Thursday, August 16, 2012

Arcade Appetite

It was my birthday awhile back. Another year older, another year more obsessed with collecting crap and corralling everything I can get my grubby phalanges into my home, waiting for the inevitable doom of the surging mound of hobby to finally lose stability, tumble, and crush my frail body beneath. Truly a fit funeral, much like that of the Collyer brothers or whatever. Point is, though, it was my birthday; and on my birthday I treated myself to something--something that has initiated some sort of virus or parasite inside of me. An arcade bug, in some sense of the matter.

A gentleman I'm acquainted with on a certain forum traded for a Konami Sexy Parodius arcade PCB awhile back. Something inside me ticked. I was jealous. Envious. Destined. I see this shit all the time: someone gets an arcade board of some game I love, and instead of searching the game out, maybe save up a little bit of money, I sulk and whine and conclude I'll never be able to afford anything like that. That's when the pathetic side of you demands some sort of arbitrary excuse to make some form of purchase like that yourself. Ah, a birthday! Why not. So I bought a goddamn Sexy Parodius board. From the gentleman in question, at that.

Konami's Parodius series of games are some real cherished gems in my twisted, black heart.. I hold them in such high regard as I do other series like Metal Slug, Valis, Splatterhouse, etc. Not really any similarities there, yeah, but they each have numerous titles and are all sprite based--the good stuff! Each Parodius game has a distinct anime art style, much like most arcade games out of Japan at the time. The stuff I really fuckin' dig, and you know, (mainly) bunny girls.

For those that don't know, the name Parodius is derived from Gradius, and the fact that it's a parody of other Konami games, as well as cameos and implementations from other series. Characters, scoring, backgrounds and other elements are taken from games such as Twinbee, Castlevania, Anarctic Adventure, Salamander and a handful of other titles to create a hilarious and highly entertaining horizontal shmup. I won't go much into it, but Sexy Parodius is my favorite of the series. As you can see, its got quite the inventory of anime babes and slightly suggestive Cephalopods. All the main games of the series are actually available on the Japanese Sega Saturn, with a few on the JP PS1, Super Famicom, and other systems. The Saturn ports are all quite accurate and certainly worth it. Or you can just buy the arcade board, mortal. Further information can be found in Hardcore Gaming 101's fantastic and informative article on the series:

...and of course I would need to supplement an arcade board with an arcade cabinet, right? Not entirely the main incentive, but I'd been looking for another decent, cheap arcade cabinet for quite some time. Not many show up in my area, and when they usually do it's always for some exorbitant price, usually for a machine that won't even power on or looks like it survived the L.A. riots. I snagged The Combatribes (picture up top), a decent beat-em-up by Technos, for a fantastic price and in decent enough condition for my liking. The machine itself isn't the most cosmetically appealing, but it kinda adds character. Sticks and buttons were recently replaced, and despite a bit of burn-in on the monitor it certainly sates my appetite for now. The Combatribes itself isn't a fantastic brawler by any means, but the connection type is Jamma, so I can shove most boards into it if I desire. Although I must hand it to technos, The Combatribes may be slow and unfair, but goddamn, it's pretty brutal. Curb stomping, windmilling, faces smashed together--it's pretty nasty vigilante work. I can dig. Now my Neo-Geo 2-Slot isn't lonely, at least!

Speaking of the Neo-Geo, I recently (finally) acquired a genuine Shock Troopers MVS cartridge, as of yesterday, to be precise. Been after this for well over a year, and while it's not a hard cart to come by, the price has been sort of gouged for it as of late; either that or I always miss my chance on the number of forums I visit. Shock Troopers could be best described as a mix between the vertical gunplay of Mercs, combined with the aesthetics and heart of Neo-Geo's Metal Slug. Multiple routes, eight character choices, frantic action and a pumping drum n' bass soundtrack make it one of the Neo-Geo's best games. Absolutely sublime. It can be played in a variety of ways, be it MAME, digital download (on the Wii, I think) or through SNK's SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 for Playstation 2.

I was on a roll, so why not just buy all the games I've wanted for years. Put a hole in that wallet. It's not doing anything but hurting my ass when sitting down, anyhow. The cat is not an arcade game. Deceiving, I know. I love that cat. I love Capcom. I love CPS2 hardware. I love Progear no Arashi. The game I told myself I'll probably never buy is now mine. Sadly, it's not the real deal, but is instead an absolutely flawless, phoenixed conversion of another CPS2 board. I'm generally not a fan of owning bootlegged material. It's hard to describe why, but it's a collector quirk. But when it comes down to it, some shit just has a highly unattainable monetary value for broke-ass collectors like myself. If a conversion or a bootleg is done right, and I've only done this one (twice now), I'll do it. I can't shell out $400 or $500 bucks for Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire for the PC-Engine, so I bought an almost identical reproduction awhile back for a fraction of the ludicrous cost. I can get over my little collector quirk when it comes down to something like that. Call me a sinner, I know.

Now that I've admitted my idiosyncrasies and betrayal to myself I can talk about this phenomenal game. At the time, Progear was a join effort with well known shmup company Cave and produced using Capcom's CPS2 arcade hardware, making this Cave's only horizontal shmup before 2007's Deathsmiles. Set in a magnificently beautiful steampunk setting, Progear is a manic shmup--or the dreaded wording "bullet-hell"--with a complex scoring system and some of the most awe inspiring and beautiful sprite work I've experienced in classic arcade gaming. Such precise details were put into each background: the stonework in the ramparts and  parapets; the lush countryside and green hills; the snow-covered mountainside and the far off peaks; even such details of schools of fish escaping the combat in the water or a flock of birds departing the tree tops from the encroaching and upcoming boss. The entire game is so stunning to look at that it's almost interrupting from the frantic gameplay within. Sadly never available in console form, and probably never will due to legal issues with Cave and Capcom, it can thankfully be played with through the likes of MAME. A game that certainly deserves an entire write-up of its own--one I'm not suited to give with my inefficiency with scoring mechanics and skill. But now, having the means to practice, that could certainly be a different story in time to come. I'm set for quite awhile--and so is my wallet.

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