Not too long ago I managed to pick up a surprisingly cheap copy of MARIO PAINT for the Super Famicom, complete in box with the mouse. It’s pretty fun! I messed with it a bit on stream, and at the suggestion of my stream chat I made an attempt at drawing Scorpion from Mortal Kombat!
Painting with a mouse, in a strictly limited colour palette, on a tiny canvas, with no layers, and only one undo step sure is a challenge! But creating under constraints can be a lot of fun too, and I definitely enjoyed this.
Click through for the full version + timelapse video of the painting!
A few days ago some old art I had posted on Twitter went viral, and all of a sudden I found myself getting a few hundred new followers in just a day or two! Having hovered around 2,700 followers for a while, I’d thought about trying to draw something to commemorate the milestone once I hit 3K, but it ended up happening a lot more suddenly than expected, so I had to kind of rush it 😂
In any case, to celebrate reaching 3,000 followers, I decided to draw three flavours of one of my favourite characters, Cammy! Despite being a bit rushed, I was quite happy with how it turned out, and it was a fun challenge to try and draw the STREET FIGHTER 6 version for the first time. Needless to say there isn’t a lot of good reference out there at this point… 😅
June 2022 was a momentous month for fans of beat ’em up games, with back-to-back releases of two highly anticipated titles: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: SHREDDER’S REVENGE, and FINAL VENDETTA. While TMNT is understandably getting the lion’s share of attention (and it is a pretty great game!), I’ve found myself far more captivated by FINAL VENDETTA.
Bitmap Bureau’s latest game is a rare modern beat ’em up that’s very explicitly – uncompromisingly, even – designed like a classic arcade game. Lots of games claim to be, but I’ve been very impressed with how well FINAL VENDETTA lives up to this ideal. It’s well paced, controls great, and has a finely tuned and engaging level of challenge.
Overall I’ve really enjoyed the game – I’d say it’s up there with STREETS OF RAGE 4 as a favourite of the genre in recent memory – but it’s not perfect. Here’s my analysis of what I think makes FINAL VENDETTA such a great game – and where I think it’s got some room for improvement.
Side-scrolling beat ’em ups have always been near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my absolute favourite genres of games, but also one that’s had some major ups and downs over the decades. Ever since the late ’90s, I feel there’s a fairly pervasive view of beat ’em ups as a “dated” genre; a style of game made obsolete by the transition from arcades to consoles, repetitive quarter-munchers that have no place in the current era – unless wholly reinvented for modern audiences. Personally, I couldn’t disagree with this more!
Rather than beat ’em ups becoming dated, my view is more that the genre really fell off the wagon once people started attempting to “reinvent” it instead of respectfully iterating on it – and it’s only very recently that we’ve started seeing more successful attempts at new takes on the classic template.
While I’m happy to see games like FIGHT’N RAGE and STREETS OF RAGE 4 bucking the trends of the last decade and change, the fact remains that in the eyes of many people – developers and players both – the key to making a good beat ’em up appears to be adding a ton of time-wasting cruft that dilutes the experience. But in my mind, there are simply a number of fundamental design principles that go into a quality, compelling entry in the genre. So as a PSA, here’s my attempt at outlining what makes for a good beat ’em up – or at the very least, some things I’d like to see more of them do well!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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! ✌
Collected thoughts on games, game design, art and whatnot.