Monday, March 21, 2022

Obscusion B-Side: Flash Traffic: City of Angels: That Entire Title is an Oxymoron

In 1991, Edmond Heinbockel left his job as CFO for PC adventure game maestro Sierra On-Line to form his own studio, Tsunami Games (a.k.a. Tsunami Media), in the same exact city of Oakhurst, California. At first, Tsunami's focus was primarily on making PC adventure games, just like Sierra, but these initial efforts didn't look to do so well critically, though I guess sales were good enough for the company to stay around. In fact, in 1996, Issue #148 of Computer Gaming World even named two of Tsunami's games, 1993's Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch (based on Larry Niven's iconic sci-fi novels) & Blue Force (designed by Police Quest's Jim Walls), two of the 50 worst computer games of all time, slotting in at #14 & #37, respectively; ouch. In late 1994, though, Tsunami released something different from anything it had developed before, so much so that it wasn't even published by the company itself, but rather saw Time Warner Interactive (formerly Tengen) sign on to handle that part of the equation.

Of course, this was also for PCs in the mid-90s, using this tech called the "CD-ROM" that had only recently caught on due to the massive success of the game Myst...

Well, they certainly didn't break the budget for the title card...
Nothing screams "Just like a movie!" quite like Mechanical Extended.

Making its debut at COMDEX in November of 1994, Flash Traffic: City of Angels is an "interactive movie", i.e. an FMV game where you primarily watch full-motion video footage play out until you arrive at a point where you can respond to the scene via various choices. Despite Windows 3.1 being around & supported by many PC games of the time, Flash Traffic requires MS-DOS to boot, so today the game needs a workaround to be playable on modern hardware, like the emulator DOSBox. However, due to Tsunami Games going out of business in the late 90s, it's unknown when exactly, the game isn't something that you can just go to Steam or GOG & purchase in a ready-made form. Luckily, a person going by the name "White Bob" went through the trouble of making a custom installer that's compatible on Windows 7 through 10, and even uploaded it to back in November of 2020. Considering the status of the developer, this would constitute being "abandonware", a type of orphan work; the legality of this, of course, is dubious, at best. However, I should point out that this only reflects the original version of Flash Traffic, not the later "RealMagic Interactive MPEG Version" (which features better quality & proper full-screen video), as that release is only playable on period-accurate computers, due to its reliance on a specific range of MPEG playback boards that Sigma Designs released in the mid-90s & naturally aren't compatible with modern-day computers.

Why am I bothering to do a review for a forgotten interactive movie from a failed game studio? Honestly, it's simply because Flash Traffic has remained in my mind ever since I first saw it as a young child on an early PC Gamer Demo Disc from the time (I think it was the Vol. 2 disc, which was the first demo disc I ever experienced), and now I finally want to see it in full for myself, so I figured "Hey, why not gather my thoughts together here, & share it online?"; also, this kind of thing fits Obscusion B-Side perfectly.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Demo Disc Vol. 20: Korean Kwan

Born on July 4, 1972 in Busan, South Korea, Park Sung-Woo (or Sung-Woo Park, if you prefer Western order) majored in art at Dong-A University before dropping out & joining a manhwa club that made fantasy comics for gaming magazine Gemtong. Park would make his official debut in manhwa in 1993 when he started Legend of the 8 Dragon Gods (or "Dark Striker", in some circles) in the pages of IQ Jump, the first weekly serialized manhwa magazine, where it apparently became a bit of a leader in fantasy storytelling in the country, slightly predating a fantasy novel boom that Korea would later have. Park would have to put that series on hold after six volumes, due to his mandatory military service, but afterwards returned with Legend of the 8 Dragon Gods PLUS, a sequel that ran in a different magazine & took place 150 years later; the original series would then be given the subtitle "Classic", to differentiate itself. Unfortunately, due to a mix of lost manuscripts & a publisher shake-up, PLUS was left unfinished after 19 volumes. However, around the same time Park debuted the sequel to his first professional work (which he made alongside his CLAMP-esque artist collective, Studio Zero), he also debuted a new series in IQ Jump in 1997, Chun Rhang Yhur Jhun/The Heated Biography of Sirius, a historical fiction manhwa with a focus on martial arts action. It would run until April of 2000 for 13 volumes & become a very celebrated series in South Korea, even receiving a strategy RPG adaptation for Windows PCs in 2001 that took 3 CDs to contain.

Though I read the official English release for this Demo Disc, I'll be sourcing
from an old scanlation for images. You use what you can find, sometimes.

In late 2005, English publisher Infinity Studios would license & release Chun Rhang Yhur Jhun under its original Korean title, despite the press release also using an alternate (& much friendlier) English title of "Sirius Wars", though this would be based on the 10-volume re-release that came out in 2003. In the end, Infinity Studios would only ever release the first five volumes physically between April of 2006 & January of 2008, though the publisher may have also released Volumes 6 & 7 digitally later in 2008. However, these were literally PDFs that were shipped to buyers on burned CDs, so it's nigh-impossible to verify today if they actually happened. So, in the very first manhwa edition of Demo Disc, with five physical books on hand, how is the first half of Chun Rhang Yhur Jhun, and does it truly deserve the seemingly venerated status it has in South Korea?

It's around 666-667 AD, and the Kingdom of Goguryeo is at war with the unified forces of Silla & China's Tang Dynatsy. In the midst of this war, a young practitioner of the martial art Sa Shin Mu (literally "Martial Arts of the God of Death") named O'Rhang Yhun has been ordered by his master Gyu-Yhum to enter China & deliver a letter to his eldest "hyung/brother-in-training", Pa Goon Sung, only to be attacked & left for dead by his second eldest hyung, Ghyur-Mahro, as a traitor to Goguryeo. O'Rhang is rescued by a woman named Ha-Rhang Whur & left to recover in a refugee village, which is quickly attacked by the Jook-Rhim-O-Gwe/The Bamboo Grove Fivesome, a group of bandits lead by five siblings. However, through a case of mistaken thievery, the letter for Pa Goon Sung is stolen by the Chung-Sue-Moon/Gates of Blue Water, a clan which once had great power within the prior Sui Dynasty & has a past with Gyu-Yhum. Now O'Rhang journeys alongside his female compatriots Ha-Rhang & Dahn-Ryoung (the youngest & sole[?] survivor of the Jook-Rhim-O-Gwe, after a Chung-Sue-Moon ambush), as each of them have their own reasons to go after the Chung-Sue-Moon & its leader, Jung-Woong Suk.