We’ve got a heartbeat!

Damn, it’s been almost two years since the last time I updated. Here I thought I’d take a break for a couple months, then post something. Guess that didn’t happen.

Anyway, rather than focusing on all the stuff I said I was going to two years ago, I’d decided that this is just going to be my megaphone for shouting whatever’s on my mind about gaming. Don’t expect me to say much about modern gaming (when do I ever, really?), but I’ve been discovering all sorts of new ways to play my classics. Game collecting is something that I just don’t do anymore. Not only can I not afford it anymore, for the most part, but at this point I’d mainly be repurchasing games I already owned at one point or another, and I don’t see a reason to do that.

There are exceptions, of course. Over the past few years, I’ve really gotten into the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 homebrew scene, and am able to buy the occasional cartridge from atariage.com, which is nice. I’m more in it for the 7800 games, to be honest, because that console had such a small library to begin with, and homebrews are released so infrequently that it’s easy to save up for a new one. So there is that.

I also finally got into Everdrives. Those original carts aren’t getting any younger, so it’s nice to have an entire library available without having to expose original carts to more wear and tear. Plus there’s the added bonus of being able to add homebrew games, hacks, translations and all sorts of cool stuff like that.

Anyway, that’s it for now. One other thing I want to mention, though: I recently reopened my long-closed website West Mansion: The Splatterhouse Homepage – splatterhouse.kontek.net – and the response on social media has been so positive. I’m thrilled to see that so many people are happy I’ve reopened the site, and I hope I can continue to supply them with the same top-notch Splatterhouse coverage that I did for a decade.

I also released a new book, but more about that later.

Perhaps I’m going about this all wrong.

I started in reverse, I think. Sure, I mentioned how I’m starting to give genres I previously disliked an honest chance, back in my first post. But from there, I went into full story mode without explaining what I’ve decided I want to do with this new OPCFG. That had to have been somewhat confusing.

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Picture unrelated.

Put simply, what I want to do is chronicle my experiences playing these games, starting with vs. fighters – or as I referred to them in the mid ’90s, the bane of my existence. I suck at them, but maybe you’ll get a few laughs out of my blunders. As someone that has absolutely no idea how to activate the super power combo bar that seems to be present in pretty much every Capcom vs. fighter since about 1994 or so, or hell, someone that can barely throw a fireball in the original Street Fighter half the time, I’ll be lucky if I can hold my own for more than five minutes.

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Never mind fireballs, I doubt I’ll ever be able to pull this off.

I have several vs. fighters that I intend to give a fair shot. From the original SNES port of Street Fighter II, to the 32X port of Virtua Fighter, to oddballs like the Super Famicom-only Seifuku Densetsu: Pretty Fighter and fan favorites like Soul Calibur, it’s going to be an interesting journey. I’m always open to suggestions for new games to try, as well.

Will I be able to put my dislike of vs. fighters aside forever, or not? Only time will tell.

A sad state of affairs, or HEY! Where did all MY games go?!

I had no idea at the time that Street Fighter II was destined to start a revolution, but it did. I watched as this game, this lousy, cheating, eat my last two quarters game, become huge overnight. By early 1992, Street Fighter II was all anyone was talking about, then Capcom ported the game to the Super NES and released it that summer, shortly after I graduated high school. That was it. The dam had officially burst. The demand for more vs. fighters was growing, and the game companies knew it. Street Fighter II wannabes started flooding the arcades, with most of them being ported to the Super NES and Genesis shortly thereafter. Then, in fall ’92, Street Fighter II‘s biggest rival appeared in arcades.

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And where were you about a year later, on Mortal Monday? Me, I was at home.

Having never seen anything quite like it before, even I was impressed by the digitized fighters and copious amounts of blood, not to mention those fatalities. But in the end, it was just another vs. fighter. I’d already seen them start to overwhelm the Neo Geo, which had so much promise before it became the vs. fighter console (I’m still a fan of a lot of the games for it that aren’t vs. fighters, especially Magician Lord and the Metal Slug games). In fact, my main issue was the fact that vs. fighters were starting to overwhelm, well, everything.

For a time, this was actually a Good Thing. Before the asteroid impact that was Street Fighter II, arcades had such a selection of games that appealed to everyone. Sure, Double Dragon started a minor brawler craze in the late ’80s, but it had nowhere near the impact that Street Fighter II had when it took off. Now, all people wanted to play were vs. fighters, and they’d crowd around the SF2 and MK machines, watching others play, anxiously awaiting their turn. I had my choice of games to play, because very few people were bothering with them, and I could play whatever I wanted until I ran out of quarters. But little by little, the arcades I went to lost the impressively diverse selection that they had, in favor of wall-to-wall vs. fighters.

All I could do was watch helplessly as my old favorites – the shooters, the action platformers, the run-n-guns , the brawlers – were removed and replaced by the next big vs. fighter. Some of the old standbys and proven money-makers stuck around. Very rarely would you find an arcade that didn’t at least have one Pac-Man game, for example.

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10 times out of 10, it was this one.

Home consoles weren’t quite as badly affected, but I did notice that were a lot fewer games in each of those genres released there as well. There were plenty of vs. fighter home ports and original creations, of course, but there was also the X-TREME CRITTER infatuation at the time too (thank you very much, Sonic the Hedgehog).

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This was at least 50% your fault, you smug bastard.

In the end, all I could do was watch as the entire world of gaming that I knew was completely changed. And let’s not even get to the impact that 3D gaming had once consoles like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were released, coupled with the rise of the first person shooter. In the end, I blame Street Fighter II for all of this. The world was never the same after it.

So what caused me to do this turnaround, so many years after this all happened? Well, that’s another story entirely.

The winter of my discontent, or how Street Fighter II really pissed me off.

The year was 1991, and I was in my senior year of high school. The Super NES had just been released. My friends and I was amazed by it, as it was capable of doing things that neither our beloved Sega Genesis or NEC Turbografx-16 could. Scaling! Rotation! Transparencies! Echo effects! Soundtracks that sounded like they were performed by a full orchestra! You get the idea!

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IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US! AAAAAHHHHHH!

Right around the same time, I had been introduced to the world of flea markets by my friend Marc, and we were starting to hit them every other weekend. The amount of used games they had for different consoles was staggering. I’d never seen so many Sega Master System games in my life. The selection of NES games was like someone had taken  three or four video store’s worth of rentals and put them all out on display.  There were racks of Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800 games, mostly untouched and covered with a thick layer of dust. Intellivision, ColecoVision, Odyssey 2? Present and accounted for. Every so often, one of the vendors would have the odd Fairchild Channel F or Bally Astrocade for sale. Of course, they had Genesis and Turbo games as well, usually priced almost as high as what you’d find them for new.

It was only a matter of time before the Super NES games started trickling in. A lot of the vendors had them on display, but the consoles themselves were only demo units and were not for sale. Not that I could have afforded any of them at that point in my life.

The nearest flea market to me, Flea World in Sanford, FL., had a mini amusement park of sorts attached to it, named Fun World. There were go-karts, kiddy rides, even a petting zoo – but most important to me was their arcade, which was massive. They had so many games, old and new. The arcades in the local malls were pretty impressive, but this? This was something else entirely. The place was always crowded, the multiplayer games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting the lion’s share of attention.

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Not exactly the same, but you get the idea. (photo courtesy of Arcade 1up)

One Saturday, after trading in a couple of games and staring wistfully at the Super NES displays for a bit, Marc and I found ourselves in the arcade. I’d made a successful trade, but even with the games I’d traded in, I didn’t quite have enough to afford the game I wanted, unless I threw in some cash. The trade took nearly all the money I had left. By the time we’d made it to the arcade, I had maybe sixty-five cents on me. I had to choose what game I wanted to play carefully.

As one might expect, TMNT had a crowd around it. So did a lot of the other popular games. The older games weren’t really being played, but I wasn’t interested in those. I’d played a lot of them to death by this time. No, what I wanted to play was something new.

That’s when I saw it, over in a corner. It was a game I’d never heard of, a sequel to another game I’d never heard of, but it was by Capcom, who I knew from their NES games and their earlier arcade games. No one was playing it.

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Hmm. I decided to check it out. Upon first inspection, it reminded me of an older arcade game I’d played a couple of times, Data East’s Hippodrome, minus the weapons and mythological setting. Okay, sure. I’ll plunk down a quarter and give it a shot, then maybe go try something else.

No dice. It was going to cost me fifty cents to play, practically all of the money I had left. I considered this for a moment, then shrugged, dug my two quarters out of my pocket, and dropped them in the slot. I hit the one player button and was presented with a character select screen. Wow, I could choose from eight characters? That was unusual. They were a colorful bunch. I chose the blonde karate guy, and then the game informed me that my first match would be in Brazil, and my first opponent was some freaky green dude with fangs and wild red/orange hair. Huh. Here I thought this was nothing like Hippodrome.

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“ROUND ONE. FIGHT!”

Before I could even get a proper handle on how to play the game, Greenie absolutely thrashed me. I don’t think I managed to land a single hit on him. My jaw dropped slightly, but when round two was announced, I realized that I had another shot.

Not that it mattered. I think I may have actually landed a hit on him that time, before his combination of air attacks and electrocution did me in. And just like that, the game was over. I think I lasted maybe a minute and a half, tops.

I was furious. I just blew the last bit of money I had for a minute or so of gameplay. The game was a broken, cheap, piece of shit cheating money grabbing garbage pile! I decided right then and there that the game sucked, and I would never, ever play it again.

Of course, if I’d stuck to my guns on that, we wouldn’t be here now.

Why bring the OPCFG back now?

That’s a good question. After all, it’s been 21 years since I first started the site, and just under a year since I signed its final (?) death certificate.

It’s certainly got nothing to do with the site’s original mission from 1998, to try to get Japanese games that went unreleased during the 32-bit era released here now. It’s not about exposing the rest of the world to some of the great titles of the 8 and 16-bit eras that never left their places of origin. All of this has been done, far better than I ever did, by people who branched far beyond the constraints of Web 1.0, where I remained (and in a lot of ways, still do remain) perpetually stuck.

It also has nothing to do with my attempt at “reloading” the site in 2008. The age of the physical compilation/collection is nearing its end, and there’s no point in discussing the merits of various compilations in this age of downloads and digital re-releases. It has nothing to do with the 2014 revival either, which was basically just shilling for my book Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, until it got its own dedicated site and traffic moved away from the old OPCFG site. Nor does it have anything to do with my brief flirtation with having the OPCFG on Facebook.

As I said nearly a year ago, “It’s time for this website to end. The OPCFG ran its course over a decade ago. What revivals I attempted were too little, too late.” So, to put it bluntly, if that’s truly how I feel, what gives?

The thing is, I still have a lot I want to talk about. I’m still learning a lot about the games of the past, and seeing as how I’ve thoroughly explored my favorite genres, I’m now branching off into what’s relatively unexplored territory for me. Take vs. fighters and classic FPSes, for example. Both are genres I turned my nose up at in the ’90s, but am now tentatively starting to get into, and I’d like to talk about my experiences as I brush aside the cobwebs and see what these have to offer.

But maybe, to bring attention to my new adventures, it’s time for a rebranding. The OPCFG name is ancient, but does still have some “brand recognition,” so to speak. Problem is, that recognition is tied to an era that’s now long past us. The old timers in the community might remember the old site, but the new blood? Doubtful.

So rebranding could work. It worked for Kurt Kalata when he retooled The Classic Gaming Review Archive into Hardcore Gaming 101. It worked for Derek Alexander when he changed from being the Happy Video Game Nerd and became half of the driving force behind the series Stop Skeletons From Fighting. It worked for TJ Rappel after he left the Metroid Database and started Retro Game Super Hyper. See what I mean?

What to do, what to do…