Slightly Behind the Scenes

So I callously disparaged the Final Fantasy XII Collector's Edition in my last update. And then I went and bought it anyway.

As I thought, most of the extras are engaging, but not really memorable. Instead of a making-of-the-game feature, there's just a load of developer (and translator) interviews, and a half-hour “History of Final Fantasy” overview that does little more than run down the plot of each game and point out the many incarnations of Cid and the Chocobos. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't mention the god-awful Final Fantasy Mystic Quest or the planned Famicom version of Final Fantasy IV. A few interesting details pop up, but if you're a big enough Final Fantasy nerd to pay extra for a bonus disc, you're probably a big enough Final Fantasy nerd to know everything that disc could possibly tell you.

However, it's nice to confirm that Akihiko Yoshida doesn't walk around in the same medieval bondage outfits he uses in his character art. He just looks like he belongs in one of Japan's few Weezer cover bands, a proper calling for anyone.

Shining Forth

Final Fantasy XII comes out this Tuesday, but actual copies have already trickled out to magazines and some rental stores. After seeing both the regular edition of the game at the office and handling the two-disc special edition at EB, I prefer the former. The special edition is metallic and regal, but the two discs are packed halfway on top of each other in a manner ripe for scratching, and an extra ten bucks is just ridiculous for a documentary and some interviews (none of which is likely to detail how director Yasumi Matsuno went nuts and left the project).

Besides, the regular edition has much nicer cover art.

The Warp Whistle

Yesterday saw an important event in the world of videogames and largely unjustified nostalgia. I'm speaking of the DVD release of the Fred Savage film and notorious Nintendo vehicle The Wizard.

It's not a good movie. In fact, it's not even a particularly engaging bad movie. It's really quite routine and dull, outside of a few wonderful scenes: the Power Glove's sole moment of greatness, Christian Slater and Beau Bridges reluctantly bonding over an NES, the future lead singer of Rilo Kiley falsely accusing someone of molestation in an arcade, and, of course, the insanely extravagant unveiling of Super Mario Bros. 3. Once you get past the stupid kick of seeing a film that revolves around Nintendo games, there's not much else to do, other than point out the script's parallels with The Who's Tommy and spot Tobey Maguire's first on-screen role.

But it's an important movie, dammit. If you grew up in the shadow of Nintendo and were any sort of normal kid around 1990, there was surely a moment when your ambition in life consisted of trekking across several states, meeting a cute redheaded tomboy (or being that plucky tomboy, if you were a female Nintendo brat), and taking your quasi-autistic kid brother to the fictional equivalent of the Nintendo World Championships, all in the glorious name of videogames. It may not have lasted long, but that moment was there. Don't deny it.

For those film history nerds among us, The Wizard also concluded the short trend of '80s movies that dealt with videogames as a wondrously juvenile subculture. Like Wargames, The Last Starfighter and the legendary Joe Don Baker satire Joysticks, The Wizard envisions a world where playing games, getting high scores, and beating Mecha-Turtle will somehow help you overcome your crippling insecurities and change your life for the better. As the ‘90s started up, this fantasy gave way to films that occupied themselves with the actual games instead of their broader implications. It wasn't a change for the better, perhaps because it's easier to make a cohesive film about young game nerds hitchhiking to Los Angeles than it is to turn the backstory of Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. into any sort of decent movie.

So it doesn't really matter that The Wizard's DVD release is astoundingly bare-bones, lacking any special features, trailers, or commentary tracks where Christian Slater gets drunk while Jenny Lewis moans about the film and Brooklyn Bridge robbing her of a childhood. It's enough that the now-grown Nintendo kids of 1990 can watch their youthful ambitions played out in some Reagan-era fever dream, where a large corporation could back a film just to show off Raccoon Mario and kids could apparently catch rides across Nevada without ending up in shallow graves by sundown.

It's still a lousy movie, but I think that's the point.

Valis Returns Again

For those still reeling (or laughing hysterically) over the unfortunate news surrounding the Valis series and its clearly unsafe-for-work descent into porn, here's some shred of comfort: last year, Telenet made a Valis title for mobile phones. It's a side-scroller very much in the style of the 16-bit Valis games, with a gallery of all the outfits Yuko wore during the franchise's more pleasant days. It probably wasn't much of a hit, otherwise Telenet would've made another one instead of whoring out the Valis name to a porn developer.

Oh no! I'm late for RAPE CLASS!I can't make any rape jokes here, so I'll just point out that I learned about this game through Insert Credit. At the top: sailor suit, Valis suit, priestess robe, something that probably means MAGIC PANTS OF HORRIFYING RAPE, and China dress.

Cute and innocuous, the portable Valis: The Phantasm Soldier's homepage shows no signs of tentacles, violently coercive lesbian trysts, or horribly misplaced swords. Taking the current advancements of Japanese cell phones into account, I do think this could be a decent game.

But I also think that we should never, ever trust Telenet again.

Valis Returns

Wow, they're making a new Valis game! Remember Valis, the 16-bit action series about a schoolgirl named Yuko turning into an anime version of She-Ra and saving an alternate dimension several times over? Yeah, the games are mostly average, but they were fun back in the days of the Genesis and TurboGrafx, when we could be entranced by a plucky female warrior, decent Castlevania-style play mechanics, and cinema sequences that used "amazing CD technology" to mimic those then-novel Japanese cartoons.

The series quietly died around 1993, but now we have Valis X (or Valis Cross, as it's pronounced) for the Japanese PC. Here's the official website.

It's ALREADY better than the Famicom version of Valis or that shitty SNES port of Valis IV.

I don't remember the original games showing Yuko with quite such large breasts or an expression that mixed drugged stupefaction with a dawning sense of terror. Still, this is an official Valis title—there's the Telenet copyright in the corner—so we should be interested. Let's look at the screenshots and see just what sort of game this is.

Back in 1991 we told you that you couldn't trust Cham because she was from the Dark World, Yuko. But did you listen? NNNNNNOOOOO-OHHHHH.

Fabulous secret powers were revealed to Yuko the day she RAMMED A SWORD UP HER VAGINA.

That's Reiko on top. In the first Valis game, Reiko ran off with an older man who turned out to be a demon warlord from another world. I would suggest that this was subtle commentary on the trend of Japanese schoolgirls whoring themselves out to dirty middle-aged businessmen for cell phones and shoes, but I'm not Tim Rogers.

Yes, it's a lesbian porn game. A lesbian porn Valis game. I'd make some joke about Philip K. Dick spinning in his grave, but he never had anything to do with the Valis games in the first place. Besides, he might have even endorsed lesbian anime sex in his unhinged later years.

This sort of thing turns up all the time in unlicensed gaming subcultures, where you can find just about any porn based on just about any game. It's truly rare, though, for a company to put out fully authorized smut about their most recognizable character, and that's precisely what's happening here. Telenet was a major Japanese game developer during the early ‘90s, but the days of Valis, Cosmic Fantasy, El Viento, and all those shooters are long gone. Like a film director with no career left, Telenet's doing porn. And so is Yuko, whether she likes it or not.

That's the disturbing thing about this: Yuko doesn't seem to be enjoying it at all. If she was going about things with a huge orgiastic grin on her face, there'd be far less cause for offense. But no. We can't have harmless, consensual lesbian stuff, because Japanese porn-gamers won't buy it unless a woman is cringing, blushing, sobbing, or dying.

Telenet's actually endorsed a series of Valis X games, with four more titles that focus on other characters like Cham, Valna, and Yuko's stupid classmate Reiko getting sapphic with each other. Telenet also has the temerity to charge about $25 for every game, and they're download-only. You don't even get a DVD copy with special-edition packaging, which would come in handy when you wanted people to leave your apartment. The upside? Someone might swipe the games and slap them into a torrent for all the Internet to see. And though I normally don't promote that sort of overt thievery, people shouldn't pay money for something like Valis X, because that'll just encourage more of it.


Well, that settles it.

At game shops across Japan, social retards and vapid schoolgirls alike are standing in line for the next available shipment of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. At every Gamestop and EB Games and doomed mom-and-pop gaming store across America, clerks are shoveling through piles of newly traded-in DS systems. At Nintendo's headquarters in Redmond, Reggie Fils-Aime is sitting dejectedly behind his desk with tears rolling down his face and bouncing off his enormous chin. The PSP has won.

A Tale of Modern Games In Two Parts

National Console Support stocks a new model of Koyori from Sengoku Cannon. For reference, this is Koyori.

In characteristically delightful NCSX prose, the store's website reveals that the Koyori model's clothing can be removed. NCSX expects the figures to sit on hand for several months.

NCSX sells out of the figures within a few hours.

Sengoku Cannon, being a side-scrolling PSP shooter from Psikyo, sounds cool at first, but not after you've seen the boring screenshots and read the unflattering reviews. Given the choice, I'd sooner have a Koyori figure, which could at least lie sealed in a safety deposit box until the day it's worth a grand on eBay.

Oh yeah, and buying frenzies surrounding naked toys are hilarious.