Divas Revolution – 1998

In recent months, women’s wrestling has undergone a bit of a renaissance, with female performers taking on a more prominent role in WWE storylines. Ever the opportunist, I thought I’d get in the spirit of the so-called “Divas Revolution” by recreating some of the WWE’s newer female wrestlers in an old wrestling game. If nothing else, I figured this would provide a few yuks, and somehow show just how much the portrayal of women in wrestling games has improved over the years. I figured wrong, but dammit, this took up a lot of my free time, so we’re going to see it through to the end.

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As such, I fired up Acclaim’s WWF Attitude for the PlayStation. Released at the height of the “attitude era,” WWF Attitude is a fantastic snapshot of late ’90s WWF in all its crass, violent, sexist, and strangely compelling glory. While the game boasts a roster of 41 wrestlers, only three of its combatants are women: Sable, Jacqueline, and Chyna. Not even enough for a tag match! Fortunately, the game boasts a relatively robust (for the time, at least) creation suite, which allows the creation of female wrestlers.

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Behold, the Super Bra, the ultimate in competitive athletic apparel.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the WWF Attitude, this create-a-wrestler feature is very much a reflection of the era in which it was created. All of the model templates have ridiculously large fake hooters (which I suppose was accurate for the era), and the overwhelming majority of women’s attire takes the form of bondage gear, sexy bartender outfits, frilly lingerie, and other getups not really suited for athletic competition.

With these limitations firmly in mind, I got to work. Using the attire in this video as a reference, I set about trying to create Sasha Banks, who may very well be the hottest ticket in women’s wrestling today:

It was here that I first encountered what would prove to be a persistent problem throughout this little endeavor: the attire that the female wrestlers of today wear is far more varied and complex than what a late-’90s wrestling game has to offer. I could get the general color and look of Sasha’s relatively simple attire down, but the specifics were a bit out of reach. Specifically, I couldn’t nail the straps, which only go over one of her shoulders. For all the dominatrix gear and swimwear WWF Attitude offers, it doesn’t have any women’s clothing of the single strap variety. The solution?

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Bullets. They’re not just for shooting.

Put a bandoleer on her and color it baby blue. Lemonade from lemons, I suppose.

Another frequent obstacle was the game’s hairstyles, which were all designed with shirtless dudes in mind. As such, any clothing you place on a wrestler’s torso just goes right over their hair (which appears to be a flat texture applied to the model’s “skin”):

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I decided just to live with it. It was either that or give everyone a Wilma Flintstone cut.

As for the lower half of the attire, everything the game had to offer was just too short. This is amazing, when you really think about it, because what the women wear these days is pretty damned short.

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As such, I generally opted to use men’s pants on all my creations, and just shorten the legs.

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Not perfect, but hey, this isn’t an exact science.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about the face creation process. That’s because all of the facial features in WWF Attitude are gender neutral, and no matter what you do, everybody winds up looking like a psychotic clown.

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So, in short, the best I could do with my wrestlers was to create rough caricatures, which, to be fair, is about all you can reasonably expect from a game of this vintage.

Sasha was, by far, the easiest of the bunch, though. Here’s the reference shot I used for Sasha’s rival, the current NXT Women’s Champion, Bayley:

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You’d think that her relatively uncomplicated attire and appearance would be a layup – but you’d be wrong. Any NXT fan will tell you that the two most integral parts of Bayley’s appearance are her hairband (she gives them out to little kids before a match) and her trademark side-ponytail. The game only features one headband…

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Droppin’ hugs and plates on yo ass, beeyotch.

…and it was completely out of the question. As for the hair, despite the storied tradition of wrestlers pulling back their flowing locks, the game only has one hairstyle remotely resembling a ponytail…

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…which I’m pretty sure is just a variant of Triple H’s hair from his fancy lad days. I just colored it black and called it a day.

I could go on for hours, but much like the creation process itself, that would be neither entertaining nor informative. Instead, I’ll give you a few highlights.

Here’s Charlotte, the current WWE champ:

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…and here’s how she wound up in WWF Attitude:

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In an effort to approximate the complicated network of shoulder straps she wears, you will note that I had to drop a peace sign medallion on her neck and color it red.

And rounding out the “Four Horsewomen,” I also took a stab at Becky Lynch, the steampunky dark horse of the women’s division:

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She didn’t turn out so hot.

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When watching the videos below, the astute viewer will note that I actually had to stick her in the trunks of attitude era luminary “Mr. Ass.”

And so, in the grand Subspace Briefcase tradition, after wasting hours of my life creating these extremely rough approximations, I decided to throw all of my doppelgangers in a free-for-all fatal four way to determine just who, in fact, was the greatest female wrestler in the world. There was just one problem: the game’s AI was actually too stupid (too good?) to beat itself in a four way match, and I kept winding up with time limit draws. While the game declares a winner based on who did the most damage, that’s not a result befitting this site’s proud legacy of producing high quality fake fights for its 15 consistent readers.

So instead, wrestling fans, I offer you a DOUBLE BILL of DEVASTATING, DEADLY, and DEBAUCHEROUS WOMEN’S WRASSLIN’!

LET’S WRESTLING! 

Sasha vs. Bayley:

Charlotte v. Becky:

So what did this experiment prove?

  1. WWF Attitude has aged very poorly.
  2. If the Divas Revolution had occurred in 1998, it would have been much bloodier.

Until next time, wrestling fans! I hope you had more fun watching this than I did making it! That wouldn’t be tough.

Radical Dreamers and Rancid Repros

Good morning, class. Let’s start today’s lecture off with a little history lesson.

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In 1996, Squaresoft released Radical Dreamers, a text-heavy visual novel that served as a pseudo-sequel to the massively popular Chrono Trigger. It never saw an official western release.

250px-Satellaview_with_Super_FamicomAmong other reasons, this is because Radical Dreamers was released exclusively for the Super Famicom’s Satellaview add-on. A somewhat peculiar contraption, the Satellaview connected to a Super Famicom console and allowed it to receive downloadable content via satellite radio. It’s a pretty interesting piece of hardware, and if you’ve got the time, I would recommend that you read this article about it. However, for purposes of this discussion, you can think of it as Nintendo’s Japan-only version of the Sega Channel.

The Satellaview never made it out of Japan; a release would have been fruitless, as satellite radio wasn’t widely available in the rest of the world at that time. Accordingly, Radical Dreamers never saw an official translation from Squaresoft, and it went largely unplayed by western audiences. As untranslated ROMs gradually made their way onto the Internet, though, Chrono fans knew it was out there, flickering like a frozen flame in the darkness, just waiting to be played.

In 2000, after the US release of Chrono Cross – the official, canonical sequel to Chrono Trigger – fan demand for a translated Radical Dreamers was at an all-time high. While Squaresoft never officially answered the call, in 2003, ROM hacking group Demiforce released an unofficial translation patch, which is what you see in action here:

For whatever reason, despite being an avowed Chrono fan, I never got around to playing the Demiforce translation at the time of its release. As such, Radical Dreamers had been on my to-do list for a little over a decade when I saw this at Too Many Games last June:

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What you are looking at right there is what folks these days call a “repro” – a reproduction cartridge. In so many words, reproduction cartridges are ROM data flashed to an existing cartridge for play on a legacy system. To quote John Learned’s excellent piece on the subject over at USGamer:

“In laymen’s terms, it works like this: several years ago, talented programmers concocted emulators, which essentially found a way to trick a computer, phone, or other device into thinking it was an NES, Genesis, or even an Apple IIe computer. Actual software that runs on these emulators are roms, which are the image of a game or other computer program run through the emulator to work. By themselves, they’re a wonder of computer engineering in that they can help preserve the winding (and largely unkempt) history of the video game medium. Repro cartridges basically reverse engineer what was already reverse engineered so these altered roms can play on an original piece of hardware.”

To grossly oversimplify, repros are basically gray (if not outright black) market reproductions of old console games, and an affordable way to play rare releases the way God intended – on original hardware. Personally, I’d never really understood the appeal of repros, but I had always been curious to try one out. And, hey, who doesn’t like the idea of getting a BRAND NEW cartridge? In 2015!

I bit the bullet and plunked down the cash for Radical Dreamers –about $30 if memory serves me correctly. If nothing else, I thought it would look neat sitting next to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross in my collection.

The final verdict? It wasn’t worth it. Far from it.

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The imagery of Radical Dreamers is sparse and dim, but it suits the game’s mood.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Radical Dreamers as a game; quite the opposite, in fact. While mileage may vary, I imagine that any fan of the Chrono series would find some way to enjoy their time with Radical Dreamers. It’s got an evocative score by Yasunori Mitsuda, decent (if not sparse) visuals, and in its story lays the thematic and conceptual groundwork for what would become Chrono Cross. Additionally, the Demiforce translation is positively top notch – borderline professional. In short, I loved it.

So what was the problem?

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AND EMPTY THEY SHALL REMAIN.

Well, for starters, I couldn’t save. Delving into a 2004 FAQ reveals that this has always been a problem for certain versions of the Radical Dreamers translation: the original game is designed to save to the Satellaview’s memory, which, when utilizing a repro, simply doesn’t exist. While Radical Dreamers is short enough to be completed in about 2 to 3 hours, it’s a game that’s designed to be played through multiple times. Like the other entrants in the Chrono series, it has branching paths and multiple endings – 7 in total. However, in order to access 6 of those scenarios, the player must first complete the game’s primary scenario. Like in Chrono Trigger, the extra content can only be accessed through a “New Game+.”

So, in essence, in order to expeditiously access all of the content contained within Radical Dreamers when playing on this repro cart, one would have to reserve quite a few hours of free time. The only other alternative would be to restart the game and replay the primary scenario each time, which would be more than a little inconvenient.

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The extra scenarios run the gamut from acid trip to schlocky romance.

Now had I played Radical Dreamers on an emulator, I would have been able to record my progress through the use of save states, exploring the game over a series of days, as its designers had intended, rather than a few hours. In seeking a more “authentic” experience by playing a repro, I’d sacrificed some of the game’s core functionality and playability. This is particularly ironic when one considers that Radical Dreamers was never even released on a cartridge, let-alone in English, to begin with.

But it gets worse. You may have noticed that I noted that the inability to save is only an issue for some versions of the Radical Dreamers translation. That’s because in 2005, approximately 10 years before I purchased my repro, Demiforce released an updated translation patch which actually rewrote portions of the game’s code to enable save functionality.

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You will note this is different from the first screen of the video at the top of the page.

In short, the individuals who made this cart didn’t even have the courtesy to download the latest version of the translation. The least they could have done was slap a “no saving” disclaimer on the cartridge. Would the in-game saves have worked on any old reproduction cart? I don’t know. But after my time with the repro, I loaded the 2005 translation onto my Everdrive, and the save functionality worked just fine.

Undoubtedly, some of this is on me. I should have done my homework. Nevertheless, the whole process left me feeling swindled, and more than a bit angry. My money had gone to the wrong person: a lot of time and effort went into making Radical Dreamers playable in English, but none of it was expended by the individuals who made this quick, cash-in repro. They simply took the work of Demiforce (outdated and incomplete work, at that) and slapped it on an old cartridge for pecuniary gain. If any members of the translation team are out there reading this, I owe you $30.00. If the people who sold me this repro are out there reading this, go pound sand.

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Leagues beyond your typical fan translation.

So let this be a lesson to you, retro gamers. When it comes to repro carts, caveat emptor is the golden rule. You never know what’s inside these things until you actually play them. Could you imagine buying an RPG, only to find the cart has no battery inside? Above all, make sure you’re buying from someone you trust, as it’s pretty hard to return what basically amounts to pirated merchandise – it’d be like trying to get a refund for a defective crack vial. Further, if you happen to be purchasing an unofficial translation, give some thought to the fact that you’re essentially allowing an opportunistic retailer to profit from someone else’s hard work.

I’m sure there are good repros out there, but this experience has likely soured me on the concept for good.

Corpse Killer (Sega 32X CD)

Corpse Killer (32x) Screenshot 2016-01-13 07-35-19Corpse Killer
Sega 32X CD, 1994
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures

We round the halfway point on the 32X CD library with Corpse Killer, an interesting, if flawed, light gun/FMV adventure hybrid from Digital Pictures.

If you’ve got a hankering to play Corpse Killer after watching this video, I’d stick to the 3DO or Sega Saturn versions, if you’ve got the means to play them.  The Sega CD/32X simply didn’t have the horsepower to make the digitized zombie sprites look like anything more than a blurry mess – which is pretty amazing when you consider that said sprites have less frames than your average animated gif. My, how far we’ve come!

This one really felt like a long road to a small house. We’ll be taking a brief break from 32X CD games for a bit. For as positive as I try to remain about these games, playing them end-to-end really makes you appreciate the wonders of modern console gaming.  Don’t worry though, I hope to continue in a month or two with either Night Trap or Surgical Strike.