In the first of many articles likely to focus exclusively on gaming’s often ignominious past, the inaugural Rambleast Rewind concerns Sony’s original foray into consumer creation: the sleek, ebony and largely useless Net Yaroze Playstation. Cursory mentions are afforded to some of the catalogue of titles that snuck their way into UK homes on the covermounted discs free with OPSM magazine, but really, this article arose from the shame of almost finishing the one true classic the system yielded and how reliable ol’ human idiocy left me scarred and shamed for the remainder of my adult life. Read on, then, and share my pain…
(Ooh, and it has videos and everything!)
You may not remember Net Yaroze (be honest: you DON’T remember Net Yaroze) but as a card-carrying bastion of the 1990s I’ve had it emblazoned, tattooed on my mind since first encountering it thanks to the ridiculously overpriced pages of Official Playstation Magazine. The bafflingly-named initiative was essentially an amateur games creation kit which took the form of a special BLACK PLAYSTATION (I know: it was baaaaaaaaaaad ass) which, when hooked up to a computer (or “Mac”, if you have a Mac) allowed the user to create any number of stunted, creativity-free clones of classic game templates including Doom, Galaga and Pac-Man. Most of these games (which were often included on the monthly magazine’s price-“justifying” covermounted Demo Disc – and that’s capital d’s) were entirely disposable and often not worth much more than a cursory moment’s play before tucking into the delights of the latest trial for Gex 3D or, on the hallowed Demo 16, Kula World (available on PSN immediately and quite the mandatory purchase for those who enjoy great, great gaming) – sometimes you’d only load the title up to hear the fabulous Net Yaroze theme music which played on a loop if you ejected the disc while it was spinning (note to time travelling parents : this is what breaks your Playstation in 1999).
Amongst the affectionately-recalled classics sit Psychon, a top-down shooter and veritable assault on the senses; The Incredible Coneman, a bizarre 3-dimensional Pac-Man-lite boasting perhaps the best single theme for any game yet made (an infectious, 9-note bass line repeated FOREVER AND EVER) and an endearing sax burst that sounds whenever Coney bites the dust; Haunted Maze, in which a malnourished gentleman collects lucky charms (yeah – like the cereal) as ghouls mount on all sides, eking out the treasured “OOOOOOOH” death-cry which sounds more like he’s caught himself in something, all to the strains of some initially suitable (“Hall Of The Mountain King”) but increasingly-less-so MIDI recreations of classical music; Triangle Racing Game, in which little white triangles race in a maze against the relentless physics their bastard creator saw fit to lumber them with (note to pedants: if I could remember the actual title of Triangle Racing Game I’d happily write it here, but I can’t, OK? In addition to 90s trivia I also have to make room for remembering how to wash myself, eat, breathe and air-drum the entirety of the Rush back catalogue on command). Here’s the demo reel for the system. Be forewarned: it features abuse of Comic Sans (nb: any use of Comic Sans is abuse of Comic Sans):
There are a few others I can recall, largely thanks to the pair of compilation discs that came free with the magazine (to call them ‘greatest hits’ seems a little cruel, not to mention it’s missing a letter…), and though the always-hilariously named developer ‘Lars Barstad’ (he of Coneman) almost takes the title of “Best Net Yaroze Thing” he’s always pipped to the post by the one truly great game to come out of the little black box that could: Terra Incognita.
In the tradition of blah and blah blah, Terra Incognita is a fantasy adventure RPG platformepic wherein you throw bombs, ride pink floating blobs across lava and navigate myriad suspended bodies of land as they traverse axes unseen all in the pursuit of a vaguely alluded-to treasure, as outlined in Team Fatal’s opening scene, transcribed here with love and affection by yours truly for your enjoyment:
Man #1: “Well, we’d better not to go I guess”
Man #2 (and ‘hero’): “No kidding! What do you say at this point.”
Note the lack of question mark, Team Fatal’s subtle inversion of punctuation and the first of many gaming conventions to get turned on its head throughout the ensuing debacle)
Man #2 :”I know a rumer that there is golden pedestal in the ancient ruins in this island”
Man #1: “I know but…They say the treasure is protected by horrable monster…”
At this stage I know whose side I’m on…
Man #1: “I am afraid that not even you can safely return from there this time”
The ‘not even you’ is somewhat presumptuous on Team Fatal’s part as, frankly, we don’t know fuck or shit about Man #2 and are not about to take Man #1’s abstract praise as proof that he’s all that, no matter how endearingly cowardly he is.
Man #2: “We cannot prove such thing without doing anything!”
So, do these guys want the treasure or to prove the existence of this fabled ‘horrable monster’? Time to hedge your bets, folks…
Man #2: “We have managed several time ‘til now”.
Perhaps they’re in the watchmaking business. Boom boom. (Note that I am under no delusions about the actual quality of this “joke”)
Man #2: “Everything go well this time too”
Sounds more like an order than a reassurance…
Man #1: “Alright, so…Take care and go by yourself”
That’s it! Out with it, don’t beat about the bush!
Man #2: “No kidding!”
I think Team Fatal is trying to establish this as a catchphrase despite their potentially crippling and total misunderstanding of its actual meaning.
Man #2: “You must come with me. All right?”
I think I can guess what Man #1’s response will be (and as far as I’m concerned, he IS no. 1)
Man #1: “No!! No I don’t want to go. Please, please go by yourself.”
I will admit that his cowardice and lack of regard for his friend’s safety is starting to grate.
Man #2: “You are still a coward guy”
!. Well, fuck YOU.
Man #1: “But… I am really really scary”
Sarcasm aside, this is my favourite mistranslation in the history of language.
Man #2: “Well, I see. You keep eyes on this ship.”
“So what if I DO?! IT’S MY SHIP!”
Man #1: “Please come back soon. It will be quickly sunset.”
With this, the game’s one-hour time limit is justified, or something.
Man #2: “All right, all right”.
Man #1: “Please promise. I may leave you alone if it gets dark. It’s true.”
WHY DO THESE GUYS EVEN HANG OUT?
Man #2: “You are tenacious.”
In a word, yeah…
Man #2: “I told you that I understood.”
Man #1: “So…”
Read: get the fuck off my boat, dead man…
Man #1: “Take care. Good luck.”
And with that barely-hearted suggestion so ends, for all I know, any and all dialogue in Team Fatal’s Terra Incognita. I say ‘for all I know’ because on the one occasion that I actually managed to best its screamingly difficult, often broken and frustration-defining challenges I certifiably celebrated by throwing the key I won by slaying the HORRABLE MONSTER (a rote and boss-in-a-game pattern-following big red dragon) straight through the final, finally-open door, only to have it completely unshockingly fail to load when I myself sauntered through the door to reach the final locked crypt (I presume it was a crypt, though it could have easily been a kennel or mosque) which has remained, forever, locked. This occasion is frequently discussed by one of my best friends and has, thanks to its most recent surfacing, led to the catharsis of this blog.
Now, as years of blissful advancements in gaming have seen difficulty fall by the sidelines it’s not likely that going back to Terra Incognita would yield the positives results that Sonic 3 did (which I correctly predicted at age 8 I would finally be able to finish at age 16 due to some age-correlated development in my gaming skills). I imagine that I’d give up not long after encountering the first of the blue-but-not-at-all-Zelda-copyright-infringingly-blue ‘living slimes’ whose destruction was as much based on luck as it was player skill, or any of the game-breakingly failable puzzles from which there was no return if wrecked due to ignorance, misfortune or in my case and as outlined above, sheer, demented joy.
Yet I ache. Not many games have seen the better of me that late in the, well… in the game. Metroid Prime, Prince Of Persia and Assassin’s Creed 2 are amongst a selection of games I’ve given up on after a short amount of play (which is why the latter reside at the bottom of my trophy collection with such low completion percentages). It took me 21 years but after its release on Virtual Console I FINALLY beat Alex Kidd In Miracle World, and that one’s tougher than well done Hulksteak. Devil May Cry saw me give up on the last boss but I never really tried that hard and had gotten sick of the game anyway. I never got sick of Terra Incognita: I merely never recovered from the shame of throwing it away so sillily (and literally) the one time I had victory in my grasp.
So yeah, I ache, and the next time I get my hands on a copy of it (one of the two Demo Discs I have it on lives still, somewhere in the depths ((except it’s above me)) of my attic). For now, let’s rest with saying it was truly the best of the Net Yaroze games, and to be perfectly dull about it, a clear indication of what that machine could do given the time and the good minds of people who wanted to make a thing, or something. The eleven weeks Team Fatal (whose star is forever suspended in the night sky of MY gaming history, at least) spent cooking this little gem up could have been better spent, perhaps, developing a new soft drink or something as trivial, but instead they knocked out a mini masterpiece, conquered a homebrew system and, evidently, scarred me for life. Who can ask for more than that?
For more misappropriated anger at hardly deserving subjects, check out Rambleast at your own risk.