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      Game Culture — Game culture

      Enduring Legacy: A series on first impressions

      There have been plenty of times in life that we have been simply sucker-punched by something that we never expected. Whether that experience is positive or negative, we always tend to remember these moments more than those that fall within our routine. Video games are no different, especially when it comes to the ones that stood out by spawning revolutionary ideas. This series aims to take a look at various games that have exceeded expectations and transcended first impressions.

      And what better way to kick this series off by starting with one of the most beloved cult classics of the RPG genre: Valkyrie Profile, released in 1999. Developed by tri-Ace and published by Enix before their merger with Square, Valkyrie Profile drew heavily from Norse mythology. The story centers around a Valkyrie who is tasked with recruiting fallen warriors in hopes of stopping the world-ending Ragnarok.

      Valkyrie Profile boasts an impressive battle system and a unique juggling mechanic that utilized the proper timing of the face buttons assigned to the different characters. It was well-received by critics, which was enough to spawn three other games in the franchise. Personally, this is also one of my favorite games of all time and was my introduction to RPGs as a whole. But I never really expected it to even be an RPG, nor did I expect to be sucked in by its absolutely beautiful world.

      How nostalgic

      Unknown Reflections

      I first saw Valkyrie Profile in an advertisement in the now-defunct EGM magazine. At the time, I was a sucker for 2D platformers such as Megaman X and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. When I saw that Valkyrie Profile used the same perspective as these games and how the main character used a sword, I was hyped. At the same time, I was also confused about certain screenshots depicting four people in a diamond formation. Thinking that these may simply be cutscenes, I went ahead and purchased the game for myself.

      However, the moment I chose to start a new game, I was dumbfounded. What started as a promise for action-packed swordplay transformed into an immersive and emotional 30 minutes that was almost devoid of any controllable sequences. It felt like I was watching a movie with button prompts. Aside from a small battle that I perceived as a cutscene, there was nothing much that would get in the way of storytelling.

      After the first save point, I thought things would get better, but instead, it would be a while more before I even got to the point where I can freely control a character in a platforming manner. But there were no enemies. I was running around town talking to various people from a side-scrolling perspective, but it was oddly idyllic. When things started to escalate, another battle ensued, using the same style as the aforementioned battle that I thought was a cutscene. This was when I started to worry that I might not have picked up an action-packed platformer.

      It’s not a platformer!

      Inner Peace

      Unfortunately, my worst fears at that time came true. The game had none of the action that the advertisement promised. I was leveling up, getting random drops, and optimizing my equipment. I was playing an RPG for the first time in my life, and despite not being able to play one before this, I knew what they were, so I actively stayed away from them due to my tendency of getting hooked on narratives. And with runtimes of more than a hundred hours, I didn’t want all my gaming time to be sucked up by a sprawling narrative.

      But that’s exactly what happened to me in my time in Midgard. I got sucked in by the deeply personal life stories of my now dead party members. I found that the battle system was a thing of beauty with you being more involved in real-time decisions rather than choosing your attacks via a menu system. The voice acting was also superb, being my first taste in voice acting in video games. Everything about this game hit me hard, and it was a wonderful experience that I couldn’t get enough of. Until I hit a roadblock in the form of a boss battle that I seemingly couldn’t overcome.

      One of my earlier party members, a goddess named Freya, confronted Lenneth about something going wrong inside her and then suddenly talked about divine sleep before fighting me in a boss battle. And no matter which attack I use or which setup I try, none of my attacks did any significant damage to her. Meanwhile, she just proceeded to delete my party’s health bars. And I couldn’t understand what I did wrong. Frustrated, I put the game down for a while, trying out other RPGs. But I just couldn’t get Valkyrie Profile out of my head. That was when I inadvertently read about the game’s multiple endings. This was another huge revelation for me because I never even thought about a game having multiple endings. I was repeatedly blown away by this game, and until this day, I could still remember every moment of playing through this unique experience.

      Searching for noble souls

      Divine Punishment

      Unfortunately, no other RPG has even come close to what Valkyrie Profile did for me. There were multiple contenders, like the Super Mario RPG games, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier Exceed for the Nintendo DS, and Namco x Capcom. But none of these scratched that itch to play through something similar to the original Valkyrie Profile. The game’s shunted sequel due to the developer’s dissolution will forever remain a disappointment for fans who have been waiting for a successor to the throne with bated breath. And until then, we’ll always be replaying through the original game or loading up the port for PSP. But if you can't find any of these original copies you could always purchase the iOS or Android version which is available on their respective mobile stores. 

      The game isn’t perfect, though, and some game mechanics seem hazy. After all, I couldn’t figure out then how to dodge the fight against Freya until I accidentally stumbled upon a walkthrough of the game. This means that there will be plenty of opportunities for improvements if another similar game aims to challenge the throne.

      How about you? Have you played through Valkyrie Profile? Or have you had a similar mind-blowing experience with any game that you have previously played? Visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more retro-gaming goodness and the latest on our pawesome games. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Mega Cat Discord and say meow!

      Unreleased Games that were Salvaged, Revived, and Released in a Different Incarnation

      We’ve had thousands of games unreleased or lost in the fiery pits of perpetual gaming development hell and it’s really sad to think that most of them would never see the light of day, their spirits wandering the gaming world as pre-alpha builds, beta-builds, and some much worse as just mere game screenshots. However, a few games get removed from the back burner and given new life either by a different game publisher or developer. Let’s look at the interesting stories of these lost video games, salvaged, revived, and released in a different incarnation or form. Kenny from South Park would be proud.


      Success sometimes doesn’t warrant a Sequel


      Case in point, Final Fantasy Tactics. Now if any of you remember this awesome tactical RPG, you know how much success the game has garnered over the years, so much so that it is considered to be a classic and no game has ever come close in terms of gameplay except for its spiritual predecessor, Tactics Ogre from the Ogre Battle series developed by then Quest Corporation. Following its merger with then Squaresoft, Tactics Ogre director Yasumi Mitsuno worked with Final Fantasy director Hironobu Sakaguchi, an avid fan of the Tactical RPG genre, on finally realizing Sakaguchi’s dream of creating a Final Fantasy game with the gameplay mechanics of a TRPG set in a brave new world called Ivalice. The rest is history. 

      Following the release of Tactics, the developers set their sights on creating a new game. Not the sequel mind you, but a completely different story with subtle references to Tactics called Vagrant Story. Vagrant was also set in the same fictional world of Ivalice. The developers were very much focused on their new story, however, they initiated the idea of a Tactics sequel which would have used 2D graphics due to issues with 3D development at the time. The project was reportedly outsourced to an unspecified developer. The sequel never saw the light of day due to the commitment of the team at that time to Vagrant Story. Mitsuno however confirmed that the sequel was really in the works and even released a few assets. Feast your eyes on this:

      Although the sequel didn’t see a proper release, it did see light in a couple of different forms. Mitsuno’s fictional world of Ivalice was expanded upon and saw a revival similar to a multiversal setting called the Ivalice Alliance. This saw games such as Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, and even Final Fantasy XIV to be set in parallel versions of Ivalice with allusions to some of the races and classes found in the original Tactics game.

      What if Cloud Strife delved into Jungian Psychology and Philosophy?

      Final Fantasy VII was almost Xenogears. Xenogears was almost  Final Fantasy VII. At one point it was almost a sequel to Chrono Trigger.  Confusing ain’t it? Either way, those statements sound just as absurd to me as it does to you and they’re true. 

      Xenogears was conceived by Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife, Kaori Tanaka as a proposal for the then Final Fantasy VII. Initial concepts revealed that it was set in a fantasy world but once it was pitched, it was deemed too complicated, dark, and unsettling for a fantasy setting by the higher-ups in Squaresoft. Despite this, it was given the green light to be its project. It was then conceptualized as a sequel to Chrono Trigger going under the name of “Project Noah”. At this point, Takahashi was already getting frustrated with the Final Fantasy series and wanted to bring about something original.

      After going through the cutting board once more and arguing with the company over the game’s seemingly difficult approval process, they finally decided to cut the sequel idea and make it a completely original IP. With this decision, concepts had to be tweaked since it didn’t fit the fantasy setting anymore and so added in science fiction elements to finally come up with Xenogears. The husband-wife tandem also thought up the inclusion of Freudian, Nietzsche, and Jung philosophies as part of its theme and story. The very complicated conceptualization and short development time (2 years) almost made the second part of the story unfinished (2nd disc) which according to Takahashi was due in part to the team’s inexperience in creating a full game with the proposed development time.

      However, this didn’t stop Xenogears from becoming one of the greatest RPGs of all time with a lot of review publications sharing the same sentiment that it's a game that needs to be played and experienced by gamers one and all. However, did a sequel ever arise after Xenogears? Unfortunately, it never came to be even if Tanaka confirmed a sequel was in the works and this was because Square was focused on a film project during this time. The culprit? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

      Takahashi was pretty much into the idea of Xenogears having a sequel and this prompted him to leave Square and go independent. He established Monolithsoft in 1999 with the help of Namco and worked on Xenosaga. Sadly, this was neither considered a sequel nor even a prequel, however much of the concepts and some characters were still present in the new series. Thus, from the ashes of Xenogears 2 came about Xenosaga. Not as good as its spiritual predecessor, however, it was still relevant in its way and kept the spirit of Xenogears alive and burning.



      Doom Guy Slays Development Hell


      Wait, you’re still reading this? You’re up for more rollercoaster rides huh? Well here’s a story you might not wanna miss and which I consider as the best comeback from development hell for a game and quite appropriately so. Enter Doom (2016). Or Doom 4 in its early conception. 

       So, some stories start on a positive note right? Well, Doom 4 started exactly that way with John Carmack, then co-founder and lead developer announcing on QuakeCon 2007 that the game was in the works. It was then officially announced the following year with Id Software announcing that it would follow a similar gameplay loop with the original Doom and Doom II and deviating from the survival horror gameplay introduced by Doom 3. So far, so good right?

      Before Doom 4, Id released Rage, another FPS shooter which saw polarizing reviews, however, was praised for its graphics and strong game engine. Doom 4 was intended to follow in the footsteps of Rage, using the Id tech engine 5 with a more “Boots on the ground approach”. A multiplayer component was announced to be developed separately aiming for a 60 fps framerate. The game was touted to be a soft reboot of the franchise and fans should be excited ‘cause it was deep in development. Deep in development hell, that is.

      Id Software saw a lot of internal changes due to it being bought by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, John Carmack also left to pursue Oculus in 2013 and this left the development in shambles. Although assets were already done for the game, internally, some of the developers expressed their disdain for the playable build, calling it a soulless, spiritless, personality-devoid game, “lame and unfit for a late-night sci-fi channel”, that was more similar to Call of Duty than Doom. Ouch. Naturally, this news started spreading like wildfire when Kotaku released the expose showing the developers’ internal problems in making the game. So they killed it. Doom 4 was canceled. 

      The end right? Nope! Because Doom came back to life, baby! Woohoo! Now I’m just channeling the energy fans had when the then revived Doom (2016) was revealed in QuakeCon 2014. It was more Doom than ever with modern features that made you reminisce how the original Doom released in 1993 revolutionized First Person Shooters. In a video game world bloated with hundreds and hundreds of shooters, Doom 2016 went back to the basics by removing reload, increasing player mobility, black hole pockets carrying huge weapons while introducing new mechanics such as “Glory Kills” a melee execution system that made enemies drop health. 

      Directors, Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin even mentioned that inspiration came from heavy metal and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe featuring a story a bit more juvenile and comical. Doom 2016 was released with very favorable reviews and even won numerous awards and was considered to be one of the best shooters of this generation. Happy ending right? Definitely! Doom Guy is so OP he even beat development hell. Oh and unlike the previous entries in this list, it even spawned a sequel more awesome in Doom Eternal, released March 2020.




      Playable Teaser Gets Stranded on the Beach


      Alright, we know that Hideo Kojima is a mad genius right? I mean the guy is such an auteur he has shaken up the video game scene in more ways than one with his Kojimaisms I prefer to call it. Every time the man speaks or does something or releases something everybody listens and watches intently! And I’m not saying that in a hyperbolic sense nor in a fanboy way (okay, maybe I am a Kojima fanboy) but the guy knows what’s up. So when he released P.T. or Playable Teaser as he called it everybody was blown away! I mean why is Norman Reedus there? Who is Lisa? Why is she so scary? Why are there babies in sinks? Why do you loop back to the room whence you start? Why is this game so scary? Why are the graphics so realistically good? So many questions! So little time! So much Kojima! See this was a playable teaser for the new Silent Hill directed by Hideo Kojima and in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. 

      This was Hideo Kojima at his peak and even if he didn’t make any horror games before this, you would see a lot of the innovations he used in his previous games to be present in P.T. I mean who here would ever forget the dread and scare Psycho Mantis gave us in the original Metal Gear Solid. That scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid, especially when the controller would vibrate on its own or  Psycho Mantis would dictate the games saved on my memory card. I think it was in Kojima’s gaming DNA all along.

      With P.T. he gave us a glimpse of how a full-blown horror would be without sticking to the usual tropes most horror games would spiral into. This was evident in how he would use claustrophobia and the looping game mechanics as a way to evoke genuine fear and vulnerability while still maintaining the urge to push on because of curiosity. This prompted a lot of fans too to form communities and discuss the game’s secrets and theories showing how Kojima’s philosophy of connectivity doesn’t just translate in-game but also in the real world. When it was released, P.T. was downloaded a million times on the Playstation Network creating such a buzz that it was considered a Game of the Year or Horror Game of the Year by a lot of reviewers. This however drew a lot of confusion for others due to the nature of the game. Since it was a playable teaser a lot of game journalists did not know whether to classify it as a full-fledged game, a demo, or a different thing altogether. Despite the hype it generated, sadly Silent Hills was canceled by Konami. P.T. was pulled out from PSN never to be downloaded again. This stemmed from the alleged fallout of Hideo Kojima and Konami. Hideo split from Konami in 2015 and formed his studio: Kojima Productions.

      We will never know what happened between Kojima and Konami and it’s sad to think we’ll never see a Metal Gear release again nor a Silent Hill Remake. P.T. was truly stranded on the beach, like a whale on its final death throes never to leave the shore and swim freely. However, this is not to say that the game is truly dead as Kojima retained some of the ideas he used in P.T. and ported them over to his new game, Death Stranding.

      He even got Norman Reedus to return and Guillermo del Toro’s likeness to be included in the game. Even Lisa the scary ghost made an appearance in Death Stranding as the wife of Cliff Unger, the secondary antagonist of the game. Even the babies make an appearance albeit not in a scary form this time but disturbing nonetheless. Even some of the horror elements were carried over like the “Beached things” or B.T. for short. Death Stranding may not have been the PT we deserve but it was a game revolutionary in its own right that introduced to its players the importance of connectivity. It’s a hard game to sell like most of Kojima’s games due to the uncanny nature of its story and gameplay loop however Kojima is never known to stick to safe and proven game tropes and instead is always keen to think outside the cardboard box. Well me, I’m just glad P.T.’s literal spirit is alive and kicking in Death Stranding. Oh, but what I would give to play that game again. 




      Yeah Yeah Beebiss I is solved! Or is it? 


      Alright, the last one on this list is such an enigma, the Riddler would probably be summoned from the depths of the comic books and just laugh at how absurdly convoluted and mysterious this game is. I present to you the mystery of Yeah Yeah Beebiss I! If you’re not familiar with this game, well I ain’t too because honestly, nobody is! That’s how mysterious this game is. 

      It started with a June 1989 listing for mail-order video game service, Play It Again. In an issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, Yeah Yeah Beebiss I was first mentioned. It was mentioned again in July, August, and September in the same mail-order service. What’s weird is that in October 1989, a nearly identical advertisement was placed by another mail-order video game service, Funco. Some people were arguing that this was a ploy by both mail-order services to prank unsuspecting customers but this was impossible during this time because the two companies were from different states and had possibly no prior contact; this was the pre-internet days. So one plausible theory was that the game was fabricated as a copyright trap, intended to serve as evidence if another games service copied the list and this was corroborated by Neil Levin, one of the Play Again founders wherein he mentioned that the company would often put in fake listings to catch people copying Play it Again. 

      Another theory is that the game was just a mere mistranslation of the NES/Famicom platformer Rai Rai Kyonshis: Baby Kyonshi no Amida Daibouken. "Rai Rai" can be interpreted as "Yeah Yeah" and Beebiss I was a mistranslation of the usage of "Baby". This was not confirmed, however, and the game would be probably misconceived as a different game as in the case of a canceled platformer.  It has been speculated that Yeah Yeah Beebiss I's identity is Super Pitfall 2, a canceled sequel to Activision's 1986 NES platformer Super Pitfall. Whatever Yeah Yeah Beebis was, it was an anomaly at a time when the internet was practically non-existent yet. There are no screenshots, no playable builds, nothing except for that mailing list order screenshot. 

      Even if the game was supposedly non-existent and will probably remain a mystery until the sun is a black hole, a sequel is coming out sometime next year. Surprise, surprise! A collaboration by John Riggs, Mega Cat Studios, and Chip ‘N Cellos, it’s a passion project driven more by the curious nature of its source material with literally nothing to base it upon except for speculative theories. Now that is the culmination of everything we’ve talked about here so far. A non-existent game finally being given life just like its alleged protagonist, a Zombie boy. So does this solve the mystery? Nope! Yeah Yeah Beebis I is still out there, mockingly laughing at us while we still search for clues. But it is alive.



       A Proper Requiem

      That was such an amazing ride! It felt like going through multiple murder mysteries but this time instead of looking at dead bodies, we’re looking at revived ones. Not like zombies mind you, because these games have been given a new lease on life with their personalities and quirks and we’re all for it. That’s not to say video game development always ends up with slightly happy endings like these but it goes to show how complicated it is and the people who make these are just as real as you and I with ambitions and aspirations that don’t always end up the way they would like to. See that’s just like life in general, things don’t always go our way and some decisions end up on the back burner but once in a while some of them end up in happy accidents that are just as good as our original dreams. Speaking of Yeah Yeah Beebiss, we may never be able to solve what happened before but lo and behold a sequel is now on Steam and Nintendo Switch called Yeah Yeah Beebiss II. For updates on the unexpected sequel and more retro gaming goodness be sure to visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Discord and say meow!