(Return of) Universal Horrors Challenge (Sorta)

So, my concentration has unfortunately been very much occupied by other things for the last several months (politics, my day job, and other things that likewise don’t really matter in the grand scheme), and because of this, the “challenge” portion of the Universal Horrors Challenge has fallen by the wayside.  That said, I’d like to get back on the wagon as it were and continue my survey of Universal’s horror film output from 1913 up to and including 1960.  I’m not sure how feasible it is to do that in a year’s time at this point, but I suppose the body of work if not the timetable is what’s truly important.

Going forward, I’m kicking around a few ideas concerning the challenge, this blog, and everything in between.

First, I’m not sure that the podcast format is necessarily working for me–or, at least, I’m not sure it’s working for me by itself.  I’ve noticed that other podcasts, vlogs, and the like simulcast in various forms of media–audio, video, and written in some cases.  I’m entertaining the idea, then, of transcribing my podcast work going forward (and working to transcribe those already released, possibly adding to them in “special editions” or “revisitations” of some sort).  This would allow those who either can’t download the podcast or don’t understand my Ohio accent to get the same amount of enjoyment and information from my posts as those who can.  It would also allow me the option of posting all of my research (including reviews), as opposed to me just awkwardly reading what is on my screen and my screen alone.

Second, I’m thinking of splitting this blog into three: One for entertainment media (movies, books, video games, etc.), one of politics, and one for missing persons and weird or unsolved mysteries.  Why would I do this?  Because in theory, this would be the online equivalent of a fidget-spinner for me, and would allow me to better regiment what I post, when, and how often–basically, to streamline my process.  It’s like folks who set their clocks five minutes ahead so they are never late; they know that their clocks are wrong, but somehow seeing the incorrect time pushes them to be on time more often.  Plus, it would allow me to unclutter my Facebook while scratching all my itches, and while appealing to all my friends and my diverse fan base.

Third, I…uh…well, there is no third.

What do you folks think?  Let me know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, or in a creepy letter mailed to my house and comprised of letters cut from old magazines.

Fictosphere/Podcast Update – 06/09/2016

So, I have a multi-podcast update for you folks today.

For the FictoCast, which is a podcast concerning the inner workings, inspirations, and thoughts behind the creation of our creative multiverse:

EPISODE 001: Birth of the Fictosphere
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss, well, the Fictosphere.

EPISODE 002: Brachiosaur Incorporated
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss Brachiosaur and his company.

For the FictoRant, we’re looking at episode two…which is truly me ranting for almost a solid 40 minutes (somewhat incoherently) because Jeff was ill and Mike was just sort of letting me go off the rails.  Not my favorite of the podcasts so far, though if you like hearing the sound of my voice, this one’s for you:

EPISODE 002: Indie Games Playin’
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss the obtuse nature of indie games. (EXPLICIT LANGUAGE)

Be sure to sign up for the Fictosphere email newsletter, as  well, to keep up to date on updates to our comics, blogs, podcasts, and updates.  UPDATES!

Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS – Nintendo Direct 12/15/2015

Standing by, ladies and gentlemen.

Check out the livestream here: http://www.nintendo.com/nintendo-direct/12-15-2015/

Less than 30 minutes away now.  Scroll down for updates.

Speculation?  One of the remaining characters has to be third party.  Why?  Two character slots (after Cloud), one level slot (after Midgar, Cloud’s level).  The Nintendo DLC releases did not specifically come with their own stages…past stages, yes, but no new ones specific to them (Mewtwo, Roy, Lucas).  Ryu and Cloud, both third party character DLC, come with character/series-specific levels.  Thus, at least one remaining third party character.  Is it Snake with Shadow Moses (revisited)?  Is it Shantae with…wherever the hell she’s from?  Shovel Knight with the Order of No Quarter’s Headquarters?  Banjo and Kazooie with a level that looks very much like every other level in this game?  Or…is it Minecraft Steve, with a Minecraft-inspired block level?

Or did Sakurai make the right choice, the only choice, and build a Castlevania level for one Simon Belmont?  We shall soon see!!

About 15 minutes away…feed is up, chat is up.  People speculating and hoping for a miracle.  As am I.

Presentation will be 33 minutes in length.

9 minutes and counting. Taking part in the chat and being very pro-Simon. Here’s my twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=MalusNMayhem

A couple of pro-Simon people in here (so, at least me and one other person). THE HYPE IS REAL!

Only 5 minutes remain. I’m hearing the band Europe in my head.

Okay, time to get serious. Three lines, bros and babes.

…another Fire Emblem? Corrin form Fire Emblem Fates. Huh. Weird. Male or female versions available.

He/she is a swordfighter who transforms into a dragon. That’s cool, I guess. I think now Fire Emblem matches/rivals Mario and Pokemon in terms of number of characters.

The moveset looks interesting but…meh. I’m just not a Fire Emblem guy.

No new stage with Corrin, but new music.

Cloud will be released soon, and was most requested Final Fantasy character.

Limit Break is both chargeable and charges automatically with use of attacks.

…Last fighter is Bayonetta. Seriously? Konami can go fuck itself, apparently.

I miss Project M already.

Can’t wait for someone to hack the game and allow for custom characters.

Good night, all!

Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS – The Shovel Knight Upset (formerly conspiracy)

So, today (December 15, 2015) at 5 PM ET/2 PM PT/10 GMT is the final Nintendo Direct livestream event dealing specifically with Super Smash Bros.  It’s believed that Cloud Strife’s inclusion in the game will be covered in more detail, and that the rest of the DLC (which Sakurai said yesterday will be ending soon) will be revealed.

Holy cow, that’s in less than an hour!  As the stream is happening, I will be bullet-pointing and updating the blog.  That said, let me talk (very briefly) about Shovel Knight.

When it was first revealed that Shovel Knight would be the first 3rd party-produced Amiibo (indeed, Shovel Knight is not a Nintendo property but rather the IP of Yacht Club Games), there was a ton of speculation that Shovel Knight would be pulled into Smash Bros. as a playable character.  It makes sense, to a degree; Amiibos were first introduced for Smash Bros., after all, and for the longest time, no one could see the color of the base.

Sidenote: Each game that uses an Amiibo for interactivity has a different base–so Smash Bros. Amiibos have a golden Smash insignia base, Mario Party Amiibos have a silver checkered base, etc.

On top of that, the preliminary sketches released by Yacht Club games showed the Amiibo as having a Smash Bros. base…so, yeah, it makes sense that people would think Shovel Knight might show up in the game.

Recently, though, Yacht Club Games themselves have dispelled that rumor, stating that though they would love nothing more than to see their character in Smash Bros., he just wasn’t “compatible”.  Now, whether or not they were just talking of the Amiibo, or of the character himself (only makes sense if my original hypothesis of this Smash Bros. game being about Nintendo history is true), remains to be seen.  It has since been revealed that Shovel Knight is to have a purple base with a shovel insignia on it–so, not the Smash base.

Either way, though, with the final Nintendo Direct dealing with Smash Bros. looming ever closer (a mere 35 minutes away as of me typing this sentence), literally anything can happen.  We may yet see Shovel Knight in this game, ladies and gentlemen.  I’m hoping not before Simon Belmont, of course, but what can one do?

Stay tuned for live updates during the livestream!


TBT #12 – Kill your double in Nintendo’s Urban Champion

Originally published at Examiner.com on February 18, 2014.

This was the last article I wrote for Examiner.com.  Two more (at least) were planned, but never came to fruition.  Perhaps this is the place to bring them into existence.

Either way, I’m done with Examiner.com forevermore.

 – Randall Malus, 12/10/2015

There’s a terrible stigma that comes with a thing being called “classic”.  To many, the word is synonymous with “unwanted”.  Suggest a classic film, and all your friends will groan.  Suggest playing a classic game, and all your friends will look at you quizzically.  Suggest traveling to a classic event via bridge between the fourth and fifth dimensions, and your friends will have you committed–that is, they will if you don’t first put on your invisibility helmet made of cheese and fueled by grave dirt (as per leprechaun instruction), but even then the thing rarely works for more than a few moments so it’s not worth mentioning anyway.  Yes, the common belief is that “classic” is “unwanted”.  Somehow sub-par.

Urban Champion proves those beliefs to be 100% true.


It’s like Kitty Genevese, but with more testosterone.

It’s not that Urban Champion is a bad game, it’s just that it’s a confusing one.  Confusing, some might say, in its simplicity.  You play a gentleman whose whole point in life is, apparently, to meet other gentlemen (who look exactly like you) in front of buildings and beat them to a pulp.  With punches.  No kicks.  Once finished, a resident of said building who has been watching the action will rain confetti down on you–or, if you happened to lose, onto your opponent.  It apparently never occurs to the resident that police intervention might be required to handle the random outburst of violence that just broke out in front of their building, but I digress.

So, simple, right? Yes, but, as I said, confusing. Who are these people that the player fights? “Bullies”, states the manual, but that doesn’t explain their similarities to the player character. No, dear reader, they’re not mere bullies. They’re something more. What kind of “more” is the “something” that they “are”?

The answer is frightening, yet exciting in a boring sort of way:

They are all doppelgangers.

You see, I believe this game to be an NES adaptation of the classic (there’s that word again) German gothic novel by Hanns Heinz Ewers entitled The Student of Prague.  In the novel, the titular student Balduin (or “Urban Champion” as he’s never referred to) makes a deal with the devilish Scarpinelli whereby Balduin sells his reflection for riches.  The reflection steps out of the mirror and, over the course of the novel, harasses Balduin to no good end.

Of course, the major plot points of the story are lost on Urban Champion.  There are no cut scenes, the city looks really basic (nothing indicating the fact that it’s Prague at all), and there’s nothing said of the student (the titular Urban Champion) being a pretty good fencer.  That’s forgivable, though, since this is an early NES game–and they were a lot more basic back then.  Heck, there’s so little of King Kong’s story in the NES adaptation entitled Donkey Kong that I won’t even bother writing an article about it (article forthcoming).

In addition to the obscured plot, the title itself is somewhat confusing.  “Urban Champion”?  Are we to take from this title that everyone who survives a single day in the inner city is to be considered a “champion”?  While likely true, I have to wonder what being a “suburban champion” would entail.  Would it involve complaining to one’s spouse about the stifling rules instituted by the development association in order to keep the tulpa living under the gated community happy?  Can a person consider themselves a “suburban champion” if they leave a passive-aggressive note in their neighbor’s mail box because their neighbor’s driveway was poured too short and only has room for two cars but their neightbor owns three, and so one hangs out over the sidewalk slightly, forcing the person in question to–heaven forbid–step onto the apron and then back onto the sidewalk during said person’s morning jog (I know it was you, Cheryl, you tramp)?

Well, whatever is truly going on in the game, one thing is for sure: it is a classic in the purest sense of the word.  So, the next time your father wants to dust off his phonograph player and asks you to watch an ancient film like The Fast and the Furious with a very much alive Paul Walker, be sure to bring up Urban Champion.  He may just reconsider.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS – Cloud Strife: My Take

Well, I certainly didn’t see this coming.

This announcement came on Thursday (11/12/2015), and I’ve taken the last few days to process it.  I’m still not sure that I have processed it…

Allow me to state the obvious right now: Cloud Strife’s inclusion is significant. 

First, a bit of background.

Who is Cloud Strife?

Cloud is a character who belongs to Square-Enix (which is the hybrid company that was formed after SquareSoft and Enix merged in the early 2000s).  He’s from a game called Final Fantasy VII.

What is Final Fantasy?

Final Fantasy is a series of Japanese Role-Playing Games (or JRPGs for short).

Side note: JRPGs differ from American RPGs in that, in JRPGs, you’re often given a character (or party of characters) at the beginning and are expected to build up their statistics (such as strength, magic ability, etc.) throughout the progression of the story.  In an American RPG, you’re often tasked with building one character from the ground-up (name, height, weight, even background in some cases) and progressing through an open-ended, loose story.  Really, JRPGs are more straightforward in that there’s less room for customization, but they arguably tell more coherent stories.

Thus far, there have been fifteen main-series installments in the Final Fantasy series, with countless other side-stories and spin-offs appearing across all consoles.

It sounds like Final Fantasy has a great video game tradition.

It absolutely does–and Final Fantasy VII is arguably the reason that the series is still around.  It was wildly popular when it was released for the Sony Playstation in 1997, and remains to this day a game that often finds itself in the top spot of most “greatest games of the 1990s” lists (with its closest rival being Nintendo’s own The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).  When it comes to historical significance, FFVII is no joke.

Why didn’t I even mention Cloud very much (if at all) in the last few Smash Bros. posts? 

That’s…complicated.  Truthfully, I didn’t think Cloud had a chance.

SquareSoft and Nintendo used to be close back in the day–so close, in fact, that the first six numbered iterations of the Final Fantasy series were exclusively on Nintendo consoles (three on the original NES and three on the Super NES).  That changed with the release of Final Fantasy VII.  At the time, FFVII was meant to be on the N64–but development was an uphill battle, and the system’s cartridges just weren’t large enough to hold all the data necessary to tell Square’s next story.  Square went elsewhere.  Not only was FFVII not released for a Nintendo system (it was released for the Sony Playstation), but it was unbelievably successful.  How successful?  Well, remember when I said that games like Mega Man and Castlevania sold NES consoles to children?  FFVII did that with the Playstation, and in record numbers.  Arguably, it’s because of FFVII that the Sony Playstation was able to win that generation’s console war against the N64, thereby dethroning Nintendo as the top dog in the video game market after roughly a decade and a half.

So, though SquareSoft (now Square-Enix) has still been on speaking terms with Nintendo (and, indeed, they still release arguably lesser titles for Nintendo systems), things have been decidedly icy for awhile.  That’s why I never mentioned Cloud.

Okay.  So, what we have here is the inclusion of a character who helped put one of Nintendo’s competitors at the top of the heap at the end of the last century.

How do I feel about this?

I’m not against it, if that’s the question.  In fact, as a huge fan of FFVII, I love Cloud’s inclusion.  I was hoping for Simon, and we still might get Simon (more on way in a couple of paragraphs), but Cloud is hardly bad news.  In fact, it’s great.

With Cloud, Nintendo has successfully integrated the characters of six different companies (playable characters from Capcom, Sega, Square-Enix, and Namco, and trophies from Choice Provision Games and Ubi-Soft) in one game.  To my knowledge, that’s the most of any non-indie, officially licensed game thus far.  That’s an amazing accomplishment, and only Nintendo could pull it off.

Isn’t Cloud’s inclusion a slap in the face to Nintendo fans?

Not as I see it, no.  Though Cloud helped Sony rise to the top, Cloud is not a Sony character.  This isn’t Kratos (from God of War), or Nathan Drake (from Uncharted), or Microsoft’s Master Chief (from Halo).  Cloud still belongs to Square-Enix, and Square-Enix is not Nintendo’s competitor–in fact, Square-Enix, like Capcom, Namco, and Konami, helped support Nintendo in its glory days.  Where some might view this as an invasion, I view it as a “coming home again” for Square-Enix.

But surely there were better, more Nintendo-centric choices that could have been offered.

Sure, that’s true.  One such choice I’ve seen suggested is the Black Mage, which is a character class.  It’s look is rather distinctive, and anyone who is a fan of Final Fantasy as a series would instantly recognize the character.


But let’s consider Square-Enix’s position in this decision.  It is no exaggeration to state that FFVII is Square-Enix’s single most successful game to date–so much so that Square-Enix is remaking it for next gen consoles (a remake which I don’t support, for reasons I’ll get to in a later post).

So, you’re Square-Enix.  I don’t know what the details are of Nintendo’s meeting with Square-Enix or what prompted said meeting, but let’s say Nintendo approaches you and says, “We want to include a character from your company in our game.”  Well, which character do you choose?  You could go with the Black Mage, which has a history with Nintendo specifically (for it was featured in several of the original FF games), or you could go with the most recognizable character in Final Fantasy franchise history–one that is assured to make headlines on both Forbes and Yahoo News, among other places (which Cloud’s inclusion has done already).

But Cloud wasn’t even on a Nintendo console.

Not in any substantial way, no (though, he was in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm).

That’s pretty much a point of (loose) fact, and I won’t argue against that.

But looking at it from a business perspective, from the position that Square-Enix has no doubt taken, Cloud truly is the only choice that makes sense.  And it’s not hurting Nintendo, since it’s generating a lot of buzz and is probably getting the attention of gamers who otherwise wouldn’t have concerned themselves with Smash Bros. at all.  Who knows…it may even sell systems for the Big N.

How does this fit into my take on Smash Bros. being a history of video games, specifically with Nintendo’s place in it?

It actually reinforces that interpretation.

Like I’ve said, Final Fantasy VII essentially made video game history in 1997.  So, if Smash Bros. is about video game history, Cloud can’t be ignored.

If Smash Bros. is about Nintendo’s place in video game history, Cloud shouldn’t be ignored.  While it’s true that, again, Cloud is responsible for Sony’s ascension to dominance, he is also responsible then for Nintendo’s defeat–and history is made up of wins and losses, both.  I know my losses have defined me, almost as much as my wins (more than, I might argue).  Sometimes one finds themselves on the wrong side of history.  It’s a part of life.  It’s a part of business.  Fans tend to take personally that which businesses cannot.

One might also look at this from the perspective of Nintendo thumbing its nose at Sony.  Sure, Sony is the big man on campus now (thanks in no small part to FFVII and Cloud Strife), but Cloud is still a special character in one of Nintendo’s blockbuster games.  This, then, might be a bit of flexing on Nintendo’s part.

Do I think FFVII Remake is coming to a Nintendo system?

We don’t know the business deals going on behind the scenes.  While I suspect Nintendo is paying Square-Enix a tidy sum for the license, it’s possible that FFVII Remake will become a launch title for the Nintendo NX (Nintendo’s new console).  But we don’t know that for sure, and I hesitate to speculate on that without stronger evidence.

All I know (or care about) at present is that Cloud is in Smash Bros.

Okay, so why might this help Simon?

Though Konami’s relationship with Nintendo is a little chilly, it was never as frozen as Square-Enix’s relationship with Nintendo.  So, the fact that Cloud is coming to Smash Bros. indicates that Konami is likely either at the table, or is being brought to the table soon.  It also means that Nintendo doesn’t really care about the money necessary to pay for third party licenses.  I’m sure however you slice it, Cloud wasn’t cheap, and that’s good news for Konami and its characters.

Now, this may also hurt Simon because, though I’m like 75% sure Konami is at the table, they might be lobbying for their most famous character: the “fan favorite” Snake from Metal Gear.  And though Snake isn’t as popular as Cloud Strife, he was in the last Smash Bros. game, and thus may require little in the way of upgrade and effort.

Then again, when Capcom wanted Ryu from Street Fighter to be their offering, Nintendo blocked them and instead asked for Mega Man due to that character’s history with Nintendo (though Ryu found his way into Smash Bros., anyway–and, in a perfect world, both Capcom and Konami would ideally get two characters each, meaning Snake and Simon).

IMO, Simon still has a good chance, but I’m less sure of Simon’s inclusion than I am of a Konami character’s inclusion (which might be Simon or Snake at this point).

How do I know that there will be any more characters at all?

The game updates whenever there’s a new DLC released with a patch that allows even those who don’t purchase the character to be able to play against someone who has.  In the last patch update, a hacker (the same one who reported Roy and Ryu before Nintendo did, actually) took a look at the code and found what he/she/it believes to be three character slots.  Cloud obviously takes one of those, and if this hacker is correct, two remain.  The hacker’s a reliable source, so I do believe that three is the magic number.

Do I think that Cloud is the fan’s choice poll character?

No.  Masahiro Sakurai, the game’s lead developer, has stated that it takes his team about three months to properly create a character for the game.  The fan poll ended in October (October 3, 2015 to be exact), and the trailer for Cloud reveals a character that seems to be in pretty good working order already.  Not only that, but I can imagine a scenario where negotiations were potentially slow.  No, I think Cloud was planned as early as July–and if his inclusion is at all related to the fan poll, it’s likely because Nintendo took an early peek at the results.

Do I feel that this game, a celebration of Nintendo’s rich history, is being deluded by third party characters?

With Cloud, the roster currently sits at 54 unique characters (more if you count Mii Costumes and reskinned characters, like Olimar and Bowser Jr.).  Of those 54, all but five are Nintendo characters.  Only two of those five are from the same company (Mega Man and Ryu are from Capcom).

You can only go to the well so many times before you have to look elsewhere for water.

But there are still plenty of Nintendo characters from which to choose for DLC.

Absolutely.  And no one is saying that those characters won’t become DLC.  For all I know, the next two characters might be King K. Rool and Ridley, or Krystal and Wolf O’Donnell, or an Ice Climber and Stevenson, or any mixture of those, or none of those.  But even if the next two characters aren’t Nintendo characters at all, it’s not like there’s a severe lack of them to be found.  This game is still very much about Nintendo characters.

Why do you think there are so many third party characters in this game, then?

Honestly?  I think this is the last game in the series.  How does one follow this act?  You have Mega Man, Sonic, Pac-Man, Ryu, and Cloud Strife in the same game as Mario, Luigi, Link, Pikachu, Yoshi, Fox McCloud, Samus Aran, and Marth (to name a few).  How do you up the ante beyond “all in”?

Now, I’m not saying there won’t be something similar to this game in Nintendo’s future.  Though dinosaurs are gone, we still have birds.  What we’re seeing potentially is an evolution of the series.  Next time, we might see a game called “Super Smash All-Stars”, or “Smash Bros. Legends”, where we will see an increase in third party characters to a significant degree.  We may see Nintendo vs. Capcom, where the most significant characters from both companies go head-to-head.  Who knows.  But one thing is for certain…there is no going back.

So, what’s coming up in the immediate future?

Nintendo is having a special Nintendo Direct livestream in December.  It is to be the last Smash Bros.-centric livestream.  This doesn’t mean that the DLC will necessarily end after December’s livestream, but it does mean that the huge, sprawling updates will likely cease.  If I had money to wager, I’d say the next two characters (one of which will likely be the true fan poll character) will be revealed during that livestream.  Other information to look forward to includes stage information, amiibo release dates, and feature updates.

The livestream will be at www.nintendo.com/nintendo-direct/. Actual date and time information is not yet available.


I think adding Cloud is a good thing.  FFVII holds a regarded place in video game history, and a humbling place in Nintendo history (in the end, Cloud still wound up in this game).  It opens the door for a third party character from Konami, which is fantastic (really, Konami needs a character in this game).  It also perhaps gives us a look into the future evolution of the series.

NEXT: The Shovel Knight Upset (formerly conspiracy)

TBT #7 – Offensive Stereotypes? In my classic games?! It’s more likely than you think!

Originally published at Examiner.com on September 8, 2009.

The story that starts this article is 100% true.  At the time, I thought the guy was insane for placing Italians above…well, above every other “minority” currently competing in the Oppression Olympics.  Little has changed over the last six years (thirteen if I consider the time since I truly attended that lecture).

I won’t even attempt to comment on racism and how to fix it.  Unlike so many SJWs out there, I won’t pretend that I have the answers.

Instead, I offer my own sarcastic take on the list fad that has infected so many websites as of late.  I guess I was ahead of my time.  Also, I literally just noticed the link at the bottom of the page.  After every Examiner.com article, we were encouraged to provide a link to one or more outside sources, so that folks could learn more about the subjects talked of in our articles.  I followed the instructions, but…apparently I’m just a dick.

Again, the pictures are approximations of the originals.

 – Randall Malus, 11/05/2015

About five years ago (“five” being an arbitrary number I‘m throwing out there since I have absolutely no concept of time and, as such, the point in time of which I speak could have realistically been anytime from “before I was born” up until “yesterday“), I attended a college lecture by some guy who said some stuff about how Italians are the most downtrodden victims of stereotyping in modern America.  During his spiel about how he, as an Italian-American, did not want to be associated with the romanticized, noble, anti-heroic criminals known as “mobsters”, I realized that my professor would give me credit just for showing up and that I could leave at any moment.  And so I pulled my half-asleep carcass from the chair and left.

But was he right–not just concerning Italian-Americans, but other ethnicities and social groups as well?  Does offensive stereotyping, anachronistic as it may seem, still happen in modern America?  And how does this stereotyping relate to video games?  Real-life lawyer Jack Thompson seems to be more than a little irked by video games in general, so is there something to this “offensive stereotype” thing?  To examine this, I’ve taken a look at five (there’s that arbitrary number again) classic video games, picked intentionally at random, and have found undeniable and shocking proof that, yes, offensive stereotypes still exist–and have since at least 1982 AD (sadly, Google didn’t exist before 1982, so I couldn’t find any instances prior to that year).  Observe, but be warned: these are not for the faint of heart.

offensive01Mama mia!

Super Mario Bros.: Perhaps the most vile instance of an Italian-American stereotype I’ve ever had the displeasure of crossing, Super Mario Bros. portrays Italian-Americans as honest, hard-working, blue-collar individuals who will put their own lives and sanity at risk by traveling to alien dimensions and facing hordes of monsters led by malicious fire-breathing reptiles in order to save a woman in distress or bring peace, prosperity, and happiness to the known world.  Absolutely scandalous!

NinGaiEven ninjas find the strangest women in bars.

Ninja Gaiden: What ignorant sod created this game?  I mean, am I truly to believe that the Japanese are noble, family-oriented people who place honor and justice before anything else?  Am I supposed to accept at face-value that they would selflessly travel the world and put their lives on the line in order to stop a dastardly demon cult from bringing forth a vengeful, destructive eldritch god that would only lay waste to our planet?  Nice try, Harry S. Truman, but I’m not buying into your racist agenda.

Mega“Beep boop beep”, indeed.

Mega Man: If this game is to be believed, all super fighting robots are heroic doers of good who fight the evil creations of malevolent scientists bent on world domination.  I often wonder what the robots employed at CERN would think (CERN being that Swedish science place in Switzerland which has tried to blow up the world no less than three times now).  If you asked them, I’m sure they’d reply with something witty like “please insert girder” or “beep boop beep”, but behind every flashing light and whimsical, silly “beep“, their tin robotic hearts would break at the pain caused by such an offensive portrayal.

PacI’m stereotyping those cherries as looking 100% delicious.  Mmm, mm!

Pac-Man: I once got punched in the face by a drunken, disgruntled Pac-Man because I made a snide comment about how all Pac-Men are good for is “running around fluorescent mazes whilst being chased by ghosts and gobbling balls”.  I learned the hard way that Pac-Men find this stereotype to be highly offensive and completely false.  The “wakka wakka” sound they’re said to make while they walk, though?  Totally true.

Well, there you have it.  Five games that prove my point on offensive stereotypes in modern America’s classic games–as well as display my inability to count.


TBT #5 – Classic Gaming 101: Where can I buy classic games in Cleveland?

Originally published to the Examiner.com on August 16, 2009.

This article came about after I received an email (a form email sent to all writers, not a personalized email indicating that anyone on staff had any actual notion or knowledge of my work) mentioning that I might get more readers if I did something with a bit of a local flavor.  It was to be sort of a beginner’s guide to the city in which I live as it relates to my area of “expertise” (i.e. the title of “Classic Games Examiner”). Taking the form email to heart, I decided to put my own spin on the idea.

I like how the article turned out, but it’s a litter bittersweet for me looking back.  Borders Books (mentioned briefly in the article) is now closed, as are a number of BuyBack$ locations.  Thankfully, Examiner.com (for whatever reason) kept the BuyBack$ picture–but the others are replicas.

– Randall Malus, 10/22/2015

Cleveland’s truly an awesome city.  Anyone who’s seen Mike Polk’s “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video” on Youtube can attest to this.  Sure, I admit that we did have a bit of a vampire problem that once prevented those but the most courageous of us from venturing out of doors after sundown in the late 1980s, but a rise in violent gang activity during recent years has alleviated that problem and made the streets safe for our gun-toting youths.  With Cleveland’s revival as a city has come a revival in secondhand mercantilism, especially where classic video games are concerned.  Whether you want to start a collection of classic video games or you’re looking to add a few new pieces to an already existing collection, there are a number of stores in Cleveland that are suited to your needs.  I recently investigated three such stores in the surrounding area, though allow me to offer one piece of advice: do not visit any of these stores after they’ve closed.  Take it from me, the selection is nowhere near as great as when each store is open.  Also, peering into darkened store windows whilst holding a crowbar bought from Home Depot only moments before is…not advisable.  Anyway, here’s what I found!

cg01Cheap, rare movies are also a huge draw of BuyBack$.

BuyBack$ is one of those stores that has made me feel like I’ve been living under a rock for most of my life.  Within the past year or so, a number of them have popped up in the area (with little to no fanfare until after they’ve arrived), though I’m certainly not complaining.  BuyBack$ offers a fairly sizable selection of NES, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, and GameBoy games at (typically) eBay prices.  Some system peripherals are also offered, though the selection is variable.  Please note that these items are often loose, so mint-in-box collectors may be better off looking in our next store.

1021151959aIt’s not just for records anymore.  Actually, it’s not at all for records anymore, not since the invention of the 8-track.  Wait, that’s not right…

I’m sure plenty of people reading this article already know about the Exchange, but for those who don’t, it’s a lot like BuyBack$–but with a greater selection.  There are also more store locations, since the Exchange (formerly Record Exchange) as a chain has been around for awhile.  If you’re looking for games from the NES, SNES, N64, PlayStation, Atari, Genesis, Master System, GameBoy, GameBoy Color, or Game Gear, I’d advise checking out the Exchange.  Each store has an adequate selection of loose and mint-in-box items, as well as a good number of peripherals at reasonable prices.  Pay them a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.

1021151959I once found a copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale for $1.00 in here.  Of course, it was after paying, like, $15.00 for a new copy at Borders.  Yes, I’m aware you don’t actually care.

Now, some of you are probably puzzled.  Why Half-Price Books?  Well, while it’s true that they mostly deal in secondhand games from the last two generations (N64, PlayStation and onward), one platform that the other two stores fail to cover almost completely is the PC.  Half-Price Books, oddly enough, picks up the slack like some sort of slack-picking-up champion.  When I checked their North Olmsted location, I found some old Star Wars CD-ROM PC games (Dark Forces, Rebel Assault) for under $10.00 each, all mint-in-box; Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987 floppy disk version) for around $30.00 mint-in-box; and various other video game adventures from PC antiquity.  PC game collectors should check their local Half-Price Books for similar gems.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.

While this is by no means a complete list of secondhand classic game stores in the Cleveland area, the three stores on this list are a good starting point for new collectors and veterans alike.  In my experience, these stores certainly offer the most reasonable prices for the most diverse product, and, since they’re chain stores, they’re accessible everyone in the Cleveland area (suburbs included).  Good luck, and happy hunting.


TBT #4 – Gobble some balls with Namco’s Pac-Man

Originally published at Examiner.com on July 22, 2009.

This is the beginning of the end in two significant ways. 

First, after posting weekly (consistently) for a month, I realized that Examiner.com did little to drive viewership for anything that wasn’t an article about reality show television stars who now have “the clap”–and so this was my last consistent post.  They would eventually start to taper off into monthly, then into less than that…

Second, I became really comfortable really quickly when I realized that no one (on staff, such as it was) cared about what I wrote.  Thus, some of my best work at the Examiner began with this post.

– Randall Malus, 10/15/2015

Namco originally wanted to call the game Puck-Man, but wisely decided against it after considering that the name may be altered by vandals to something not so kid-friendly: Fire Truck-Man.

Now, I know what you’re all saying after reading that title: “Why on earth would he review Pac-Man? It’s the single most famous video game on the face of the earth!” You’re right. Namco’s Pac-Man is the most recognizable title in the history of video games. It’s been copied, emulated, compiled, and remade, with few changes (if any) to the old formula of a character being chased in a maze. It’s been on virtually every system known to man (and probably plenty of systems that are unknown to man). What, then, could I have to say about the game that hasn’t already been said? Admittedly, not much. But I can point out a few things that some may have forgotten (or, perhaps, ignored) about the game‘s finer points. First, I shall talk about the storyline, as it’s the easiest and fastest to explain. Ahem. There is none. Next!

pacman2I’ve always wanted to eat a ghost, but I could never justify consuming the empty calories.

Wait…that can’t be right. No story? Even in Japan? Come on! When you really step back and take a look at how bizarre Pac-Man actually is, there must be some story. Any story. Well, sorry, folks, but there’s none. Pac-Man’s just a round thing with a mouth in an incandescent maze who eats yummy balls and gets chased by ghosts. When Pac-Man eats big, shiny balls, the ghosts turn blue and Pac-Man can now chase and eat them (Note: I could make several comments about that last sentence but, in the interest of maintaining at least some semblance of maturity, I won’t say a word). But, yes, there’s no deep storyline to Pac-Man. No rampaging minotaur threw Pac-Man into an endless labyrinth where the ghosts of those previously felled by the monster haunt the current hero. Nope. Just a circle. Eating balls. With ghosts. In a maze. And people have loved it for about three decades.

pacman3I sometimes wonder, “What kind of evil, vengeful god would trap Pac-Man in an endless maze of horror and death?” But then I wonder, “Meh, who am I to judge?”

And, while we‘re not on the subject, what is the deal with Ms. Pac-Man? Are we to believe that the only gender-identifying organ on the Pac-Man race happens to be a bow? Scientists would have quite a hard time explaining the evolutionary importance of that. Or, is it possible that Ms. Pac-Man is really just Pac-Man in drag, as the word “man” is still very prominent in her name? It would certainly explain why J. Edgar Hoover loved playing this game (for those who don’t know, J. Edgar Hoover was the inventor of the vacuum cleaner–and a cross-dresser). And let’s talk for a moment about the character known as Jr. Pac-Man. It’s Pac-Man…in a beanie. Is Jr. Pac-Man really a game starring Pac-Man’s offspring, or is Pac-Man just reliving the childhood he never had in some Freudian delusion of ghost-tainted fear and ball-munching madness? Oh, well. Some of these questions may never be answered, but for gamers, that’s okay. Namco’s classic has stood the test of time, and still remains an incredibly addictive game. There’s a reason why it’s been copied, ported, and cloned for all this time. I mean, really, the game is literally everywhere. And it rarely ever changes. Here’s hoping it never will.


For more info: Pac-Man Wiki

TBT #3 – Namco’s Dig Dug: An arcade classic remains so after all these years

Originally published at Examiner.com on July 14, 2009.

After the financial fiasco that was the Moonwalker article, I decided to stop holding back and just be as wacky as I wanted to be.

So of all games, why Dig Dug?  Because of a high school memory.

Way back when, a Catholic theology teacher and moderator of the Sci-Fi Club I was a part of had a Dig Dug cabinet in his room.  If the room was empty and you had the quarters, you could play for as long as you liked.  Well, someone did, and someone got the high score.  That someone also named themselves “ASS”.  So, every time the attract mode flipped over to the high scores, ASS was very plainly displayed at the top.  Every teenage student thought it was hilarious, and it took weeks (and increasing bribery from said theology teacher) to replace the high score with a more PG name (I personally tried several times, with the intention of replacing ASS with “FUK”, but to no avail).

Of course, the thing the teacher didn’t know was that there’s a switch inside the cabinet that clears the scores…and we didn’t tell him until after ASS’s score was beaten.

The same problem with this article applies as before–the original pictures were lost in the unpublishing, but these are close approximations to said originals (in fact, I think the first two might indeed be the originals).  Also, Cy Brown’s site is no longer operational–which is a shame.  He pretty much built a bunker in his backyard and chronicled the entire process.  Thankfully, you can find it by using the Wayback Machine and typing in the original URL, which is indeed below.

– Randall Malus, 10/08/2015

digdug1Title screen from the NES version of Dig Dug which is, in truth, like every other version.

Ah, Dig Dug. You are so awesome a game that Namco could not possibly think of a better title than one which combines both the present and past tenses of the word “dig”. But you don’t just break grammar rules, Dig Dug. No, no. Not you. You also spit on Einstein and his theory of the cosmological constant by having absolutely no end. Indeed, you go on forever, eating quarter after quarter for round upon round. And story? Who needs that? Not you, Dig Dug. Oh, sure, in Japan there’s a whole epic saga concerning your main character and his quest to rid the land of monsters or something. Here in the good ol‘ U.S. of A., though, you’re just a game where some guy digs holes under someone else’s garden and uses a bicycle pump to blow up dragons and bespectacled spheres. I have no idea from whence the bicycle pump comes or into which orifice the bicycle pump finds itself, nor do I have any concept of which law of physics is broken when a non-elastic creature is popped like a balloon. All I know is that you, Dig Dug, are fun and addictive and, unlike drugs, most will never be able to quit you.

digdug2Picture courtesy of Cy Brown, a master hole-smith.  This is pictorial proof that holes exist.

Yes, folks, Dig Dug is a slice of fun from long ago (1982 to be precise). But what, pray tell, was the inspiration for such a game? Why, digging holes, of course! You see, in real life, a person can dig holes and, once the person has done so, the holes themselves will have been dug. How does one go about digging a hole? A shovel and loads of strenuous work. Don’t ask me anymore than that as digging is manual labor and, due to a manual labor allergy I have, I avoid digging like the plague. But holes themselves (the aftermath of digging) certainly have their usefulness. Holes dug in a cemetery (more commonly known as “graves”) keep the dead from rising and assaulting the living at night. Historically, Austrian dictators have used holes called “bunkers” to escape justice. Long holes often called “tunnels” aid in the transportation of goods and employees. And not one of these uses apply to Dig Dug in any capacity whatsoever.

digdug3Tactical digging action.

As has been said, Dig Dug is a game about digging holes and popping monsters. The holes themselves are seemingly dug for the purpose of popping monsters (with popping monsters not being a secondary concern to digging holes). Skilled players can use rocks to aid them in their monster-killing and, occasionally, vegetables that the player can pick up for extra points will appear, but the above stated is generally the main object of the game. Even though this is a simple concept (as is common for early arcade games), the game has stood the test of time and remains a popular arcade classic to this day. Classic gamers searching for a touch of old time can find Dig Dug on virtually any Namco compilation disk (most recently on Namco Museum Virtual Arcade for the Xbox 360), the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and literally billions of flash-based game sites on the internet.

If you haven’t played this game yet, you’re the only one on earth and I highly suggest you play it immediately. It certainly beats digging.