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