Thursday, September 30, 2021

Low to High

How high can you go; how low can you go? Well, it's a matter of perspective, even though our perspective is skewed these days. It would be better to wonder what being stuck in the middle feels like.

Building off last week's subject, I wanted to talk a bit about the dichotomy between Low Art and High Art, what the terms represent, and both are essential for thriving artistic scenes. This subject has been coming up more and more in recent times, and after last week's post on how we are currently trapped in pastiche and parody it should probably be reflected on, at least a little. 

What is Low and High Art, and why are they both extremely important to have in any culture? The answer is simpler, and more complex, than one might realize.

Western culture has been so degraded by mindless subversion and adolescent snark masquerading as insight that we've even lost sight of what art itself consists of being about. We can't even define what the definition of art is. Just attempt to ask some random person and you'll get weak responses like "Everything is art!" or "Everybody has their own opinion on what makes art!" or the like. It's very pedestrian, shallow, cowardly, and completely and utterly incorrect. This idea you have been taught about what art is fortunately has no bearing on reality.

Think about it. No one, not a single soul, honestly believes "Modern Art" is actually art. We all know this, even if we don't say it out loud. It is a money laundering scam for hipster urbanites to get handout money while saying nothing and doing nothing except sniffing their own behinds and puffing their own chests. What they are making is not art, and everyone knows it, but we don't say it because we've been trained not to think beyond the surface level.

And this precisely the problem!

Art is very straightforward. It is a piece of work made to a specific standard. It doesn't exist in a vacuum. What is that standard? The one forged by tradition in the spirit of those who came before us. You are following a line of ancestors, and working towards the future, even when you strive to make something "new" or "original" or whatever you think it is. Art is tradition realized. Denying this is the root cause of Modern Art's abysmal state. 

To throw out all care and respect for your ancestors is to say your ego is of higher importance than the rest of humanity--and that is exactly what "Modern Art" is saying. It is not art, it is objective trash that has no positive value to humanity except as a comedy piece. And that is why it is only ever brought up as punchline by sane people to mock the insane. Because that is all it is or will ever be good for. It is anti-art.

Abandon the standard, abandon the art. This is slightly different if you are creating your own form, but that is rarer than supposed revolutionaries actually think it is. Even then, there are standards and ideas you are learning from those who came before to apply them to your very original work. Even early punk music, supposedly a revolution of anger and noise, contained surprisingly accurate rockabilly covers. To lose the beating heart of tradition is to fade into irrelevancy with humanity and the world. Looking into yourself instead of outward is no good.

It would take a particularly out of touch individual to believe this isn't where the western world is right now. The endless onslaught of plastic-dripped nostalgia and snarky adolescent attitudes is a sign of stagnation with no way forward. We did this to ourselves, and the only way out is to take a step back and reassess what got us here. Only then can we change course. We're lost at home because we thought we knew this place like the back of our hands. Clearly, we do not. We never actually did, at any point.

So why is the above definition of art not used anymore? Why was it replaced by its satanic opposite? Simple, because certain people didn't like that there were certain standards and worked to replace them with their own nonsense instead. There are countless examples of industries currently on death watch because of these anti-art and pro-ego attitudes seizing control of subcultures. Unfortunately for them, in their rush to say those that came before don't count, they have also disqualified themselves from the conversation and can be safely ignored.

If your argument is that the past is bad and should be replaced with your material instead, do not be shocked when the generation after you does the same to you. This is the monster you built. It was never sustainable or built on any firm foundation. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that these changes are completely disposable and created by those that had no authority to change them in the first place. Hence the current death spiral of just about every artistic industry in the west. They did it to themselves, and they deserve no pity for it.

We are living in the scrapyard of what was once a motorway. Once we pulled out the loadbearing beams, the structure fell down around us.

Endless defilement of heroism killed western comics, abandonment of country and the blues killed most guitar music, throwing away stuntmen and practical effects lost the human touch to "B" cinema, turning away from higher subjects and humanity destroyed "A" cinema, writing for anti-social and anti-human degenerate writing circles killed publishing, and the quest for an extra dollar at the expense of craft killed western animation.

It's all dead now.

All of these things are currently gone because every one of them deliberately turned from what made them what they were to begin with. They did it to themselves. However, they also refuse to change course or acknowledge what they've done to their own industries. This is why things like NewPub have emerged from the cracks to offer more to audiences. Art finds a way, even when those supposedly in charge of it completely drop the ball.

But this is the world we live in right now. Half of it wants to destroy the other half (and themselves in the process) and they got to that point by living on a code that puts subversion and deliberate backwardness as the be all standard of progress and health. Is it no wonder that we live in a stagnated culture of broken people?

This stunted nature of being called modern culture has led to a stunted attitude among those given the keys to the proverbial castle we call art. Essentially, the people in control or those who shouldn't be. This isn't a dig--choosing successor's to empires isn't easy, but choosing successors that wish to destroy all you've built is disastrously inane.

And yet, that is exactly what happened.

We can go into this a bit more. First one must understand the mentality of the ones meant to be in charge of the wider western culture.

To begin with, the Low and High Art terms do not refer to the quality of the Art being discussed. It is about where they aim their arrows. They are complimentary, and both intensely important to every single art scene that has ever existed. Without both, you are doomed to fail. This, of course, means each have been mortally wounded by modernism. That's par for the course these days, though. What we need to discuss is what makes their differences so vital to art.

That they are two sides of a coin is what is important here. The reason these terms exist is because they refer to the position from which the story is being told from. Low starts low and aims High; High starts high and aims Low. The former is told from a low position looking up, and the latter is told from a high position looking down.

Allow me to expand. Low Art is escapist in nature, meant to start from the baseline of normal life and moves into looking outward into the world around them. This is where you get things like pulps, b-movies, comics, games, and the like. They work by starting inward and moving outward. This is what is meant by weird fiction being the beating heart of adventure fiction. All weird tales use the abnormal swooping in on normality to begin the tale. 

In order to make good Low Art, one must have a love of others and a desire to connect with them. We start from ourselves, a low position, and turn outwards to see those around us and how we can grow to meet each other. In essence, we move from Low to High.

High Art is not the same thing. It is reflective and thoughtful, insular, and meant to start from a high position as in looking down on creation from above, making an observation about what one sees in the complex tapestry of existence, and then zooming in on it. You start from a high position, and you descend towards it, sort of like tactical bombing. Think of works like Brideshead Revisited, The Idiot, or American Psycho, which take a glance at a specific area of creation and bear down on it with full intensity to explore this one piece of it inside and out. 

They start High so they can easily see the full picture they are attempting to fill in by swooping in Low to meet it. This is the exact opposite approach of Low Art, but a very important half of the whole picture. If you don't have some semblance of wonder at creation and humanity, you simply can't make good High Art. You can only make cheap imitation.

Both of these sorts of stories are extremely important and are required to exist for healthy art scenes to grow. You need Low Art for escapism and a reminder of wonder outside yourself and your predicament, and you need High Art to help grow your knowledge of the world you live in to accept your place in it. Hence why they are two sides of the same coin and one who prefers to ignore one or the other is missing a vital piece of the picture.

As you might be able to gather, you're not going to find these stories on an OldPub bookshelf these days. The issue with High and Low Art is that the mainstream has absolutely leveled each of them into a fine paste, gutting them in the process. Audiences no longer get the complete experience of a healthy art scene--they get a cartoonish funhouse version of them.

Today, nobody in the mainstream can make High Art, having no idea how to have higher thoughts and how to apply them to modern life. This is why they focus on shallow, yet aesthetically pretty, experimentation of prose over stories about how nothing actually matters. The fact of the matter is that literature circles are filled with egocentric secularists who can't think in terms beyond 20th century clich├ęs and therefore have nothing to say. They won't see the whole picture of creation, so they cannot bear down on it. Instead have some pornography and gore interspersed with obvious thesaurus usage and narrative gimmicks to distract from the story literally being about nothing. This isn't High Art at all, but they want it to be so very badly.

Conversely, this set also cannot make Low Art either because they do not have a have a higher vision of life beyond what they were told in school. They take simple stories of good and evil and put themselves or cartoonish versions of other people they wish to "raise up" as protagonists and political and social enemies from the Bad Guy group as puppet string versions that they can easily knock down. They aren't aiming high from a low position, they are aiming down into their own foot. As a result, sales in these industries are at an all-time low, and getting lower.

In other words, these chosen successors of the crown are developmentally stunted, and it prevents their art from having impact or connecting to others on a base level. they are speaking a foreign language and think others not speaking it are lower than dogs. As a result, they can only tell the stories that are little more than pastiche on other people's works, only it is worse because they do not understand those who created the things they steal from. The sad truth is that these false kings have nothing to say or contribute, but they think they do because of their vain and undeserved egos.

They are eternally trapped in adolescence, and the only one keeping them there is their own choices. nonetheless, they were given the keys to the kingdom by people who were asleep at the switch, and now our art suffers for it.

One could say a lot about the negatives of social media, but there were a number of good threads on this very topic recently. From twitter, of all places. The speculation as to why those in charge of the western art scene are so juvenile and awkward has been brought up and discussed many times. I decided to compile some of them below. You can search on the site for these threads. They are definitely not difficult to find.

Here are some examples:

This is undeniable, and one would have to lie to themselves to say they have never seen this behavior at all from modern creators. It is, unfortunately, very prevalent in the modern day. The arts are no less infected with this immature attitude than everywhere else. And being that we as artists are meant to lift people up, this is a poisonous mindset to have. How can you create if creation embarrasses you? How can you hope to create meaning if meaning makes you wretch? Judging from the current art scene, you cannot.

The question then has to be asked regarding why this mentality even exists at all. Unfortunately, it is because the subversive art culture that had been growing in the west and constantly watered since the 1930s finally hit its fever pitch after becoming the baseline standard. Now everything must be filtered through a teenage mentality of What Makes Dad Mad Is Good before anything other aspect of the creative process. The subject of "Dad" being any authority figure or annoyance the creator wishes to lash out at, of course.

But this is why it fails.

Starting from this immature position of adolescence to create something leads to art that is neither Low nor High. It isn't anything at all but a glorified tantrum.

This creation isn't Low because it is not looking outward to anything--it is made specifically to be a negative and therefore reactive piece; it isn't High because it is not taking a high position and looking down on anything--some even deliberately call said works "punching up" and wear this immaturity like a badge of pride. However this approach does not looks at the bigger picture, these creators just wish to attack and destroy.

If this sounds childish, it's actually not really. Children don't wish to destroy. This approach is only adolescent.

Perhaps this culture was birthed and fostered by the late 20th century's bubble on unreality that kept kids shielded from actual reality. They grew up without a sense of struggle, familial or fraternal attachment, or higher purpose beyond consuming and indulging in baser pleasures. All they knew was what they had pumped into their brains as young adults in public school. The world was heading toward utopia, after all, so there was no need to look to the old ways. Why would they ever need to grow? They are perfect as they are, right? That is what they were taught and still are teaching to the poor unsuspecting children of today.

You can see this attitude in what were once known as subcultures. These circles were called that because they were smaller parts of a bigger whole. In other words, the word alone signifies being attached to something bigger than they are. It is a humbling term.

So what do they call them now? They call these groups communities, which is the exact wrong thing to call them. What does the word "community" invoke? Well, for those who have lived in them, they refer to neighborhoods one lives their life in and where they volunteer in, meet new people, get married, and grow families with. However, instead of centering on the place they live their physical and spiritual lives, these poor souls instead put that focus on their hobbies. And it has been a disaster for everyone involved.

Basically, "subcultures" turned into "communities" and with it took warped expectations to spaces not built for them to begin with. This is yet another deconstruction of reality that has subverted common sense for those who do not understand reality. It is putting things out of proportion and order, which in turn effects everyone involved.

As an example, let us discuss what happened to the western anime fandom. What was once a subculture for people who liked interesting eastern animation, turned into a clique that has since decided to seize control over the east's scene for itself. It is a bizarre mentality that only makes sense when you remember that you are dealing with permanent adolescents who refuse to grow up. So they just throw snarky quips around instead.

The most important takeaway to the above discussion is that the people "in charge" of the scene are insular, inept, selfish, and completely unaware of what they are trying to seize control of. This is the sort of thing that makes people distrustful of supposed "trusted" institutions or authority. In case you didn't know, this skeptical mentality didn't fall out of the sky. There is a reason for everything, whether we understand that reason or not.

When the supposed experts are only out for their own personal gain above all then you have to wonder at their true motives. How could you trust someone like that? It shows they are more interested in themselves than the subculture the are a part of--no, sorry, I should say "the community they wish to rule" instead. Are you seeing the game for what it is?

But who knows how deeply ingrained a lot of things meant to be "obvious truths" are actually not true at all? Unless you look into it yourself, how can you know? And when those in charge discourage you into looking into it, then how can you help but wonder at their motives? Truth doesn't fear investigation: it welcomes it.

This wouldn't be the case if everything in modern society wasn't run like a high school lunch table, but it is. And that's the biggest, and most embarrassing, tragedy out of all this mess. You are dealing with people who hate you because you aren't sitting at the right lunch table.

Can you give such people respect? I would imagine it must be very difficult.

This comes back around to the topic of High and Low Art. Do you think the people described above, the ones that created a "community" around something that wasn't a community, who don't look deep into their supposed passion, and then think they should be able to assert control over it, are people capable of creating art at all? At best, they will make pastiche, or they will become "critics" that grade on scales out of sync with the actual, normal audience of the subculture. We know this is true, because this is basically every scene for the last twenty years.

The above anime fandom example is just one such example, but you have seen it in other spaces, even those described on this very blog before. It isn't about the art, or the people, or even creation; it is about the ego that isn't getting the due it deserves for just existing. Specifically, it is about control for people who have none.

In other words, it is an adolescent mindset, one that cannot comprehend a world or existence outside their limited space and area of knowledge. They are incomplete, and therefore are incapable of creating anything bigger than themselves. It isn't childish--that is an entirely different thing. Children don't have illusions of grandeur that they won't immediately cop to. This a teenager on the cusp of adulthood that can't quite make that final jump, and maybe they never will. This is someone who will eternally by holed up in their dark room listening to Linkin Park, writing bad poetry, and swearing at mom and Dad for Just Not Getting It. Adolescence is now forever. 

Perish the thought.

We set up a whole society of unreality, brought on by the advances of the industrial revolution, leading us to create a figurative alternate universe in response. This makeshift reality is completely detached from the past, by design, and has no way to build a future. All that remains is decay: the same decay we can clearly see from our perspective in the twenty-first century looking back. We are off the rails and unwilling to get back on to right ourselves. Until we do, things will never improve. forget looking Low or High, we can't even look forwards or backwards.

Art can't really be made in this plastic bubble. It was for a time, but it thrived on novelty and trends which is why so many flash in the pans kept coming at higher and higher frequencies throughout the decades. That is, until the 1990s when there felt like there was a new fad just about every other week. But then with the crash of Cultural Ground Zero finally hitting by century's end, we were due for a slide into the muck. And that is precisely where we have been for quite some time. We finally see the edges of the bubble that desperately needs to be popped.

How do you create Low Art that looks up to higher things when you can't imagine higher things? How can you create High Art when you don't believe there is any bigger picture to look down upon from? The answer to both is that you don't. You can't. 

Instead you rely on shock value, subversion, perversion, and pastiche, to keep the train going. Keep those wheels spinning eternally and hope you can cash out in case the road falls out under you. but this isn't art--it's just vanity. 

In such a climate, High Art no longer really gets made and Low Art has been co-opted by the above adolescent mindset to provide cover for fetishes and misplaced passions. Essentially, Art is secondary to teenage ego.

Can you even tell what year this picture was taken in?

We can even review the above poster's take on the teenage mentality and how to apply it to our modern entertainment landscape. It lines up very easily.

Children uncritically accept everything, only filtering out what is too much for them to process. Teenagers, however, overcompensate for their basic childhood tastes by going hard in the opposite direction to prove just how much Individuality and cool points they have. As a reminder, let me repost the list from earlier.

The teenage attitude:

1. Viscerally disliking and/or ignoring what they do not like

This is self-explanatory. Spend five minutes online and you will see intense hatred of some piece of art, usually frothing and nearly incomprehensible. Only those who sit at the lunch table are acceptable. This mentality tends to center on "childish" and therefore "dumb" pieces of art that must be knocked down a peg. And guess who has the authority to decide that?

2. Mean-spirited irony

This is a key trait. It's the most prevalent adolescent attitude poising art today, a shallow way of ego boosting to put yourself over others. Think about watching movies to mock the people who made these works and call said creatives down. This is different from watching bad movies for enjoyment of insanity or just odd taste. This mentality instead exists as an easy way to boost self-esteem in order to remind yourself how better you are than the idiots you are currently watching. The only type of person that would need to do this would be insecure teenagers that want to feel above it all. And yet you'll catch full grown adults doing this sort of thing today. however, no adults were doing this fifty years ago. The ones that did were rightfully called weird. Yes, including those who mocked The Eye of Argorn back in the 1970s. There is a reason that scene has always been disliked by healthy-minded individuals.

3. Elevating baser tastes to higher levels

When you get to this entry, you begin understand the insecurity issue better. You remember being a teenager and thinking dark, edgy things are inherently cool. Incessant swearing, blood and guts, and nihilism is great . . . it also just so happens to be the complete opposite of the things you liked as a child. And wouldn't you know it that means it must be high class art! So you then spend your time thinking up ways to make it seem like the greatest thing ever. It simply has to be. Then you need to find a way to justify the things you like as having some sort of credibility over other things you don't. It really is that simple. Japan calls such a thing "Chuunibyou" and plays it as the immature joke such a mentality is. In the west, we live it everyday.

Here is the main issue: normal people grow out of this mentality. They don't have the uncritical acceptance of children, nor the posturing ego of the adolescent. Adults like or dislike things for what they are. They do not need the ignorance of the child or the delusion of the teen in order to filter the world through any longer. Being an adult is putting away childish things and realizing the truth of it all. you now know your place in the world. Raging against reality is not something adults do. This is what growing up used to mean.

This doesn't seem to happen much anymore, or at least it isn't as common. You'd be hard pressed to go out and not run into an adult who embodies the above adolescent attitudes, even though they should have left such things behind way back at high school graduation. Then again, what reason would they have to do that? The modern world does not expect or desire you to grow up. This fugue state of modernity will go on forever, won't it? We are evolved now.

There is that ego again!

Unfortunately, we have nurtured and allowed a culture of permanent adolescence to form up around us, keeping society trapped in a limbo state where we cannot move forward. Unless we get out, we will remain stuck in the middle, unable to see the true excitement and wonder that life can potentially offer us. We have willingly crippled ourselves.

You cannot make exciting art if you cannot find the world exciting. And that is more or less where we are right now as a culture. We hate existence itself.

All one would have to do would be to look at the political situation in the west these days. You can find all sorts of supposedly Love-filled people turning to a frothing rage when they meet someone who disagrees with their Very Educated views. You can find certain types wishing death upon those who didn't vote for the Good Guys or has an opinion that colors outside socially acceptable lines--the same people who will then unironically go into purple faced rage ranting about Mary Whitehouse or the PMRC for censoring True Art. Like a teenager, they have no self-awareness that their posturing is hoisting them by their own petard.

These same individuals apply labels to themselves and others that they can use to easily file human beings away in categories--this way it makes it easier to dehumanize and treat those around them accordingly. All under the guise of "compassion" and "love" or whatever buzzword their peers are using. None of this involves actual critical thinking skills, it is just reactionary. It is just empty gesturing. It is just adolescence.

Does the above sound like normality? No, because it's not. It wasn't normal even by the end of the twentieth century. Why it is common now can only be because we've reached the end of the road. There is no more pretending that the plastic bubble we've shaped over reality has only succeeded in damaging us and ruining our natural immunity to Truth. It is time to take the wrapping off and accept the world for what it is.

It should also go without saying that rejection of reality, and authority as a concept, is peak adolescent behavior. It does not get more juvenile than refusing to interact with other human beings without condescension and in a position of assumed superiority simply for parroting talking points and ejaculating insults to inferiors at the drop of a hat. And such people wonder why they feel so terrible, sickly, and angry all the time.

An adult realizes his place in the world and in creation. He does not rage against reality for being what it is. This is because a key factor in becoming an adult is realizing that you live in the universe you were given to live in, like it or not. Sure, you can work to change the parts that do not work, but you cannot deny that what you are living in is real.

You want to know why the art world is at a loss in how to continue on? It is because we are lost, and it will not fix itself lest we fix ourselves first and find our way back onto the road again. Take the helmet and pads off. It is time to face the pain. No sense being scared of a little blood. Unlike your moral guardians, you know the value in getting hurt.

Babies cry because they do not know how to process pain. Adults do, and that is why they do not cry even a fraction as much. We can use it to our advantage in a way children cannot. It comes with growth and life experience.

You are no longer a child. You are no longer a teenager. You are an adult, and you will be until the day you die. That's simply the way it is. 

So what are you going to do about it? This is the question we need to ask ourselves, because the current way is not working out.

If we want to reclaim our place in the stars from our current position down in the gutter, we need a new direction. We've been on the wrong track for so long it feels as if we will never get back to where we need to be again. Things will always be this bad, won't they? They'll never get better, right? Is the world only destined to get worse?

Deep down you already know the answers to those questions. Doubts might assail you, they always will, but you do know the truth.

Only then once we remember what we've lost will we see the stars for what they are, our neighbors for who they are, and the world for what it is. Until then, you cannot expect a magical flick of a wand to put reality back together again. That is our job.

It's easy to get discouraged with how things are, and especially with how we treat each other these days, but you can't lose focus of the bigger picture. Things will get worse, things will get better, things will be different, but the state of things as they are today simply can't remain that way forever. It never does. That was the one flaw from 1984--they thought they could maintain that charade of a false society forever, simply by planning. However, it would never actually last. Human beings always find some way to wriggle out of the net, good or bad. That's kind of what got us into this existential position in the first place.

Regardless, there is plenty of good out there, including in the world of art. Those who have found this post clearly care enough to search for some of it on their own. As long as we retain that sense of hope and gleeful curiosity we will continue to grow, just like adults are meant to. The road never really ends, but it does wind off the beaten path in weird ways. And it can get very weird. But that's what makes it fun.

And doesn't it make for good storytelling, too? I'd definitely say so.

High or low, it doesn't matter. Art always finds a way to hit you where you least expect it. And thank God for that!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Sworn to the Light!

Find it Here!

We're nearing the end of September, with fall finally here. What better what to celebrate it than with some NewPub books. I've got one for you today. This is called Sworn to the Light by Denton Salle, the first book in a new series.

Here is the description:

"Power comes from either the Light or the Dark, lad. Nothing is neutral."

Jeremy has a problem: he randomly turns into a black and white bear cub. The transformations panic his mom, but his father says he knows a wizard who can help. That scares his mother even more.

The volkh wizards once ruled like gods in their power, building the great golden city of Miklagard, establishing kingdoms, and trading with legendary places like Sheba, Chin, and India. Then the Dark arose and the wars destroyed much of the world. Kingdoms fell, cities burned, and the volkhvy were merciless in crushing it.

Master Anthony remains the greatest of the living volkh lords. Can he, will he help Jeremy stop this random changes? And at what price? Why is Jeremy's dad so worried? Isn't the war against darkness over?

Join Jeremy as he enters the world of the volkhvy. A world of mysteries and secrets. Where women walk in shadow and men call lightning at will. Where endless war against the Dark continues. If you liked Harry Potter and the Heroes of Olympus, you'll enjoy this series set in a Rus fantasy world where the lines between Good and Evil are clearly drawn.

Once again, you can find it here.

There is also a second book in the series already out. This one is called The Fourth Bear of God, and the description is as follows.

Spoilers for the first book, obviously.

Jeremy's celebration party for his passing the second degree of the volkh path is stopped when a band of armed men demand to speak with Master Anthony. Who disturbs the keep of the world's greatest remaining wizard-lord? And why is Jeremy so attracted to her?

In a world where the volkh wizards once ruled as gods, and the Light wars with the forces of Darkness, a teenaged boy discovers that there are other important things besides following the path of the volkh to mastery.

But even young love is threatened by the forces of the Dark. And now lives depend on Jeremy's choice.

Jeremy's adventures continue as the Light and Dark continue to strive. If you liked Riordan or Butcher's stories, you'll enjoy this fantasy series.

A story of the battle between Light and Dark. You love to see it, especially as stories about morality become more and more common. 

And there is much more to come, as always. I'll try to share what I can when I can share it. Until then, keep looking up. You don't want to miss what's ahead.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Y to Z

There's been a lot of talk recently about the lack of hope for the future. This has been reflected in modern art and entertainment quite a good deal. We see much about the destruction of the world or people, but not a whole lot about how things would look if they improved. In fact, we've been living in the remains of the twentieth century for two decades now.

To be honest, all one has to do is go on social media or turn on the television and be greeted by an onslaught of fashions, worldviews, aesthetics, and entertainment, that more or less feel as if they were ripped from the twentieth century, just decayed. And they look and feel more decayed every time you look at them. It's fairly morbid stuff.

This isn't to say there is nothing worth indulging in these days: there is actually quite a lot. The point is more that there is no real hopeful look towards the future of the world, or any real view of what is to come that isn't merely about full collapse or yet more of the same continuing indefinitely. The days of looking forward to cheap rockets to the moon are long over. What has replaced them is . . . nothing, really.

We can't really seem to imagine anything beyond the "modern" (in a mid-twentieth century sense) world continuing forever without end. Which is weird, considering that we all know it won't. It can't. History doesn't work like that. But there are no visions being presented from the greater culture as to what could possibly come next that isn't just rehashed and reheated mush left over from the previous century. 

We aren't going back to anything; humanity doesn't work like that. We're moving into uncharted territory, as we always have. What the twentieth-first century will have in store for us is yet unknown! 

So why does it feel like no one even wants to guess at what that future might be like? Why do we only imagine destruction or an even more hedonistic version of late twentieth century first world life? Is there nothing beyond that?

There was a post made recently at The Dacian by author Alexandru Constantin about the lack of anything aside from pastiche from his generation. It was as if we all arrived late to a party that had already been abandoned and have no idea what we're supposed to do next. 

We don't have anything to build on. There is no vision of the future being made in the wider culture. It is just more of the same.

"We are twenty-one years into the 21st Century but culturally we are trapped in a nostalgic pastiche of the 20th. Our current seems incapable of articulating the present. Everything is referential to the ghosts of the past. Our social and political commentary is trapped in the mystified history of World War II seen understood through the lens of superhero movies and Tarantino infantilism. Endless performative stupidity.

"We live in a state of dyschronia, a disoriented, out-of-time sensation of vertigo. Bug World is main street Disneyland, a non-place of interchangeable Starbucks disguised as nostalgia. Remember Star Wars guys, how quaint, slap a Spider-Man on it! Boy oh boy the past is now, then, and forever. You too can have a childhood just like your father did, but this America is extra good 4k resolution.

The brand is love, the brand is life. It was made in the 20th century, and that makes it to be worshiped. Why have something new that builds on it, when you can have the same thing rehashed forever? Remember that copyright logo? Doesn't it make you feel warm inside? Hey, you don't need that physical collection, do you? Trade in and give the corporation your credit card number so they can charge you indefinitely for the right to rent things digitally. Why do you need to own anything when you can trust us to own it for you?

Surely this is the future your ancestors fought so hard for.

But the other point is that it's stale. This is all the same crap we had back in the 1990s, only now filtered through high definition screens and tacky brands that were obnoxious even at the time they were new. We were already seeing a downgrade at the time of the '90s, and now they expect you to celebrate the downgrade with endlessly rereleased and repainted toys that you already had, only now they're made worse. And you most likely will buy them again and again, judging by how the endless reboot culture is still supported by people who peaked back in 1999 and are incapable of thinking of a brighter future beyond consuming product.

Who cares that Blockbuster destroyed an entire superior industry; don't you remember the smell of store brand popcorn and the feel of cheap the laminate rental cards in your hand when you walked in to rent The Matrix for the first time? That's what really matters! Hey, did you hear they're making a new Matrix soon? I remember that lobby scene from nearly thirty years ago like it was yesterday! Seeing the new one will make me feel like I did back then. Boy, I wonder what will happen when they make another Matrix in twenty years again. Remember Blockbuster? I could sure go for some popcorn. Oh hey, it looks like Blockbuster is getting its own popcorn brand. Isn't that cool? It reminds me of when I was a kid and rented The Matrix.

But what is being made that reminds you of what it means to be an adult? What is trying to pull you forward with a fresh vision of what is to come instead of pushing you into reliving what has already passed? What is there to look forward to? Why are you constantly called to relive the past instead of shaping a future?

Why aren't we answering those questions anymore?

"The truth is we failed. We were given the internet and instead of creating groundbreaking art or revolutionary culture we reverted into nostalgic infantilism. We turned our back on the future and retreated into a never-ending Comic-Con, cheering for children’s entertainment created before our parents were born. Endless remakes, endless re-imagining. We can’t imagine a future, so we just borrow previous versions. Bladerunner again, Dune again, Matrix again, endless Terminators, endless Alien’s."

It doesn't even matter if you like these things. The simple point is that we're reliant on reheated corporate product for our art and entertainment when such things used to come secondary. 

Yes, Hollywood has always created remakes. But they also constantly pumped out new things. We had a B-movie industry that, before it was choked out by the big boys and corporate chains, used to try and present that. There was new with the old. Now you get old things repackaged as new without any of the charm, care, or craft, that made the old things what they were to begin with. It's a tailspin of corporate meddling and hopes for easy money disguised as giving the customer what they want. And it isn't really working anymore.

However, the greater point is that storytelling doesn't exist so that we can see the same corporate owned intellectual properties be sold to us over and over indefinitely amen. It exists to lift us up and show us a place much different than here--one that opens up possibilities. Now the only possibilities is the same cracked world spinning onward forever.

What is the purpose of storytelling? To tell the exact same story over and over, but change the undesirable parts for our ever-mutating "modern" sensibilities? Is it just to mindlessly consume product and wait for next product? For what end do we consume them?

Is storytelling just soma? Is escapism really bad for you? No, that can't be the case, simply given how effective it was for hundreds of years before the modern mess we live in. Stories have a greater purpose than to lull you back into a diabetic, comfy coma. They exist to push you onward. But we seem to have forgotten that.

Stories are made to give voice to things we feel and experience internally, not to be endlessly rehashed as brand names that remind you of other times from long ago. They are meant to give us the strength to get up and continue forward into new horizons.

So why are they being used to keep us in the past? Why indeed.

This world is gone, and it's not coming back.

One could easily point to Cultural Ground Zero as some sort of cause to this, but CGZ is not a cause; it is a result. Allowing corporate monopolies to run roughshod over the little guys, choosing not to address serious issues that needed addressing for decades, and deliberately demonizing the past has left us adrift in a counterfeit existence, unable to find the way back out. We were already done long before CGZ hit.

The reason we can't find the way back out is because getting into this situation took a lot of finagling by generations much older than us--deviating us from a natural progression as a species into a sort of bottleneck fashioned from errors about humanity that came out of the industrial revolution. Remember, Utopia is coming every day now because we have electricity and cures for diseases we didn't have centuries ago. It'll just happen! All you have to do is pretend human nature can be perfected and improved, even though actual evidence proved it can't be. We are what we are; but we if we can pretend we're not? This backwards thinking is why we live in a backwards world. 

We still live in a society that still sees the same crimes and tragedies play out time and time again, decade after decade, solemnly shake our heads, and wonder when will the Other Idiots finally Evolve and get with whatever is fashionable this year like we have. We do this over and over and wonder why nothing changes.

Because it won't. It never will.

Human beings don't really change. We can't, and we won't, no matter how much we wish we could. We are fundamentally imperfect and flawed beings capable of just as many horrific acts as we are noble ones. We can funnel crippling pain into unreal strength and turn core virtues into poisonous vices. We can achieve anything, but one thing we are good at above all is convincing ourselves to follow a single track. Sometimes this can be a good thing, especially when working on or creating something, but it can also lead to terrible thought processes planted from our ancestors that bear evil fruit long after the ones who started it have passed on.

And that is basically where we are today.

Essentially our problems come from being locked in the wrong frame of mind from those a few generations back. It was this mentality that never had a plan except that Things Would Work Out at some point. That's about it, really. Does that sort of thinking make sense? I don't know, does it look like it's Working Out to you? Yet we refuse to turn back despite its proven failure.

Maybe if we keep getting mad at reality for reasserting itself every time we try to defy it eventually reality will change for us. Seems as good a plan as any. After all, why else would we continue to smash our heads against the same brick wall repeatedly for decade after decade, expecting different results from the exact same decisions that failed before? The 20th century is over. Perhaps we should stop living with 20th century expectations and blind hopes. Those times are long gone, and they're not coming back.

It's over.

Nonetheless, we are locked where we are because choose to be. Until we break the cycle, we will be rehashing this same tired fugue state indefinitely, or at least until we are forced out of it by outside factors. Either way, it isn't going to always be like this. We would be better off making the choice to move on before it is made for us.

However, that doesn't help the expression issues. How do we express things when our imagination has been so stunted? Well, we first have think outside of the box, as hard as that might be. If you can't imagine a better world than you can't imagine a brighter future. Everyone should be able to imagine something beyond their own present state. Otherwise you will be little more than a prisoner to the whims of outside forces to get what they want.

We internally know all of this, but we are, right now at least, unable to express what will come next. It's a shame, but one day it will be different. As long as we push against the tide we can find a break in it. And if it kills us? Well, at least we attempted it.

A second sort of related post on this subject of endless circling the drain came from author Alexander Hellene. He touches on a subject close to it, but there are a few choice passages to highlight. You can find the post here.

"What is American culture in the early twenty-first century? An endless spiral of revivalism and nostalgia. Replicating chunks of a relatively recent past we cannot escape because nobody can imagine a future any different, any better, than this.

"The more scholarly among us like current events to the past. This is just like Ancient Rome . . . it’s 1939 all over again . . . you know who else drank water? This helps explain recurring patterns of human behavior, but pointing out similarities and recommending solutions without taking what is actually happening in the present into account does nothing to solve the very real, very deep problems we face."

Why do we need to be constantly reminded of our childhood? Why can we not instead be reminded of a better future we can aim for? Why is this culture more obsessed with the latter than the former? It is because we are incapable of thinking of anything aside from what we already know of. This is how we were educated to be. If the best you can imagine is 1987 or 1995, then that's all you can hope for.

And neither of those years was all that great, in the grand scheme of things. But it's all we have as a reference. We were taught to expect it to last forever as long as we just kept our heads down and did what we were told. We didn't expect it wouldn't be sustainable, and it turns out that it wasn't.

This misplaced nostalgia also degrades the past era as we attempt to constantly relive those times. You just take more and more from it, distorting the memories with every piece you pillage, misremember, rearrange, and subvert for your own selfish gain. When those memories are gone and destroyed, what remains? 

At the end, you are left with nothing. Hence, what we are currently seeing after an endless 1997 on repeat. We can't imagine anything beyond the faded memories of a forgotten time currently and rapidly fading out of sight. 

This isn't going to go on forever, but we want to pretend it will.

"But the fact remains that we are trapped in a bizarre Frankenstein’s monster of World War II nostalgia and 1980s geopolitical thinking and artistic aesthetics, a paradigm stuck in those two decades, with no end in sight. A culture of pastiche. Take bits of the past to make something that’s kind of like the past. It’s like a road trip without a map or an idea of where you want to go: you decide to just pull off in some pretty residential development and just do circles around the cul-de-sac for hours, driving a lot but going nowhere.

"There’s a glitch in humanity’s code. The present is a broken record we cannot unskip. In the end, I shouldn’t be so surprised that robots can imitate us so convincingly.

No wonder Hollywood has been working on AI scriptwriting to replace their rapidly collapsing talent pool. It's only going to get easier the more we try to dumb ourselves down to match what we consume, just as we do with every single modern reboot, reimagining, relaunch, and unnecessary sequel. We're back to ignoring reality again.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the trapped nature we find ourselves in has a lot to do with the self-mythicization we have engaged in since at least the Enlightenment. Our ego has us stuck. We think we figured it out, but it turns out we didn't. We broke from tradition, and we've been steadily sliding downhill since despite our understanding of technology and medicine improving. Happiness alludes us still.

Unhappiness has steadily grown to the point that depression and suicide is an epidemic in the modern world. This also leads to other health problems such as obesity or hard drug and alcohol use. We are killing ourselves to fill a hole and numb the pain. None of this ever gets addressed because it is just assumed these issues will Get Fixed one day. They will be repaired Scientifically. We just need to get there!

So how much longer are we supposed to wait?

Since that's how we were taught the future is supposed to work, and have been told for hundreds of years, it is unfathomable that this direction could be wrong. It is even more impossible that those before our enlightened ideas came to fruition might have had something right that we got wrong. After all, things just naturally Get Better, remember? Despite evidence to the contrary that you can easily gleam by seeing how the '20s has been shaping up so far. Aside from that.

It hasn't been great, and probably won't be for awhile. The 2020s are probably going to be a rough ride for everyone involved. Nonetheless, we still need hope for a better future--just not the empty hope based on nothing we relied on before. That was what lead us here to begin with.

Mindless worship of "the future" has led to nothing but empty consumerism as a replacement for ethos or hope. We exist to consume soma, and nothing else.

At some point we must admit there is no future here. We were sold a lie.

An example of ahistorical nonsense disguised as "Hope"

Another example. You can read this article here.

And where has this materialist mentality of mindless hope led us? Nowhere at all. In fact, it has left us without any vision of the future or bearing on what to do next when the above paradise we were promised never came true. It never came true because it can't come true.

We need something beyond a future of spinning our wheels through fields of broken down dreams and empty hopes. You aren't going to find water in the desert, and you aren't going to find a future where there is nothing but a past built on sand.

Now, don't take this as a blind condemnation of the past. This isn't anything of the sort. We need the past. We need what our ancestors put down for us in order to forge ahead in the world. We need people who keep old traditions alive, unsoiled by the ambitions of those who wish to selfishly destroy them for clout and an improved social score created by those who hate them. We need the old ways to keep our bearings straight.

But we also need those visionaries willing to forge new trails and help us look at eternal things in a new way. It doesn't mean abandoning tradition. Quite the opposite: it means building onto it and expanding. Growing new branches and allowing us to stretch our wings, all this while the roots are still tended to in order to make sure we are still sturdy enough to handle it. There is much we must do; much we haven't been doing at all. 

There isn't a perfect formula for this problem, but we need to be able to have a hopeful glance ahead in order to have a direction to build towards.

The future awaits regardless of what we want. It always does.

An example of something we can learn from the past.

This is a reason I have taken to calling the next generation the Last Generation, while the mainstream attempts to call them Generation Alpha. This is an assumption that things will just Start Over with them, when that is simply not the case. They are the last to live in this dried out husk of twentieth century scraps. with them comes the end.

What comes next? That's the pertinent question.

Admittedly, this post is really just a very long way of saying that I don't really have a solution to this problem. I've always been more of a traditionalist, bordering on Luddite. I'm the wrong person to supply a solution to this quandary. The importance of the past can't be understated, nor be as hated as it is by those in the mainstream. We can't afford to lose our only links out of this trap we are stuck in. You need the past to move into the future.

That said, we do need a vision of the future beyond the same one, or mutations on the same one, we have had for far too long. That world doesn't exist, will never exist, and can't exist. We have more than enough modern examples to prove that much. It is time for new ways.

But, again, things are changing at a rapid rate. While the '00s were a big load of nothing, the '10s proved just how much things had changed despite not seeming as if they did on the surface before. And within 2 years of the '20s we have seen a total upheaval of the way things were. Whether we like it or not, the old days are definitely over. We are entering a new era. Better strap in, because it's going to be a rough ride going forward.

Now, will we use this change to our advantage and finally press towards a new, shining future, or will we continue to let ourselves degrade into nothing, clinging to the dead twentieth century forever? Right now there's no way to tell what we'll do, but I'd like to think humanity's capability to adapt will at the very least help us to find a new angle on this old problem, and see it for what it is. We're about due. Then we can find a way out again.

What comes next? Who knows. Perhaps it will be a better way forward. All we can do is hope for the best.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Short Update!

The OG!

Hope you are having a good week! It is time for a quick update. I only have two bits of news to share with you today before we each continue on our merry way.

The first news is that the Pulp Rock crowdfund is getting a second wind on kickstarter to help with general production expenses. Last I heard an additional story might make its way into its pages, but I can't be certain. Nonetheless, if you back it here you can get it early and with your name in the credits. From what I've seen of the project, it's quite unlike anything else coming out of OldPub or even in the independent space. Check it out for some rockin' good times!

The other piece of news is a bit different from the above, given that it involves something completely brand new. I almost don't know how to say it since it has been something I've wanted to say for some time now. So here it goes!

My story, Dead Planet Drifter, will be appearing in the 2022 summer issue of Cirsova magazine. This is a tale about a lone galactic enforcer who finds himself stranded on a planet of the dead. And no, I'm not talking about zombies or ghosts. What does that mean? You'll just have to see for yourself next summer!

You can see the entire lineup for Cirsova's 2022 here!

This is personally thrilling for me because I have been reading Cirsova since it first began printing issues 5 years ago and have always wanted to be in its pages. Today I count myself grateful to be in this lineup. It's been a writing goal for quite some time now.

Please be sure to read the issues (and every other Cirsova issue!) when you get the opportunity to. They are putting out some of the best adventure fiction today, and even busying themselves with re-releasing old out of print pulp stories. There is no one else out there like them.

In fact, their recent kickstarter for Julian Hawthorne's pulp output has recently hit its second stretch goal after blowing past its initial funding! Once they hit the third one they will be able to continue making more of these projects in the future, as well as create files for this one specifically for the public domain. At this rate, they should make it before the campaign ends.

Anyway, if you're a fan of old stories, or want to see more nearly lost fiction be reprinted, you should check it out here!

And that's all for today. Not a lot, but I still thought you should know.

It's been a bit of an odd year, but it's also been kind of fun. Here's hoping we keep heading down this path towards greater things. There's even more coming down the pike!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Rocket Knight Adventures: One of the Best Games Ever Made

You know, much is said about cinematic games that tell epic, engrossing stories. This is usually codeword for games that don't offer much aside from gameplay ripped from 2007 or so, and a story where anyone who has seen a movie or read a book before the 2000s can guess every single thing that will happen. Most who champion such games don't say much about the gameplay, or what makes it stand out from the rest.

What isn't appreciated much is how video games stories, and their appeal, used to be shown through their gameplay. Even simple platformers, the most common genre at the time, were capable of doing this. This might have been back when pulp storytelling was synonymous with everything from comic books to simple platformers, but it was a formula that always worked. It still works today!

Adventure stories are universal--they don't need to be designed after modern big budget movies to work. And for a long time they didn't.

Take the cult classic game Rocket Knight Adventures. Made by Konami during their golden age of the 1990s, this was one of their few creations created exclusively for the Sega Genesis. At the time of the console wars, Sega and Nintendo were doing just about anything to get a leg up on the other, and that included gathering exclusives. One such sadly overlooked gem from this time period is the game we are talking about today. The title you see above is completely accurate: this is an adventure unlike any you'll play. Especially unlike any you'll come across today.

You see, Konami got the director of the excellent Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps to create a brand new platformer mascot in the early '90s/ This was during the surge that was brought on when Sonic the Hedgehog took off and everyone was making their own mascot. Everyone was putting out a platformer, mostly to try and get in on the success Sega was enjoying. This led to a golden age of the genre that many fans of such games still go back to today, one of fertile releases that remain as good today as they did back then. The era was that good for the genre that it still reverberates today.

Konami's Rocket Knight Adventures is one of the peaks of this era, and you will find few people who disagree with this assessment. For good reason!

Made by me

So what exactly is it that makes the game so good? The thing to start with would be the aspect that makes all classic games what they are: the gameplay. This is the most important aspect of any game, and the gameplay here is as good as it gets for platformers.

It does everything it is supposed to do. Rocket Knight Adventures is a platformer, which means the main goal of the game is to traverse from one side of the screen to the other. This sounds a lot simpler than it is, as anyone who has ever played a platformer can attest. Where it differs from standard genre fare is in the title. You play as a rocket knight. That sounds as cool as it is to play. You can slash and boost across the screen with a charge jump, just as you'd figure. Being a rocket knight means you have a sword and a rocket pack which form the core of the gameplay. Everything after that from the design to the aesthetic all flows from this base concept.

This is one of the things that makes video games so different from other mediums: the gameplay system fed through the controller dictates everything else that forms around it. Your gameplay is centered on a sword and a rocket pack and this effects the level design, the story, the character designs, the art direction, and even the catchy music. The whole project hinges on the fact that you are playing as a rocket knight and the game is built to enhance and perfect the feeling that you are in fact one of these fantastical soldiers of good.

Should you look back at any classic video game from the golden age of the 1980s and 90s you will see they all follow this template to success. This has gotten lost over the years with recycled gameplay taking a backseat to whatever story the story team wants to tell, but it is the most important factor of good game design. Video games are about allowing you to play a role, and the gameplay enhances that feeling to complete the experience. 

This is the reason Nintendo has managed to retain so much popularity over the years. They are simply the only big company left who remembers this formerly obvious fact, and they profit from it.

Take the original Super Mario Bros. Did you know that the coins are placed how they are to subtly influence the player and guide them to make jumps so they learn how to play and even make tricky obstacles easier to avoid? All one has to do is pay attention, and the game doesn't even have to walk you through it. This was something Hideaki Kamiya emulated with his own hit back in the day, Viewtiful Joe. He claimed it was vital advice for design, and it is one he still uses to this day. You don't need tutorials if you can teach the player through the elements they were already given how to succeed. you teach through the gameplay the player is meant to master. This was so standard back in the day that everyone understood it internally.

Other companies did it, too.

In DOOM, you are a lone space marine fighting off a demonic invasion on mars. The level design, weapons, enemy patterns, and even music all work to build this atmosphere of action through desperation that permeates the game.  Even when you are good at the game and think you are Rambo, it doesn't take much to screw up and become just another corpse. The horror atmosphere never really disappears, even when you master the game. The horror experience always comes first.

In Thief, you play as the titular thief. Stealing, sneaking, and espionage, are all core elements of the gameplay. Without them the game wouldn't be what it is. The team wanted to make a game entirely about being a thief, which meant the gameplay had to nail all of that perfectly for it to work. The developers put everything to work to match the gameplay they had built. The rest of the production from the aesthetic to the story all take a backseat to the fact that the gameplay centering on being a thief needed to come first. As a result, is one of the best at what it does. Every element falls in line where it should be.

To bring it back around, Rocket Knight Adventures is exactly like the above examples. In fact, it is one of the best platformers of all time because it does all this with a wild idea for platforming and makes it feel 100% normal and natural at the same time. That isn't easy to do, but like all the best art and entertainment, the more well crafted something is the easier it looks to create. Rocket Knight Adventures feels effortless, when it certainly was not.

And there is our hero.

In RKA, you play as Sparkster, a possum knight who uses his rocket pack to fly about the land and bring justice where it need be brought out. You are a white hat hero who is celebrated as something of a legend. The rocket knight is the best of the best, after all. At the start of the game, the kingdom is under attack by the steam-powered pigs who attack and kidnap the princess. Does this feel like a job for a rocket knight? Boy howdy is it!

The entire first level deals with you fighting through the attacking pig army and flying towards the castle to put a stop to this oncoming assault. You then find out a rival knight has betrayed your kingdom and has taken the princess prisoner for the villains. Now you must do your duty and put things right again. Show them what the rocket knight is made of.

And that is what you spend the game doing. Who else could get through the madness to come unless they were the best of the best?

Each level in the game follows Sparkster's journey across the land towards the enemy empire, filling the moments with tough as nails platforming that will test your skills and enemies that are vicious enough to wish you had a rocket sword as well. This journey is not going to be easy.

While the gameplay is centered around jumping and slashing, the developers made sure to use every part of the animal, as the saying goes. You are a possum, so you can hang from objects with your tail. Your sword can be charged to do a spin attack or a rocket lunge, and yet it is more powerful the closer you are to your enemy which turns combat into a risk/reward system. Your rocket pack allows you to ricochet off walls which allows for accessing secrets in strange places as well as shortcuts, should you know what you are doing. In Rocket Knight Adventures, mobility is your best friend. What else does one expect from an elite rocket knight?

Even the console system itself is used to its utmost limit. You have mode-7 style moving and twisting sprites (even though the system isn't incapable of mode-7, Konami went all out on presentation) in regards to the scrolling and the bosses. Levels use wave reflection, darkness, rushing air, and every single trick available to make you need to use both your head and your platforming skills to traverse the insanity preventing you from completing your noble quest. You will be pushed to your skill limit in this one.

This is because Rocket Knight Adventures is an unapologetically hard game. Just like most of the video games made at the time, this one is going to put you through the grinder and make you earn your ending screen.

But the developers also knew that different people come to the genre for different things. As a result, it has multiple difficulty levels, including a super hard one-hit mode that comes straight from the people that make the Contra games. Konami was known for challenge. This one is most definitely no exception to the rule.

One of the issues with platformers these days is that they are simply too easy. Though there is a reason for this, mostly due to how the genre was treated post-1995.

With the advent of the 3D game consoles the platformer was shuffled off to handhelds and were eventually locked out of the home systems until the creation of downloadable games. They essentially went MIA for over a decade. Even then when they came back they were treated as eccentric and for niche audiences, never given the polish and focus they once had.

It took until New Super Mario Bros. Wii to come out on the Nintendo Wii to give the genre its place back in the spotlight. And even then, the game isn't that hard for anyone who knows the genre well. The issue is that for many they are so out of the loop on platformers that they consider games like these to be too hard today. This is what happens when the industry diverted from its original aims. Now arcade gaming is considered niche instead of the standard so arcade genres tend to not be as focused on challenge as they once were.

This shift in difficulty happened because the mainstream audience is essentially out of practice when it comes to arcade gameplay. So coming back to a game like Rocket Knight Adventures might be asking too much for most gamers these days. But for those used to it, RKA is arcade gaming perfection back when that was the expectation for good games. Perhaps it will be again. One can only hope.

Masterful level design, expertly balanced difficulty, striking art design, contribute to this greatly. As do the controls that take advantage of every part of the controllers, the player's reaction-time and expectations, and the many moves you can perform. Then there is the length that manages to be long enough without wearing out its welcome or short enough to feel unsatisfying. Oh yeah, and you also get to have a giant mecha fight at one point.

This is what helps make Rocket Knight Adventures one of the best games ever made. Platformer or not, it's close to perfect.

Unfortunately, the game was also more or less completely passed over back in the day. Perhaps it was due to too much competition at the time or just luck of the draw, but Rocket Knight Adventures didn't do very well at all. Most people who talk about it today discovered it via word of mouth--they didn't play it at the time. RKA simply never achieved the success it deserved.

And this thud of a performance affected the series going forward. After the original bombed, Konami pumped out two more sequels, one for the SNES and one for the Genesis. They were both called Sparkster, named after our protagonist, and yet both were completely different games. 

The Genesis sequel (subtitled Rocket Knight Adventures 2) is more twitchy and fast paced with more labyrinthine level design than the more arcadey original. The SNES sequel (which originally started as a port of the original game) is a good deal closer to the original, though the music, outside of the masterful stage 1 theme, is dull and the controls are more cumbersome than the first game was. Despite their differences with the original as well as each other, both do feel like sequels to the first one. But not the sort of sequel you'd hope for.

On top of this, neither were given close to the budget or attention the original did and as a result they aren't quite up to the standard of Rocket Knight Adventures is. They are fine enough games, but it is clear neither was given as much attention or polish that first one did. The controls and focus changed a bit with how the rocket pack works and even how basic attacks are delivered, both of which change the pitch perfect tactile feel of the first game. They were essentially overhauled from the original. Whether, again, this is because of perceived faults in the original because it didn't achieve success or not is unclear. Regardless, they aren't quite the sequels one hopes for from a follow-up to a classic like Rocket Knight Adventures.

It doesn't take a big brain to realize that if that classic first game didn't light the world on fire than these sequels wouldn't either, and they didn't. coming out in a crowded market and not reaching on par with the first game prevented them from gaining ground. The series was over before it really started. It's a shame, but that's just how it goes.

There was an attempt at a revival game over a decade ago, but as can be gleamed by the fact that it has been over ten years since its release, it didn't exactly revive the franchise or light the world on fire. It was a game that was full of ideas but sorely lacking in execution--a platformer made by developers who don't understand platformers or arcade design on a fundamental level. As such, it is merely average, and not really worth going into compared to the other games. Not as if you could play it these days if you wanted to anyway.

And that was pretty much it for Sparkster.

But that doesn't change the fact that Rocket Knight Adventures is one of a kind, and still well worth playing today. Even if Konami has all but forgotten about this one or wants bury it for whatever reason, RKA is still one of the best games on the already great Sega Genesis.

And that makes it one of the best games of all time.

So check it out today before used prices get too insane. This is a game that deserves to be rediscovered and played, given the attention it deserves. There isn't much like it out there, and there probably never will be again. But that is what makes this one so unique.

Who doesn't want to be a flying knight? I can't imagine. This is the sort of things video games were made to portray. Fighting for honor, princesses, and taking on rivals. Imagination run wild!

It doesn't get any better than this.