Update - Non-Xbox Edition: The Con Is On
Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years.
- LL Cool J (rapper/actor) "Momma Said Knock You Out"
It is me again with a non-achievement (gasp!) blog. I mentioned in the last blog about going to Tsubasacon and this weekend was the convention. I only go Friday and Saturday and recuperate on Sunday and Monday (a state holiday - Columbus Day).
This year was fun and a lot of gaming happened. There is a bit to cover from yesterday and Friday, so let's do it.
The week of the convention is all about getting my backpack ready with my supplies I need for the convention. I even sneak in granola bars for the in-between meals and small bottles of water. Yes, I know it is not allowed, but pardon my French, they can kiss my ass if I am paying $4 for a bottle of water. No. Just no.
However, I had something else I was packing that I didn't want. A non-COVID head cold. Fortunately, things worked out by Friday and Saturday I felt like I shot out of a cannon. I took a vacation day from work to do so. I have built up so much vacation over the years that I still after this weekend have to take 6-7 days over the years.
So I was ready to go.
Day 1 - Friday
I ended up at the convention center 2 hours early so I could be towards the front of the line (which I was) in order to hit the ground running before my friend came later in the day.
Like I have said in the past, if you get a chance to go to Tsubasacon, take the opportunity. It is like one big happy family and everybody is so friendly.
Of course I stayed in the arcade until I took a break to eat. There were some game changes for the con (the arcade ran by Save Point, whose volunteers were friendly and knowledgeable on arcade machines like all get out). Sadly, Beatmania IIDX was axed and Persona 4 didn't make it.
One of the surprises of the convention and one of my addictions (beside Groove Coaster) was a weird Sega/Milestone (not the MotoGP Milestone by the way) shmup was called Illmatic Envelope. It is too weird to describe fully, but there are warps along the way you can go in and try to shoot all of the enemies via a Galaga challenging stage-esque stage. You kill every enemy, you win a key. If not, you got points anyway. Don't ask me what the hell the keys are for, I STILL have no clue.
Once I got the swing of the scoring system and used to the game, I held the top 4 spots in the top 10 all weekend (the game was that addicting!). My best was 22.1 million, while the closest other person was at 17 million. No bragging intended, but my love for shmups paid off in major dividends.
Here is a video of the game being played if you are interested:
Moving on, I got to play a real Groove Coaster. Groove Coaster is a rhythm game co-developed by Taito that involves two plungers. Both have buttons and below the buttons, a ring you can slide in many different directions.
Here is the tutorial for the game with an inset of a person playing for those that want it:
I need to admit something. When the game was announced to be at Tsubasacon, it sounded familiar. I tinker with Steam games a bit also, and I was like, "Wait a minute, didn't I buy the steam version for like 2-3 bucks in a sale." It turns out I did. I originally played it to figure out the controls, but I got hooked instantly. It was unlike anything I ever played before. Fast, challenging, and the music and visuals were brilliant. I thought I was ready for the real thing, but I had a rude awakening.
It was not the controls, it was the timing. The night before, I looked up the differences between both versions and the Steam version was dissed widely as, well, shit. There were song syncing issues from what I read on Reddit. So when I played a song on the real machine I could Full Combo on Simple with my eyes closed, I had major issues. Once I worked out the hitbox, things accelerated very quickly. More about that in Day 2.
I enjoyed many of the other games there. Taiko no Tatsujin is definitely more fun with real drums than a stinking Xbox controller. Sound Voltex was a touch overwhelming control-wise but so much fun. Pop 'n Music was again fun, but overwhelming. Rhythm Tengoku (which is the Japanese arcade version of Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo consoles) was fun and unique. Chunithym was a fun game from three years ago that was a lot of fun. You have a plastic board that sorta looks like piano keys and a sensor reads where your hands are. You can even raise your hands. Both pinball games (Deadpool and Godzilla) were fun but challenging. Puyo Puyo was fun, but the 4th lady CPU was ridiculously fast and hard for me to beat. But in mostly typical gavman fashion, I held the #1 spot on the high score table all weekend. I got lucky with the 1st opponent and scored more in time bonus THAN the 2nd HIGHEST SCORE. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. LOL
Before I talk about Day 2, I had a funny moment involving another favorite from three years ago, MaiMai. I was playing a set, after politely asking one of the Save Point attendants to turn on the sound. I was playing the remix of the Jacky stage song from the original Virtua Fighter on Advanced (upper middle difficulty) and two cute ladies were watching me play and asking me about it and how to play. I cleared that song and actually got a touch of praise (shucks!) (like I wanted it LOL). I decided to play Let's Go Away from Daytona USA (which is a fun song to play). I started the song. It went "Doo Doo Doo Doo Dooooo, Day-" and then the game froze and make a shrewd buzzing noise as I tapped the first note and started the finger tracing the notes on the screen (a cool mechanic). I started to laugh loudly and shaking my head. The one blonde girl dressed in Ghibli character garb said jokingly, "You broke it!". I playfully bowed my head and said "I know.). I got an attendant and it was a video card contact issue. No stress.
Anyways, while trying out for Jeopardy in the main auditorium, she sat a row away from me and we chatted for a while. Unfortunately she was taken, but she was nice with me and a cool chick to hang around.
I picked up a NES box art poster from the market to match the Arkanoid one from last year. This year's pick - Dig Dug II - a game I actually still own the real cartridge for! I also got a book of every licensed and unlicensed game for $20. I have only scanned through it a little bit. I love it. I don't buy books really, but this was too awesome to pass up and half the MSRP too!
If Day 1 kicked ass, Day 2 would kick even harder.
Day 2 - Saturday
Before I get into Day 2 and a bonus quote (!), the end of my day end an hour early. In short, my dad fell off a hill onto some rocks 15-20 feet down. He broke the bone between the shoulder blades and had broken spots in the breastbone (a.k.a - the sternum) and a major bruise. As I was waiting for the call on which hospital he was going, I wept in a quiet place in the convention center. I was worried for the worst. Life is so precious and a lot of us (even myself) don't comprehend it as well as we think. Anyways, he is resting and I have been helping to take care of him all weekend and will do so between work. He is a tough nut to crack though.
Anyways, things are what they are and let's look at the bright side of Day 2.
We all have the extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released.
-Jean Houston (Author)
Day 2 is exciting, because there is so much to do that you start filling in the gaps of what you missed the day before. However the excitement started 1 hour before the rooms opened for me.
I was camping out next to the arcade section of the convention when I saw one of the Save Point attendees carrying something big. I thought it was a board game at first, but it was too big to be that. Then when he was passing me, I saw a Daytona USA marquee. After he dropped it off and exited the area, I asked him if we were getting the machine for today. He said, "Yes!" Pardon my French again, but I almost buttered my pants at the news. I have not got a chance to play a real machine in about 15 years. I was so excited. Plus, I still play the Xbox version once in a while for fun, so I still had all 3 circuits fresh in my brain. This game was part of my childhood and part of many great memories with my dad.
Anyways, there wasn't a lot of new action on Day 2, except for Groove Coaster and Daytona USA (which still had to be assembled AND working, while took until 1 p.m., 3 hours after everything opened back up).
I played everything again, but now I was getting my groove on Groove Coaster. I even almost FC'd Invader Disco on Hard (6 out of 15 rating). So I decided to see if I could beat the same songs I beat on the Steam version.
This is going to sound weird, but the arcade version of Groove Coaster is markedly EASIER to play than the Steam version because the controls in the arcade are way more streamlined and intuitive. The Steam version was essentially two sets of arrow keys and with the technical issues listed earlier. Plus, the room of error to pass was actually a tad bit easier than on Steam.
Soon a group of us started a friendly "game" of outdoing each other. There was only one machine, so it became a friendly game of showboating. I cleared a couple of 9s on Normal and Solar Storm on Normal (a 10) and then Got More Raves (an 11 on Normal). I noticed going through sort that there were 12s on Normal. Not bragging, but nobody else there had beat an 11. But if you know me as an achievement hunter, I like to give my all no matter what. There were only three 12s on Normal, so I randomly picked one - QiXiN MAdN3ss 2153. Two heart-attack and arm pain inducing minutes later and I cleared my first 12, to the shock of the group. High fives and fists were exchanged within the group. But I am humble. I still relished the moment, though.
I never like to toot my horn in any situation. Think about it, we all see both sides of winning or losing and success or failure. Just getting there is a prize enough and we all should try to be proud but humble.
Finally, to finish up this long ass blog (I know), let's get back to Daytona USA. After my Groove Coaster performance, both machines were almost ready. The Save Point crew were all working on it and let me watch them fix the left cabinet.
Fun Fact: All of the circuit boards that run the game are in a compartment under the seat. Now ya know.
Anyways, hearing the Daytona USA attract mode music blast through the speakers gave me bumps down my spine. It was beautiful.
Anyways, both machines were now in working order, so I started to set top times, because, well, I wanted to. My Beginner sucked for air, so it got beat, but if it weren't for the more urgent family matters I mentioned earlier, I would have beaten it by 3-4 second. Advanced was a strong run for me, but there was the elephant in the room. Expert.
Here's the Cliff's Notes version. Although I have beaten it on the Xbox version a ton, I have never done it on a real machine. This has been a 23 year journey dating back to my tween years to beat Expert on a real machine. The problem was, I never could find a real machine in my local area for 15 years. They are hard to maintain and the parts, well, they are like unicorn poop - very hard to find in good, playable shape.
Before I walk you through. Here is what Expert looks like for those with no familiarity:
This to me is one of the hardest tracks in driving game HISTORY. Full of nasty hairpins, chicanes, and the notorious Television Corridor (at the 1st checkpoint), it takes everything to drive that over-steering Hornet between the lines on the road.
Anyways, my first run ended tragically with my car almost rubbing the goal banner, after a nasty hit on the final hairpin. The second run, though, was something special. I had time to burn on the 2nd and final lap if I needed to, but I calmly mouthed off the turns after the final CP. "Out to in Space Ship hairpin xxx kph (Japanese machine no mph, ya know), easy through the tree-lined section, turn then BRAKE 150 kph Pirate ship hairpin." I had 12 seconds left climbing up to the bridge and the goal banner. I had this shit.
I beat it. The timer in the top middle of the screen read " 4" My hands went over my face and I almost wept as I slumped in the seat. 23 years later and it was over. The monkey was off my back. Sometimes it is what you wait for the longest that feels the best. The relief, the accomplishment, the "It's about damn time." about it.
The great thing about conventions like this are the people and the experience. I never want much in the way of inanimate objects. I would rather have experiences with people I can meet. Life is so short and after my dad's accident, that point is much more amplified in my mind than ever.
Anyways, that is the end of my Tsubasacon experience and you bet your ass my friend and I will be back next year.
Anyways, that is it for this blog entry. I hope you liked it and I will talk to you (hopefully) soon!