Everybody likes ninjas. Conversely, no-one likes clowns. So, if you combine the two you should get something that is the very essence of averageness, right? Well, let's find out by playing Incredible Technologies' 1991 circus of horrors, Ninja Clowns.

Yep, this game is called Ninja Clowns. No, I have no idea why they chose to combine ninjas and clowns. Ninjas are stern, silent, invisible warriors who have been trained to kill without mercy. Clowns are jolly, noisy, gaudy fools who have been trained to kill without mercy. There's not much overlap between the two, is there? Well, it doesn't matter, because Ninja Clowns has nothing to do with ninjas at all. Just clowns. Clowns only. Clowns, clowns, clowns. Ugh. The only reason they called it Ninja Clowns is because Clowns is a very dull title.
Ninja Clowns is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, so the first thing to find out is why, as a simple jester, you have been thrust into this world of violent madness. Kidnapped daughter? Animals in danger? Well, not quite:

Nope, today's reason for punching everything in sight is Killer Zombie Clones, produced in a lab by Twisto the Evil Clown. I don't know why I specified that he's an evil clown; he's a clown, it should be taken as read that he's also evil.
The terrified populace's response to this threat? They summon another clown. You know, like the one that's kidnapped them. Maybe they know that, like ninjas, only a clown can defeat a clown. Although on closer inspection of the villain's silhouette, it appears he's not a clown and he's actually Bowser. I have my fingers crossed that this is the case and his evil plan is actually some complex plot to kidnap Princess Peach.

You're plonked in a dismal street area, with various scumbags for company. As this is a beat-'em-up, you're probably going to want to, you know, beat 'em up, and that's where things get a little tricky. Ninja Clowns has a strange control system in that, unlike almost every other side-scrolling beat-'em-up, there's no jump button. You've got punch, kick and what I think is supposed to be a block but which can't block atacks. Pressing punch and kick together lets you spin around, which is simple enough, but other combinations lead to ever-more unpredicatble results. P+K and left or right makes you do a flying kick, diagonal-down and K makes you roll around, there's a strange jumping move where our hero tries to climb an invisible rope... There's a lot going on, and while it sounds like a good thing to have so many moves, they all feel very counter-intuitive to use, and you keep performing them by accident, not helped by the jerky animation and general feeling of distance between your input and the actions of the white-faced freak you're "controlling".
As you can see, the enemies are a motley bunch, and the first stage is mostly filled with angry cops who throw doughnuts at you and 80's business men who you can pretend are Patrick Bateman. Quite why Twisto wants to take over this town is beyond me, because it's a bit of a shithole. The first stage flies by quickly, with two interesting things to note: One, you can collect a boxing glove on a spring to use against your foes. Anyone who has ever watched a Looney Tunes cartoon knows that a boxing glove on a spring is the deadliest weapon in the universe. The power of a thousand gods courses through your veins as soon as you collect it, and no man can stand against its awesome power. Secondly, Ninja Clowns appears to have pre-empted the pop-culture shitecloud that is the Twilight series by a good fourteen years: there's a sign in the background for a movie called "Dead Teens In Love". There is no possible way it could be worse than Twilight.

Soon you're fighting the boss, who is pictured above. He's a bowler, and he likes to bowl things at you and... that's about it. He's significantly more difficult than the rest of the stage, but once he's defeated, you do get the pleasure of seeing him explode in strangely grotesque manner:

Look at that goddamn clown, watching a man explode with a calm smile on his face. The sick fuck.
After that, there's a brief interlude where you have smash up a lab in an impossibly short time limit, although it's only for points so it doesn't matter. Twisto appears again to curse you. His silhouette looks more like Bowser than ever.

The next stage takes you to the funfair... of TERROR. That's to be expected though, because funfairs exude terror in the same way that girls who wear berets exude insanity.

New enemies abound, including bearded ladies who projectile vomit at you. At least I think they're bearded women, but then again there's nothing to say that they aren't just very nauseous transvestites. There're also Elvis impersonators. They've got accordions, you know, just like Elvis was famous for playing! Most importantly, there are mimes. Mimes that can be punched. Indeed, you are encouraged to punch them because they drop health when you do. As I may have mentioned before, attacking a mime is a rare pleasure that should be savoured like a fine wine, and by including this feature Ninja Clowns has earned itself a gold star.
There are a few more weapons to collect, including (of course) throwing pies and (of course) seltzer sprayers, which is nice. Something that isn't nice is the music, which mostly consists of "circus music" set to grating, painful beats that sound like a calliope being forced to breed with a trash compactor. It's a shame I didn't know about it in time for the Hallowe'en playlists, really.
So, what will the boss of the carnival stage be, do you think? Samson the Strong-man? Siamese twins? Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy? No, no and no.

The boss is a chicken in thigh-high kinky boots and with a rack that makes Kelly Brook look like a twelve-year-old boy. It is, I fear, supposed to be a Sexy Chicken. Welcome to Nightmare Town! It gets worse, though. This Sex-Chicken has to attack you somehow. What's that you say? It could use eggs to attack? Why, of course it could!

Yes, the slutty hen bends over and fires eggs out out it's... area at you. Even worse, the best time to attack the chicken is after it has bent over but before it fires the egg, so you essentially defeat it by repeatedly jamming your fist/foot up its exposed cloaca.
I don't think I'll ever feel clean again. If you manage to interact your fist with the chicken's arse enough times, then you move onto stage three.
Stage three is back on the mean streets, by which I mean the exact same mean streets as stage one, because they just reused the backgrounds. I guess after Sexy Chicken they were too traumatised to come up with anything else. Nothing much is new apart from some different enemies, mostly skinheads and (surprisingly powerful) Girl Scouts. The boss is...

I have no idea what the boss is, or rather I do, but I'm not sure I understand why. He's a roller-skating helium canister with a severed head placed on top as a grisly trophy, and he attacks with balloon poodles. After the last boss, he's almost comforting.

The next stage is set in the Big Top, and the punishing circus music is back with a vengeance. It's mostly filled with earlier enemies, although there are some midget clowns for those of you with coulrophobia and achondroplasiaphobia to enjoy. The boss is a rather mundane-looking magician:

I do like the expression on that rabbit's face.
The next stage is on the streets, again, and they've used the same background, again.

It really does count against Ninja Clowns that're you're just replaying the same stage. I think I'm going to have to rescind my gold star. New enemies are in the form of hippies this time, and they shout such well-known hippy catchphrases as "Wow, man" and "Woodstock, man"; you will tire of this very quickly. The first time I saw their placards I thought it was a picture of a chicken, and they were protesting against the Sexy Chicken. Just as I was about to embrace their cause, I realised it was a mushroom cloud and I started punching them instead. They're pretty violent for pacifists, and quite hard to beat. They killed me a lot, which means this is a good time to mention our hero's death pose:

He may be dead, but his enormous erection will live on! Maybe he's thinking about Sexy Chicken.
The boss approaches, and he's a more old-fashioned kind of nightmare fuel.

Cabbage/bagpipe/clown interbreeding has reached a terrifying new level! Our hero actually looks genuinely pleased to see it, though, and that's possibly because he already knows that once defeated, the boss will turn out to be full of popcorn. Of course.

"Darn! No butter." Wait... were you going to eat the popcorn out of the dead spider-monster's skull? Clowns, everybody. Look upon them and know true fear.
Ninja Clowns is heating up now, and it's onto the final full stage: the Funhouse.

The name "Funhouse" is as misleading as you might expect. It's a constant, groin-crushingly tedious stream of unicycle-riding killer clowns, and the best way to defeat them is to keep doing the spin move repeatedly as they slowly haul themselves out of the floor. The blue-and-orange checks on our hero's trousers, much like the midday sun, should not be looked at directly. Serious eye damage will occur.
There was a boss here, a burly Sinbad type with a scimitar, but I defeated him so quickly that I forgot to get a screenshot. Oops. Anyway, he was just the warm up! It's time for the final showdown with Twisto!

His lack of resemblance to Bowser is bitterly disappointing. That said, I actually really like his sprite, and if you're looking for a fearsome end-of-game boss, a three-headed demon clown is a good choice. He really isn't that tough, with the spin move once again proving the most effective method of killing clowns. That's information that may well come in handy one day. Once he's defeated, Twisto is revealed to be a tiny little clown who was using some kind of super-suit or something, and our hero defeats him by using the famous "hold them at arm's length so they can't reach you" technique that is so beloved of older brothers the world over.
So, Twisto goes to jail, and you can settle down for the long and satisfying ending sequence.

Oh wait, that's it. One still frame. Thanks, Incredible Technologies. The name of your company is a holow mockery, if not a downright lie. Twisto's spell is broken, and everyone is happy and friendly once more. Except the hippies, who will no doubt be continuing with their campaign of harassment against poor, defenceless nuclear power. And what the hell is going on with the sky in that last panel? I think the sun saw the clown driving toward it and turned off all the lights so he could hide.
Welp, that's Ninja Clowns. An odd game, to be sure. Not a good game: the controls are to imprecise, there's too much repetition and the music is too dreadful for it to be considered good. But there are some nice ideas in it, and a few nice graphical touches. I think it's main problem is that is didn't go far enough in embracing the horror element of the game. If the whole think had been some kind of Lovecraftian, Sexy Chicken-filled constant nightmare, it'd have been... better. It's pretty short too, so if you're interested, give it a quick go: you'll probably be able to complete it in half an hour. Just don't expect anything even vaguely ninja-related.



A quick one today, as I look at some of Capcom's more regrettable Street Fighter cover art.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Here's the box art that was used on home computer versions of the original Street Fighter:

Okay, maybe I should cut Capcom some slack on this one, as they probably didn't have much to do with it, which is appropriate as this cover has nothing what-so-ever to do with Street Fighter. I assume the fellow in the middle who has proudly emblazoned the game's title on his back is supposed to be Ryu. It must be in days before he started his quest to become the greatest fighter, back before he gave up his original dream: to star in a production of West Side Story.
I like the punk on the far right, who in some alternate universe might be Birdie. He's one nonchalant son of a gun. I also like the fact that Capcom have described themselves as GIANTS OF THE VIDEOGAMES INDUSTRY. No false modesty here. Or modesty of any sort, really.

Next up, Street Fighter 2 Dash for the X68000.

Not too bad at first glance, but take a closer look and things start to fall apart. What's going on with Bison's chin/neck area? Everytime I see it, the first thing I think is that he has an inflatable throat pouch that he uses to attract frogs. Frog which he then mates with. I think it's supposed to be a giant chin, but it definitely looks more flabby than anything else. The less said about his hands the better, other than the fact that they're not attached to his body in any way.
Then there's Ryu. Here's a close-up of Ryu's face.

Ryu is stoned out of his fucking gourd.

SF2 Turbo now, and it doesn't look too bad:

Apart from Sagat's face.

He's not angry with you, just very disappointed. There, there, Sagat, don't cry.

Here's the cover for SF2: Championship Edition for the Megadrive/Genesis. Take a good look at it:

Now imagine there's a man just out of shot yanking a rug out from underneath Guile and Bison. I think you'll agree that the composition makes a lot more sense now, especially if you imagine that they're both shouting "Oh shit!"

Street Fighter Alpha, and yet again it is Bison that's the focus of our attention:

Spectral and marshmallow-y, that's how I always remember the leader of Shadaloo. Ryu's hadoken pose isn't much better, looking like he should be making a straining "hhhhnnngg!" noise as he attacks. What are all the other fighter doing there, anyway? Haven't they got anything better to do?

I've save the bworst 'til last. That's right, bworst. You see, this picture is both so awful and so glorious I had to invent a new word to describe it. Behold, the cover for Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo on the Amiga CD32!

Jesus, I don't even know where to start with this one. Oh wait, yes I do: Akuma's giant deformed head. He has two tomatoes for eyes. His neck is a veiny, David Cronenberg-esque bio-horror. He has no hairline: his hair seamlessly appears as a gradient on his head. Just look at the anatomy between his ear and the back of his neck: it's comprised of the kind of non-Euclidean angles that would make even Lovecraft shudder.
Of course, Akuma isn't the only thing wrong here. Due to the lights shining out of their feet, Chun-Li and Blanka appear to be flying away from the center of the screen. I'm pretty sure that was not the intended effect. Chun-Li appears to have been replaced with a man in drag. Deejay looks like he's not even supposed to be in the picture, and he's grinning uncomfortably as he realises someone's taking a photograph of him. Then there's Cammy, poor, poor Cammy, her body mangled and twisted and badly retouched until her neck has disappeared and her head barely balances on her shoulders. Finally, EXPLOSIONS. Kids love explosions! My brain hurts. This picture is quite possibly the Grand Key, the instrument that finally unlocks the gates between all dimensions, reducing the universe to unceasing chaos. Don't stare at it for too long.

Thankfully, Capcom (and games companies in general) are at lot better at this sort of thing now.



War, as Ron Perlman may have informed you, never changes. Fortunately, videogames about war do change, otherwise we'd still be playing games as bad as Taito's 1985 shooter Front Line.

Originally released in arcades in 1982, Front Line was ported to the NES in 1985, and that's the version I'll be looking at today. The title screen is a stern affair, and, unusually, it displays the year in Roman numerals. I assume this was intended to give Front Line that much-needed touch of class, perhaps to make people think they were about to experience something powerfully cinematic and deeply moving. Of course, Front Line is neither cinematic or moving, unless you count being moved to tears through sheer, unrelenting boredom.

So, there's a war on, and you play as the standard One Man Army that must destroy the enemy all by his lonesome. That's you in the picture above, the one in the blue suit. Not particularly menacing, I must say. So, what firepower do you have at you disposal, ready to blow away the other troops that you are trying to kill for some undisclosed reason? Well, you have a piddly peashooter of a gun and grenades that you seem to throw in a very unconvincing sideways arc. Not particularly fearsome, but at least they have unlimited ammo.
The controls are simple enough: the D-pad walks you around, one button fires your peashooter and the other throws grenades. You have to make your way up the screen, walking alone into enemy territory, along an unobscured road, completely in the open, shooting the occasional little bloke in green who pops up. It's like an induction video they'd show you on your first day in the Army called something like War Fighting: The Wrong Way or Private Johnny Won't Be Home For Christmas.
I do worry about our hero. Let's call him Johnny, shall we? You see, Private Johnny has a problem: he's terribly deformed. Here is his honest-to-god walking animation:

Poor Johnny. He's got some real problems. His most obvious flaw is the fact that his legs contain no bones, only wet noodles and pain. They even bend the wrong way. This must be one hard-fought war if conscripts of Johnny's calibre are being drafted in. His walk is almost hypnotic to watch, really, an elegant ballet of crippled legs flapping across a war-torn nation. It's not just his legs though; he's missing his right arm entirely, probably having had it shot off after waving at an enemy sniper or getting it blown up while juggling grenades or something equally stupid. Johnny's luck gets even worse, because whatever nation he fights for decided that camoflague was old hat, a cynical trick to hinder your opponent in a most unsporting manner, so they gave Johnny a nice, vibrant blue uniform and a bright red helmet. Poor, poor Johnny. At least, I think that's a helmet: it could equally be bright red hair with pigtails or a Devo Energy Dome. Whatever it is, it offers zero protection because you die in one hit, or even after brushing against an enemy. Johnny truly is the runt of the litter.

You'll soon realise that, as you move forwards, it's usually far easier to run past the enemies than it is to kill them. I strongly suggest you ignore them as much as possible. In fact, try and ignore Front Line altogether, if you can. Once you've covered enough ground, the game takes a sudden and dramatic turn! Okay, so it doesn't really. What happens is that you get to ride around in a tank. There are two kinds, a little tank that is slightly faster and a big tank that isn't. The gameplay doesn't change at all, except that you lose the ability to throw grenades. All the tanks do is change your sprite, and the gameplay remains the same. Move forward, rotate, kill, move forward. You don't even get any sensation of being more powerful in the tank, because the moment you climb aboard, all the regular troops are replaced with tanks, and they can still kill you with one shot.

For some reason, all the tanks look like cut gemstones. Perhaps Front Line is actually the story of the bitter war between the Emerald and Sapphire races, but I fear that truth is simply that the graphics are crap.
You spend the majority of the tank section avoiding enemies on a flat, grey plane. Occasionally, a rock is placed in your path in an attempt to cause such overpowering excitement that your eyes explode like a frog in a microwave. There's no music at all, just an irritating sound effect meant to simulate the tank's engine noises. Just that blipping sound and endless grey floors. I'm beginning to think that maybe I judged Front Line on the wrong criteria, and rather than a rubbish game that was meant to be played for amusement, it is in fact a serious work of digital art highlighting the horrifyingly mundane way in which wars destroy everything they touch. It's haunting stuff, with Private Johnny's mangled body serving as a grim testament to the human race's bloodthirsty nature. I'd enter it for the Turner Prize if I didn't think the Daily Mail would hunt me down for crimes against art.

Finally, you cross a bridge and reach the end of the stage, which consists of a tank sitting behind a wall. You have to get out of your tank and lob a grenade over the wall, destroying the tank and forcing a little soldier to appear with a white flag. Insert your own joke about the French here! And that's the end of the stage; on to the next stage! Except, and here's where Front Line really falls down, there is no next stage. You are simply taken back to the start of the stage and told to do it again, with the only difference being that the enemies are slightly more intelligent. The whole game is a loop of this one stage, which only further complements my idea that it is an artistic statement on the futility of war.
Does Front Line have an ending? How the hell would I know? I managed to suffer through about five loops and then stopped playing because I could feel my brain rusting. I presume it just goes on forever. perhaps I'm being a little harsh on Front Line: it was, after all, originally released in 1982, when videogames were still very much in their infancy. The NES version also doesn't have the arcade version's control system, which featured a dial that you turned to aim your gun and then pushed in to fire it, which I imagine is a lot better that the NES' eight-way aiming. But then I look at Johnny's splay-footed "walking" animation and I think no, Front Line is just shit. Don't play it, and if you see it in the street, glare at it disapprovingly. It'll soon get the message.



In a dark and distant time, before Capcom made their fortune with videogames about large men punching each other, they did release some other games. Their 1988 coin-op Mad Gear is certainly one of them!

If the name sounds familiar, that's because Capcom later re-used it as the named of the villainous, Mayor-baiting gang from Final Fight. This isn't a fighting game, though. Oh no, this is a racing game... well, not a racing game as such, because you're not really in competition with the other cars. So, it's more of a "move forward quickly" game, I guess. It may not have direct competition between the racers, but what it does have is some high-grade 1980's Engrish, as seen during the attract mode. Let's take a look!

"Today is opening day of "WORLD RACE 24" the most dangerous rally in the world. Daredevils are coming for the rally award USD 1,000,000.-."
Okay, that's all understandable enough. You get the idea that there's a dangerous rally with a million-dollar prize, at least. However, this level of clarity obviously cannot be sustained, and the second paragraph is a doozy:
"Hero FRED whispering to himself "What type of cars is most easy-driving for me?" Then FRED challenging the race."
While it's not quite as glorious as Violence Fight's explanation of the battle to become the No. 1 Quarreler, it's still fantastic stuff, particularly because it makes FRED sound like a schizophrenic who mutters to himself about easy-driving and race-challenging while performing surgery on himself to remove the secret tracking devices the Shadow Government have implanted in his cerebellum.
The obvious question that needs answering here is which car is the most easy-driving? Well, here are your three choices:

There's the F-1 Machine, which is obviously the fastest but eats fuel at an alarming rate. Despite its speed, it's probably not the best choice. Then there's the Porsche 959, and I'm fairly certain that Capcom didn't have any kind of licence to use the Porsche name. That didn't stop them though, and, it's a decent all-rounder, as you might expect. Finally there's the Convoy, a big Optimus Prime-style lorry with a fuel tank bigger than Piers Morgan's ego but only a fraction as oily. It's probably my favourite, due both to its fuel management and its afore-mentioned resemblance to the heroic leader of the Autobots.

Car selected, the WORLD RACE 24 begins. The gameplay simple; your car stays at the bottom, the screen scrolls forward at a fair old lick, and you simply have to move left and right to avoid the various obstacles thrown at you.

Your car also has the ability to jump into the air at the touch of a button. Fair enough (maybe) in the F-1 Machine and the Porsche, but the Convoy? I have to question the sanity of the person who thought that having the hundred-ton truck bound into the air using magical fairy wings or however the fuck it jumps was a good idea. It's a stroke of luck that a complete psychopath designed the jumping truck, however, because in a similarly insane decision, the race organiser have set the race route over the most badly-maintained roads they could find, littered with chasms, floating remnants of motorways and dinosaur skeletons. Yes, it's WORLD RACE 24, brought to you by the same people who created HAND-GRENADE TENNIS and PARTIALLY-MELTED LAKE FIGURE SKATING. It's not an exaggeration to say that you spend around 50% of your time in the air. Makes you wonder why they didn't just make it a flight sim, really.

Your greatest enemy is not the other competitors, or the road conditions (I was going to make a joke about Sheffield City Council here, but that would be rather solipsistic of me, wouldn't it? Also, it probably wouldn't have been funny). Your true nemesis is the dread power of the Fuel Meter. You can see it on the screen shots, it's the green bar at the top. It constantly drains as you drive around, and you lose a hefty chunk of it if you fall into one of the many holes in the road or your car explodes, and when your fuel is empty, it's game over. So, energy / fuel is important, and you have to make sure you pick it up when you see it (in the form of petrol canisters) lying in the road or occasionally flying in the air tied to a balloon. It's not as though you could possibly forget that your car has an unquenchable thirst that must be attended to at all times, because any time your fuel drops below about a quarter full, the game shouts "You're running out of energy!" at you until you pick up some petrol. You will hear the phrase "You're running out of energy!" a lot when you play Mad Gear. In fact, you'll hear it pretty much constantly during the later stages. It might even have become the new holder of the "Most Frequently Heard Sound Effect" trophy, because not even the amount of "SHORYUKEN!" you hear when playing Street Fighter IV online can compete. It is not an award that comes with a lot of kudos.

There's really not that much more to say about Mad Gear than that, really. The gameplay is simple and it doesn't change any during the various stages. One odd thing is that your car doesn't really turn when you move it left and right; it just sort of slides around. Maybe it was just me, but it felt a little peculiar, like I wasn't really in control of what was going on. Not that it matters, because all there is to it is making sure you slide into the right positions to pickup the extra fuel and timing your jumps correctly. After nine or so stages, the game is completed, and there's a little more Engrish:

"We've made it. I am vary glad that I was with, you. I will keep this memory deep into my ram and I will never forget this. I hope to see you again."
Wait a minute, my car was some kind of goddamn sentient super-car who has just left me a touching message to tell me he will never forget the adventures we had together? Why wasn't this mentioned before!? You would think they would have made a selling point out of the fact that your car possessed some kind of artificial intelligence and possibly human emotions. I guess this means it was actually my car bleating "You're running out of energy!" at me. If I'd known sooner, I would have ripped out his voicebox.

Mad Gear, then. It's exactly the sort of simple driving game that you would expect to find in the arcades of the late 80's. It's by no means a bad game: it's certainly fast, the music is good and I really like the chunky vehicle sprites. There's just not that much to it. So, if you fancy a quick blast of arcade fun and you have a high tolerance of irritating sound effects, then give it a go.

One last thing though: pictured above is the arcade flyer for Mad Gear. Despite the fact that the game is clearly set in the future, (actually, I think it's supposed to be set in 2011, which barely qualifies as the future these days,) the flyer depicts some kind of 1950's James Dean scenario, where cool guys in leather jackets with cigarettes dangling from their lips drive about in sentient Formula 1 cars. Now that is a game I would like to play, but such a game does not exist outside my fevered imagination. And on that note of disappointment, goodbye until next time!



Apropos of nothing, here are ten excellent Megaman and Megaman X remixes!
For those of you that are using Firefox and would like to have these remixes as MP3s, then this little gizmo might be of use to you.

Hikarisy: Snake Man

My favourite stage music from Megaman 3 gets a rockin' heavy metal version, and it suits it perfectly. Hikarisy has a few other Megaman remixes on Youtube, and they're all pretty fantastic.

Onocchi: Armored Armadillo

Armored Armadillo has the best music in the whole of the Megaman X series, which is high praise indeed when you consider how good the first three MMX soundtracks are (and the rest are good too, just not as good). Another high-energy metal remix, it starts off as an excellent version of one of the more difficult MM songs to play, but then at around the 0:58 mark, more guitars are added and the whole thing goes into some kind of blissful super-rock overdrive. There's a link in the YouTube description that'll take you to Onocchi's site, where you should download all his videogame remixes because they're fantastic.

Chiptuned Rockman - Kaze Yo Tsutaete (Buster Core Meltdown mix)

It's Roll's Theme, originally from Megaman Battle and Chase and also heard in Marvel vs Capcom and Tatsunoko vs Capcom. However, it has been recreated in glorious 8-bit NES sound, and the end result (like pretty much every track on the Chiptuned Rockman album) is truly glorious. Check out the bit at 2:24 where she says "Megaman!" in her little chiptune voice: it is sound to warm even the coldest of hearts.

The Megas - Annihilation of Monsteropolis (Airman)

A lot of you have probably heard of The Megas, a band who record vocal versions of classic Megaman tunes. They are excellent. So excellent, in fact, that Capcom used some of their music in the official trailers for Megaman Universe, and praise doesn't come much higher than that. I had a very hard time choosing which one to include on this list, but I went for Airman mostly due to the lyrics in the chorus. Genius!

? - Gravity Man

Included in this list for two reasons: One, Gravity Man and his theme are both awesome and do not get enough recognition. Secondly, it's pretty much Megaman jazz, especially at between 1:20 and 1:36. Nice samples, too.

Dangerous Mezashi Cat - Megaman 3 Title Rock Remix

Megaman 3 is always the first thing I think of when it comes to the Blue Bomber, and especially the title music. Here it gets a lovely rock remixing, as is befitting the opening to such an epic game as MM3.

McVaffe - Cutman Sonata

As you may have noticed, my musical tastes run more toward the heavy side of things, but I'm certainly not immune to the charms of more gentle music. With that in mind, here is a brilliant interpretation of Cutman's theme as a haunting piano sonata. I remember listening to this when I was still in school, all those many moons ago, and it's stayed with me ever since. If you want a remix that thinks outside the box, then this is it.

Alph Lyla - Scrapping Beat (Flame Mammoth)

A bit of a cheat, this one, as it was remixed by Capcom's former in-house band Alph Lyla. That doesn't stop it being great, though, with some deepy excellent drumming and a distinctly un-Megaman jazz flavour. It might not be to all tastes, but I love it, and the album of MMX remixes it comes from is well worth tracking down.

Daveeeey - Plug Man with MMX2 Instruments

The title says it all, really. Plug Man's theme from Megaman 9, recreated using sound samples taken directly from Megaman X2. A simple idea, but one that works brilliantly and will have you longing for a new SNES-style Megaman X game instead of the rubbish recent ones. Also check out his versions of Castlevania tracks using the same idea, which I think might be even better than the Megaman ones.

? - Skull Man Guitar Arrange

And finally, one of my very favourites. This captures the essence of Skull Man's music perfectly, with the added bonus of rocking harder than a concrete rocking-horse. Short, sweet and to the point, it'll make you wish Capcom would release the older Megamans with this type of music.

And that's it for now. That lot should give you something to listen to, eh? I'm always open to people suggesting Megaman (or any game, really) remixes for me to listen to, so if you know of something you think I'd like, let me know in the comments!



It sometimes surprises people to learn that, although I most assuredly am a colossal nerd, I am also a big football fan (I mean the one where you use your feet, for any Americans that may be reading). Obviously, these days football games boil down to two things: either FIFA or Pro Evo. That didn't used to be the case though, and every manner of football sim ranging from the serious (like Striker) to the non-so-much (good ol' Sensible Soccer) and every shade inbetween. Today I'll be looking at a football game from the slightly more bizarre end of the spectrum: SNK's 1995 arcade Beautiful-Game-em-up Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory.

Starting, as seems sensible, at the most obvious place: what's going on with that name? I have no idea what a Sidekick is in relation to association football, although to me it sounds like a cynical sideways swipe at an opposing player. Give him a good Sidekicking in the first few minutes, let him know you're there, that sort of thing. The title must have been chosen specifically for the non-Japanese market, because the Japanese title is Tokuten Ou 3 - Eikoue no Michi, which translates as "Goal-Scoring King 3 - Path to the Glory". Quite why they didn't just call it Goal King or something similar, I don't know. Maybe they had come up with the Super Sidekicks name and they just couldn't bear not to use it, and to hell with anyone who might not know what the dickens they were talking about. Ever the radicals, SNK.

So, a football game. You know the basics: score more goals than the other team. As it's an arcade/Neo-Geo game, the controls are fairly simple. When attacking, you have a one button for shooting or an on-the-floor pass, one button for a long pass and one for an almost useless short pass (and I mean three-inches-ahead-of-you short). In defence, you have a button to switch players, one to slide tackle and one to thump your opponent as hard as possible. Yes, you can foul away to your heart's content, using such vicious techniques as shoulder barges, Nigel De Jong vs Xabi Alonso kicks to the chest and what appears to be E. Honda's flying headbutt. Excellent. While you can be penalised for using them, it seems almost impossible to get sent off in SSK3, to the point where I spent five whole games doing nothing but fouling, trying to get a man sent off. Nothing doing, the game said, apparently assuming that the hundreds of penalties I gave away in the process were punishment enough.

It's certainly a change from the realism of Pro Evo, I can tell you. In fact, you can play the game perfectly well using only the shoot/low pass/slide tackle button: anything more intricate is wasted on SSK3. Long, flowing sequences of pass-and-move football are out of the question, as are crossing and any long ball of any type, really. Short, simple passes and mazy runs are the way to go here. Shooting is a strange thing: normally, the shoot button performs a short-ish pass, but when you get close to goal, a "SHOOT!" marker appears above the player's head, and if you press the button in that situation he, well, shoots. Occasionally a "CHANCE!" marker appears instead, and pressing shoot here brings up a strange first-person view where you have to place a crosshair over the goal and hope a defender doesn't walk in front of it (for their own sake, mostly). The goalkeepers are superhuman in their shot-stopping ability, though, so really the only way to score is to blast it at the keeper and hope the rebound lands kindly enough for you to knock it into the open goal.
The real joy of SSK3 isn't in the gameplay, though. No, being a Japanese Neo-Geo game, it is permeated with a kind of over-the-top madness usually reserved for giant robot animes and fever dreams. This is mostly brought across with the short scenes that appear after any major incident. Obviously, scoring a goal is a major incident, and your players erupt into a technicolour orgy of giant celebrating sprites each time you score.

Yes, the guy on the right is flying into the arms of his teammate, presumably to clasp him in a passionate embrace. Although, the guy on the left appears to be dislocating his own jaw, ready to swallow his incoming teammate whole.

You can take this image one of two ways: either the goalscorer in the middle is joyously celebrating scoring a goal on the international stage, possibly marking the pinnacle of his footballing career, or he's just been informed that a drug baron has killed his family and he's fallen to his knees in a anguished scream, like the start of an '80 action movie. I prefer the latter.

Of course, someone has to suffer when a goal goes in, and here we see the opposition in despair. Due to some none-too-convincing perspective in this picture, it looks more like a giant goalkeeper arcing his body to shelter a tiny man from the sun, like some FIFA-sanctioned version of Gulliver's Travels.

It's not just goals that spark these mini-cutscenes, as we can see from the above shot, taken just after I kicked a guy so hard I wounded him. Not injured, wounded. He's being shipped home from the front lines as we speak with an honourable discharge and a shiny new medal. Although the player on the left is struggling on even after his left arm has fallen off, so maybe the wounded player should just man up.

Sometimes when a player is fouled, they will "Psyche Up", which mostly seems to make them burst into flames. He doesn't look all that psyched: he looks more like he's in agony because he's on fire. But that's not enough for some players, oh no. Sometime a regular psyche-up isn't enough...

SUPER PSYCHE UP! I can't help but feel that a psyche-up where you clench your fists isn't nearly as SUPER as one where you spontanously catch fire. Look at that face, though. He's definitely riled up about something.

Jesus Christ, look at his eyes! He's snapped!


That terrifying visage isn't the only only great thing about Super Sidekicks 3. The sounds is fantastic, too. First of all, there's the announcer / commentator, a man so infused with a love, nay, a lust for football that I'm worried his brain is going to chisel its way out of his skull and jump onto the pitch. There's a video coming up in a moment; just listen to the way he hollers the game's title. This man is a hero, and should be saluted. So, I salute you, Mr. Commentator, whoever you are!
The other bit of sound-related fun is that fact that every time you kick the ball, it makes a roaring blast of a noise that would sound more at home in Street Fighter. It certainly doesn't sound like a man kicking a football, I know that much.

Finally, there are the teams and players themselves. There are plenty of countries to play as, from footballing giants like Brazil and Holland to the much more interesting teams like Zaire and Hong Kong. Of course, you don't get any licensed players, but some players are more unlicensed than others, if you get my drift. For example, here's one of England's players:

A striker called Scherer who is in no way Geordie goal-scoring legend and dull TV pundit Alan Shearer. My personal favourite of these "homages" is Mexico's goalkeeper, who is quite clearly the infamously bizarre Jorge Campos.

How can I tell? Because Campos was famous for designing his own truly vile goalkeeper kits, which the game does a fairly good job of recreating. I say fairly good, because nothing can match up to the retina-frying horror of an actual Campos-designed kit. Don't believe me? Then take a look at this:

As a famous greasy stereotype once said, there is no emoticon for what I am feeling. Another thing I like is that fact that the many different races in the game are represented by the same sprites that have simpy been recoloured. Going back to the super-psyche-up shot, here's an example:

It does lead to some rather strange-looking combinations, like the blonde guy on the right there, but then oddness runs through this game like E. Coli through a fairground burger.

And that's Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory. Gameplay-wise, it's a good, fun, solid arcade goal-em-up, especially if played in short bursts. But it's that sense of uniquely Japanese, hot-blooded, hyper-colourful madness that gives it an extra spark and makes it something I really enjoyed playing. Maybe you'll enjoy it too, so give it a go, even if you don't like football. Hell, especially if you don't like football, as it bears little resemblance to actually, you know, playing football. So, try for THE NEXT GLORY!

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