Saturday, 22 August 2015

Video game textmode art part 19.5β - the Blocktronics advance following the Evoke feint

The notoriously mistranslated phrase is from the NES' "Pro Wrestling". But this version of it is from "US-LLDT.ANS" from the most recent Blocktronics artpack, a joint between Reset Survivor (happy birthday!) and Nullfruit (?!) ... this is the only video game reference in the piece that I can see, but there are others in the pack. I should have realised that when the summer demoparty entries started being annouced that the artpacks collecting them would quickly follow. I posted too soon, last time! Consequently, the Blocktronics pack that followed quick on its heels, "Block Fury", contained further textmode video game art. Had I just waited a week or so I could have made one real post out of this great stuff, hot off the presses, instead of two half-posts. Oh well! (To reiterate, for those who haven't been following along so far -- Blocktronics is the "last man standing" supergroup of ANSI art megatalent, a collection of folks who used to express themselves in that arcane digital art back in the '90s, developed their design sensibilities for 20 years... and have then made the odd choice to return to the strikingly minimalist medium. And hats off to them for doing so, it gives me much great art to feature here in this blog!)

While Reset Survivor isn't exclusively a textmode video game art specialist, he is as close as this scene has to one. In this larger piece (R5-KFC.ANS), virtuosic visual vignettes are interspersed with snatches of beat'em up video game history. I won't show you the whole thing, but let's zoom in on our three moments here:

Here we see the elegant brutes of Technōs' 1989 River City Ransom. Then next, a switch to a similar subject in the same medium (and interpreted to the same medium) from Irem's 1985 Kung-Fu:
Finally, we have a segment I needed a little help to identify. The sprite style reminded me of Konami's Contra, but as that is a shooter, not a brawler, that avenue of inquiry was a dead end. Fortunately, one of the experts at Mobygames pointed me straightaway to Hokuto No Ken, the NES video game adaptation of the hugely influential and ultra-violet manga / anime sensation known in the West as Fist of the North Star. I said, "that would explain why the enemy looks like he's been peeled like a banana!"

The interesting thing about all of this textmode video game sprite art adaptation is that the standard MS-DOS textmode, at 80 columns x25 lines, used rectangular cells instead of square ones. (The less-used 80x50 mode had square cells, but I don't think we have featured a single work in that aspect ratio; it was distinctly unfashionable.) NES games, of course, had square pixels. That means that the hard work the viewer isn't appreciating is not just producing something that looks like the original, but making something originally formed out of square blocks using only rectangular ones.

I'll close with a piece by the great Mattmatthew (and a happy birthday to you, too!), in a former life known as ts of the Hawaii-based artgroup "teklordZ". Last time around I talked about how the first thing that would occur to anybody to draw in ANSI is a Space Invader, which would simultaneously be one of the easier ANSI subjects to render, blocky as they are! Well, Mattmatthew doesn't do anything the easy way: instead, have your mind blown by some phenomenal Space Invaders typography, totally unrelated to their subjects' blocky iconography!
Finally, because Blocktronics don't represent the entire history of textmode art (nor do they presume to), I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you, my handful of readers, my call for submissions (deadline: Oct 15!) for the 21st anniversary artpack collection of my own artgroup, Mistigris. As you can see, we cast a wide net. Join us, won't you?