Keyboard Geniuses

Digest comic by Effigy Power

Viscount Teti And Baron Von Heisler Go Way Back

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • August 10, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Train, Train, Traaain…Train Of Fools

In On The Level, Drew Toal explored the incompetent-ninja-infested, physics-defying train level of the classic beat-’em-up Bad Dudes. While many commenters swapped favorite train stages from different games, BarbleBapkins attempted to explain the questionable fighting skills of the ninja baddies using the highly scientific Inverse Law Of Ninjas:

Ahhhh, another example of the Inverse Law Of Ninjas, which clearly states that the more ninjas present, the less effective they are. Scientists are still trying to develop formulas to explain this mystery, as common sense would make one think that a dozen ninjas could handily defeat a single ninja, but the opposite is almost always true. And once you start talking about the effectiveness of ninjas in relation to Bad Dudes, the math becomes far too complex for even our most advanced ninja computation devices to handle.

Spelunkadelic
Spelunky

In the first Digest of the month, John Teti and Steve Heisler talked Spelunky over Honey Nut Cheerio Milk ’N Cereal Bars, and consequently nearly died. Teti and Heisler zeroed in on how important the element of randomness is in enjoying the game. However, blue vodka lemonade was not at ease with Spelunky’s randomness and refusal to save the player’s progress. Blue prefers to save whenever possible, in games and in real life:

Spelunky, The Binding Of Isaac, NetHack, and the like are a source of constant interest for me, but I always feel a bit like a foreigner to their worlds.

My first electronic games, aside from brief exposure to a few Genesis titles and maybe playing Mario Party at a family Hanukkah gathering once, were adventure games. It was possible to die, but if you saved scrupulously and wrote things down, that wasn’t much of a barrier to moving forward in the game. Even notoriously punishing titles like the King’s Quest series weren’t too difficult for the kind of kid who cheated at Choose Your Own Adventure books by keeping her fingers stuck in the pages at each decision point in case she needed to backtrack.

In “real life” I keep all my documents with me at all times. I never get rid of a book I’ve read, no matter if I’ll never read it again. I never call someone a friend until I know they consider me to be theirs, and never take the first step to advance a relationship.

So, in games where you can’t save, where having played before isn’t a ticket to breezing past those parts the next time through, where each decision might be your last, I never quite feel like I belong. Folks raised on arcade cabinets and NES, who thrive in “unfair” games and go up against great challenges with no ability to save right before—and no fear of death—are another race entirely, and I can only play at playing in their worlds.

On the other hand, Jeff Bandy loved Spelunky for the stories that emerged from choices he made during each run:

Spelunky is my favorite game ever, and the XBLA update is pure joy. I finished [the final stage] this past weekend, and once it was all over, I thought back on all those little micro-decisions that had gotten me there, all starting with going homicidal the moment I saw that shiny blue jetpack in a shop in the mines. In retrospect, the story that grew out of all of my own little decisions was probably the best video game story I’ve experienced since Grim Fandango. The most wonderful and unique thing about Spelunky is that you never expect success until it happens, whereas other games are constantly laying down tracks for you to ride into Success Station. If you are able to beat King Yama, it’s because you’re awesome, full stop.

A Keyblade Master Can Dream (Drop Distance)
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Steve Heisler did not enjoy Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, but he buckled down and wrote the review. A ton of discussion followed, with subjects ranging from the series’ early days to its character design. Girard expressed his dissatisfaction with Dream Drop Distance’s director, Tetsuya Nomura, for creating hollow approximations of cool characters in this late stage of his career, especially in relation to his iconic work as the character designer for Final Fantasy VII:

While Tetsuya Nomura’s designs looked awesome when I was in middle school and FF7 was just coming out, I think I was already sick of his aesthetic by around the time The Bouncer was being advertised for the upcoming PlayStation 2. It’s trying a bit too hard to be cool, and it results in a universe populated by Japanese idiomatic equivalents of “Poochie.”

The story’s kind of preposterous, too. This is a silly corporate-synergy mash-up game where Goofy battles with Sephiroth—it doesn’t really need a portentous, overwrought middle-school-Wagnerian plot with its own Byzantine cosmogony. I enjoyed the first game, and the kind of silly “epic” Final Fantasy-style plotting felt like part of the pastiche at that point. It feels like, in subsequent games, they’re taking it all a bit too seriously, but aren’t able to pull that off.

Continuing the Nomura thread, caspiancomic noted that limitations can be a great catalyst for creativity—and a lack of limitations can be dangerous:

I’m going to try and eliminate any vestigial goodwill you may have had for Tetsuya Nomura, if you’ll allow me. The man has said in interviews that his relatively iconic FF7 designs were so demure because he was butting up against the original PlayStation’s hardware limitations. Once he got around to FF10, we started to see his unrestrained style. I guess the absence of limitations truly is the enemy of art.

His statements make especially little sense when you compare Yoshitaka Amano’s original designs with their NES counterparts. By all conceivable metrics Amano’s artwork is more beautiful and complex than Nomura’s, and the hardware limitations he faced were even greater.

Gameological’s Book Of Secrets

And lastly, Effigy_Power unearthed the ultra-secret history of The Digest in an original comic (!!) that manages to be both funny and historically accurate:

Digest Comic by Effigy Power

As always, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week.

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164 Responses to “Viscount Teti And Baron Von Heisler Go Way Back”

  1. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody! Mr. Glitch here, back from my walkabout through the Australian Outback. Or was it a drunken stumble through East St. Louis? No matter, I’m back and I’m rarin’ for some gamin’!

    It’s safe to say that, in its lifetime, the NES spawned more memorable game franchises than any other system in history. Yet, the sheer volume of games in the NES’ library guaranteed that a few gems fell through the cracks and are largely forgotten today. One such game is Guardian Legend, developed by Compile and released in the US in 1989.

    Guardian Legend is a unique blend of Zanac-style vertical space shooting and Blaster Master overhead dungeon crawling. This mashup of two very disparate game styles is justified by the titular Guardian being a transformer, who can change from a suspiciously VF-1 Valkyrie-looking space ship to a robotic girl wearing hooker boots. Your mission, as this space fighter cyberlady, is to infiltrate the rogue planetoid Naju and activate its self-destruct before it collides with Earth. To do this, you must locate and disable 10 safeties scattered throughout Naju’s various dungeons. The dungeons are connected by corridors which make up the shooter levels, and can be played through in almost any order. In both game modes, you collect power chips which serve as both currency and ammo for your secondary weapon. Speaking of which, there are tons of secondary weapons! Everything from lightsabers to homing missiles to spread-fire guns can be found, purchased, or looted from defeated bosses. If you get stuck in a particularly difficult level, chances are there’s a weapon tailor-made for it that’s just waiting to be found. This, along with power-ups that expand your life bar and power chip capacity give Guardian Legend the rare distinction of being a space shooter that actually gets easier as it progresses. This isn’t to say Guardian Legend is easy—far from it. Just getting through the approach to Naju in the beginning of the game is a challenge! You will get hit by enemy fire in Guardian Legend, so the key to victory is minimizing those hits, collecting enough power-ups to stay alive, and using the best weapon for the job. If you get frustrated and want to take a break, Guardian Legend lets you save your game… using the longest, most byzantine password system I’ve ever seen! Each password a huge string of numbers and upper-case, lower-case and even diacritic letters that have to be entered one agonizingly-slow character at a time. If there’s ever been a game that begged for a battery save, it’s Guardian Legend.

    It’s clear that most of Compile’s efforts went into developing the shooter levels in Guardian Legend. Where they are fast-paced, challenging and full of unique enemies, the on-foot levels are slower, repetitive, and all filled with the same five or six types of palette-swapped enemies. Though it’s fun at times to explore Naju at a slower pace, collecting power-ups and reading more of the game’s back-story, the on-foot sections ultimately feel like padding to be muddled through on your way to the next exciting space battle. It’s telling that the reward for finishing Guardian Legend is the ability to replay just the shooter levels.

    Without a sequel, a remake or even a Virtual Console release, it seems Guardian Legend has been relegated to the dustbins of gaming history, and that’s unfortunate. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s unique and enjoyable enough to have earned its own franchise.

    Bonus Review! Since I’m still in a space blastin’ Earth-savin’ mood, I’m moving on to The Dreadnaught Factor for Atari 5200.

    The Dreadnaught Factor, developed by Activision in 1983, is another unique vertical shooter. In it, you’re a tiny fighter (presumably sans-hooker boots) sent to destroy a gigantic Star Destroyer-looking ship before it can get close enough to annihilate Earth. Much like Xevious, your fighter has both lasers and bombs which you use to shoot out the dreadnaught’s missiles & gun turrets or bomb its engines & reactor exhaust ports. To destroy a dreadnaught, you knock out all of its exhaust ports to make its reactor go critical. What sets The Dreadnaught Factor apart from a typical space shooter is how you can make multiple passes over each dreadnaught. In one pass, you might take out all of its defenses and save its exhaust ports for another pass. But beware that the dreadnaught moves closer to firing range between each pass, and it moves faster in the higher levels, giving you fewer passes to blow it up. The damage you incur on the dreadnaught actually affects how it performs. For example, if you blow up all of its engines, it approaches much more slowly. If you take out its missile silos, it won’t be able to fire on Earth by the time it reaches orbit and will just sit there, thinking very angry thoughts at you. In the game’s higher levels, the dreadnaught will repair some of the damage it has taken and become a threat once again.

    The Dreadnaught Factor is a very good-looking game by 5200 standards, and is not hampered by the 5200’s otherwise gawd-awful joystick. In fact, the analog nature of the 5200’s controller gives your fighter very fast & precise movements, allowing you to deftly dodge & weave between cannon fire to pick off the dreadnaught’s key systems. The difficulty scales nicely too; level 1 is a piece of cake while level 7 is nigh-impossible! I’d say levels 4 or 5 offer the best balance and are the most fun to play. Like most 5200 games, The Dreadnaught Factor was released for Atari’s 8-bit line of computers as well, and can also be found on the Intellivision, where the action is rotated 90 degrees.

    Thanks for reading my reviews! Next week, we’re going backpacking and Drac-hunting across Europe in Castlevania: Bloodlines!
     

    • caspiancomic says:

       Glitch! I was wondering where you went, man! Looking forward to the Bloodlines review, since I’m a big fan of canonically ambiguous oddballs, the Castlevania series, and the Sega Genesis.

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        The cops were getting wise to the trail of mathmen I’ve left behind, so I had to lay low until the heat was off.

    • Ghostfucker says:

      Oh man…I remember having to write down those endless passwords in Guardian legend. As kids, my brother and I played through it ‘level/life’ style (switching off whenever someone died or beat a level). It was heart-breaking whenever we started up and found out our most recent password had been transcribed wrong, and we would have to start over again, or search through our belongings for another massive password. We never managed to beat the game, one final setback must of just been too much for us.

  2. Citric says:

    I didn’t see the original Nomura thread, so I’ll just add that around FFX-2 a friend and I theorized that by the end of the decade he would make a character entirely out of zippers. I’m actually sort of disappointed it hasn’t happened yet.

    I also remember that in the Advent Children special features he was photographed exclusively in the shadows, it looked adorably pretentious.

    Still, his designs in the PS1 era were pretty good, even the goofier moments – his obsession with crop jackets, that hair – actually looked okay during the time. I’d love to see him on Project Runway, I wonder if he can sew.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    I’m beginning to think Girard, Eff, and myself give off some kind of cat pheromone.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       This fight is now going into the dirty phases.
      The next comic features @Girard:disqus and @caspiancomic:disqus in erotic clinch with a dead whale, ridiculing the democratic process and carrying signs with well-wishes for Syria’s president.
      It should convince all but the oddest of readers.

    • Electric Dragon says:

      Curse you, Comment Cat! I felt for sure my long rambling unverifiable personal anecdote about soccer management sims would make it up here, even if my humorous invented conversation with a ninja supply agency didn’t. Back to the drawing board.

    • Girard says:

       One of my cats growing up would literally tear our kitchen apart if she smelled Entemann’s doughnut holes anywhere the vicinity, until she uncovered, upended and nibbled the contents of the box. It elicited a greater reaction in her than catnip.

      I think I’m suggesting that we may smell like doughnut holes.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Growing up, my family adopted one of the neighborhood stray cats. And by ‘adopted’ I mean we left some food out for her once and she never left. That cat was bat-shit crazy, but she knew how to survive! She killed & ate damn near every small critter in the neighborhood, including the neighbor’s wayward pet rabbit. One morning, we found a sealed back of 12 bagels sitting on the front stoop. Over night, she dragged it from God-knows-where, chewed it open & snacked on one of the bagels.

        • Girard says:

           Our neighbors had a cat who was a big-time hunter, and always left mutilated critters on their front doorstep. His largest haul was the one time he killed a pregnant mouse, disemboweled her, and left all of the foetuses and the mother lying on the welcome mat in a neat row. It was kind of fucked up.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           @bakana42:disqus At least it hunted things. Ours get scared and sprint into the basement if anything moves too fast.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Uh oh, getting all nostalgic for my old kitty. That random stray cat turned out to be one of the most faithful pets I’ve ever had. She’d follow me down to the bus stop each morning, and would be waiting for me to come home in the afternoon. She’d follow me around the whole neighborhood, hiding in strategic spots and occasionally darting out to attack my shoelaces. 

          One day as she was shadowing me, a neighbor’s schnauzer puppy saw her & chased her into some bushes. I can’t say exactly what happened in there, but a few seconds later that dog came bolting out of the bushes, shrieking like a banshee all the way back home. Shortly afterward, my cat sauntered out, tail sticking straight up and with what I swear was a big, shit-eating grin on her face.

  4. Effigy_Power says:

    Ah, the lowest form of currying favor still work, it’s good to know. And now I know that if my heartwarming and vapid stories about my siblings’ spawn fail to arouse the cat of cats, I can always just impress with some pedantic linework.
    It makes a girl feel good at the end of the day.

    • Mr. Glitch says:

      If that awesome little comic is what you call pedantic, you are waaaaaay too hard on yourself!

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Your “pedantic linework” is a lot better than the any of the stuff I work.   It’s odd, too, because my mom is a pretty talented artist (never really did anything with it, sadly) but neither my sister nor myself are any damn good at it. 

    • HobbesMkii says:

       *sigh* original artwork. You’ve raised the bar on the Digest-related artwork. My Drew Toal/Jon Teti mutlicolor blazer mashup is now forever regulated to the garbage bin of Comment Cat history.

      • Girard says:

        The creative output will only continue to ramp up. I anticipate in a few years’ time, a AAA-quality The Digest: The Game will be created and will be wildly successful across all platforms.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      You’ve thrown down the gauntlet, Eff.  If I knew illustration submission was an option, I’d have… I don’t know… drawn something, I guess.
         Seeing as how I’ve long since squeezed the last drop of enthusiasm from my wife by drawing pictures for her, it’s time to start trawling the anonymous internet for feedback.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        It’s a draw-off then.
        This was 90 minutes… wait until I have a weekend off.
        -shakes spiked gauntlet-

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          I am all too happy mentally picturing you struggling with a Wacom stylus in an oversized  Dr. Claw gauntlet.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          It can be a challenge, but remaining in character regardless of how inconvenient it may be is after all the only really villainous deed I can perform without legal repercussions. That and diabolic laughter.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          AAAAAANNNNDDD in this corner, the champion, the American ex-pat hailing all the way from the wintry climes of Canada, that sleeping giant to the North, she draws! she thaws! iiiiitttttt’ssss EFFIGY_POWER!

      • Girard says:

         I’m weirdly compelled to start peppering comments with drawings myself. This is not a good compulsion to have with grad school starting back up in a couple of weeks…

        • Girard says:

           More seriously, I’d love to see more and varied creative contributions and responses in a variety of media from fellow Gameologicians.

  5. stakkalee says:

    Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you folks are ready for the weekend – I’m so close to the end of New Vegas I can taste it, and if this weekend goes the way I want it, on Monday I’ll be out buying Red Dead: Redemption.
    First, some basic site statistics – I’ll get to the KG-specific stats in a moment.  The most-commented article this week was “What Are You Playing” with 180 comments as of 6PM EST.  I’m going to arbitrarily declare that the cutoff time, although I am open to persuasion; I find bribery works best, although threats have been known to sway me.  The most-liked comment came from @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus, who got 30 likes on his DragonNinja dialogue; apparently you can’t go wrong with a wacky ninja joke.  Who knows though – he may have angered the wrong man.  I hear DragonNinja is a brutal kidnapper, although he’s not the best tactician – SM, I recommend checking the door handle on your cell.  I mean, if you happen to be kidnapped by ninjas, not that I have any particular knowledge of something like that happening.  Certainly not.  No knowledge at all.  Nope.  None.
    On to Soupy’s favorites!  We’re welcoming @BarbleBapkins:disqus and Jeff Bandy (a filthy Googler!) to the Plaid Jacket Club.  In addition, @green_gin_rickey:disqus got a second pin, and @Effigy_Power:disqus got her seventh!  Also, @caspiancomic:disqus and @Girard:disqus unlocked the “Crazy Eights” achievement, with 8 mentions apiece by Soupy!  Congratulations guys!  You each get 50 GS points.  Right now your only download options are: A poorly ported Norwegian version of Zork (Du vil trolig bli spist av en grue!), the Gameological Society Mixtape (50 minutes of @JohnTeti:disqus tunelessly humming while he does housework), or Steve Heisler can sneak into your house and lick your silverware.  It sounds gross, but what you may not know is Heisler’s saliva is a mild hallucinogen – why do you think Teti keeps him around?
    We’ve had 131 comments chosen – of those, 60 (48%) have been Opinions; opinions have been split between Game Design (topics include tone, subject, etc.), Level Design (art, music, etc.) and Product Design (advertising, packaging, etc.)  Game Design accounts for 39 of the 60 comments, Level Design accounts for 12 and Product Design accounts for the remaining 9.  There have been 30 Reminiscences, 18 of which were Personal, and the remaining 12 split between Children, Significant Others, Other Family, and Friends.
    There’s always more data to pull, and if you have anything you’d like me to figure out please just ask.  Until next week, keep it scintillating!

    • stakkalee says:

      Oops, forgot to say one thing.  I’d like to get a round of Harumphs going for @JohnTeti:disqus and what he’s put together at GS.  When the site started it was something I went to after I’d finished reading AVC.  Now, it’s consistently one of my first stops, and I find myself revisiting it throughout the day because someone is always posting something thoughtful or funny.  Thanks so much John for giving the Internet a truly great game website.  I look forward to watching the site grow.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Hear, hear, old chap. I’ve rather stopped reading the AVClub altogether, since my TV-less existence makes me guess more at the topics than my over-gamed existence allows me to shine on the GS.
        Spot of gin for you, old bean, and tally ho. I say.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         Yeah, I would say that’s my experience, too.  There’s also the problem with scale.  Commenting on most AVC is like having an intimate conversation in a crowded stadium during a game.  Outside of niche articles, there is a good chance your voice will get drowned out.  While GS may eventually get to that scale, I am quite enjoying the idyllic, unspoiled place we have here.

      • John Teti says:

        This kind of comment makes me a little misty. It means a whole lot to me. Thank you so much for saying so, and for helping to make the site a welcoming and interesting place for everyone.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Harumph!

      • caspiancomic says:

         FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!

      • James Bunting says:

        I’d like to throw my hat into the love-in. My sexy hat. GS is my first stop when I make the gaming rounds. There are very few articles on gaming that appeal to folks whose emotional ages have inched past 13 or 14. Even most indie articles read more like menus than reviews – like they’re in a hurry to keep everyone apprised of gaming gossip and development rather than give anyone a sense of what’s truly out there.

        There are quite a few examples on GS – I’m thinking especially of the recent Issac exploration – where the article goes way, way beyond what is exemplary in terms of game reviews and ends up simply being good, approachable, thought-provoking writing about… oh shit I’m gonna say it… art. Or maybe it’s the mature and playful digestion of the subject that seems artful to me.

        Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool stuff, and definitely does a little to elevate gaming culture. God knows we need as much of that as we can get.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I wonder if @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus’s DragonNinja slam dunk this week compares to @HobbesMkii:disqus’s now legendary Darwin Kong in terms of sheer likeage?

      Also, rad roundup again this week, @stakkalee:disqus. I actually want that Norwegian Zork more intensely than is healthy for a grown man.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         It’s pretty close. DragonNinja has 31 likes as of this post, Darwin Kong has 36.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I’m in the process of creating a series of dummy accounts to tilt the numbers in my favor.
           So in the interest of sustaining the ruse, don’t be surprised when you see a sudden uptick on this site of verbose dick jokes from the likes of ‘DudeFlunky Casio‘ and ‘RumJunkie Tapas‘.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           I thought they’d all be on a theme, like “Nebulabonobo Camorra” or “Galaxyorangutan ‘Ndrangheta”

        • Girard says:

           @HobbesMkii:disqus : Hey, it’s still cleverer than some folks’ alternate naming schemes. Don’t think we don’t all know who ‘HobbesMkiii’ really is…

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @HobbesMkii:disqus 
             I got as far as ExoChimp Triad before scrapping that conceit and going the phonetic route.

    • Electric Dragon says:

      I’d’ve thought the Gameological Mixtape would consist of a hour of upbeat library music in the “gameshow titles” style, such as the Gameological In Stereo theme.

  6. BarbleBapkins says:

    My inanity has been validated! I feel… I feel so complete now.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      It feels rather good, doesn’t it?
      Once my comics start to fail, I will start sending in lingerie.
      For fame-nourishment.