Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Personal Note

The Chrontendo Blog is rarely updated nowadays. I think most people check Twitter or Youtube for updates instead. It's been a difficult week for me. We lost our dog Molly on Saturday, and I felt the need to say more about it than I could in a series of Tweets.

Molly was not a young dog; she was 13. However, the suddenness of her passing was shocking. Prior to last weekend she appeared to be in excellent shape. The Friday before last we noticed her walking a little stiffly and acting lethargic. We also found a swelling in her ear, which concerned us. I thought she may have been bitten by a spider or was suffering from an infection. We took her to the vet on Sunday, where we learned the swelling in the ear was not serious or uncommon by itself. However the doctor wanted to run some blood tests to find out what was causing her lack of energy.

On Tuesday we got the results of the blood tests, which showed Molly had a low red blood cell count. The doctor suggested that an ultrasound be done to look for abnormalities in her organs. I took her in for the ultrasound on Wednesday, and at this point, I was not terribly worried. I'd had anemia myself at one point and it just required me to take iron supplements.

Wednesday afternoon the doctor called me back with bad news. Molly's ultrasound showed cancerous tumors on her liver and spleen. The low red cell count was due to internal blood loss. There was nothing that could be done to save her. I asked the vet how much time she had, and he replied that she might not even last through the night. Probably a week at most. Molly seemed tired but comfortable on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday, she was showing signs of distress, so we took her into the vet to be put to sleep.  Again -- the thing that shocked us the most was how sudden this all happened. Molly hadn't been displaying any signs of bad health and was in remarkably good shape for her age.  She was stronger and more energetic than our other dog, Gigi, who is also 13, and we always assumed that Molly would outlive Gigi. I am still having difficulty processing the fact that Molly is no longer with us.

Her death hit both of us pretty hard. This was the first time in our adult lives that either of us had to deal with the loss of a dog. We got Gigi a few years after we bought our house and Molly followed a little later. After all these years of having Molly here with us, it's hard to wake up and realize she's no longer with us. We've had pet cats die since we've been living together, and while I don't mean to diminish the loss cat owners feel, having a dog die was much more difficult.

Molly really was one of the greatest dogs I have ever known. She almost certainly saved two people's lives. My mother found her in an animal shelter, two days before she was scheduled to be killed. She was around 6 months old and appeared to have been abused. She was terrified of me at first; in fact she was terrified of any man. If I approached her with my hand in the air, she would cringe. It required a lot of work and patience, but eventually Molly became a fearless, devoted and loving dog. She was incredibly protective. I don't doubt for a minute that would have given her life to protect me or my wife from harm.

My mother would not be alive today if weren't for Molly. Around a decade ago, Molly began sniffing at my mother's chest obsessively and making whimpering or growling noises. She did this consistently until my mother got concerned and went to her doctor for a checkup. Testing revealed she had stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer had spread enough that my mother's doctor didn't give her good odds of surviving.  She made it through surgery and chemotherapy, but if she had found out about the cancer later, it would have been too late. Incredibly, Molly detected breast cancer in another woman a couple years later, who, again, was able to get treatment in time.

I worry a lot about Gigi, and how she'll handle Molly no longer being here.  Gigi is pretty old herself and I know she misses Molly. There are times when she appears to be walking around the house looking for her. Sometimes I instinctively glance at a dog bed to see if Molly is lying down in it. I've gotten so accustomed to seeing her every day it's hard to accept she's gone. She gave so much of herself to us, I feel like I've betrayed her by not being able to save her. I know we'll eventually accept Molly's death, but for the moment, we are missing her greatly.

My apologies for this depressing post, and thanks for hearing me out.  I'll update the blog again shortly when Chrontendo Episode 51 is ready, which should be in the near future.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Extremely Delayed Update

You might be tempted to think I've abandoned this blog. Yet here I am with a new post. A couple things happened since the last post. Obviously Chrontendo Episode 49 was released.

And now, Chrontendo Episode 50 is also out! As always you can stream it on Youtube in high-ish def ad 60 fps, or you can download it on Archive. There are a few video options.

The purest, least processed version is the 480p AVI file here.
There is a also a large 720p mkv version here.
And a smaller 720p mkv here.

There is are also mp4 versions of the about two files. You can see all the downloads here, but avoid any version not mentioned above.

Chrontendo Episode 50 has one of the worst selection of games of any episode so far. A couple decent titles, Softball Tengoku and Super Spike V'Ball turn up, but the remainder is mostly crap from the likes of Beam, Rare, Tose and the like.

To fill out this episode with something worthwhile, I included the 1989 computer game roundup. A look at some of the highlights (and a few lowlights, like the amazing David Wolf: Secret Agent), the round up takes a good 30 minutes of Episode 50's run time. The most well known computer games from 89 would be Sim City, Populous, and Prince of Persia, but there are plenty of lesser known important titles like Catacomb (essentially the 2D blueprint for Doom) and Harpoon (considered to be the greatest naval warfare simulation game of all time). The overall narrative of the history of computer gaming in the late 80s and early 90 is: a) the triumph of the DOS based PC over its competitors and b) the ever increasing graphical powers of PCs, when led to the transition from 2D games to 3D games. We see a number of  early, almost forgotten 3D games in this episode, including Interphase and Archipelagos.

The highlights of Episode 50 are two reasonably fun/competent sports games Softball Tengoku and Super Spike V'Ball. Softball Tengoku, perhaps the first all-furry baseball videogame, is a crudely made yet creative and fun game featuring a bizarre roster of animal and monster players. It was made significantly less weird for the US market and released as Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball.  Technos Japan's  Super Spike V'Ball is a less creative, though sturdily designed volleyball game.

On the lower end of the spectrum we have... well, almost everything else.  The Three Stooges is a port of the Cinemaware Amiga game and my least favorite game this episode. A hastily slapped together collection of bad minigames, the Amiga version at least had nice sound and graphics. The NES port, developed by Beam (seen last episode with their Back to the Future) is a ugly unpleasant mess.

Episode 50 breaks the baseball game record with four baseball games total. Aside from Softball Tengoku we have:

Kattobi! Warabe Ko

This is a rather odd card-based game taken from a manga. Published by Pack-in-Video.

Choujin Ultra Baseball/Baseball Simulator 1.000

Similar to Softball Tengoku, this Culture Brain title features players with superhuman baseball abilities. Too bad they released under the incredibly boring and inappropriate name Baseball Simulator 1.000 in the US.

Major League

Yes, a Japan only game based on Major League, the movie with Charlie Sheen. Sadly, after the opening scenes, it's a totally generic baseball game.

Tose developed Softball Tengoku, and they were responsible for two other games this episode:

Tashiro Masashi no Princess ga Ippai

Fan translated under the absurd title Princesstual Orgy, this action platformer stars the (now disgraced) comedian Tashiro Masashi. A relatively nice looking game from Tose, it's absolutely sunk by the horrible slippery controls and terrible level design. A shame since I was looking forward to this one based in it's loony title.

Dragon Ball 3: Gokuuden

Tose games are actually getting pretty slick at times. An RPG/card game/board game based on the manga and anime. A little prettier than the last Dragon Ball game.

Rounding out the detritus:

Dungeon Magic

Published by Natsume in Japan and by Taito in the US, this is one of few Japanese developed games that attempts to imitate the Bard's Tale style of western RPG.  The results are shockingly ugly, but it turns out this game has its fans.

Jeopardy Jr Edition/Wheel of Fortune Jr Edition

Two very slightly revised versions of these Rare/Game Tek titles from 1988. Rare just went in, slightly altered some graphics and replaced the questions/puzzles with easier ones aimed at younger kids.

 Stealth ATF

Cashing in on the interest surrounding the recently unveiled stealth fighter, this gem from Activision/Imagineering feels like the lost cousin of Top Gun, right down to a plane that's impossible to land without crashing.

Gozonji Yaji Kita Chindochū
Yet another humorous menu based adventure game, this time from HAL.

Twin Eagle

One of the rare instances where a game is released in the US first, then much later in Japan. The original arcade game was not particularly notable. This NES port is notable for being one of the worst shoot-em-ups on the system.

Mahjong Taikai

Of course there's a mahjong game. This is published by Koei, strangely enough. It's a port of a computer game in which famous historical figures face off in a game of mahjong.

Coming soon is a Video Nasties double header! Two episodes back to back featuring Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery.

After that, Episode 51 will finally take us to December 1989! Highlights include Square's Tom Sawyer and an almost forgotten game published by Nintendo.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Video Nasties Episode 3!

Seems like I hardly ever update this damn blog anymore, but here's the latest scoop.

The newest video on the Dr. Sparkle After Dark channel has been posted. In response to Wes Craven's death, I decided to cover 1972's Last House on the Left, which was produced by Sean Cunningham and written/directed by Craven. Aside from the 1080p Youtube version, you can find downloadable versions on Archive in 1080p, 720p, and a smaller sized 720p formats.

Aside from discussing the film itself, I go into a bit of professional history of some of the cast and crew. Craven's work in the porn industry is somewhat well known, though little discussed. Additionally, several members of the cast, namely Sandra Cassel & Lucy Grantham, who played Mari & Phylis, as well as Fred Lincoln (Weasel) and 'Gaylord St James' (Dr Collingwood), had history in the sex movie industry. Lincoln, in particular, was an extremely prolific actor and director, who worked in the porn biz until two years before his death in 2013. He was also the co-owner of the notorious NYC swinger's club Plato's Retreat.  (Richard Dreyfuss was a regular there. Jeramie Rain, who played Sadie in Last House, married Dreyfuss a few years after Plato's Retreat opened. Coincidence?)

One way to look at Last House is that it is a porn movie without hardcore sex. It was originally planned to be a sexually explicit film. This element was dropped in pre-production, but it does explain the casting of several porn actors. There were also numerous ties, both personal and professional, among the cast and crew. For example, Fred Lincoln and Lucy Grantham were dating at the time; David Hess was dating Martin Kove's sister, and so on. 

One thing about Last House that really bothers people is the severe tonal shifts throughout the film. Scenes of psychological torture and violence are intercut with the goofy antics of the local sheriff and deputy. The music (by David Hess) appears to be wildly inappropriate at times. The killers' theme song is a rollicking bluegrass-y number that refers to  Krug, Sadie, etc as a "quartet in harmony/barbershop band" and describes the film's murders and rapes as a fun little afternoon outing.

The first time I saw Last House, the silly humor and inappropriate music struck me was being very strange. Having seen it a couple more times over the years, and then scouring every inch of the film while editing the video, I realize these elements are essential to Last House's artistic success. The lighthearted moments not only keep Last House from being 90 minutes of unrelenting bleakness, but also provide enough contrast to make brutal moments feel that much more brutal. 

The use of irony, especially in the soundtrack, acts as a distancing technique. Craven must have picked this up from studying Europeans films such as those by Bergman. Watching it now, I can see its art film roots much more clearly than I could when I was younger. For a debut film, Last House on the Left is surprisingly sophisticated.

Next up is Chrontendo 49, which will cover a bunch of crap along the lines of LJN's Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A pretty rough episode, for the most part, considering it also has a Hokuto no Ken RPG and another Japan-only adventure game from Nintendo.

When The Video Nasties return, it will cover the bizarre 1980 horror movie The Frozen Scream, which was recently released in a pretty watchable edition, taken from the original negative, for the first time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Here It Is: Chronturbo 5

As many of you have already noticed, the new Chronturbo is now up on Youtube and Archive. Youtube now has the ability to stream 60 fps for 720p videos, though if you want to download the original, not-reprocessed-by-Youtube, file, then Archive is still the place to go.

We have a big fat three CD-ROM games this time: two arcade ports and one original title from the folks who gave us Valis II.  As I mentioned earlier, Super Albatross, despite being a golf game, has a lot of similarities to Valis II. The other two CD games are Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, which is pretty straightforward port of the arcade game, and Juuouki AKA Altered Beast. This port of Altered Beast is pretty terrible -- the graphics are ugly and it controls are sluggish. However Hudson did add a semi-animated intro with sound and music. By semi-animated I mean that it simply uses pans and zooms of static artwork.

Wonder Boy

Tacking on a PC-Engine exclusive intro onto a port would be a pretty common tactic throughout the console's lifespan.  The unusual thing about the PC-Engine Altered Beast is that it was released on both CD-ROM and HuCard a week apart. The two versions are almost identical, except for the HuCard missing the intro and some voice/music samples. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another game that got released in both formats simultaneously.

Side Arms

We have several arcade ports this time, of games originally from Capcom, Namco, Jaleco and Data East. Side Arms and Ordyne are both horizontal shoot-em-ups. Bloody Wolf, probably the best game this episode, is a radically altered version of Data East's Mercs clone. F-1 Dream is an archaic-looking racing game which has been altered quite a bit as well. The biggest weaknesses of Side Arms and Bloody Wolf is that, despite having been originally designed for two players, only a single player mode is available on the PC Engine ports. Takeda Shingen is not the same game as Shingen the Ruler for the FC/NES, but is a horribly botched port of a beat-em-up from Jaleco.

Rock On

The rest are all original titles, most of which aren't very good. The most offensively terrible is Rock On, a bizarre and amateurishly made horizontal shooter from Big Club/Manjyudo. The last game we saw from these guys which a weird Space Harrier clone. Aside from being extremely dull, stealing one boss directly from R-Type, and having waaayy too many power-ups floating around, Rock On is notable for its utterly insane Engrish-y opening text scroll.

Deep Dungeons
Boring, pointless dungeon crawler. Only of interest to those to love to draw huge maps on graph paper. Excellent graphics/animation of moving through the dungeon, however.

Power League II

 Power League II
Sequel to Power League/World Class Baseball. Neither this nor any of the other Power League sequels got a US release. Standard baseball game.

Break In
This is actually a good billiards game with lots of game options, modes, etc.  It's from Naxat, so the graphics and music are pretty darned solid.

Maison Ikokku
A port of a MSX/FM7 adventure game based on the popular Rumiko Takahashi manga.  We encountered the Famicom version in an earlier episode of Chrontendo. Luckily the PC Engine port has a quality English translation available, so if you're interested in adventure games for this console, this is one of the very few English options.

Momotaro Dentetsu

Super Momotaro Dentetsu
A big game in Japan, I'm sure. Hudson moves it's popular railway board game to the PC Engine for the second entry in the series. Though in 2015 Nintendo got the last laugh, as it appears future entries the series will be published by them, due to the collapse of Konami.

Artist Tool
Not a real game, but instead an extremely basic drawing program. Three hardware accessories were available - a drawing tablet/stylus, a printer, and a scanner of some sort. The game and the accessories are somewhat rare and expensive now.

We are going to switch over to the Famicom/NES next, but when we do return to the PC Engine,  we'll reach up to early December 1989, and get to see some mahjong games, a golf game, and one of the ever-popular business simulation games.

In the very near future, though, we'll have a small update to the Video Nasties series on the Dr. Sparkle After Dark channel.