28/06/2010

HATRIS: GRAVITY, HATS, MURDER.


If you asked an average person what they though Hatris was, they would probably (and understandably) look at you like you'd just escaped from somewhere with matresses on the walls. However, if you asked a geek what they thought Hatris was, they would be fairly likely to say "I dunno, Tetris with hats?" And you know what? They'd be spot on.
Okay, so maybe that geek crack was a little wide of the mark: in truth, an awful lot of people have played Tetris. Tetris has sold over 100 million copies... for cell phones alone. That is a truly astounding figure, and one that I struggle to get my head around in much the same way as I have trouble imagining how long ago the dinosaurs lived. But I'm not talking about Tetris today, I'm talking about it's unpopular cousin Hatris.
Hatris was designed in 1989 by Alexey Pajitnov, probably the world's greatest ever one-hit wonder, the man who invented Tetris and caused millions of cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, along with a man called Vladimir Pokhilko (more on him later). The basic concept is very simple. A pair of hats fall inexorably downward toward their rather grisly destination: a row of severed human heads. This is the kind of gratuitous violence in videogames that is turning out children into killers! The heads actually seem quite contented, perhaps enjoying the simple life where their only worry is whether or not the next hat will be a bowler or a crown. Yes, a row of severed, lobotomised heads, grinning dimly as the drool trickles from their slack lips... sorry, I went a bit off-piste there. So, the hats fall down in pairs and land on the heads. The object of the game is to stack up five of the same hat in a row, upon which the hats disappear and you are rewarded with points. Reach the top of the screen and, like Tetris, it's game over. Of course, there are added complications: for one thing, the hats all stack up differently due to their disparate shapes. For example, if you put a top hat on top of another top hat, they snugly fit inside each other, like a kitten in a pint glass, so that the end result is only fractionally taller than one top hat. However, try to put a bowler on top of a pointy wizard's hat, and the bowler will just perch on top, taking up a lot of space. The hats fall quicker as progress, and as you get further in, more types of hat are added until you've got more types of hat than severed heads to balance them on.
It really is a surreal, nightmarish vision of hat manufacture, which I'm sure is very dull in real life. Maybe it's a Russian thing. Fortunately, on hand to help you in your mad hat-stacking quest are two hat-factory workers called Alexey and Vladimir (who are presumably representations of Pajitnov and Pokhilko) who you can call upon to help you when you have removed a certain number of hat-stacks. Alexey can remove up to five hats from the bottom of the piles and is by far the more useful of the two, while Vladimir swaps the position of any two of the stack. Seeing the little pixellated Vladimir down there amongst the severed heads has had a strange resonance since I learned that in 1998 he killed his wife and son and then commited suicide, leaving a rather haunting suicide note. A sad ending for someone who helped, if only in a small way, to bring a lot of happiness and sore thumbs to Game Boy owners everywhere.
Hatris is not nearly as good as its more illustrious cousin; the gameplay, while fun, is extremely basic and it just doesn't have that same "Just one more go" feeling that Tetris produces in buckets. The music isn't nearly as catchy either, although it is good and features surprisingly little repetition. It's a solid puzzle game, though, and worth playing if only to have the opportunity to explain the madness of the "hats falling onto severed heads" concept to someone afterwards. Speaking of severed heads, they change as you progress through the levels. There are some normal-enough human heads, there's a Frankenstein's Monster head and a vampire head, and then there are these two heads, who may belong to someone a little more famous:

President Ronnie Reagan, I'm almost certain.

Adolf Hitler or Charlie Chaplin? I'll let you decide. The answer may well say a lot about your mental state.
Hatris is, in a nutshell, inferior to Tetris. But then what isn't? Despite being over twenty-five years old, Tetris has yet to be surpassed by any puzzle game. That doesn't mean Hatris isn't worth playing, though. It's a simple enough time-waster that would keep you entertained for the duration of a shirt-to-medium coach journey, and what more could you really ask for? Well, that's all for Hatris. Aren't you glad I got all the way through this article without making a "In Soviet Russia, hat wears you!" joke?

24/06/2010

GOOMBAS, GOOMBAS, GOOMBAS!


The Super Mario games, I think it's fair to say, have some of the most iconic videogame enemies ever created, with only Pac-Man's ghosts or Space Invaders', well, invaders matching up to the likes of the Koopa Troopas, Bullet Bills and Boos in the hearts and minds of gamers. Of all those famous critters, one in particular stands head and shoulders (or at least they would if they had heads and shoulders) above all the rest: The humble yet mighty Goomba.


It occured to me the other day that there are almost certainly millions of people out there for whom a Goomba was the very first thing they ever killed in a videogame. Millions. Personally, the first thing I ever destroyed in a videogame was a lime-green wireframe tank in Battlezone for the Atari 2600, but the first unambiguously living creature I digitally dispatched was a poor ol' Goomba in Mario Bros. The best thing about the original NES Goombas was the fact they looked so damn serious, which must be a difficult expression to maintain when you walk in such an adorable, wiggling manner.
Anyway, some Goomba facts: In Japan, they are called Kuribo, which apparently means "Chestnut People," although they are based on shiitake mushrooms and not chestnuts. They were put into the original Mario because the developers thought that Koopa Troopas were a bit too tough an opponent to start the game with. Yes, the Goombas are simply cannon fodder, placed into the Mushroom Kingdom to give Mario something on which to hone his bloodletting skills. What poor little bastards they are. One assumes the name Goomba comes from the Italian-American word Goombah, which I'm sure will be familiar to anyone who's watched The Sopranos, and it fits in nicely with Mario's Italian-ness. Finding out they are called Kuribo finally settled what was a great childhood mystery mystery for me. In Super Mario 3, there is one level which features a Goomba riding in a green wind-up boot that Mario can steal and ride himself. This boot is called the Kuribo's Shoe, and all through my childhood I wondered what the hell a Kuribo was, imagining it to be some kind of never-seen giant monster who has boots large enough for a lardy Italian plumber to ride about in. Now I know it just means "Goomba's Shoe", I have to admit to a certain amount of disappointment.
Another thing that confused me, Goomba-wise, were the Goombas in Super Mario World. Instead of the standard mushroom-shaped Goombas, there were these strange spherical fellows:

All through my childhood, I had no idea these guys were supposed to be Goombas. No idea! I don't know what the hell I thought they were, but when the internet rolled along and I noticed that other people were calling them Goombas, it all fell into place. Apparently, they are a slightly different species called Kuribon, but Goombas they be, and it's nice to know they hadn't been ignored in the SNES days.
According to Nintendo, the Goombas are a seperate species from the Toads, and both races lived in harmony in the Mushroom Kingdom. Awww. Until Bowser came along with his plans to take over the country, and the treacherous Goombas switched sides and joined up with the Koopas (except some Goombas didn't). Now, let me suggest to you an alternative version of events. The Goombas are a slave caste within the Mushroom Kingdom, forced to do all the dirty work while the Toads live in luxury, close to the brutal, autocratic monarchy led by the brainless Princess Peach. Along comes Bowser, with promises of removing the corrupt monarchy and establishing some kind of worker's collective, and the downtrodden Goombas sign up. However, they are sadly unaware that the royalty have on their side some kind of super-warrior, a plumber who sure is good at jumping on things. Bowser is defeated, thousands of Goombas perish and the ones that survive are cast out of society. I personally would like to believe that is the true story of the Mushroom Kingdom. It gives you a whole new perspective on the games, that's for sure.
And finally, I happen to own this little fella:

He's a Goomba that came with a McDonalds' Happy Meal. He's got a little sucker on his chin that you stick to his feet, and after a while the sucker somes loose and the Goomba does a backflip. I looked at the base and he was made in 1989, which means I've owned him for 21 years. He still works, too, and if my house was on fire, you can be sure I'd make a real effort to rescue him.

Anyway, that's enough about Goombas. Long may they continue to waddle around in a fairly useless manner!
BONUS:
Do you want to see a stomach-churningly cute crocheted Goomba, complete with Kuribo's Shoe? Sure you do.

16/06/2010

MARIO PAINT MASTERPIECES


Da Vinci. Rembrandt. Van Gogh. All the most widely-recognised master painters in history. What do they all have in common? That's right, they all chose to stick with the same tired media of paint and canvas, instead of utilizing the mighty technological power of Nintendo's Mario Paint. Yes, they may be know as the true masters of their art, but think how much better they could have been has only the SNES been around during the Renaissance. To prove this point, I have selected five masterpieces and re-created them using that most powerful of expressive techniques: Mario Paint. In case you are such a phillistine that you don't recognise these works of art, I have included the (vastly inferior) originals at the bottom of the post. Prepare now to have your minds blown and for artistic wonderment to flow into the fleshy mass within!



(Click for a larger view)
First of all, I know Mario Paint has a limited number of colours, but this doesn't matter. A truly visionary artist will use this to his advantage! Notice how I have improved on the original with some truly vibrant colours, as well as the fact that the subject now resembles Dr. Wily from Megaman that much more. The use of perspective when rendering the chair is what truly elevates this to masterpiece status.


Have you ever seen fruit painted so beautifully as this, so real you want to reach into the picture and take a bite? No, of course you haven't, you uncultured swine. The depiction of the sea surpasses even the works of Turner, and the figure is so perfectly formed that his shrivelled left hand becomes a beacon of hope, not a hideous disfigurement. Salvador Dali once said "I myself am surrealism," but he was obviously wrong. Because I am.


The world's greatest masterpiece. Ah, those haunting eyes, that half-formed smile. All my own work, of course. The original was just some dowdy woman with no eyebrows. The shading of the jawline gives her a real sense of strength, and it certainly doesn't look like a five-o-clock shadow. That overly-fussy background had to go too, and I'm sure you'll agree my new one is far superior.



An artistic statement of a world in anguish, and what could fill a man with more anguish than trying to draw anything with the SNES mouse? The noodle-y hands of the original did not go nearly far enough for my liking, so have replaced them with what is essentially spaghetti. Imagine the anguish you would feel if you had spaghetti for hands. Also, another perfect depiction of the sea.


Ha ha! Screw you, Mario Paint! I win! If only the SNES had a printer, I could knock a few of these out, glue them to canvasses and sell them on the black market. I'd be a millionaire in no time.
Well, I hope you feel suitably cultured now: I'm sure you'll agree that Mario Paint is the only true choice for creating works of such ground-breaking importance. If you feel like recreating a great work of art using the divine medium of the SNES, email it to vgjunk@hotmail.co.uk and win absolutely nothing.







14/06/2010

EL VIENTO

Boomerangs? Check. Hair like a small green hedgehog? Check. The world's most irritating bats? Check. Okay then, we're all set for WolfTeam's 1991 Megadrive game El Viento.



I vaguely remember playing this back in the day, enjoying it, and then not being able to remember why I enjoyed it. So I figured I'd play it again and find out, hopefully without being horribly disappointed. The plot is that age old story: Evil cult wants to resurrect a/the dark lord, and the chosen one must stop them. In this iteration we have, in the red corner, the evil Hastur. Is this the same Hastur from the Cthulhu Mythos? Well, we shall see. In the blue corner we have Annet, a young girl who can run like the wind and throw boomerangs like Crocodile Dundee. This all takes place in the 1920s, which is a nice change of pace as far as videogames go.



You start the game in a city, and the first things to notice are the excellent music, composed by none other than Motoi Sakuraba, who composed the music for most of the Tales series as well as Shining Force III, and the well-above-average graphics. Annet herself is particularly well animated, especially when she's running about. The basic gameplay is in the side-scrolling action platformer mould: you run around, jumping between platforms and throwing boomerangs with gay abandon. Oh, and you can throw fireballs too, which is always nice. The enemies in the first stage are a strange mix: there's your obvious-enough mafia goons in trenchcoats, and then you're suddenly attacked by what appears to be Vega from Street Fighter riding a motorcycle. There's a section of climbing up the buildings while men appear in the windows and drop any number of household items on your head, and so far it's all going pretty well. The controls are nice and fluid, the graphics and music are very good, and the whole thing is, well, fun. Fun! In a videogame! Who would have thought. Around halfway through the stage, you're attacked by a gangsters in a bright pink Model-T Ford, which I guess puts paid to the notion of "any colour so long as it's black," and then it's on to the boss, which turns out to be a very incongruous-looking giant tank. Quite how this futuristic battle machine ended up in the 1920s is anyone's guess but there it is, pumping out shells while you throw boomerangs at it. I assume these are magic boomerangs, because they make fairly short work of the FUTURISTIC SPACE TANK. When the tank is a bit damaged, you can see the driver: it's one of the gangsters, complete with fedora. That's the kind of era-mixing oddness I can get behind. Once he's defeated, you get a nice cutscene, as you do between all the stages. The odd thing is that at no point during the cutscene are you told who is talking, so I like to choose one character and pretend they're saying eveything. It makes them all sound like mad people, which is only going to add to the fun of the game.



On to stage two, and it's out into the great outdoors, where robot totem poles spring up to welcome you with deadly fire. The totems have rather cheerful-looking faces on them, which makes you wonder about the mentality of the villian who (presumably, unless the native Americans had access to some pretty advanced technology) erected them. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge difficulty spike rears up in front of you. And it was all going so well, too. The problem here is jumping across some rotating platforms. Annet should have planned a route that didn't take her directly across the top of a ruddy windfarm, but there you go. Straight afterwards there is a section of crumbling platforms, but they're not nearly so tough. Soon you're at the boss, a witch called Restiana who keeps showing up in the cutscenes. The battle takes place on a pile of crumbling tiles, (fortunately, you can't fall off the bottom of the stage,) and I managed to get her stuck in the scenery and pummel her with fireballs. There's another cutscene: apparently I was at Mt. Rushmore the whole time. I'm sure it was very nice.



Stage three starts in a warehouse. No, wait, I took a couple of steps forward and it appears to be a bar. There's a fat guy trying to glass me to death, so it could be any city-centre bar on any Saturday night, really. A bit further on, a tiny pirate jumps out of a barrel and tries to stab me with an equally tiny knife. Man, it makes me feel happy inside to type a sentence like that.


Hang on a moment, though: a tiny pirate with a tiny sword who jumps out of a barrel? I'm fighting the freakin' Pop-Up Pirate! I guess he had to branch out: the kids aren't interested in board games these days. Onward into the sewers, and what do you get in sewers? Slime, that's what, and here it is. Also fish that you can use as platforms (Annet likes riding aquatic lifeforms, as we shall see at the start of the next stage,) and rats. Lots and lots of rats. It looks like Krusty's Super Fun House down there. After the sewer is a cave, which has trolls. This game sure is sticking to it's stereotypes. There should have been a whale in the cave, that'd have confused people. There are a few dragons to fight, and they give you a new spell that pours water on the ground. It's pretty useless, apart from this one instance where you have to use it to put out some fires. The boss awaits, and he's Zantar The Gelatinous Cube! You have make a dent in him with repeated boomerangs, and then hit his fleshy innards. He's not that tough, and it's on to stage four.



Annet jumps on a dolphin's back and rides out onto the high seas, fighting men in hang-gliders and having a fine old time until suddenly OH DEAR GOD THERE'S PIXELS EVERYWHERE WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!



Yes, this tentacley thing appears and gets in your way, and he really is that pixellated. What the hell were the developers thinking? Did they think no-one would notice? I mean, I've seen some pretty bad Mode-7 scaling in my time, but this is even worse. However, if you look carefully (or possibly from some distance away) the pixel-beast looks a little like the Great Lord Cthulhu himself. So, you're riding a dolphin throwing boomerangs at Cthulhu. Now that's what I call a videogame. Eventually you make it past the Great Old One and into a ship made almost entirely of spikes. The game takes on an almost puzzle-based flavour here, as you gain a sonic boom power and use it to light fuses and get around the hundreds of thousands of spikes that make up the ship's cargo. It's all rather well done, difficult without being frustrating; it's definitely one of the highlights of the game. The boss, however, is disappointing. I think it's supposed to be a ball of coral that shoots (some nicely animated) lightning at you... and that's it. He's not very adventurous.



Stage five is a temple in the Grand Canyon, and after the last stage it seems a little bland. Some statues come to life and try to attack you, some bats grab onto you and drain your health. Yawn. It's rather disappointing after the S.S. Spikeboat. Oh, and you get a new spell that's essentially a bigger fireball. The stage's boss is bubbles. No, not Jacko's monkey, but a pile of suds in the corner of the room. He's pretty tough for lather: his main method of attack is to fill the screen with smaller bubbles that can hurt you, trap your boomerangs and generally be a nuisance. He's the hardest thing in the game so far, but even lather is no match for the mighty boomerang.

Detroit is the setting for stage six, which is a very short stage. You proceed through a factory full of conveyor belts, jumping over junk and avoiding the extremely advanced security system that the owners of said factory felt it necessary to install. The boss is odd in that it's a game of find the lady rather than a straight-up fight: a monster hides in one of three boxes, the boxes get shuffled around and you have to pick the right one to hit. All well and good, until I took a closer look at the monster and realised it's a Mi-Go. A goddamn Mi-Go! The geekiest part of me had a small fit when I figured that out. Now I'm convinced it was Cthulhu, Lord of All Pixels, that I fought earlier.



Another very short stage, where you run across the top of an aircraft getting shot by turrets that you can't avoid until you reach the reactor core, which I suppose counts as the boss. You climb up some descending platforms and shoot the core. Done, next stage please.



The final stage, then, and it transpires that the Empire State building is actually a shrine to Hastur, or possibly Gozer the Gozerian, and Annet has to get to the top. It was all going so well until now, but the game takes a serious downward turn with this stage. Riding the elevators, fighting lizardman and solving some simple door-opening puzzles would be fine if it wasn't for the bats. THE GODDAMN BATS. The bats from stage five have returned, you see. Except now there are thousands of them, crammed into every square inch of the stage, clinging to you and draining your health and being completly unavoidable. THESE FUCKING BATS. My God, the levels of frustration encountered here cannot be healthy, and I now have a deep-seated terror of bats. Thanks, El Viento. Thank you very much. Eventually, against all the odds, Annet manages to break through to the final boss.

Your final opponent is Restiana again. Having recovered from the kicking I gave her earlier, she transforms into a purple hydra-y thing and battle commences. She's fairly tough, what with all the fireballs and such, but after that bat stage anything else feels like a blessed relief. Once she's defeated, there's a cutscene where Annet is upset about having to kill Restiana, but obviously not that upset, and the game ends. No more bats!



El Viento is good. There, I said it, and I'll say it again. It's a good game, with solid gameplay, great graphics and music and A FREAKIN' MI-GO. Sure it has some cruel difficulty jumps, and that bat stage will haunt your dreams for many years, but these are only minor issues which are mostly down to me being rubbish at videogames. So give El Viento a go: just make sure you stop before the final stage if you value your sanity.

BONUS: http://www.bogleech.com/sega-viento.html here has all the sprites from the game. In fact, you should just go and have a look around the site. It's a pretty cool place!

10/06/2010

KAMEN RIDER SD: SHUTSUGEKI!! MACHINE RIDER

Grasshopper men riding motorcycles and fighting elephants on pogo sticks? Welcome to the 1993 SNES title Kamen Rider SD: Shutsugeki!! Machine Rider. Man, what a title. They don't make 'em like that anymore (except, you know, they do).


I know pretty much nothing about the Kamen Rider franchise other than the basics: He fights crime, he transforms into a grasshopper-based superhero, he rides a motorcycle and there are approximately seventy thousand different Kamen Rider series, each with a different Rider. As far as I can tell, Kamen Rider SD is a kind of Greatest Hits edition, where various Riders from across space and time put aside their grasshoppery quarrels and band together to fight a common foe. Oh, and they're all drawn in a manner that makes them adowwwable.
As for the gameplay, how can I explain it? Well, if you've ever played Final Fantasy VII, (I think there's about three or four left out there who haven't,) I can explain it pretty easily. You remember the motorcycle minigame? It's essentially a whole game of that. You move your Rider around the screen, kicking out either to his left or right to kick enemies off their bikes/cars/pogo sticks. It's a side-scolling beat-em-up where you can only attack into or out of the screen, basically. Each stage has you playing as a different Rider, and each one has a unique special attack, such as a spinning sawblade or transforming into some kind of blazing comet. There's also a shop where you get to choose a limited-use sub-weapon. but you get so few of them they really aren't that much use.
And that's it. It's kinda fun, but as you can probably guess, when it's stretched out over nine stages with no changes in the gameplay, it gets tired pretty quick. What this game does have in it's favour is graphics. Lovely, lovely sprite graphics. The Riders themselves look great: if they had been released as toys when I was a child I would have wanted, nay, demanded to own them all. The enemies are fantastic, in both senses of the word: the game world seems to be populated by little bobble-headed blue guys called "E"s, who fill the background as well as serving as your adversaries. So, here's a look at some of the pixelly loveliness to be found within.

STAGE 1: City Road


Here we see Kamen Rider popping a wheelie. He's fond of that, as you would be too if you had a motorcycle that cool. Notice the Es in the background. The one on the far right does not look impressed.



Some sections of the background here: First, a nice shop display featuring an E-headed Godzilla, a group of superheroes and an elephant with Y-fronts on its head. Then there's Endina Enes, a good friend of one Mr. H. Ford. Hopefully, he wasn't named after the dog. Nice to see Shia LaBeouf isn't on there. Finally, there's a poster for a very familiar looking android-based movie.

STAGE 2: Country Road



Not much in the background on this stage, apart from this strange tableaux: On the left, a man seduces a woman. On the right, someone getting suplexed. I can only hope this isn't a time-lapse thing and the suplex isn't the inevitable outcome of that guy chancing his arm.


A special mention for the boss of stage two: He is a Ku Klux Klan squid-man riding inside a mechanical spider with fishnet-stocking-wearing women's legs. That is something a bit wonderful. If this guy is an actual Kamen Rider villain, please, please let me know.

STAGE 3: Cave Baster



Just a couple of things about stage three: yes, it is called "Cave Baster", so I guess every so often Rider gets off his bike, finds a huge pipette and pours the cave's own juices back onto itself. I bet that's one delicious gravy. Second, the boss is the afore-mention pogoing elephant. So far, this game's bosses are up to a standard not often seen outside the Parodius games.

STAGE 4: Fire Tornado

This enemy bears rather a resemblance to a Zaku of Gundam fame. Stage 4 also has my favourite band in the game (more on that later) and, perhaps not coincidentally, the best music in the game.

STAGE 5: Desert Battle

It looks like Endina Enes is in trouble here. Perhaps the large fellow is George Lucas' lawyer.



It's just like being in Sagat's stage!



A whole row of statues, one assumes of fallen heroes. I particularly like the luchador with the scythe.

STAGE 6: Big Tank

Nothing much to report in this stage. Yes, the boss is a Big Tank.

STAGE 7: Silk Road

As Rider battles his way along the Great Wall of China, some familiar figures are doing a little Street Fighting up on the battlements. Ken is almost certainly being scrubby, and Ryu looks like he's getting his ass handed to him. The other two just look cool.


The boss is an eyeball monster who flies around in a noodle bowl. You have no idea how long I spent trying to come up with a noodle-related pun to go here.

STAGE 8: Midnight Town




Yee-haw! Welcome to Lass Egass! There is a lot of neon in this stage, along with...


...Mount E-More! They do not look pleased.

STAGE 9: Fung To The Circuit



Okay, this is just creepy.


Luc Besson's lawyers should team up with George Lucas's. I'm sure they have a case.

For some reason, the racing circuit is also showing a wrestling match on the big screens. They look rather reminiscent of M.U.S.C.L.E. toys, which may well be intentional. All I know is their facial expressions will haunt my dreams.
And that's the end of the game, apart from a very short stage where you fight an evil Rider who turns out to be the last boss. The bands I mentioned earlier? Well, during each boss fight there is a band in the background that ties in with the theme of the level. Here's a picture of all of them (click for a bigger view). Oh, except for stage 6, because I haven't got a picture of them. They were a bunch of American-looking soldiers, anyway.

I like Stage 8's Michael Jackson extravaganza, although I have no idea what the hell "Darth Ambassador" is supposed to mean. Vader's more diplomatic brother, perhaps? Less Force choking, more of a focus on economic sanctions against rebel planets. Stage 4's punk band is my favourite, though.
And that's it for Kamen Rider SD: Shutsugeki!! Machine Rider: a briefly fun, mostly mediocre game redeemed by KKK Squid-men and sprite-based copyright infringement.










07/06/2010

BRIAN IRONS - THE SHOCKING TRUTH

You know what I love? Resident Evil. Yes sir, Raccoon City has been a happy playground for me over the years. Of all the RE games, though, Resident Evil 2 is and probably always will be my favourite. Yes, the Gamecube remake of RE1 is deeply beautiful as well as fantastically terrifying, and yes, RE4 is sublime from start to finish. But RE2 has something that keeps it lodged firmly at the forefront of my gaming conciousness. Possibly it's part nostalgia, or the fact that I played the demo so much that to this day I could probably do the first section up to the police station blindfolded. What it also has is probably the best cast of characters. Everyone loves Leon, Claire and Ada, but there is one man, one minor but gloriously realised character who will forever be my favourite. That man is the head of the R.P.D.: Chief Brian Irons.



Chief Irons appears in Claire's story, sitting at his desk upon which lies the body of the Mayor's daughter. He offers you some practical zombie-killing advice (which is nice of him), as well as slipping into real creepiness by describing the perfection of the Mayor's daughter's skin (which is not so nice). He asks you to leave, and as you search around (look! something's sparkling! Wait, this is a book. Books don't sparkle...) you find plenty of evidence that Chief Irons is a rapist, an embezeller and that he hunted down and killed the Mayor's daughter as though he was auditioning for the sequel to Hard Target. Nice. Later, he gets his just desserts: tentacles are involved, and it's no more than he deserves.
So, why does a character who is in the game for only a few minutes stick so firmly in the mind? Mostly, I think it's to do with the voice acting. Gary Krawford makes Irons sound like he's genuinely psychotic and he might snap at any moment. Whether that was intentional or just wonky voice acting, I can't say. It sure works, though.
Here's a little something else that I've noticed about Brian Irons. Zombie Nightmare is a 1986 horror film about a large, beefy man who is killed, comes back as a zombie and goes on to wreak his revenge. It's a pretty bad film. You might have seen it being ripped apart in the stomach-cripplingly funny episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. If you don't know what Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is, then you're really missing out and you should see some however you can.
Anyway, in Zombie Nightmare, the inimitable Adam West (of Batman fame) plays a police chief called Tom Churchman, a violent, corrupt head of police who has a history of abusing women, who now has a zombie problem in his town. Sound familiar? Also, Irons and Churchman look pretty similar.


The same moustache, similar hair, waistcoat and tie. Am I saying that Capcom based Brian Irons on a character in a crappy 80's horror movie filmed in Canada? Well, no, I guess not. But, by God, I would dearly love for it to be true.
Well, that's all for this installment. Watch this video and get a bit of Irons in your diet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6UTa2YKBgw
And to think that taxidermy used to be my hobby...

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