2022: The year I became a Taito fan

Taito, despite being one of the absolute titans of the early arcade industry, and one of the major players in video games throughout the ’80s and ’90s, was for a long time a bit of a blind spot for me. Obviously I’m well aware of the importance and legacy of games like SPACE INVADERS and BUBBLE BOBBLE, and I’d certainly played and enjoyed my fair share of Taito games over the years. Even as a kid I was really into the black & white Mac port of ARKANOID, and LEGEND OF KAGE was definitely a standout game on my friend’s “700-in-1” Famicom pirate cartridge – but of course at the time I wouldn’t have known to attribute those games to a particular creator.

I’d go on to spend most of my middle and high school years playing and learning about hundreds of console and arcade games thanks to emulation (as well as hanging out in a local game store after school)… But even then, despite discovering and falling in love with games like PUZZLE BOBBLE, THE NINJA WARRIORS, and ELEVATOR ACTION RETURNS, for some reason or another I just never developed any attachment for Taito as a developer, the way I had for SEGA, Capcom, SNK, Konami, Namco, or a number of other companies. Having now spent a couple of weeks diving deep into Taito arcade history with the excellent Egret II Mini, I’m happy to say this old blunder has finally been corrected: I am big a fan of Taito.

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Super Street Fighter II Gaiden: DARK SHIFT

In addition to old Japanese video games, I also enjoy collecting art books, strategy guides, comics and other stuff related to old games. Over the past year or so in particular I’ve picked up a bunch of comic collections and anthologies based on STREET FIGHTER and other fighting games. A lot of these books have some really cool comics by all kinds of awesome artists, and as far as I’m aware not a lot of it is available anywhere, digitally or in print – let alone in English.

So in a token preservation effort – and an excuse to practice my Japanese, I guess – I present to you my translation of DARK SHIFT by Hirofumi Ichikawa; a fun little story seemingly inspired by the Street Fighter G.I. Joe action figures, of all things.

The comic was originally featured in “Street Fighter II Comic Anthology Vol. 3”, published by Gamest Comics/Shinseisha in 1995.

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Thoughts on STREET FIGHTER 6, art direction, and Capcom’s continued failure to acknowledge its artistic legacy

At the end of this year’s Capcom Pro Tour Finals, after a long period of leaks, rumours and speculation, Capcom finally unveiled STREET FIGHTER 6. As a lifelong fan of Capcom and Street Fighter, not to mention as someone with more than their fair share of opinions on the artistic direction of the series over the last decade or two, you can bet I have some thoughts.

Needless to say, we still don’t know much about STREET FIGHTER 6. All we really have to go on is a 40-second teaser which doesn’t really tell us anything concrete, as well as whatever we can extrapolate and predict from the series’ trajectory across the last couple of instalments. That said, I still find it interesting to dissect and analyse what Capcom has chosen to present as the world’s introduction to the next chapter of STREET FIGHTER.

To sum up my overall impressions of the reveal, I guess you could say I’m equal parts disappointed, frustrated, and… unsurprised. If you’ll indulge me, allow me to go into more depth and explain why.

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Thoughts on METROID DREAD, 2D METROID design, and MercurySteam’s redemption arc

When METROID DREAD was unveiled at E3 2021, I immediately had mixed feelings – massive excitement for a new 2D METROID, naturally, but also tempered expectations as it was being developed by MercurySteam. I never had the chance to play their previous METROID game – SAMUS RETURNS – but I did play through their earlier attempt at the genre, the absolutely abysmal CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW: MIRROR OF FATE. That game showed such a fundamental failure to understand the appeal of this style of game, that even with SAMUS RETURNS having a decent reputation, I found it difficult to have too much faith in MercurySteam’s ability to deliver a worthy sequel.

Still, I knew that I wanted to play the game, for academic purposes if nothing else. I spent the months leading up to the game’s release playing through a number of 2D METROID games – some for the first time, some not – and as I kind of charted the series’ evolution from playing them all back to back, I became increasingly curious to see specifically how DREAD fit into that equation. Would it be a largely toothless retread of SUPER METROID the way ZERO MISSION had been, or would it actually incorporate aspects of FUSION… or perish the thought, break some new ground?

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Ten old games I really enjoyed playing for the first time in 2021

Hey, it’s a yearly tradition! Even after a full year of apparent inability to get even a single article written, I am once again compelled to document some thoughts on a handful of standout experiences I’ve had with old games in the past twelve months. With my backlog of old used games already being several hundred deep, I’d set out to cut down on game purchases in 2021, and with considerable amounts of time being spent with FINAL FIGHT, METROID and ONIMUSHA games, I was a little unsure I would even be able to come up with a full list of 10 memorable games – but after a bit of digging in spreadsheets and stream VOD archives, it turns out I was definitely worrying for nothing!

I definitely played a lot of interesting old games in the past year, but I was able to narrow it down, so let’s go: In rough chronological order – Ten old games I really enjoyed playing for the first time in 2021:

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Jiggeh.com will return to life in 2022

2021 was a productive year for me in many ways, but blogging sure wasn’t one of them! I’ve felt bad about neglecting my website (outside of keeping the gallery updated), and although I’ve never really believed in new year’s resolutions, I do feel compelled to plant some kind of figurative flag in the ground and commit to resume blogging in the new year.

We’ll be kicking things off soon with the traditional look back at a bunch of cool old games I played for the first time in the past year, but after that I hope to be putting up new articles with some degree of regularity again. I’ll try to at least reach a point where a majority of posts aren’t just me going “hey I have a blog I should write for some time, don’t I?” 😩

In the meantime, here’s a little summary of the artwork I’ve created in the past year in case you haven’t been keeping up. Of course, you can see the full versions and more artwork in the Gallery.

Happy new year everybody, and see y’all in 2022! ✌

The FINAL FIGHT Series Retrospective – now on YouTube!

Last year, I chronicled the sprawling and convoluted history of DOUBLE DRAGON games – this summer I decided to follow up that undertaking by giving the same treatment to another beat ’em up series that arose in the wake of DD’s success – FINAL FIGHT!

While the FINAL FIGHT series features significantly fewer games, not to mention fewer bizarre spinoffs and alternate interpretations of the source material, it was nevertheless a highly interesting and entertaining endeavour! I got to experience several ports of the original game I’d never seen before, and finally had the chance to try out the black sheep of the series, FINAL FIGHT REVENGE (spoiler alert: turns out I hadn’t really missed much).

In any case, the recorded stream archives of this entire project are now available on YouTube for easy viewing! If you’re interested in a deeper look at some of the darker, deeper corners of the FINAL FIGHT series’ history – check it out!

Ten old games I really enjoyed playing for the first time in 2020

Just like last year (and I guess, every year?), I have not felt particularly compelled to put together any kind of “Game of the Year” article – partially because it’d have to be a woefully incomplete list given how many contemporary games I didn’t bother playing yet, but more so because I’m far more interested in championing the games that managed to make an impression on me without leaning on the novelty of being brand new. I play a lot of old games, and I go out of my way to procure games I’ve never played before (and in many cases, barely know anything about) – and although I’ve got my fair share of stinkers in my collection, whenever I get a batch of old games from Japan, more often than not at least one of them seems to really stick with me.

So here’s a look back at some of those games! Presenting, in rough chronological order – Ten old games I really enjoyed playing for the first time in 2020:

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Thoughts on CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW: MIRROR OF FATE, or “How not to do a METROID-style game”

In what started as an arbitrary choice to dig up some Halloween-seasonally appropriate games from my back log – and what quickly turned into a series mini-marathon – I’ve been playing through the three CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOWS games. I had never thought or expected much of the games, not having much trust in reboots of Japanese game series outsourced to western developers in general, and perhaps even less trust in Konami’s late-era output in particular.

The original LORDS OF SHADOW ended up… well, if not impressing me, at least exceeding my (admittedly low) expectations in some ways, while in other ways being even more mediocre than I would’ve thought. Still, at the end of the day I definitely came away from it more positive than I went in.

The same, however, can not be said for the 2D spin-off game CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW: MIRROR OF FATE.

Continue reading Thoughts on CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW: MIRROR OF FATE, or “How not to do a METROID-style game”

Collected thoughts on games, game design, art and whatnot.