Shmuplations across space and time

I am smitten with Shmuplations: “a repos­i­tory of Japanese game developer trans­la­tions, covering primarily (but not exclusively) older arcade and console games from the 80s and 90s.” It’s that last bit that’s extra wonderful; these are trans­la­tions not only across languages but through decades. They make old ideas and conver­sa­tions acces­sible and interesting. As an undertaking, that’s never not astonishing; never not essential.

On top of all that, the produc­tion is exemplary: the pages clear and direct, laden with images and — crucially — animated GIFs. I mean how do you explain old-school palette animation? Why bother? Just show it:

In particular, I thought the recent trans­la­tion of an interview with the original Mega Man game’s planner was totally delightful.

For example: “hidden tricks” as essential video game PR.

Ariga: Another thing I’ve wondered about for awhile: why can you kill Metal Man in two hits with the Metal Blade?! Was that actually in your planning docs? I remember being momen­tarily stunned when I discovered this … then I burst out laughing! There’s never been another boss like that before or since. It was really memorable.

Kitamura: That was written into the planning docs, yes. It’s a “hidden trick.” In the old days, if your game didn’t have any secrets, it was difficult to get it featured in the various gaming magazines. Also, there’s the secret in Mega Man 2 where you can change the stars to birds in the boss select screen---that was added for the same reason.

“If your game didn’t have any secrets, it was difficult to get it featured in the various gaming magazines”—I love it.

This project pushes all the buttons for me: video games; the practical origins of art and culture; trans­la­tion in multiple dimensions; the kind of nerdy enthu­siasm that not only cele­brates but also elevates its subject. That last effect is basically magic. It’s the best internet.

February 2016, Berkeley