apparently, it really was that bad…) The sort of gamers who play Shenmue on
Dreamcast and the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES… The “hardcore”
gamers.

Sadly, we are in the vast minority. If we were like Japan, where new games have
to be released on holidays to stop the kids sk ipping school to buy them, THEN
things would be more interesting, and LAN gaming bars would have a hope of
survival (if you’re ever down Tottenham Court Road in London, stop into CEX and
ask people about The Playing Fields…). As it is, we have no fight left in us to
attempt to better our lot in life. We just shrug our shoulders, switch on Digitiser
(Channel 4 teletext page 175; Fear the forerunner to the internet!) and head
down to the shops for their imports. There’s no hope, so why fight? Contrary to
what US TV shows might have you believe, if you encounter an oppressed people,
sometimes there REALLY IS nothing you can do about it. So we deal with it.

And then companies wonder why UK people love their emulators so much…. I
don’t get the new games, but I know people who do, because often it’s the only
way.

Anyway.. That’s some thoughts. Random and slightly messy, but with this topic, I
just had to do it stream-of -consciousness style. Normally my prose is better
organised ;)

Congratulations on the column (and the previous ones; although I’ve not said
anything until now, you wrote a good one on Emulation).

Although I do have to disagree with some of your other cultural comments; Well,
actually, all of them, but anyway….

The drivers are bad, but better than American cities (paging New York: Our black
cabs beat your yellow cabs); personal space is there, we just don’t have 500
acres of unfarmable desert on our doorsteps, the food is good provided you know
where to look (prime example: down the road from my University accomodation,
there are 3 takeaways and a restaurant. One takeaway and the restaurant are
owned by the same people, and make food with their special secret ingredient, E-
Coli; another makes quite-good food; and the third makes fish and chips to die for,
and really good kebabs) and the drunken idiocy is confined to our leader’s children,
not the leaders themselves (c’mon, look at him: are you seriously telling me
Dubbya ISN’T drinking? Have a look at Michael Moore’s book, it actually got me
properly worried for the fate of the free world….)

Anyway, there’s a riposte for you :D

Farewell, and have fun in our lovely country ;)

Misha

I’d just like to say, I love Mike Moore, but he does tend to be a hypocrite on certain topics, and one of the few good things about being in England is we have no Bushes (Bushi?). We do however have Cherie Blair who makes Hilary Clinton look like something other than a psychopath. (And before anyone asks, I was in charge of student voters for Ventura’s campaign in 1998 at the U of MN-Morris, so I’m independent all the way. And MN’s new Gov has already screwed the citizens of that state for the next four years and he’s only been in a few weeks. Way to go dumb asses.)

I enjoyed your column, and I must actually say, being British… I never actually realized how crap we have it!!! I mean, I knew we got our games later and we generally paid more, but jesus we have it shit!

I must say, thanks for enlightening me on this.

– Thomas (Britney’s Bitch)

Any time man. That’s why I write. To Enlighten.

Hey there,

It’s nice to see an article on 411 about how UK gamers have to take it in just
about every damn orifice, where games are concerned. I’ve personally never
had to pay £50 for a PS2 game, but I’ve seen them about the place in places
like GAME or wherever. Personally, I usually get my games from places like
PLAY.COM (WELL worth taking a look at, incidentally, I heartily recommend it.
Not as the greatest place ever, but still a very, very good one. For the UK,
remember). It’s either that, or I have to buy stuff second-hand… the amount
of second-hand games I own is just hysterical. I almost never buy stuff
first-hand, just because retailers f*ck us over SO much, that I can get
usually two or even three second-hand games for the price of a first-hand
copy. Ugh.

Anyway, I’m going to go look at those two websites you recommended, and sit
around twiddling my thumbs til Metroid Prime gets released here. One last
thing, though — it’s not just platformers that everyone seems to love here.
It’s first-person-shooters. Just about every male teenager I know, who owns a
PC, plays usually nothing but FPS’. Oh, and Warcraft. Console owners? Eh,
generally Smackdown and stuff with a big licensed name on the cover. Blech.

Wow. No Metroid Prime. See American readers? The English live like cave dwellers! Help them! SAVE THEM!

I started reading your column and had to stop and
email you before I even got started good. “Ah, for
the days of GameFAN. That was a real VG magazine.” I
couldn’t agree more. And here I thought I was the
only one that remembered how good they were. You’ve
reaffirmed my faith in humanity.
-Aaron

Thanks Aaron. Good to see people remember and love GameFAN. If I could track down ECM, I’d ask permissionfor 411 to be called “The New gameFAN.” But he’d probably want money!

I just wanted to thank you for mentioning GameFAN. I have a few pre-Saturn launch ones and I’m trying to get the rest (I lost most of mine moving). No other magazine in America has come close to the excelence of GF. Issues from 1994 are better layed out and written than EGM, GamePro, or just about anything besides PLAY.
-Charles

Another GameFAN fan. Man, we do have some real hardcore games here! Best of all, Charles is British as he mentions PLAY!

One last GameFAN letter
I have to say that 411Games is the closest source of content to old school
GameFAN available. I can’t even think of any place else, aside from Prizm
Dash, that covers import and obscure games at all, much less with as much
thoughtfulness and integrity. While I am not an RPG addict, I had to smirk
at the number of games on your top ten not even hinted at in the mainstream
gaming press. It’s embarrassing how few gamers these days remember 16-bit
gaming, let alone the 8-bit days. Consider that the Genesis, Saturn, and
Dreamcast, except to the hardcore and internet community, are almost obscure
and antique. If I tell people that my current game of choice is on one of
the aforemetioned systems, especially an import game on a SEGA system, blank
stares, confusion, or ridicule follow. Is it THAT odd to play Gunstar Heroes
in this day and age? Or Twinbee? Or NiGHTs? Gamestop doesn’t even touch the
Saturn…
As for emulation, I must admit my initial attraction to the idea. I even
tried it, but the thrill of free games disappeared when I X-Acto bladed my
SNES and tossed in Twinbee Rainbow Bell Adventure. To physically hold a
game, read the manual and look at the pictures, slipping it into the
console, that is what being a gamer REALLY is. The reason for the popularity
of emulation and straight out piracy is the same reason that the record
industry has lost revenue to file sharing. Black and white manuals with low
resolution art, shallow gameplay, and the game companies’ goal of mediocrity
have turned the average gamer into a mindless consumer. The recording
industry did the same thing when they switched from vinyl to tape and cd.
The art, lyrics, and liner notes have all but disappeared, transforming the
record buying experience into something more akin to picking up a soda. I
don’t mean to seem bitter, but pick up a copy of Einhander in the States and
in Japan. Which game is better? They are practically identical. Which game
has better art and a better manual? The import. Which copy do you want?

Agreed. The problem is getting major companies to see profit isn’t the bottom line, but customer loyalty. When people learn they are being screwed, they tend to revolt. It takes time, sometimes decades , but they always revolt. And I think this writer means Gamespot doesn’t touch the Saturn. They do, but it’s hidden, and hasn’t been updated for years.

Alex,

Regarding which game to be reviewed by you next: I’d like to see a review of Lunar Legends. It looks to be a decent old-school console RPG, but I’d like to see your take on it. I imagine more readers than not have already acquired Metroid Fusion, as I have – now, if I can just rise above my maddening inability to defeat the Nightmare boss…as for Defender of The Crown, it’s simply outside my radar; perhaps I’m missing out and don’t realize it. I always enjoy reading your column; it’s the best new one at 411mania, for my money – keep up the excellent work.

Cheers,
Jeff fanning

Well, it arrived yesterday and I’m already in love with it. Far more than I thought I could be. That review will be out next week.

Alex,

Almost everywhere I’ve read a review, people have dumped on Super Mario Sunshine, and I have no idea why. Reviewers claim its “the same old stuff” and “not innovative enough”. First of all, Super Mario 64 was what initially made the Nintendo 64, and in my opinion was a very awesome game. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. Too many times developers try to totally revamp their games in the name of progress and totally ruin it. Second of all, SMS is one of those games that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Sure at the beginning it seems simple to hover from one place to another or what-not, but the further you get in the game the more important accuracy becomes. Lastly, SMS IS innovative, the Waterpack opens all kinds of new gaming doorways. I’m interested in your opinion.

Happy Trails,
-Andrew

Sadly I can’t review it, as I have never played it. Yup. I have yet to play Mario Sunshine. I really have never enjoyed a Mario game except for Luigi’s Mansion. Sorry about that.

hey man, your column rules and thanks for answering my email a while ago

i wanted to ask you to PLEASE do the working designs thing! in the past few
months i have been picking up every single working designs shooter and
action title i can find from the fantastic Raystorm/Ray crisis and silpheed,
to the weird but enjoyable siloutte mirage, to the dissapointing
thunderforce 5 for about 10 bucks a pop and i really love that company. I
don’t much care for their rpg’s (lunar just does NOTHING for me) but arc the
lad collection looks like a decent, though pricey, buy. anyway, i think a
column on working designs would rule like hell.

speaking of hell, i looked EVERYWHERE on the net for info on hell night
(also known as dark savior) and found only the bare minumum on gamefaqs and
no place that sells it.

in keepingwith the emulation topic, would you consider getting a bootleg
copy of that game a wrong thing to do? i mean its hard as hell to find, and
im sure peopel would charge an arm and a leg for it on ebay.

thanks man, keep up the bitchin column

Well, I have emailed WD and asked for permission to do an in-depth bio on the company. Let’s see what they say. A grass roots email campaign wouldn’t hurt either. HINT HINT. BTW, SM is a tad’ dofferent from the Japanese version and is one of the few WD games I wish they hadn’t done their usual handiwork to the Japanese originals.

I’ve provided an Amazon.co.uk link to Hell night for everyone.

A don’t like boot legs at all. Piracy is piracy, plain and simple to me. I’m very anal on this issue.

Alex,
Once again, another excellent article from one
of the up and coming video gaming sites on the
internet. Having seen much of Europe this past year on
deployment, I agree about the sad state of PAL gaming.
While none of the prices in any of the countries that
I visited were as bad as England’s (most I saw for a
game: 75 Euro for Final Fantasy X in a toy store in
Lisbon, Portugal), the video game market in Europe is
still light years behind the U.S., which says nothing
of Japan. It’s sad, too, because Europe has a much
lighter attitude about life in general than America,
so there is definitely potential for some good games
to come from Europe that your average anal-retentive
American would blanch on. For example, if BMX XXX came
out over in Europe, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal as
it is here, with that type of nudity being on Page 3
of the Sun every day. They would see it for what it
really is: a shitty BMX game that is cashing in on the
average 13 year old American boy’s mentality.
Likewise, good games such as Hell Night will never see
our shores due to the fact that politicians and
parents would be up in arms. But lastly, the fact is
that most gamers in Europe pass as casual gamers at
best, and don’t really have the attention span to
search out the good games that hardcore gamers like
you and I know about. That’s one of the major reasons
that games like Spyro and Tomb Raider are so popular
over there; it’s good enough for them. Lack of
information about American/Japeniese games isn’t as
much of a barrier as it was 6 to 8 years ago thanks to
the internet (let’s face it; I end up going to
thesun.co.uk in order to get stories on Manchester
United), so it all has to be chalked up to the fact
that European gamers – weather they are English,
French, Portugese, or Italian – will take what they
are being given, and do so hapilly, not even caring
that they are paying 70 Euros for a game that we are
digging out of the bargain bin for $25, because that’s
just the status quo over there.
Lastly, about my opinion as to where your
articles should go: personally, I think that we have
plenty of places to get reviews of both older games
and new GBA games, weather it is from a professional
site (like gamespot.com) or an group of amateurs (like
SNESzone). EVERYONE has an opinion of the games that
they grew up with; I should know, since I write
reviews for old games on an amateur site myself.
Personally, I’m getting a little bit weary of seeing
38 reviews for the same game; take in RPGs, and that
number goes way up, since most people that are
hardcore enough to write about video games are RPG
fanatics first and foremost. However, there aren’t too
many free sites that can give such a detailed
introspective on a certain series, or a developer, and
the such, except maybe RPGamer.com. You’ve already
proven that you know your shit; the best way to get
noticed in this Retro Era, I feel, is to take the road
less traveled, and travel it well. Besides, I’d LOVE
to see someone with the stomach to provide an in-depth
review of the little-known Zelda game for the CD-I. :)
As always, keep up with the kick-ass articles, and I
look forward to seeing your next piece.

Sincerely,

Christopher Bowen

Sorry about the giant block style of that letter, but I don’t edit, spell check, or html your letters. They go in as I get them. But to answer Chris’ question, I am trying to take the road less traveled. Not to do the rebellious,”Fuck the mainstream” thing so many poseurs try to do, but because I sadly have this photographic memory in me that retains horrible amounts of pop culture and am trying to get it out while convincing people to look outside the norm because they can, not simply to do so. Whether they like what they see or I write isn’t as important as breaking boundaries. You can be the biggest Square fan in the world, but if you go out play Sakura Taisen, and hate it…that’s your choice. It’s just good that your tried it. As you will see with my last column, I did an article about gaming genre that really doesn’t exist as well as try to open up readers to Cthulhu Mythos games. Hopefully this is the kind of thing Chris wanted to see from me.

One last letter, and it goes all the way back to my Top Ten RPG column. Damn!

Alex,
I’ve written you before (in fact, you posted my letter in your column
today!) and I just wanted to write you on the Pokemon and Final Fantasy
issues.

First of all, Pokemon. While I think the concept is good, the execution
leaves a little to be desired for me. The main thing I don’t like about
Pokemon, is the whole marketing hype that has exploded from it. If it
were just a game and sequels, it’d be fine. But every release they made
gave me the impression that Nintendo was milking this cow for all it was
worth. First Pokemon Red and Blue. Then Silver. Now Ruby and
Sapphire. I’m sure they’ll come out with a Platinum as well. To catch
em all, you gotta spend the cash first. And the games themselves are
kinda fun, but after a while, it’s all the same. I’ve heard that the
newer versions are basically the same. And yes, I played Pokemon and am
not just going on what I’ve heard. I bought a Gameboy Pocket and
Pokemon Blue and played it for quite a while. But after a while, it was
just the same thing over and over. But just so you know I’m not a
Pokehater, I do like some things Pokemon. For example, I thoroughly
(sp?) enjoyed Pokemon Snap. It was very innovative and very addictive.
I didn’t own it, but my brother did. I almost beat him up when he
traded it in at a game store! j/k It was, without a doubt, my favorite
N64 game. Also, Hey You, Pikachu was very innovative, but could have
been executed better (speaking of which, I can’t wait for the @N.U.D.E
game or whatever it’s called). Another nice thing they did with Pokemon
is the contest in Nintendo Power where they gave like 500 people Mew.
My brother was one of them that won. Of course, by now I’m sure you
can get Mew through normal methods. And in all honesty, if they made a
full blown Pokemon game for the GC, and improved the graphics and
gameplay and everything, I would play it. Hell, when they come out with
the Gameboy Advance SP, I may try out one of the new games for myself.

Next, I’d like to talk about Final Fantasy. I am a BIG fan of the Final
Fantasy series. I don’t consider myself to be with the sheep that say
it’s the BEST out there, but I think that Square consistantly puts out a
great product. Why? Yes, it’s always got purty graphics, but that’s
not the big thing. It usually has very well done music. The minigames
are typically really good. But I think my favorite parts about Final
Fantasy is the battle system. Each new game comes out with a new and
different system from the last. FF6 had the Esper system. FF7 had
Materia, FF8 had Guardian Forces, FF9 had the items you leveled up and
FF10 had the Sphere Grid. I think all of these battle systems are fun
as hell are, to me, innovative. I don’t play all the RPGs in the world,
but Final Fantasy is where I cut my teeth. Because of that series, I’ve
started buying damn near every RPG that comes out. Like I may have said
in my last email, there is like 5 or so RPGs for the PSX that I don’t
have yet, and that’s mainly because of either a) underexposure (like the
Persona games) or b) because I played them and wasn’t that impressed.
So I think Final Fantasy has a place and will continue to have a place
because it can get people like myself, who was raised on platformers, to
love RPGs, the same with casual gamers. I think that Square keeps
raising the bar with every release, and it’s helping to make other RPGs
better as a result. Yes, Final Fantasy games have cliche, or even
downright shitty stories, and many of the recent endings leave a lot to
be desired, but for me, that’s only a piece of the puzzle. I’ve played
plenty of games with bad stories, but still had fun with the game. But
that’s just me. I guess I’m weird.

Anyway, back to work for me. I wish I were home. Just got the Arc the
Lad Strategy Guide and I want to go through and get everything. Yes, I
guess that makes me a cheater, but I’ve already played all the way
through once, and now I want to have a complete game. :)
Enjoy and keep up the good work!

Lee

Arc the Lad rocks. And I buy strategy guides after I beat the game, just to see what I’ve missed and because WD guides are awesome to go through. And lee’s not weird. He’s got his own tastes and opinions. No two people will have the exact same tastes. And that’s a good thing. If you like FF games, that’s fine. It’s your call and your taste. I’ll still hate them. I still find Pokemon to constantly be innovated myself, not just with the RPGs, but as been covered here, Snap, Stadium, Hey You Pikachu, Puzzle League and Trading Card games have all expanded the brand beyond the niche market of RPG’s. So I’ll stand by Pokemon being far and away better than FF in all ways possible, in terms of games, marketing, sales, and world reaction, but again, that’s just me.

Again, email me with questions, comments, or just pestering emails at alexanderlucard@usa.net I get bored easily, so feel free to talk to me about any gaming issues you want to. Just no spam please.