Hey folks — Bob here, with an episode I’ve wanted to make since I started working on Retronauts back in 2011. It might be hard to believe, but the original Parappa the Rapper turns — dear god — 18 years old in 2014, so more than enough time has passed to make it just as rusty and crusty as our usual subject matter. But there’s much more to Parappa than just a single game, as you’ll see from this slightly oversized installment. Mostly, I’m using episode 17 as an opportunity to preach the virtues of Um Jammer Lammy, the unloved Parappa sequel which actually suffered from its lack of a cynical marketing campaign. Joining us for this one is Gamasutra’s Christian Nutt, a Retronauts veteran who’s just as fanatical about Parappa and Lammy as I am — so apologies if we tend to dominate the conversation. That said, please enjoy! And yes, we probably should have mentioned Gitaroo-Man at some point.
“In those oh-so optimistic ’90s, Parappa the Rapper taught an entire generation there’s no shame in playing a game about a paper-thin puppy who raps about pooping. But when the end of the decade saw a sequel about a guitar-playing lamb, our love affair with musically adept cartoon animals was over. Join Bob Mackey, Ray Barnholt, Jeremy Parish, and Gamasutra’s Christian Nutt as the Retronauts discuss the Parappa the Rapper series and get cocky, even in the face of potential rockiness.”
This episode’s musical breakdown:
9:29 – “Cubic Lovers” (PSY*S)
20:27 – Parappa the Rapper “Instructor Mooselini’s RAP”
50:34 – Um Jammer Lammy “Baby Baby!!”
1:02:01 – Um Jammer Lammy “Fright Flight!!” (Lammy/Parappa version)
1:07:20 – Parappa the Rapper 2 “Toasty Buns”
1:22:48 – Um Jammer Lammy “Casino in my Hair”
1:26:25 – Vib Ribbon “Universal Dance” (Laugh and Beats)
Yes, this week we have the counterpart to last week’s Yasumi Matsuno episode, a less game-oriented and more story/mythology-focused discussion of Matusno’s Ivalice games (Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy XII) and the Ivalice games that came after (Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, and some others not worth mentioning here). We even talk about Fortress, the Final Fantasy XII sequel that never was. This week’s topic comes to us courtesy of Jeff Tibayan.
Exciting times, friends. Hopefully you’re not sick of this topic yet… but if you are, well, take comfort in knowing that next week’s conversation will be on a very different subject.
Anyway, now all I want to do is just replay these games over and over again. The simple act of splicing in the Giza Plains theme from Final Fantasy XII made me twitch. I don’t know what it is about Matsuno’s creations, but they have a way of getting under my skin like few other games. I don’t know if that enthusiasm actually translates into the show thanks to my apparent inability to emote, though. Oh well!
Hey everyone, here’s a quick heads-up to let you know that due to interference by a monstrosity called “life,” this week’s episode will be posted a day or two late. My apologies! To make up for it, here’s the Queen song (“Ogre Battle”) I was supposed to have inserted into last week’s show:
And for fun, here’s a Twitch stream of Bob playing Matsuno’s early (debut?) adventure, Conquest of the Crystal Palace:
Retronauts backer Hugh Franck requested we record an episode focused on director Yasumi Matsuno. Coincidentally, this episode (which we scheduled ages ago) turned out to be quite timely, as Matsuno’s Kickstarter project — Unsung Story — just ended successfully a few days ago. And I couldn’t help but think of Final Fantasy XII (codirected by Matsuno) as I recently reviewed Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which presents a much smaller and frankly less compelling take on FFXII‘s open-world concept. And so, here we go, fresh from our brains to your ears:
This episode turned out to be a less-than-daunting task, as all three of us are pretty keen on at least some of Matsuno’s games — as is guest host Kat Bailey. In fact, the real challenge here was keeping the discussion short enough that our guest didn’t have to bail on us midway through to make a prior engagement.
We cover Matsuno’s career from his days at Quest (and in fact discuss the origins of Quest) through Unsung Story. But since he’s had a pretty small output, it’s easy to enumerate the games at hand: Conquest of the Crystal Palace, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy XII, MadWorld, and Crimson Shroud. See? That wasn’t so hard. Musical selections come from Final Fantasy Tactics by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, though I believe I only spliced in Sakimoto compositions (sorry, Mr. Iwata. Please understand).
As a small caveat about this episode’s recording process: Not only was this episode unfortunately hosted by me, this is also the first episode I’ve hosted remotely. The rest of the crew was back in San Francisco in the studio while I recorded from home on the East Coast. Despite this, I think it all turned out more or less seamless thanks to my snipping out all the awkward pauses and stumbling cross-talk. Thankfully, remote hosting won’t happen too often. When we ran our Kickstarter campaign, we couldn’t have predicted the need to fly me cross-country every few weeks, so it wasn’t budgeted… but we’re contemplating workarounds. In the meantime, please nerd out on this discussion, because good lord is it nerdy.
Usually if I come into a Retronauts episode with knowledge of a game nobody has heard of, it’s about some obscure Japanese PlayStation game or whatever else was under the dart I threw at my ROM list in 2002. I did not entirely expect that to happen with this week’s topic, Capcom’s Destiny of an Emperor. It was a 1990 Capcom NES release, and I knew it wasn’t an oft-metioned classic, but among the four of us on the show and topic-submitter Steven Sztuk, Steve and I were the only ones who had a memory of it. Go figure.
But that’s part of the fun, and luckily, Destiny of an Emperor is an interesting game! Last week’s guest Gary Butterfield rejoins us for this chat about the game, where I go over its basic features — it’s an RPG based on a manga based on the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” novel, and uses some very familiar old JRPG tropes that are applied, one way or another, to a game about amassing troops and fighting endless wars. It’s adorable, really, and worth checking out. Enjoy the show.
As I left the studio after recording this episode, I remarked that I always seem to do the episodes where there’s about 9,000 different examples to discuss. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment — both in trying to tackle the volume, and getting the feedback that always starts with “They forgot…” Well then, pardon me as I gorge on the history of retro game compilations.
My interest in multi-title old game packs is surprisingly strong, thanks to products like Microsoft Arcade and the original Namco Museum series (which we mention on the show, of course). A part of me enjoys seeing what companies will re-release next, though these days, I’m left wanting more bonus content; something that more clearly curates material instead of dumping it. Namco Musuem used to do this well, but now? Eh, as long as the menu works, right? Of course, as a proponent of game preservation, I can’t always expect corporate entities to go digging in the back room if it’s not going to help make money, but I still think all these gatekeepers of classic content could stand to have a little more pride in what got them here. Nevertheless, some compilations have interesting-slash-amusing stories behind them, like the Sega Smash Pack series. And then there’s just the fact that Japan’s M2 does amazing emulation work. It’s an admittedly light topic for Retronauts, but I think that’s a plus — a little meta, what with discussing the history of collections of history, but easygoing.
Our fourth chair this week is the affable Gary Butterfield from Watch Out for Fireballs, lending a reasoned voice to the discussion. He’ll be back next week for Pocket, as well. Listen, enjoy, and keep in mind that as I left the studio, I came up with a handful of other compilations I could’ve mentioned.
Finally, the unthinkable has happened: Retronauts is covering PC games! Of course, I kid—we’ve talked about plenty of PC games in the past (see my old episodes on Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle for two notable examples), but there’s no denying a lot of our subject matter is console-centric. At least, that’s what the message boards and iTunes reviews have been saying. So I guess we have backer Dan Pryboda to thank for broadening our horizons a bit with his donation-backed suggestion to spend an entire Pocket episode talking about the phenomenal BioWare RPG Baldur’s Gate. And for this one, I brought out the big guns: Jason Wilson, whose name may ring a bell if you’ve been reading games coverage for the past decade. When thinking about who to invite on as our local Dungeons & Dragons expert, Jason immediately came to mind—and after you listen to this episode, I’m sure you’ll understand why. That said, enjoy our discussion, and thanks again to both Dan and Jason for being such good friends of the show!
“In 1998, Bioware changed the face of RPGs with Baldur’s Gate, which did an amazing job of translating the complex mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons into video game form–and not just the dungeon crawly stuff. Join Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish, Ray Barnholt and Jason Wilson as they discuss one of BioWare’s best and gather their party before venturing forth.”
Hey folks, we ran into some real-life/technical problems over the weekend, so today’s episode of Retronauts Pocket will go live either tonight or Tuesday morning (Pacific Standard Time, of course). If you still crave content, feast your eyes on the video below, which is a recording of our Portland Retro Gaming Expo panel from October of last year. Even if you’ve already listened to the podcast version, now you can listen to it while watching four guys sit behind a table! Enjoy, and thanks for your patience.
Hey gang — Bob here with a brand-new episode that might be slightly polarizing. Now, I don’t expect everyone to take an interest in the Harvest Moon series, but even if you don’t appreciate the somewhat repetitive mechanics, you can at least respect the fact that Harvest Moon as a whole still exists as an anomaly in the world of video games. Instead of shooting, punching, or slicing dudes, Yasuhiro Wada’s life sim gives players prosocial goals in an uber-friendly backdrop—and the series hasn’t veered from this intent nearly two decades after its birth. Joining us for this one is Adam Fitch, who donated generously to choose a topic and sit in as a guest host—and he’s the perfect guy for the job, considering the fact that he’s worked at Natsume (Harvest Moon’s publisher) for six years. That said, if I haven’t won you over with this preamble, please give this installment a try—as with Ray’s amazing wrestling episode, it could end up surprising you.
“For over 15 years, the Harvest Moon series has been teaching sickly indoor kids the virtues of tilling the land, petting the chickens, and having low-wage serfs do most of the dirty work. Join Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish, Ray Barnholt, and special guest backer Adam Fitch as the Retronauts explore this prolific farming sim series, and maybe — just maybe — raise each other’s affection levels in the process.”
This episode’s musical breakdown:
21:24 – Harvest Moon “Spring” (Tsuyoshi Tanaka)
34:34 – Harvest Moon 64 “Fall” (Tsuyoshi Tanaka)
44:19 – Harvest Moon: Back to Nature “Summer” (Miyuki Homareda)
50:19 – Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland “Summer”
56:58 – Harvest Moon: Back to Nature “Winter” (Miyuki Homareda)
1:05:45 – Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life “Home Town Song”
1:16:41 – Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life “Adult Period”
1:35:52 – Harvest Moon: Back to Nature “Ending” (Miyuki Homareda)
Apologies, citizens, as we appear to have taken our remit as “retronauts” a little too seriously this time around and set the Wayback Machine so far that we don’t even really talk about video games. Instead, in another “Retronauts roots” episode, we talk about the precursors of video games — the various electromechanical amusements that established arcades as an entity before the idea of using room-sized computers to control the movement of a dot around a tiny phosphor screen ever existed. Think of this as the Silmarillion to episode 13‘s Lord of the Rings.
As such, the conversation is a bit more dry than would be ideal. Whereas the previous episode featured us talking passionately and at length about things with which we had personal experience in our formative years, the concept of a pre-video arcade exists strictly in a museum sense for us. Because we’re not 60 years old, and therefore can’t speak about these things with the sort of intimate familiarity with which we went delved into classic video arcade games. Still, there’s some learnin’ to be had.
And my apologies if the theme sounds a little weird. I was trying to go for a cracklin’ 78rpm sound, as if “His Master’s Voice” was secretly playing Anamanaguchi, but I’m not sure it quite worked out. Oh well! Put on your carny jacket and bark at passersby as you listen to us poke and prod at video game prehistory.
Incidentally, this episode marks the halfway point of our Kickstarter-funded podcast journey. Crazy.
It’s the most retro Retronauts ever as we look at the roots of video games in the form of pre-video arcade games. Ski-ball! Kinetoscopes! Electromechanical target galleries! Even WE aren’t this old. Sam Claiborn joins Jeremy, Ray, and Bob.