Despite a relatively quiet September here on Minus World, our fifth reading list this year is our busiest yet. In no particular order, we’ve got another selection of must-see articles and videos that are definitely worth your attention.
First up, Mathew Kumar of Every Game I’ve Finished and exp. zine fame was featured on Tiny Cartridge towards the end of the month, with a unique perspective on a game held in something similar to notoriety amongst fans of Nintendo’s 3DS eShop. A significant quantity of titles offered as ‘Volumes’, as well as a divisive level of quantity – one which has a tendency to lean towards ‘poor’ amongst popular opinion – has allowed the Japanese Rail Sim 3D series to stand out amongst other downloadable 3DS offerings for more than just its pricing. Kumar takes a look at the Journey to Kyoto instalment in particular, able to offer some insight into the game beyond its reputation having actually taken the featured train line himself. It’s not every day a title as niche as this will allow you to simulate an experience from your own life, so Kumar’s personal take on what the game has to offer, as well as the quality of the title itself, certainly make for an interesting read.
Continuing the theme of personal experiences, it is often anecdotes that make for the most interesting gaming-related reads. Rebekah Saltsman, indie dev and CEO of two-person studio Finji, offered a particularly relatable one in an article for The Guardian, which eloquently touches on feelings of youth, escapism and that age-old struggle against older siblings for a turn that games continue to provide. The distinct focus on role-playing games, especially those on the SNES, is one that many who grew up with Nintendo’s 16-bit system in their household will have no trouble associating with.
Jeffrey L. Wilson offered a touching anecdote of his own that many will be sure to relate with, but in a completely different manner to the aforementioned examples. Wilson’s very personal story about how Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty helped him to cope in the aftermath of 9/11 not only reflects on the chilling synchronicity between the events of the game and those that took place in 2001, but the way in which the game’s alternate take on reality offered a sense of comfort amidst a troubling time. It’s difficult to summarise an article invested with such great personal meaning, so be sure to read it for yourself.
We’ve previously taken a look at the work of Stuart Brett (formerly known by the moniker SuperFamicomGuy), namely his book release from earlier this year, Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection. Following a successful release that compiled the best box artwork from his impressive Super Famicom collection, Brett has now turned his attention to arcade games, the focus of his new project titled Ghost Arcade. Showcasing some of the finest games that arcade hardware has to offer, as well as the culture and nostalgia surrounding them, Ghost Arcade features write-ups and interviews presented in a classy format. One particular article that caught our attention was a look at Cannon Dancer Osman, something of a spiritual successor to Strider created by ex-Capcom designer Kouichi ‘Isuke’ Yotsui. A unique beat-’em-up with gorgeous presentation, Brett does well to showcase the highs and lows of Osman with short video clips that capture a bizarrely haunting authentic arcade feel. You’d be wise to follow Brett on Instagram, where he posts some awe-inspiring shots of select pieces from his collection.
Now for something that’s simply bizarre. It’s no secret that Hidetaka ‘Swery’ Suehiro is a purveyor of the unexpected, with unique games such as Deadly Premonition and D4 touching on surreal motifs that have quickly garnered a strong cult following. Swery’s latest escapade is perhaps his most curious to date, however, and it has nothing to do with games – he has become a fully certified Buddhist priest. As discussed in an interview with IGN, Swery grew up in a Buddhist temple, something he believes has fuelled his desire to give a ‘human’ quality to his games, and during a period of recovery from illness in which he has stepped away from game development, this has offered him a chance to return to his spiritual roots. It’s interesting to hear more about the origins of one of gaming’s most ambitious figures, something which we have touched on previously when we covered his appearance on Toco Toco – with this video in mind, it remains to be seen if Swery’s new role will accommodate his love of what he refers to as ‘drinKING‘…
On a similarly lighthearted but equally interesting note, political science professor Jess Morrissette has launched a project aiming to catalogue every single appearance of a soda vending machine in video games to date, fittingly titled The Video Game Soda Machine Project. The project’s website cites the motivation behind such a huge undertaking as being that it “seemed like a good idea at the time” and we can say with confidence that it is still a good idea right now. There are over 400 entries as it stands, and this is an idea that best speaks for itself, so go and check out the archive and make yourself feel thirsty.
Now for an archive that focuses on something a little more physical. Frank Cifaldi‘s remarkable video game preservation efforts continue with a blog post filled with high-res scans of what is believed to be every print review of cult favourite SNES role-playing game EarthBound. Cifaldi provides some insightful comments on the contents of the reviews, noting the recurring complaints made by the press at the time that contribute to an explanation as to why the game failed to achieve critical or commercial success until many years after its release.
Beta64‘s latest in-depth analysis video takes a brilliant look at unfinished aspects, beta elements and unused content surrounding one of the most beloved games of all time, Super Mario World. It’s surprising just how many changes were made to the game throughout its development cycle, and many will be surprised to find that the game has more than a few connections to its NES predecessor Super Mario Bros. 3. Everything from minor components to core fundamentals are discussed in a compelling amount of detail – Mario fans and Nintendo history buffs alike would be foolish to miss out.
Next, a different type of gaming altogether; pinball. I won’t pretend my knowledge of pinball is a particularly comprehensive one – I was not aware of the techniques and sophisticated skills involved in high-level pinball play, nor the fact that there is a thriving scene of competitive players. An article by The Meta takes a closer look at said scene, namely the New York City division of Belles & Chimes, a nationwide women’s pinball league that plays host to beginners and experienced players alike and showcases the level of activity and excitement competitive pinball has to offer, one that very likely may have passed under the radar of fans of what would conventionally be considered video games. In discussion with Miriam Nadler, who became the Belles & Chimes Division A champion earlier this year, it’s interesting to discover what the game of pinball can offer to players beyond high-score chasing, as well as the opportunities it presents to female players.
Last but not least, a long-standing gaming mystery finally uncovered – what the deal is with HAL Laboratory‘s bizarre dog-meets-eggs logo. In an interview from 1999, Shigesato Itoi sat down with veteran HAL member and CEO Masayoshi Tanimura to discuss the origins of HAL’s mascot ‘Inutamago‘, which you likely would have seen in some form in a Super Smash Bros. or Kirby game. Cigarette in hand, Itoi delves into not only the history behind Inutamago’s creation (he was commissioned to design the logo a year prior to the interview), but the deeper, hidden meanings behind its strange imagery. HAL Laboratory’s website appears to have had something of an overhaul recently, and it’s definitely worth a browse if you want to learn more about the company’s remarkable history and projects.