Friday, August 17, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Boxers in Baltimore

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WOOOOOOO!

 It's Friday, birds! But you better not be tryin' to grab your bowl, baby. Leave the cereal in the cupboard and reach for that sequined robe, because Friday belongs to the Nature Boy!

 We're going to switch things up a little here this week, and focus on another aspect of Flair that many would argue is his best. Of course, I'm referring to his excellent work behind the microphone. Whenever Ric spoke, the world of professional wrestling would always listen. From his days with Tully, Arn, Ole, and JJ in the NWA, to his tenures in the WCW and WWE, Ric was a natural at cutting a promo. When he spoke, the world stopped and listened. He could make you love him, and he could make you hate his guts. That's the kind of showman he is.

 One of my favorite examples of Ric's mic work was during an episode of WCW Monday Nitro back in December of 1998. Ric had just wrestled with WCW figurehead turned NWO sympathizer Eric Bischoff at that year's Starcade PPV the night before. Thanks to interference from Curt Hennig, Bischoff got the upper hand against Flair and pinned him for the 3 count. Seeming dejected, and ready to call it quits, Flair makes a surprise appearance in Baltimore to address his adoring public one last time. Or perhaps....? (props to KingsofKings92 over at Youtube for sharing the vid!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A WARPed Retrospective: Part 2

 Welcome back, birds, to part two of B.P's Kenji Eno tribute! When last we saw our hero, he had already left behind a job at one developer, and would shutter his own studio a couple of years later. Had the embers of Kenji's dreams finally died out? Pfff! Of course not. If they did, we wouldn't have a Part 2 now, would we? So gird your loins, my avian amigos, and read on about the continuing adventures of the great Kenji Eno!

Part 2: The WARPed Tour

 Ok. So Kenji did the gig at Interlink. That didn't pan out. He started up EIM. That didn't fly, either. So, what do you do when you're an aspiring game developer and you've already found yourself dissatisfied with the last two jobs you've had? What any self-respecting eccentric would do: land a consulting job with a top shelf automotive magazine. And that's exactly what Kenji Eno would do for the next two years of his life. In the end, it would prove to be a wise choice for Eno, as a business trip to San Francisco, CA would be the catalyst for Kenji's re-emergence into the gaming scene.

 The event they traveled to was none other than the 1994 Macworld Expo. Deep within the very core of the Steve Jobs computing juggernaut, Kenji would marvel at the latest advances in CD-ROM technology and digital publishing. Their next stop would be at a convention called "Be-In". Kenji would go on to describe it as a "dark, twisted version of Macworld, where the creators were high on drugs." As the aforementioned drug addicts showcased their wares and side projects, Kenji found himself impressed with the atmosphere, and was pleased to realize that a game developer could actually be considered 'cool'. Also, Eno was quite shocked to see that the developers in attendance and the event's sponsors were quite supportive of one another. The one-two punch of Macworld and Be-In would give Kenji the motivation he needed. And on the plane ride home, he confided to the president of a publisher that he was ready to give video games another go. One thing led to another, and WARP was born.

 Kenji assembled a small team to take care of the technical stuff, while Kenji himself would be tasked with planning, directing, producing, and sound design. Now all he needed was a publisher for his work. Nintendo was an option, but the high cost of licensing and manufacture at the time wasn't something he could afford. So, Kenji decided to pay the newly formed Japanese branch of Trip Hawkins' company, 3DO, a visit. He found them to be very receptive, and their fees quite reasonable. Plus, 3DO was a San Fran based company, and Kenji was still high off the indie vibes from his visits to Macworld and Be-In. A couple two-tree deals were made, and the WARP/3DO era was officially underway.

 While WARP would end up releasing a single NES title in Japan, the forgettable Totsukegi Karakuri Megadasu!!, Trip'd (Flopon the Space Mutant in Japan) would serve as the virgin voyage of WARP in the States. And while you'd think it would have something to do with the founder of 3DO, it's actually an irreverent take on the classic puzzler Puyo Pop. It was here that Kenji would establish his quirky, off beat sense of style, featuring off the wall packaging and an instruction manual filled to the brim with complete nonsense. And pictures of the famous Mt. Fuji.

Next, WARP would tackle the legendary Chinese board game Mahjong in the Japan only release Oyaji Hunter Mahjong. WARP took the wackiness to the next level, placing the player in the role of the mighty Oyaji Hunter. You were tasked with preventing a perverted, middle aged man from having his way with an assortment of nubile young women by engaging in heated games of Mahjong. For this release, WARP would join forces with renowned Macross animator Ichiro Itano, who provided many whacked out cut scenes for the game.

Another Japan only WARP release was one of their most bizzare yet. Short WARP was a series of eight crazy mini games. And I do mean crazy. Take a look at the vid above if you don't believe me. And get this: inside every copy of the 10,000 hand numbered units produced, Kenji Eno was gracious enough to include a very special WARP condom. Yep...a condom. No dumb art books or soundtracks. Just pure protected sexual bliss. What a guy!

 Eee-yup. WARP was off to a frolicking start. And it would only get better (and crazier) from there. Next time, we'll be taking an in-depth look at the games that would make Kenji Eno a man to watch in the 90's. That's right, birds! It's the Laura Trilogy, and it'll be front and center here at the Coop. See you then!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A WARPed Retrospective: Part 1

 If you have been gaming for as long as I have, then the name Kenji Eno may be quite familiar to you. However, I'd be willing to wager that a lot of folks out there have never even heard of the man, or the work he has accomplished. If you fall into the latter, then you are in for quite a treat this week, as The Pigeon Coop celebrates the weird, wild, and wonderful works of one of Japan's most innovative and controversial developers.

Part 1: The Early Years

 Kenji was born on May 5, 1970. Video games became a big part of Kenji's life early on, as he tended to frequent local video game arcades from a young age. There, he would become enamored with Namco's Pac-Man and Taito's Space Invaders, and has often cited these two games as the inspiration for his decision to pursue a career in the industry. Kenji would also take an interest in programming and sound design, as he also had a passion for music. He would take to experimenting on his home computer, going so far as to create his own video game, Towadako Murder Case, which he had entered into a local contest and placed. At 17, he dropped out of high school and embarked on a journey throught the country. Unlike Michael Landon or Bill Bixby, however, he did not commiserate with the divine or mutate into an angry green giant. He would, however, begin to look for work in a local trade magazine. After two failed attempts at employment through a local Canon branch and a tele-sales company, Kenji would finally break into the game industry as a project planner, supervisor, and musician for a small company called Interlink.

Kenji's brief tenure at Interlink would have him overseeing the production of Ultraman Club 2: Kaettekita Ultraman Club, a Dragon Quest inspired romp where gamers would take control of Japan's legendary super-sized superhero Ultraman, as he roams the countryside to do battle with nefarious interplanetary invaders. Kenji would also serve as composer and supervisor for SD Hero Soukessen: Taose! Aku no Gundam, a crazy side scrolling crossover of the Kamen Rider, Ultraman, and Gundam universes. And finally, he would serve as the sound designer and composer for the Japan only NES port of Sega's classic arcade adventure Altered Beast.

 Eventually, Kenji would grow tired of his role at Interlink. Wanting to strike out on his own, he took his savings and formed EIM Ltd (Entertainment Imagination and Magnificence) in 1989. EIM was created as a game development contracting service, where companies would hire them out to create their software. Being the owner, Kenji would have more control over the products EIM would put out. His more notable works under the EIM label include Parallel Worlds, Panic Restaurant (which would actually make it's way stateside via Taito), and Time Zone.

 EIM would also be contracted by Sunsoft to create a Superman video game for the NES. However, due to conflicts with design, the game was cancelled. Sunsoft then asked the company to create another superhero based gamed entitled Sun Man. While the game was never officially released, a seemingly complete version would resurface on the Internet many years later.

 Kenji would also grow dissatisfied with his work at EIM. He had wanted to create entirely original experiences. And while forming EIM would initially give him that ability, the demands of his clients to include licensed characters and settings would ultimately get to him. It even got to the point where Kenji would avoid his office altogether. The thought of having to convince his staff of how great it was to create character and licensed based games, when he himself didn't enjoy making them, simply got to be too much to bear. Kenji would shutter EIM in 1992.

 What would become of Kenji's dream? Would he ever be able to create the types of gaming experiences he wanted to? The answers to this, and much more, will be revealed in part 2 of the Pigeon Coop's tribute to the one and only Kenji Eno. Till next time, birds!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Flair and Sting Lock Horns at the Clash!

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WHOOOOOO!

This week, we return to the NWA to showcase another of Naitch's legendary matches. On March 27, 1988, TBS aired the very first Clash of the Champions. The Clash was conceived as an event that offered wrestling fans a PPV quality experience on live television. And in this particular case, it would serve as a means for Crockett to wrestle viewers away from Wrestlemania IV, the premier PPV extravaganza of the former World Wrestling Federation.

The Greensboro Coliseum would once again bear witness to the NWA's finest. Lex Luger and Barry Windham would become NWA Tag Champs over Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Mike Rotunda and Jim Garvin exchanged blows in a "College Rules" match. And the main event would once again place Ric Flair in the spotlight, as he defended his NWA World Title against the man called Sting.

And now, I present to you the match in it's entirety, courtesy of YouTube user JimmyHartDoesNotAge. Witness the contest that shows Ric Flair at his finest, and the match that would make Sting a household name to pro wrestling fans the world over!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ric Flair Fridays: Ric and Big Duss take care of b'ness inside the Cage!

Whether you like it, or you don't, learn to love it! Because it's the best thing going every Friday at the Coop. All the ability! All the looks! Sixteen times the World Champion! It's Ric Flair Fridays! WHOOOOOO!

This week's touch of Flair takes us back to 1986, when Flair was headlining matches for Jim Crockett's National Wrestling Alliance. July 26, at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina, The Great American Bash was in full swing. Wahoo McDaniel and Jimmy Garvin locked horns in a Indian Strap match. Magnum T.A. and Nikita Koloff came to blows in the fourth match of a best of seven series for the U.S. Title. And in the main event, The Nature Boy would step inside the Steel Cage and defend his World Heavyweight Title against the man who had it stripped away from him after claiming it at Starcade '85: The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes.

Here for your viewing pleasure is the match in it's entirety, coming to you courtesy of Youtube user xxWrestleClopediaxx,. Please make sure to turn up your speakers, as the volume is rather low due to the age of the VHS tapes that were transfered. Enjoy!