Seta U.S.A. / Affect
Genre: Action Platformer
Plain and simple confession right up front before this article commences: I absolutely adore “magical girl” anime. I think there’s something to be said for a genre that emphasizes friendship, inner strength, and over-the-top transformations and special powers. I grew up watching Sailor Moon among other cartoons in the morning and when I started dabbling back into anime, I managed to find a few series that fit the tropes that still hooked me today.
When I was a kid, I visited one of the three rental places in town and came across a copy of Valis IV for the Sega Genesis. I popped it in and played it non-stop until I had to bring it back. While I don’t remember renting it again, I do recall that it felt like the closest thing to a Sailor Moon game that I had seen, given the young girl protagonist transforming into a sword-swinging warrior fighting off grotesque enemies as she tried to save her world. Given my fantasy-slanted role models growing up, it was no surprise that I would gravitate toward games and heroines like that.
This story is not about Valis, however. This story is about Kendo Rage, a game that looked a lot like Valis on its cover- and turned into something a bit different once the game powered on. I’ve turned the game on a few times since the first time I played it, but I finally completed it recently, once again finishing up a memory from my gaming past that was incomplete. Given the twenty-five or so years of build-up it had gotten, I have more than a few thoughts to share on this little-known title from the Super Nintendo’s golden years.
Deep End Games/Feardemic
Genre: Survival Horror
Having lived in New England my entire life, I’m no stranger to films that involve the Boston and general North Shore areas of Massachusetts. Given that authors like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft also center quite a bit of their work around the New England area, there is plenty of horror related literature to reference that center around Maine and Rhode Island. Gaming has also recently had a few prominent settings in the area, notably Fallout 4 which takes place in The Commonwealth a.k.a. Massachusetts. In most media, you only have to look in a general direction to find work that centers around this section of the country. I mean, it’s been around long enough to gain some kind of attention.
I had originally heard of Perception at PAX a couple of years back and while I didn’t get to check out the demo, my friends did and raved about it. I threw it on to a list of games I would keep an eye on and when I looked into it, I realized that not only did the game take place in New England, but it was also developed by a company based right out of Boston. From that point, I don’t think the game fell off of my radar until I purchased it during a sale on Steam.
Given my backlog, I had tried getting into the game once before and wound up distracted by other things in my life (and probably other games, to be honest) but given the time of year, I’ve been trying to work through some of the spookier games in my library. I settled on the fact that I owed it to myself to play through Perception to see if my initial hype could be lived up to, especially given the unique mechanics of the game that I had heard so much about.
Layers of Fear
Aspys / Bloober Team
Over the years, horror as a genre has branched off quite a bit. While the genre wasn’t exactly a stranger to symbolism or subtext, time has lent itself to certain horror offerings exercising the cerebral and dramatic. Video games have been doing this for some time now thanks to certain developers working to deepen the artform that video games have started to be recognized as. Games like Silent Hill and Rule of Rose have taken a whole mythos and forums full of discussion to dissect- and it’s all been amazing to watch unfold as a horror fan.
Layers of Fear is an indie effort that attempts to marry the horror genre with drama and surrealism. While a few games have done this, I had heard a lot about Layers of Fear from my friends- and yet had heard very little about it aside from it would be right up my alley and that I needed to try it. Given my extensive Steam library, I thought it would be a while before I got the chance to play it. In a stroke of generosity, a friend of mine gifted me a copy so I could finally check out the experience.
That was about a year or so ago.
Well, now it’s the season and in between replays of Clock Tower and Friday the 13th, I’m making it my goal to get to some of the creepier titles I haven’t had the chance to break into yet. First up on my list ended up being this one since I was in the mood for the kind of game I had at least thought it was. Allow me to detail for all of you the experience I had after a year of anticipation for this game and all it had to offer.
Tiny Toon Adventures
Nintendo Entertainment System
I grew up with the Looney Tunes among other cartoons and television. It might be more apt to say that my parents grew up with the Looney Tunes since most of the shorts I watched with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the crew were created well before my time. There were still cartoons being produced starring those ink and pen anthropomorphic comedians but while they were teaching me the fundamentals of well-timed jokes, they were clearly having a bit of an issue reaching a younger generation.
Cut to 1990 when Warner Brothers, the company that produced Looney Tunes and the Merrie Melodies cartoons, decided that they wanted to “inject new life” into their animation department by creating a show that featured younger versions of the characters the public had come to know and love. Alongside plenty of other shows that turned classic characters into children and babies at the time, Tiny Toon Adventures, a cartoon about the next generation of Warner Brothers’ stars in training, came to life.
As was the way at the time, once the show had proven to be remotely successful, the market was flooded with merchandise. Stuffed dolls, lunchboxes, coloring books and, of course, video games. The first of these to hit the shelves was for the Nintendo Entertainment System a year after the cartoon had its first episodes on the air. Given the mild phenomenon, the game arrived to mostly great reviews across the board. I had some fond memories of playing this game with my babysitter as a kid, but I know some of my other favorite games growing up have let me down as I’ve gone back to them now.
As usual, I had to figure out if Tiny Toon Adventures was one of those games that would fold under the weight of time.
Goosebumps: The Game
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror
Every kid at my school growing up read or knew what the Goosebumps books were. Moreover, nearly every kid I hung out with collected them. When book fairs were held in the elementary school library, it was a race to see who could get to the latest titles first. If you didn’t get there fast enough, they were gone. Honestly, Goosebumps was a pretty big thing for us in K-5 and probably segued into my love for horror in general.
Despite taking breaks here and there, the series doesn’t seem to have gone away completely at any particular point. Aside from the original 62 books in the series, there have been choose-your-own-adventure books, boards games, comics, and a television series among other mediums keeping the franchise’s porch light on. Goosebumps seemed to turn up the volume full blast, however, with the 2015 film (which coincidentally, I thought was a pretty cool little horror film for the younger set).
At the same time, a game was released simply titled Goosebumps: The Game. It was meant to serve as a lead-in to the film- and we all know how we feel about most games adapted around films. While this isn’t the first Goosebumps video game to be released, most of the other games feel like they drifted by unnoticed. This game had a pretty tough track record to fight upstream against from the minute it started development. Even knowing that I had to throw some money at it and see how my beloved childhood series fared.