Retronauts Volume IV, Episode 30: A Long-Expected Party

After years of promises, we finally deliver: An in-depth look at Nihon Telenet and the cult favorite Valis series.

News by Jeremy Parish, .

Once upon a time, a very very long age ago, Retronauts existed in a different place under different circumstances. And one day, show regular Shane Bettenhausen decided to depart the world of the gaming press for the dark side of publishing. And on that day he made a solemn vow:

"Someday, I'm going to come back and we're going to record an episode about Valis."

Until now, that's seemed more like an empty threat than anything else, as every effort we've made to sync up the Retronauts recording schedule with Shane's availability has resulted in a ships-passing-in-the-night heartbreak. But lo, in this most festive of seasons, a Christmas miracle has occurred: The Valis Retronauts has come to pass!

Merry whatever you celebrate, everyone!

Now, Retronauts is a biweekly endeavor, but this release marks the second full episode in a row. It's highly irregular, we realize, but we figured that this recording was so momentous that it needed to come up in time for everyone's holiday break. Ho ho ho and all that.

We'll be righting this wrong by publishing several Micro episodes in a row, don't you worry. In the meantime, enjoy as Bob and I barely get a word in edgewise while Shane Bettenhausen (now of Sony fame) and Christian Nutt (of Gamasutra) regale you with all the Valis-related information you could ever want, from the series' 16-bit glory days to its, um, tragical finale. Even though this show doesn't really have a happy ending, we hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

Download links:

Libsyn (1:24:48 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud

This episode's musical selections:

  • All selections taken from the 1991 Sega Genesis remake of Valis.

Supplemental reading:

Remember that Retronauts is available for free on the iTunes Store, because such is the way of all things. You can also help us pay for the cost of producing the show on Patreon, if you're so inclined. Thanks for your support, even if it's just enjoying what we produce!

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Comments 19

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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #1 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    I'm absolutely going to listen to this again during my lunch break. Thanks for a great episode!
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  • Avatar for Punk1984 #2 Punk1984 3 years ago
    I've never heard of anyone else preferring Time Gal to the Bluth games. It's nice to know I'm not alone.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #3 mobichan 3 years ago
    Thanks for finally getting to this episode. I have been waiting for it since OG Retronauts. ;) As a Genesis child, I can totally agree with all that was said about Rennovation titles and how they helped link my underlying love of the anime aesthetic with the cartoons I also loved to watch. The games really haven't aged well, except maybe Valis 3. I think the reason is mainly that the draw was the visuals, cutscenes and their link to the anime aesthetic. As games, they really were B-tier, but you forgave that kind of thing when you were starved for anything anime.

    The one thing I really must disagree with is the discussion about how the characters were strong females designed with no pandering in mind. I'm sorry, Japan in the 80's was anything but progressive in this area and Valis is a prime example of titillation for titillation's sake. The all female cast was a decision aimed at boys who wanted to look at pretty girls. And I wouldn't be surprised if the devs enjoyed it a bit too, as their art quality shows a great deal of care. I enjoyed it at the time and can look back at it with nostalgia, but I wouldn't try and spin it any other way nowadays.

    All that said, I loved the feelings Telenet games provided me in my early teens. They scratched an itch for me that western games didn't and I was sad to see their types of games fade away when 2D games went out of vogue. And as much as I would like to see this sort of light-hearted pandering in an action title now, I fear it would either be taken to the moe extreme or beaten down by the gender police.
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  • Avatar for Aleryn #4 Aleryn 3 years ago
    It's like finding a relic from 2007 in the best ways.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #5 DiscordInc 3 years ago
    Oh my god, I never thought I would live to see the day.
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #6 Kadrom 3 years ago
    @lonecow Bob actually did a retrospective where we all sent in our favorite clips (mostly of Jenn and Sharkey). It may still exist on the internet somewhere.Edited December 2014 by Kadrom
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #7 raymondfernandes09 3 years ago
    This has been promised since at least 2008. I don't have any opinion on Valis, but I do love hearing Christian and Shane on Retronauts again.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #8 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    Ah, it'll be great to get this void in my gaming history knowledge filled. Thanks gents!

    edit: OK, that was seriously informative and confirmative. Loved it.Edited December 2014 by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #9 pashaveliki 3 years ago
    I never ever thought this was going to happen.
    If this is what my Patreon dollars caused, then it is money well spent.

    Thanks, guys!
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #10 JohnnyBarnstorm 3 years ago
    I still want to try Cosmic Fantasy 2. I wanted to try it since I first saw ads for it in 1990. I guess there are... ways... of doing so but I was hoping for some Telenet games to come out on virtual console.Edited December 2014 by JohnnyBarnstorm
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  • Avatar for Damman #11 Damman 3 years ago
    This was a great episode partly because it was on a subject Bob and Jeremy aren't as familiar with. Every now and then when I start to think that I'm familiar with all the notable old games and have heard all the stories that are in circulation about developers and games from back then, there's a Retronauts episode about a series and company I've barely heard of. Listening to Shane and Christian go back and forth on Telenet and Valis while Bob and Jeremy filled in the role of the listener was a great change from the norm.

    While I may not go back and play Valis (having seen a bit of footage, I'm with Jeremy on the gameplay), this is making me nostalgic for that style of art and anime. This show helped spur on some extra excitement for Zeboyd Games upcoming "Cosmic Star Heroine" RPG.Edited December 2014 by Damman
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  • Avatar for abuele #12 abuele 3 years ago
    I'm still laughing my ass off, after the Legend of Chun Li episode, thanks for the present.

    GAIARES comes to my mind, every time I read Telenet. All praise Evil Queen ZZ BADNUSTY.
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  • Avatar for pennybags #13 pennybags 3 years ago
    I don't really think it's true to say these games don't hold up... I only discovered them a couple years ago and I like them a lot (the PC-Engine titles, anyway; haven't played the others). I love the 16-bit Castlevanias but could never really enjoy SotN and everything coming after that (other than Rebirth I guess). Valis is like the next best thing (I realize you guys alluded to the similarity a couple times in the podcast). Also I love the aesthetic.

    On a different note, I'd love to hear more Sega and PC Engine stuff, especially if it's obscure.
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  • Avatar for pennybags #14 pennybags 3 years ago
    @Damman Yeah, my favorite Retronauts episodes are ones that cover subjects I've never heard of before, or know very little about. A couple times I've been motivated to try games because of them (most recently Policenauts, which I think I enjoyed more than everyone on the podcast episode).Edited December 2014 by pennybags
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  • Avatar for Active-ate #15 Active-ate 3 years ago
    @lonecow Maybe we should team up and do a weekly podcast about each week's new episode, a la AV Club's Serial Serial podcast, Talking Dead, etc. We could call it Retronauts-nauts!
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #16 Spectreman 3 years ago
    Good episode. Could have more talk about the Valis 3 game itself. It was one of few games I own in the Mega Drive, but played the japanese version, knowing nothing about the story.
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  • Avatar for NYCAlex #17 NYCAlex 3 years ago
    Fantastic episode, exactly what Retronauts can be. I knew nothing of this series and now must dig them up to play them.
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #18 Iliya-Moroumetz 3 years ago
    Finally got a chance to comment on this episode.

    I've been waiting for it for a while and I was not disappointed.

    A few things;

    One, there was an actual playable male character in Valis IV, but that was for the SuperCD system version only. It was the father of the antagonist, I believe, along with the younger sister of the game's protagonist, Lena. So, it was a nicer callback to the third game than people realized.

    Two; it was really, really hard getting past the 'sad ending' part of the podcast. I mean, it was like "ouch! My youth!" when I heard what became of it.

    It was a very nice callback and while a part of me hopes that someone could bring the franchise back, a part of me simply wants it to let it rest and know that it was part of my younger life and leave it at that.
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  • Avatar for faplincognito #19 faplincognito A month ago
    3 year late reaction and probably talking into the void.

    I'm a bit heartbroken! I expected some good stuff cause I like everyone on here but it seems like no one had played the games in years. I just played through all the PCE and Genesis ones this year...2018. I've fallen pretty hard for them, I have to say, and now i'm just reading about the series wherever I can.

    My thoughts are that Super Valis IV is a worse situation of Dracula X/Rondo, except the better version (PCE CD Valis IV) seems to get absolutely zero recognition for fixing most issues with the series. It's not perfect but it has a very nice brutal-but-fair difficulty curve that makes great use of the 3 character system and just feels like they finally nailed it. Jumping finally has the right weight to it. And to make use of it, the game is super long with one really challenging level after another. There's even a hardmode that takes away hit stun from enemies and has extra levels added to the end. The story, despite having all these new guys, gets absolutely nuts at the end. 2 of your 3 person team get story-killed.

    Also, Valis 3 on genesis had like 5 levels ripped out of it. No idea what shane is on about. He liked his version, but didn't seem to have played the PCE version at all.

    edit: also hurt to hear the immediate dismissal of the PC versions. The PC-88 version of 2 is certainly jank, but it's both more fun and has better presentation than the PCE CD version. It sounds nuts but it's's amazing what they squeezed out of that thing. it came out real late too--after the PCE CD version even. iEdited 2 times. Last edited last month by faplincognito
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