Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The PSone controller had different shoulder buttons; Genso Suikoden prototype footage from 1994!

So I hear Konami has been quite an asshole lately. The way they mistreatment their workforce, withdrawing from console game production, and the complete, sensational mess that has been the Hideo Kojima divorce. Yuck, a cesspool to be sure.

Let's escape from that to about two decades ago when they were at the twilight years of their dignity. Here's a game that I've hear good things over the years on and off, but have never played. This is Gensou Suikoden.

As an RPG game centered around political struggles in a fictional, fantasy empire, Suikoden was made out of a labor of love from the get-go, starting out as a launch title for an unannounced Konami home console. Very little immediate information about that exists on the internet, but the game, under the imaginatively clever name of "RPG," was in development for a brief time but was moved over to the PlayStation, otherwise codenamed the PSX. A relatively more creative acronym than "RPG," I think. In addition, the script for its sequel was originally used for this game but its creator felt he needed more experience to give it the proper treatment it deserved and instead created a "prequel script" for this game instead. 

In July of 1994 𑁋 about a year and a half before the game's domestic release 𑁋 Suikoden was formally unveiled to players at the V-Jump Festival '94 exhibition in Japan. That's not the only feature in the following clip that was preliminary, though.

We also see a preliminary version of the standard PlayStation controller featuring odd symbols on the shoulder buttons that would later become the numbered R and L buttons.

What buttons are those suppose to say, do you think?
It's rather interesting to see this game unveiled to the gaming public about a year and a half before either the game and console came out. It's thanks to this fact however that we can actually see the early designs for the PlayStation controller. As it is known, the original PlayStation controller went through several dozen iterations before the company settled on its finalized design. The most striking detail seen in are the shoulder button designs on the top of the controller. There are no L or R labeled buttons but instead are some triangle-shaped symbols that I can't make out what they're supposed to be.

Obviously, the controller wasn't finalized at this point in time but it makes clear that Sony Computer Entertainment had provided a 3D console that enabled third-party developers like Konami the confidence they needed to jump onto polygons so soon. Sony lured them into their boat quite well.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Here's some (old) new footage of the unreleased PlayStation version of Superman

Oh, just months since the last update and an hour 'til October starts. I have a bad work ethic for blogs and videos. Tonight, let's talk about a Superman game. One that was made for PlayStation.

After the complete bomb that was the abysmal Superman on the Nintendo 64 in 1999, another attempt by the same developer was made for the PlayStation just a year later.

Long story short, publisher Titus lost the video game license to Superman and thus the game could not be sold without renewing the expensive license. The game was subsequently cancelled afterwards. Since then, it's become a legend among some game prototype enthusiasts for being a completely different game than the original N64 game. The following is screen-recorded footage of the unreleased PlayStation version running on ePSXe, 
retrieved from an anonymous source (intentionally withheld for the time being), and I've been privileged to upload it all on YouTube with his/her blessing. 

An embedded playlist of the footage divided in three short parts. Let the player play all three or use the links in this paragraph to see them one-by-one.

Unfortunately the footage contained absolutely no sound, therefore the audio heard in the first part plays the opening intro theme repeatedly, while later parts just use music from some of the PlayStation Mega Man games. =P

Monday, June 13, 2016

More VHS crap few would care about (or stuff I find at work in Goodwill)

Wowsers! It's been months since the last update? Let me rev it up here. I've been working at my job at Goodwill for months now and I've been finding some unexpectedly awesome things there since my time there. The following post is not of that level of such but it might be a nice thing for some.

I found a home video tape buried with other crap inside a gaylord that nobody would care about. This one was labeled "DBZ + Adult Swim" in fine-point blue ink on an expectedly worn, generic white label. Out of curiosity, I fired up a recovered VHS player in the item processing area I work in (I'm a "production associate"), popped the tape in, it wasn't what I expected. Lacking the time and luxury to watch all two hours of the tape (time is money and I'm not paid to do that), I decided to chance buying it to watch what I thought would be some Dragon Ball Z goodness. So the next day, I slipped the bastard in a Tomorrow Never Dies VHS box cover, bought it for $0.99 and went home.

I popped the thing into my Panasonic player. It wasn't DBZ or anything Adult Swim related. In fact, apparently what did actually exist on it was three seconds of Inuyasha at the start of the tape and suddenly there's a really boring, over-glorified TV show ─ from fucking G4 of all things ─ about race cars and their douchebag drivers; presumably recording over what was labeled on the tape. Yeah, remember G4? That one channel were Icons aired on and all those bullshit EB Games ads that aired every 15 minutes, and later a bunch of other shows aired that weren't even video game related? Yeah, that channel. They sucked. Just like this tape I blew 99 cents on. What didn't suck though was seeing TV commercials of certain games that I didn't see archived in decent-enough resolution online. 

One was for the 2005 Xbox port of the high-profile, smash-hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which by the time this particular commercial aired, the Hot Coffee scandal had just hit public consciousness, inducing lots of congressional shit that era and giving owners of the original release something to giggle about. It's a hot read.

Another was Psychonauts, a fan-favorite game released that same year for every major platform minus the Nintendo GameCube, just like so many multiplatform-bounded games that era. GCN missed out on a lot of good games. Believe it or not, I haven't even touched this game once. Heard about it throughout the years, but I haven't cared to try it. However, the long awaited sequel was recently announced and I know what it's like to have a favorite game series return after a decade-long absence, so here's my unsolicited gift to those fans. I just hope their game doesn't end up in smoke like mine did.

So there you have it, maybe I'll have more articles and YouTube stuff to put up soon. I've got a lot to catch up on so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sonic Toon (Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric) | Weekly Famitsu Issue #1345 (JP) | 9/25/2014

I actually really hated Knuckles' awkward redesign.
Yikes, it's that game. 

Sonic Boom was a catastrophic failure of a game that no one wanted, expected or cared about. As we all know, the damage made to the brand after having it being partially restored to greatness by Sonic Generations (and brought down again by Sonic Lost World) has arguably been done worse than 2006's abysmal Sonic The Hedgehog. A feat that many didn't think was even actually possible, yet it did. Lone wolf game investigator Tamaki has a terrific video of the whole situation over at his YouTube channel.

The Japanese weren't spared of this game either and from the looks of it, they received it better than the rest of the western hemisphere did, at least under Famitsu's reviewers (this was the same magazine that gave the original Dreamcast version of Sonic Adventure a soaring score of 38/40, Sonic '06 a 30/40, and Generations a 35/40), so take their credibility with a grain of salt.

So I bought this magazine at a Japanese bookstore in San Francisco's Japantown about a year and a half ago. At first, it was about seeing what cool stuff I'd find about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS but then I stumbled upon an article about BoomPage 232 of Weekly Famitsu Issue #1345 is the article about Sonic Boom. If the language itself won't do anyone any favors, then surely the images - and the characters, Metal Sonic and Shadow (at least his katakana-written name) - may.

It always seemed as though the pre-release material made the game looked
better than it did (but then, that's almost always been the case for video games).
Watching that Game Grumps series has made me realize that.

Higher resolution scan can be found and downloaded here.
It's really too bad at this game ended up the way that it did. I knew that this was a spinoff but I thought it was going to have something rather interesting environmental art style going for it. This game was being made by a developer who formally worked on the Crash Bandicoot series under Naughty Dog so with such credentials it's actually disappointing this project resulted in the mess that was but for all I know, it may have just been a case of publisher-interference on Sega's part. That's never a good thing.

Oh well!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mega Man 64 Transition Prototype - Now Available

Software porting has always been a thing in digital entertainment. Seeing a game originally released in one, single system would oftentimes be on another in a year's time. That was especially true in the 32-bit era and before it. These days, nobody wants to deal with old stuff from a year before and publishers, who hold the keys to the game's IP, are particularly privy to that and so you see console ports of the same game across different platforms on the same day. 

Mega Man Legends was absolutely no exception to the former, but I'm guessing it was more Capcom wanting to recuperate some of the costs of the original game, since it wasn't the huge commercial success that they wanted. The effort put forth onto this port wasn't stellar either. Last month, me and a couple friends of mine released an early prototype of Mega Man 64 online to some fanfare for Legends enthusiasts like myself.

What you see above is actually an abridged version of the three and a half hour surprise livestream that I did before we released the ROM online. Not having satisfied with how it turned out, I went trimmed it to about 25 20 minutes, making it more entertaining and watchable. Also included are some gags you might want to check out. There are also annotations captions that deliver context behind certain prototypical happenings in the video (turn on [CC]).

Okay so, Mega Man 64. It was sloppily ported. It's a messy, compressed recreation of the original experience. Certain visual effects are nerfed, frame-rate suffers in places that should never/didn't happen on PS1, vaselined textures that undermine the sharp, visual charm of the game, and my personal favorite flub (see 4:50). Having grown up with the original PlayStation version, I see how this port undermines all that was great about Legends. You could also see why I wasn't initially thrilled about this prototype.

A few months ago, me and friend Pixelbuttz and Protodude were tipped off of a prototype build of Mega Man 64 that was in the hands of a collector. The gentleman acquired it from a friend of his and decided to share the knowledge of its existence to AssemblerGames, a now-defunct video game enthusiast forum.

In addition to the reasons I've explained earlier, I wasn't that particularly interested in this build because this would have represented the point in time Legends was being ported to the N64. Having realized that exact sentence I've just said, I figured this might be interesting after all. It wasn't until this collector had posted a video of the prototype in action on YouTube that it finally piqued my interest.

"KANTAN" is suppose to mean easy in Japanese.
The prototype included a menu on the title screen to access a scenario flag switch, a stage select of sorts and the ability to enable or disable certain scenarios in the game. Following this revelation, Pixelbuttz scrambled to gather as much funds as we can to beat out any competition interested in the prototype.

When I say "scramble," what I really mean to say that PB had just frantically made a GoFundMe page not realizing what hurdles it would take to overcome the complications that came about and what a royal pain-in-the-ass lesson it would be to learn not to repeat again (never resort to GoFundMe, stick with PayPal only). PB contacted 100,000 Strong to spread the word of this effort to bring more people to contribute. We just wanted the ROM of this thing, because we knew logistics would complicate things with the physical goods (and, boy, will we get into that in a minute).

Within a day or so, we acquired $400+ until the dude offered us to pay him that amount and he would compensate for the rest of the cost. Cool guy.

We thought we were over that mountain -- until the package arrived at customs. Some asshole basically told the bloke that he not only had to pay a certain expensive fee to get it delivered to his residence, but that they were essentially taking the package hostage until that amount was paid for. He actually had to drive to there and explain what the hell it was. Thankfully, it was all resolved and soon after that he dumped the ROM. Now it's all preserved for eternity with a download link from yours truly:

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the recovery of this prototype. We now have another piece of Mega Man Legends history preserved and we can also see what a complete mess the port already was in its transition from PlayStation to N64. If you'd like to see what is being found so far, go hit up the prototype's page at The Cutting Room Floor.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Makoto Tomozawa: Exclusive Interview w/ Former Capcom Music Composer (Mega Man, Resident Evil (1996) + RE1.5)

(Originally published at the now-defunct DASH Republic in March 2012. Re-edited and expanded for Tumblr in 2013. Finalized for January 2016 on The Game Informant.)
Makoto "V. Tomozo" Tomozawa adjusts
audio equipment during the 
production of
Street Fighter IV, circa January 2010.
Under the pseudonym V. Tomozo, as it was Capcom's policy to obscure talents' names back then, Makoto Tomozawa became well-known for composing music for several of the more popular early titles in the Mega Man franchise, including Mega Man X and Mega Man 7 for Super Nintendo (while also supposedly lending a hand in Dr. Wily's Revenge for Game Boy). He would later be best known for his work in the two main Mega Man Legends entries years later.

He continued to be credited under the pseudonym until Resident Evil in 1996, when 3D polygonal games were becoming the norm and the talent it took being more valued and recognized. Tomozawa would work briefly on the first draft of Resident Evil 2 (Resident Evil 1.5) right until it was scrapped. As soon as that game entered redevelopment in 1997, Tomozawa would be reassigned to compose music for Mega Man Legends, the first major 3D Mega Man game for PlayStation.

His other work consisted of titles from other well-known Capcom properties, including the Dino Crisis series on PlayStation. Tomozawa returned to the Resident Evil franchise one last time as a co-composer for the remake in 2002. One year later, after the release of P. N. 03, he left the company to join the Dimps Corporation and work on the highly-celebrated Street Fighter IV. In 2010 he would reunite with the Blue Bomber in Mega Man 10, composing Strike Man's stage theme.

Around the time of the Mega Man Legends 3 cancellation catastrophe in summer of 2011, I had a chat with Makoto Tomozawa on Twitter. Being the huge fan of the Legends series and some of the Resident Evil games in particular, I wanted the opportunity to speak with him about his past years at Capcom. He gladly accepted and over a period of months, he and I replied back and forth in an on-and-off manner to the point where he unfortunately dropped out on the middle of Legends 1 portion of our chat.

But from what I did gather, he didn't hesitate to admit that the Mega Man Legends projects were among the higher points of his time at Capcom.
Arron - OKeijiDragon: Hello, are you Makoto Tomozawa (友澤 眞) who worked at Capcom Co. Ltd (カプコン)?
Makoto Tomozawa: Yes, I once worked at Capcom, but I retired from the company.
Arron: Oh hello, Mr. Tomozawa! Pleased to finally meet you. I am a big fan of your work in Mega Man Legends. =)
Tomozawa: Thank you very much!!! It was one of my favorite works.
You can catch how the interview unfolded by clicking the jump!