Monday, July 5, 2021

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Friday, July 2, 2021

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Monday, June 28, 2021

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Saturday, June 12, 2021

LIVE(ish) Round-By-Round Coverage of UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori 2!

Worried about missing out on the latest and greatest MMA PPV spectacular? Don’t fret, homeys … our patented, award-winning coverage is going to keep you in the loop ALL NIGHT LONG



Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Greatest Matches of All-Time: Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi vs. Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue (June 09, 1995)

The Four Heavenly Pillars put on a STRONG candidate for the single greatest tag team match EVER wrestled



Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Monday, June 7, 2021

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

VHS Review: Fatal Addiction: Ted Bundy's Final Interview (1989)

In which James Dobson of Focus on the Family rails against pornography for an hour and actually plays public relations specialist for a guy who horrifically murdered more than two dozen women


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

NES Review: Zen The Intergalactic Ninja (1993)

Revisiting a somewhat obscure licensed Konami game from WAY late into the Nintendo Entertainment System life cycle


By: Jimbo X

JimboXAmerican@gmail.com

@Jimbo_American


By 1993, the NES was some seriously outdated hardware. By then, the Super Nintendo had been on shelves for about two years and the Genesis had been on the market for about four — not only was 16-bit gaming firmly entrenched in the consumer culture, it was practically at its zenith.


Still, about 50 games were nonetheless released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, the bulk of them some very unorthodox and obscure licensed titles. While there were certainly quite a few legitimately great games that came out on the NES in ‘93 — Kirby’s Adventure, Fire ‘N Ice, Bomberman II, etc. — most of the software was pretty ho-hum, if not utterly unremarkable. Last Action Hero? Kid Klown in Night Mayor World? Wayne’s World? No thanks, I’d rather eat my own shit, thank you very much. 


That in mind, consider Zen: The Intergalactic Ninja to be somewhere in between the unironically fantastic ‘93 NES offerings like Bubble Bobble Part 2 and DuckTales 2 and the really, really turd-tastic ones like Color A Dinosaur and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. By no means is it a great game by any stretch, but at least it has plenty of character, some downright tremendous audio and graphics and gameplay that at least tried to mix things up a tad from the usual action platformer product on the console. It’s a game with a LOT of problems, but I suppose the good that game has going for it outweighs the bad — albeit, just barely, in some cases.


Right off the bat, Zen: The Intergalactic Ninja HAS to be a strong candidate for most obscure licensed game released for the NES in North America, and considering its competition includes a game starring the fuckin’ Noid from Domino’s Pizza, that’s saying something. Zen was a property so obscure it didn’t even HAVE the customary cartoon tie-in to cross-pimp the video game. Rather, this and a couple of action figures that were available at Toys R Us for about five minutes back in the early ‘90s and represents the extent of the Zen multimedia putsch — clearly, this thing wasn’t cut out to be the next Captain Planet, or even the next Toxic Crusaders, for that matter.


Don’t even ask me to try to explain who and what the fuck Zen is supposed to be. All I can tell you is that he’s this oddball comic book superhero that’s basically a ripoff of the Silver Surfer except he knows mind control kung-fu or some such nonsense. Of course, when Archie Comics got a hold of the property they quickly retooled Zen into an ecologically-conscious character for the kiddoes, even though the whole green power cartoon hero shtick was already seen as painfully passe.


Of course, all of that is pretty much water under the bridge, since the Zen I.P.  ended up in the hands of Konami, who as evident by the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games on the NES, knew how to do licensed games right. And while it would’ve been very easy to simply recast Zen into a TMNT-like brawler, the developer instead thought outside the box — ultimately, perhaps a little bit too far outside the box.


The game, structurally, takes the Mega Man approach, allowing players to pick which level they want to start with. Interestingly, the game mechanics from stage to stage are totally different, which, if nothing else, makes the title stand out from all of the other by-the-numbers action platformers on the NES. Alas, in this case “difference” ain’t exactly synonymous with “good” — but eh, we’ll hopscotch over that crocodile-filled moat when we get to her.


Let’s quickly do an overview of each stage, why don’t we?


THE TOXIC FACTORY


Now this is an interesting layout, essentially a fusion isometric action-platformer cum beat-em-up. So think of it as a cross between Zaxxon and Battletoads — and yep, it’s EVERY BIT as hard as it sounds. The jumping mechanic takes a LOT of time to get down, since you have to use your character’s shadow as a baseline for how far or short you actually have to leap. And since almost all of the platforms are either moving spastically or goddamn conveyor belts, be prepared to yell at your screen OFTEN on this one. Eventually you get to a segment where you run up this one red ledge, periodically having to do battle with electric nets that take a million billion hits to destroy while this massive block keeps falling out of the sky. Which, by the way, is pretty much unavoidable. The final boss fight in this stage is against this one yellow anteater bodybuilder motherfucker, who looks JUST like the kind of B-tier TMNT villain you’d expect to emerge from the show’s latter seasons. Oddly enough, this is probably the EASIEST part of the entire level, since all you have to do is simply avoid the smoke clouds that pop up every time he teleports across the screen and start thwacking like there’s no tomorrow.


Bonus Stage: Time to earn an opportunity for more life energy and power-ups! All you have to do is thwack a bunch’ falling garbage into their appropriate recycling canisters. No, it’s hardly engaging gaming, but it’s nothing offensive. And trust me, you are going to NEED that facile inventory-padding in just a bit, so don’t slack off, sucka.’


Yeah, take that, Venom without the teeth and and giant Cadsbury Egg eyeballs!

THE OFFSHORE OIL RIG


This is a more straight-forward, side-scrolling action-platformer sequence, complete with stair obstacles pretty much ripped straight out of Castlevania. The objective here is to collect all these fire extinguishers so you rescue all of these workers trapped in burning closets (how metaphorical.) Along the way you’ll encounter these little grey blob enemies that are annoying but manageable. So you save all of the trapped workers and collect these black bowling ball-looking orbs and avoid getting burned by these sentient blue flames with spooky faces on them and then you climb up this Metroid-esque vertical tower slapping rats, then it’s time to face off with the end boss, which I guess is supposed to be some muscular oil blob that’s pretty much the same thing as Venom, except without all the teeth and slobber and royalty payments to Todd McFarlane. This is a MUCH harder boss fight than in the toxic factory, and I really can’t say there’s any practical strategy for beating this motherfucker. Pretty much all you can do is jump around like crazy and HOPE that you get more hits in than you receive, which, yeah, sounds like Konami game design to a T.


Bonus Stage: Oh no, Jeremey has been kidnapped by some pink and purple crab-skeleton-pollution demon! No, I don’t know who Jeremy is supposed to be either, but it’s your blue ass’ duty to rescue him, regardless. Here you have to leap from wall to wall like in that one NES Batman game, then you have to chase that aforementioned pollution demon all over this huge vertical level and the whole thing is just impossible bullshit and you’ll hate it. Once again, the only feasible strategy here is to constantly jump and thrash like a maniac — if you’re lucky, one time out of ten it’ll actually work.


THE HIGH SPEED RAILWAY


Ah, the old runaway mine cart stage. Assuming you’ve played Donkey Kong Country or TMNT III: The Manhattan Project, you know EXACTLY what to expect here. Avoid the falling boulders, hit the appropriate switches, don’t fall into the chasms and abysses of death, so on and so forth. Not unlike the infamous hyperbike stage in Battletoads, this one requires you to do ample dodging of flashing barriers, and sweet Jesus, are some of the platforming spots in the later part of this stage PREPOSTEROUSLY difficult. Your reward for not dying is an isometric, top-down beat-em-up fight with this one orange-guy in purple pants like The Incredible Hulk. He burrows underground and throws barrels and what appear to be rotten banana peels at you, and 95 percent of the time the projectiles are completely unavoidable. It’s a somewhat easier boss battle than the oil rig stage, but you’re still liable to die a good eight or nine times before you figure out the tempo here. 


Bonus Stage: Yep, it’s that one recycling mini-game again. There’s not really anything more I can say about this. Yep.


For the life of me, I'll never understand why game developers in the '90s had such a hard-on for runaway mine-cart sequences.

THE ACIDIC FOREST STAGE


Here you have to use your “Photon Stick” to smack a buncha’ flowers back to life after all of these evil, electricity-shooting clouds sprinkle ‘em with rainfall with dangerously low PH levels. Or you can just jump all the way up to the top of the screen and beat the hot dog shit out of this one Amazonian redhead who keeps throwing test tubes at you and clear out the whole stage in, like, 40 seconds. Your call.


This thing just has "Unproduced Action Figures: The Video Game" written all over it.

THE CAVE STAGE


Alright, we’ve reached the final level, one that sees your character falling down an endless abyss (which looks A LOT like one of the backdrops from Life Force) while avoiding gigantic bacteria and what I think are supposed to be the ghosts of dead spelunkers. Eventually you land and the mechanics switch back to being a side scroller, where you hop around on these piles of monster skulls avoiding frogs and this one multi-eyed lake monster that spits goop at you. Once again, this fucker takes an INSANE number of hits to polish off, so if patience ain’t one of your strong suits, you might want to cut your losses while you can.


And that’s our cue for yet ANOTHER isometric belt-scrolling segment, this time with your character having to fight this one robotic motherfucker that keeps re-assembling itself. All things considered, this is probably the easiest overall boss fight in the game, which yeah, means they’re about to ream us out the ass on the next segment, for sure.


Time to do some more side-scrolling action-platforming, culminating in a boss fight against … your evil red-skinned twin? Well, that’s hardly the most inventive grand finale I can envision. Even worse, there’s this one pod he keeps jumping in that can restore ALL of his energy. LITERALLY the only way to beat him is to push him to the far edge of the screen and spam him with this one lift-thrusting attack while running around like the biggest, conflict-avoidant pussy in the cosmos. Which, in a weird way, is kinda’ fitting for a pacifist, anti-pollution superhero, I suppose.


Of course, we’ve got ONE final boss fight left, this one against that one pink pollution demon that tried to kidnap Jeremy earlier in the game. Basically, he just sits on his throne made out of garbage and spews magma juice at you, and as long as you keep hitting the B button like a mongoloid, this section shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Which is something I CAN’T say about the rematch, which takes place in the gravity-less plain of outer space, far above earth’s atmosphere. I am CONVINCED that this part is totally unbeatable without a Game Genie, and any videos you see online of people finishing the battle legitimately is a fuckin’ deep fake. 


And your reward for all of that carpal-baiting thumb torture? This gay-ass concluding cutscene where Zen just sits there in a pasture, staring at a purple sky wonder when and if the big bad — canonically named Lord Contaminus — will return and try to fuck things up again. Then the designer credits roll, and that’s all she wrote, fellas.


Hey lady, never bring test tubes to a Donatallo staff fight.

Well, the pros and cons of Zen ought to be pretty apparent, I reckon. The sprites are great and the music — compliments of Kozo Nakamura and company — is downright superb. That, and you at least have to give the game a little credit for TRYING to do something different with the property, even though punching the game out as a more conventional action-beat-em-up would’ve increased sales (and, more than likely, resulted in a much more enjoyable game, overall.)


The core problem with the game, of course, is that it’s just too damn difficult. I’m a guy who plays a LOT of hard-ass 8-bit era games, and even I was pushed to the fuckin’ limits by this fucker. Had it come out earlier in the NES life cycle and more casuals actually played it, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be regarded as one of the most ass-blisteringly hard games on the Nintendo, perhaps on par with Double Dragon III and Solar Jet Man. So if you like to be frustrated, rest assured, Zen is guaranteed to find your inner rage button and pound it mercilessly


Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether or not Zen is worth going out of one’s way to play. This is one of those games that, holistically, I’d considered moderately above mediocre, a six out of 10 affair if we’re using that kinda’ sliding scale. The aesthetics and soundtrack are wonderful, but the central gameplay is a VERY, VERY mixed bag. I don’t want to say Konami was slacking off on this one, but surely, the developer is capable of WAY better games than this. To put it another way, it’s better than Bayou Billy, but it’s still miles below even the company’s relatively lesser outings on the NES, like Monster in My Pocket and Tiny Toon Adventures 2.


Still, it’s not even THE worst Zen branded video game out there, if you can believe it. So on that note, I suppose the developers behind this 8-bit offering can take some solace in knowing that, yes, despite the software’s many shortcomings, it’s nonetheless WORLDS better then the Zen game that came out on the Game Boy. I mean — ick


Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Round-Up of Various Vegetarian-Friendly Foodstuffs

Sage and garlic pseudo-pot roasts and beer-flavored synthetic bratwursts and authentic Indian paneer by way of New Jersey is just the tip of the iceberg on this one



Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Revisiting the July 17, 1993 Episode of WWF Monday Night Raw!

Featuring another HBK/Jannetty title tilt tizzy, an unforgettable angle with Tiny Tim and a whole lot of commercials for yeast infection medication, for whatever reason


Monday, May 24, 2021

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

THE GREATEST BOXING MATCHES OF ALL-TIME: Julio Cesar Chaez vs. Meldrick Taylor (March 17, 1990)

Revisiting the legendary lightweight bout considered by many pugilist purists to be the absolute BEST boxing match of the 1990s


Saturday, May 15, 2021

LIVE(ish) Round-By-Round Coverage of UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler!

Unable to catch the latest and greatest MMA PPV spectacular, for whatever stupid reason? No worries, homey — our LIVE coverage of UFC 262 is going to keep you in the loop ALL NIGHT LONG


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Jimbo’s Quarterly Rasslin’ Round-Up (Q1 2021 Edition!)

Are you ready for a whirlwind recap of the best, the worst and the most random pro wrestling matches of the last three months? Hold on to your Hulkamania t-shirts, folks — it's time to rumble