BakeSpite: Japan has rendered the cronut obsolete

Walking through Shibuya the other night in a fruitless search for Game Boy games, I saw something that caused me to pause and do a literal double-take: クロワッサンたい焼, or “croissant teriyaki.” Curiosity got the best of me, so I bought one.

Taiyaki, in case you’re not familiar, are a popular Japanese pastry: A fish-shaped piece of pan-fried dough usually filled with adzuki (sweet red bean paste). Normally, the dough is reminiscent of a waffle, slightly sweet but not excessively so, fluffy inside and slightly crisp outside. A croissant, of course, is totally not like this at all, consisting of layers of thin, buttery pastry dough. So, I had to wonder: How would this work?

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Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s basically a Japanese cronut. While it bears the shape of a taiyaki, more or less, the consistency of the pastry is more like that of a croissant. The outside is glazed and sprinkled with big chunks of sugar — or, one hopes, salt in the case of the other available flavor, tuna mayo corn.

The taiyaki thing is really more or less a cheat, though. In effect, this is a rectangular croissant that’s been pressed in a grill that imprints the outline of a taiyaki into it. They don’t even bother to trim off the excess dough. For shame.

Tastewise, too, it’s much more like a croissant than a taiyaki: Flaky and buttery.

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Though admittedly the adzuki filling pegs this concoction as not necessarily being straight outta Paris.

Although it’s basically just a fancy stamp on a slightly Japanified croissant, it wasn’t too shabby. I could have done without the sugar glaze, though. The outer shell tasted for all the world like those Danish butter cookies that come in the big round blue tin. Do they still make those? I guess they don’t need to. The croissant taiyaki has rendered them obsolete, much like the cronut.

Final verdict: Japan continues to demonstrate its remarkable talent for pushing me toward diabetic shock.

Posted in BakeSpite. Tagged with , .

I guess this job was a success

I had a couple of really great interviews today as follow-ups to Tokyo Game Show, so that officially makes this TGS trip a success in my book. They should be up on USG in a couple of weeks.

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And I unexpectedly got a nice souvenir out of it. I never ask interview subjects to sign anything, but he insisted.

Interestingly, Mr. Amano’s office is literally across the street from Arte Piazza’s office. I dearly wish to believe that they’re keeping the old Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest rivalry alive.

Posted in Games. Tagged with , , .

BakeSpite: Burger King 黒パール (Black Pearl) burger

I haven’t posted to the BakeSpite category in… um, years? I also haven’t posted to this blog in what feels like years. So here, have a twofer while I try and kick the rust off my ability to write things that won’t make me a living. Quite the opposite, in fact.

My trip to Tokyo Game Show coincided with Burger King’s launch of their weird new Japan-exclusive burgers, the Black Pearl and Black Diamond. Basically they’re teriyaki Whoppers with cheese; the Pearl comes topped with nothing but cheese and teriyaki sauce, while the Diamond adds tomato, mayo, lettuce, and onions. Totally normal, right? What makes these things stand out is the “black” part: They are pitch black. While the meat is about the color you’d expect from a grilled burger, the bun and (inexplicably) the cheese are both black as the flinty heart of the Burger King himself.

Now, I rarely eat hamburgers — one a month, if that often. And I never, ever eat fast food burgers. But of all the Japan-exclusive fast food gimmicks I’ve witnessed in my decade of covering TGS, this is the first to go beyond the standard grossness of basic fast food and into a truly new frontier of revulsion. I scrupulously avoid American chain food while I travel abroad, but for this… I had to make an exception.

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It seems so innocuous on the outside! “TASTE IS KING” reads the service mark, an unusually coherent bit of English sloganeering in the world of Japanese corporate adoption of mangled foreign phrases. Sure, the black wrapper is a little weird — usually food is presented in a more colorful fashion. But this is a post-Coke-Zero world, so sure, why not.

But inside. Inside? Dear god, inside.

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I think it’s the cheese that makes it so off-putting. The black bun is a little odd, but I’ve had Japanese melon pan, which is dyed a cheerful shade of green. I can cope with dyed bread. Black’s a little darker than usual for this sort of thing, and it has a slightly cool color cast that brings to mind the Alfred Hitchcock blue food practical joke. Despite the lighting in this photo, the actual tone of the bun lacks the warm undertones of the meat, creating a subtle but slightly unappetizing contrast.

Still, that cheese. American cheese slices are pretty awful on the best days, but when you dye a slice of it black yet allow it to retain its viscous, reflective properties… well.

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I’m pretty sure this is the root of the alien conspiracy from X-Files. The melty cheese and thin, oily sauce make this appear to be some kind of strange, petroleum-based food product. One day Jed was shootin’ at some food, and up from the ground came a bubbling Kuro burger.

Weirdly, the unnatural coloration of this meal is entirely natural, in the sense of its origins: The bun is colored with bamboo charcoal, and the cheese gets its coloration from squid ink. So even though it appears to be some kind of oil tanker accident condensed into burger form, in fact there should be no harmful effect in eating this over and above the expectedly deleterious impact of simply eating Burger King.

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Mmmm, look at that spongy grey texture.

Somewhat disappointingly, these additives don’t change the flavor of the burger any. I was hoping for a nice charred note to the bun or something, but no. Totally normal. Although the meat itself tastes more like a White Castle burger than the Burger King I’ve had in America… then again, it’s been years since I’ve eaten at Burger King, and Japanese fast food burgers tend to taste considerably worse than in the U.S. So… basically it’s as bad as you’d expect from a fast food burger, but nowhere near as offensive as you might assume for a burger that looks like a horrible accident that happened at the side-by-side Wendy’s/Jiffy Lube back home.

Final verdict: Currently this is inside my body, and that makes me sad.

Posted in BakeSpite.

Everybody loves game journalism

I wrote and rewrote the following post pretty much daily over the course of the past few weeks in response to the ugliness happening around video games and women in video games. I finally gave up toward the end of this past week, because I could never find a way to discuss all of this that didn’t seem like it was all about me me me when it all had absolutely nothing to do with me. When Jenn Frank, of all damn people, probably the most heartbreakingly honest writer in the gaming press, was hounded and harassed for supposed corruption of all damn things, I lost the stomach to write about this at all. Or, frankly, to write about the games industry. When I told my wife what had happened to Jenn (whom she knew from the time a few years back when we had over to our place to take part in a disastrous-but-fun 1UP-centric dinner party), she simply started sending me job listings for “less toxic” lines of work. I found her response depressing, but honestly gave it some consideration for a day or two. (I got over it.)

With Zöe Quinn’s Batman-like — or rather, Oracle-like, in a DC universe where Barbara Gordon is forever allowed to define her identity on her own terms than as a sub-franchise of a male hero — exposé of the culprits behind all this crap, the conversation has shifted so radically I’d need to completely rewrite this to make the still-relevant parts feel relevant. Frankly, I’m tired of looking at this wall of text, so I’m just posting the most recent revision (from Wednesday) behind the jump cut in its entirety: A chunk of text vomited from the what-ifs of the Internet. You can pick out the parts that remain relevant, if you like, or you can just ignore it.

(Cliff’s Notes version: That would be the parts about the folly of painting the general gaming audience with too broad a brush because of the actions of a few, and the ethics of crowd-funding.)

Oh, also, I started supporting Quinn on Patreon after she came under attack by anonymous abusers out of sympathy. Now I’m supporting her on Patreon because she basically blew up the Death Star right as the technician in the glossy underbite helmet activated the final turbo laser lever. In any case, I’ve still never met her, still never written about her (outside of this post), and still never will.

Also of note: Since penning the text below, I’ve written about Mighty No. 9, which I helped crowd-fund, with the basic premise of the piece being, “I Kickstarted this game and I’m liking the way it’s shaping up.” I’ve also just backed Tetropolis, a game I wrote about at PAX East and would very much like to play, though sadly it doesn’t look likely to make its goals. If that constitutes corruption, friends, this whole species is going to Hell.

Continue reading

Posted in Blog.

Addendum

Super-cool reader Jason Williams informs me that the coupon code PRINT33 will shave, like, 20% off the price of Blurb books through the end of September, so if you were interested in picking up The Anatomy of Mega Man (or any other print book) but didn’t want to spend a month’s salary on it, now you can pick up The Anatomy of Mega Man and only spend 80% of a month’s salary on it. I will try and get the budget-priced paperback up there before the end of the month so anyone who is interested can take advantage of the sale!

Also, the PDF version of the book is now available on Gumroad, so that’s lovely.

Back to non-shilling pursuits here soon, honest.

Posted in Blog.

A confluence of events

There’s been a weirdly huge amount of Mega Man and related stuff happening in my life lately. Some of it’s a coincidence, some of it not.

Not a coincidence: Comcept coordinated a heck of a campaign bringing us Azure Striker Gunvolt (which I’ve reviewed), Mighty Gunvolt (which, also, I’ve reviewed), and Mighty No. 9 (which I previewed and interviewed Keiji Inafune about). All of this in turn inspired a video production as well:

The coincidental part is that The Anatomy of Mega Man Vol. I went into print as well this week. I mentioned it on Anatomy of Games, but not here. Oops! It’s available as a hardback and a paperback. PDF version coming soon. The cover is the first watercolor illustration I’ve done in ages… so it’s a little rough, but I’m still pretty happy with it.

On a related note, the super rad Games Story Bundle 4.0 is running for a few more days. Even if you already have the books I contributed to the mix, you should check out all the other great productions in the bundle. Some excellent stuff there.

Posted in Blog, Games. Tagged with , , .

Remember me?

This post ©2013 Capcom

I was out traveling all of last week and didn’t have time to do any blogging — well, that’s not quite true. I wrote a pretty lengthy piece on the current ugliness in games that’s been going on, but I don’t really have the stomach to get involved in all that awfulness. Instead, please enjoy the video above, wherein I praise a 25-year-old pinball game. Hard-hitting games journalism, that’s what I’m all about.

OK, OK; despite my self-effacement, I had a bunch of great developer interviews at PAX this weekend to cap off my trip: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Hajime Tabata, the Dragon Quest guys, Keiji Inafune… hopefully I’ll have time to transcribe them this week. Please look forward to it.

Also, last week, Jaz Rignall spearheaded a pretty much amazing comprehensive history of video games for USgamer that you really ought to read. We’re moving into fall release season and won’t be dwelling much on history for the coming months, so please enjoy this last hoorah for the past.

Posted in Blog.

(A tiny window into) the history of RPGs

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I really enjoyed the brief time in which I was able to produce the Daily Classics series for USgamer this past spring, but they tend to be fairly time-consuming and once I switched roles to editor-in-chief I ceased to have that particular luxury — time, I mean. And self-indulgence. But I decided to bring the series back for one final engagement — OK, maybe not final, but the last for a while. The fall release season is about to kick off, so we’re going to have lots to write about that isn’t old.

This time around, I decided to tackle the role-playing genre. As ever, the premise of Daily Classics is to look at games celebrating an anniversary in the multiples of five this year and try linking them together in some way. In this case, that meant touching on 1984’s The Black Onyx, a game by a Dutch designer based on a Canadian RPG made specifically for Japan, then following up by jumping ahead five years to see how Western and Japanese RPG designs had diverged. Though as always, I do try not to force the connection.

Anyway, they turned out pretty well and I hope you’ll read them and stuff. The end.

Posted in Blog, Games. Tagged with , .

If you only read one thing today…

…it should not be this post. Agh! What are you doing!? You’re blowing your quota!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, it should be this week’s USgamer cover story, wherein Jaz and I spent an hour chatting with Dave Lebling on the creation of Zork. It was a pretty phenomenal experience, and I think the story that came out of it is equally spectacular. If I could somehow make my job into nothing but hanging out with game designers and talking about the philosophy and iteration behind their work… eh, I’d probably be assassinated for having a job that’s unacceptably rad. Probably just as well, then.

If you read carefully here, you can spot where I was sneaking in a question or two for the upcoming Zork article at Metroidvania.

P.S., this box art is still the best. The goblin’s all like, “Ohhh crap, Dabney Coleman looks super pissed!”

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Hey Mom, I’m in a Bundle

The latest video games StoryBundle has gone live, and among the books you can pick up as part of this name-your-own-price word buffet you’ll find The Anatomy of Super Mario Bros. Vol. 1. It’s pretty amazing to have been selected to take part in this collection; my project is sitting alongside some genuine heavy-hitters. I mean, I’m in the same tier as Mega Man 2 composer Manami Matsumae and Akira Yamaoka. That’s just mind-blowing.

As always, the mere prospect of promoting myself and encouraging people to spend money on something I’ve created gives me a nauseating cross between intense guilt and a throat-closing panic attack, so… please support all the other really talented authors whose work is on offer here. I won’t take it personally if you don’t hit the $12 bonus threshold at which my book gets bundled into the package.

Video game books! They’re cool, they’re cheap. Support the people who make them.

Posted in Blog.

Mighty (Gunvolt) fine

IntiCreates and Comcept just announced the most self-referential thing I could ever imagine: A 3DS downloadable game called Mighty Gunvolt, which combines the protagonists of the as-yet-unreleased Mighty No. 9 and the soon-to-be-released Azure Strike Gunvolt in a retro-NES mode that riffs on IntiCreates’ Mega Man 9 and the Mega Man Alpha mode of Mega Man ZX Advent.

What really gets me about this thing is that it does a better job of presenting NES-like graphics than Nintendo’s own 3DS console. In this screenshot….

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…the yellow border (which I added; it’s not part of the actual game) perfectly defines the NES’s 256×224 resolution. Then, padding the extra vertical space on the upper 3DS screen (which has a resolution of 400×240), you have a score, a health bar, a score multiplier, and a life count.

Meanwhile, Virtual Console NES games on 3DS stretch the graphics the 6% or so difference between 224 and 240 pixels, destroying the integrity of the graphics with no means of forcing true resolution. I can’t decide if I’m happier that IntiCreates gets it than I am more annoyed that Nintendo doesn’t. For gods sake, just give all your VC emulation duties to M2 already, Nintendo.

Posted in 2D Gaming, Games. Tagged with , , , .

A new Anatomy project appears

This won’t come as any real surprise to anyone who pays attention to dumb things like my Twitter and Tumblr avatars, but I’ve decided on my next Anatomy of Games project: The Anatomy of Bionic Commando.

I was going to take a little time before jumping (or rather, swinging) into my next Anatomy project, but I had so much fun playing through the game for last week’s video that I wanted to get things rolling while the whole experience was still fresh in my mind. Not that I would complain about having to play again, of course.

Speaking of Anatomy, the next book — which encompasses Mega Man and Mega Man 2 — is just about wrapped up. That’ll be going out in various forms (PDF or physical) to existing Patreon supporters next month as well as going up for sale by the usual venues (Blurb and Gumroad). I’m pretty much done with the layouts, but I’m trying to create some original artwork for the book. Unfortunately I can’t find my graphics tablet stylus, so I guess I need to buy a replacement.

For now, though, please enjoy the adventures of Captain Rad Spencer.

Posted in Blog.