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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Battletoads - 1991 NES game


I consider my generation to be a happy one in a number of aspects. Back in the day, we used to have good music, original songs made by creative and at the same time aspiring artists, among them the likes of New Order, Michael Jackson, Joe Division, Madness. among others. Movies were also entertaining back then, at least in a way that I haven't experienced since then. It's not to say that today's world hasn't seen the rise of men of great talent since then, but there is something ingrained in our artistic reality that is not supposed to be recovered through the resources currently available, at least by deeming the way they are employed. This is coming from someone who is overall clued up about all of our current trends, including our ever booming video game industry, which has also witnessed gems of all kinds: classic games that have gone on to spawn sequels, legends and myths galore. By now we await with much anticipation the release of the Playstation 4 and Wii's successor -yu. Even before said releases, we consider ourselves already blessed enough to have an incredible assortment of game consoles and games to sort through and play. Even without realising it, we already have countless hours of sheer fun and endless chartering waiting for us, waiting for us to use our imaginations to its limit by exploring new and unknown worlds, all the more now with Sony's Playstation 4 and Nintendo's yu upon us.


And the NES.

Check out my legs.
The 8-bit NES -Nintendo entertainment system- is a console most have fond memories of. The heyday of this marvellous console was a feast for anyone who had a pallate for fun and innovative games. It's by no way easy to use language to describe this, but the NES was a console which managed to mash together, in a coherent whole, both the thrill of phantasy and the colourfull infinity of creativity. I was a child back then, some years short of becoming a teenage in his early years. I had to go through daily school attendance, homework and the painstakingly compelling commitment to do well in class and carve a neat report card to my elders. The reward for a hard fought week was some hours in direct interaction with the 8-bit reality stemmed from this common 8-bit console. And a merry lot I was too. For some wonderful years I lived a happiness that unfortunately isn't easy to emulate nowadays. But the memories remain strong, in the ice-crackling quiet of these early summer days; philosophical morsels lying in wait to surge forth in a motivational whirlwind , overcoming the blurred sight of bleak difficulties and urging me to go on with my choice career as an IT professional and writer. I am sure I will soon be able to write a fully functional game by my own devices, and still retain a mind for the artistic side of life. So I intend. I also intend to write, in teh near future, reviews for the most remarkable NES games that I have been fortunate to come across: Megaman, Super Mario, Castlevania.
A Battletoad takes a jaw-smashing blow without even bothering to parry it.

This is how it felt.

And Battletoads.

I've just played this game today on a whim. I had intended to write another piece today about something else, but felt strangely compelled to play this game all the way through. For those not in the know, Battletoads was a game produced by Tradewest and Rare (the same one responsible for the likes of Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong Racing and Killer Instinct, I suppose) in 1991.
A boss enemy pumps a Battletoad full of lead before crushing his chest with the heel of his foot in a decisive movement
Back then, this game was regarded as widely advanced for its day and age. Its graphics amd music were astonishing, the game and way that the sprites behaved onscreen were delightfully detailed and the player's attention was fully enthralled by this beauty once he gets the ball rolling. This game has only one marring drawback: it's insanely difficult.
The dreaded Turbo Tunnel stage. A rat monkey on a craft flies over.
I wish the last sentence to not be made light of. The difficulty level is the game's aspect that stands out the most in the mind of those who had the opportunity to play or witness this game. It's so damned tough that the casual player would die and lose all of his lives early on in the game, oblivious to the fact that he hasn't completed not even 25% of the game, which is fraught with more hard-level hardcore madness. I myself remember being stuck in the third level -the turbo tunnel- and wondering what would be beyond those darn stone hurdles. The brunt of the impact involving a Battletoad crashing smack into one of those rock solid barriers can be even felt by the passive viewers who chance to be only watching, standing next to the suffering player. The impulse actually travels a short distance, down the arithmetical operatrions performed by the console's processor according to input commands, then through copper wires to reach the player's joypad so he has to start over, as if the shocking image wasn't enough to make the player experience the unsightly mess of a collision into uncomfortable looking ragged walls. Although it's only for a brief moment, it lingers bitterly...

The fifth stage: Surfing wash-out.
Okay, onwards to the game. The game is outright hard, although its graphical aspects are quite appealing. The music and sound effects are also awesome, serious tones highlighting the in-game violence and the possibility of instant death always looming near. And this is where we get to another minor slip-up: the toads are incredibly easy to kill. A plethora of enemies can instantly kill them, and a few others can combo them to death. There's just no way out once you get embroiled by the enemies' bloodthirsty beating. Also on the list of deadly traps are spikes, endless chasms, driving your speedbike into barriers, poison gas, toothed gears etc. You should play this game with much care. Heck, even if great care is used, the player will also die, perhaps meet some gruesome end along the way. I had to play through the whole thing with game genie codes on and even this way it was hard. Time-consuming, to say the least. But above all, still hard enough to warrant attention and memorisation of where danger lurks at key locations of the stages.
The mighty boot super special finish.
Now you have it. PLaying it on an emulator, game genie codes enabled, being able to save and load at will and the hardships still remain, even though they have abated some. I felt quite wacked at the end of this meat-grinding marathon, but at least I found out the whole thing is beatable.  The ending sequence? Not much to peek at. But I still had teh presence of mind to find that cool, nonetheless. Maybe it was me, always slanted towards the simple and unpretencious.

The plot? There isn't much to it, but here it goes: one day, Zits (one of the Toads, he's not a playable character) and a local Princess go "out cruisin", when they are suddenly swallowed by the gaping mawl of a passing space craft- the Gargantua. Giving orders, from an unseen location, is the Drak Queen. She wishes to vanquish those Battle jerks and thus conquer the universe. Professor T. Bird sends the remaining of the wart-skinned protaganists to fight their way through hordes of evil doers and bring them back safely and send the Drk Queen plunging down for a unforgettable fall. Well, they do this if the player has game genie codes enabled and has the nerve to endure 12 levels filled with unbelievable ordeals and challenges. Not an easy task, but those who purport themselves to be experienced gamers might be in want of a fitting challenge...
It's not after the Dark Queen is vanquished that we snatch a glimpse of the other Toad and the princess, 8-bit Nintendo style ending.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Kaiji- series overview and first episode


Kaiji is described as the suffering pariah in the title; actually he's not the only one to suffer, nor is he the only survivor out of his trials, but he's at the same time a pariah and a survivor, and this makes him alluring as a character.

  I'm about to engage in the  most pointless exercise known to man or beast: I'm going to try to convey, through normal language, how phantastical the Kaiji series is. There's no way someone will ever be able to say what the universe created by Nobuiki Fukumoto means to those who have experienced some of his
artistic output. I have watched this many years ago and since then have been feeling guilty about for not having written anything about it. It's true  I've watched it countless times, but this is the first time I'm potentially letting someone know about it. This is an overdue review for Kaiji, but at long last it's here.
Kaiji is being swallowed by a sea of gambling, where madness, fright and tactics intertwine imperceptibly.



While others enjoy their pimped-up lifestyle, I stand alone.
Morals? Pah, humbug.

Kaiji sticks to his guns, disregarding society's communiqu├ęs about what he should be. A run-down school intrudes from the background.

"I ain't aiming for petty gains. Hitting it big some day is all that matters"

"The debt collectors lunged at me. Too bad I'm broke"

"Tag along with me.You'll eventually find out how different from Akagi I am."


Bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, I still can hardly believe that I will watch it all over again, even if it's for the sake of writing an article that will not even come close to matching the quality with which Kaiji was produced. Onwards to the first episode:

Departure.
Ah, the opening sequence, Miraiwabokura no teno naka (the future is in our hands, per the subtitles from the series itself). It opens with what seems Kaiji being swallowed by an empty void from beyond,presumably a sea of madness and gambling after cards from Restricted Rock-Paper-Scissors play on the screen. 

Neat way to learn another language.But having to read it upside down is harder.

Kaiji is written in Katakana, perhaps in order to avoid the childish message that might get across if it was written in Hiragana. We start off with an overview of kaiji's routines and it evolves around cheap gambles and liquor. The point is so well driven home that his basest vices will hardly bear any further mentioning. Kaiji is sitting along with a handful of mates, playing some kind of western card game. His draws seem to be bad, he gets a mess of a starting hand and presumably loses. Next we see him lying on the side and grieving over his loser life and why he always wants things that unreacheable for him, behind the fortress of display cases.
Kaiji's draws seem to be bad.

The pent-up feeling build up and he has to do something with his frustration over life. Once he's comfortably home again, he hears a knock at the door.Annoyed, he goes over to answer it and his vexed temper is cut short of displaying any rudeness upon realising the visitor's imposing frame and stern dead-pan expression. From then on, life as he knew it would take a new direction, sweeping along the viewer on an unforgetable ride through man's inner pains, aspirations and fears...

Please guys, let me win, just this one time.
"So, have you no aim in life?"
The first zawa-zawa moment in the show. This is an onomatopeia intended to represent the inner sound in people's minds, stemming from an uneasy situation, typically when the uneasiness sets in and the afflicted person becomes unsettled by something from which there is no foreseeable way out.


The ending theme. The point here is that you start out all pumped up and end up in the dumps, crushed by the weight of reality because you live in a system that is against the destitute and favour those of a higher social status and holders of worldly possessions. The segment highlights Kaiji's anonymity among the
passing parade of forgotten faces that is mankind. Passers-through flash by, worried with their own petty problems while pretending not to notice each other. They bore on towards Kaiji, and away from him, into the reaches of unknown destinations, lost for for ever.

Shrewd eyes kept sharp on his goals, never mind this eerie zawa-zawa feeling

The time for the underdogs to come out victorious might come soon, but Kaiji remains unaware of his potential.Not that he's a busted flush. His skills and insightful gambling schemes are still what makes Kaiji a resourceful man, prone to survival whenever his life is at stake. But still, Kaiji is left with no way out of his poverty, which frequently brings him to tears, but he somehow must endure it, oblivious to all potential possibilities to unfold should a mouthwatering turn of events beckon....

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Review for The Skeleton Dance

As night falls, an owl appears on screen as a dog howls at the moon and two black felines wrangle bitterly through the night. That's the moment the hidden graveyard's denizens had been waiting for. Soon,under the owl's astonished eyes, four human skeletons materialise and get started on their joyous onrush, namely playing makeshift instruments made of their remains, holding hands and dancing in a circle and playing a cat as though it was a double bass. Their happy sojourn is shortlived, though. The rooster's crow along with the sun's looming rise remind the bone-tissue apparitions all too soon that time is up and they should make it back for their graves.

This kind of throw, which consists of driving the opponent's head down into the ground, might have inspired some Lin Kuei warriors (e.g.:Cyrax)

It's also highly likely those same Lin Kuei warriors were trained by the folks responsible for Skeleton Dance.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Akagi- series overview

On a dark, stormy night the life of a small time gambler is at stake.In an underground Mahjong parlour somewhere in 1956 Japan, he's struggling to escape his opponets' sway, but it's no use. His timing is bad and it seems like he is going to lose if something out of the ordinary doesn't take place soon. To his relief, there's someone at the door, pleading entrance.This stalls the game for a while, but the air still remains thick with the uneasy atmosphere.Enter Akagi, the "Genius who descended into the Darkness". Nangou, the besieged gambler, uses the opportunity to think of something out of his bind.

I'm at a loss why I find this so endearing. There's so much going on for Akagi that I will be at fault not to list all of them. The drawing styleis really out of this world, although conservative anime viewers might balk at the unusual brash traces used for outlining the characters' silhouettes. To me, the distinctive drawings style worked wonders, setting it apart from the traditional and conventional. The sotryline is appealing due to its simplicity, which makes it easy to follow and hanker for more.
Akagi's uninterested look at the world. Akagi's lack of appreciation for normal life led him  to    some dangerous forms of gambling. He always survives by overcoming death by not coming an inch away from it







The series creator -Nobuyki Fukumoto- knows how to play on people's sense of curiosity and interest arousal, so he timed it right so viewers might get the due sense of a complete episode, encapsulated in all the right plot elements within a contained set and yet itch for the upcoming one. How can there be such a thing as a plot that can be so simple and yet so enticing? Based on my personal viewing experience, a story line that is easy to follow is always great, provided that its background be also worthnoticing. And this is how all f the pieces that make up this series come together. The whole plot revolves around the exploits of Akagi.Although the main character is said to 13 years old, he doesn't look like someone his age at all. And it's not only due to his white hair. He has a rather gloom personality, befitting a rather mature male. In addition, he is incredibly manipulative and unafraid of practically anything. At the outset of the series, he took part in a death-defying game of chicken with some local punks.Rather than the expected dilemma of two drivers haeding on to a collision course , the game consisted of them driving side by side to determine who was going to break last (supposedly coming out as winner).According to his own report,the game had been rigged in their favour: the enemy driver chose to be on the right, which gave him the choice of exiting the onrushing motor vehicle in case anything goes badly. They also had pinpointed the spot where their bud should halt. All things considered, Akagi was supposed to meet certain doom, had things run their natural course.

It isn't made clear in the series what made Akagi square up with the thugs. Not that it's important. Anyway, Akgi takes the ordeal with astonishing aplomb, and remains so, unafazed by the gruesome prospect of a horrific road crash. Akagi never intended on using the brake, and sped up, which made the other driver uneasy. He missed the critical spot,tried to stop the engine, and headed for a dive onto uncomfortable looking rocks after leaving course. Akagi did the same, however he left course at full throttle, which allowed him to also plunge into the ocean below, albeit far off the rocky surroundings of the knoll. In the end, he was soaking wet, but unscathed.

Some members of the local police force caught notice of the mishap and decided to trail him. In order to throw them off track, Akagi finds his way to a Mahjong parlour dominated by Yakusa members. The underground world members didn't take Akagi's imping upon their business too kindly and try to shun him off.Nangou interfered, claiming that he was his nephew and he had called him. Nangou continued with his losing streak, which Akagi chanced to witness, at which point he remarked that "he had no will to win, he was only trying to survive". Akagi's warning came as a fortunate omen for Nangou, who threw off all notion of fear and switched to a more do-or-die style. The sudden rush of mettle worked out and he effectively "survived the nerve-wracking round". Nangou asked for some time out and explained his dire situation to the unfazed underage male.

As Akagi had displayed a more fitting attitude towards gambling than his own self, Nangou offered him his place at the Mahjong table and laid out the rules to the novice player. Even though he was unaccustomed to
Mahjong, Akagi is able to make up for Nangou's previous muck-up only on account of his gut instinct. And this is the set-up to the series, which couldn't have been done any better than it was.

What about the characters? Our great master Nobuyki Fukumotto makes an impressive job at designing them by giving each Akagi's opponents different playstyles and even cheating and bluffing strategies! Something of notice is how there is no sense of good characters. The supposedly nice side is comprised of a click of ambiguously good men. Akagi might be the title character and main protagonist, but he's not good by any stretch of imagination. He doesn't care about the welfare of others' feelings. In earnest, he uses people's vulnerabilities to his own advantage, playing on their fear of dying or losing limbs and other body parts. Yasuoka,the constable who realised the spark of genius in Akagi, uses the latter's skills to his own personal gain. He also is the one to wrack up the biggest share of the winnings. It's also hinted that he keeps ties with some Yakusa members. He's supposed to be Akagi's "trusted partner".

Akagi Title Card, showing him drawing a fateful 1 Pin tile.


The sound track is also another big asset of Akagi. They composed songs that really fit nicely with key plot moments, like that tension build-up tune that is set to go with Akagi's darkest moments, namely, whenever his enemy is getting the upperhand and might come out triumphantly at any time. There's also a peaceful tune that plays at the end of some episodes, suggesting that something good is bound to be disclosed as new events unfold. A poignant climax is masterly reached with the combination of Akagi's deft tactics and what I call the overcoming all odds tune. This is set to play when Akagi outsmarts his opponent in really unexpected ways. It's almost outrageous for the bad guys how they got into a trap (sometimes double ou triple layered trap)set to go off when they were blatantly celebrating victory ahead of time, all the while musing to themselves "it was no fun at all, he will die and he hasn't even had the chance to prove himself".Such moments are made all the more meorable with our loyal narrator booming amazed comments in a description of Akagi's smarts and his oppnents' state of mind. Oh, is the narrator ever cool.Let's just spend a whole paragraph for him.

The point of view barely happens through Akagi's senses. Instead, a stoic-voiced, albeit savvy with words, narrator describes the current event for us. Another neat facet is that he also explains in plain language important rules in Mahjong, which is of big help for those unfamiliar with the game. During key in-game moments, thepoint of view is transferred to other characters. The trend alternates among opponents, allies and the villain's goons, so that the view might experience with different perspectives and weigh them up on his own scale. The important thing is that Akagi remains silent practically the whole time, leaving those ordinary souls to wonder what the heck he might be up to.

Imagery and symbolism also play an important part in episode development. Not that the narrator doesn't manage to keep your interested piqueted (he's never boring), but mental portraits of the characters' thoughts and dialogue also play on the background, highlighting important plot  windwhirls in our series. SOme of them include a dead lean pooch on the ground, while World War 2 rages on, Akagi having all of his blood drained from his body and pluning lifelessly into an unadorned pocket of ground surrounded by a huge recursive void and comparisons of Akagi to Jesus Christ and how both sacrificed themselves to attain a greater good.

This is art at its best for me and I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why I watch it often.



Saturday, 1 September 2012

A woman waits for me- Walt Whitman


A WOMAN waits for me--she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking, if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the
right man were lacking.

Sex contains all,
Bodies, Souls, meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results,
promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal
milk;
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals,
All the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow'd persons of the earth,
These are contain'd in sex, as parts of itself, and justifications of
itself.

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his
sex, 10
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that
are warm-blooded and sufficient for me;
I see that they understand me, and do not deny me;
I see that they are worthy of me--I will be the robust husband of
those women.

They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right--they are calm, clear, well-
possess'd of themselves. 20

I draw you close to me, you women!
I cannot let you go, I would do you good,
I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for
others' sakes;
Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

It is I, you women--I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable--but I love you,
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for These States--I
press with slow rude muscle,
I brace myself effectually--I listen to no entreaties, 30
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated
within me.

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new
artists, musicians, and singers,
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you
interpenetrate now,
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I
count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death,
immortality, I plant so lovingly now. 40
Walt Whitman

This poem is made up of eight stanzas,divided into two parts. Reading the poem allows for some interesting possibilities as to whether the poet's own existence was engraved in the elements arranged in the piece. First and foremost, one of the bare essentials of it is the element of women. The poet goes on about how important they are in our life. It seems from the first stanza that women alone hold the formula to make men's life perfect, with no tipping on its balance. Yet, shortly thereafter, he states that all would be lacking if sex were lacking, strongly hinting that it's sex itself  which holds meaning to life.

A turning point does occur from the second part on. The focus is shifted away from sex and onto human breeding. In a poignant passage stressing out the virtues of women as life spawners, Walt Whitman goes on how he must "plant his seed", thus impregnating the women on this earth by means of the -n reprooductive cell that he carries, which is to combine with women's -n cell (egg), in the process known to us as Meiosis I. Such process is also responsible for all life on Earth, which shall always find its way through a womb. "Through you I drain the pent up rivers of myself, in you I wrap a thousand onward years"

Sunday, 12 August 2012

FINAL FIGHT GUY

     This arcade ripper is one of my most fondly remembered SNES games. Pretty much everything in the game seems perfect and while the urban setting (neatly designed by the best Capcom has to offer, no less) brings back memories from a past lived through, it's always fun to remember what life pleasures used to be like back then.  It is still as perfect a getaway from the travails of everyday life as ever.
 
     The denizens of a crime ridden urban centre have elected a new mayor. No ordinary mayor mind you. The new political leader is none other than Mike Haggar, a professional wrestler. Not only that, he also turns out to be an honest man, unable to be bought off by the thugs. Being the loving father that he is, the crooks kidnap his daughter -Jessica- to get some leverage on him. The gang that happens to meddle in his life is the most fearsome of them all- Mad Gear. Now it's up to Haggar and his friend Guy (Cody in the western version) to fight their way through the hordes of evil minions to rescue Jessica and put a dent in the goon population.

     With violence heavy in the air, the duo makes their way in this classic arcade game, reminiscent of 80's culture. The game pulls no punches with the gang-related motif: rundown buildings serving as hideouts, tough walks through the outskirts and not so well meaning evil doers everywhere. The city has been, after all, taken over by Mad Gear and crime is rife throughout the hostage city. The themes featured are dense and typical of a parlous urban environment. As soon as the game starts off, heroes and foes alike are quickly embroiled in a slapdash scuffle that will not leave anything unscathed. Barrels, billboards, crates, chandeliers are smashed to pieces as a side effect of such a wolfish engagement. Fortunately, breaking objects strewn across the stage reveals food items that can be picked up and used to replenish some of the player character's health. These include spinach, beer, whiskey, hamburger, sushi, pizza and a whole chicken. The latter can replenish the character's whole energy, which makes gobbling it up right off the bat a careless strategy. Since it always restores energy in full, it's best to fight while staying around it, saving it for later use when the protagonist is REALLY running short on health.

     After going through six stages chock a block with punch-throwing and general bashing out, the quest comes to a climax when it's time to face off the true villain behind all. Although a handicapped man (wheelchair-bound) he can still pack quite a punch with his impressive strength. He also wields a mean bow that shoots powerful sharp-tipped arrows with dead accuracy.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Suicide Mouse


Mickey Mouse drifts aimlessly through murky city streets on this cartoon episode.
Suicide Mouse is a rather obscure Mickey Mouse cartoon footage dating back to 1930. It consists of a looped animation sequence showing Mickey ambling along empty city streets with unadorned buildings in the background. The buildings are simple in design and there are only about 5 or 6 of them before they re-spawn. As far as I could tell, the walking animation consists of very few frames and is actually scarcely animated at all: Mickey only moves his feet in the same fashion and bobs his head in a slight, albeit swift tilt. His head is not nodding but kind of drooping as though the Disney's beloved scion was stricken by some kind of foreboding omen. There's something else to it: his face is as blank as it gets, an overly sober expression that commits himself to nothing, still with an inner motivation that doesn't veer on being deadpan. It's the materialisation of sheer glum. As though Mickey was depressed! And that's when we get to the meat of the issue. Depression was the main catalyst to a number of plot devices back in the twenties and thirties. So much so that famous movie makers were cashing in on this trend and shooting movies that revolved around the gloomy atmosphere that set in during the era of the Great Depression. The Great Depression wasn't the main backcloth that opened out onto this trend; it had been around earlier than that. Back in 1920, Walt Disney himself watched a Harold Lloyd comedy that really caught his eye: Haunted Spooks. Not only did the comedic piece entertain Walt to some extant. It's rumoured that Walt was so enthralled by it he felt compelled to use some of the gags of the film in his own work! The basic premise of this movie is a man down on his luck who had become so despondent with life's misfortunes befalling him he wants nothing more than kicking the bucket and so he attempts suicide. Since it was a comedy, the suicide attempts result in hilarious situations, with the main character being thwarted in unexpected ways. In one instance, he picked up a gun and presently pulled the trigger, only to find out that was a water pistol. Heart of the matter is, the whole idea of comedy relief for the movie rested on foiled suicide attempts. Since it was a movie aimed at a wide-reaching audience, the attempt panned out and the film was conceived as a reasonable success. But what if it was a cartoon feature? How would it have to work in order to wring from its target audience a positive reaction? How would editing have helped it and what changes should have been made to appeal to children? These questions aren't easily addressed and they were left at that: unanswered. In fact, the whole concept was apparently shelved in a vault, never to be touched again, let alone watched within Disney's innermost secret confines.A burning question at this point is why would Mr Walt want to take such an idea and tinker with it? He thought the movie was funny and he had a rather singular habit: to use gags he had watched in movies in his own creations. He actually got so far as to give the get-go to a daily comic strip of Mickey Mouse that featured his most famous character engaging in ruthless attempts to off himself! The artist commissioned to bring this horrific concept to bear was Floyd Gottfredson and according to sources he did a swell job of refining Mickey's storyboards. His work added a new depth to the mouse's universe, apparently starting to become lackluster at that point. I won't go into detail about this as we are already getting sidetracked here, so back to the main article. Suffice to say that Floyd Gottfredson was tasked with crafting a story about Mickey trying to kill himself.

Walt Disney dryly ordered him to do just this and after a lot of objections on the part of the well-meaning artist, he had to be reminded that he had been paid for that and he had no choice but go with the punches.

The story is as simple as daily comic strips go, but with a cruel twist: the main plot involved Mickey's being afraid of losing Minnie to a city slick with a striking resemblance to Mortimer. The town's newcomer seems to be stricken by the feminine appearance (how often has this happened in classic animation? Someone just pops by and becomes smitten right away by some purty lass. As though there were no other female of their species nowhere else...) and, unable to draw the reins in his sexual urges, proceeds to woo her. The readers might have expected that, being a disney storyboard, Minnie would have promptly sided with her gallant companion and tell mr City Slicker to sod off. She might have even told Mickey on the goon so the stage would have been all set for a typical battle between good and evil, only this time good vanquishing evil wouldn't involve the main character killing the bad one: only a Sesame Street message being thrown in and the two main characters ending all in a huge, reassuring embrace. Considering Disney's reputation in creating utopias in such a forlorn world, this is a truth beyond any doubt. However, none of it happens. Minnie actually had the hots for mr Slicker and is mighty impressed by his streetwise deportment!

Fading further and further into the background by his sly antagonist, the main rodent is on the verge of a mental breakdown until a sight that was supposed to incur all of his wrath has an odd effect in the poor creature's soul: Mickey witnesses first hand Minnie and his enemy kissing! Although the reader doesn't get to see it (the reader doesn't have the same point of view as Mickey's), it's highly implied that they actually doing because of the shape of their silhouette when Mickey takes a peek through the window. Right. Minnie invited him over and while they were snugly sitting in the couch Minnie was showing him the family photo album, their muzzles were daringly close to each other. Mickey was saved the best for last and rather than tearing inside and grinding the rascal into mush, he takes to brooding.

Most people have grown up accustomed to the idea that Disney is a benign powerhouse that purports itself to promote goodwill and inspiring ethics through its many creations. Setting aside its behemoth status as a monopolised of a good share of the capital world and its hunger to capitalise on people's weak will to give in to the commercialisation of art, it has, through a leaned interpretation, produced a myriad series all about the idealised good and it always prevails over evil in the long run. Mickey Mouse is stock proof of this concept, as are many other famous character of the same origin.

Seeing a vivid portrait of promiscuousness laid in thick as this was, at the very least, shocking. Knowing that this takes place in disney's universe exacerbates the feeling. Seeing this shattered beyond repair any frame of thought that placed main disney characters in the goody two shoes category. Or maybe his little peach was just having an affair, in which case it would have been just unusual. Not repugnance-inducing, only verging on the unusual realm of things unexpected from characters fresh out of childhood's memories.

The next frames are nothing more than Mickey's real attempts to terminate his own life in rather unfunny ways. First he rigs a shotgun over a chair and stands facing the wall, string tied to the trigger so he could pull it and be done with it. He makes a count of 3 but at the last second the cuckoo clock on the wall goes off, reminding the suicidal entity that he had been acting like a cuckoo. It didn't work though. Next he jumps off a bridge into the river below: "it's the river for me". He lands face-first flat onto Pete's ship's deck, is picked up by his old nemesis and threatened to be thrown with little ceremony into a vast, watery grave. "A stowaway, huh? Y'll getting no publicity from this ship. It's into the water for you". Mickey presently pleads for mercy, claiming he can't swim and that he might drown. It's presumed that Pete let him go unharmed.

Pete had a golden chance to get rid of his main antagonist for good, but let the opportunity slip by. I'm not a great Disney connoisseur, but I think he wouldn't ever have another chance like this again. A further two attempts turned out fruitless as Mickey couldn't bring himself to drift into endless sleep after turning the gas on. A kangaroo-esque kid sneaks in to fill his balloon with the dismal gas. The balloon burst, rising Mickey from his supposed eternal slumber. He springs into the air afraid he had been shot. Nor could he take a last leap into the water with an anvil tied around his neck. The water's temperature was disagreeable to him. As long as the water was much too cold for a dip, the lifeless wreck of a main character wouldn't swim with the fishes. At long last, he assembles a contraption that can't go wrong: a gallows. The hangman's noose is put  about his neck and nothing can keep him from carrying out his darkest desire ever. That is, nothing apart from seemingly innocent squirrels that look on in utter pity. The suicidal man gives up on this course of action and remarks he had been "a nut for trying to end it all this way". Since then, he has no longer tried to kill himself. At least not in publicly-released media. That's how this video comes into play. This freaky footage was the product of Walt Disney's intentions to release a feature of Mickey trying to kill himself. Maybe he realised it wouldn't have been this successful, and gave up.

And is this ever eerie. Even without the whole background story to set off unnerving feelings in a normal human being, the actual thing is quite disturbing. Since a rough sketch of a cartoon, the video consists of a simple animated sequence. As it had been said, it's a looped sequence with a street-like background with Mickey pacing forth, his head drooping as though his head was heavy with thoughts. Only his feet and his head move, the rest of his body remains unaffected by his movements. There is also a grisly piece of music set to go with it. A direful piano composition reminiscent of the denizens of one's innermost fears. This goes on for about a minute or two, then the sound turns to static before the screen blackens out.The video returns about the 6th minute, but this time it is different. Piecemeal Mickey's mouth starts curving into a smirk before his eyeballs drop off, dangling around his chin. The mouth-curving effect is sublime and takes time to come to full completion, but the eye dropping bit is viciously abrupt. At around the same time he starts walking backwards, as though a typhoon from another dimension is sucking him in.Creepiness is also added to the sound. At first all that we hear is a garbled human voice, without any clear feature. That goes on for a while before a long, ongoing shriek dominates the sound properties of the animation. It's a unique scream, crisp in acuteness, obscure in as to how it would fit with the rest of the cartoon. All of this happens too fast to keep track. It's hard to pay any attention to any of these particular details. The background starts degenerating into waving patterns and mickey's blank face becomes more noticeable in this turn of events. It's yet curious why this becomes so noticeable. A Russian text is flashed on the screen for a few seconds and the video is over. I don't speak Russian myself, but online sources have it that it translates to something like "the vision of Hell brings you back in". Sadly, this is all obvious the doing of someone who was after attention. No way Walt Disney would have come up with this sort of output.

There is a common explanation to cover this that has made the round all across the internet. It's interesting because it comes complete with a background story detailing curious tidbits about this short, including an account about an employee killing himself with a security guard's weapon after watching the remaining 2 minutes and how employees' contracts are terminated on the spot upon any attempt to fiddle with this. According to this source, the doomed employee uttered 7 times that "real suffering is not known". What abysmal demon of hell might this mortal soul have seen? What apparition made itself visible within range of the scope of eyes too mortal to witness such an appalling light reflection? As with a number of urban legends, all we working citizens are left with is a bunch of unanswered questions. But what if the answer to these queries could tie in to some of bigger issues that still plague us to this day and age? Unless it actually happens, there can only be speculations about this.

Viewers might not be too fazed by the piercing shriek. Were it a deep hollowed voice, the creepiness might have been more graphic in its purport.

Watch the infamous Suicide Mouse video

On a personal note, I remember being told about this some years ago and the whole picture my imagination worked out for me was quite disturbing and included a 3-d version of the whole scene with Mickey scampering out of a city building, and after a short sprint he made to into another building in which he climbed some flights of stairs (offscreen), got on the rooftop and, running nonstop, he just fell down off the edge. The animation of him dropping down was weird as it didn't show his descent in typical cartoon form, he just went down keeping the same set of movements as if still dashing on hard ground. The camera was stuck at the angle he took the lethal plunge from,not showing him past the point at which he left the scene.A succession of far away screams followed, intertwined with what appeared to be suppressed laughter. After a while, the camera would start scrolling sideways, but would fade before revealing what had been in front of the building all along. Then the picture was gone.

By the way, here's a modern version of S.M. which actually aired once on Cartoon Network.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Super Mario Kart


     It's Super Mario Kart for The Super Nintendo Entertainmnet System in all its splendid glory! Simple in concept, nice and sweet in design, appealing to all audiences, outright awesome in execution! Eight drivers race each other in a bliss-laden competition rife with classical Super Mario elements befitting all of the thrill that is the trademark of a true Nintendo classic.  In a thoroughly engrossing experience, the player will happen upon the famous hodgepodge of the dearest creatures of which he's bound to have fond memories such as Spark, Mount Moles, Chip Chip, Green Plumbing Pipes, Thwomps and many more! Each driver has their own features as well as pros and cons that make each one of them unique; the player should give each racer a fair-go in order to find out which best suits his style. The fine selection of racers is comprised of Nintendo's Eternal Pop Icon Super Mario as well as his loyal companion and brother Luigi, Mushroom Kingdom Advisor Toad, classical Super Mario Bros. damsel in distress Princess Toadstool, All-time favourite villan Bowser, Koopa Troopa, Yoshi, a comely addition to the series right off Super Mario World and DK. Jr.

     It's one of these games in which everything is perfect and there isn't a single object that any time seems out of place. Everything seems to be where it rightfully belongs. The tracks are fraught with items that are familiar to any Mario player, ranging from the Thwomps in the Bowser Castle stages, Piranha Plants in Choco valley to Boo Budies in Ghost Valley. Strangely enough, the Ghost Valley, a ghost-themed racing ground that takes place on a faulty wooden board with large sections along the track missing guardrails, is hosted by Yoshi. The other tracks were assigned to the game's characters according to their characteristics: Fpor instance, Koopa Troopa, being a seemingly quiet individual with a somewhat low-key profile is the host to Koopa Troopa Beach, a halcyon location home to a peaceful sea, pleasant waves and a population of contended Chip Chips, all set to a restrained, but wholly enjoyable tune. The greatest surprise hidden within this already excellent gem is the last track: Rainbow Road. It's fashioned after the colour pattern of a rainbow, resulting in a refined array of colourful bands that can be delightfully dazzling. It is also the hardest track of all; its complete dearth of guardrails along the side compels racers to not leave the track under penalty of falling into an endless pit. Lucky for them that Fishing Lakitu's stint includes angling players out of the pit and back onto course. And whose idea was it to include such a malicious enemy in this game? That creature is a riot!


     The title screen features Mario and Luigi smiling at the title font, superimposed over a colourful background purporting to prompt the player to a cheerful gaming experience. A Koopa Troopa shell-shaped cursor is used to toggle between 1P and 2P Game.
 

Players who wish to challenge a tougher version of the CPU-controlled characters can take a whack at the 100cc class. Winning this class grants the player a new mode, 150cc. This mode features carts with enlarged engines, resulting in a much faster-paced game but chock a block with more excitement, nonetheless.

    

After successfully finishing the race a table of the total time taken to do each lap is shown. On the left hand of the screen are the race results- the first four drivers are shown with jubilant expressions beside, whereas whoever was unfortunate enough to only scrape a fifth place or lower is shown with a blank face, with the number standing for the course rank in dull black. In the picture above, Koopa Troopa had to settle for the fifth place and DK Jr got a 6th. Toad and the Princess are still to cross the finishing line.


 The results are shown with the drivers riding on in an odd location with dimmed-out lights, with a background scenery reminiscent of the untainted environs of Super Mario World, jolly knolls and all with musical notes hanging just above them. The drivers are shown riding their carts on a queue mirroring their positions. The last four are shown spinning, but still concentrated to remain in a coordinated straight line. Another asset of this game is the theme that plays after the race is over. Every character has their own theme, also in accordance to the character's traits.




 Let go your emotions as it's time to rumble! Fishin Lakitu gives the go ahead to the greatest race of your life! At the bottom is a map of the course along with the location of each racer. It's possible to spot where potential traps can be laid out or where the shortcuts are, but care should be taken to remain concentrated on the race.



Fishin Lakitu descends to crown Luigi the winner in a moment of great eminence to him.




Celebrating a winner involves cracking open a bottle of bubbly, hitting a flying Chip Chip in the process. Afterwards the character then proceeds to engage in victory ritual, which varies from character to character. Luigi, for instance, raises the bottle while jumping up and down in an endless progression. The second and third finishers are also shown beside the winner.





Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Starting afresh


     Here I'm at it again, starting a new blog like it has often happened in the past. For a flitting moment, the last attempt seemed to have worked a charm, until my ability to string words together dwindled and my writing became too skew-whiff to carry on, so the blog eventually became no more than a technological dump.I was fresh out of ideas and soon the whole thing was trashed. I have also come too realise that I did some wrong things like not giving the blog a purpose; just piling up random material wasn't the way to go. After having laernt some, I can look to the future. Onward to what it might unfold...

     I really enjoy writing. It's one of those life activities that are ever going to be necessary for the sake of our own upkeep. There is such a meaningful payload in writing that it's nigh impossible to describe all that it represents. And such is the power of conveying one's own mind and all the abstract spider-webbed framework of which it is comprised.

     Any discerning eye would also be quick to notice that we, as humans, are infinitely different as a species. Yet, we are capable of performing tasks that are of equal importance to all of us. Even yet, we bear faculties to undertake certain courses of action that simply go beyond the scope of all that is merely important, encroaching thus upon the threshold of the necessary.

     What should one these bare necessities of life be? Why, I would be bold enough and assert in every possible way that it's literature. Any form of literature, as well as any form of Art, is the scion of a thoughtful mind that has successfully fashioned its intended output. It can take one to an impossible world, one of unaccountable features that the common mind can't fathom easily, which only magnifies the wonder. This brings forth a world of wondrous dimensions that won't cease to exist so long as imagination doesn't run aground, prevented from sailing according to its whims while stranded in barren soil, with outcrops butting into the hull, leaving it sllightly torn away. Literature is the visible spectrum of an infrastructure that places Imagination at the core of it all. And, if there ever should be another core within, it's the flair of writing. It's indeed a trait that I myself have long sought, but couldn't ever tap into its powers. By no stretch of the imagination it means that the search has come to a halt only due to the appearance of it being unattainable. Rather, it is only a sign that there is still much to be learnt. In addition, finding out about the folly of engaging in the pursuit of close-to-perfection writing is just my coming to another of life's crossroads, which reads something about the road forking into two life changing directions: on one is a statement to quit, scrawled in messy script, utterly unappealing to the vision as a sense; the other is a doughty remark reminding of the rewards to be heaped by diligence, faith, adherence to hard work, sense of humour and serenity. I hardly find myself in doubt of which path to follow when faced with similar choices.

     It should also be probably said that, although I do seek to improve my writing and acquire much spiritual capital in the process, my career does not deal directly with it. I am an IT professional, and for this alone I harbour a great zeal. I also work with second language teaching, which also deals with other linguistics' facets. Nevertheless, I like writing; it's something I have many done as a hobby and intend to keep doing so. The most compelling reason that drives my urge to engage in writing is my wanting to improve it. Since the most practical way to improve a trait is to make it part of our life (read: do it as often as possible) I hence avouch that I will use this blog to put in writing topics revelant to the mind. What exactly comes to mind that I find it easy to discourse about? Other forms of art seem lordly worthy of mention. Those will be presented in light of what the current situation dictates...