Retrograding 01.09.03

Okay, first up: what do you guys want to see reviewed more: Metroid Fusion, Defender of the Crown, or Lunar Legends? Let me know! Otherwise it’s Rocky and Pocky with Becky!

If I reviewed the Hamtaro game, would you guys actually read it? I’m so tempted to get the game just to see how everyone responds. Or on another note, who would want a video clip of all the 411games staff doing the Ham-ham dance? God help you if someone actually does.

EGM got a nasty letter from me this week on the basis that they said Skies of Arcadia “pilfered” its best stuff from Final Fantasy. But last I checked they same stuff they claimed was taken was stuff Final Fantasy stole from Phantasy Star, which came way before Final Fantasy. Bad Journalism gets angry emails from me. In fact, all of you should email EGM and shame them for their error. Ah, for the days of GameFAN. That was a real VG magazine. Except for the occasional racist commentary hidden in a soccer review.

Praise to Bebito and the Lo-Down column. He’s always giving me such nice compliments and props that I have to return them. Except for that Final Fantasy 7 praise. He just gets an evil glare for that. Until I admit I have the Tenchi Muyo game for the Saturn!

Speaking of Bebito, who wants to bet that if I took his console test it would come back saying, “Buy this nutter a Sega-Cd or Neo*Geo Pocket Colour.

Games that need to be on the GBA or I will start pillaging and looting Ewell Village: RIVER CITY RANSOM. SUPER HYLYDE. GUARDIAN HEROES. SHADOWNRUN. That is all.

What’s up with Ron banning Euro and Japanese games from the voting? Who wouldn’t like to see IKARGE: RADIANT SILVERGUN 2 get some sort of award? Import games rule, am I right? Ah well, no import games, no Retrogames, no GBA games. It’s as if Ron was trying to tell me something. I’m gonna go cut myself while eating a gallon of Breyer’s Vanilla Fudge Twirl now.

Speaking of the Gaming votes here at 411, I want all of you to write in Eye of the Beholder or Phantasy Star Collection for this year’s best RPG. And Ikarge for best shooter! And Eternal Darkness for best Gamecube game. And of course, the Game Boy Advance for system of the year. DO it because you love me. Of course, it’s too late to do so, but hey. You flooding Ron’s mailbox with late ballots will give him something to compete with the DBZ fanboys

Jeremy had a good article on Touken Retsuden Vs. Smackdown, but he left out any information on TR4, except the erroneous comment that it was the most disappointing of the series. It actually sold better than any other TR game, a huge feat considering it was on the Dreamcast, had incredible engine changes, video and vocal clips of the wrestlers, and online play! Yes, online play. Every Japanese magazine I read that commented on the game called it as good or actually better than Fire Pro Wrestling: Six-Man Scramble, which is the biggest compliment a wrestling game can get in Japan. People still go online with their DC’s in and play the puppy! So if disappointment was, “met and did better than the hype’ Jeremy was 100% on. Seriously though, besides that, the man did a most excellent and unbiased commentary and I’m glad to see someone else picking up the Import slack.

Why is it with all the updating old games for new systems are we not seeing old games ported to the GBA? Yes, I know. I may be biased as the GBA writer for 411mania, but why not Rygar for the GBA? Or Super Metroid (Kudos to Nintendo for including the old Metroid with Prime/Fusion), or other old great games? How about the original Pro Wrestling from the NES? Or a Mega Man Trilogy? I demand to someday have Shining in the Darkness for my damned GBA so that I can give up my massive and exciting social life!

Lastly, a serious Question about retrograding. This column can go one of two ways. The first is just reviews of old games and the like. The other could be me writing histories of either franchises and/or companies. I could go through Zelda from his NES days to his, “WELLL, EXCUSE ME PRINCESS’ days to his current Otherkin form. Or talk about how Working Designs has changed over the past decade. I’m obviously not going to do the big 4 if I do that format (N, Sony, M$, Sega) but focus on other publishers, some of which don’t exist. After all, Retrograding is your source of decrepit game and import news, and it’s what you want me to make of it. DO you just want Nostalgic reviews, or something that may take a little more work (i.e. less frequency of retrograding columns) but are more in-depth and historical based rather than opinion? I ask this because this week’s column was almost, “The rise and fall of Human: The best company you never heard of’ and would be basically commentary on Fire Pro Wrestling and Clock Tower. Then I realized most of you could care less about Clock Tower, even if it’s one of the three best horror games ever made.

Okay, all this brings me to the real commentary this month: Why gaming in Europe/Region 2/PAL is the worst fate imaginable for gamers. Before coming here I knew England had some major problems, such as horrible drivers, no personal space, food that passes for extremely cruel torture in other civilized places, and that drunken idiocy is a way of life. But no one warned me about how crappy it is to try and get video games over here.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. You can get video games over here. But there are insanely expensive, the selection makes the US library for the N64 look immense and the only games played are soccer, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, and Platformers. All Kinds of Platformers. And what’s worse is that people find them fun! Maybe it’s because it’s all they know. Maybe the English just like playing the same exact game but with interchangeable mascot characters that involve precision jumping and item collecting? It’s like how the British seem to hate cartoons and love puppets that would even scare Sid and Marty Kroft. But the fact remains that games come out at least six months later here (people flipped when I had Eternal Darkness in August and it didn’t come out here until Halloween.) and the few titles that do make it are generally crappy games that only appeal to the brain dead or super casual gamer. (I.e.: Tomb Raider)

Here are some other examples: The Official UK PSX magazine raves up and down about Monsters Inc: The Game. And says Tomb Raider 1 is the sixth best action game of all time. Castlevania games are not available in England, yet Hentai games are. Games are so routinely late, one could import them from the US by boat (4-6 week mail) and still get them months before Europe releases them. It costs more to buy a Game Boy Advance in the UK than it does for you to buy a Game Cube in America. And of course, Pal electrical systems are by far the worst in the world. Japanese and American electrical systems are compatible, but nothing is compatible with PAL. It’s like the English fetish for Fish Pies or driving at 7 mph. No other country on earth would put up with such horrible crap, yet the English love it and hold on to it like a newborn babe.

However, there are some good things about Euro-gaming, but to be honest I can count them on one hand. The first is that Europe generally gets special stuff with games that publishers know will sell like hot cakes. Metal Gear Solid 2 had a great bunch of extras. Eternal Darkness came with a DVD. And on and on. Even Europe knows it is the Sodom of Video Gaming, and it’s nice to see publishers dangling a carrot in front of them to apologise for how long it takes them to translate games into a dozen languages and the horrific PAL system so that they make some Euros.

As well, Europe is the testing ground for games that made it in Japan, but publishers are leery about releasing in America. Atlus is a prime example of doing this. Hell Night is an incredible game that will never see the light of day in America. I can’t imagine why. It’s about a suicide cult gassing a subway and accidentally freeing a demon who has to slaughter everyone on the train, and you are the only one who survives. However, you’re a skinny pussy that can’t fight and the whole game is you running from the demon while occasionally pretending to befriend hobos and little girls so you can throw them to the demon to buy yourself some more running time. And you can get a crazy Serial killer to help you as well. He can hurt the demon, but boy does he love to kill like dogs like to drool. And that’s the game. I’m sorry, but if people actually buy BMX XXX, people would buy this game. But Alas, US is a tricky market to sell to, and so dating sims, Jingle Cats, and other bizarre games never come to the US. So if you want them in English, you have to import from the UK. Doshin the Giant for the Gamecube is another example. It’s not coming to the US, no matter how many dead puppies you leave on Nintendo’s doorstep, but it’s over here in Europe and it’s ton’s of fun!

However, these games do poorly in sales, simply because Europe has a very tight stranglehold on what succeeds and what doesn’t. The Euro game magazines blatantly admit to not being journalist and just an attempt to scam people of their money. The big names are pushed, especially if the games are English based or made, regardless of how crappy they are. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness has all sorts of hype around it over here, yet in America and Japan it is well known the game has to go back to the drawing board as the game play was so horrendous even Eidos, masters of crappy gameplay couldn’t bring themselves to release the game. Half the magazine contents over here are also devoted to contests. Not the kind we have in US and Japanese mags that are free and weird. These contests involve massive calling of 900 numbers with answers so stupidly easy that the obvious object is just to get you to spend 5£ a minute for 5 minutes trying to win a copy of, I shit you not, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the PS ONE. And with Magazines like that controlling what the poor Europeans think and believe are good games, it’s no wonder the best selling charts over here are filled with games that US and Japanese magazines plead with you not to buy. Game, the UK equivalent of Electronic Boutiques heartily tries to tell you Mortal Kombat Advance is a great game that everyone will find fun and addicting. Yes, THAT Mortal Kombat Advance. Not the decent Deadly Alliance, that’s not out here for months, but MK ADVANCE.

Again, a lot of this has to do with Euro Vs US differences. Most US cities only have 1 newspaper. London has 12 that I have seen. Yet that 1 paper in the US in 90% news, 1% funnies, and 9% ads. Every London paper from the Mail to the Guardian to the Sun is 50% ads, 10% contests that involve calling 900 numbers, 25 Percent celebrity gossip, 10% sports, and 5% actual news. All forms of print over here are about generate money and not about content in the slightest. And although you may not realise it, this is the perfect analogy for Euro gaming.

In the US and Japan we have craploads of publishers. Atlus. Natsume. Working Designs. Ubi Soft. Square. The list goes on. England has Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Capcom and…Eidos. Seriously. That’s really about it. There’s obviously a few more, but it’s dwarfed by US and Japanese standards. Even SQUARE doesn’t come to England. Sony has to distribute and publish the Final Fantasy games over here. Konami sub contracts! I even called Sega of UK about the dramatic difference in gaming and was simply told, it’s not worth most companies time to translate a game into English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Russian when all those markets combined still aren’t as big as the US or Japanese ones. So only games that they know will sell bucketloads come over here, or games that are designed specifically for the British audience, like Westlife (A british pop band) on tour, or David Beckham Football. And the high costs of games over here also help to ensure smaller publishers and companies can’t make it over here. It costs 50£ for a PS2 game over here. That’s 83 US dollars. And that’s for one game. Also add in Europeans make 2/3rds in yearly salary that we do and that huge price becomes even bigger. So England will never see Arc the Lad, the French will never play Persona, nor will Germany ever get Castle Wolfenstien. (Please tell me you got the joke in that last bit.)

Seriously, if you people want to start a business that involves lots of money making, start an online import store selling US games to the British and the rest of Europe. You can mark up the game costs by 10$ a piece and the Europeans are STILL saving money getting games from you, even if shipped airmail, and also getting them months before hey would normally. All they need is a step down transformer and a boot disc which is a total of 50$ and they can start to actually play video games instead of third rate crap. And trust me, the market is here.

A perfect example of the Europeans actually wanting good games and not realizing they are getting the anus of the cow (nope, not even good enough for the tail end) are my fiancee and the Europeans I know. Before I showed them all that the gaming world had to offer the popular games were Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, and video games with Muppets and soccer games. Now I have to fight my fiancee for my GBA and her favourite games include Pinball of the Dead, Silent Hill, Grandia, and Street Fighter 2. Seriously, these games are rare or just not over here. I’ve seen copies of Koudelka, a super awesome game made by ex and disgruntled Square employees, go for 70$ over here. A US Import of Castlevania: SOTN was the same. You can get nearly 100£ for a copy of Lunar:SSS Complete! People are willing to pay high prices for import games, and some sleazy retailers are more than willing to rip off the poor citizens of Europe for this. It makes me ill, and when people here I have over 100 games for just my PSX, I’ve gotten “How?’ and even, “Are there that many?’

For my European readers, please realize this isn’t me bashing your people, cultures, or ways of life. It’s me bashing the video game industry in Europe and how they treat you like shit. How the few companies you have over here hold an iron fist over the industry and prevent smaller publishers from coming over here and giving you a choice. You’re all in an electronic dictatorship, and it sucks for each and every one of you. All I want to do with this article is point out that from a video game standpoint, you guys are in hell, and I’m hoping some Americans and Japanese that read this article help get you what you deserve, and that’s a chance to enjoy games for your various consoles that are actually fun.

Finally, on a good note, there is some improvement. The PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube do have larger libraries than usual for gaming in Europe. However, most of those games are English only and thus the rest of Europe is still deprived. And even those games are still many months later than the US versions and often have a few things missing from them, due to once again, the problems with programming for Region 2. As well, many stores in London’s Chinatown and Japanese sections have started to carry Japanese import games. I can get Touken Retsuden Advance for the GBA for 30£ (48$) if I want it, but again, even those are super highly expensive compared to what they should be, and next to no one in England (unsure about Europe) seems to read/speak Japanese. I’m one of three that I know of. The amount of games is still about 1/4th of what we have in the States and obviously an even smaller fraction than what Japan gets, but it’s increased since the Dreamcast was willing to bring over nearly everything the US had (Including Quake III Arena! We never got that in America!!!)

So in the 5 months I’ve been in England I’ve learned not to complain about not having Sakura Taisen in English, or that the Snow Queen quest is missing from our Persona. Or about 90% of the BS I used to gripe about America not getting. Because the continent of Europe has it far worse than us. We don’t have Sony selling FF5 and 6 separately and at full price in America. We have a lovely and cheap Final Fantasy Anthology. We don’t have crappy magazine that don’t even pretend to be journalists telling you games like Fellowship of the Ring for the GBA is an epic masterpiece everyone must own, and not even mentioning the many bugs inherent in that game! This experience in being in the equivalent of Somalia for the hardcore VG fan has really humbled me, and thus I implore you all to go grab games you know are rare even in the US like Dragon Warrior 7, and play them. Enjoy it now why it’s still out there, and because a lot of people are going to be stuck with only games like Spyro, Smackdown, and Tomb Raider Anthology as the epitome of games they are ever going to play unless they import.

Before I leave you this week, I have to praise for importing games to England as American prices, and for being one of the best Video Game store in Europe. I normally never endorse anything, but as this article is about drawing attention to the general shittiness of gaming in Europe, and to helping my Euro readers (and trust me, every one of them has asked where they can import for cheap and why they have such a crappy selection over here) enjoy true hardcore gaming.

As always, to vent your spleen to me!