Game Feature

The Weekly WTF: Pokémon’s Creeptastic Secret

Lavender Town

Nintendo look so sweet and innocent, don’t they? With their family friendly reputation, cutesy-ass Mii characters out the wazzoo and childlike experimentation with this new ‘online play’ thing they’ve just discovered.

But that’s the ruse. As we know, it’s always the quiet ones. I had a neighbor once, a sweet old dude who was always polite and charming. The cops found a couple of human heads and a half-eaten asscheek in his refrigerator. (Note: anecdote may just be snarky BS.) That’s Nintendo, right there. Nintendo are the serial killer cannibal next door of gaming.

Oh yes indeed. Beneath that toontastic surface, all manner of creepy shit is lurking. Earlier in this series, we heard the freaky story of BEN and the haunted Majora’s Mask cartridge. It’s a classic of gaming creepypasta. But even better known (and more scrote-shrivelingly terrifying) is the business with the Lavender Town Tone.

For this one, we’re partying like it’s 1998, and getting our Pokémon on. The original Game Boy installments, Red and Blue. You know the deal here: young dude with a shit hat is sent on a perilous journey around the world, beating peoples’ pets to death in an attempt to become the ultimate cockfighting champion.

Each town in the region (give or take) has a Pokémon Gym. Your battles with the masters take place here, and besting each one will earn you a badge. With them all in hand, you can challenge the Elite 4 and that other dude, for the title of Champion.

That’s the deal in a nutshell. After all, it’s tough to be a studly Ego-dude and know your poké-shit. Unless you’re the kind of double life leading renegade who brings a Pikachu-branded lunchbox to work at the steelmill/local lumberjack-ing and bear wrestling forest. But anywho, we’ve no time for this BS. To Lavender Town!

This place appears to be just another stop on your journey. A little darker than the others, what with the huge mothereffin’ pokémon graveyard and all, but otherwise regular enough. But don’t be fooled. There’s some insidious evil lurking in that jangly background music.

It was this very music that caused Lavender Town Syndrome. Which is, reports the official wiki of creepypastas, ‘a peak in suicides and illness of children between the ages of 7-12 shortly after the release of Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, back in February 27, 1996.’

It was the high frequency of the tone, supposedly. Too high for adults to hear, but screwing with the minds of kids in all kinds of ghastly-ass ways. The cheery story continues,
‘Due to the Lavender Tone, at least two-hundred children supposedly committed suicide, and many more developed illnesses and afflictions. The children who committed suicide usually did so by hanging or jumping from heights. Those who did not acted irrationally (or) complained of severe headaches after listening to Lavender Town’s theme.’

The music has since been retooled, but this creepy legacy remains. In recent years, a band of Unown (those wierd alphabet pokémon) were found in the area with some tech or other, spelling out the words GET OUT. These ‘mon weren’t even created at this point.

All the hairs on my scrote are standing on end, so that’s probably enough of this.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Black & White

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It’s kind of a gray area, right here. How far back must a game go to be deemed retro? Is 2001 distant enough to qualify? Well, when you’ve got a badass renegade mothereffer like me typing words at your face, yes. Yes it can.

Fourteen years is a pretty damn long time, after all. Ol’ Justin Bieber was just a floppy-haired little ballache then, as opposed to the… little ballache with different hair and a couple shit tattoos that he is today. So I feel completely justified in adding Black & White to the ranks of Retro Love.

For the uninitiated, this is a revolutionary PC strategy title from Lionhead Studios. It’s a diabolical twist on the god game genre, a kind of Populous-meets-the-bastardry-of-Dungeon Keeper sort of affair. Let’s take a look.

You know how these games usually go down. You begin with nothing, and gradually carve out a charming, fancy-ass little slice of nirvana for your people to live in. You’ll develop homes for them, provide resources, and all the other BS people need to flourish. Everything’ll be bright and shiny, they’ll be nice to each other, and the sun with shine out of everyone’s anuses.

Your followers will fight for you during the occasional invasion, but otherwise everything’s great. It’s all a little too flowery and Lifetime TV for me. But Black & White, as the name suggests, offers you a moral aspect to shake things up.

It begins in the standard style. You take the role of a god, brought into existence by a family praying for their son, lost at sea. After you save his ass, the family take you back to their village and let you pick a creature. Your avatar for the game chosen, Black & White begins proper.

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Your objective is to turn all of the tribes on the island to your cause. They can either love you or fear a lightning bolt to the ‘nads on a minute-by-minute basis, either works. All you’ll need is their belief. To this end, you and your creature can perform all kinds of acts, and almost everything will contribute to your good or evil standing with the people. Will you save civilians from natural disasters, or leave them to fry? Will you send in your avatar to trample a building or two to help the hurricane along; the ultimate kick in their believer-asses? Your choice.

As with any karma system, the actions you take will have distinct consequences. The world itself will slowly transform according to your standing. An angelic realm for a goodly creator or a fiery hellhole worthy of the angry Satanic mofo you are.

Black & White
’s AI was pretty damn impressive at the time too. Your creature could be trained, by either slapping or stroking it after it performs actions. It would slowly learn to adapt its behaviour accordingly, and would take on a good or evil alignment for itself.

This one was well-received, for sure, but some think that it didn’t quite live up to the hypetastic. The interaction with the world and such was a little more limited than expected. Still, this was a revolutionary genre entry, worth a re-visit.

The Weekly WTF: ‘Gettysburg: Armored Warfare’ is American History the Badass Way

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Hold on to your butts, gentlemen. It’s about to get educational in here. Just a little, though, don’t worry. I’ll try to keep your learning of the fact-tastic to a bare minimum.

The Battle of Gettysburg took place in the summer of 1863, midway through the civil war. It’s said to be the costliest, bloodiest battle of the conflict, with around 25000 men wounded or killed on each side. Historically, it was a Union victory, and is supposed to mark the point at which the war turned against the Southern States.

But you know this. This is History of the Good Ol’ U.S of A for Dummies, right here. And even if you don’t, there’s one thing you sure as balls do know: There wasn’t a time traveller there, giving the Confederates fancy-ass 21st century weaponry in an attempt to change the future.

Because that kind of crazy-ass only happens in video games or shitty sci fi. In this case, it’s the former. Behold Gettysburg: Armored Warfare.

Gettysburg Armored Warfare

The game hit Steam in 2012, an odd combination of RTS, TPS, FPS and maybe a couple other nerdly gaming acronyms. Imagine it as a kind of Total War release (Batshit Crazy: Total War, in this case), giving you control of a vast army in real time and testing your tactical badassery to the max on a big ol’ 3D battlefield.

Just like Creative Assembly’s celebrated strategy series, the history’s gone a little awry here. That time traveller I mentioned? That’s an actual thing. Watch your back, Yankees; the South are partying like it’s 2060 with their new tech.

The good news? You have all manner of shiny futuristic death-dealers to command. Which is always cool. The combination of gameplay styles seems great in theory too, allowing you to switch between issuing orders and directly controlling units on the fly. It’s all very Battalion Wars, for the four people in the damn world who’ve ever heard of that.

Sign me the eff up, you might be thinking. Until you play the thing, and realise that it’s an horrific, bug-addled shitstorm. With a little TLC, this could’ve been something, but you know how it is when developers forget to finish their games before releasing them.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Vagrant Story

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Around these parts, the vagrant-related stories aren’t all that interesting. That drunk hobo outside Egotastic Towers exposed himself to me again as I came into work this morning. That’s a hairy wang, right there. Y’know, that sort of thing. Just the kind of everyday stuff that isn’t worth mentioning.

Don’t get that kind of BS confused with the real Vagrant Story. This is the real deal, right here. A cult classic as cult-y and classic-ish as they come. Let’s take a look at this vintage weirdness.

Vagrant Story hit the original PlayStation in 2000, an RPG from Square. Genre fans will know, natch, that these clever bastards also brought us the barnstorming Final Fantasy franchise, which this one is worlds away from. But Cloud, Sephiroth et al have nothing on Ashley Riot.

This studly dude is a Riskbreaker, badass agent of some sort or other. He finds himself in Valendia, a kingdom wracked by civil war. The strongest fortress that remains is the town of Lea Mondé, where shady doings are afoot. Cultists have kidnapped Duke Bardoba, which is pretty darn uncool. As… y’know, an important law-dude, our hero sets out in pursuit. Whereupon, as the internet likes to say, things escalate quickly. We’re soon up to our ‘nads in ghastly-ass monsters in the city’s catacombs.

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And catacombs, there are a motherfreakin’ lot of. In terms of style, tone and visuals, Vagrant Story is pretty dark stuff. Which is odd, with its storybook, comic-speech-bubbles artstyle. Imagine Final Fantasy IX made by Tim Burton, and you’re kinda sorta there.

The gameplay itself is very different. This is an action RPG, and there’s even a little light puzzling and platforming to be done. A lot of this takes the form of block-pushing shenanigans, tasking you with using the environment to carve yourself a path through the environment. Yup, that last sentence was a bit shit. Let’s hurry on to the next paragraph.

By this point, you’re probably waiting on those ghastly-ass monsters you were promised earlier. Good news, Vagrant Story’s combat is frequent, complex and satisfying. There’s none of that ‘select a magic spell or attack from a menu then feel a little superfluous as your character uses it automatically’ here. Nuts to that.

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Instead, you’ll be targeting body parts and ‘killing’ them individually… by selecting them from a tedious menu. Totally different. It is technically real-time combat, what with the combos and counters and such to be done, be there’s a freaking lot of menu faffing in between. Still, there are minotaurs, ogres, wyverns and all manner of dark creatures to beat on. That’s something.

On the subject of menu faffing, holy balls is that a complex upgrade system. Acquiring new weapons, armor and abilities is vital to just about every RPG, and they all approach the process differently. Vagrant Story’s workshop, though, is an asspain indeed. This is one for genre veterans, right here.

Players in the know still regard this one highly for its innovation, complexity and creepy-ass atmosphere. There isn’t another quite like it, and it deserves to be remembered.

The Weekly WTF: Throwing a ‘Bachelor Party,’ Atari Style

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You know the concept ‘so bad, it’s good?’ This is what makes Ed Wood’s ball-achingly bad Plan 9 From Outer Space a cult classic movie. Presumably, it’s also the reason that people keep buying freaking Bieber albums.

This does not apply to sexiness. Mrs. Popplecrump, my elderly math teacher with the bad wig and the skin complaint, does not suddenly become Katy Perry (your lady lust du jour may differ). As such, there’s no hope for Bachelor Party, the least sexy slice of sextastic you’ll ever, ever see.

What we have right here is another of Mystique’s half-assed porn games. It hit the Atari 2600 in 1982, and is probably the most balls-out crazy thing to come out of the eighties. And if you remember the era of shit hair and cell phones like freaking housebricks, you’ll know that’s saying something.

The premise is really all this thing has going for it. Breakout with a nekkid man as the ball, and nekkid ladies as the bricks? What could possibly go wrong? It’s got Swedish Erotica written across the box in big ol’ neon letters, after all, and that’s something we can all get on board with.

If you’re not familiar with Breakout in its original, scrote-free guise, it’s quite simple. It’s a bat and ball sort of puzzler, with you controlling a paddle at the bottom of the screen to keep the ball in play. The blocks are at the top, and wanging the ball at them to break them yields the scoretastic.

So, to sum up: Bachelor Party is pinball with wangs and woohoos . Well, horizontal pinball with wangs and woohoos.

How this became a thing, I can’t imagine, but it’s not unusual really. At one point, even the NES transformed an innocuous Tetris clone into Bubble Bath Babes, after all. It shouldn’t be at all surprising to be firing a nude dude boner-first into a room full of nekkid ladies.

Well, that’s apparently what’s happening here. What with the blurry-ass pixels and such, it’s difficult to tell. But hey, if you liked ol’ General George’s huge pixelly erection in Custer’s Revenge (which you damn well did, obviously), you’ll want to check this one out.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Space Channel 5

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The Dreamcast was, as we say in Merry Old England, the dog’s bollocks. Commercially, it died on its ass, with sub-par sales ensuring it’d be Sega’s last attempt at a games console. But if you’re in the market for some balls-out crazy, this was the system for you.

The Dreamcast backlog contains such cult classics as Seaman, the Leonard Nimoy-powered talking-fish-em-up. That sort of thing, you don’t see every day. So what the hell would happen if it attempted a rhythm action game? The genre’s always been a little nutty at the best of times, what with Parappa the Rapper and Vib Ribbon and all.

You haven’t seen anything yet. Hold on to your butts, Space Channel 5 is coming at you.

United Game Artists thrust this one out of their weirdery-pipe in 2000. It’s set five hundred years in the future, where bastard TV execs are at war with each other. Space Channel 5 is one of many TV stations, and is where player character Ulala works. This reporter has the funkiest moves the universe has seen since Michael Jackson did that badass leaning thing in the Smooth Criminal video, and she’s going to need them.

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You know how it is. You’re sitting at your desk, scratching your ass, stealthily getting your Egotastic on while your boss bitches about that paper he asked you for a week ago. Before you know what the eff, a bizarre race of aliens called Morolians have landed. Their plot for world domination? Making everyone dance. You must rescue them, by… dancing yourself.

Well, sure. We’ve all been there.

You know how rhythm action works. As Ulala, you’ll follow the up-y, down-y, left-y and right-y commands on the screen with the proper timing. It’s all standard enough. But then –then– the shoot-outs come in. In these parts of stages, hostages can be freed, and buckshot left in the asscheeks of the Morolians. It’s novel, to say the least.

While all this is going on, you have to maintain Space Channel 5‘s ratings. Too many mistakes will make people switch off (presumably you’re competing with some shitty rom-com on intergalactic Lifetime TV). As you slip up, you’ll lose your score and hearts, and eventually have to restart the level.

Space Channel 5 is the sort of thing we remember the Dreamcast for. It wasn’t exclusive, hitting the PS2 and Game Boy Advance a year or two later, but it’s such a perfect fit for the ‘cast. That same spirit of toontastic cutesiness from Jet Grind Radio and the like run through it. Retroheads who missed out on this one should definitely check it out.

The Weekly WTF: Beware the Santa Demon of ‘Daze Before Christmas’

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Maybe you’re feeling pretty darn good about Santa right now. The fat ol’ bastard might’ve given you that hoverboard or sexy Thai bride or whatever you’ve been angling for. But don’t kid yourself, as you doze on the couch in a turkeytastic stupor. Saint Nick is no saint at all.

If you don’t believe it, you’ve never seen him transform, Jeckyl and Hyde style, into the HUGE FURIOUS SLAVERING ANTI-SANTA OF DEATHLY DEATH. Hold on to your butts, it’s time for Daze Before Christmas.

This little slice of weirdness hit the Sega Genesis in 1994. In some regions, at any rate. Its release was quite the eff up, arriving only in Australia before making its way to Europe in SNES form. Over here in the US of A, meanwhile, we remained Daze-free. Something else to be thankful for this holiday season, because it’s wank.

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In this toontastic platformer, a criminal band of snowmen has invaded the North Pole. What with the whole damn place being made of snow, infiltration probably didn’t take months of planning in shady abandoned warehouses, with everyone smoking and gesticulating wildly at blueprints and such (this is how it’s done, I saw it on TV).

Reindeer and elves alike have been kidnapped, and it’s up to the Claus himself to rescue his buddies and do his festive duty.

This is done, naturally, by platformer-ing it up across a series of holiday-themed levels. Along the way, the big guy will bust out all kinds of powers we never knew he had. He’s even pulled some kind of flamethrower magic out of his ass for this one.

And, as promised, you can transform into the badass power of Anti-Claus and wang evil rats in the face with your sack of toys. This is what we call a selling point, gentlemen.