Saturday, October 30, 2021

赤い刀 (Akai Katana) [Arcade]

Long time no see, eh?

It's no secret that CAVE is one of my favorite developers in all of gaming history. CAVE's name is practically synonymous with bullet hell/danmaku (Touhou fans don't @ me); after all, most players would cite their flagship DoDonPachi as the first true bullet hell game. Their time developing the best-of-the-best shoot-'em-ups sadly came to an end in 2012, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. Their last two original releases were DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou in 2012, and Akai Katana in 2010.

'Presented by CAVE!'

赤い刀 (Akai Katana) is a horizontal bullet hell shmup released by CAVE on August 20th, 2010, and is their fourth foray into wacky horizontal land (after Progear, Deathsmiles, and Deathsmiles II). Making a horizontal shmup is a completely different beast from a vertical one, but CAVE never disappoints with their excellence like the previous 3.

I swear the HIT counter wasn't intentional

The story of the game takes place in the Taishou era, the growth of democracy and industrial expansion in Japan starting in the early 1910s. A new energy source called Guiding Ore is discovered which is a mystical ore that is a flawless substitute for coal. It can be tempered into a blade known as a Guiding Katana that would empower certain soldiers with unique psychic abilities, and would empower those who killed someone with it with immense power and turn blood-red. Emperor Basho used the power of these katanas and his elite battalion of blade users (the Ten Suns) to grow his nation. A group of rebels grew in resistance to Emperor Basho's conquest, being led by his son Kikyou. This group sacrificed themselves to form their own Blood Katanas wielded by the remaining pilots to fight against the Empire. Pretty impressive story for a CAVE game!

The control layout is a standard 4-button layout (with two selectable control styles): fire (hold for laser), bomb, autofire, and Phantom Mode. You also pick between one of three characters and their associated Guardian: Tsubaki and Sumire, Botan and Kikyou, or Shion and Suzuran. The characters are like the ship types from DoDonPachi, adjusting the shot pattern and options.

But tpc, we're here for the scoring! Alright, alright... The point to the scoring system is all about Phantom Mode.

We're also here for ninjas summoning trains that fire hot pink bullets

While not using the laser, the ship is put into Defense Mode, which is kind of like using autofire in DoDonPachi, making the options weaker but the ship stronger and more maneuverable. In addition, any energy drops will not be sucked in automatically. While in Phantom Mode, the ship will be protected by the Guardian Wall, which blocks everything: bullets, lasers, and anything else. However, enemy ships will launch suicide bullets when killed in this mode. When ending Phantom Mode, bullets will be blown back and resume motion after a few seconds.

Using the laser will instead put the ship into Attack Mode, which does the opposite: the ship is weaker and moves slower and more precise but the options become stronger. Enemies will drop pickups when the option is close to them, and all pickups will vacuum onto the player (you can't pick up items until you enter Defense Mode however). Phantom Attack mode is also not hurt by lasers, but will be pushed around by them (normally they do a few ticks of damage and a few hits will kill you). While in Phantom Mode, the Phantom fires the Guardian Laser, which will cancel bullets it contacts and can even chain bullet cancels. Attack Mode comes with a large risk in Phantom Mode: getting hit once will cancel Phantom Mode and you will lose gold pickups you amassed during it.

This pattern is pretty evil IMO. The second boss (Shuumeigiku) is where the game EXTREMELY ramps up the difficulty

Akai Katana has an interesting variation on grazing; energy and gold items start out as small which makes them very weak. While being in Fighter (non-Phantom) and Attack mode, the energy orbs will orbit the player and having these pass through bullets will level them up into medium and large size orbs. For gold pickups, they will automatically level up while in Phantom Mode (they also grow by grazing). Pickups will only last a short time before disappearing, so pick them up fast!

I ran out of screenshots from the original arcade version because I just wanted to play Shin instead

The score system is both incredibly simple and complex (get energy, phantom mode, get gold, win), and while it is WAY more forgiving than DoDonPachi's chaining, it is no less demanding. In fact, bombs are MUCH less punishing than in CAVE's other games, as it doesn't even reduce the HIT counter in this game (you also get an autobomb on your last life). Like most CAVE games, there is the true final boss, but the requirements for meeting it are very easy, just finish Stage 6 without dying. It is the same boss as the normal Stage 7 but much more difficult (and nets you the good ending instead of the bad one). There's no second loop like classic CAVE games. Although the requirements are easier, the boss is by no means easier. I actually find it to be among the most difficult TLBs in all of their games.

I'm remaining purposely vague with the screenshots because I want you to play this and see the setpieces for yourself. It's also hard to screenshot while playing the game lol

The composer for the game is not Manabu Namiki as expected from CAVE, but instead Ryu Umemoto, and this is one of the last games he ever worked on prior to him passing away in 2011. It is an absolutely wonderful mixture of rock, electro, and traditional Japanese music and is easily my favorite CAVE OST, all culminating in one of my favorite final boss themes in all of gaming, Setsuna.

'Akai Katana Shin Official Design Works'

The artwork for the game is similarly gorgeous, especially if you love the concept of giant ninjas summoning battleships and fighter planes and everything. The menus are hilariously aggressively Japanese, with everything being written in stylized kanji. It is, I think, CAVE's only game to have its own separate artbook and it absolutely deserves it. The characters and bosses are all impeccable, and the plane and ship designs impressively detailed. The original arcade release sadly can't really handle the great artwork due to the limitations of the CAVE CV-1000D board, but the various rereleases really show just how well-crafted it all is.

This is the FIRST boss (Hiiragi), mind you. The first impressions don't disappoint.

Speaking of rereleases, the game was quickly ported to the Xbox 360, which amazingly enough got a worldwide release. Along with an arranged soundtrack (similarly great, this time featuring a real guitar!), high-resolution graphics, replays, an online leaderboard, it also featured 3 gameplay modes, similar to the BLACK LABEL's we've come to expect from CAVE. Origin is a direct port of the arcade game, and Climax is a slight modification of it to support 16:9 resolutions along with removing the 256-item limit in the normal game, alongside other changes.

This is a completely normal screenshot in Shin mode

Slash (or Shin in Japan) however is the real remix mode. Scoring has been completely reworked. Now, killing enemies with the laser will cause energy drops while killing them with autofire will cause them to drop Steel Orbs, with proximity determining how many for both of them. Collecting Steel Orbs will have them float around the ship, and will be launched when entering Phantom Attack mode (which will cancel bullets and increase the chain). Steel Orbs hitting an enemy will cause them to drop Katanas, which will float around the ship. Enemies killed now will also explode into suicide bullets, which set up for the huge cancels. The katanas can be angled (except by a Type-1 ship) and fired by exiting Phantom Mode, which will launch them across the screen. Any bullets or enemies they hit will be cancelled and drop HUGE gold items which will cause explosive score results. There are other changes too: Phantom Defense mode is no longer invincible, and taking a hit in Phantom Mode now lowers the gauge instead of instantly kicking you out of it. The original game is fun, but Shin is that completely cracked-out CAVE style that I love so much, so I have put FAR more time into Shin mode than the original arcade version. Shin mode was later ported to Taito's NESiCAxLive arcade digital distribution platform in 2012 as a standalone release, and features the high-resolution graphics as it now runs on the Taito Type X2 board.

Don't mind me, just playing on my totally legitimate NESiCA board I have at home

Akai Katana is easily one of CAVE's finest releases, with gorgeous art, beautiful music, and a deep and complex scoring system in every mode. I wasn't very sure about it at first, but it's quickly grown to become probably my favorite CAVE game now (narrowly surpassing DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu Black Label). It's very accessible to newcomer players who can use its mechanics for survival, and brutally difficult for those wishing to push the score system to the limit.

The game emulates very well in MAME, and as you can tell, there are ways to run the NESiCAxLive version pretty easily. CAVE and exA-Arcadia have also announced an arcade-exclusive rerelease on the exA-Arcadia platform set to announce in Winter 2021 (which is also a worldwide release... if you happen to be one of the lucky few who owns an exA-Arcadia).

 Hey CAVE, you should also port it (and all your other games) to PC. I'd buy all of them ;)

Friday, July 16, 2021

Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart [PC]

Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart is a Sonic fangame kart racer released by Kart Krew on Nov 17, 2018, based on the Sonic Robo Blast 2 (and hence DOOM) engine. Sonic Robo Blast 2 is a well-known 3D Sonic fangame that aims to capture the feel of the 2D Sonics in 3D. So naturally, people decided that it obviously needed a kart racer based off of it. And you should play it.

Are you really surprised that the first stage is Green Hills Zone? Taokaka by Deercat

I was introduced to this game by a friend of mine who hung around the student union at my university (the typical hang-out spot for FGC heads like me) who happened to be one of the devs on the project. It instantly became a huge hit for us and became a mainstay game that we still play occasionally, and for good reason. It's no secret that I've played a STUPID amount of Mario Kart Wii, and this game easily dethrones it as my favorite kart racer.

This pack includes DIC Mario who uses all the lines from the show (and whose character select portrait is the infamous 'Chinese cowboy' stomach ulcer pose). Mario & Luigi by mitsame

It's essentially your typical Mario Kart-like, except probably the highest-quality one out there. Controls are simple, with accelerate, brake, drift, and throw item. The drift functions like Mario Kart Wii and onward drift (no destroying your DS!) with 3 power levels, except that you are required to hold into the turn to gain sparks. The items are your typical Mario Kart items, but with a few twists (they're also way cooler looking), especially with the Self-Propelled Bomb (a.k.a. Blue Shell) allowing you to outrun it as long as you're racing perfectly. Rocket Sneakers (Golden Mushroom) run on a meter, so they require careful timing to get the most out of them as opposed to wildly mashing the item button. Hilariously, Bananas come in x1, x3, and x10 variants. Holding items behind you is balanced in this game by having you slow down after a bit, so they're not just cheap blocks against everything for free.

CHAO IN SPACE. Twinkle Cart also does what later Mario Karts started doing, where instead of 3 laps they would split tracks into 3 sections. Glover by Udgey

The controls are a bit more slide-y than Mario Kart, but in a good way, more like Double Dash's controls but actually good. Wii feels stiff and a bit too perfect in many ways, and Double Dash has you uncontrollably slide on anything other than 50CC, but this game strikes a very good in-between in general. If you prefer either, you can learn more towards one side via your character choice. You don't have the crazy air drifting control you have in those games either, which helps as the tracks have a lot of jumps and big air sections for spectacle.

I included this because Ai no Supreme! has been in my head nonstop since the Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid S premiere. Lucoa by ThePinkGalaxy

There's a Battle mode as well, but honestly I haven't played it much because the racing is just so god damn fun that no one votes for it in multiplayer! Players out in Battle mode can come back in by taking out another player, and can drop item boxes that give powered up items. It's fun, but racing has always been more fun in these types of games.

DAYTONAAAAAAAAAAAA! Blitztank by Hexioum

The characters in the game are balanced by two stats: speed and weight. Speed naturally gives you a higher top speed, but impacts your acceleration in turn. Higher weight reduces your drift control, but allows you to bump players a la Mario Kart. Both stats alter how quickly you gain drift sparks. All of these factors are neatly laid out in a graph on the character select screen. Just for funzies (and differentiating in multiplayer), you can change your character's color from a massive selection.

If you think Excalibur Sonic isn't cool: congratulations on being dead wrong. Excalibur Sonic by ThePinkGalaxy

The courses, frankly, are gorgeous. They are immensely detailed; I noticed a ton of little things while taking screenshots for this article that I didn't even know about! They're colorful, inventive, and just plain fun to drive on. A lot of them are based on Sonic or other Sega properties (there's a Daytona and Persona map in the base set), and they all play great music from various games. Speaking of the music, although most of it are tracks from other games (a surprising amount of which not being Sega!), the other music in the game is excellent as well.

They're all animated too! Yuzuriha by Chengi

Of course, being in the DOOM engine means that the game is immensely customizable. In addition to new tracks, you can add a whole host of new characters! Some of these are included in the game (in bonuschars.kart, they're all from other Sega franchises) while you can freely download and add mod characters from the forums. There's WAY TOO MANY high quality characters on there; even the meme characters are usually good quality. There's a limit of 128 addons loaded, which you will easily hit in no time. They'll also automatically download when you connect to a server that has them. They're required to fit the main game's balance system unless they add custom scripts so don't worry, they won't suddenly be broken.

Default characters, Bonus characters, and my current modpack when I took these screenshots (which literally changed by the time I wrote this article an hour later)

There's no single player content in the game aside from Time Attack (with player and staff ghosts), so the only content you can really play is splitscreen or online multiplayer. There's no CPU players yet so that's about the best you can do. Racing both offline and online will help you unlock more courses. There's plenty of servers running, and it's not hard to run your own (I have a lot of difficulties with it for whatever reason but apparently that's just me) and get a few friends to play along with you. The game supports up to 16 players with 4 on a single machine (which can play online too!). I've never had a single issue with the online play, it runs incredibly well as long as you don't have terrible ping.

A surprisingly not-overbearing amount of Touhou mods. Kochiya Sanae by polnyanski

The game perfectly captures that Sonic feel and charm while not forgetting to be something of its own, a trap that a lot of other games fall into. If anyone asks me for freeware recommendations, this is easily at the top of my list every time. It's easily the most fun I've ever had playing a kart racer ever.

It took me this long to put a meme character in (unless you want to count Blitztank). Donkey Kong DOS by MechaDeka

You can get the game from the SRB2 message boards here. You can find the forum hub for addons in a nearby place here. (I recommend picking up the Moe Mansion mod in 'Custom Builds')

Friday, July 2, 2021

Fire Point [PC]

The title screen is a great representation of what can happen in the actual game.

Fire Point is a freeware puzzle-platformer by Cesque and Aeron released in 2013 about the perils of being a firefighter in a world filled with insane pyromaniacs and the worst fire safety imaginable.

This game writes its own snarky captions!

You play as an unnamed firefighter trying to save people (and cats) from burning buildings and put out the flames in them. From the start of the level in your fire engine, you're equipped with a fire hose, which is very powerful but has a limited range due to the hose, and a ladder. There are a few items scattered among the levels: extra ladders, fire extinguishers, and fire axes. They're all used for puzzle-solving, either getting to new heights due to high windows or broken stairs, putting out flames, or breaking breakable doors down. You need to save a certain amount of people and escape yourself in order to clear the level. The fire slowly spreads on a fixed timer in the upper-left corner, and will burn anyone who touches it, including yourself.

The game features 12 levels (plus a secret bonus level!) with a nice variety of puzzle-solving and tight platforming, being probably an hour total for the main game. Practically no level plays quite the same, especially with the hectic final level. You're not required to save everyone on every level, but it is doable and is usually faster anyway than waiting for the flames to slowly burn their way through. The controls are satisfactory, although trying to place ladders and throw people can be a little finnicky. You can only throw people when there's a certain amount of room in front and above you, and you never have enough room when you actually want to throw them through doors and windows and the throw distance is slightly too long to throw them into some gaps in the floor. Ladders flip around and land at whatever angle they end up resting at when falling, but you throw the ladder slightly in front of you instead of where you are. Climbing the stairs and ladders at least work better than you expect it to. It really only gets to be a problem on the bonus level which requires some insanely tight throws. The rest of the levels' puzzles are at least okay, although unless you're going for best time you can largely ignore them.

You will learn to hate the guys who automatically run back and forth like the guy on the right.

They're not particularly difficult puzzles nor is the platforming very difficult (sans the bonus level), but trying to save everyone can definitely get a bit tricky at times until you learn an actual route. There's a lot of ways to approach the levels, either being cautious and meticulously taking out all the flames, or going gung-ho grabbing and tossing people like everyone's favorite firefighter with a reckless disregard for life. I do have a small complaint with this though; one of the game mechanics is that people are supposed to escape if there is an open ground-floor escape route (one of the NPCs outright says it) but this almost never works in most of the levels, nor is it used. It's only really frustrating on the bonus level which requires a very awkward solution due to it, but it sure would be nice on the other levels too. The game keeps track of your clear times so you can try to beat your best on each level.

The graphics are charmingly simple; they do their job but they're nothing special. The music (all by Aeron) however, is absolutely fantastic. It screams freeware, but in a good way (my personal favorite being 'Puncher'). It's not reuploaded anywhere, but all the files are there in the game's folder readily available.

Of course, the absolutely absurd writing and story is great too. All the fires are started in the most ridiculous manners possible by people with less than zero knowledge of fire safety, megalomaniacal pyromaniacs, and sometimes just by physically impossible mechanisms too.

In all, I highly recommend anyone play through it; it's a very high-quality and fun game! The original download for the game is missing, so I took the liberty of hosting it on the Internet Archive.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Chesskoban [Browser]

Chesskoban is a Sokoban-style puzzle game demo released by TCHOW in 2013 as part of a puzzle hunt series. As the name suggests, it mixes Chess mechanics with sokoban puzzles.

This is probably the first puzzle that makes you go "Huh... Okay..."

If you don't know what sokoban (倉庫番) is, it's a style of puzzle created by Hiroyuki Imabayashi in 1981 in which a character moves boxes around a warehouse. Boxes can be pushed one block at a time in the direction the player moves, and cannot be pulled. The goal is the get all the boxes in the level to set points. On its own, it's pretty boring. Many levels can take WAAAAAAY too long to complete, and a lack of undo makes it an exercise in torture more than puzzle-solving.

This one is super clever.

However, it's pretty much the archetypal puzzle game template. 'Sokoban with a twist' describes probably at least 30% of freeware puzzle games, especially ones made in Puzzlescript. There's a reason it's a huge meme in the Mystery community; the concept is incredibly overplayed and it's fairly difficult to make a truly good sokoban.

But forget all that; this game is fantastic.

I LOVE super compact puzzles like this, they're great for dummies like me because of the low entropy.

Instead of controlling a player character, you pick a chess piece to move. It moves corresponding to the usual chess rules, and if it hits a box where it will land, it pushes it by the same manner in which it moved. Thus, if a rook 3 spaces away hits a box, it will move by 3 spaces in the same direction. This movement can pass boxes, pieces, and even completely open gaps. Like chess, pieces can also be opposing colors which allows them to capture each other to free space on the board. They don't alternate turns like normal chess, but that idea would probably cause more annoyance than clever puzzles. And of course, it has an undo (and reset) button, like all good puzzle games.

Prime example of the difference from typical sokoban: this box would be a 'dead box' in normal sokoban (there would be no way to move it in a meaningful way) but the diagonal movement allows you to push it into a usable position.

The puzzles are nice and inventive, alternating between a nice introduction of mechanics and utilization of them. There is one branch in the route which contains 2 extra levels for whatever reason, comprising 20 in total.  The entire demo takes between 15 and 40 minutes to complete, nice and short and sweet. All of the puzzles have elegant solutions and allow for quite a bit of freedom in most of them. They're not too hard although some of them definitely require some forward thinking.

Yes, really.

There was a full version in development as well as a mobile release, but it seems it hasn't come to fruition yet. Apparently there was hope for a demo release in October 2020, but as of writing this it's still nowhere to be seen. You can play this demo on TCHOW's website.

Monday, June 14, 2021

クロススウォード II (Crossed Swords II) [Neo Geo CD]

This was a title that came up through the Speedrun Every System Project, a project I'm undertaking where I roll a random system, pick a game, and speedrun it for every system that is feasible. Normally, with something like that, you're bound to draw a lot of trash (my rule is the game has to be original to that system) and you sincerely doubt whether or not you'll find any obscure system that has anything good on it. And then of course, as always, SNK comes to the rescue...

It has an arcade-style attract mode (despite being home-exclusive), like all good games

Crossed Swords II is an odd-little beat 'em up released by ADK Corporation on May 2, 1995 as the sequel to their arcade hit Crossed Swords (released in 1991). It is one of the very few Neo Geo CD exclusive titles; there's some others, like Zintrick, Ironclad (though that has modern ports now), Neo Geo CD Special, and ADK World, and a few other miscellaneous ports that despite other websites listing them I hesitate to call exclusive.

For those not familiar with its predecessor, the sequel is very similar in many ways. Instead of your typical belt-scroller, these games are played from an over-the-shoulder perspective with your character being represented by a wireframe. They operate on a two-plane system, with only enemies in the front being able to be hit by your weapon (enemies in the back can be hit by other means, but it's far and few between). There are desperation moves, which are very powerful or have special effects but cost you health to use. You also hold a limited number of magic spells, which are typically very powerful.


The combat is like no other, playing more like a fighting game than what you'd expect from a beat 'em up. By holding up or down, the player will block high or low. Correspondingly, each physical attack in the game is either a high or a low. By blocking correctly, the enemy will be stunned for a bit which makes them vulnerable to an attack. Of course, all this logic applies to you as well: enemies can block your attacks and counter! As well, you can't block non-physical attacks, like wizards zapping you with their kama. Each enemy has a clearly visible tell for what they're going to do, so it's a very tight test of reaction for most of them, but it's incredibly satisfying and rewarding to pull off a successful guard with a huge CLINK!

A shining example of the wonderful boss designs and beautiful spritework (this is a redesign of the first boss from the first game too!)

The story is exactly what you'd expect: In the great land of Belkana, the Demon Warlord Nausizz arose and sent his hordes of creatures to destroy the land. It's so predictable that what I wrote is actually a plot summary for both games! But of course, we're not here to play beat 'em ups for the story, now, are we? Don't worry about the game being all in Japanese; despite being a Japan-exclusive release, all the text is in English if played on an English Neo Geo CD, so this title is wonderfully import-friendly (as long as you shell out the cash for a Neo Geo CD in the first place)!

Our 3 unnamed heroes, complete with the obligatory ninja

Like the predecessor, this one introduces RPG mechanics: experience points can increase your level which slightly increases your damage output and max health, and you can spend gold collected at the end of an act to buy weapon upgrades, magic and health refills, level-ups, and new magic attacks. This one also expands upon its predecessor by adding a new 'movement' button: pressing left/right+B will allow for a short range dash, and pressing B in place will allow you to jump. The movement is incredibly fluid and makes the game control amazingly, allowing a new dimension to the already great combat. There's also 3 playable characters unlike the predecessor's 1, all with their own inherent strengths and weaknesses: the knight is slow but has excellent attack and defense, the ninja is well-balanced but lacks magic, the mage is speedy and has great magic ability but lacks damage. They're all welcome changes: the first game is fun, but simplistic.

The wonderful shopkeeper. Where does she get all this stuff from?

There's some slight balance issues. I originally played through the game with the ninja because he looked the coolest, but when learning to speedrun this game I noticed the only previous runner used the mage. It turns out the mage's starting spell (the wave, as I call it) is completely broken and practically obliterates every boss up until about stage 5 or 6. I'm not talking about it just making the fights a bit easier, I mean it will literally stun-lock them to death if it even touches them. Later bosses will break the spell after getting hit once or twice. After that, there's one purchase-able spell that puts that one to shame, a full screen meteor shower that hits both rows, can strike enemies multiple times for huge damage, and cannot be broken. Pail Heads in particular have a long stun animation, which means you can stun-lock them with repeated jump attacks. Other than that it's actually fairly well-balanced and you'll feel yourself actually getting better at the game and the playstyle of the character you chose.

In the wise words of Chuggaaconroy, "Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!"

The first game was praised for its audiovisual presentation, and its sequel is no slouch either. The sprites are HUGE, very expressive and well-animated. The enemy designs are a perfect mix of your typical fantasy designs (and obligatory ninjas) with some oddballs here and there. There are of course a few recolors, but the sprites are so well-done I honestly don't care. The sound effects are great (the massive CLINK! upon a successful block never gets old...), although the few music tracks there are are just kind of... there. They're okay, but nothing special. The main jingle is pretty nice, but it gets grating to hear on every loading screen in the game.

My personal favorite boss, the Master Samurai, who has one of the coolest boss intros of all-time

The game emulates flawlessly in MAME. If you're averse to trying to get Neo Geo CD emulation to work (my tip: load empty, then insert the CD from file manager), there is a cartridge hack to essentially turn this into a normal MVS/AES game released by Neobitz in 2015 (note to any arcade operators reading this, if you put this game in I will come to your arcade). I highly recommend it even just for a neat one-off. It's an amazingly fun game, and I can only assume even more fun in co-op! (update: I can confirm it is even more fun in co-op) If you'd like to see a speedrun, I ran this in the wonderful event Power Up With Pride 2021 (it was a PB too!).

Friday, April 2, 2021

A Little About Kusogrande

Because Brossentia said I could.

Kusogrande is an annual mystery kusoge tournament run by Brossentia and his ragtag bunch of misfits, and it's the wildest ride you've ever been on. Like all good wild rides, you must adhere to all safety warnings, you may end up mildly out of breath, and must be at least 51" tall to ride.

The inaugural game of Kuso6. Believe it or not, this won a GOTY award in a Korean magazine.

If you don't know what the term kusoge/kuso-game means, I could just give a simple definition, but instead let me give you a good explanation of what it means! Here is a short history of some games I have played in this tournament:

  • Bravoman [TG16] (port of an obscenely-hard arcade platformer)
  • Slam City with Scottie Pippen [CD32X] (an FMV basketball game with the most hilarious writing I have ever seen)
  • 4 PAK All-Action [SMS] (a Korean-developed Australian-exclusive Master System 4-in-1 pirate cart, featuring a whopping 1 original game)
  • Sonic Jam 6 [GEN] (a bootleg port of Super Mario Bros. with the worst controls you've ever seen)
  • Camp California [TG16] (a licensed Beach Boys platformer)
(The actual meaning is that クソゲー (kusoge) in Japanese literally translates to 'shit game', but it's a little more complex than that)

Look Ma, I'm on TV!

The tournament is split into the initial group stage, and then a bracket stage. The top 32 players point-wise in the group stage are seeded and placed into a head-to-head bracket.

During the group stage, you get put into a match with 3 other people along with your irredeemably evil lovely Game Master (GM), who will seal your fate by providing you with a game. After a quick check to make sure players have no experience with the game, you're given a bit of direction of how the game controls (usually a scan from the manual if available).

One hour. Go.

You will never see a Watara Supervision game in any other event.

Players are placed according to how much progress is made in this 1 hour timespan. All the matches are streamed through Brossentia's Twitch channel, so it's also a great spectator event!

Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of comparisons between Kusogrande and SRL's Mystery Tournament due to the mystery nature and the speedrunning aspect to it (and being run by a ragtag bunch of misfits). There's a few key differences that make Kusogrande so unique and special though.

This is actually a relatively normal sight on Brossentia's stream. I would say a key difference between Kusogrande and MT is that you wouldn't see anything like this on an MT restream but we have equally stupid stuff.

First, the 1 hour time limit is your saving grace. Let's face it, sometimes you just draw an awful game in MT (SNES platformers!!!), and you are stuck with playing it until you finish the goal, which although is designed to take a short amount of time, doesn't always end up the case. In Kuso, it's a hard 1 hour no matter the quality or length of the game. Trying to put up with an awful game in Kuso is much more doable than in MT.

Second, because of the time limit, there are no hard goals in Kusogrande. You're always working towards something in this 1 hour except in the most extreme examples of some matches. It gives you some determination to keep going: if you're going up against a top-tier MT competitor and hit a big wall, it's a big hit to your psyche! You'll never experience the crushing defeat of seeing Maurice someone .done about 20 minutes before you would.

Third, because of the game choice, mistakes mean you're down but never out. Hard game overs are common, with a lot of jank involved. You never know when your next run could be a miracle and you could sweep the win!

Fourth, the group aspect makes it way more light-hearted; you get an entire hour of setup block to laugh and joke around with your fellow competitors.

And last but not least, the games are all bad*!

*the games are not always bad per se (and there's always varying degrees of badness), but sometimes things are done to make them bad: I played High Seas Havoc [GEN] which is a pretty good platformer, except we were forced onto the hardest difficulty which meant everything was a 1-hit-kill. Kuso has a pretty flexible definition like that.

Not just Athena, Commodore Athena. Please look up the title screen for this version.

You would think a setting like this would leave a lot left up to luck, and amazingly you would be completely wrong. People consistently place high and win events like this, notably event winners AND4H (his middle name is 'winning mystery events'), NPC, and SomeGirl (she is also way too good at everything). There's a massive overlap of people who do well at MT and people who do well at Kuso.

The very first Kusogrande match was broadcast 6 years ago on Sunday August 29th, 2015, featuring Back to the Future [NES] played by SuperNerdMiles and kakusho, and it's still running strong to this day, currently running Kusogrande 6! I've been a regular attender since Kuso 3, and although I have horribly crash and burned every single time (my first match involved me softlocking the game 7 times on the second level) and have yet to even make it out of groups, it's been a blast! Occasionally, you even find games you like (I ended up speedrunning 4 PAK All-Action and had a lot of fun)! The chat is very fun and nice too; it feels less like a competitive event and more like a co-operative experience really!

This game is actually great. 'Great but jank' is standard kuso fare.

It's an event that everyone should watch a match in motion at least once. It's incredibly entertaining, no doubt due to the amazing efforts of everyone involved: Brossentia, the GMs, and the competitors, chat, and everyone else involved with the organization of the event. You will not regret it.

Most importantly, I implore you all to look at the hot new Kusogrande website, It's glorious. The official Kusogrande Twitter account can be found here, which will tweet about upcoming matches. You can also check out Brossentia and corndan's gaming variety show 'Don't Make Us Bored!' Tuesday nights on Brossentia's channel.