AsumSaus Relates the Story of aMSa, Player of Yoshi

Yep, we link a lot of videos. Sadly a lot of gaming stuff now takes the form of videos. Text is my preference, but it’s where the content is right now.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve linked to AsumSaus, whose beat is the competitive Smash Melee scene. There’s lots of Youpotatoes out there, but AsumSaus appeals to me greatly. His videos aren’t edited into a confusing mess, they don’t sound like morning zoo radio hosts on crack, there aren’t lots of swishy objects moving around. It’s surprising how many Youtubers spend so much effort making their videos unwatchable, but AsumSaus isn’t one of them. They’re accessible, entertaining, interesting, and sane. All around, great.

Most of AsumSaus’ videos are around 10 minutes long, but this time we have a long-form video, at 54 minutes it’s almost movie-length, but it’s worth it. It’s the story of aMSa, a Japanese player of Super Smash Bros Melee. It turns out Japan is not a great scene for competitive Smash Melee, the best players are widely considered to be in the US and Europe. Not only that, but for much of his career professional Melee was only a side-gig for him, he held down a demanding day job in his home country, and had to travel to tournament events when he could.

But none of those things are the most surprising thing about aMSa. The most surprising thing is that aMSa plays Yoshi. He’s the only top-tier Melee player who does.

When he began, Yoshi was considered F-Tier. To explain to those not familiar with competitive fighting game terminology, the community around games tends to sort the characters into “tiers,” each containing characters considered to be of roughly equivalent strength. Usually these are rated alphabetically, with “S” given an honorary place at the top of the list, according to gaming custom. So, S-tier characters are the best, A-tier characters are second best, and so on down. Usually the worst at F-tier, or even a little lower. Sometimes, if one character really rules, they might be rated SS-tier, or even potentially SSS-tier.

In 2010, the tier list for Smash Melee characters was considered to be this:

At the top of the heap are Fox, whose positive Melee attributes have been a meme for many years now, Falco (who plays very similarly to Fox), Jigglypuff (the best floater in Melee, and who also has Pound for extra saves and Rest for instant kills), and Sheik, who is almost as fast as Fox. In Melee, Sheik could turn into Zelda with a move. No one does this though, because Zelda is way down in Tier F. Tier F characters are widely considered to suck. But, another character in tier F is Yoshi.

Why is Yoshi rated so badly? The obvious reasons (well, obvious to people familiar with Smash Bros) are: Yoshi doesn’t have an up+B save move (it throws an egg instead of serving as a third jump); and, Yoshi’s shield is unusual, encasing them in an egg instead of providing the usual bubble-shield, and Yoshi can’t jump immediately out of it. Yoshi has positive aspects too, but those two are pretty huge.

More recent tier lists for Melee all rate Yoshi much more highly. But it’s not because a lot of players have achieved a good rate of success with Yoshi. It’s entirely because of aMSa. One player, out of hundreds, is the reason Yoshi was rated at B+ tier in 2021, and that’s aMSa.

I don’t want to give away the ending of AsumSaus’ video. aMSa doesn’t win every match, in fact they lose a great many, because in tournaments they play against the very best in the world. But they do experience a lot of success, and beyond that, they seem to be genuinely a good person. aMSa is almost always smiling after a match, win or lose, because they’re having a great time. They’re always gracious to their opponent. It’s easy to get on their side. Crowds love them too.

Here, then, is the journey of aMSa, and their red Yoshi. A top-level professional Smash Melee player, with the least likely character. And be sure to stick around for the very end, as AsumSaus picked the best-possible ending music for the video.

aMSa: The Only Yoshi (who could do it) (Youtube, 54 minutes)

A Video on Nintendo Manga

I’m working on something big for you all, but it’ll take some time to get ready. So to free up time for working on that, here’s something I’ve been saving, a Youtube video exploring manga based on Nintendo characters, from the account of S Class Anime. Enjoy!

Exploring the World of Nintendo Manga (Youtube, 20 minutes)

The Digital Antiquarian on Rogue and Successors

[EDIT: link fixed, thanks to the Grogpod Roguelike Podcast for pointing it out!]

I’ve been thinking about doing more @Play lately, but in the meantime, please read this mostly nice, lengthy article from The Digital Antiquarian on Rogue and its legacy. I say mostly because there are a few minor points I disagree with. Maybe I’ve played too much of it, but experienced players tend to view vanilla Nethack as maybe a bit too easy. There’s a ton to learn, but once you’ve internalized it all, you come to realize that most situations have counters, and it comes down to knowing what they are, and not pushing your luck too far. Ah! I’ve not said much on Nethack for years now! I should get back to doing that….

A screen of Amiga Rogue, from the linked article

The Digital Antiquarian: Going Rogue

Sundry Sunday: Remade Opening to Grim Fandango

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

Over on Newgrounds, Yespeace1 remade the opening to the classic 3D Lucasarts adventure game Grim Fandango in Blender. They adhered to nearly everything about the original, so don’t expect a tremendous amount of improvement, but when the first version was so great anyway that hardly matters. The Youtube version is linked below, since it’ll embed here cleanly.

Grim Fandango Resurrected, on Youtube and Newgrounds (3 minutes)

The Website of the Blue Sky Rangers

I’m surprised these folks are still around! The Intellivision was an ancient property even by the time the Blue Sky Rangers were founded, and their site is still up, even now in this blasted dystopian year of 2023.

They’ve been making collections and remakes of, and retro consoles containing, the old Intellivision games since 1997, and once in a while they make a new package to keep the memory of the old games alive. My own shelf has the Gamecube version of Intellivision Lives on it.

You might find it edifying to visit their site. That is my hope. My dream? Look and see.

The Website of the Blue Sky Rangers and Blue Sky Rangers History

Sundry Sunday: Cooking With Louie

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

Pikmin 2 introduced Olimar’s disreputable underling Louie. (Their names are an in-joke: “Olimar” is mostly the syllables in “Mario” in reverse order, and Louie thus references Luigi.)

Whereas Olimar is mostly trying to get home, or else earn money to pay off his company’s debts, Louie is mostly along because he’s a working stiff, or else perhaps because he loves the taste of planet PNF-404’s native wildlife. Olimar’s entries on the creatures in Pikmin 2’s Piklopedia take a naturalistic, even scientific, style, Louie’s mostly concern the best way to prepare each beast for the dinner table. It a humorous little detail, and one of Pikmin 2’s most charming elements.

Wooden Turtle on Youtube has made a stop motion animation of a new cooking show on Hokotate television featuring the starfaring chef, titled Cooking With Louie. But sadly it doesn’t go that well, due to the regenerative properties of one of the critters being prepared. And someone should get those camerapikmin unionized immediately.

An extra: from Napkins X, a line of Pikmin dancing to everyone’s favorite decade-old dance hit.

Arcade Heroes Updates

Every once in a while I take a look over at what’s happening in the arcade side of gaming. Usually I’m left feeling pretty sad. The age when there were dozens of cool arcade concepts being released every year was very long ago at this point. For arcade video games made in the US, the only two companies I’m aware of that are doing anything substantive are Raw Thrills (who are ubiquitous) and Play Mechanix. I mean, there’s also Incredible Technologies, still making their yearly Golden Tee updates. And of you consider screened slot machines to be a kind of “video game” then sure there’s more–but I don’t. I don’t consider them to be video games.

Promo card for Bandai-Namco’s upcoming Bike Dash Delivery (Images in this post from Arcade Heroes)

All of this is just from a cursory look, mind you. I haven’t had the will to follow the current-day arcade industry, from any country, for a good while. The demise of Atari Games and Midway took a lot out of me. I’ve carped a bit about Raw Thrills a bit, but honestly that’s probably just how upset I am that Atari is gone. A lot of the games that are made seem to be things like driving or light-gun games, usually with a big-cabinet or ride-like component. Mind you, a local arcade has two Raw Thrills Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machines, but they’re so inferior in play to Konami’s classic cabinets, even running on thirty-year-old tech, that I’m embarrassed to watch them on their behalf.

But there are a few interesting newer games in arcades. Two places local to me have interesting Space Invaders-themed light gun games, that use a large bank of LEDs for a screen. And… well, that’s actually about it, as far as recent games I’ve gotten my own hands on that I find remotely interesting.

But the blog Arcade Heroes, which makes the arcade scene its beat, sometimes uncovers some games I’d like to have a play on, if I ever were to encounter one, which seems mostly unlikely, alas.

For example. While I find them theme on most current pinball releases to be a bit lacking, for example focusing on rock bands consisting of senior citizens, in the case of the upcoming table based on Spinal Tap, that actually makes the machine more entertaining instead of less.

Charles Entertainment Cheese, and his old boss, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell

Bandai-Namco has a game coming up called Bike Dash Delivery, which actually allows players to (gasp) actually explore a little, instead of being stuck on a set course like so many other arcade titles in these sad times. The article mentions both Crazy Taxi and Propcycle, both machines beloved by me, so I’m rather hopeful this game will make it to the States!

Kevin Williams has a recurring column on the arcade scene over there, and his most recent is a retrospective on the years of 1982 and 1983, the end of the “classic era” of arcade gaming. Whether for history or nostalgia, it’s worth a look.

Roguelike Celebration Preview Sign-Up

I’ve mentioned both Roguelike Celebration 2023, and its upcoming preview event, before, but it’s getting close now, happening on September 10th. It’s free to attend! Here is the signup link.

One of the fun touches the Roguelike Celebration people do is provide a MUD-like chatroom for attendees. Both the preview and main event this year are once again virtual, so you can watch and participate from the comfort of your home! Preview presenters include David Brevik (works on Diablo), Aron Pietroń and Michał Ogłoziński (Against the Storm) and a talk by Nic Junius on “dynamic character moments through character acting.”

Roguelike Celebration 2023 Preview Sign-Up Form ($0)

Dragon Con 2023: Music Games

Save Point brought a whole bevy of Japanese arcade music games to DragonCon this year. I am of two minds of them: it’s definitely niche and I’m in favor of that, and it’s nice to see a genre like this represented well. But they brought so many of them, and they were stationed close to the board gaming area, which made it very difficult to be heard there. Throughout most of the con you had to nearly shout to be heard in that area! I couldn’t get into any board games because of it. Hopefully next year they’ll find a way to better isolate the music games from attractions more suited to a quiet atmosphere.

Still, I will set aside my grudge against wrecking my Le Havre experience this year in order to document, via my cell phone, the many music games that appeared in 2023. Here we go:

StepManiax, played by the requisite bikini girl
“Jubeat” here has been at DragonCon several times before. It’s got an unusual form factor, and no screen?
“Pop’n Music,” from Konami’s Bemani series. I don’t get the significance of the “Pop’n” appellation. Is it related to Pop’n Twinbee? Is “Pop’n” a good thing in Japan?
I think this picture was from Pop’n Music.
I am uncertain how proper it is to make fun of the blatant Engrish in the title of “Sound Voltex Exceed Gear” here. The game has been at DragonCon many times, and every time the word Voltex makes my inner editor cringe. Maybe the title was intentional, but I doubt it. Anyway, it features the usual kind of anime girl characters that are so common in the art for these games.
From another Konami game whose name I don’t seem to have recorded. The penguin mascots are unmistakable relatives of Penta, introduced way back in 1983 in Antarctic Adventure for the MSX, and Pentarou from the Parodius series.
One of Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin drumming games, rarely seen in the US. Donkey Konga on the Gamecube was part of this family.
Of course there was a Dance Dance Revolution machine, how could there not?
Groove Coaster, mostly a rhythm game where you tap a button as a cursor reaches designated points in a line. I think Rhythm Heaven does it much better in principle.
Technica 3 here asks, why be satisfied with one screen when you can have two?
“WACCA” (?) here is one of two games to use a washing machine-inspired cabinet design.
This one, whose title I didn’t catch, is a washer/dryer combo
This mutation of the theme of DDR, and the next one, are so old as to use the old Konami twin stripe logo, which I think is much better than the following “company name on red background” one.
Dance Maniax 2nd Mix. Konami really saturated the market with these for awhile, didn’t they?
Almost the last one. I can almost hear the overwhelming din in my ears now.
The last one, Rhythm Heaven! Of course the most charming and unique of them all was the one I could barely hear at all, its volume was turned so far down. It was almost unplayable, but it still had a lot of people try it out!
I mean just look at this! How could you not want to play it? What’s up with that stylin’ monkey? Why is that giraffe in the shot??
It’s blurry but I had to include this one, from the attract mode. The Rhythm Heaven games have so much love and care poured into them. Of course many of the staff also worked on the WarioWare series.

That just may exhaust what I can milk from my DragonCon attendance this year. Back to our usual beats!

DragonCon 2023: Gaming Options & Gamecube Events

DragonCon has had a variety of gaming options going back at least a decade.

They used to have, for a surprisingly long time really, a set of networked Battletech pods that some people would dutifully bring every year, with N64-level graphics, that had a dedicated following. The pods were made up in an immersive fashion, in a way that suggested perhaps a connection to the old Battletech Centers, which appear to still be in operation. I hear those stopped coming to DragonCon due to COVID and have yet to return. Weirdly, the pen-and-paper version of Battletech itself, which was almost dead for a long while, made it to DragonCon this year in huge fashion.

UGH

They have a board game area where for a $10 fee you can check out a game to play for a while. Sadly I found that area completely unusable this year, despite bringing two of my own board games (Le Havre and Caylus) to play there: its proximity to the music arcade game area (post forthcoming on that) made it impossible to be heard except by almost shouting. There were other tables, but also a lot of competition between Magic, dexterity games, demos, figure painting, Warhammer, Battletech, and a big area devoted to “US Army E-sports,” a phrase that fills me with sadness to type.

Also on the gaming floor was an area where one could check out PC and console games and systems and play them. I found their selection a bit lacking; I have a few personal systems I had emailed them about bringing, but as in the past when I’ve reached out about such things, I never got a response. I suppose that’s understandable, but it’d have been nice to let people play Dreamcast or Saturn games from my own collection.

The console gaming group ran three “challenge run” tournaments where you could try to complete objectives on NES games for prizes. I entered all three (finish all the levels in Super Mario Bros 3 World 1, finish any five levels of Mega Man 2, and a Link to the Past randomizer) but despite playing fairly well, by my standards at least, didn’t win any of them. Pretty good game players among DragonCon’s visitors this year!

Somewhere at the convention was a setup for Artemis Bridge Simulator, which could be thought of as a more elaborate and serious-minded version of Spaceteam. Its location didn’t lie tangent to my con travels this year, but it was mentioned in the con materials. (I suspect it was upstairs somewhere in the Westin.)

I had thought to bring my 2DS and see if I could get some Street Passes, with big conventions like DragonCon being one of the few places left that one could hope to get significant activity, but the odds that more than a handful had thought to both bring their 3DS-type systems and have them on their persons and in sleep mode through the con seem to be slim in 2023. Anyway, I didn’t bring mine.

So now we come to the Gamecube “panels,” which were actually just a bunch of Gamecubes and Wiis set up with classic Gamecube games, along with some entertaining display decoration. No speakers, no podiums, just a bunch of seats, systems, players, and some staff.

There were four of these this year, each late at night in the Westin Augusta ballroom, themed after multiplayer, Super Mario, Zelda and Smash Bros, in order. Really though, they all were primarily multiplayer themed. I showed up for two nights, the first and Zelda ones, and on Zelda night I mostly spent the time showing people how to finish NES The Legend of Zelda, giving directions for getting through the overworld and dungeons from memory. The people there expressed concern over the game’s difficulty, and how many of them couldn’t complete it, as a kid or even now; evidently they don’t watch many speedrunners.

There were the predictable Melee players, of course. Super Smash Bros Melee’s influence on the series, and on gaming as a whole, is unmistakable. After all, each Nintendo console since then has had to have support for Gamecube controllers, in some way, just to allow Melee masters to have their favorite playstyles, and Nintendo keeps making (or at least licensing) the production of new Gamecube-compatible controllers specifically for that scene.

But my favorite game at the Gamecube panels had to have been Kirby Air Ride, in City Trial mode. I’ve mentioned my fondness for this game here before, but to give a brief refresher: multiple Kirbys zoom around on Warp Stars, whose speeds rival those of the cars in F-Zero, through a large (though not too large) city area, searching for powerups, and boxes that contain more powerups. Players can interact with each other, and can change vehicles. Random events occur. After a set time, they’re all thrown into a random event (from a large selection) with the customized vehicle they made during the game. It’s a surprising amount of fun, and I was pleased to find other players there at least as fanatical about City Trial as I was. I think it’s one of the best multiplayer games on the system.

I had brought a few multiplayer Gamecube games of my own, including Wario Ware: Mega Party Games ($900 on Amazon!) and Ribbit King ($362), but as with the console group they were uninterested. Understandable of course, I brought them along only in the off chance. Just, slightly sad.

Here are pictures I took of the Gamecube event:

Kirby Air Ride!
People playing gaemz
Some of the screens were done up like big Gameboy Advance Micros. It was a fun touch!
Another macro GBA Micro, a bit sharper

Next time, a look at the many music games they had this year. I think that’s the extent of my game-related pictures, so please be patient a little longer!

DragonCon 2023: Arcade Things

More low-effort posts about game things spotted at Atlanta’s pop culture mega-convention.

A Cosmic Smash cabinet!

That recent arcade port of NES obscurity Mr. Gimmick!

A 2007 arcade version of Rhythm Heaven, completely in Japanese! This was perhaps the coolest game at the convention.

Sadly blurry in this shot, but: Space Invaders! Without the color overlay though. The monitor didn’t work for like two entire days, too.

Twilight Zone pinball, this picture being of the time I nearly completed the door but lost my last ball before collecting that hated Question Mark! (Don’t worry though, the next day I came back and did it, and played Lost In The Zone. I left with the #2 score on the machine–although oddly, it seems someone else who plays these games also has my initials? JWH? Their Terminator 2 machine’s scoreboard is full of JWH but I’ve never played it!)

The games were brought this year by Save Point, who mostly provided Japanese games and some pinballs, and Joystick Gamebar, which provided a good number or retro arcade machines and more pinball, including that Twilight Zone.

Two of the people who helped bring us the games from Joystick Gamebar this year, Winston (left) and Brian (right)

I’ve got hundreds of pictures that I’ve yet to sift through. More tomorrow!

DragonCon 2023, #1

For some reason, the Hilton Atlanta’s public spaces were decorated with a Mario theme. Here’s some documentation:

Right about now is where I’d put in some pseudo-witty comment about this, but as I write this I’m still at the convention. I needed something fairly low effort to put up, and these pictures were already on my phone. This also explains the tuber-esque quality of the images. More photos tomorrow, probably!