Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Genesis Does

Gentle Reader,

I was one of those exceptionally lucky children who didn't have to choose between Sega and Nintendo--I had both, not to mention a much-loved Turbografx-16.  So, I was never a big believer in the whole "console wars" thing.  However, I do remember enjoying Sega's rather infamous "Genesis Does" advertisements that showed up in gaming magazines from around 1989-1991 or so.  The cheap shots at Nintendo had zero impact, but I still loved these advertisements, because they did such an excellent job of outlining all of the reasons why the games being showcased were interesting, fun, and yes, cool.

Ah, Phantasy Star II...!  I wrote about my love for it on this blog once before.  I know that a lot of modern gamers find it stiff and unforgiving, and it is, but it has to be appreciated in the context of the times.  When this game debuted, gamers were living in a world of crude graphics, nonexistent characters, and barebones storytelling.  Compare Phantasy Star II to the original NES release of Dragon Warrior (i.e. Dragon Quest) and you'll get the picture.  These games were on sale in the same year.  Phantasy Star II represented a quantum leap forward in gaming technology.  So on that score at least, the ad is completely truthful.  And they just did such a great job of making even the most mundane gameplay elements sound fresh and exciting!


Fatal Labyrinth wasn't really my thing, but what I remembered most about this ad was the preview for Phantasy Star III.  The single, simple screen shot provided here has no context and says nothing about the gameplay or story, but I was SO EXCITED!  I must have stared at that picture for months.  I remember getting the game just after my birthday after all that anticipation.  My extremely patient mother let me play all night, even though we only had one TV and I'm sure she had shows that she'd like to have watched.  It still makes me smile just thinking about it.

It's said that a lot of people found Sword of Vermilion disappointing, but I really enjoyed it.  The amount of detail that went into this preview was incredible, and once again, it did a fine job of presenting the game as something new and interesting.  It was ages before I had a copy of my own, but I remember renting it many, many times and enjoying every minute of it.

These scans were found online, but what made me think of them was some recent spring cleaning I did.  I found a box of old Gamepro and Electronic Gaming Monthly issues that I had saved from the 1988-1994 era.  I threw most of my game magazines out years ago, but I made a point of it to save issues that had previews, articles, or walkthroughs of my most favorite games.  And, to my delight, each of the ads shown above were to be found in those issues.  We may need to revisit them in a future posting.  For now, thank you for indulging me in this little trip down memory lane!  I hope you enjoyed it!

Ever Yours,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bug Report

Gentle Reader,

A reader just pointed out to me a bug in the Playable Goblez Edition ROM hack that was apparently introduced in version 1.2  Simply put, the Chocobo Farm in Toroia is glitched.  The townspeople do not appear as they should and also the warp point connecting the two interior maps causes the game to freeze.  I apologize for not noticing this sooner but will try to have a remedy included in the next release.  (Good thing this is strictly an optional location with no items inside!)


Link Added 8/12/13:
Golbez Edition Hack version 2.1 download (Updated 10/1/14)

Ever Yours,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Gentle Reader,

It's no secret that many of the most famous fairy tales, in their oldest written versions, are quite violent and dark, and not at all suitable for children--at least, not according to contemporary standards.  The disturbing content of these stories can be excused, to some degree at least, by the stories' obvious purpose as cautionary tales.  Others, however, are more difficult to excuse and, I would argue, much more difficult to explain.

Bluebeard is my personal favorite of the classic fairy tales, and it definitely fits the criteria for being both macabre and inscrutable.  The appeal of this story is precisely its darkness and the vagueness of the overarching lesson or point, which is hinted at in various ways in various retellings, but always seems bizarrely slanted and beyond easy reach.  I also like the fact that, while Bluebeard is unquestionably part of the classic fairy tale canon, it is also one of the more obscure stories (at least here in the United States).

I've seen it speculated that Bluebeard is based on some ancient story only half-remembered, or that it is an exaggeration of real events.  I find this theory compelling, simply because of the incongruent and unusual structure of the story.  For example:  the new husband's blue-tinged beard is a source of alarm for his young bride, yet while we might infer that it is due to some curse or enchantment, the origin and meaning of the color are never revealed.  This is contrary to many other fairy tales, where the characters are either basic archetypes lacking distinguishing features, or where their distinguishing features are key story points whose purposes are made clear.  Also, while it is apparent that Bluebeard murders his wives as retribution for their inevitable betrayal of him, we are given no clue as to why Bluebeard killed his first wife.  The others were murdered for entering the forbidden room and finding the corpses of their predecessors, but this obviously could not have applied to the first.  Did the beard's blue color stem from this original, mysterious murder?  We simply don't know.

As with most fairy tales, there are any number of ways for the story to be understood, and certainly, there is no shortage of scholarship on the subject.  Personally, I think that the most interesting angle is Bluebeard's seeming compulsion to place himself in a situation, over and over again, where his wife is driven to betray him.  He seems to fear the betrayal, but also expect it, seemingly not realizing the degree to which it is all a self-fulfilling prophecy, and therefore needless.  Or perhaps his strange blue beard really is the mark of a curse, where forces beyond Bluebeard's control force both himself and his wives into the same doomed scenario despite the best-laid plans and purest intentions.

I rather like this interpretation.  Bluebeard is undeniably mad, and a figure of terror, but I think that the story works on so many more levels if he is victim as well as monster.  In the end, he dies by the hand of his final wife's valiant rescuers without offering any explanation for what he does, and this is appropriate.  Real monsters rarely provide an accounting that their victims could understand, and those of us who survive are often left to invent our own explanations.  This is, after all, the origin of fairy tales, legends, and all stories, really--the search for meaning, imperfect and elusive, in both the miracles and horrors of the world.

Bluebeard on Wikipedia
Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, unaired Bluebeard episode

Ever Yours,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Big Empty

Big Empty
Artist:  Stone Temple Pilots
Album:  Purple
Label:  Atlantic Records
Release:  1994

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Addendum to Previous Entry

Gentle Reader,

I went back to visit the scene of the accident at Chalco Hills, as described in my previous post.  It's actually a very beautiful park; well-maintained, spacious, bright, and quite friendly.  There's nothing about it to indicate that there was ever tragedy in its past.  I suppose this is by design, since the park is supposed to be a place for people to relax.  Yet, I can't help feeling that it's also a sin of omission.

The construction of the artificial Wehrspann Lake and surrounding nature reserve necessitated the closure of what had been two significant country roads:  Cornhusker Road (which is a still major traffic artery to the east) and 156th Street.  Mapquest illustrates this well.  The Omaha area street system is a tidy grid pattern, which makes getting lost rather difficult.  So, it is easy to see how Cornhusker and 156th, two brackets in the grid, are interrupted by the park.

Here is the western bank of the lake.  There is a small parking lot which is connected to the walking trails that circle the lake, as well as a fishing area.

An aerial view reveals that the fishing area and connecting trail are actually a remnant of what was Cornhusker Road.  The old road disappears right into the lake.  It's difficult to see this in person, but Mapquest's satellite view makes it plain.

To the immediate west is an area where the modern walking trail and the original road run side by side.

The walking trail terminates in a small cul-de-sac in a new, upscale development, where the paved, modern Cornhusker Road picks up.  None of this was here at the time of the accident.  Though not far from town proper, this area was wilderness in 1984.

Here is the view looking eastward, back the way I had come.  The lake itself is blocked out by the hill, but there is a good view to the far side of the lake where the distinctive Sapp Brothers "big coffee pot" watertower stands.  The continuation of the modern Cornhusker Road runs alongside it.

The old 156th Street is a lot harder to find, at least in person.  Portions of it survive as part of the modern walking trail system.  In other places its existence is only indicated by less abundant grass and an unnaturally symmetrical absence of trees.

There's nothing inherently eerie about this place.  Yet, there is no denying the strangeness of walking down a trail that used to be the very road where a tragic event unfolded.  For me at least, visiting that place was a moving experience.

Do you have a place like this in your life, maybe tucked way, way back in your childhood?  If so, go there.  Get back in touch with the things that had an impact on you.  Keep alive your memories of those who preceded you, and also of yourself, the way that you used to be.

Ever Yours,