I grew up in an age of playground rumors. One of the first things I did upon discovering the internet was research those very things. Mew under the truck in Pokemon, the unicorn fountain in Ocarina of time, and of course, deciphering the mysterious writing on the fountain in Super Mario 64. I could never figure out what the last one said, anyway.
Hell, I didn’t even have a N64 at the time. I pleaded a friend that had the system and the game to please take me there so I could see it for myself. He had a huge CRT TV for the time, and my ten year old mind was dead set seeing it in person.
If it really said what I thought it said, the rumours about unlocking Luigi as a playable character had to be true. We tried it all- speedrunning the game in a ridiculous amount of time and running around the castle 2401 times. My eyes read at least what they wanted to see anyway- the mysterious L is real 2401. The L standing for Luigi, of course!
We all know this year didn’t turn out as expected! Yesterday marked the halfway point of the year. Let’s get the obvious out of the way- I’ve been playing a ton of animal crossing like everyone else. After an on and off seven years of the previous iteration New Leaf, I was ready to bid my old town of Kairo farewell for the time being for a vacation to the island of Speakeasy.
For years I have heard tales of a PC game called Garage released in 1999 by Kinotrope. Releasing with only 3,000 copies in circulation, the time came and went before people became interested in it. Any copies of it being resold were listed for such ridiculous prices the game became lost. Thus Garage gained a kind of mystique, the name of the game coming in and out of my internet travels for years.
The story of this game wasn’t surprising back in the day considering a lot of obscure Japanese games were lost to the void of time and well, obscurity. Luckily for Garage, the game was re-released in 2004 and 2007 in very limited quantities, but around 2014 was purchased by a group of people on /vr/ and uploaded for all to play, finally bringing the mystery to a close.
Now that we’ve gotten out of the way, we can take a look at exactly what makes this game so special.
You see a lot of this.
Garage (subtitled Bad Dream Adventure) is truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s a point and click game that mixes elements of surrealism and horror with a story taking a look deep into your own psyche.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to play as the girl on the cover of the box. You are a tiny little man with a strange looking head and a belly full of fuel who wakes up with a letter explaining that you’re better off going fishing instead of uncovering what happened. There’s even a pole and bait outside, how nice! But wait- we wouldn’t have a game if we just went fishing all day.
The title of this game really is a mouthful- I want to type it The World 21. #21: The World (like the tarot card) is a surreal exploration game I stumbled upon not too long ago in an indie horror PDF I found online that I can’t find again but hey, maybe that adds to the mystique of it.
I’ve played LSD Dream Emulator (if you know me at all, this is an obvious fact.) #21: The World by lsddev is based on the creator’s dream journal and undoubtedly plays like a dream too. It has a similar mechanic to LSD that if you run into a wall or object, you get teleported somewhere else. It doesn’t make sense and that’s exactly why it’s good. Do your dreams make sense 100% of the time? I hope not.
I recently played September 1999 by 98demake and realized the aesthetic of that game is exactly what I’m fascinated with in the horror genre- VHS effects and ambiguity. Found footage is a particular way of crafting a piece of media and this game really hit that vibe with me prompting me to look into his other creations. I decided to give OK/Normal a go shortly after.
For the full effect play this on a CRT monitor.
While there are other vaporwave-esque games out there (Broken Reality comes to mind) OK/Normal really nails the theme. The being you control is a floating marble statue with a cloud that talks to you. The checkerboard patterns and swirling colors of the loading screens ties the whole thing together. This feels like something you would find on a PSX demo disc as a kid and remember as a fever dream.
A few days have passed since I’ve started playing All Stars and I can honestly say that I play this game for two hours at a time or not at all. It’s very grindy and I do appreciate that!
First things first, let me say. I roasted the graphics a bit in my first post but when you play a live with the full stage and lighting effects (which is rare early in the game since it’s saved for the big performances also known as hard difficulty songs) it’s downright astounding. No more boring stage with ugly purple curtains. Now we have animated backgrounds, lights matching the idol’s image colors, and even props on the stage. Honestly if the game started out this pretty, I would have been hooked sooner!
This is how things should look.
Of course, you only see this on high level lives. I was so shook at how pretty the music video was I really thought I was dreaming since I was playing late into the night. You can also view the music videos for the songs regardless of which difficulties you have cleared, so go wild. The audience’s penlights also change depending on your center.
After ending up on TVTropes this morning reading about Million Live in an attempt to fall back asleep, I stumbled upon an interesting image show what appeared to be a beta Reika and Momoko from idolm@ster 2. The image itself is just a save data icon for the game on the PS3 as evidenced in the top photo. Of course this was long before Million Live came to be a franchise on its own- Cinderella Girls was out, but she didn’t resemble any of them.
The picture in question.
With a fair bit of digging and reverse image searching, I found myself browsing forums from around the time the original phone game for Million Live came out (also known as Greemas). Almost none of the characters were revealed apart from silhouettes and comparisons were drawn between these girls and the original 765 Pro members.
While now it’s obviously Reika Kitakami, this could have been anyone in the idol universe- an NPC or perhaps a beta design of Eri Mizutani from Dearly Stars which was a common theory. The girl to her left, Momoko presumably due to her height wasn’t anything but a silhouette at the time with the name ???. Someone on 2chan datamined this picture from the game so I can only imagine what else might have been in there.
Image of Eri from the playstation store catalog for idolm@ster DLC.
While now it’s a closed case on the girl’s identity, back then speculation was wild and I honestly love digging into beta designs and stuff you aren’t supposed to find in games in general so let’s keep going!
The time has finally come for the next iteration in the Love Live franchise of mobile games. All Stars went live around ten o’clock last night and I was ready to reroll, but luck just happened to be on my side.
Back in the day, Middens occupied my slot for strange RPG Maker game of the week. It was a different time, a simpler one back in 2012. I certainly loved the fanciful artstyle of it and the fact that it was exploration based- I didn’t even realize there were battles in it until I realized I was playing as an extremely pacifistic, non-confrontational Nomad wandering around the rift who barely talked to any NPCs.
There were always quips about life, dreams, and consciousness that kept my teenage brain intrigued, and that was that. I was smitten with Middens and didn’t need to find a deeper meaning in it.