Hardcore Script W.I.P

Intro

As a punk obsessed autist, it mildly annoys me when people think Hardcore is a metal genre and act asif their branch of hardcore is the only one that exists. I mean there exist very metallic hardcore genres, sure, but it’s still a punk thing, and outside of rock music something else entirely. I already made a video about this but removed it as it felt incomplete to me. So let’s clear up this fucked up mess once and for all, because oh boy are genres unnecessarily complicated for something that is supposedly to make things more organized.

In music, the term hardcore is used as an adjective in various genre names to name more extreme or exaggerated versions of that genre. Hardcore Hip Hop for example is simply more aggresive hiphop. Later, As time went on, people just used the term hardcore on its own as an abbreviation for said genres. Some genre names are made by adding the suffix -core to part of a past genre, such as ‘’rapcore’’. While there exists extreme versions of genres without hardcore or core in the name, 3 broad genres of music specifically use the term.

-Punk Rock has Hardcore Punk and its sub genres. This was the first genre to use the term.
-Hip Hop has Hardcore Hip Hop and its subgenres, aka hardcore rap.
-Electronic music has  various types of Hardcore Electronic Dance Music.

Then there exists mixes of Hardcore Punk and these genres. Hip hop with the anger of Hardcore Punk is called Rapcore, and Electronic music with elements of hardcore punk is called Digital Hardcore.

There also exist many sub genres under each. In this video we’ll look at the Hardcore Punk one’s in detail, because that’s the genre I am knowledged in and it’s also the genre the term is most associated with.
That said, I will briefly list the sub genres of electronic and hardcore hip hop before I start for both sake of completion, and so people will be able to know which core genres have nothing to do with punk. I hope I won’t bore you too much just listing shit off of rateyourmusic and wikipedia before I get tot  the point of the video. You ready? This is gonna be overwhelming.


Hardcore Hip Hop

-Hardcore Hip Hop has ofcourse its traditional, Standard Hardcore Hip Hop. Instead of synthesizers and simple funk breaks, they used aggressive drum machine beats and layered samples. It also had more anger and grit. Hardcore Hip Hop sounds pretty standard to most nowadays despite the name. We then have our subgenres. I’ll list them in order of first release in the RateyourMusic database and base my descriptions on theirs as I don’t know much about hip hop myself even if I like the music.

– First we have Boom Rap. This one is Characterized by variations on a booming kick drum followed by powerful  snares. The MC (aka rapper) then usually delivers their lines to match the pattern laid out by the beat, making the sound about having a percussive relationship with the drums and MC.`
-Gangsta rap. Basically the West Coast United States their version of the East Coast Hardcore Hip Hop style, with artists who rap from a gangster perspective. Came slightly later. Many later followed a southern hip hop style. Gangster Rap birthed various genres of its own, which I’ll just name instead of explain as they’re not as related to our video subject. Chicano Rap, a type of Latin Rap, partially takes influence from this genre as well as others. Drill Rap was a form of Trap Rap, And drill birthed Bob rap which is a style of pop rap, and UK Drill had a distinct style. But I digress and you can forget these names.
-Britcore. This one is characterized by a fast style of beats and rapping, a very aggressive delivery, and political/militant subject matter. As you can tell from the name this one comes from the United Kingdom, but it had spread into various european countries.
-The early 90’s brought us Horrorcore, which simply has a horror theme and darker productions.
-At the same time it gave us memphis rap. This is a dark style with heavy bass and fast flows, which was important to the horrorcore movement.

Some offshoots of the genre not considered hardcore hip hop are trap and mafioso rap.


Electronic Hardcore

I don’t know jack shit about electronic music as unlike Punk and Hip Hop  I’m not into it at all. That said, I’d still like to at least list them. This is almost as much of a mess as hardcore punk genres, and thus I won’t list literally all of them.

Hardcore EDM (electronic Dance Music) is an umbrella term, not an actual genre reffering to all the typed of hardcore electronic music at once. It is more intense electronic music that has simialarities with traditional Techno (note, techno is its own specific genre and not an umbrella term for electronic music). Let’s first list regular genres in no particular order and then fusion genres, ones that have mixed with other genres. And fuck no I will not talk about all the genres these birthed or were birthed from we’d be here all day. Get ready for names you will forget overload.

Various countries popularized their own typical styles.

-Gabber is one of the early ones from my own country, the Netherlands, a fast paced energetic form of techno with a distorted, overdriven kick sound and synthesized melodies with pitch shifted vocals. It has its own subculture that resembles the look of skinheads, and the dance they do is called ‘’hakken’’ which would meen: heeling. The second wave of Gabber was called Nu Style Gabber.
-Spain had Makina, a type of hardcore techno that has elements of Bouncy Techno and Hard Trance.
-France has, well, frenchcore, similar to HardTekkno but with harder kicks and a faster tempo.
-Japan has J-Core, more energetic EDM with high pitched vocals and anime themed samples from Otaku culture.
-As you geniuses may guess, speedcore is really fucking fast. It also has an electronic percussion track punctuated by rapid snare or tom-tom fills, whatever that means. Speedcore has a whopping three  subgenre. Splittercore Is in the 600-1000 bpm range. Extratone  starts at 1000 bpm and is so fast it practically becomes noise.  Fittingly, both often mix with noise music. Lastly there’s a form of ‘’Intelligent Dance Music’’ called Flashcore which is similar in speed but basically the avant-garde artsy weirdo version. It has complex rhythmic structures, and I quote  ”intense speeds mirroring that of SpeedcoreExtratone-style beat sequences combined with harsh, densely textured acousmatic and hyperdelic digital soundscapes.
-Terrorcore is similar to speedcore bit less extreme, with many layers of sound and horror and sci fi samples. I guess it’s like what Horrorcore is to Hip Hop.
-Happy Hardcore is..Well, it sounds upbeat and cheery in comparison to the rest. It also has piano riffs, saccherine vocals, and very fast 4/4 beats.
-Freeform, also known as Trancecore, is a combination of Trance and Hardcore.

-We then have f fusion genres that take elements from Hardcore styles.

-You have Power Noise also called Industrial Hardcore which is industrial and noise music that can have elements of electronic hardcore. -We already mentioned Digital Hardcore which is mixed with Hardcore Punk
– Acid Core is a combination of Acid Techno and Hardcore.
-Breakbeat Hardcore, also called Rave is a fusion of Breakbeat, Acid Hous
e, Techno and Hardcore and has a revival sub-genre called Hardcore Breaks.
-Moombahcore is a fusion of house music and reggaeton.
-Jumpstyle has elements of hardcore
-Hardstyle has them too.
-Can’t forget Dubstyle’s hardcore elements.
-There seems to be a trend on the rise to mix EDM and metal and this article calls it metal step.

Besides these, as far as I know there’ more ”unofficial” terms used with core because these days people attach core to any genre ever.

 


What is Hardcore Punk?

Rock N’ Roll was the first rock genre. Chuck Berry and Litle Richard played Rhythm and blues-inspired music on guitars n shit. Some later artists were amateurish. Garage Rock was born as an insult but nowadays is used as a genre name. Rock goes into more complicated directions in other genres. Punk Rock takes it back to basics. Punk was quite rough, with its pissed off snotty vocal delivery and distorted guitars that 90’s of the time strum like this:. People wanted it rougher. Boom, Hardcore Punk was born.

Before we get to all its many sub-genres, I’d just like to spend some time actually telling about what it is like in my personal experience.

At first it wasn’t all that different from Punk Rock, but by this era the garage rock roots of the genre would be harder and harder to hear and slowly the genre would become more and more of its own thing. While there’s no existing term for it, I call the early era of Hardcore in the early 80’s ”Transitional Hardcore”, because it sits kind of in between punk rock and later hardcore punk, usually consisting of bands like Teenage Idles playing sped up punk rock.  Though the live shows seemed to have been wild, the recordings aren’t all that abrasive by today’s standards. But it seemed to be less about that, and more about releasing just how pissed off they were. Even when the vocals are just raspy shouting without that much abrasiveness to them,  you can really tell these teens are sick of everyone’s shit through their nasal vocals. On top of that the guitar distortion, while not particularly heavy, was so raw and fuzzy it had a buzzsaw effect similar to punk rock but noisier. The Do It Yourself attitude was at full swing causing a lot of recordings to sound like shit, which while sure makes it sound lo-fi and raw, it also fails to capture the energy and abrasiveness of the live performances.

Eventually, the standard Hardcore formula would go as follows. The genre would do its best to not have what the mainstream likes about music. While Metal did that through being complex and heavy, punk did that by taking things people like away and sounding noisy. The songs were short, often under 1 and a half minutes, and they were fast. At the time these sounded like short blasts of noise to people, even if many older ones may be tame now. Plenty of bassists had to use a pick to keep up.

The vocals included raspy shouting/yelling, and either features more reserved but still very pissed off sounding vocals, or someone yelling at the top of his lungs. The distortion here is the one you’d hear when someone yells and then starts to yell too loud. Transitions between yelling and screaming went in a natural way without much of a formula. It sounds less abrasive to many,  and naturally pushing your voice so far is bad for your voice, but to me when I hear it, it allows me to feel the emotion more.

While everyone had their own deliveries, Some vocals their sound itself deviated from the standard. 7 Seconds had clean shouting. Die Kreuzen featured some thickly distorted screeching that doesn’t sound unlike a lot of metal. Discharge had a more low gruff sounding thing going on. And United Mutation did low dirty growls before Extreme Metal, even if they’re rarely used in punk at all.

It lacked harmony and pitch. Instead, they were focused on Rhythm guitars playing power chords, but in a stop and go fashion with quite a few tempo changes to give a sense of chaoticness. To increase the sense of speed and tension, either they switched to other powerchords and back very quickly, or if they’d pick the same one longer strummed very quickly.  The standard song structures would basically get abandoned in favor of whatever the fuck they wanted. But usually songs still resembled the typical formula somewhat. They switched between two main riffs back to back. Then had a bridge part diverging from the rest of the song, and ended on the main part. Occasionally this was a noisy sounding guitar solo, but there were quite few of these.

These 2 main riffs often had 1 riff that I’d call ”connected” for lack of better words (god I’m inept). Itd be a variation on a rhythm that repeats like this which makes you kind of want to bop your head along. Sometimes these featured typical punk rock rhythms, sometimes the faster strumming  that made it sound noisier, and sometimes the new popular strumming rhythms. Like this. Meanwile the other riff is what I’d call ”Disconnected”. They’d quickly mash different powerchords at different timings causing a stop and go kind of feeling, and it almost made it sound like a lead guitar riff made out of power chords instead of regular rhythm guitars. Some riffs would have a ”connected” part and end on a ”disconnected” part in the same riff.

While Hardcore was fast, it wasn’t uncommon to put slow parts at the end, in the bridge part or at the start. This is what’s called the ”Mosh” part. While moshing, aka slamdancing is mostly known in Metal, it originated in Punk. Nowdays, we would call the ”mosh part” breakdowns, and thrash metal bands have their own versions of them as well.

Serveral ”connected” strumming rhythms not all that common in Punk Rock became common in Hardcore Punk, and these rhythms then became common in practically all punk to follow. The most typical one is this one consisting of three strums. If you hear this strumming rhythm on an electric guitar, along with the standard punk rock rhythm guitars, you can bet they were influenced by punk. Another common one popularized by Discharge is this more mid-tempo sounding one.

Usually, they just strummed power chords in minor scales, and hardcore generally sounds less bright. In regular hardcore dissonance is rarely used, yet it still has a noisy nature to it.

There’s a fuckton of bands to list if I want to get historical, but if you want to know some favorite classics of mine, I love:

-Bad Brains.
-Minor Threat
-Early Suicidal Tendencies
-Void
-That one Dead Kennedy’s album that’s hardcore
-FEAR, which sounds more Punk Rock.
-Adrenalin O.D.

As for more modern examples, my personal favorite traditional hardcore band at the moment is Ceremony, and another one that just came to mind was G.l.O.S.S

 


Hardcore Punk genres can be divided into 5 camps, most of which divided in audiences nowadays. Some don’t even act like they’re in the same genre anymore. You have:
-The completely Traditional Camp
-The Traditional Metallic camp
-The Screamo/Post-Hardcore camp
-The Heavy/Modern camp
-The Scene Kid Camp

As for the completely traditional camp, we first have some levels of aggression. Let’s discuss the 80’s first.
We first simply had Hardcore Punk , or just hardcore, or sometimes even called ”punkcore”. But that wasn’t enough, so they made:
-Thrashcore, also known as fastcore, from the early 80’s. Thrashcore is basically just everything in regular hardcore punk turned up a notch. Shorter songs, More tempo changes, Blast beats were introduced, it was faster, had more intense yelling, etc. I  think a good representative for the speed of the genre would be Septic Death. A modern example would be Vitamin X, who are from my home country the Netherlands, and with the biased fuck I am they’re my all time favorite hardcore band. The Thrashcore genre is entirely punk. The term is not to be confused with ”crossover thrash”, as that was a combination of ”Thrash Metal” and ”Hardcore Punk”.

Meanwhile this one is purely punk, and the word ”thrash” simply used to be a nickname for hardcore. What is especially confusing about this, is that a lot of thrashcore bands their sounds changed into a crossover thrash sound over time.
D.R.I’s dirty Rotten LP for example is thrashcore, While their appropiately titled album Crossover is Crossover Thrash. Suicidal Tendencies their Self Titled is thrashcore, while anything later isn’t. There even existed mixes of the two, with metal bands like Cryptic Slaughter adding Thrashcore elements. Even the modern band Vitamin X, started as thrashcore and added crossover thrash elements later on. History repeats I guess. It’s fun to note alt rock band Dinasaur Jr had their roots in a thrashcore band called Deep Wound.

-Japanese hardcore. Japan isn’t exactly a country known for its subtle media. They love to exaggerate and take everything to extremes. It is no surprise to me then, that Japanese hardcore was way ahead of its time in terms of abrasiveness to the point it gained its own genre tag. Japanese hardcore bands also often had elements of noise rock and metal riffing. I think Gauze is the posterchild of the genre.

-Melodic Hardcore.
While others wanted to get more abrasive, some went in a more soft direction. There really wasn’t much melody and harmony allowed in Hardcore Punk at first. But bands like Bad Religion, the Descendents, and bands from Discord Records such as the Faith and Dag Nasty were playing around more and more with melody and harmony. The latter is closely related to the post-hardcore genre. It isn’t as focused on speed, the vocals are cleaner and have more melody, there’s more lead guitar riffs, and the guitars use more chords and harmony. There’s quite a bit of vareity, as it refers to any kind of more melodic hardcore inspired music. Some bands are generally very fast, and others went for a slower or mid tempo approach.

-The late 80’s and early 90’s gave us Powerviolence. Powerviolence is basically as abrasive as you’re gonna get for traditional hardcore. The most prominent and classic examples would be Bad Religion, and also Propagandhi’s mid term albums liek Today’s Empire Tommorow’s Ashes. A more modern example would be Ignite. There’s also bands that had metal inspired lead guitar riffs like a Wilhelm Scream and Strungout.  More mainstream band Rise Against fits here as well. Closely related to melodic hardcore are melodic punk rock bands like the Flatliners or a Willhelm Scream. One band that mixed Thrashcore with Melodic Hardcore was the underappreciated Flag of Democracy.

The late 80’s and early 90’s simply gave us more exaggerated versions of genres we already had.
On the Extreme side, we had the continuation of Thrashcore called Powerviolence. On the melodic side, we had the continuation of Melodic Hardcore called Skate Punk.

-Powerviolence. At first this term reffered to a small scene of bands that didn’t necessarily have much in common except how damn powerful they sounded. Man is the bastard for example doesn’t sound anything like the typical powerviolence band. But eventually it became the most extreme form of traditional hardcore punk. Dissonant chords are sometimes used, riffs can be noisier, the screaming is fierce, the tempo changes are constantly happening chaotically switching between slow and fast, Blast beats are more common, and all and all it’s just more tense. Major examples include Charles Bronson, Infest, Spazz and Dropdead. Also why is there a spongebob powerviolence parody band and why does it sound good? Anyways, This genre is often confused to be something metal, but it’s purely a punk thing. This confusion stems from how similar the metal related genre Grindcore can sound, a combination of various extreme punk and metal genres. These two genres crossover a lot adding to the confusion.

-Skate Punk was a combination of melodic hardcore and pop punk, resulting in an even more accessible, cleaner sound with catchy vocal melodies. It actually became the standard punk rock sound throughout the 90’s. NOFX was the posterchild of the genre, which started simply as a regular hardcore punk band. Their label Fat Wreck Chords was where most of them came from. Occasionally the Offspring had some skate punk songs as well. Like NOFX the Vandals started as a regular hardcore band as well. Propagandhi’s first two albums count as Skate Punk as well. Lots of fusion genres that came in the 90’s such as Ska Punk and Folk Punk take elements from this genre too. Other examples include Lagwagon, Millencolin and Frenzal Bomb.

Skate Punk has been mixed with elements of hardcore plenty of times.  Kid Dynamite for example is as melodic and poppy as it is full of fierce screaming. the modern PEARS has the same mix of poppy and abrasive.

I’d also like to note there exist a subset of bands called Street Punk. This is seen as more of a hardcore subculture than an actual genre, you know the one with the very colorful clothes and overly spiky hair. My personal favorite is A Global Threat, but the most well known one are the casualties. The only sound related thing is that they often only use the ”connected” riffs I mentioned which makes the music sound less chaotic.

Other s”subculture” genres I don’t deem important as they have little to nothing do with sound are (oh boy are there many and are they irrelevant):
-Bandana Thrash. A bunch of straight edge thrashcore bands.
-Youth Crew. A bunch of positive, optimistic bands from New York. This is similar to ”Positive Hardcore” which takes that concept even further.
-Accoarding to Wikipedia there’s something called ”Western Mass hardcore” but I have no clue wtf this is.
-Krishnacore drew inspiration from the indian hare krishna tradition.
-Riot Grrrl is the feminist subculture
-Taqwacore is the islamic one.
-Christian Hardcore the Christian one.
-Queercore for the gays.
-Straight Edge bands by the straight edge subculture
-Bent Edge, yet another straight edge thing.
-Foxcore, a kind of humorous term for the sound of certain bands with female singers.

Why list these? To tell you which genres are kind of pointless.  On to camp 2, the traditional metallic camp.


Before I start, I’d like to say there’s some non metallic fusion genres as well. We’ve already mentioned 2: Rapcore like BEastie Boys (who started as straight up hardcore) for hip hop and hardcore, and Digital Hardcore like Atari Teenage Riot for Electronic music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Post-Hardcore Pt. 3: 90’s (intro of unfinished script)

While Fugazi was brighter, more dancable, had more regular song structures and had catchy singalongs which made them  more accessible, Drive Like Jehu was like Fugazi’s noisier,  more chaotic, more visceral cousin. While it still featured some bright moments to contrast with the darkness, and still has some melodic singing, there’s much more dissonance, noise and screaming going on. It was all about tension and madness without losing the dynamics. The guitars are often bending constantly to the point where it feels like every note sounds slightly off. It’s like the guitars are constantly wailing at you. They’re always sliding around,  use pick scraping and use alot of fast tremolo picking on high dissonant chords. Even the soft quiet parts use odd chords. Often there’s riffs with weird sliding and bending then suddenly a really high wrong chord or note that does’t really fit, and then some punk rock rhythm guitars occasionally thrown after but with other chords.

The guitar tone isn’t the most distorted, and yet it manages to sound heavy. While fugazi waa groovy in a reggae or funk sense, drive like jehu’s groove resembles that classic metalcore or groove metal at times.

Jehu had longer songs with stranger timings which made it influential to the later Math Rock genre, a type of alternative rock that often uses very technical clean tapped guitars with odd time signatures. Rick Froberg’s raspier vocals also had a whiny quality to them that feels similar to emotive hardcore that came later. In fact, Drive Like Jehu’s riffing, along with thay of xx is often used as a base for the emotove hardcore genre. The softer parts of jehu often felt like I was floating through space. Often songs in jehu repeat a lot but slowly, subtly change things up to build to a climax.

 

Fugazi had buildups too but the band was more about contrast than tension. There’s a constant dance between soft and loud, bright and dark, and most importantly pretty and weird or ugly in fugazi, often going on at the exact same time. Fugazi’s guitars had their own quirky tone as well. It’s a more positive, “fun” sounding band despite the quirky noisy guitar riffs thrown in, which could explain why fugazi was more successful. The catchier fugazi simply fit in more with Arena Rock bands than Jehu ever would. They get you excited instead of tensed up. That said,

Both fugazi and Jehu used very, very little true hardcore punk or traditional roxk rhyhms despite using their guitars for hardcore like tension. The hardcore aspect was mostly in the energy and tension. What I call the stereotypical “hardcore punk tripplet” (this rhythm) isn’t used. And only occasionally is simple punk rock strumming used. If also isn’t fast but mid tempo. The drums switch up their rhythms much more. And the bass played more of its own role depending on the song. Occasionally clean guitar tones with notes that keep ringing through are used as well. Jehu’s noisy guitar techniques are very much like those of fugazi. The clashing chords, the tremolo picking, the sliding, the odd chord choices, pick scraping, use of feedback noise from the amplifiers, more groove, more lead guitar riffs, more dynamics, more melodic singing, etc. It’s just the way and frequency of use that differed to result in a very different feeling.

 

These two bands formed the foundation of most 90’s post-hardcore. They’re what I would call “standard post-hardcore”, phc that doesn’t lean much into a particular sub or other genre. If you ever wonder why the riffing sounds so unlike hardcore punk, it’s these two that set in most of the conventions. Later on, fugazi, and a lot of other 90’s post-hardcore bands would tone dow the aggression and dissonance resulting in a more indie rock sound as there was no clear punk element you could hear anymore, philosophy aside. Discord records also took on a lot of indie rock bands instead of punk ones. As bands like fugazi and unwound were so influential, this post-hardcore style riffing started to be used in various indie and alt rock bands that had no hardcore energy and were very clean. This  is how post-hardcore became so heavily associated with indie and alt rock. You can even hear elements of the riffing in non post-hardcore indie rock bands like Built to Spill due to indirect influence of fugazi. Fugazi and jehu made phc into its own thing separate from post-punk.

When I say post-hardcore is noisy, I don’t necessarily always mean it’s using feedback noise, odd noisy guitar tones or low fi sounds. Most of the time it’s the inclusion of riffs that you can’t really reproduce with your mouth without it sounding like random bullshit because of all the angularness, dissonance and odd sliding and bending. Just take this riff by Thumbnail. How would you hum that? this? It’s not a catchy sequence of notes, more like a sequence of sounds that fit that happen to not share the same pitch.

Back to Drive Like Jehu. In the San Diego scene there was a big rivalry between Drive Like Jehu and the Garage Punk  band Rocket from The Crypt, which both had guitarists John Reis.

From here, post-hardcore split into a ton of different directions.

It’s not just listening comprehension [Japanese video script]

When learning a language, listening skills are probably the most important to learn. Sadly, if you don’t live in a country where you’re surrounded by that language and forced to actively communicate through it, it’s also one of the hardest things to learn.  In fact I’m still struggling with it big time. This learning of listening however doesn’t just consist of a single skill. The commonly used word of ”Listening comprehension” is the ultimate goal that combines all the skills necessary to listen. It means that you have the actual ability to understand what is being said.

To achieve this, there are multiple aspects.

———————0: Knowing the words.

There’s a fuckton of words. If you don’t know a word, you’ll likely get lost. You’ll almost always understand all the filler words that connect words together to give structure so that it doesn’t seem like a huge mess. But usually the few words you don’t understand are actually the important ones. Either that or descriptive words like adverbs you happened to have not known. At first when learning Japanese, you’ll usually hear a lot of what would probably sound like this in English:

-So I went to the x with my x And then I bought some X for my X standing by the X, and I had a very good time when X told me he Xed me directly in my face. Here, you understood most of the words. But the most important words are precisely the ones missing. So while you could say ”I had 80% comprehension”, technically you ended up comprehending nothing. Meanwhile, when better you may start to understand those important parts, but then not understand some details. THIS is the real partial listening comprehension we want. It would be more like this.

Wow I just Xingly ran to the pet store and saw this Xinlgy huge dog. Maybe it was supposed to mean ”Surprisingly huge dog”. While yes, you’re missing a detail, you’re missing that an emotion the person was feeling, you get the gist of someone seeing a big dog.

What I’m trying to say is, knowing the main words is crucial. If you can’t hear those words, you won’t really comprehend. And there’s a FUCKTON of words. They estimate average English people can at least recognize about 20 thousand, and at least speak about 10 thousand off the top of their heads depending on the situation.

——1: Sound Recognition.
-Sound recognition is your ability to recognize what sounds just came out of the native speakers mouth. When you hear a language for the first time, it’s incredibly hard to repeat what the person what saying unless they say it in a very slow manner. At this point, you can’t distinct any of the sounds they make at all. It’s like looking at a really blurry photo, you certainly hear something, but you can’t hear what sound it was. Did he just say Shoubun or shoubu? Did he say kage or kake? did he say Souyu or soyu? What the hell did he even say at all?

This issue is usually because they are speaking fast or not as clearly as in a textbook. To make things easier to say in a row people kind of slur their sounds together in a softer manner. Take my language Dutch, where it would sound incredibly stilted if I said ”Ik ga  naar het toilet”. Normally I’d say ”Ik ga naar t’ toilet”. The I in Ik sounds unclear, the ar in Naar sounds unclear, het is shortened to T and the t in toilet becomes silent. Ofcourse this also has to do with my specific dialect, but everyone has one.

There’s also that some people just pronounce some sounds differently, or pronounce them in a different way when followed by a certain letter just to make it easier to pronounce. Just like how in English A and A are both considered an A sound, in Japanese this Ga and Nga sound are both just a Ga.

Most foreigners will first see their vocabulary in a book without having heard what it sounds like. And because their pronunciation of that word doesn’t match up with the native pronunciation, when you hear the word you learnt you may still end up missing it anyways. For example in Japanese if the I and U are stuck between two consonants like a K, they often become this kind of whispered sound called a voiceless vowel. Instead of ”Kiku” it becomes ”K-ku”.

If you’ve seen the word only in text, your brain seems to require more processing to understand it the first time you actually hear it spoken. Your brain still needs to associate that sound with its meaning even if you already knew what the word would sound like in you head.

Even more hard to distinct are words you’ve never even heard before. It might be that when you know a word, your brain will try to find the closest thing it knows to the sound it just heard and get what it was even though it  wouldn’t have known what sound it was on its own if you hadn’t known the word.

Usually in Japanese, there’ll be a more unique part of the sentence when they’re still thinking about what to say. Then when they got what they want to say they’ll quickly and more softly say the more standardized part that connects the words together. That part is hard. But the first part isn’t. The parts they”d say the most often, the parts they have the easiest time saying and the parts they had to think about the least will be spoken with the most speed and least clarity.

————–2: Word ending distinction.

This is the skill to realize where a word starts and where the next word ends. When you’re reading in English, there’s spaces everywhere. In Japanese, there are none, but because of kanji it’s quite easy to see the main words usually written in Kanji and the filler words connecting them together usually written in Hiragana.  Thing is when listening spaces don’t exist at all. The nicest thing with Japanese is that most words will be followed by Japanese particles like ga, wa, ni, wo, de and kara, which allows one to more easily distinct when a word begins and where a word ends.

I can’t find an example off the top of my head so I’ll have to pick something a bit silly.

いい
t ”aebaiindaga”.
aeba is the ”If’ form of ”au”. to match, and Ii is good, literally creating ”It would be good if it matched”. However when reading in only hiragana, you’d think it said ” Ae”, the ”I’m able to do” form of ”Au”. and then ”Baai” which means situation. Which would mean something entirely different. I’m just trying to make a point but this case would never happen as ”Baai” is pronounced differently from ”baii” but I hope you get the point.

Sometimes there’s actually two possibilities that could both be correct. Certain combinations of sound will be able to mean two separate things if you separate the sound in a different way, and the only way to be able to tell it apart would be context. Sounanda. Would be ”Sou na n da”. ”it is that way”. Sounanda. Would be ”Sounan da”’. It’s a diseaster. Again though, in this case, pretty much anyone would say ”遭難した’’ But I hope you get the idea I’m trying to convey as I can’t think off examples off of the top of my head.

—–3: Word meaning comprehension

Knowing a word like in point 0, and UNDERSTANDING a word are two separate things. You might hear a bunch of words you can translate the meaning of when given enough time. BUT, you may not actually understand the meaning when it is said. There is a differnce between associating that the japanese sound of ”souzou” translates to the sound ”Imagination” in English, and then understanding that English word, and just hearing the word souzou and immediately feeling and understanding the  actual meaning of that word. Even if it takes you time to process that meaning, even if it takes 10 seconds,  it is STILL different from taking those same 10 seconds to translate something. This is done simply by trying to listen to the words and imagining or feeling the meaning of those words rather than associating them with English. When you hear ringo think of a picture of an apple. When you hear a certain sentence imagine it happening. When you hear ”totalitarianism” feel that concept even if you can’t imagine it tangibly. We could think before we knew language so you can definitely imagine a concept. Eventually you’ll associate it more with the actual meaning than with another language and it will happen automatically instead of causing a fuckton of deliberate processing. This is very hard to do however, because likely you can’t understand enough to form enough context to keep doing this for all the words. It”s  also just hard to get rid of the habit of translating to begin with.

There is a next stage to this however. Depending on the context of conversation, and the words and sentences around the word, the meaning may change even when it’s the exact same word. Ageru means to raise or elevate. But it can also be used to say ”To give”, asin to give something to someone above you. And even when it is not a typical meaning, did someone mean the word in a literal sense, or a figuaritve sense? You need to learn to have this understanding even when it’s trying to convey different meanings based on the same core concept.

—————-4: Context homophone distinction.

Japanese has a lot of words that sound the exact same. It’s already hard enough to distinct similar sounding words. But the sound of kankou can refer to 7 different words. The only way to know which of these they mean is to know 1: The context and emotion of the conversation, and 2: The words themselves surrounding Kankou. The thing is, this is hard to train when you already have trouble hearing the rest.

In English, if I say ”I just bought a pen for my dog”, you may easily know the person meant a dog pen, one of those cages. If someone says ”I lost my keys” We know they mean the keys to open your house, not a keyboard key. All words have ”collocations” which is when some words appear together with specific other words much more frequently. On top of this, you also have the topic of conversation itself instead of the words that showed up.

Let’s say someone only said ”kankou da”. If someone is talking about travel, we can safely assume they mean the ”Kankou” that means travel.  While if they were talking about reading magazines, they probably meant ”Publication”. If they mean one from the other topic, they’d clarify it by putting specific words together that make it clear. If I am pointing at a dog and say something about a pen, it will be about the cage. But if we’re talking about something entirely different in an entirely different location, I will call it a dog pen just to clarify I don’t mean a writing pen.

 

—————————5: Inflection comprehension.
Verbs and Adjectives come in a ton of forms in Japanese, and they’re often combined with various helper words to create something new. When reading, akai  and akaku are easy to distinguish, but when you hear it for the first time, you may not realize what Akaku is even though you learnt that grammar pattern.

—————————-6: Sentence meaning conprehension

Okay so you finally: Know all the words in a sentence. You can distinctly hear all the sounds in the sentence. You UNDERSTAnD all the words in a sentence, and also the specific meaning of them meant. You understand the context to distinct the words that sound the same….But that still doesn’t mean we comprehend what is actually being said.

Language is full of implications, figurative speech, and combinations of words that mean very specific things. Even if you know all the words, you may still have no clue what the hell it’s all reffering to.  Learning common sentence patterns that are not set expressions their implied meanings will consist of trial and error. This is the only time english subtitles may actually come in handy as it’s not something you can look up in a dictionary.

————-7: Emotional comprehension

Even if you understand all that, sometimes it might be going too fast for you to properly feel what emotion they’re conveying. Someone may tell a joke, but it just doesn’t seem funny at all because you were too busy putting all your processing power into understanding what it meant rather than feeling it. This can be trained by specifically trying to imagine how the person looks and feels while saying what they are saying depending on the words and tone chosen. This makes you focus on what feelings they’re trying to give accross instead of what meanings they’re trying to get accross.

————8: Understanding personal conveyance of the whole chunk of speech.

Just because you understood what was said with multiple sentences, you may now actually comprehend what they mean. Remember all those books and articles you had to read at school where they wanted you to guess what the hell the person was actually trying to say? Well yeah good luck cause you’re gonna have to do it constantly here. Thing is this can change entirely depending on the person and context so good luck with that, people can still have issues with it with a language they’ve mastered because it’s a much less concrete thing.


 

There you have it. The 8, technically 9 skills I can think of when listening to a language. You will first start to hear random sounds. Then distinct where words begin and end. Then translate some words. Then hear some words. Hear some common phrases. Understand some common phrases. Understand some sentences. Roughly Understand some chunks of the topic . Understand everything for quite a while. And finally understand everything with nuances included.


 

 

Similar Japanese vocab 1: Walking (script)

 

This is a segment where I talk about various similar and related vocab and tell people how they’re different either as a refresher, to get a better understanding, or as new information. I will usually only be mentioning the main concept of a word and not the more specific definitions. These definitions will be rough, awkward sounding translations of the Japanese dictionary their definitions. English to Japanese dictionaries do not have definitions. This time we’ll be looking at a type of movement. There are many types of movement and travel but this time let’s look at the concept of walking. We’ll be looking at words that in one context or another you could be using to express the concept of moving forwards with your legs. Occasionally there will be some vocab that just indicate general forward movement I think would be useful to know.  For these I will not be giving sample sentences unlike the later true walk related words.

On that note, let’s first get some of the more general words out of the way that don’t directly relate to Walking. Let’s start with the verb that incidates some of the most general forward movement: To go. I いく to the store.  I いくto the dentist. As go is more general than walk, sometimes it can be used instead of saying walk. Iku has a flat pitch accent and the kanji just means go. Iku can also be used as a helper verb by attaching it onto the renyoukei stem of a verb. There exists an older synonim with the same exact meaning  of いくthat is  ゆく。ゆく Is used less often, and is usually used in fiction. My only Japanese friend claims that Yuku has a bit more of a cooler, fancy sound. When Yuku is written like 逝く it usually is used when moving past something like someone’s death, and this 征く is used when moving past something difficult. Another verb we could be using for a kind of ”to go” meaning would be 向かう which means to Face, in the literal sense. But it can also be used in the figurative sense to mean to confront something, and can also be used to express moving or heading towards something. It has a flat pitch accent and the kanji has the same meaning. We still have two more specific going related words. 夜行 , sometimes pronounced yagyou another flat pitch accent word has the definition of Going out at night and doing activities at night, and is often used with night trains.  Lastly dougyou or doukou (also flat accent) its definition is ”to accompany and go, as well as the person accompanying you”. Buut there’s also the expression 前に進む, literally meaning to advance to the front. Aka, it’s a phrase that means to move forwards and it is how to walk was explained in the Japanese dictionary.

Now that that is out of the way let’s look at our vocab for that thing we do with our legs to move to places: Aruku. Sometimes I like to Aruku to your moms house so I can make bad your mom jokes. Sometimes I really don’t want to aruku outside and would rather play videogames. I’m only saying this for if you didn’t know the word already. In that case, stop this video right now because I will use a bit of jargon you won’t understand yet. First up we have a bunch of more general terms, these are the trickiest.

-Aruku is true verb, it is kunyomi. It has its pitch accent on the ru. It has the widest range of all walk verbs as it can also be used on vehicles like cars and boats. Main definitions include (To move your feet forward) (To move around. Not always limited to going by foot but also used when going out by vehicles) The kanji just means walk. I also found an entry on ありく on the Japanese dictionary which seems to have similar definitions, but I can’t find it in the english dictionary. Backto Aruku. 彼は歩くのが遅い. He walks slowly. 私はたくさん歩く。I will walk a lot.

-Next up is the closest synonim ayumu and its outdated form abumu, also with the pitch accent on the second character and also a true verb. It refers to [  mutually moving ones legs forward) ].  My Japanese friend says This one sounds more poetic. It is used less often and usually used in fiction. It is usually used in an abstract or figurative way, indicating progress. Meanwhile Aruku is usually more for literal movement. (人生を)歩む. To lead one’s life. 人は地上を歩む. Mankind walks over the ground.  人生という道をともに歩む. Walking to the path of life together. As you can tell Human Life is often used alongside this one.

歩み、 the Stem of 歩む is one of those stems that can be used on their own as a noun.

The flat accent sanpo is a noun that can be used as a suru verb. It is one of those onyomi root combinations with san being scatter or disperse and po being walk or step. DispersedSteps. Definition: (Wandering and walking for relaxation, recreation and health) [Dispersed Walk]. This one is more like the activity of walking or the hobby. It’s when you deliberately go out for a walk, usually for exercise or walking your dog. 趣味は犬の散歩です。My hobby is walking my dog.  私は散歩に行きました. I went for a walk. Obviously as this is more specific it is used less often but it’s still one of the most common ones.

The word that is most closely related to Sanpo is the flat Sansaku, which is used less often once again. The kanji also has scatter, as well as one for scheme, plan or policy, or means, but it can also simply mean step which means these kanji technically mean the same as those in sanpo, scatteredstep. It’s definition is ”To walk leisurely with no specific goal”. It’s often used in sentences where you walk inside or around some kind of large building its area. It is similar to the English words Stroll or roaming and is used less often than sanpo.  私はその大学内を散策をした. I strolled around inside the university.  私たちはその工場の敷地内を散策した。I strolled around at the factory grounds.

徒歩accent on the first character is used pretty damn often and its definition goes as follows:  (Walking without riding a vehicle) . It is another onyomi combo suru verb and noun. Its kanji literally give the meaning of: [On foot walk]. Often it is used when stating your method of travel or public transport. Asin ”I went here by foot”. ”I traveled by foot”. It is also often used when asking for travel time in situations like walking times to the next train after getting off of an earlier train. it is often used together with the means particle で。徒歩で行くこと. Going to a place by foot. 徒歩20分ほど。 A walk of about 20 minutes. 徒歩で会社に行く. Going to the store by foot. 駅から徒歩20分 a 20 minute walk from the station.

Yet another chinese root combo suru verb/noun which is again flat is 歩行。The kanji mean walk and go. It isn’t used much on its own, however it is often used in compound nouns like 歩行者 which attaches the kanji for person者 to 歩行 to create pedestrian. 歩行 vague definition is simply ”Going to Walk, walking”. Often it is kind of used in the contexts where we’d often say the word pedestrian. It can also be used for expressing doctor patients, old people or wounded people their ability to walk and their difficulty with walking, Which I guess is because of the compound nouns its used in often relating to those kinds of things in form of things that assist with walking.. Examples of such sentences include 脚気で歩行が困難だ. I experience difficulty in walking. 歩行の自由を失う. To become crippled (literally to lose the freedom to walk).  長くて困難な歩行. A long difficult walk.

遊歩, onyomi root combo, accent on first yu. Definition:  To walk/stroll leisurly. A relaxed walk) The kanji literally mean: [Playwalk]. This one like hokou is also Not usually used on its own but instead for specific compound nouns. It is less common than hokou. The most common one is 遊歩道, which attaches ”path” or ”street” to create Promenade.

歩き回る, accent on the ma, Is a kunyomi compound verb that consists of the stem of to run, aruku, and the verb mawaru, to turn or rotate around. It literally means what that combination indicates, to walk around, and you’d use it in similar situations as when you’d say walk around in English, However, it is used a lot less often than the other words. arukimawaru.

出歩く, accent on the ru, is another kunyomi compound verb consisting of to go out, deru, and to walk. The definition is: (To leave the house and walk here and there. To take a trip out) The kanji literally mean. [Outwalk] It’s not that hard to imagine that his one is usually used when leaving to go for a walk or when walking out of somewhere. It is very similar to でかける which means leaving. I have no clue how common this one is to be honest. This verb is not to be confused with sentences that place the particle で in front of the verb あるく as that means to walk by means of something.  Dearuku.


 

From now on we have more specific terms with special characteristics.

ハイキング is a western loanword that simply means Hiking. There also exists the shortened version ハイク. The long version also exists, which is ヒッチハイク. The definition is:  (Enjoying nature while walking in places like the mountains).  Obviously it will  usually have to do with the mountains.  私はヒッチハイクするのに慣れている.. I am used to hitchhiking. It’s used quite often.

There’s also a word for hiking I found called 踏み歩く. It’s a true kunyomi compound verb, having fumu, to trample, and aruku, to walk, creating hiking. Buut It doesn’t show up in my Japanese dictionary, instead only in my English one. ふみあるく

A fuckton of words exist for Loitering or Wandering around aimlessly, because a ton of words in Japanese exist about being careless in general.  That said, I’ve picked three. ぶらぶら is one of those mimetic words or Onomatopoeic adverb words. It normally means the manner in which something is dangling or swining back in forth. But it can also be used to mean to aimlessly, lazily or leisurly stroll, roam or wander around. Because of that it’s an adverb often used alongside some of the verbs we’ve already discussed.  ぶらぶら出かける. To go out for a stroll. 公園までぶらぶら歩く. To walk around in the park.  私はぶらぶらと街歩きします。. I walked around the town aimlessly.  It’s not used that often compared to the other words but still a common word overall.

Next up are two kunyomi true verbs with the same kanji.  Both are usually used in fiction in descriptive sentences. The flat Utsuroku has the kanji for straying/wandering/loitering, and another kanji for wandering, and guess what, its definition is  To walk around without a goal. It means to loiter around or walk aimlessly, but also to be confused from not knowing what to do, as well as sneaking around.  It’s not used that often. ぶらぶらとうろつく. To hang around idly. A bit double don’t ya think?  夜になると、あたりをうろつく彼の影が見えていた His shadow was seen prowling about at night.

The other word with the same kanji is  samayou, accent on yo. The Definition is ”To walk around aimlessly. Also, to get lost”. It’s a bit more common but a very similar word. Samayou.

There technically is another kunyomi true verb with a loitering around meaning. Tadayou’s main concept is something that’s floating or wafting around, like in space ora flower  on the water.  buut one of it’s non main meanings includes wandering around aimlessly as well. This one’s meaning is quite wide and often also used figuratively so it’s used much more often than the previous ones. I swear that’s the last wandering one we’ll do because if we’d do all we’d be here all day.

Now we have 3 words that have to do with taking individual steps. The first is simply..歩、And yes it has a higher accent.  Definition: (walking and the pacing/cadence of it) . It’s almost impossible to find an online sample sentence because I keep getting aruku instead. I also can’t estimate the use amount. I’m just trying to say that yes, Ho on its own already is a word. That’s not the case most onyomi roots.\

歩調 is an onyomi root combination noun that can this time NOT be used as a verb accoarding to the english dictionary. It is just a noun. Definition: The mood while walking, Especially the steps while crowded. The kanji literally mean [WalkMood], with the mood one also meaning tune.  It has to do with the pace, tempo and feel of the walk.  歩調を速めなさい Quicken your pace. あなたの歩調に合わせて歩く. I’ll walk at your pace. It’s not that common.

The flat Ashinami is a kunyomi compound noun consisting of foot, and the noun version of naramu, which means to line up. It means: ”The state of progress of serveral people’. When you look it up you’ll see a bunch of people walking in line around the same pace. It also refers to the manner in which people walk. It usually translates to gait, step or march. Interestingly enough if you reverse the order of the words to create NamiAshi, it means a slow march or slow pace. . 馬の速い足並み. The fast gait of a horse. It’s not that common.

Similar is the flat or last character accent ashidori, also a kunyomi compound noun, with Ashi meaning foot, and Dori coming from the noun version of toru, to take, with the T turning into a D sound change due to a phenomenon called rendaku. When I looked it up I only got definitions that had to do with a specific wrestling technique. However I personally heard it in metal gear when snake reffered to the feminine manner meryl’s ass shaked when she was walking which blew her cover when camoflauging as a male soldier. Ashidori refers to the manner of walking, and also means gait, stride, pace or step like the last one. Again not that common, but more than the last.

Now we only have 3 words left. The flat onyomi root combo noun with suru verb abilities koushin, consisting of going and moving forward, refers to marching or parades. The definition is: (A large amount of people Cross/Move/march forward as troops. It often has to do with the military. 抗議の行進. March in protest. 軍隊は行進中. The troops are in the middle of marching. It’s pretty common compared to previous words but not to our early words.

跨ぐ, accent on the ta character, might not even really count but whatever. The dictionary says it means: To open your legs and cross something. The kanji means straddle. It’s not super common but it tends to mean to lift your leg over some kind of obstacle like a fence and walk. It can have the meaning of stride. Can’t really find feasible sample sentences here each one of them is like a novel.

Last but not least is 横行, more common than our recent words. Another one of those onyomi root combination nouns that can be used as suru verbs. The kanji mean Sideways and Go. One of the definitions literally is: ”To move forward to the side” as well as ”To walk sideways”. But it can also mean ”To walk around freely to one’s own liking)” . Oddly enough when I learnt it it actually meant that something bad was about to happen. This seems to be figurative, appearantly going sideways instead of forwards is not a good thing. Once again I got the really shitty sample sentence problem so let’s call it quits.

And there you have it. All ways I know of in which to say express the meaning of walk. I hope you’re now less confused to how these words differ and maybe have a better grasp at knowing when to use which word. If you want to look at them again I made a dynalist and linked to it in the description. See ya.

”How do I learn Japanese”

Long story short: You learn hiragana and Katakana. You do your genki 1 + 2 and tobira textbooks as preparation. You go through Remembering the Kanji. You do your flashcards. You consume as much media as possible and add words you don’t know that aren’t uncommon to the flashcard program after looking them up in a dictionary. You practice talking to people via language exchange apps.


 

The dreaded question on the /r/LearnJapanese subreddit. Asked over and over again by people who didn’t consider looking at the sidebar’s frequently asked questions. Regardless of the fact that this question has been asked more than ”what’s better, tits or ass?” , and regardless of that it has been answered already countless times, I imagine it’d be nice to start this channel off with my take on the question. So, how do you learn Japanese? Well, technically that shouldn’t really be the question to begin with as you’ll never be done learning new things in a language, so what we’re really here to answer is ”How do I study Japanese?”. Does my title count as clickbait now?

 

Before we start, I’d like to get one thing out of the way:
Learn their writing systems Hiragana and Katakana. You won’t be able to read the books you study with if you can’t read Hiragana and Katakana. On top of that writing Japanese words with roman letters, which is called Romaji, is inefficient for a few reasons. Don’t worry, they don’t take long to learn. Hiragana is 46 symbols plus a few modifying symbols which can then be used to make about 108 sounds total. There’s a ton of apps and videos out there for practicing Hiragana. Katakana are separate symbols for the same sounds and is used less often but you should learn it too, it’s mostly used for the many loanwords they use, but also plenty of other smaller things. Just learn them, you can easily do it in a few weeks and as you’ll see it everywhere as long as you study you won’t forget them. Learning Hiragana and Katakana are your first true steps. On to my actual video.


 

Scenario 1: the Traditional way.

The obvious fact is that the ideal way to study a language is to hear and use it a lot. In other words, it’s to move to Japan. Let’s think about how we acquired our own languages. First off, we lived in a place where the language was widely spoken around us. Your mom may point at that green stuff cows eat and say the sound Grass, and because there was likely some kind of contextual reason for it, it’ll be easy to start to associate that sound grass with the meaning of grass. Buut most words aren’t that simple, meanings change based on context. The acquiring of language happens by ..Drumroll: Listening to a lot in context. It happens by constantly feeding the brain with different patterns of sound (also known as these new things called sentences) in different contexts until eventually, the brain starts to make connections and understand what sound and combinations of sound are referring to what things. After more and more listening, you will even start to say the common words out loud yourself. Humans are pattern recognition masters.  If you just hear a word once you will forget it soon.  But the more you hear specific words, the longer it will stay in long-term memory. So as long as you keep interacting with the language, the common words will be remembered. Now, It helps that as children we absorb information like a sponge. But even as an adult, the best way to learn Japanese would be to live in Japan and have actual interactions with people. The physical context and the fact that you simply need to use words to live there comfortably means it will be much easier to learn.


 

Scenario 2: The poor people way.

Does that mean we are screwed if we want to learn in our own country where finally finding a Japanese speaker will make you squeal with unhealthy glee as if you found a shiny pokemon? No, we’ll just have to make do with the closest equivalents of this language learning scenario we can find, and also find a way to get around the fact that our adult brains kinda suck ass at remembering information. If we want to learn a new language outside of a country, the first main goal will always be to be able to actively learn from regular native material, usually entertainment media. Your goal will be to comfortably consume a Japanese work with a Dictionary and look up every word you don’t know. Consume consume consume. Now that may seem simple until you realize average English speakers of a young adult age are estimated to be able to recognize about a whopping 20 thousand words. 20 thousand. As a beginner basically every word will be new. You will slog through the book at a snail’s pace (or valve time for you gamers out there). You will feel overwhelmed constantly. You look up a word, then look up the next word, and the next, and oh fuck, now you already forgot the sentence you were trying to read in the first place. It’s exhasuting. And because it’s so slow, it will take very long before you come across the word again meaning they’ll be very easy to forget.

As a result, we’re stuck with a catch 22 scenario here. To learn Japanese words and grammar, we need to consume Japanese material aimed at natives. But to consume Japanese media, we need to know basic words and grammar. This, ladies and gentlemen: Is where Textbooks and Websites aimed at language learners come in. Lesson books like Genki will introduce Japanese to you in a safe environment with training wheels. It will explain fundamental grammar, and teach you fundamental vocab. Then, it will give reading passages and exercises that only involve vocab you’ve learned so far with maybe a few new ones thrown in here and there. As the books progress it will put in more and more and more. Until you’ve gained a solid groundwork to start learning Japanese from. Now, If you thought you could learn an entire language by studying out of a book every day, you will be incredibly disappointed. Textbooks exist to give you a preparation for the real deal. It gives you a basic understanding of how things work as well as the fundamental vocab in a gradual, comfortable manner. The real learning comes from coming in contact with the actual language. Do not fall into the trapping of relying only on textbooks and then being disappointed in your skills after bein done with one.



Memorization

You might be thinking that’s cool and all, but how do we deal with the thing where words may not reappear enough for us to remember in long term? That’s where ”Brace yourselves for jargon words you may not understand”: Digital flashcard word reviewing programs with a Spaced Repetition System come in. Back in the old days people would draw a word on a piece of paper, then the translation on the other side.  When you’d study for a test, you’d get all the pieces of paper with the words you need and look at them, then see if you remembered the translation or not for each one. Testing yourself again and again meant you’d remember them. Flashcard programs are a digital version of this. The issue is imagine if you’d have to review all your 10 thousand words every day, that’d be impossible. Luckily these days they’ll usually have a special spaced repetition system. As the name says, it’s a system that repeats words for you. But the key difference is the ”spaced” part. A Spaced Repetition program schedules specific words to be reviewed every day. Every time a word review is correctly answered, the space of time in between now and the next time the program schedules that word will increase. If you just add a word, the word will be reviewed the next day. Then it will be reviewed 3 days later. Then 5 days later. Then maybe 10, and so on and so on. The idea is that it will only show you the word right before you’re about to forget it so you won’t waste time reviewing it over and over in between. It also works better because if more time is put in between exposure of the word, it will be harder to recall, but when you recall something that’s harder to recall, it will strengthen the memory.

A spaced repetition flashcard system’s purpose is to ensure you will be exposed to a word again in just enough time so you won’t forget it. DON”T fall into the trap of thinking you can learn most of the language with this thing alone, however. This doesn’t teach you language. It just makes sure you don’t forget most of what you have learned just because you had too little exposure to those words. If you’d only use flashcards and purely memorize all vocabulary and then try to read native material, you still would have little clue what’s going on because you lack a way to interpret what these words mean when put together. You have no sense of context or sense of pattern recognition. On top of that, the SRS will work best when you are also exposed to words outside of it. Either way it won’t have a 100% success rate, you will still forget some words.

So we now have two tools at are disposal to circumvent the overwhelming nature of the number of words, and the intimidating nature of not knowing fundamental grammar:
1: Textbooks and other content aimed at learners, and 2: Spaced Repetition.


The steps you will take to study at the beginner stage

So what are you gonna do?
– Step 1: You pick a schedule to work in a textbook. It’s recommended to start with Genki 1 and 2. Another possibility is the Minna no Nihongo series. Then, most people either continue that one or move on to the book Tobira.

Step 2: While you do this, you try to consume some very basic shit. Try Graded Readers made for newbies, or the online version of the concept on the website Satori Reader.

Step 3: Every time you come across a new word that’s not uncommon, you will look it up in a dictionary, and then you will add it to your flashcard program. Tell yourself to add a minimum of 10 new words each day. You can start smaller as this may seem like a lot at first but have this as your first goal. At this early stage, you are also still allowed to learn important words from word lists. However when you get around the 3800 mark, learn from actual texts as much as you can. You can still partially learn from lists for reasons I’ll talk about in another video though. But humans are way better at remembering stories in context as that was necessary for survival. Random information will be harder to cram.

Step 4: You finish your anki reviews every day. I can not stress this enough. If you don’t do your Anki reviews, the number of reviews you have to do the next day will increase. On top of that, as the intervals are now inaccurate, they’ll be harder to remember, and if you get one wrong, the interval will reset, which means even more to review. Plus you’ve now wasted time as you forgot what you learned recently, even if it now can be relearned more easily. This is a good time to talk about rule number 1 and 2 of language learning.


Golden Rules of Language Learning

Rule number 1:  DO NOT BURN YOURSELF OUT. A common mistake is for people to get too ambitious and try to add too many Anki words in a day too early on. The reviews quickly pile up and it becomes hard to finish every day, until you eventually quit. Burnout is your biggest enemy. Do NOT get overambitious one day and let the consequences of it want to make you give up later on. Which goes into rule 2: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. When you learn to ride a bike and don’t do it for 10 years, you will have no issue at all picking it back up. Language is the opposite of that, if you don’t interact with it, you will forget a fuckton. Consistently studying in smaller amounts is much more important than overworking one day and then causing yourself to do nothing or hell not even be able to do anything the next day.

If you add too many words to anki you will feel like you have a hangover when you wake up to the review count of the next day. First stick to a low amount to get yourself used to reviewing everyday. It has to become a habit. You need to train discipline. Even if you sometimes don’t add new words, tell yourself that whatever happens, if possible, you WILL at least review your words. Then as time goes on ramp up the new word count because you will get used to reviewing. Do remember however, there exist a fuckton of words. You want to be able to learn from native material as quickly as possible as the more you listen and read the easier it is to learn. You will get to 5 new words incredibly quickly and not be able to study further if you only stick to that. On top of that 5 new words a day is slow. If you’d only add 1 new word a day, you’d have only learned 365 words in a year. in 5 years that would be  1,825. You’d then know the absolute basics of vocabulary you’d get at the end of Genki 1 and 2, in practice it’s nothing. The estimate is that to know 10 thousand words is to know the basics of a language. 10 thousand. 1 word a day would be a waste of time. 10 new words a day however, and 1 year would be 3,650. 5 would be  18,250. Meanwhile, 20 words a day would give you 36,500 words in that amount of time and 7,300 in one year. What I’m trying to say is don’t keep your daily new word count too low for too long cause you will be so slow studying would be worthless.

I’ll give you a secret ultra special extra language rule. Language learning rule number 3:
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY. You may be thinking hoold it there buddy, Skeptic you sure you didn’t accidentally switch those around? You fuckin’ with me. No. Quantity, over quality. Yes, in most facets of life it’s about quality over quantity. But not here. You want to interact with as many new words as feasible in a short amount of time so that you will comfortably be able to consume more native material and see those words in different contexts so that your understanding of them increases. Now the issue is, the more you add in a short amount of time, the more you a: Risk review burnout, and B: your failure percentage in the flashcard program increases.

Let’s say you add 10 words a day. It’s an okay pace and it won’t be hard to get 90% of cards or more correct. When I was done testing the waters I went for that. But now I do AT LEAST 20. 2 days ago I added 71 new words. Because of this, on a good day I may still get 90%, but on a bad day I get 80. Hell I’ve gotten 70, though that’s very rare nowadays. Thing is..Think about the numbers earlier. 1 year of 10 words is 3,650… 1 year of 20 is 7,300 words. Remembering 90% of 10 words a day totals at 3285 words. Remembering 80% of 20 words a day totals at 5840. That’s still more than the maximum potential of 10 words a day. See what happened here? While you forget more words, in total you still end up having learned more. And the plus side is that plenty of days you’ll still get 90% of the reviews right if you’re doing any good.

Even when it comes to words themselves, quantity is more important than quality. When you just come across a word once, you will gain a shallow understanding of its possible meanings in different contexts. Once you see it used more in different ways you will really understand it. But the thing with the brain is that it’s much easier to add additional information to something you already know. On top of that again you want to interact as much with the language as you can as early as possible. So it’s better to make your brain slightly familiar with each word and learn the nuances over time.

If you forget very fundamental shit, DON”T get hung up on it. For one, you will forget shit, it’s inevitable and after you look it up again you will remember it better. But more importantly, that stuff is so common and will come again and again. You will remember it eventually.


Speaking

You may be thinking Skeptic, but what about..You know, being able to speak? In my opinion this is much less important as a beginner. Unless you have no Spaced Repetition, Speaking only increases your reading and listening abilities by a little bit. Meanwhile listening and reading a lot will increase your speaking abilities. Native speakers can’t actively use all the words they know either. The words they’re exposed to a lot or decided to actively use a lot are the ones in their active vocabulary. The rest is in their passive vocabulary. Consume stuff and try to replicate what they say and do. That’s how children learn too, they repeat what we say all the time, it makes it stick better. Children are constantly exposed to the language day in and day out for 2 years before they start to speak something back to you. Funnily enough that’s how long it took for Matt vs. Japan to start to understand things when he decided to learn mostly by just listening and listening without looking anything up while only knowing the very basics already.

Another point against speaking is that it’s also harder to get rid of mistakes you make a ton early on, though In my experience as long as you’re aware you may be incorrect it won’t be as hard to stick to the correction you get after your mistake as people make it out to be. Buut I’d say we still want a bit of practice. You can only get good at speaking by..Speaking after all, and getting some corrections.  How do we do this? Language exchanges. There exist apps like Hellotalk, Hinative, Tandem and Italki where you can interact with native speakers. You will help them with English, they will help you with Japanese. If that’s not really your thing there’s public Discord servers out there for this kind of thing. You can also try to stalk random people on twitter and hope eventually one of them responds to you and gets into conversation with you. Yes that actually worked for me don’t ask me how.

At first however, you will be able to say jack shit. The best thing you can do is try to talk to yourself just for the sake of getting used to how different the structure of the language is. Try to say super basic shit in Japanese like ”I am sitting on the chair” out loud when you sit on the chair. Just to get that basic structure in your head. You can learn from a book to get some preparation, but you need practice so that they become second nature. At first it will take a lot of damn brain power to recall those simple grammatical patterns Japanese people will come up with in a millisecond.

Because speaking is less important, I advise you to eventually stop having 2 cards for each word in your flashcard program. Normally you have a japanese >eng and an eng ,> jap card. This is useful at first when not used to the language. But when you get to a point you wanna learn only with japanese and get a ton of words it’s more efficient to have 1 card per word of japanese to japanese. Why? Well Well keeping 2 cards doubles your review workload. Having 1 means you can easily add way morr new words. And as i said, understanding a lot as earlo on as possible is important.

Another thing is you don’t need nearly as many words to speak well because many are synonyms or overly specific versions of more common words, plus you can explain things, and what’s the point of asking a question if you can’t understand the answer?

Another thing is that you gotta be aware of the fact that while let’s say reading increases listening ability a bit, to get good at listening YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO LISTEN. For most people listening skills lag behind reading ones. I have the same issue and often avoid listening because of that. But the only way to fix worse listening is by listening more and more. That’s the harsh truth I learnt.


Main Study resources

Got another rule for ya. The first rule of resources: DON”T TAKE TOO LONG THINKING ABOUT RESORUCES. Just put time into Japanese. It’s a trap to keep thinking about which resource to use and the pros and cons of each instead of actually studying. That said, some study methods are much more efficient than others and that is why I’m still writing this video. As for a hypothetical example: If you’d do the 1 word a day thing you’d be getting nowhere. As for something more practical, I never put the pronunciation of words in my flashcards. Now I will need to take time in the future to learn them, but if I’d put it there from the start they’d be much easier to remember. So yes, study methods do differ in efficiency. But just don’t get too hung up on how you study. As long as you are consistently studying, you will get there in a reasonable amount of time.

As for the actual resources, try to use graded readers and the website satori reader as supplements for reading material.

Meanwhile for textbooks, here is a roadmap by a reddit user. First, I’d say you should start with Genki 1 and 2 in this roadmap. You can also use the Human Japanese and Human Japanese intermediate app (warning they don’t get you far) like I did for a more pleasant start, but Genki 1 and 2 will be most efficient. Personally I’m not a fan of Japanese From Zero’s pace but hey to each his own. After that, I’d say go for Tobira.  I also recommend you to check out the website Tae Kim just like it says here as a supplement as it makes for a great more straight to the point Refresher. Speaking of summaries here’s a reddit user’s great summary of genki 1 and 2. Once you’ve Finished Genki 1,2 and tobira, the shackles are free. When you have done a good chunk of Tobira, that is when you will try to mostly start to learn from native materials and start to only use textbooks as supplements, as well as various websites that explain grammar.

You can then also try some test preparation books for the official Japanese test for foreigners called the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). Popular ones Include Shin Kanzen Master and Nihongo Sou Matome shown here. There are 5 levels, 5 being the I am a complete beginner and 1 being you can actually understand Japanese.  Genki 1 and 2 Will get you to around N4. Tobira to around N3 if you do some sou matome along with it. Shin Kanzen Master and Sou Matome both have N2 and N1 books.

The JLPT tests are not accurate gauges for your japanese levels. They have a particular way of asking questions and you gotta be good at taking tests. On top of that the content is more specific than what you may encounter in real life. Hell in the N1 test  I heard they use a bunch of grammar patterns you rarely ever come across in daily life. You can suck at the JLPT and be good at Japanese and you can be good at the JLPT and be bad at Japanese. However, it is a nice guideline to show about where you are in your journey. And hey in terms of practical use, passing JLPT N3 and onwards help when working in Japan as they loove certificates. I can’t predict the future as my level isn’t high but as far as I know, N5 is basically pointless. When you’ve done N5 and 4 you’ve done the very fundamental shit of Japanese. Around N3 you have a basic understanding of Japanese and can begin to genuinely start learning. Yes you heard that right N3 is where the real thing STARTS. Around N2 you will finally feel like you got practical use out of this stuff. With N1 you have basic fluency. After that you will learn just like a native speaker would, but to get to a good level you will take around double the time you took to get to N1. At least  Each level takes longer and longer to get to and has more content. N5 to N2 and just getting from N2 to N1 takes about as much time, at least from what I’ve heard.
When it comes to native material, you will feel fucking useless until around N3. Don’t get discouraged with how long this shit takes. Language takes a lot of hours. And yes, it’s about the hours, not the years.

 


Your goals.

First off, your goals are to finish Genki 1, 2 and Tobira, but not too quickly of course.
What will the first long-term goal in your Japanese study journey be? In my opinion, it is being able to comfortably read NHK News Easy. It’s a simplified version of NHK’s news website that’s made for foreigners and children that always has a steady stream of new content. It’s a very helpful stepping stone. It has around N4 grammar with N3 vocab and the occasional N2 or N1  vocab here and there when the article wouldn’t work otherwise. However it is much, much easier to read than real NHK and yet it’s still great reading practice. At first even reading this will be a struggle but trust me it will help you. Make this your ultimate girl for now. Meanwhile, you can also set long-term goals for word counts. You can set a personal milestone at 2000 words, then 4000 words, then 8.000 words, 10.000 words,  12.000 words, 16.000 words, 18.000 words and 20.000 words as the final number. You know, just to feel like you’re climbing that ladder. You can do the same for the kanji characters in their writing system. 100 characters, 500 characters, 1000 characters, 1500 characters, 2000, 2500. Oh wait fuck I didn’t talk about Kanji yet? Oh yeah they’re the major stumbling block for any Japanese learner and they’ll get their own video along with stuff about Hiragana and Katakana. But let’s briefly discuss how to learn them. If it’s confusing it’s because I don’t have time to explain shit I’ll do that in another vid.

 


Kanji

At first Kanji, their last writing system based on Chinese characters called Hanzi, will be the bane of your existence. You will feel like they’ll be your downfall to ever learning this language.  Japanese is said to be one of the hardest languages to learn for an English person. And that is despite the fact that Korean grammar is very similar yet more complicated. Why is Japanese considered harder? Kanji. These characters work fine for Chinese, but as Japanese is so different, they’re a huge mess and it’s hard to learn them. You’ll need to learn like 2100 to be literate and there exist more. However, once you ARE able to read a lot of them, learning new words and studying will only become easier than it would be without them. they are a double-edged sword. Anyways, how do we approach them? There are several tactics.

The most efficient one is to take  3 months of your time on going through the textbook Remember the Kanji. With this you will map a name to each of the important characters, and if you want to remember how to write them. While you won’t be able to read them just yet, as we said, it’s much easier for people to add information to something simple they know than to change it or add entirely new information. Kanji have a fuckton of readings. It is damn near impossible to learn all readings of a lot of kanji right away. And then later you’ll be fucked over by irregular readings anyways.
Another method is Kodansha Kanji Learners Course. Very similar to Remember the Kanji but it provides some of the important vocab and readings. This will slow you down if done from the start, it’s more recommended to people who already know a bunch of words but suck at Kanji. Watch Matt vs Japan’s video on why.

We also have the rather expensive digital option of Wanikani, which uses its own spaced repetition system and has readings and such as well. This one’s the slowest but it’s quite steady. It should be used as a supplement instead of blasting through it before your study like with Remembering the Kanji.

Lastly, how do you learn kanji?…In context. As I said there’s so many damn readings for individual characters it’s damn nigh impossible to memorize them. Outside of the textbooks and wanikani mentioned earlier, Don’ try to learn to read kanji. Learn to read WORDS. Words are written with certain Kanji, and those words already had a pronunciation. Spoken language came before written language. People decided to write down certain words that have to do with certain things with certain characters that fit those things. Technically characters don’t have readings, the sounds just become associated with them over time. Let’s say I have the word Geology and the sound Geo means earth. We could combine that Geo with other parts of words to easily create new words. It would be logical to write those down with the same Chinese character right? Eventually, that sound is going to become associated with the Chinese character. But there will be several sounds associated with each character. I can not emphasize enough, you learn to read WORDS, not kanji. Even in English which uses sound based symbols if you know all 26 letters, would you know how to pronounce every word? Fuck no you won’t be able to. Different words have different spellings and pronunciations.


So there you have it. That’s how, in my opinion you, learn Japanese.

You learn hiragana and Katakana. You do your genki 1 + 2 and tobira textbooks as preparation. You go through Remembering the Kanji.  You do your flashcards. You consume as much media as possible and add words you don’t know that aren’t uncommon to the flashcard program after looking them up in a dictionary. You practice talking to people via language exchange apps. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Now go young lad. Go spend time. You’ll need to spend like 2000 hours of it. No joke. Oh, and Come back to my channel in the moments you’re resting to avoid that evil, evil burnout.

Next time we’ll look at the exciting topic of how to look words and kanji up in dictionaries, which media to study from and how to use anki.

 

StaySkepticJapanese Channel Trailer Script

I’ve made this channel for 2 purposes, 1:Translation related things and 2: The Japanese language itself, the latter of which is the priority. As for point one,  I plan to post things about translation/localizations of different works of entertainment. If I come accross any interesting transaltion differences in a piece of media I may make a little comparison. My inspirations for these are Clyde Mandelin, the guy from Legends of Localization and the guy behidn the Mother 3 fan translation. Another one is the Found In Translation series by Kotaku writer Tim Rogers. Also if there’s anything that isn’t translated like an interesting Internet page I may share my experience with ya or if anyone requests me to translate a particular thing I may oblige but I can’t make any promises on that, especially not at my current level and with my lack of experience. Now keep in mind that for either points, the channel will have both videos for students and general audiences with a passing interest for language and media.

On to point 2. I am a Japanese student with an enthuisiastic passion for learning the language. Because of that I thought it’d be interesting to share my experiences while studying the language. Whether that be giving tips on what does and doesn’t work like how to use your flashcard word review program, inspired by the channel Matt vs. Japan, or just a fun video venting about what it’s like such as mabe a video about the frustrating amount of words that sound the exact same. On top of that I’d like to make videos on topics related to Japanese and Language I find interesting, as well as give explanations on how Japanese works that make sense to me. I’d like to present it in a way where it feels like a person is talking to you rather than you’re reading a textbook. Inspirations for this include Human Japanese, Komei’s Channel and Cure Dolly.

While I currently know only around 9400 words (trust me that’s not enough) and don’t have enough experiences to make my own natural sentences, one doesn’t actually need to be able to speak a language in order to understand it and explain how it works. I remember watching a video by langfocus on my Native Language Dutch which he doesn’t speak yet he got practically everything right just by being a good researcher. On top of that I think having things from a student perspective can help and I can always ask Japanese people for sentences.

I think a lot of Japanese resources leave something to be desired in the explanation department, as they will often give English equivelents instead of explaining what may potentially be going on so it will make sense in your head. This is likely done as to not overwhelm you and easily get you started. However, direct translations rarely exist. Because similar words in different languages have different nuances, once you get into more advanced situations certain things will seem completely confusing and arbitrary if you don’t know the true meaning of the word you learnt. Case in point the English verb: To Drink. Yes, one of the most basic fundamental verbs in both languages have a slightly different nuance. In English, at least to most people I know, drinking always involves the swallowing of a liquid such as maybe water. Soo..Then why when Japanese take their non liquid medicine do they still seem to say ”To drink Medicine?”. That’s right, They say, ”Kusuri wo Nomu”. Kusuri is Medicine and Nomu is the word they use when we’d say drink.

This may seem arbitrary and weird until you realize the Japanese equivelent of ”To Drink”:”Nomu”its meaning does not necessarily involve a liquid. Look it up in a Japanese to Japanese dictionary and in the more general definition it will say ”To send food and drinks from the mouth to within the body”. Basically, it means to swallow. Look up their verb for eating ”Taberu” and it will say ”To chew on foodstuff, and then swallow it deeply”,  Thus the difference between the two is that Taberu, their version of eating involves chewing, and Nomu, their version of drinking does not. Further proving this is that in the definition of taberu, the original word for ”To Gulp Down” is actually ”NomiKomu” With Nomi being the stem form of Nomu.

So what the Japanese are actually saying, is that they ”Swallow” Medicine, not ”Drink” Medicine. Japanese does not make a distinction between drinking and swallowing, while we do. This small misunderstanding made it seem like Japanese isn’t logical, when in reality there’s nothing to be confused about. What I’m trying to say is that there’s a lot more logical explanations to confusing parts on the Japanese language than may one expect. Some of these mysteries their roots are from something so old we can’t know anymore why it became the way it is, but there’s plenty of things that still have some kind of explanation. This is the basis of Cure Dolly’s channel, but just because one channel already exists with the same concept doesn’t mean I can’t make my own videos based on that same concept.

Anyways, as you can tell from Nomu, English is different from Japanese. But it’s not just different, it’s one of the most different languages from English. And that to me is what makes it so interesting to discover things about. It’s like you have to think in an entirely different way, especially when it comes to the cultural aspects that come into play. Because of that I hope you’ll enjoy witnessing aspects of my Japanese learning journey that I found interesting enough to share.

Now, I already have a channel on which I make editorials and analysis videos on Games and occasionally explain music genres, which is why I have this nickname, but I’ve barely been making anything. This is because of motivational issues caused by depression. I barely feel like doing anything. However, all that time I did so little I often did at least somewhat feel an urge to work on Japanese. Japanese has been my obsession for quite a while now, and thus I may focus on this channel as its what I’d rather be making right now, even if I find my analysis skills one of the few things I’m genuinely  good at. I also have a StaySkepticAudio channel which is used for any shitpost or completely unrelated thing if I ever need to upload it. That’s all I wanted to say. Byee. Oh and that was all scripted by the way I’m trying to make my narration a bit more natural to fit the language theme but I’m still new to not trying to sound like a monotone version of a nature documentary narrator.

Bubble Bobble script unfinished

Drinking game: Take a sip everytime I say the word Bubble.

I like looking at simple games that may potentially have more to offer than it seems. Upon a revisit I expected my childhood nostalgia game Bubble Bobble to be an enjoyable yet shallow experience. But as I thought deeper and researched more I noticed how unique the game is, how there’s more to being good than may seem, and how the scoring system is more complex than the game lets on. It’s also a great lesson on the fact that how much a game can be critisized depends on the amount of factual knowledge is known about that game, and that new knowledge can always be discovered that changes the nature of the game.

Bubble Bobble is the popularizer of what I personally call the 2D Arena Platformer, a type of almost exclusively Japanese Action Game that involves a series of single screen levels in which your only objective is to kill all the enemies. That may sound boring and repetitive, which it is to some extent, but bubble bobble really differentiates in how its core elements of the genre of combat and platforming work, while encoruaging the right behavior through the scoring system to keep things interesting. It’s a game that showcases that Japanese game design of starting with a single concept and building the entire game around it.

Before I start I’d like to tell which version I played and about the technical issues I had. At first I played the Arcade Japanese 0.1 version on the very hard dip swithch without knowing I still had that dip switch on. I wanted to save state every 10 stages but it kept freezing. When it froze I had to restart the groovymame64 0.196. emulator which somehow took like 2 minutes, then load the game for like 1 minute, and then redo my keys. Sometimes I had to restart my PC entirely and sometimes my recording program crashed the game too. I later then fixed the emulator reboot times, but at stage 54 I couldn’t continue. I then  played on the US. 5.1 version on the default settings. Btw, yes, the NES version has differences including level changes. Anyways, It turns out the game does not support savestates at all and that this causes the freezes. Thus I had to replay the game again in Retroarch’s Final Burn Alpha version as it supports savestates, but this emulation is glitchier. I also wanted to use precise measurments in timing, buut I just don’t know how, maybe the 60 hz nature of my screen is messing with the 59 point something hertz nature of the game we’re emulating.

‘Each stage is a clear mini loop. You wait until you’re ready, you trap the enemies, you pop them, you pick shit up before the time runs out, and you watch an animation that puts you into the next level.  About half of the time is actually spent in action and the other half is picking things up and waiting, which gives the game a kind of stop and go feel where there’s tension at the start and rest at the end in every single level. That can make it feel a bit monotonous. Every level is really short so they all feel like little mini challenges, almost like small action puzzles in a sense.

The controls in bubble bobble are very direct as while there is a jump frame on the ground said jump starts pretty much immediately, turning around happens pretty much instantly. This is rather necessary with how fast the enemies get later on and the nature of this game’s jump. The controls are also floaty and pretty stiff.  Going up and down take pretty mucht the same amount of time with no visible acceleration, though there’s only like 3 frames when hanging in the peak. Despite the enemies being quite fast it has a total airtime of about 52 milliseconds with a jumpheight of about 1 fifth of the screen if you’d include the black part. That wouldn’t be weird if it wasn’t for that you can’t control your jumpheight at all thus creating a commitment requiring jump. When you jump, you risk something dangerous coming below your feet just when you land or touching something when going on the way up. If you press jump and later press forwards you can tap the button to move in miniscule increments in the jump.

Even if you hold it you won’t go far at all, slightly more than 2 stage tiles at most even though it takes just as long as a regular jump. A regular jump goes in the arc drawn on screen (why measure it when I can literally show it) and covers the distance of about a fourth of the screen without the walls included. In a normal jump where you hold forwards while jumping, one must almost entirely commit to it. However, you can hold back in the middle of the jump which makes the character turn around and only slightly adjust. Once your jump gets below the height of the ground you stood on you will float down quite slowly, and in it you can only adjust slightly in the same manner of the jump and then press forwards style jump. Phantom platform collision does not exist, the player only falls off when the character sprite has nothing to stand on. Even just falling off of the platform feels slow, like you are gliding downwards, though one has more control over turning around right after falling than in a game like Mario Bros. Combined with enemy speed getting faster than the player at points, The result of bubble bobble’s control style is that Bubble Bobble is very much about anticipating what comes next through knowledge of enemy behavior and adjusting your movement accoardingly.  Most of the different jumps come from the height distances and that fits the action focus. It also complements that one needs to rely more on the special mechanics of the game to perform more jumps.

 

In Bubble Bobble all you’re doing is killing enemies. As action platformers aren’t known for all that interesting enemy to enemy combat, it is good Bubble Bobble has an interesting attack method up its sleeves that complements the only things the game really has going for it at its core: Platforming, and Attacking. Sure it’s very simple and repetitive to execute but it works in making the game stand out. The core idea of the game is that you can shoot bubbles which trap enemies, and that you then have to squash the bubbles with your spikes (though you can do it with any side in actual gameplay) to kill the enemies. This attack serves as both a method to interact with the enviorment through complementing platforming abilities, as well as the method to both interact with and kill enemies. Essentially, you can shoot platforms with some unique properties which also serve as a 2 step kill weapon. I’ll  say more about this later.

The bubbles have a certain time they take to reach the max distance of about a fourth of the playing field.  Unlike a lot of old games, you can shoot as many as you want on screen at a time but they’ll just pop after a while. Instead, you are limited by a timer for how frequently you can shoot.  If you fire a bubble, it will take about 24 to 29 milliseconds to begin shooting the next bubble. This may sound short but it’s actually quite lengthy in practice. Because of this when a lot of enemies follow you and you shoot one, there’s a bit of time when you are left completely vulnurable. While bubbles can be shot without commitment as you can shoot while moving, the high amount of time it takes to fire a new one adds another element of having to anticipate to succeed. It means you will have to play defensively. You can’t just barge into a large group of enemies, you have to either safely get rid of them from a distance so they won’t reach you, or be sure that you have enough time and room to dodge the other enemies and then all trap them. It’s also that your movement speed isn’t exactly the fastest, even if you can reach the other side of the screen in about 3 seconds and the top in slightly less. Again, plan your moves ahead.

So, what makes these bubbles so special? For one they allow you to interact with the enemies in the only way you can that isn’t killing them: trapping them will change their location depending on where the bubble floats to as after a while they will fall out. Second they serve as some really strange platforms that can only be spawned at a certain range, move around, and disappear after a while you can use to interact with the enviorment. After firing they will all float around in different directions and speeds depending on the stage its invisible bubble streams. I’ll get into more of that later. If you walk into them for a while, jump on to them once, or jump into them once, they will disappear. If you hold the jump button however you will jump on one, and this is where that low distance jump and move later jump comes in handy as it allows you to more easily ride the bubble if it moves very slow horizontally. Because of the different ways they float one can’t just ride the bubbles but also use them to climb in various ways. One can even use it to climb to the top of the stage and end up at the bottom. Another thing is that it makes the stage enviorment have more of an impact on the gameplay, as if you’re crammed between two walls the bubble will pop. You need enough room to shoot bubbles, which means cramped spaces are riskier. There’s also some stages where you can walk through a slight hole in the wall, and then shoot past it, but you can’t normally shoot past it.

If you walk into a bubble in short bursts or nothing is behind it, it will not pop, so you can push them.  Bubbles floating towards you will actually push you and yess this can lead to your death in some stages such as 19 giving some urgency, but if you walk against them with the right timing OR stand in the opposite direction to let them float into your spikes they will pop instead.  While you can’t shoot upwards and have little range, you can shoot a lot of bubbles and make it so that they collide with one another as they float. If you then pop the right one, all the other ones will pop as well, and as long as an enemy is in a bubble close enough to the other bubbles, you will kill it. In stage 89 I could not for the life of me get on this platform with the enemies, but I saw special fire bubbles were floating up which you can kill the enemis with. So I stood in the right range to form a row of bubbles under the fire bubble and popped all of them right when the fire bubble passed the platform. The fire fell out, and killed the enemies.

In Bubble Bobble there’s actually two ways to attack, the first is the 1 step kill, risky low range attack and the second are just using your bubbles regularly. As for the first, If you fire a bubble right in front of an object it will pop right away. Thus if you do this on an enemy, it will die in one hit. Accoarding to Stragety wiki some call this ”kissing’ monsters” due to the way it looks. This requires timing  adjustement based on the enemy speed or its and your air movement. It has incredibly low range which means it leaves you more vulnurable after using it. The typical tactic is to do it and then walk backwards right after so that it pops more quickly. When there’s a low count of enemies at once this is actually easier and more time efficient, however it will give you less points.

If you trap an enemy in a bubble, but they manage to escape as it pops by itself, they will get angry and when they’re angry they’re much faster. This gives a sense of urgency to pop the bubbles and some kind of punishment for being careless. Enemies will also get angry if you take too long to finish the stage. Take even longer, and an unkillable skel enemy will try to chase you down until the end of the stage, moving only in bursts in short increments.

You can actually trap an enemy in a bubble and jump off of it while popping it if you have good timing, which can be used to escape lots of projectile enemies on one lane like in the evil stage that is 42.

Stages in Bubble Bobble aren’t progressive sets of challenges. Instead they are arena’s in which traversing through them fluently presents serveral mini challenges, but where the player will go is always dependant on the player and his situation. These mini  traversal challenges are often not forced and not immediately obvious from taking a glance at the level. In that sense it’s like a really really dumbed down version of exploration platformers like Mario 64. I’d also like to note that like a lot of arcade games, if you fall into the bottom of the screen you end up on the top, creating another movement option. BUT if you’re good with bubble jumping you can actually jump from the top to the bottom. This is required to not get stuck in a few stages.

While you can jump through all platforms, if it’s thick, it will halt a lot of your forward movement, which makes different map geometry stand out more and allows for certain jumps that can’t be made. Same goes for if you want to jump against a staircase shape, this gives more forward movement but still very little. Geometry can almost always be jumped through, and because of this if you jump through at the side edge or jump higher just so you won’t reach the platform you can shoot bubbles through without actually passing through and this can be used quite a lot. Some places can even be jumped through, but you won’t be able to move back. Meanwhile walls and platforms can’t normally be shot through so they can be used to shorten your range. Walls are basically anti range and anti jump capability obstacles.

While in most games the stages will just differ from geometry and enemy placement, and a lot of arcade games had bubble bobble’s system where if you move from the bottom screen you fall out on the top and vice verca, Bubble Bobble directly ties its bubble properties to the stages. The game is truly focused around its main concept of bubbles. As said Each stage has its own stream in which the bubbles flow after shooting them. Usually they will amass to a central place on the map, or serveral central places, but this depends. There is a stage for example where they will just float up directly. Each stage will also have different floating speeds, and bubbles that spawn in the stage itself without you shooting them. Item spawn locations differ per stage. Enemies can have different speeds in each stage too, and the amount of time you’re allowed to last changes as well. Enemy speed will impact your kiss timings, as well as timing challenges when an enemy is patrolling a platform, and dodge timings and spotting oppertunities.

They will also have different times of how long bubbles last when an enemy is trapped. If this is short there will be less of a chance to keep enemies away from you by putting them into a bubble while dealing with others making it harder. If bubbles last for a short amount of time the kissing monsters technique is encouraged, as well as killing the enemy through the game’s special bubbles. I’ve noticed that when the time is short they often put these bubbles there forming a kind of puzzle and timing challange to try to quickly kill the enemies with them.

These special bubbles which will appear in certain stages are based on the elements and will all make what’s basically an attack come out. That’s right, it’s an attack that comes from the enviorment and floats around. The water bubble will make a stream of water slide down killing enemies alongside it, and if you get on the scream you will go with them but it won’t hurt you. the stream will move on the opposite direction of where you popped it. Why go along with the water instead of just letting it fall onto enemies? Well if you ride it you’ll change position and you can actually pass through tiny holes which is used in some stages. On top of this is if you’ve trapped enemies a normal stream will not be able to kill the enemies, yet if you ride it, you will pop the bubbles.

Then we have electricity bubbles, which will fire a straight horizontal one tile electricitty symbol to the opposite direction which will freeze in place for a bit as it hits an enemy and then move on. You can hit quite a few enemies with a single well timed shot. Fire balls will make fire drop down and when it lands will create a row of fire that kills enemies, but also stuns your movement if you touch it forcing you to hop along the fire instead of walk on it. lastly there’s the 1 in 4096 chance fireball which I actually managed to get on my playthrough that allows you to shoot fast horizontal piercing fireballs that just kill anything on their path for like 5 rounds.  It’s nice to see that these attacks often play an integral role to making the stages feel different instead of just being disposable gimmicks.

Bubble Bobble can be played in serveral ways. One can play for survival, one can play for speed, and what’s the encouraged way to play is to play for score, which will also involve some survival and speed. When it comes to survival, it will  have to do with the stage layout and enemies. Being good at not getting hit in Bubble Bobble is knowing the enemy behavior and acting prematurely.  For example If I jump to X location will I be able to still dodge the enemies when I land?

A lot of enemies have a more difficult counterpart. There are 4 ground enemies with regular movement. The standard fodder enemy that works on touch damage called Zen-chan just walks around usually falling down from platform to platform, jumping forwards when there’s a gap and occasionally jumping up at a certain interval if the player is on a higher level.  This is standard enemy behavior, their behavior changes the most based on which height level the player is standing. However they don’t chase the player as obviously as let’s say a serious sam enemy that constantly charges at you. That makes the player have influence while still making the enemy placement have a good influence.

A stepup up from Zen chan is the ghost mighta from taito’s earleir game chack n’ pop, which is similar but throws a slow horizontal projectile that disappears when in contact with a wall. Hidgegons are the more difficult counterpart of zen chan as they spit piercing, fast fireballs. Lastly Super Drunk is the more difficult counterpart to mighta, which moves faster with a faster projectile that doesn’t disappear, and even bounces back like a boomerang. We then have 2 ground enemies with special movement.  Banebou (literally spring pole) goes in a bouncing pattern which switches between what seems like two jump distances and still shows the up or down jump pattern. This is so quick you can’t really jump under it, their challenge comes more from them moving in bursts in a hard to predict manner, and it also means it’s hard to jump over them. They often come in large groups placed on top of eachother so you often gotta make it so that they stop syncing up and pick off single ones. The last ground enemy is  the rather fast  Invader which moves exactly like their game space invaders moving left and right and falling down any gap while shooting lasers down. The only 2 flying enemies are Monsta, the main enemy of taito’s game Chack n’ pop, and Pulpul. Monstas always bounce around in 90 degree turns making them predictable but hard to dodge and aim for. Their more difficult counterpart pulpul has a more erratic harder to predict pattern that moves around in a more curved like pattern. I’ll just show it on screen.

The whole crux is that you’ll try to be dodgind or capturing one enemy but than the different moving pattern of another throws you off and it turns out that move will get you killed by said other enemy. Most movement will be based on enemies their movement as you fear their touch damage or pick which ones you want to capture. There isn’t a clear heirarchy in which enemies you’d want to kill first in the enemy design itself aside from going for stronger ones first, BUT depending on the stage geometry and enemy combinations there will definitely be less dangerous orders of dealing with enemies.

At the start when most enemies don’t have projectiles, kissing monsters is rather easy to do, but later on it gets more risky when the projectiles start to come in. The projectiles of the space invaders are to create more horizontal dodging, while those of the others force jumping. You might be fucked when you land though. A cool tactic is to trap the enemy, shoot another bubble, jump onto the bubbles to stay in the eair when you need to. It’s also a good time to make use of the increased range by putting bubbles together and popping them all.

When a stage starts, enemies are frozen for a while. This allows one to scan the level shape and pick which enemies to kill first. If you will already kiss kill some monsters here will have an impact on the difficulty of the stage and your score. Which monsters you kill will also have an impact because enemy behavior will often be very similar at the start, even if it changes a bit depending on where you stand so you still have some indirect interaction with how it will play out.


 

The crux of Bubble Bobble isn’t in survival however. The crux is to trap multiple enemies in bubbles and pop them all at once. This is encouraged by the scoring system, and said scoring system is much more involved than one may initially think. Sadly there’s some rather random elements to the scoring system so a better score does not always indicate a better performance, but better players will pretty much always be getting higher scores than worst ones. Before I actually get into how it works, what’s interesting in Bubble Bobble is that the scoring system encourages one to do certain things without directly asking it of the player. What I mean is that in a lot of modern games, you will see your score divided into different scores, such as seeing stuff like a ”time taken” counter. Instead Bubble Bobble encourages time in a more indirect way I find more creative.

So, how does it work?  Increasing your score in bubble bobble is mostly dependant on picking up the many item drops that exist in the game by simply walking over them. There are 4 types of these.

1 -Enemy defeat bonus.
2 – Point items
3 – Special items
4 – Level Rewards

First we have 1: the enemy defeat bonus.
When an enemy is killed a food item will spawn. It will travel in an arc of a seemingly random direction and you can only pick it up when it reaches the ground. I’d actually say that this travelling arc is one of the flaws because I never really get where it will end up and usually it despawns or the level ends before I manage to do it. When you end a level, you get a certain amount of seconds to pick them up before the gamemoves on.

It may seem like which you get is random, but in actuality it just depends on how many enemies you’ve popped at once. For each enemy you pop extra, the score of the item is doubled. Pop one enemy and you get a 500  point banana,  Pop 2 and you get a 1000 point orange, pop 3 and you get a 2000 point peach, etc. The graphics are useful for remembering point amounts. This popping multiple enemies at once thing is the core mechanic of Bubble Bobble. In fact it gives you a ton of points even if you don’t pick up the items, starting at thousand, but doubling for each enemy added, and in the demo screen it teaches you this immediately.

Because of it encouraging this core mechanic by rewarding you you’re always trying to look for ways to do the biggest multipops as quickly as possible, because it gives a lot of benefit. it is kind of interesting to see how many of the drops you can get on top of popping a lot. If you pop everything at once, you will trigger the level end and thus you don’t get a lot of time for pickups. Pop once, and you get enough time to pick it up, but as you’re taking time your next level spawn will get worse. It also encourages the game’s co operative play, because one person can do the pop while the other helps picking up the items. Buut..You both have seperate score counters which makes it look kind of competetive? What should players tally up their scores together? I dunno. It’s all rather messy, but I kind of like this conflict in principle, it just needs tweaking to actually make it all work in practice.

Keep in mind that points give extra lives at 30.thousand, 100 thousand and 400 thousand points, so multipopping always somewhat increase survivability. It does not just increase your item drops though, it will also make bubbles with letters called Extend bubbles spawn in maps that have holes at the top or bottom in which they can flow through. If you pop 3 bubbles, 2 extend bubles will spawn in the next stage with those holes. Pop 4, and 3 extend bubbles will spawn. If you manage to get 1 of each letter to spell extend, you will gain an extra life, as well as skip to the next stage. Because of that multipopping increases survivability more than one may think, and even increases speed. Note that they will despawn when you finish a level so you gotta either take the time to pick them up or skip them. Thing is which letter will spawn is randomized.

However, even popping the same ones is benifitial because it can help with item spawns. I’ll get into that more later.

2: Regular Item Stage spawns. In every stage, there is a set per stage location where an item will spawn after being in the stage for 7 seconds. I actually think there should’ve been a way to see where every item will spawn before they actually spawn there so that it doesn’t create trial and error but sadly that’s not the case. The interesting thing about Bubble Bobble is that which item will spawn here is not random but depends entirely on the actions of the player.  These regular items that fall under category 2 are all based on how quick you beat the last stage. If you were slow enough for a skel enemy to appear, in the next stage you get green pepper that only gives 10 points. And yes all the low value items are healthy ones. Finish the stage in 0 seconds, and you get a gold crown of a whopping 10 thousand points. And there’s many, many items in between. You may think how the fuck do I win in 0 seconds, but there’s a type of special items that can skip levels. I just find this an interesting way to encourage speed, it doesn’t just tally it up, it directly ties it into the item based scoring system. This also means it doesn’t clash with the Multi pop scoring system. It means your goal in bubble bubble isn’t to be as fast as possible, it’s to multi pop as much as you can as fast as possible, as multi popping has priority.

And special items are the next type of item to explain.

3: Special items.
Special Items are items that actually do something, like powerups. These spawn in yet another map specific location on the map slightly later than the regular one. These are again not random, they’re based on either doing various actions in the stage or collecting other things. I’m going to try to go over as many as I can. Yes this is objective info, but info not often said on youtube.

For almost everything you do the game keeps a counter in the background, and if a certain amount is reached, that item will spawn in the spawn location of the next stage. If you’ve met two conditions, the game will spawn only 1 item, and that’s the item that had the highest value. even if someone doesn’t know this, It’s funny how the way you play ends up deciding what kind of items you end up spawning, making the player have more of an impact on how the game plays out. It adds to player expression and stragety. The most basic items come from doing the most basic tasks of blowing bubbles, popping bubbles, and jumping 35 or more times. Blowing gives a bubble range powerup, which watch out may make impact which bubble jumps you can make, popping gives a bubble speed powerup, and jumping gives a rapid fire powerup. As jumping takes long, this is the hardest to get, but rapid fire is also the most useful of these powerups because if a bunch of enemies get up to you at once you can fire enough bubbles in time to kill them all.

If you’ve jumped 35 times, but blown 60 times, it will still give the rapid fire powerup. I’d actually find it an interesting idea if it didn’t. Then you’d have to try to not perform one action, while trying to perform the other as many times as you can. I don’t know if it would actually work but it’d be interesting to try that in a different entry.

There’s also running shoes that increase your speed (not just running speed but jumping speed too), which spawn if you’ve walked the length of a stage 15 times. The running shoes, while very benifitial, are also harder to control as you get less time to make your bubble jumps and certain timings change. All These basic items just encourage you to do basic stuff  as much as you can.

Next up are items spawned by killing with the special bubbles such as water and fire bubbles, as well as just popping them. This way it encourages players to use the special bubbles more, on top of the stages often being designed in such a way that using them would allow one to kill the enemies faster even if it’s a bit harder to aim, which will make the regular item spawn better as well. Popping water bubbles makes the level skip umbrellas appear. 15 = orange which skips 3 stages.  You may wonder if that messes things up because you’ll end up missing points, but to counteract this the game has another set of items I’ll mention later. You may also wonder if water bubbles give you multi pop points if you didn’t trap them in bubbles, and the answer is no. However they turn enemy drops into diomands to offset the issue. It can be hard to know what will be better in the long term. Should you trap the enemies and then use the water so you get pop bonus if you can or should you get the diomands? I dunno.

Popping Lightning Bubbles can spawn a time stopper, and killing with them can spawn stars that fall on the screen and kill enemies. Popping fire  bubbles can spawn a bomb that clears the screen, or an item that makes 10 extend bubbles spawn. Killing can spawn the screen clear as well. Water is for speed, lightning and fire are offensive. This begs the question whether it is more benifitial to take longer in one stage to pop more of these bubbles causing the next stage to have a lower point item, but also making it so that in the next stage one of the screen clear items may spawn, which in turn will make the point item in the stage after higher. I do not have the patience to do the math/

Crosses are powerful automatic screen filling attacks gotten by simplty collecting amounts of special items.

Rings are great as they reward you with straight up points for doing mundane actions. Pink gives points per jump, red per bubble blown, and blue per pixel moved. These are tied directly to the candies, as 3 pink candies gives the jump one, 3 yellow candies the bubble one, and 3 blue candies the pixel one. As you may notice It does not give the candies related to the effect. This really begs the question which candies are the most benefitial to go for. It’s also interesting how it means that to get the candies, you need to do one action. But if you get 3 of that candy, you need to do another action to keep increasing your score. Which will then kind of force you to do that which will then spawn another color candy. Maybe it was done to balance things out so people would keep getting different candies? I don’t know.

Lanterns are vary valuable for their benifits. The first two lanterns are kind of consollation prizes that encourage co op and also encourage spending a ton of money.  If player 1 joins the game 5 times you get a lantern that gives the effects of all 3 rings. If player 2 joins 5 times you get the effect of all 3 rings and all candles.
The next lantern is the item to counteract the skipping of levels issue. It is a screen kill item, BUT it changes all the enemies on screen into 6 thousand point diomands. I don’t know if this is actually worth it most of the time, that would have to be playtested and I simply do not have the motivation to. The last one also gives 3 candy effects, but you gotta collect a lot of freeze clocks, which were collected through popping lightning bubbles. Because of that, Lightning Bubbles are quite valuable.

There are more consollation prize items as well for players who are doing bad. Reach the hurry up screen too much,  and you get an item that makes the screen flash if a special item is about to appear, or an item that makes a ball bounce accross the screen in 90 degree corners killing enemies that touch it.  There’s also the opposite, an item that punishes being even slower. Make skel appear too much and a skull will make comets fly accross the screen making any enemy they touch angry. That’s just kicking someone while they’re down.

There’s still a few more items left. Collecting defeated enemy fruits makes an item appear that freezes enemies but also makes them killed if you run into them. Thus encouraging one to pickup regular items. Collecting a crown may spawn an crystal ball that makes special items appear faster, around 4 seconds. This is probably to partially counteract the issue of being very fast in one stage, but then needing to take wait to even be able to pick up your reward, which means you’ll get to complete this stage slower. Still though, you’d never be able to benefit from the best rewards every stage. It again begs the question what’s more benifitial.

There’s an item for beginning 777 levels which turns stuff into potions. There’s not even that many levels in the game. But on single player the game loops over and over. Which is kinda lame, I mean a great player could easily go on until you reach the max score through that. But hey appearantly that can make this incredibly rare item spawn.

Umbrellas aren’t the only way to skip stages. If you don’t die and reach stages 20, 30 and 40 you can reach a secret room with items and a message. But if you reach stage 50 one appears that warps you to stage 70.

Remember when I said collecting extend bubbles of the same type is actually not a bad thing? If you collect 3 of the same type you get a staff, and this staff then spawns a chest  when the stage ends which spawns a giant point item. It is the D staff that gives the most points, so it is always advised to give her the D. As well as anything that isn’t a healthy food.

Potions enable a minigame where all enemies disappear and instead everywhere on the screen are collectibles you need to collect within the time limit. These have the weirdest condition of all. Stages have holes and if you fall into the bottom you come out on top. But doing this x amount of times actually makes the potions drop.

While recording for the first time ever I coincidentally stumbled accross the 1 in 4096  fire bubble  which gives you fire breath for 5 rounds. No clue why it has to be so rare but I guess that’s kind of amusing in the days where we didn’t have the internet. Lots of rumors were made about games back then so it’d make for some interesting playground talk.

Lastly if you enter certain names in the high score screen when you’re done, you can spawn cheat items that have some kind of effect on the next game. And yes one of them is triggered by calling yourself SEX. The game encourages you to be crude so I’ll give it points for that..

But WAIT, there’s more! We didn’t discuss the 4th type of item yet, the bonus items!
This is the most cryptic condition of them all. These special rewards are given when you finish a stage under a certain condition and they’ll make all remaining popped bubbles become said rewards. While it’s already encouraged to blow a lot of bubbles when trying to do multi pops because that increases the chance of actually popping all of them, these items encourage it as well. How are they triggered? Well, first off there’s just certain levels where this automatically happens. All levels that can be divided by 5 suck as 5,10, 15, etc up to level 50 have it, as well as a few stages later and stage 1. This is just throwing the player a bone for making progress I guess, and the higher the stage the better. They don’t give many points.

Buut the cryptic part is that if the 10 and 100 digits of your score counter are the same when you kill the enemies, such as your score ending with 110 points, there’s better ones that will always spawn for every regular bubble that got popped. It will also happen if 2 players have the same 10 and 100 digit score and those items will give even more points. 990 gives the best ones. You may be thinking, but skeptic  how the fuck is anyone supposed to exploit that? Well, for every bubble you pop, which you can simply do by standing into the wall and shooting, you gain 10 points, and for every bubble you jump on you get 10 points as well. It’s almost asif this was intentional. So what players often do is let one player pop the bubbles and the other edit their score in time through popping bubbles against the wall. What ends up happening is that you have to pay attention to your score and decide whether it’s worth it or not to pull off, especially as you’re gonna need space to blow extra bubbles that will turn into items, while not doing anything that gives points before you kill everything. It requires some dedication. You’d also have to think about how to get the best one, you’d need to do it everytime you have 900 points and then wall blow some bubbles to get to 990, but if you blow one more bubble bam you’re back to the low tier, so there’s some risk reward involved there.

And there you have it. The convoluted scoring system of Bubble Bobble. It encourages you to do as much as possible, collect as much as possible, but it rewards you most for simply multi popping, which is the main mechanic of the game and setting up these traps for a more satisfying big climax inherently feels better than going for small instant gratification of killing single enemies. I do sometimes wish it also had a time combo system where if I couldn’t multi pop I’d still get more points if I popped bubbles in a row but seperately. Multi popping is quite satisfying, especially as the bubbles will still switch position so you may actually only cause half of them to pop. The more bubbles you blow extra the less chance of this happening but that takes time.

What’s really cool is that there exists an iphone game I can’t play that showcases just how important this multipop mechanic was to taito. Instead of it being a minigame unrelated to Bubble Bobble, it actually stripped down bubble bobbble to its minimal core by making a minigame around multi popping, where you quickly pick the locations in which the most enemies would pop and pop all of them in a low amount of turns. I actually think normal bobble would lend itself well to one of those simple mobile games where you try to get 3 stars in every short stage.

The point system of Bubble Bobble is incredibly convoluted, especially for an arcade game without a manual. I think for most players such as myself there’s too much to take into consideration in these short ass stages for them to conciously try to do things the best way possible. It just goes by way too fast and you just can’t keep track of everything. Hell fact it’s often hard to judge what of serveral options are better than others without a damn calculator. Should I take more time to match my score for the special reward? Or should I finish the stage quickly? I mean I guess for some people that shit’s fun to figure out but keep in mind this is an arcade machine, it can not save, and mame does not support savestates for it. It’s just too unclear for its own sake. It does incentivise players to play the way the devs want you to though, while still allowing player expression and trying to map out a good route. I think there’s serveral factors that kind of make certain point differences hinge on luck, however the point system still works in that shitty players simply will have less points than good ones.

What’s interesting is that while I can find point system info for the third entry, for its sequel Bubble symphony, I can’t find any of this information at all. So I can’t know if they changed anything about the system. That showcases to me how important objective information can be in critisizing games and how a lot of said information is actually unavailable to the public.

A game’s critical reception of a game changes based on how much players know.  Just look at multiplayer games where the entire meta changes because someone makes a single discovery like the bunnyhopping technique in quake. I actually believe that if we want to take game critique forward, the developers should make as much info about the game public as they can. Sure, you can’t foresee an exploit like bunnyhopping, but you can definitely give infor like the scoring system of this game. If the players don’t know something exists, than they can’t reap any of the benifits of it as it will just seem random. A player can only control something and use it to their advantage if they know how it works.

The game’s crypticness doesn’t end there. There is an INCREDIBLY convoluted way to unlock the game’s super mode that replaces regular enemies with their harder counterpart. You gotta finish the game with two players, go into that door with the secret message, somehow decode it from that cryptic ass message, then use a buttom combination code at the title screen which only seems to work if you beat the game just before that, and finally you can do it. Speaking of which, you can only do it with 2 players. This game does anything to make you hate yourself for being alone.

Here’s a list of benifits with 2 players. With 2 players you can:
-Actually finish the game and see the real ending
– Get the highest point items
– Get the highest special reward items
-Get unlimited continues
– Get the first 2 lanterns
– Get an easier time for special reward items
– Get an easier time collecting all the fruits before they disappear
– Get an easier time simply beating these mostly symmetrical levels
more quickly, plus one can pop while the other traps.
– Have an easier time because you have twice the fire speed, meaning you’ll be able to
trap more enemies in time  before they kill you if you work together.

Christ. They say a lot of co op games have the other person be useless. But this game takes the idea of having to work together a bit too far. And also, the game loops in singleplayer, so you can actually get the max possible score by just playing forever which is kinda lame.

I”m quite disappointed in that the sequels after the arcade trilogy don’t really seem to do much with the game’s ideas. They don’t improve upon little areas they could improve like showing where items will spawn, more interesting special bubbles, or making additions to the point system, or maybe keeping a tally of your actions in a menu, or making things less hectic, or making it easier to know where fruits will end up and control that, etc.. They also don’t try to make the core concept of popping more interesting, I bet people could think of some mechanics that change things up. Instead they usually had some kind of unrelated gimmick such as switching characters with different colors.

Now that I’ve finished the game design portion I’d also like to take some time to talk about Bubble Bobble’s stages for a bit. Theoretically speaking, what would make a set of bubble bobble stages good? That’s a tough question isn’t it? I mean what would make one bad? If you’d just have a flat line and some monsters it wouldn’t really work. All the options you would have would be to shoot, and if the enemies are fast enough and shoot projectiles you’d be fucked. Then you could jump, and with these limited controls you can’t do much. Then you could trap an enemy, jump on a bubble to stay in the air to dodge a projectile and then pop, I actually used that tactic in an actual stage once which is quite cool but what I’m trying to say is a flat line won’t give us many options. Meanwhile we have stage one which is basically 3 of them stacked on top and..It works fine in the context of stage 1. So I can’t really say what makes a single stage good, instead it’s all about  1: Making sure all of the game’s mechanics get a use at some point, and 2: having sets of stages that are different enough for the game to not feel like it’s genuinely repeating itself. That’s all it can do really. I mean sure there are certain stages that give more options than others, but the game is kind of about finding an optimal quick stragety for each stage anyways so it’s not all that necessary. What’s surprising is how well bubble bobble actually managed to do both.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Statistics:

 

Full Jump: 52 Milliseconds
Up: 25 milliseconds
3 milliseconds in air
24 milliseconds down.
Walking Horizontally: 2:57 (more space)
4 jumps horizontal, 5 jumps up but goes over screen.
Jumping up: 2:53 (less space but you can walk through)
24-27 milliseconds to get to second bubble.
29 milliseconds when enemy is trapped. Conclusion: Almost half a second.

Stage notes:

-1 to 4: Standard enemies, different formations.

1: Jump up 3 times, shoot 3 times.
2: Jump up twice, then in the middle jump and shoot to a direction, then as the enemies come down shoot left and right. Good stage to try the special reward
3: Just jump to the middle, shoot 4 times.
4: Jump next to the first guy, and just time more bubbles, this time there’s more enemies.

5-6: Water.
5: Water level 1: Trap the enemies each time you jump up. Now you get some time to collect letters. When the water bubble appears go for it and automatically kill the enemies.
6: Water level 2: First time there’s ghost enemies. The barely there stream here makes it so that you can’t multi pop them and have to rely on water. This time you can’t immediately trap everything. You can’t get to the bottom right enemy without jumping, but then you’ll accidentally get to the next platform. So instead just move up a platform, side step the guy and wait until he jumps up. Then pop the water bubbles on top.

7- Similar to the early stages, but This time every enemy is a ghost and thus it’s a bit trickier to trap them as you’ll likely have to jump over one of their balls.
8: This one’s interesting as they come from 2 sides, but if you jump in the middle and then trap them, they’ll float to two different sides. So you gotta try to trap them on the same side which is a bit trickier but not that much.
9: Full of ghosts but in an erratic placement with more chaotic platforms that make it a bit harder to see how to quickly trap them.
10:Water stage 3: First stage with flying enemies and the geometry. This is the first stage where bubble time is low. The geometry is quite unique for the first time, you can only jump up and get out to the middle there, or take the small side which you can either jump to the platform or fall down from. You can shoot past the wall hole at the bottom which is cool, but the enemy will likely pop out. In Co op you could easily let one player shoot from here and let the other player move up to kill everything.
11: Water stage 4: Another low bubble time stage encouraging you to use water, but this time instead of the water falling on an open place it falls on ground at the top. The level geometry is the first ”shape” based stage. Killing the enemies here with water is harder. I think the water bubbles should have come out earlier.
Stage 12: Water stage 5: Flying enemies only but all placed in a hole in the sides. Here bubble time is higher so you can still choose to go for normal bubbles. The first stage where wall height will stop your jumps. Here you can’t cross the first gaps because the walls will stop your forward momentum.  Kill one enemy in the freeze phase by jumping into the wall. Then drop down and get some other ones. Drop down again to get more, it requires a bit more movement than past stages, then try to pop water inside the tube thing and if there’s still enemies left you’re required to bubble climb jump to get out. The bubble stream makes it so you can’t jump on top of the thing at the start. But you can jump inside one of the tube things and bubble jump your way up, even if there’s not really a point as you can also just fall down.
Stage 13: Water stage 6: Another flying enemy stage, and also a shape stage (a heart). This time they’re all trapped inside the shape save for 2 (1 of which can be easily killed at the freeze point) and there’s required water bubble use to get in there from the top.  You can also however get in from the bottom by bubble jumping to kill the mearlier, but the water can kill them all instantly.

Stage 14: Mixup of flying enemies and 2 ghost enemies. Another shape level, this time one that blocks a lot of your jumps in the middle. You gotta fall down the hole to get on top but the ground enemies will move down. This one has a bubble stream that makes it hard to get multi pops and a pretty low bubble time.

Stage 15: A more advanced layered geometry. If you jump up you’ll be stuck with the enemies and you gotta kiss them ,and your jumps are hampered. You gotta do a pretty easy bubble jump to get out. You can then jump into the water bubble over the wall and kill the enemies, just make sure they’re all on one side. If you go down to get to the top the enemies will likely be too fast to fall into without dying but maybe you could make it with running shoes I dunno.

16: A dense geometry with flying enemies. Jumping is severely hampered and the bubble stream all goes into one point pretty quickly. Bubble time is low though, so choose when to pop wisely. A bunch of enemies will already be in the middle and you can bubble jump up there.

17: Lightning stage 1:  flying enemies in a line and 2 ghosts trapped in a place you can only jump into, and the items spawn inside this thing. Lightning Bubbles amass to the sides, you can hit quite a lot with it.

18: Water stage 7: Incredibly dense in a repetitive pattern , causing you to have little to no space to shoot enemies.  Bubble time is low. but there’s standard enemies. It’s a bit harder to predict where the water will go when here.

 

19: Lightning stage 2: Advancement of stage 12, flying enemies are in multiple pipes of this time 1 space with a wide pipe in the middle where the bubbles amass. Pretty low bubble time. It’s safer to make the lightning bubbles pop at the right time to kill them by bubble jumping as they go up. You can still trap a bunch of enemies by dropping down into these tiny platforms, but you’ll be limited in dodge options and you gotta walk into bubbles coming your way to not get blown off. Also, the first two enemies can be killed by jumping into the wall and kissing them through it. Lightning bubbles amass to the middle as well.

20: Water stage 8: 3 U turn pattern flying enemies in the middle. You can only get down through sliding in the water. 2 ghost enemies are in a platform on top. You can get to them with the water. The stream allows one to bubble jump to the ghosts.  There’s platforms there to more easily dodge them. As the bubble time is low it’s best to multi pop the flying enemies, then bubble jump up and multi pop the two ghosts instead of using the water.

21: A layered stage with small little holes where there’s enemies, which will likely jump up if you’re a layer above them, get out, then move down, then get into the holes again. As enemies move back and forth kissing and jumping up here can be a bit of a timing challenge. You can also move up prematurely and fight them outside. Thing is bubbles amass inside one of the holes. Even if there’s low bubble time, you can get more multi pops if you get in there. You only really can with the ghosts at first though, the standard enemies have holes that are too small

22: Lightning stage 3: A variation of stage 19. Here all enemies are trapped in a shape inside. They’re the u turn flying enemies, lightning moves accross the sides so you gotta time the lightning shot. With the u turns it’s a bit harder, but staying alive is much easier. Also you get more choices in where you can time the lightning bolts as they move all the way up instead of moving to the center when in the middle of the screen.

23: This shape in the middle allows one to jump through with a well timed jump (if not the wideness will stop your forward momentum) , but not go back without falling off again. Anywho, 5 u turn enemies that come down. If you stand in the bottom middle you can get all of them. There’ high bubble time but it takes long before they amass so you only get to multi pop way later. Your best bet is to drop to the bottom hole and kiss 1 enemy to death, then multi pop the rest as that’s much faster.

 

24: Closed Word at top stage ”bubble” hinting to trap them all, 7 u turn enemies. Just dodge, then drop down, get back up and get the remaining ones. Yyou can trap them all and multi pop m easily as they ammass to the bottom.

25: Fire stage 1: An open word at top stage with regular flying enemies all in one spot. Jump through the wall and you can kiss one to death, then you can kiss the rest to death as it has low bubble time. Or you can wait until the fire bubbles appear and make fire appear in the hole and they’ll fly against it pretty soon.  The word popcorn gives a hint to fry them.

 

26: Fire stage 2: Similar to stage 7 with 7 ghosts, 3 in the middle, 2 on each side, which will drop down. There’s a lot of urgency in this stage. Stand on the ground for too long, and either the ghost will touch you or one of the projectiles will. Stand on the little mini platforms, and one of the ghosts will jump up and fall slower than you and you will need to move out of the way, but there might be a ghost below. You also can’t shoot far because the little platforms are in the way. Bubble time is pretty low but after a pretty long time fire bubbles come down and they’re perfect to deal with this scenario as the enemies will all often be on the same ground. I also like how the players get two little holes to decide when they’re gonna get out.

27: A pretty dense stage with multiple flying enemies of both types. Their movements are erratic because they can’t move through walls.

28: Fire stage 3: I mean the fire is basically there for if you fuck it up. But there’s a long verticle stack of ghost enemies that will fall down. You can almost immediately trap all of them. Then you have to move back and dodge by the platform, then move down again, and you can kill all of them at once in the middle with the long bubble time. The fire bubbles could be useful, but they take too long to come.

 

29: This seems to be a reference to one of the levels inChack n pop. Monstas, thick platforms that mess with your jumps, and 1 ghost on top.

 

30: Lighting stage 4. Bouncing enemy introduction. They’re all trapped in these holes open from the top bouncing around. You can kiss  them but it requires some good timing due to the way they move. It’s very hard to trap them because of their position, and that’s where the lightning bubbles come in, they’re prefect for the task. Clever. There’s also two u turn enemies to not make things look too stale.

 

31: Very dense stage with like 7 ghosts coming from the top. You can get a few as they go down and then get the rest at the bottom. If you leave all of them there though..You’ll be fucked if you stay on ground. It’s too dense. What’s really weird is that if you stand above them they get stuck in a loop. Bubble time is high but the stream takes so slow to get to the end it’s better to do small multi pops.

32: Open big hole in the middle with a small entrance where there’s a buncha vertically lined up u turn enemies. You basically have to time when you can safely get in there. Then just walk to the side and shoot, or maybe jump shoot.

33: Fire stage 4: Regular enemies in the shape of that enemy. Some in small holes you have to kiss by jumping into the wall.  The rest you gotta use your back to pop the fire bubble with so that it falls in there right into the remaining enemies. It’s clever in terms of an idea, but in execution it’s always pretty much the same thing. Still, makes for a memorable moment.

34: ANOTHER ghosts fall down stage, this time all on different levels with  a more erratic  open platform pattern. Just jump up and down to the platform to defend yourself. It has low bubble time but you can do a few multi pops.

35: This stage is fucking annoying. You’re stuck with 3 regular enemies at the bottom layer. KISS them cause bubble time is short and otherwise they will float towards the next layer and it makes it damn near impossible to not die after. It says ”JUMP” at the top as a hint that you gotta use the bubbles to get up. But after that the enemies will patrol around and you gotta time it right to Kiss and jump up. After that you finish the rest off on the final layer. You can not go down.  It’s damn nigh impossible to get back up if you manage to get stuck on top so don’t do that.

36: Second time you really see springer enemies. It’s a shape level with just a question mark in the middle and they’ll all fall down. Trap them by jumping and alternating between left and right as fast as possible, then shoot a bubble in the middle, bubble jump up, and quickly try to kill them all. You get very little time but it’s definitely possible.

37: Fire Stage 5: Not a big fan of this one.. First just kiss all the ones stuck in the holes, there’s no other way. If you get stuck in there be prepared for some shitty ass bubble jumping in a cramped space. Required bubble jump up the left side. Then you either do a required push of the fire ball (yes, they actually utilize pushing) or wait until they line up and kill the last one

 

38: Fire stage 6: This one’s cool, it’s obvious what to do. Jumpers are at the bottom. Bubbles move up. Some are fire balls. Fall when there’s 1 fire one, and also a regular bubble to jump on, and they’ll all walk into the fire.

39: Fire stage 7: Required Bubble Jump up, then fall down with the fireballs and enemies. Low bubble time so can’t really multi pop much.  You fall faster than enemies so you can kiss them from above. Fire feels a bit useless here.

40: A layered stage that introduces the fireball enemies. They’re very fast and will go down. You can simply not stand on one layer for too long. You can try to get all of them as they go down  but the bubble time is too low for a multi pop. You can also go down the hole instead and make them move upwards.

 

41:  7 u turn enemies. Very similar to stage 24 in looks but there’s no ground, the top is pretty closed and has an exclamation mark. U turn enemies are all on different spots instead of vertically stacked. Thing is, Bubble time is really low making it opposite from stage 24. This is basically ”Kiss the flying enemies” the stage, which requires a bit of timing and dodging.

 

 

 

Mario Land – awkward but fun. [Journal video Picks] (Script)

I’ve decided that if I find a game in my off the cuff journal series interesting enough and not too big in scope I will ocassionally turn them into shorter videos while rewriting the journal entry so that it covers a bit more. The first I’ve picked is Super Mario Land for the Gambeboy from 1989. Here it is.

”I’m not sure why I’m doing this as the first classic revisit. Probably because it’s so odd it’s interesting, and it’s really short. Gunpei Yokoi’s Super Mario Land is definitely a black sheep in the series. It’s quirky and stands out, and that makes it memorable despite its shortcomings. Not only are almost all of Miyamoto’s series conventions completely different, it suffers from a lot of Game Boy Jank. And sometimes the most fun things to analyze, are the things that are done the most questionable ways,.

Most of the jank comes from the controls. Mario Land its controls are more direct, yet less responsive and less smooth at the same time.  Mario Land is a control scheme of contradictions where sometimes it wants to be one thing and at other moments the other. The speed going up and down in the jump arc is constant, while in Mario bros Mario falls down more quickly. It makes Mario feel floaty because when you move down you’re in the air for longer than in Mario bros, which makes a jump a bit more punishing. You have about 23 frames up, 4 in the air and 23 down. 1 frame in the jump is spent on the ground and the first frame already lifts you up quite a bit. Because of the latter it doesn’t feel delayed or heavy and because of the first it doesn’t feel too instant. It also helps with easing the jump. The way down is very very similar.

Mario Bros its jump lifts you off the ground pretty far instantly, making it feel more responsive, and just like mario land increases in height slower after the first frame.
The full jump in mario land and bros take just as much time in total but the allocation and easing feels better in mario bros. Mario Bros its upwards jump goes on for longer with 28 frames upwards and as you can see eases into the stop in the air more smoothly, and also hangs longer in the air with 6 frames. Once that ends it syncs up with mario land on the way down. Because of the longer and more smooth upwards time Mario Bros then only has 18 frames to go down and lets this start slow and end fast. Here the difference is not that big, but if we tap the button to change jump height, mario bros will fall down way faster than mario land as is evident on screen. This is the biggest source of Mario Land feeling so floaty, you legitemately are much longer in the air when falling down, but take almost as much time as mario bros to go up into the air but with worse easing. You can do more jumps in mario bros in the same time than in Mario Land.

For horizontal movement, There is some acceleration up to max and stand still speed, but it is incredibly fast, reaching full speed in a few frames and stopping in a few frames making it feel rather instant but not too instant. That’s right, a Mario Platformer with barely any momentum. The movement is relatively direct. If you switch direction while not almost being to a stop mario will have a turn around sprite for 7 frames, a sprite still facing the normal direction for 1 and will walk  forwarss to the opposite direction the next. If you’ve slowed down enough and turn however this sprite won’t exist and he will just stand in that direction for 5 frames and instantly walk forwards to the other direction the next frame. As this will sometimes happen while the first scenario will usually happen, this can feel quite jarring and at times it can feel like you move forwards too quickly.

In Mario bros, the turning sprite  thing doesn’t feel jarring because you need to take a lot of time of not running for it to not happen if you’ve built up a lot of momentum. It also goes into the turning sprite before you stand still, there’s a few frames where you move forwards yet are already in the turning sprite. This makes the transition of turning feel less jarring than in Mario Land.

You can control the jump height well enough, with about 4 concrete heights. The lowest height isn’t as low as some other platformers like megaman.  The thing that makes the controls feel the most direct is how you can stop moving forwards at any moment in an arc with only a few frames before you fall down where you want. This is blasphemy for mario controls.

One thing that makes everything jarring is that despite the fact that you turn much faster, in Mario Land you can not jump from side to side all that quickly,. If we launch both mario bros and mario land with the same inputs you can see mario bros will make little jumps from side to side and Mario Land doesn’t move forwards at all, it will only respond if I take more time to hold a right or left input. That makes the game feel unresponsive.

The biggest thing that makes Mairo land controls feel direct is that you can stop moving forwards at any point in the jump arc. The weirdest thing though is that once you stop holding forwards at any point in the jump, mario will immediately lose his speed regardless of how fast you were going prior and you can see Mario Bros does not do this at all. This makes him feel even floatier, and whenever you try to correct a jump, the flow of movement is stopped immediately. It ‘s the most jarring thing in the entire control scheme. Speedrunning through a stage does not feel satisfying because your speed is constantly stopped in jumps if you want to dodge or correct yourself. It’s actually best to only hold the run button when you want to make a longer jump, so that you will have to correct yourself less often as platforms tend to not be that far apart. The only way to do a run jump at other distances is to do the jump and let go of the run button at the right time and this feels awkward. The weird decrease in speed inside of a jump is also present if you do a normal jump and release the forwards button.

The jump arcs in both games are actually very similar, but in Mario land he’ll fidget around slightly off of the line in the arc which is kind of odd. There’s also that in Mario Land Horizontal movement is a bit further/faster which can f eel odd too because Mario Bros is more focused on height than horizontal stuff.

When you run you go very fast and your jump arc is really high and far when you hold forward. You basically have one jump when you hold forward and for the rest you’ll constantly have to suddenly lose your speed. Any transition between different speeds in this game feels completely binary, it’s not smooth. If you switch direction in midair, unlike SMB 1 you’ll actually go in the opposite direction after a bit of time. It’s a lot less punishing as in SMB 1 you can’t switch direction after a jump. If you’ve been falling down from a high height, in Mario land you can still move forwards after falling down a bit to a degree so high it feels really weird for a mario game.

While you can switch in the air, when you switch direction midair, you’ll completely stand in place for a bit and suddenly switch direction instantly. It feels jarring yet again. Mario doesn’t feel like he nearly has as much weight, and considering there’s a weird pause not based on physics it also feels unresponsive. While Mario’s mostly floaty, Mario Land once again contradicts itself. when you drop down from any object, he pluments downward in a way that feels weird and I can’t put my finger on why, he probably goes down too far too early when you fall off.  It feels too fast when you smash your head against a block and go down as well. There’s 9 frames up, 6 frames of smashing the block which makes the block go up for 3 frames and down for 3  and like 9 frames down. It’s impactful sure but going down after smashing the block feels too fast. Mario Bros has 9 frames up, and 2 at max height and 14 frames down. But in mario bros the block starts moving up  as soon as mario hits that max height and then mario is already going down while the block does its own thing independantly. Plus mario goes down slower. This makes touching the block feel less jarring while still making it feel impactful.

When you go down a pipe in Mario Land, the sprite just kinda..Keeps still while moving slightly slower, and there’s no sound. It feels really odd. Then there’s the fire flower, which oddly enough is a giant ball that just bounces against anything in sharp angles  instead of behaving like the normal fire flower that constantly bounces against the ground. In Mario Land, you can use the fireflower to hit enemies in the air very easily,  as well as make it bounce against walls, which is actually kind of cool but it makes the fire flower incredibly effective and gives the game more of an action feel. The way the mushroom bounces out forwards instead of slowly coming up and then falling down is kind of odd too.

As evident the controls aren’t the only thing about this game that go against Mario conventions. There’s barely any returning enemies except for bullet bills, piranha plants and koopa’s. The koopa’s are altered, when jumped on their shells explode after a while , and you can’t kick their shells anymore. The single iconic enemy in Mario bros that gave you a way to indirectly interact with other enemies at a risk now doesn’t have any real interaction. Instead the explosion gives a delayed urgency, if the player jumps on a koopa the consequence is that they temporarily won’t be able to stand on that place in a certain amount of time. There could have been interaction if this explosion killed enemies, but I don’t think it can though I’m not sure with how tiny the explosion is. I like what they did to bullet bills, they pop in and out of pipes in a certain rhythm. Unlike piranha plants they still go up if you stand on the pipe.

The collision detection is all over. Everything is wonky. I’ve been killed by enemies I seemingly jumped on, and if you jump against a mushroom that is still coming out you often jump straight through it without getting it. That’s just a case of the visuals being poor at conveying what’s touchable and what isn’t.

The other enemies are all strange, and feel like they belong more in an action game than a momentum platformer having more odd movements and more projectiles, which isn’t that unfitting considering mario land’s odd more direct controls. Like shown with the koopa’s, there’s a lot more enemies and obstacles that create an urgency to move forwards and timing based dodging rather than encourage more interesting jumps. Koopa explosions, blocks that fall down from the ceiling, single tile falling platforms, etc. This helps because in Mario bros the urgency was created by the fact that you needed momentum to properly keep the other jumps going and you’d risk losing your momentum. As here that’s not the case more emphasis is placed on enemies

There’s a fuckton of enemies in the game that only appear once o  r twice like the spear throwing ones  practically forming a stage gimmick or the spiders that come from the ceiling. This mostly has to do with the fact that there’s only 4 worlds of 3 levels but hey, if you know you have limited space, I’d say make less enemies and use them in more interesting ways instead of throwing so many new ones at the player. One enemy was janky, this weird flying head called batadon has some very erratic unnatural easing in his jump speed and arc which makes him feel a bit odd to predict at first.

Enemies don’t have as much of a clear role or progression like in Mario Bros. There are some that replace roles of Mario bros. The flies bounce sideways and replace the ”force jump or periodically walk under if at the right time” enemies that the bouncing koopas were in smb. Difference is these have a shorter more forwards arc and stand still after every jump, and also do not leave anything behind. Plenty of enemies have different versions, like ones that hop around being flies, batadons and pionpi, or how there’s many falling ones. A lot of enemies use things like projectiles or attacks but the thing is often I’ve already flied right past them before they can really try to hit me with them so not much dodging is involved. For these weird things in stage 2-2 they legit might as well have been goombas. Still, some enemies managed to threat me with their projectiles, especially when other enemies their cycles forced me to stand still for a bit.

There’s more unconventional weirdness in the presentation of the game. The enemies all have strange un mario like designs, and themes are weird, as you’re not in the mushroom Kingdom. The question mark blocks are all tiny and so are all the other blocks, likely to fit the scaling for the small gameboy screen. There’s even shmup stages, like the first Kirby game. In these you can shoot 3 things at a time. The movement feels weird because going up and down feels a bit slower than going forwards and backwards, likely because the screen is more vertical than horizontal and yet they made it so that going all the way up or forward takes the same amount of time. But going backwards is somehow  faster than going forwards, which encourages me to go back and forth for easier dodging.

Stage 1 barely has anything to say about it. Because there’s no real momentum but it’s designed like any early mario stage, there is no real urgency and a lot of challenges are purely timing based on visuals instead of knowledge of th e control physics on top of that. Stage 2 combines koopas and goombas with the stage gimmicks that are those flies that stop on the screen and throw a spear down. Either you squeeze through and jump on one for a faster riskier approach or you wait for the spear and walk under. The only reason this challenge can be fun is that there’s goombas and koopas in your way and thus you got to consider the movement of two things. If you jump on a koopa you move up slightly and it will explode so you gotta keep that in mind.  There’s no real progression in the stage it just throws the flies together with other things like vertically moving floating platforms.

That’s the approach of a lot of stages in Mario Land, they don’t really introduce the challenges seperately and instead match them up out of nowhere creating a kind of megaman style timing and dodging challenge as opposed to a mario style platforming one. But then the stages have little progression and cohesion in other manners, it doesn’t build the main challenge up it just throws in a few variations and some random stuff that feels..random.  Then there’s usually a bunch of parts without this approach where there’s no real challenge to be found whatsoever because there’s no momentum. The later part of the game is the only one where I truly found the stages fun. In the first half it was a lot of ”Keep running, Stop holding forwards slightly before I reach the platform I wanna reach, wait when there’s something like a piranha plant or spear or falling rock I can’t get over, and keep moving so that the urgency obstacles won’t get me”.  There’s plenty of jumps in the game that are the exact same because there’s not many jumps this game can make. Most of the differences will come from the height of where you jumped from.

I just kinda steamrolled until I got to the point where I actually had to pay attention, like a part in the last world where the zombie enemy that revives after a while of being dead and keeps jumping periodically in arcs as well (it’s an evolution of the fly), was put in this cramped space with blocks below and above her, which I had to get under, but there was a koopa there as well. so I had to assess carefully, and then avoid the other obstacles after. Then enemies were matched up in other ways that gave cool challenges. I digged the latter half of the game more than the first. Only occasionally will an enemy be matched up in an  interesting way to form a new challenge. Like that pit in 3-2 you’ll try to jump across while a spider falls down, but the hopping enemy is also next to it so you gotta land properly. Or that jump timing puzzle in 3-3 with the floating platforms and the walls. But most of the time, there’s little to truly engage someone. It’s shallow. Especially those tacked on shmup stages that just kind of..Happen. I mean hey they actually have objects and walls in them unlike most normal shmup but meh.

I kinda like the stage progression in this game. It’s not as clearly structured as in Mario Bros with different themes. In stead it  feels like a very varied journey. 1-1 is normal, 1-2 is based on the flying enemies throwing things down, 1-3 is cramped with a lot of waiting for piranhas, 2-1 is open with a lot of things jumping up from the bottom towards you or shooting, 2-2 is a mix of cramped and open,  2-3 is a shmup stage, 3-1 has the boulders you need to ride, are you starting to see the stages here usually have some kind of central theme? SMB1 wasn’t really like that, it focused on jumps, and this focuses more on specific ideas. I think that”s a good thing as it fits the game more. However I think they could’ve taken it further as there are still parts that are just me kind of dashing through without care.

The point system is pointless once again. There are some exploration rewards in there, some you need to be small for or some you need to be big for so you can smash the blocks to give the mushroom a bit more of a difference,. But like in SMB you can’t go back once the screen has scrolled so that’s a bit annoying.

There’s even some unfair moments because you can’t react quick enough. Once I touched this ceiling in 1-3 not knowing that it was an obstacle that would fall down. I had something similar with a boulder that spawned in the sky when I was trying to jump and I died. These weird heads with arms move on screen so quickly I could barely react once. But these moments are few and far in between. Any other cheap death will likely be a collision issue but if you play very carefully none of this will really happen unless you get unlucky.

At the end of each stage there’s these platforms you have to jump over to jump towards the highest of two possible exists. If you succeed there’s this minigame where you can get lives. So, if you’re lucky the game won’t be punishing at all, but if you aren’t, you’ll get sent back to the start of the game pretty quickly because you had little lives. That feels either unfair, or completely kills any stakes. Sure, you can kinda win the minigame? There’s 4 rows and very quickly mario will switch between them. Press A at the right time and he’ll walk towards either a 1,2,3 up or a fire flower. But there’s also a ladder that keeps switching at a different pace, and mario will climb up the ladder when you walk past it. So you’ll either want to pay attention the upper part of the ladder and have mario walk accross it and time it that way, or wait until the ladder and mario our out of sync so that mario can avoid the ladder entirely. Cool twist, sure, but it means we have the problem I mentioned earlier. Either way it doesn’t matter much. Die once and you’ll be placed at an invisible checkpoint very close by. Getting lives still isn’t hard and every stage is full of coins.

The bosses in the game are..Well, I don’t know. The first I just jumped over and I don’t even know what it does. The shmup ones need to be hit a lot but because your weapon can have 3 things on a screen at once, as long as you stay close you can kill them super quickly. It’s hard for me to judge the bosses when I remember so little. The only time I had to assess and dodge much was at the final boss where his bullet splits into 3 and he moves up and down and it happens quite quickly so you gotta keep knowing when to move up and when to move down while being able to hit him. Aside from that, the bosses are much better than in Mario Bros bacause they’re actually trying to make some bosses, but not because they’re actually good.

Mario Land is a wonky mess of a game, and way too short f or its own good. And yet in spite of all of this, the very short Super Mario Land feels..Oddly charming. It’s like one of those early flash games that was janky but still had something oddly soothing to it. The music, odd enviorment and enemy designs and graphics are amusing. Hell, the music is great. And the jank never really starts to make anything feel like bullshit. Aside from a few things mentioned, The only truly frustrating moment I had was when I jumped against an invisible block and died. It’s jank that just..Feels janky. Sure it helps in making the game feel more shallow, but it’s never truly  annoying either. Its acceptable jank.  its mediocrity with oddness that just kind of makes it memorable and personal, in a way. I can’t put my finger on why bu..t I like Mario Land. In every way I look at it it’s not a good game per say, but I really enjoy it nontheless, and I’ll always remember it.”