Monthly Archives: July 2015

FGC #021 Galactic Pinball

Desperate SaveLet us consider the enigma that is Galactic Pinball.

To start at the beginning, Galactic Pinball is a game for the Nintendo Virtual Boy, aka Nintendo’s least portable portable, aka Nintendo’s biggest failure, aka The Death Bringer. The Virtual Boy is, putting it mildly, infamous in gaming circles as maybe the single most ill-advised game console since that late edition Atari that was built into the mouth of an alligator. No, the Virtual Boy did not lead to any (known) accidental amputations, but it may have made a few eyeballs bleed with its red and black display smooshed right up against player’s skulls. Fun fact: my mother didn’t allow me to have a Virtual Boy when it was first released, as she was afraid of not only retinal damage, but also the potential brain cancer caused by strapping an electronic device to one’s head. Months later, when the Virtual Boy had the same MSRP as a can of cat food, my mother mysteriously rescinded her fears. Much the same thing would happen with cell phones a few years later.

The Virtual Boy didn’t even last a full year on this side of the pond, so its library of games is smaller than a malnourished pikmin. There are a grand total of 22 Virtual Boy games globally, with only fourteen total in North America (assuming I’m counting right, no promises). The VB release list includes some interesting anomalies, like a Bomberman puzzle game, a bowling game starring Nintendo of America star Nester, and the west’s first introduction to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. There was also a licensed Water World game, which created a sort of flop singularity that closed in on itself and accidentally erased genuine unicorns from all of history. Yes, the Virtual Boy was such a terrible system that it damaged all of space and time.

Desperate SaveBut a weird thing happens when a system is a failure and you actually own said failing system: you get really attached to the games that you have. Many of you are familiar with this concept as “Dreamcast syndrome”, but for me, I will always remember my hours devoted to the Virtual Boy, both because of the games and my own rose-tinted outlook that optometrists tell me is going to clear up any day now.

Virtual Boy’s lineup, as I will always remember it:

  • Mario Tennis was the pack-in Virtual Boy game, which is noteworthy because this is likely the least popular Mario and Sports title of all time, and the next time Nintendo would include a game with a system at launch, it would produce the most popular video game sports title of all time. Trivia aside, Mario Tennis was lame and half-baked: there was no competitive mode available for beating your imaginary friends on their imaginary Virtual Boys, and the single player mode was just playing Tennis with a CPU over and over again. At least it was the first time Princess Peach wore a skirt. Perhaps not coincidentally, I think that’s also the last anyone ever saw of Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Mario Clash was a simultaneous attempt to feature different “plains” of vision in a 3-D environment and a return to Mario’s Mario Bros. plumbing/turtle extermination roots. This was absolutely not something anyone actually wanted. The Mario of Mario Bros is long dead, he got Super and never looked back, and this game guaranteed that Mario would stay entombed for a good long time. You don’t see Mario fighting irate crabs in Mario Maker, now do you?
  • Teleroboxer was like Punch-Out, but, like, in the future, man. In the future, though, robots just beat you to death without a second thought. I actually took the time to git good at this game (see also: Bloodborne, Stockholm syndrome), but Punch-Out without the overwhelming charm of Super Macho Man and alike is just cold and sad. Like a robot.
  • Red Alarm was an endurance simulator to see how long the player could last without throwing up. I was never any good at this game, as it made me vomit constantly. The final boss is just a guy (a guy shape) attempting to jab a sharp stick in your eye. Despite being a confusing mess of garbage, this game did actually feel like a game as opposed to just a tech demo.
  • Virtual Boy Wario Land is actually a worthwhile game in every way. This makes it, for my money, the only game on the system that feels like it was actually well considered and thoughtfully constructed as a real video game to rival console releases. This game deserves a 3DS remake or similar, just as Kal-el was rocketed away from his dying world to bring hope to a new one.

Such varietyAnd then there is Galactic Pinball. Galactic Pinball was a launch title, and I do mean day-of-the-system launch, as opposed to all the other Virtual Boy games that came out within the “launch window” by necessity. Galactic Pinball was, Wario Land aside, likely my most played Virtual Boy game.

Galactic Pinball was developed by Intelligent Systems. Immediately after Galactic Pinball, IS would go on to create Panel de Pon, repackaged in the west as Tetris Attack, and Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, which I believe was some kind of historical husbandry simulator. And before Galactic Pinball, IS worked with Nintendo R&D1 on a little known title called Super Metroid. So I think these Intelligent Systems guys might have had a clue about making a video game.

And Galactic Pinball really does show a loving attention to design. Four boards (levels?) all feature wildly varied goals and bonuses, and even some pleasant (for the Virtual Boy) graphics to boot. Heck, one board, Cosmic, seems to deliberately evoke Nintendo Pinball, which was a lovely surprise for those of us that were already sinking into the quicksand of Nintendo nostalgia. There may even may a sort of “plot” to the various pinball boards, as the Alien and UFO tables feature “boss fights” against a series of aliens and the evil… Skeleton. Really? All of space, and we decide to hit an enemy out of Castlevania? Alright, guess you can’t be creative all the time. Just saying? Could have been Ridley.

SpookyIn the end, though, it’s a pinball game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against pinball games, but they’re intended for arcades and distractions, not really the kind of thing to which you devote your entire attention. Yes, I know there are pinball wizards, I’ve heard their praises in song, but the average person sees a pinball game as a diversion, like solitaire or Tetris. The problem here is that it’s a pinball game on the Virtual Boy, which requires you to stick your entire melon in there and enter a virtual sensory deprivation chamber devoted to the game you’re playing. The Virtual Boy would be ideal for a long form experience, like Wario Land, that demanded the player’s attention… except it might wind up frying the player’s eyeballs. Okay, maybe it would be best for pinball games and alike that could be played for short stints during a car trip or something… except the Virtual Boy is about as portable as a refrigerator.

Okay, maybe the Virtual Boy wasn’t really intended for video games. Those magic eye books were popular at the time, right? Maybe it’d be good for those.

But, imaginary intended audience aside, I played Galactic Pinball quite a bit, veritable hours over the course of about six months. Virtual Boy Wario Land and Galactic Pinball will always be the Virtual Boy games to me, even as the system and its library fade into the forgotten sands of time. Ozymandias excellent. Maybe it was an obligation to love a system Nintendo Power told me was so great, maybe it was a lack of other games toward the end of the SNES’s life, maybe it was just a peculiar fondness for the color red; but whatever the case, whatever the reason, Galactic Pinball was a great game, horrible platform or no.

FGC #21 Galactic Pinball

  • System: Virtual Boy. Did you get that?
  • Number of Players: I can’t even imagine how this could be anything other than one player.
  • So, was your mother right about the Virtual Boy scarring you for life? I can’t see how it has had an impact on me in any way. I would say those fears… No!
    Yes, this is my living room

    ROB! Get away from that! It’ll give you poor interior decorating skills!
  • Favorite Table: Just looking at the Cosmic board makes me happy, though I do enjoy attacking the alien of Alien.
  • Is the entire name a lie? Actually, at no point is a pinball involved in these games. It’s a puck, like air hockey. Also, I think the title should be expanded, so I suggest Intergalactic Puck.
  • Best score? I have no idea, because some idiot decided to skimp on a save battery and all scores are lost the minute you power down. Bad form, guys.
  • Did you know? Every table has a story, there are “bosses” to defeat, and many boards include real celestial bodies. For whatever reason, the designers really went out of their way to put you in the mind of being a real, I don’t know, “space puck” accomplishing things as opposed to just a pinball table being played in an arcade… Except you can “shake” the table at the push of a button, and cause a TILT state. Odd choice.
  • Would I play again? I was actually fascinated by the fact that I picked this game up to play for like ten minutes to refresh my memory, and then wound up playing for over an hour, even scoring what I assume to be a personal best on the Colony table. It’s a really good game, guys! So, yeah, on the rare occasions I feel like wiring up ol’ Virtual Boy, this is the first game in the slot.

Wooo

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen…. WAIT! In honor of Rare Replay being released next week, I’m limiting ROB to Rare games featured on the collection. Get Ready for Rare Week! So, from that limited pool, Random ROB has chosen… Solar Jetman. Woo, let’s get our thrusters on. Please look forward to it!

FGC #020 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

The usual suspectsSo here’s why Dragon Quest sucks.

There’s two kinds of games in this world: games that rely on skill, and games that rely on luck. Games that rely on skill are the likes of chess, checkers, or pretty much any game where the random element has been eliminated. Games that rely on luck are where God does play dice games: everything from Candy Land to poker to anything involving the Pop-O-Matic bubble relies on an element of chance for the player to succeed. You might be the greatest Monopoly player in the world, but you’re still doomed if you somehow land on an opponent’s Atlantic Avenue every damn time.

With that little definition out of the way, it becomes clear that the majority of video games fall into the “skill” category. Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, and even modern games like… what do the kids play today… Batman: Everybody Dies are all based almost exclusively on the abilities of the player, and not at all on random coincidence. In fact, as has been proven by people more skilled than I, one could literally memorize Super Mario Bros. and play the entirety of the game blindfolded. There are variables in these games, but the variables are insignificant compared to the skills of the player.

And God help you when you try to add random elements to skill based games. Want to have a fun evening? Show up at a Super Smash Bros Melee tournament and ask why there aren’t any items in play and they’re only ever using the same level over and over again. The game where the flying fox man fights the eskimos is a serious game for a serious Earth, so we will have none of this silly luck hampering our play experience.

And to take it even a step further: luck is the enemy of nerd culture in general. Let’s debate who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman. We should spend all day carefully cataloguing all their appearances across nearly a century of media, all their skills, all their powers, all their gadgets. Or, we could present a scenario where Superman v Batman begins, Batman notices a woman that looks surprisingly like Martha Wayne in the crowd, is distracted for just a second, fumbles over his own cape, trips into an open manhole, and cracks his skull before Superman even makes a move. Or Superman loses the bout because his super hearing allowed him to overhear a random passerby chatting about Game of Thrones, and spoilers, now Superman is depressed because he was going to watch that episode with Lois tonight, and now he’s going to have to spend the rest of the day acting like he’s still excited, and that’s just such a super hassle, and Batman just whams him with a chunk of kryptonite while he’s there hovering like a doof.

BeautifulRandom is the enemy of every gamer. It negates skill and facts and the cold rationality that keeps gaming going.

Except, you know, gamers didn’t invent gaming.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the only real “video games” out there are the AAA blockbusters or, for the retro coverage, any game that received a Nintendo Power strategy guide. Super Mario Bros 3? Mortal Kombat X? Halo? These are game’s games, big crazy blockbusters that rely on skill and finesse and you could teach a full semester course on Samus Aran’s beam variations alone.

But if you ask my mother about gaming? My grandfather? Something like 95% of office workers? Tetris, Solitaire, Candy Crush: all games that, yes, involve skill, but are primarily based on luck and randomness. As has been mathematically proven, you could be the best Tetris player in the world, but eventually you’re going to be tossed too many square blocks to survive. And solitaire? You’re not always going to win due to the occasional (frequent) bad shuffle. The very idea of a game that can be lost and “pointless” from the first moment makes my skill crawl (screw you, Sierra On-Line), yet this is exactly the case in the number one played video game in the universe (citation needed). Psychological studies prove this to be true: without even being conscious of it, the majority of people prefer luck based games. And don’t even get me started on slot machines…

Dragon Quest is not a “casual” franchise in the same field as solitaire; it is a series of games in the JRPG genre. JRPGs are, by and large, more prone to luck than most video games, as the majority include concepts like critical hits and random encounters (literally, random) that mean those six steps between you and the dungeon exit could lead to a battle with a roaming pack of bubonic rats. Or one of these jerks…

Gaze upon terror

That’s a cyclops. They appear in DQ 2, DQ 8, and DQ 9. Why do I remember that? Because they kill me every damn time. And, yes, they’re strong, but they’re not that strong. That problem? They are critical hit monsters, and my poor DQ parties are just never all that lucky. And that’s the problem here: in something as simple and numerous as a random battle, you need to know why you failed. Were you underleveled? Were you wearing the wrong equipment? Did you use an inappropriate spell? When the answer is “well, that guy just got lucky” you learn nothing, save that your failure wasn’t even your fault.

And it’s not just the random encounters, luck is a crazy significant factor in every facet of Dragon Quest. As if the frequent appearances of casinos and slot machines weren’t a dead giveaway, nearly every noteworthy action in DQ relies on chance, from criticals that will make or break a party, to a casting of “zing” that should revive a party member failing over and over again, or even the terrible incidents when you’ve spent three rounds pumping up your party only to see a boss distortion wave it all away. You’re going to remember every single time your luck failed you, and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to hold it against the franchise and its designers.

But luck goes both ways, so why don’t I acknowledge all the times I hit the jackpot? Well, duh, because fortune doesn’t work like that, despite the fact that the only reason I’m writing this post and you’re reading it is completely random chance. Come to think of it, here’s the reason you’re reading this post…

  • Sometime around the late 90’s, a friend of mine linked me to, I believe… memory is hazy here… I want to say Adventurers, but it may have been RPG World, or even possibly Penny Arcade. One of those webcomics from the old, old days of the web.
  • At one point, the author of whichever site I’m thinking of linked to Toastyfrog’s review of Mega Man X6. Not because they wanted to call attention to the review itself, but simply because the review itself made mention of the Magic 8-Squall, and the author was paying the frog credit.
  • I enjoyed the Toastyfrog review, and checked the site frequently for years. Given the X6 review was posted in 2001, we are talking about ages here.
  • The good ol' daysNote that Toastyfrog aka Jeremy Parish continued the site and writing about video games for years. I still want to say that the initial link came from Adventurers, which is a webcomic that ended nearly a decade ago now. RPG World? I think the author is writing about rock women now or something.
  • Sometime around 2009 (so eight years later?) a Let’s Play was started by Brickroad and McDohl (clearly their real names) featuring a solo Final Fantasy run of White Mage vs. Black Mage. If that sentence didn’t make any sense, just insert “a fun thing happened”. This Let’s Play was taking place on the Revenge of Talking Time forums, which Parish started years prior, and, in this case, decided to link to from the main page. Thus, for the first time, I encountered TT, and would continue to lurk around the forums for years.
  • Because this kind of thing is logged, I officially signed up for the forums on March 9th, 2010. I believe I promised someone cookies to gain entry; cookies that were never delivered. Amusingly and ominously, one of my first posts was bemoaning Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.
  • As mentioned in the KH FAQ, after generally just bumping around on the forums for a few years, BEAT, a friendly skeleman, asked of the recently started Kingdom Hearts thread “Please tell me who Anslem is.” I answered to the tune of 1,500 or so words with a detailed rundown that can be found elsewhere here on the site. This was 11/17/14. I’m still not certain exactly what possessed me to type that out, and, while I was rather proud of the post, I didn’t give it too much thought. It was just something I did on a Monday night for lack of anything better to do.
  • About two months later, on a Saturday night that I had blocked out to organize my library (uh, actual books, not video games) (I am an exciting guy), another question was posed regarding what, exactly, is Kingdom Hearts. I distinctly remember writing this post, as I was so damn sick of alphabetizing that I leapt at the chance to do something else.
  • JigglypuffFrom that point on, writing ridiculous posts about Kingdom Hearts kind of became my thing, because a bunch of strangers I had never met seemed to enjoy and encourage it.
  • Fastforward to July of that year, and I created the website Gogglebob.com (though I had owned the registration for years, because of course I did). The initial plan in my mind was simply to have a place to stick all the lengthy Kingdom Hearts and other posts I had made on Talking Time. However, because I’m just the type to need something more to do, after some deliberation, I decided to create the Fustian Gaming Challenge as a reason for the site to update and not just be a repository for stuff I’d already written.
  • Nineteen FGC posts later, Random ROB, who may or may not be powered by random.org, chose Dragon Quest 8. Let’s be generous and say this line of thought would have occurred to me no matter what DQ game was chosen, and state that there was 00.49% chance of a DQ game being chosen at all. Less than half a percent.
  • While playing Dragon Quest 8 and writing this article, I considered the very concept of luck and all the weird coincidences that led to this article being written at all.
  • And we won’t even consider the impact of my income, vocation, mobility, education, friends, or even the simple matter of a life spent avoiding catastrophic accidents. All of these items contribute to the fact that I can spend a leisurely Tuesday evening writing about a decade old JRPG.

Were you to catch me on a day I wasn’t thinking about luck? I’d tell you that this article and everything related to it is my sole brainchild and accomplishment. But when I’m considering chance, my mind boggles that we live in a world where Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama even exist, left alone ever became accomplished enough to produce a game as fun and, let’s face it, realistic as Dragon Quest.

Dragon Quest is far too based on luck, and that sucks. When the dice just don’t roll in your favor, it always sucks. But sometimes? Sometimes
everything rolls right, and you never know what kind of wonders they’ll bring.

FGC #20 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

  • System: Playstation 2, and 3DS sometime soon in some kind of wondrous fantasy world.
  • Number of Players: One, with a pet rat.
  • Ouch!How about you try to actually talk about the game instead of the franchise: Fine! DQ8 is probably as good as a DQ game can get without the “real” job system ala DQ3 or DQ9. The overworld map is a thing of beauty that I’d like to see every JRPG for the rest of time emulate. Riding a sabrecat around the planet never gets old. As always, the franchise is brimming with characters that overflowing with personality and dammit I’m talking about DQ as a whole again.
  • Goggle Bob Historical Fact: I explored the majority of this game’s dungeons while rewatching a marathon of Star Trek Voyager episodes. Miraculously, this did not diminish my opinion of the game, though, for some reason, just booting up the game makes me think of Robert Picardo.
    Favorite Character: Everyone but Angelo. Angelo, please go sit with Ringabel in the corner. You know what you did.
  • Did you know? Back in the ancient past when this game was released, Square Enix actually had a major marketing push for the game. Hard to believe but true! Among items that were available stateside was a PS2 Controller that looked like a DQ slime. I happily purchased this controller, and still have it in a place of pride above my 16-bit collection. The ironic thing? Over the years, the plastic has become… slimy.
  • Would I play again? Only if it were portable and maybe offered two additional playable characters. Costumes would also be nice.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Galactic Pinball. For the Virtual Boy. There was a 00.27% chance of a Virtual Boy game ever being chosen, yet, here we are. Way to be article relevant, ROB. Well, we’ll see how this goes… Please look forward to it!

FGC #019 Battle Arena Toshinden (1-3)

Victory!If you had asked me what I wanted out of a new fighting game in 1995, I would have described a game that is exactly like Battle Arena Toshinden. “3-D” had already begun to grip the gaming populace, and the old, beautiful sprite based 2-D fighters were considered archaic, so a new fighter had to be a massive wad of polygons to succeed. But the new wave of 3-D fighters, with Virtua Fighter leading the charge, were dramatically more realistic than their 2-D brethren, so gone were the fireballs and absurd uppercuts that cleared a greater vertical height than some helicopters. I missed those discarded fantastical elements. And can everyone have weapons? The only thing more interesting than a fist fight is a sword fight, so let’s get some swords, daggers, clubs, and maybe a halberd? That thing was rad in Castlevania. Oh, and a whip! Nearly forgot.

So, to satisfy twelve year olds the world over, Battle Arena Toshinden was created. It really was the killer app of the Playstation that we were not E for. I, unfortunately, was not as adept at whining to my parents as some of my friends, so I had to satisfy myself with simply playing the game at my friend’s house for an estimated 60,000 hours. Yes, there were only eight characters (ten with the bosses, but they’re banned from use or there might be some violence in the real world) but that was all we needed.

Playing the game again as an adult, though? Well, it’s pretty clear that someone took that “list of what kids want” from a paragraph or so ago and just made a game around it without really considering how it all would actually work. Quick example? Ellis has a move that is, essentially, a dragon punch on steroids: she dashes forward, hits her opponent, and then rises high into the air with the connecting blow. The problem? She flies about, oh, let’s say eight or so human heights into the air, and then plummets back to Earth. The opponent? They take the initial hits, but do not rise with Eliis, nor are they knocked down, so by the time Ellis “returns” from a successful special move, she’s vulnerable to a reprisal. A successful assault is punished. No one is going to be playing BAT at Evo.

But, as children, we didn’t care about any of that, because it was just plain fun to knock each other around and play one-player mode once in a while to beat up that guy in the giant scorpion suit.

Victory!And then Battle Arena Toshinden 2 arose the following year. I didn’t grab it at release, but I had finally acquired a Playstation (thanks Grandma!) within its launch window, so now I could actually play the game on my own or over and over and over again with friends. I usually chose the second option. Come to think of it, between this and Killer Instinct Gold, it’s a damn wonder I didn’t grow up to battle ninja for a living.

Needless to say, BAT2 was a hit in my social circle, mainly because it was BAT1’s Super Street Fighter 2. All of the fighters were back, but now with marginally improved graphics and generally improved special movies. It was like someone who actually knew how a fighting game was supposed to play sat down with BAT1, took notes, and improved all the dull bits to be actually viable. It still wasn’t at the level of Street Fighter 2, but it looked like it might get there in a generation or two.

And, whether he was added as a programmer’s joke or a legitimate new challenger, BAT2 had Vermillion. The simple concept behind all of the BAT games is that this is a fighting tournament where weapons are allowed. By the end of BAT1, they were already stretching the idea of “weapons” by adding gigantic mecha armor, but BAT2 introduced a hidden character who decided to bring a gun to a knife fight. Vermillion wasn’t much for combos, but he had a pistol and a rifle, so good luck hitting him with your lousy little club, caveman. Vermillion was probably the number one chosen character amongst my friends, because, dude, guy in a trench coat with guns, is there anything cooler? (And we were still years away from the answer: Yes, but what if the guy in the trench coat with guns could control the entire universe by thinking at it. Oh, and he’s a computer nerd, too.) But Vermillion was well hidden in the game, and didn’t seem intended to be a legitimate combatant. Just a fun little easter egg for the intrepid player, nothing to hang a game on…

Victory!And then we hit Battle Arena Toshinden 3, and the franchise imploded, never to be seen again (shut-up, Japan and Europe, you don’t count). Rather than iterate on BAT2, BAT3 went in a completely different direction and seemed to change everything it could get its hands on. First major issue? Vermillion took over the game. Now, at least a quarter of the characters had guns, and an “ammo” system was implemented so you could spend time standing around reloading. Exactly as fun as it sounds! And completely necessary when characters can already generate fireballs! Speaking of characters, the roster was doubled, which should be a good thing, but not really, because someone at Takara learned the magical technique of copy and pasting a movelist onto a slightly different character model and calling it a day. And a pile of the new characters are just kidnapped existing characters and/or the thinnest shells of an actual idea, like Pirate Guy, Angry Robot, Not-Michael Jackson, Boyacky, Not-Jason Voorhees, and my personal favorite, Just Catwoman. I’m all for padding your roster with interesting characters, but I emphasize the word “interesting” here, everything is just worse when someone decides to “create” a character that is simply “preexisting character, but, ya know, wears red.”

Oh, and they replaced the Chinese magician who turns out to be an assassin with… a dancing monkey. An oblique move at best.

But the worst part of BAT3 was unmistakably the changes to the actual combat. The arenas are now enclosed, so every match is a cage match, and ring-outs have been eliminated. This could have been an improvement, but the levels are so small that everything feels claustrophobic. You will run into a wall inside of a few seconds, and never leave. They also added… oh, they probably have names but I’m not looking them up… “super orbs” that allow a character to perform a devastating super orb move. Two orbs per match are provided. On its own, this might not be a bad thing, but it adds to the already existing overdrive and desperation moves, so every fight becomes less about “skill” and more about budgeting your various crazy powerful move resources. And to tie it all together in an odious package, your health has seemingly doubled since the last game, likely to account for all the super moves flying around, so matches take forever to complete. And, oh yeah, blocking automatically moves your fighter into the proper position, high or low, to accurately block. Genbu doesn’t turtle this much…

Terrible food, and generous portions. Rargh!

Smooth CriminalThe amusing thing is that BAT3 had stolen its “double the roster by adding characters that are just model swaps” move from the Tekken series just in time for Tekken to mostly drop that concept for Tekken 3, aka the game that guaranteed I would pretty much never play Battle Arena Toshinden 3 with my friends. The graphics of Tekken 3 were lightyears ahead of BAT3, but what was really important was that a match in Tekken 3 didn’t take an entire presidential term to complete, which makes all the difference when you’re passing a controller around the basement.

And it’s a shame, too. You know what? If you asked me right now what I’d like to see in a fighting game, and maybe made it multiple choice, I would choose the option that included Michael Jackson fighting Catwoman with over the top special moves, but Battle Arena Toshinden completely blew it. In fact, I played all three BAT games this weekend, gladly sighed when that was behind me, then hopped on the ol’ Xbox 360, noticed Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was a whole five bucks, and went back to getting my Kuma on. The more things change…

FGC #19 Battle Arena Toshinden (1, 2, 3)

  • System: Playstation, and never to be seen again anywhere else. Alright, I guess there were Saturn versions, and one really weird, kinda alright 2-D Gameboy “port”… But it sounds so much more definitive the other way!
  • I must be thinking of something elseNumber of Players: 2, though you can stretch that number much higher if everyone cooperates and, dammit, yes, Vinnie, you’ve got next game.
  • Favorite Character: Ellis has always been my main for the trilogy. Strangely, when I was a kid, I always gravitated toward the fasted, most nimble character, and now, as an adult, I almost always choose the strongest character with the greatest reach. Juggernaut changed me…
  • Admit it: What? No.
  • Do it! Now: Fine! Like, I was barely a teenager and… ugh… Yes, I thought Ellis was cute and since she was just a little bit older than me I figured if we ever met we’d be totally best friends and maybe she’d think I was cute and oh well I guess we could go out sometime maybe my dad can take us to a movie or something. And that’s why I can’t bring myself to mock anyone for waifu ranting.
  • That explains all the gifs: No, I just thought that was an easy way to compare the graphics advancing. What was going on in the early Ellis models, anyway? Is clothing supposed to be that transparent?
  • So no one actually wanted to play BAT3, but you unlocked all eighteen hidden characters: It’s a compulsion. Tell me there are unlockable characters or costumes or whatever in even the most horrible game, and suddenly I’m driven to playing something I don’t even enjoy over and over again. Game designers are well aware of this.
  • So what’s Takara up to nowadays? Oh, it looks like they just had a game come out this past week. Let’s see here… oh… looks like they’re still designing games to impress 12 year olds. At least they’re constant.
  • Did you know? Okay, yes, there was a Battle Arena Toshinden 4 released everywhere but North America. It’s anime as hell, most of the cast from the first three games was scrapped, and the gameplay looks like it draws more from BAT3 than other sources. Heck, it’s a “team” fighter like King of Fighters, but there’s like five, total, teams. And is Naru wearing goggles? Oh, now I just find it personally insulting.
  • Would I play again? Maybe, maybe on a lark, basically just to mock the idea of “Playstation” era graphics. But to actually have fun playing a video game? That’s not happening.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King. Oh, hey, vaguely topical. Hop on the caravan and come along! Stay away from the stupid pot. Please look forward to it!

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #03: Potpourri

Q. What is Leon’s Deal? When did he change his name from Squall? Why?

What a ponce.A. It’s not confirmed anywhere in the mythology, but it is confirmed that Squall did it in response to some mysterious tragedy. A lot of people believe it was the tragic death/deheartening of Rinoa, given Leon wears a coat with Rinoa’s signature wings motif.

However.

“Leon” is Final Fantasy 8 Squall + Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Angel – Selphie (as she’s on an entirely different planet). Those of you that are good at math may recognize this as the equation for OMEGA ANGST. As such, I have always assumed that Leon’s tragic past involves being suspected of shoplifting at Hot Topic, and, unable to live with the ACCUSATIONS, SHAME, and DESTRUCTION OF HIS FREQUENT SHOPPER CARD, Squall was forced to change his name.

Q. Why do the heartless have hearts and the nobodies have bodies?

A. There’s a stupid explanation for that!

DO NOT TOUCHHeartless devour hearts. Heartless come from the Realm of Darkness (Space. It’s just space.) so they desire hearts (hearts are pure muscle tissue light), kind of like how bats long to consume the sun [citation needed]. Heartless reproduce like the undead: anyone who has their heart devoured by a heartless BECOMES a heartless, a byproduct of the (indigestible) darkness in the victim’s heart. Yes, the heartless are basically heart-poop. This is why Mickey Mouse wears gloves.

So, heartless are generally full of hearts in the same way that most people are full of hamburgers, or how this plot is full of a different digestive consequence.

Nobodies are another heartless byproduct: When a heartless devours a heart, they don’t give the tiniest damn about the body around it, and, as heartless are all skilled cardiologists, the body is pretty much unaffected. Just like during the Metro City incident of 199X, a heartless body will flash and disappear to parts unknown. But, thanks to Kingdom Hearts 2, we now know where that body goes! The answer is… somewhere. Hollow insideUsually Twilight Town, but apparently any other “inbetween world” will do, and as the Kingdom Hearts Universe used to be produced under some kind of deadline, Twilight Town is the only modeled location that fits the bill. Anyway. It’s a commonly held belief that most people suck, and the concept of Nobodies all but proves this: most people, like everybody in the universe except a whole 14 guys (excuse me, 12 men, 2 women) becomes a freaky spandex zipper creature based on whatever Final Fantasy 5 class Gilgabot randomly chooses. Given most nobodies are basically animated, empty robes, the name does make sense.

However there are a whole fourteen “Nobodies” that have such strong wills, they kept their bodies looking like… well, bodies. These nobodies are pretty much indistinguishable from normal humans, except they don’t have hearts, and thus cannot experience emotion, and, on a whole, they feel bad about that.

Over the course of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 2: Nobody Cares, Sora (with a little help) slaughters a murmuration of the twelve main nobodies, absorbs his own nobody, and lets his girlfriend eat up #14. As a result, all of the known bodied-nobodies are now gone, so all we have are the hollow zipper creatures wandering around.

So heartless are digesting hearts and nobodies don’t have bodies. Everything makes sense all over again.

Q. Why is King Triton the only person who knows about the Keyblade in Kingdom Hearts 1?

Are... are you named after your weapon?A. The events of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, wherein Keyblade users are plentiful and combing the universe, only occurs about a decade before the events of Kingdom Hearts I, and it seems to be implied through Old Man Xehanort’s extreme oldness that keyblade users had been zooming around for decades before that. So it seems completely within reason that a keyblade user would have dropped by and met King Triton before Ariel was even born, and since keyblade users are supposed to be a stealthy lot when it comes to interfering in the events of other worlds, it’s also likely Atlantica was the only world where a “good guy” met a keyblade user.

And Triton is a wise-old king archetype, so it’s also possible King Mickey, keyblade master, stopped by at some point to confer on kingly matters. It’s basically how the mouse hooked up with another wise, old king, Ansem the Terminally Stupid.

Either that or Atlantica used to have a bitchin’ space program that failed under Triton’s rule, and that disaster is what has caused Triton to be so adamant about Ariel sticking to the ocean.

Q. Why don’t the giant heartless fleets Sora is always fighting via gummi ship just invade the worlds?

ZOOOOOOMA. It’s pretty straightforward: The entire point of Kingdom Hearts 1 is that Sora is locking keyholes to prevent that exact thing from happening, as each planet is protected by some kind of magical o-zone bubble (actually made of gummi ship materials, for whatever reason) that only allows in human-sized or thereabouts heartless that bleed through the keyhole. Once the keyhole is unlocked and the “world is connected to the darkness” all bets are off. Basically, the fleet invasion is exactly what happened to Destiny Islands at the start of Kingdom Hearts 1. You didn’t think a million cat sized heartless just gnawed the planet to dust, did you? … Though that would be rad.

Also, goes without saying, but the reason for the “Heartless Bleed” through the keyholes is, of course, Labcoat Xehanort mucking things up. He’s really accomplished at universal destruction, intentional or not.

Q. Where are all the parents?

A. Canonically, Riku’s parents have never appeared, though he makes mention of leaving his parents, so they likely at least exist in the present.

Is anyone at all worried about this woman?Kairi had a grandmother, we’ll call her Steve, back when she was a lil’ child in Radiant Garden. Kairi was shipped off from that planet when she was a young’un and Labcoat Xehanort was wrecking up the place. Steve’s fate is unknown.

It’s worth noting that Kairi is a “Princess of Heart”, which would imply she’s actual Radiant Garden royalty. And the only king in Radiant Garden is… Ansem the Easily Bamboozled. But no one, not a single person, has ever inquired about this possible connection in Kingdom Hearts. Kairi isn’t remotely curious about the parents she apparently never knew, which is kind of a thing in this universe…

Sora, coincidentally the hero of the piece, is the only member of the Destiny Islands crew that has had a parent appear on screen. Actually, she didn’t appear on screen, but Sora’s Mother can be heard calling Sora for dinner shortly before her entire planet is flushed down the darkness toilet at the start of Kingdom Hearts I.

Come to think of it…

Kingdom Hearts I opens with the entirety of Sora and Riku’s planet being destroyed by the heartless. Other planets that have been confirmed to be destroyed are The Lion King’s Pride Lands and Mulan’s The Land of Dragons; however, like Sora, both Simba and Mushu are refugees from their respective worlds, and aid Sora during Kingdom Hearts I.

Thanks to Sora’s efforts, all of the destroyed worlds are reformed during the finale of Kingdom Hearts I. When Sora reencounters Simba and Mushu, they both remember Sora from their previous adventure. So, they must also remember the destruction of their worlds; however, no one else is wandering around shell shocked at the thought of having been plunged into hell for an indeterminate amount of time, so it’s assumed that everyone else on the “destroyed” planets simply doesn’t remember the heartless invasion/annihilation.

So, Sora’s mother calls Sora for dinner, but he’s already left to visit Destiny Island, on a boat, in a storm. He and Riku are sucked off planet, the heartless destroy the world, nothingness, then the world gets undestroyed, and Sora and Riku stay off planet. Everyone is back and fine and normal on Destiny Islands, except Sora and Riku are just… gone.

Kairi is back on Destiny Islands at its reformation, though, so it’s possible she tells Riku and Sora’s parents about the fact that, yes, your sons are missing, but they’re on a magical journey through space on a ship made of gummi with a talking dog and duck on the search for a warrior king mouse. And they saved our world! With a key!

The parents would have to assume their kids are dead, right? Drowned in the storm, most likely? Never going to find a body.

I'd like to forget...A week later, the events of Chain of Memories occurs, and Sora is erased from everyone’s memories throughout the entire universe. So Mr. and Mrs. Sora’s Parents look longingly at their lost child’s room, still grieving, trying to muscle through funeral arrangements and talking to the police and then, poof, no more memory of ever having a child. What’s all this teenager stuff doing in this room doing here? No idea. Weren’t we going to have kids? No, I guess that never came together. Why are we such close friends with Riku’s parents? I guess we just like hearing stories about their kid. A shame we never had one of our own…

And then, nearly a year later during the opening of Kingdom Hearts 2, as recounted by Kairi and Leon on two separate planets, everyone just suddenly remembers Sora again. By Zeus! We have a son! And we forgot about him for a year! And he’s missing! What is going on!?!

And then, a few weeks later, Sora and Riku triumphantly return to Destiny Islands for the first time in at least a year to find… Kairi, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy waiting for them. Sora’s parents are probably “resting” at the Destiny Islands Home for the Mentally Unsound.

Sora is just a kid with a lot of heart.