Monthly Archives: August 2015

FGC #034 Contra: Shattered Soldier

Ride 'em, ContraThe Video Game medium is an extremely strange place for narratives. Sequential story telling is as old as time itself, and even the concept of a reboot is fairly well understood across entertainment, but, in the modern era, it seems like only video games include stories that, like the fragmented myths of ancient civilizations, hop around like bunnies on Ritalin. The only difference is that the random disparities in Hercules’ adventures occurred because of the involvement of generations and hundreds of wannabe authors, while the inconsistencies in something like the Contra franchise exist merely because there’s some imagined demand for a reason for a muscled dude with unlimited ammo to mow down scores of creatures. It’s okay, Konami, you didn’t have to manufacture centuries of strife, we never needed a reason beyond, “Here’s some aliens, make them go away.”

Did you know that Contra, as in the original, NES Contra, takes place in the year 2633 AD? Yep! Everyone who played the game back in ’87 assumed it was just a contemporary setting mirroring Rambo with aliens, but, nope, totally the far flung future. Even if we ignore ancillary documents and just take a look at the game itself, there really is nothing indicating that Contra takes place a good six centuries into the future, forgiving a few weapons and technology that could easily be explained with “well, they’re aliens, duh.” There’s nothing here that wasn’t used in the unending war on Cobra Commander. Then we’ve got Super Contra, which, to be clear, predates the Super Nintendo, which was much the same. Yeah, it’s an enemy/alien base, but everything looks pretty modern-y, with the caveat that bird persons have popped up in perfectly present-day games all the time. Big, ominous, glowy bases were all over the place in the early 90’s. Operation C, “Gameboy Contra”, was much the same.

Then we hit the Super Nintendo, and with it, Contra 3: The Alien Wars. Now it’s undeniably 2636. Maybe it’s because the game finally featured a “city”, but everything about Contra 3 screams “this is the future”, and not just any future, but one of those lovely dystopian Terminator futures. As an added bonus, there are also Terminators. Much like Mega Man X, Contra 3 kicks off with a world that appears to be existing in mid-obliteration, but unlike MMX, it only ramps up from there, showcasing a world where missiles fall like rain drops, and a mundane desert is lousy with gargantuan alien monsters. It does not look like a happy place to be. Contra Hard Corps, “Genesis Contra”, is on the same level, though this world of 2641 looks slightly more habitable. Slightly. At least they cut down on the mutant dogs and have given bipedal wolf creatures jobs.

More ridingContra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure, the Playstation entries, are no longer canon (and never were?), but they went right back to the original Contra’s (presumed) setting, and, by and large, seem to take place in a world very similar to that of any Predator media. Soldiers, aliens, jungles: all pretty basic “the horrors of war” meets sci-fi nonsense that you’ll find hovering around Carl Weathers.

It was after all of this that Contra: Shattered Soldier was released. If you’ve been paying attention, you may note that the Contra series’ continuity, to the lay-observer, seemed to bounce around like a ping pong ball, never quite settling on one consistent location or theme; but by stark contrast, the gameplay of Contra was decidedly dependable: you are a squishy human, run and jump to avoid bullets, and return fire against an army of mooks, robots, and aliens. The Playstation entries introduced 3-D to the whole equation, but that was simply the style of the time (see also: every game released for PSX and N64), and we all knew that wasn’t really long for the world. So Contra: Shattered Soldier was more run ‘n gun gameplay, now with more hideous aliens and the occasional missile ride, so what could be an issue? Well, the problem was that the plot ping pong ball went waaaaaay out of bounds.

Journey with me now back to wilds of 2002 AD, the year of Shattered Soldier’s release. Google? Google was a shiny new thing, primarily used to find song lyrics to post in your Livejournal. Wikipedia was a year old, and, according to a chart I found on Wikipedia, had approximately seven articles at the time. The idea of a “Contra Wiki” was just that, an idea, and the best you would likely find was a Geocities or Angelfire site dedicated to Contra, probably with a weird name like “Bill Rizer’s Rizettes” or “The Contra Turbo Connection”. The page was likely infested with animated gifs… errr… the bad kind of animated gifs. My point? It was difficult in that bygone era to get worthwhile, dependable information to “catch up” on a franchise. In the meanwhile, you were stuck with random conjecture and hearsay, which was not a good thing when dealing with what Shattered Soldier served up.

I'M A GIANT BRAINSee, the story of Contra Shattered Soldier relied on a lot of flashbacks and en media res storytelling. The plot was, to type it here, pretty straightforward: Five years before the game, there was an accident that wiped out 80% of life on Earth (!) and was blamed on ol’ player one, Bill Rizer, who then, apparently, killed his old partner, Lance Bean. It was all a frame job, of course, but Bill was sentenced to 10,000 years in prison. A mere five years into his sentence, he’s released on Suicide Squad rules to join cyborg Lucia in taking down the latest threat to Earth, a revived Blood/Red Falcon led by none other than an undead Lance Bean. Pretty straightforward action plot, really, but the only problem was that mountain of backstory was never introduced before, and the player of the time had no idea as to its origins. Was this in a previous game, and we just forgot it? Was it lost in a localization? Did we miss a game? Was there some Contra anime that never saw a Western release? Wasn’t Blood Falcon just that one alien at the end of Super C? Or that giant heart? Was this a decade later or centuries? Was Contra 3 the only canon game? Where did the spread gun go?

It seems funny to think about now, when all of these answers are accessible by a mere click, but at the time, it created a particularly absurd experience. Run, gun, shoot down some aliens, and then it’s time for a cutscene that made about as much sense as Xenogears. Who’s that guy? Who’s this guy? Why aren’t there any aliens in these scenes? And then, a few button presses later, it’s back to same ol’ Contra, riding a speeder bike or surfing a missile to victory. This would be a simply generally confusing experience if it weren’t for the fact that the “finale” is locked behind a difficulty wall that requires some serious practice, so you may then, finally, succeed and experience an ending that answers… nothing. It ties up the threads of the game well enough, but it doesn’t answer the bigger questions, like were these century old cyborg dudes in charge of the Contra universe since the first game? Why would anyone follow a leader named “Nero”?

In the end, like all video game plots, it didn’t matter one iota. Neo Contra followed Contra: Shattered Soldier, and it eschewed the overwrought plot of the previous entry for a game where at least one antagonist was a well-equipped bull terrier (this, to be clear, isn’t a metaphor, the dude was a literal quadrupedal dog in vaguely WWII garb). And, incidentally, the game takes place two millennia later… yet still stars Bill Rizer. Is it any wonder we just assumed NES Contra took place around the late twentieth century? Nothing about this franchise ever focused long enough to make any sense, so, one “story driven” entry or no, we were just never meant to understand the intricacies of this Man vs. Aliens story.

Bowser-esqueAnd, really, that’s just fine. Much like Contra “trying on” 3-D for the PSX era, it threw its hat into the story-telling ring that made games like Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid so popular on the PS2, failed, and then went back to what it did best: wholesale alien slaughter. The mythology of Contra gets a little more muddied, but that’s never what anyone signed up for anyway. You can peruse the Contra wiki at will, and Bill will be just waiting for you to come back to the controller. There are some colossal alien turtles to flambé, and, no, you don’t need to know why. Isn’t turtle stomping enough?

FGC #34 Contra: Shattered Soldier

  • System: Playstation 2, also available on PS3 PSN
  • Number of Players: 2, one manly man framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and one female cyborg that forgot how to wear pants.
  • Contra Ranking: This was easily the best Contra game, gameplay wise, before Contra 4 came around. A complete lack of cutscenes would have been appreciated, but you can play any completed level whenever you want, which should be a mandatory feature for all games, regardless of genre.
  • Favorite Weapon: Why can’t the flamethrower have a little better range? I just love whipping that fire around.
  • Puppy Power: There’s a level that starts with your hero being led by a herd of rottweilers. Has there ever been a game were you command a dog pack to, I don’t know, solve crimes and tackle bad guys? I’d play that game.
  • Did you know? Both Bill Rizer, Player 1, and Lance Bean, usually Player 2 but a villain in this game, have names that are a combination of actors from Aliens. Also, their visages are clearly based on Governator Arnold and Sly Stallone. Contra Timeline be damned, I want a Contra version of The Expendables.
  • Would I play again? Probably, yeah. I’d like to see it show up on my PS4, but in the meanwhile, I’m happy to occasionally give a few levels a shot on the PS3, and then quit the minute it becomes too frustrating, usually somewhere in Level 4. This is pretty much how I enjoy the whole franchise.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Punch-Out!! Wii Edition. Float like a butterfly, stink like a Donkey Kong. Let’s do this thing, Doc Lewis! Please look forward to it!

Can't they just nuke 'em?

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #08: Square

Honestly?  This scene always gets me.Q. So what about the Square Characters of the Square/Disney Crossover?

A. Oh, you know, they’re doing this and that.

Note that this post will contain vague spoilers for not only Kingdom Hearts, but also a myriad of other Square games. Though I am rather proud of myself that I don’t think I distinctly noted the fact that Aerith dies.

First, a history lesson for any young whippersnappers wandering around the site and perhaps my lawn, which you should vacate immediately. Back in the day, when Squaresoft was young and gay (see Tobal No. 2), Final Fantasy plots and characters were a one-off event. Sure, you may see a Cecil cameo in a virtual reality nightmare world, or Black Mage kicking off the era of the sprite comic, but, by and large, when a Final Fantasy game hit “The End”, you were never going to see those characters again. Ultimecia may as well have won, because all of her opponents stopped existing about fifteen minutes after her death. Nowadays, you have your Dissidias and Theatrehythms and The After Years and we know exactly how Kefka would react to Squall, and how many children were conceived during the ending of Final Fantasy 4, and the mystery is just gone.

Kingdom Hearts (1) was released before even Final Fantasy 10-2, so not only was it a chance to see all those fresh faces from Final Fantasy 10 again, but it also featured a number of “old favorites”, like Cloud and Squall, characters that hadn’t been seen on anything but rad Versus posters for years. I literally cannot describe how amazing it was, at the time, to see these characters returning to an active role. They could just show up, say three lines, and then disappear into the ether, and it would be exhilarating.

So that’s exactly what Square did.

Good job, guys. Nice hustle.

Scampering aboutTidus, Wakka, and Selphie all appear on Destiny Islands as a sort of cameo balance to protagonists Sora, Riku, and Kairi. They’re all Sora-aged, so they look much younger than in their original appearances. They all play (literally, no euphemism here) with Team Sora, and, when their entire world is destroyed, Sora never mentions them ever again throughout the franchise. Selphie appears briefly as Kairi’s friend in Kingdom Hearts 2, because, with Sora and Riku off planet and adventuring at the time, Kairi has no other friends, and must settle.

Squall decides to call himself Leon for some reason or another, and also decides to be a very confusing character for the KH universe. Squall and the remaining Final Fantasy characters in Kingdom Hearts 1 all used to live in Radiant Garden, a happy shiny world ruled by Ansem the Wise in its better days. Then Xehanort took over without anyone noticing… or… something. Radiant Garden became Hollow Bastion, and anyone worth a damn got exiled to Traverse Town. Leon, using a gummi ship provided by Cid, traveled the universe, and did bupkis. Seriously. There’s this whole backstory where he earned Mickey’s trust for all the effort he’s putting in and all the hearts he’s saved, but when you go to the other worlds, there’s just no mention of the guy, or even the slightest bit of evidence any other off-worlders have been curbing the heartless onslaught. Best guess? Leon is completely fabricating his own history. Oh yeah, I saved… uhhh… Victory Through Air Power world. Yep, totally saved. Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Oh, that’s alright, it’s not really a mainstream world.

So fuzzySomehow Leon got King Mickey’s attention, and rather than Mickey, Keyblade Master, just explaining keyblade history to Sora himself, Mickey chooses Leon to be his proxy. Is Mickey secretly ashamed of his squeaky voice? Whatever the case, Leon is basically the lore-meister for the entirety of Kingdom Hearts 1, so any plot irregularities stemming from basic keyblade knowledge can be placed squarely on his shoulders, or at least his silly little half-coat.

In KH2, Leon heads up the committee to make his home planet look less like a depressing, dark hovel. This goes against everything I understand about Squall.

Aerith is here to be Team Final Fantasy’s mom, which is a common problem in Kingdom Hearts. Basically, every good guy group has to have one character, always female, who stands around and worries about what the boys are doing. I will remind you that this is Aerith, who, aside from that whole end on her knees business, spent a lot of Final Fantasy 7 sneaking out to escape her mom to meet up with boys. Also, she’s one of only two FF7 playable characters to join the party that doesn’t already have some kind of weapons/warrior training, which has to take some level of lady balls (MASTER level lady balls). But, no, KH Aerith just stands around, elaborates on whatever Leon is saying, and then looks concerned. In KH2, she joins in the battle… as an unarmed white mage. Sigh.

It's weird, right?Yuffie is also Leon’s sidekick. While she is at least the rare “active” woman in the Kingdom Hearts universe (you can actually fight her and Leon in Olympus Coliseum), she still doesn’t do much of anything in either game.

Cid rounds out team Final Fantasy, and he’s basically there to maintain your gummi ship. This is a very Cid appropriate task. In KH2, he is replaced by a pair of chipmunks. This, most unfortunately, does not lead to Chip ‘n Dale ‘n Cid: Rescue Rangers. Sit your ass down in that chair and eat your goddamn cheese!

Cloud actually has something of an interesting go of it in KH1. He appears as a minion of Hades in Olympus Coliseum, which grants Cloud the honor of being the only Final Fantasy character to appear on a Disney planet in KH1. This Cloud looks a lot like Vincent Valentine, and it would completely make sense if this “role” was originally supposed to go to Vinnie. After all, in the backstory of FF7, Vincent was nearly killed, So pointystored in an underworld like basement, and then eventually revived to a world where he decided to fight against the evil that once injured and imprisoned him. Unfortunately, as well as that would fit the motif of Hades’ underworld warrior, they decided to go with Cloud, who, in the backstory of FF7, was nearly killed, stored in an underworld like basement, and then eventually revived to a world where he decided to fight against the evil that once injured and imprisoned him. Totally different scenario.

Also, Cloud checked out his new Hades powers/look (the single batwing, the power of flight, increased durability, “dark powers”, aversion to sunlight) and deduced he had become a mummy, so he wrapped his sword in bandages.

Cloud fought for Hades, but then couldn’t bring himself to kill Sora, because Cloud knows that he might be able to mow down hundreds of unnamed soldiers, but he draws the line at some kid with spikey hair and an unusual sword. Cloud officially becomes a hero for voiding his contract, and then proceeds to not do a single other thing.

Smash Mouth loves itSephiroth is lurking around as a bonus boss in Kingdom Hearts 1, but doesn’t get any kind of a storyline until KH2, where it is revealed that he is the darkness in Cloud’s heart… or… something. As a result, it’s kind of fuzzy on whether or not Sephiroth is actually genetic-freak Sephiroth, a normal human being, or even just a belabored metaphor. We just know he is responsible for some amazing voice acting. Related: KH2 introduces Tifa, who is supposed to be the light to Sephiroth’s darkness. Tifa also proves she can punch through steel walls… and then proceeds to spend the rest of the game worrying about Cloud. Kingdom Hearts, you have a lady problem.

So sadI should probably mention Auron at this point, as he pretty much fulfills the same role as KH1 Cloud for Kingdom Hearts 2. Auron is plucked out of Hell by Hades. Auron is supposed to fight against Hercules/Sora, but resists. Auron learns a very valuable lesson about never losing your sunglasses. Despite the fact that the events of Final Fantasy 10 cannot have happened in the Kingdom Hearts universe (reminder: Tidus and Wakka are children), Auron has a brief flashback to losing his friends during some kind of heroic journey. Given Yuna’s state in KH2, I choose to believe a drunken Jecht and Auron traveled with a magical fairy Braska to stop Monstro, and failed. Someone please contact about this.

Speaking of which, Yuna, Rikku, and Paine (aka the Gullwings) are magical fairies in the service of Maleficent. There is absolutely no explanation for this phenomena; it is unknown if Maleficent transformed the girls, if they’re just part of a completely unseen fairy race, or if Still love their theme songRikku cast the wrong spell at the wrong time and it led naturally to hijinks. The Gullwings help Maleficent until… they don’t. Again, pretty much no explanation for anything these three do. I kind of assume their existence is owed to a weird dream someone had.

Seifer and his disciplinary committee buddies appear as young teens in Twilight Town. Given the difference in their ages, Leon either must have received his trademark scar from some random heartless, or he is a phenomenally poor swordsman. I suppose it could be both. Seifer is basically there to be a rival to Roxas in the very beginning of KH2, and while he doesn’t really accomplish much, he does firm up his place as “biggest jerk in the Final Fantasy series”. He could do worse.

Now, you may have noticed that all of the Final Fantasy characters have hailed from Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 10 at this point. There is a very particular reason for this: no one on the staff has played any other Final Fantasy games. To prove this, Vivi of Final Fantasy 9 My life is lame in this pile.  Ante up?appears in Twilight Town, and his entire contribution is being replaced by a random malicious mook. He speaks, without exaggeration, maybe nine whole words. Setzer of Final Fantasy 6 also appears, and the “noble gambler with a heart of gold” is an adult trying to bribe his way to victory in a children’s bopper game. My reaction to this can be summarized in the immortal words of Vivi, “…”

Zack Fair, who just about appears in Final Fantasy 7, drops by for KH: Birth by Sleep. In a radical change of pace for the series, Zack is tricked by Hades into fighting Hercules at Olympus Coliseum. Final Fantasy characters find faustian bargains to be sweeter than honey. During his downtime, Zack also finds time to ask Aqua out on a date, which I believe makes him the only character in all of Kingdom Hearts to Poorest guyplainly display a libido. Good for you, Zack, I’m sure you two crazy kids have a wonderful future ahead.

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance does not feature any new Final Fantasy Characters… or any Final Fantasy characters, I think. But it does feature a healthy portion of the cast of The World Ends With You. Those whacky kids are back to their old Reaper Game shenanigans, and, while a tutorial is mixed into the plot, this appears to be the first time in the series where a straight “Square World” plays out similarly to Disney Worlds hewing closely to their original plots. Of course, for some stupid reason, Team TWEWY is stuck in Traverse Town, as opposed to their own, personal setting. Hey, it’s not like the actual geographic location of TWEWY played any part in the gameplay or plot.

This article ends with youSo what does this all amount to? Not much. Team Final Fantasy doesn’t really accomplish much of anything in the grand overarching plot of Kingdom Hearts, and, by and large, most of the characters are simple caricatures of their former selves. It’s pleasant enough to fight against Squall or Cloud or Zack, but nothing of value is added, no great insight gleamed, and, in many cases, it’s just a brand name attached to a role that could be played by any ol’ NPC. I think we can all agree that perhaps after spending twenty hours with someone hunting movers in a dank cave, you don’t want to see that person ever again…

And the odds of Lightning being seduced by Hades into fighting Hercules in Kingdom Hearts 3? Staggering.

FGC #033 A Boy and his Blob




  • Nearly two decades of proactive forward momentum despite the handicap of a non-bipedal anthropological morphology
  • An organized and dedicated worker with a firm grasp of a multitude of management skills over any number of colors or flavors
  • Can turn into a ladder
  • An excellent team player, very trusting of others, perfectly willing to eat anything thrown in general direction


While saving the world

  • Traveled deep into the bowels of the Earth and ran screaming from a great many mutant caterpillars and falling rocks
  • Took me a whileTransformed into a bubble so as to explore the underwater depths of the city, found further deadly creatures and the most unfair stalactites in the history of blobkind
  • Successfully propelled a young boy through space without the use of a helmet, space suit, or other apparatus to prevent young boy-explosion
  • Turned into a jack, twice
  • Destroyed an entire evil candy factory through unique ability to transform into a vitablaster. You’re reading that right.
  • Facilitated and implemented a brand new diet for the previously corpulent King of Blobolonia

After saving the world

  • Separated from previously inseparable young boy, pursued solo career with own bag of jelly beans
  • Solo career was unfortunately dismissed as it quickly became apparent that a simple task such as eating was difficult without appendages or way to hold bag
  • Reunited with young boy, now known as Teenager, and began work on new and different jellybean flavors such as whiskey, dog hair, and catsup
  • Ingested whiskey jellybean and immediately cleaned up small western town
  • Acquired world record “most vomit produced by a creature with no clear gastric system”
  • Successfully won defamation lawsuit against Nicolas Hourés


Climbing to new heights2005-2009 Aspiring Memoirist
1999-2005 Lawn Sprinkler
1998-1999 Sheriff
1994-1998 Circus Freak
1993-1994 Professor at Southern Vermont College
1990-1993 REDACTED
1989 Multiple World Savior


M.B.A., Blobolonia Academy of the Arts
M.A. Florida State
B.A. Harry’s Hobo School for Hairy Hobos

Computer skills include: MS Word, Excel, Quickbooks Pro, Nesticle


A reimaging of my initial adventure with Boy to save Earth and Blobonia. Significant information regarding my original quest has been forever lost, and it’s time for a new generation to hear of my heroic exploits. Additionally, we may add some fresh details to get that youth demographic.


  • Bright lights, dull blobBoy should be distinctly… boy-like. Little body, big head, whatever it is you humans call boy-shaped. Boy does not need particularly respectable acting skills, just the ability to whistle and sound happy or sad. Actually, maybe he could say my name a bunch of times? Want to keep the brand alive. Oh, and if it’s a sticking point, Boy’s safety is not a high priority.
  • I understand I’m not as young as I used to be, so it would be alright if my part was played by a younger, up-and-coming Blobonian actor. I would be content with simply writing, plotting, and directing duties. I would not object to a cameo, though. The new blob should be dashing and flexible, like myself.
  • Additional blobs may be cast in adversarial roles. Those giant centipedes never made any kind of sense, so let’s populate the caves and Blobonia with actual blobs. Just ask them to play “dark”. They’ll know what that means.
  • Also, I have a blob friend who can turn into a wicked cobra. Please find a place for him.


  • Chompy ChompyI just mentioned the cobra thing, but while I’m thinking about it, yes, cobra fight. I’ll talk to Jerry, maybe he can pull off a giant cobra, if that would be more dramatic.
  • The original jellybean stock was pretty delicious, but a number of the forms seemed extraneous. Blowtorch morph to eliminate one spider web (that didn’t even contain a spider)? Stupid. We should limit the jellybeans to exclusively the most important transformations. I will remind you all that I saved the world by turning into a jack, so that one is a lock.
  • I’d like to see myself turn into a shield. That seems appropriately heroic.
  • Parachutes are more realistic than descent-slowing umbrellas. I still can’t believe that worked in the first place.
  • I understand a lot can be done with computers nowadays. Would it be possible to make me appear to turn into a colossal, havoc-wreaking robot? I watched a Japanese cartoon the other day, and it looked like a lot of fun. I’ve spoken to a few friends about this, and they all think it would be a hoot to see Boy and I just stomp around the countryside.
  • Speaking of the countryside, I first met Boy while he was out camping. Can we squeeze that in there?
  • I understand the Blobonia Tourism Committee would be willing to contribute some support if we showcase some of the more scenic Blobonia locations. This seems well advised.


  • DeliciousLeave humans guessing exactly how Blobonian space travel works.
  • Sub-Subway intricate cave systems are a real thing. I’ve been down there.
  • Boy’s greed was always insatiable, and this is coming from a candy-based organism. Feel free to emphasize the treasure collecting.
  • I don’t understand you humans and your concept of “sex appeal”, but if you must have a character with “capital knockers”, the King of Blobonia has always been well-endowed in that area.

I looked forward to your inevitable approval of this project.


FGC #33 A Boy and his Blob

  • System: NES, and then a reimaging 20 years later on the Wii.
  • Number of Players: Just one, and it is a great loss that there isn’t some two player boy/blob co-op.
  • OW!Maybe actually talk about the game for a second (NES Edition)? This is easily one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played. Like, you can see glimpses of the author’s intentions here, but nothing coalesced into a solid piece. The first half of the game is a randomly suicidal (“Let me put a hole here… and dead.”) puzzle/action exploration game, with a fairly focused emphasis on nonviolent problem solving. The second half of the game is like a low-key copy of Contra, where Blob is a weapon for 90% of the area, followed by a finale featuring what can best be described as “action jelly bean tossing”. And maybe there’s some sort of moral about healthy eating in there? I don’t even know.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second (Wii Edition)? And this game earns my favorite way to describe a video game: It’s fun right up until the very moment it isn’t. About 75% of A Boy and His Blob is a fun puzzle platformer, and the final 25% (from about mid-Blobonia on), is a gauntlet of death where you’re going to watch Boy die over and over again unless you immediately know each deadly puzzle’s solution. Respawning is generous, but some of the challenges seem more than a little stacked against the extremely fragile boy. Overall, A Boy and His Blob is a great experience, I just don’t see myself playing the final stages again.
  • No touching: I am required by law to mention the “hug button”. There is a hug button. My obligation is now fulfilled.
  • Favorite Jellybean: Punch Jellybean, which turns Blob into a hole, has been my favorite and greatest mystery since I was a child. How does that work? Blob can morph into the absence of matter? And then the ground reforms around him? Blobonian biology is a mystery.
  • Did you know? There is also a Gameboy A Boy and his Blob sequel, and you can play the entire game in the time it takes to read this sentence. Then there was supposed to be a Gameboy Advance sequel… but it got canned. Then there was supposed to be a DS sequel… but it was also scrapped. The DS sequel was probably the most interesting, as it supposedly would have featured an older Boy, and who knows where the series was going to take that idea.
  • Looks like troubleWould I play again? The NES version, maybe as a curiosity to show someone, “Yes, this happened.” The whole game only really takes an hour. The Wii version I’d replay the first few worlds if I was feeling in the mood, but not the whole thing. I’ve done my time. Blob time.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Contra Shattered Soldier. This is the story of a boy who unexpectedly encounters an alien culture and… has a very different reaction. Please look forward to it!

FGC #032 Super Mario Sunshine

Everybody dance nowSuper Mario Sunshine is the story of Mario, Princess Peach, and her entire entourage taking a well-deserved vacation at The Isle of Delfino, a vacation destination apparently appropriate for royalty and a national hero (but not Luigi. Never Luigi). As is usually the case, there’s trouble afoot: Bowser Jr. is disguised as “Shadow Mario” and mucking up this normally sunny island paradise. Mario gains sentient water gun FLUDD and vows to run all over the island and clean up the mess.

But is Isle Delfino worth saving?

One of those great conceits of fiction is being “told” that some thing is the greatest. Karen has written the best book ever, and everyone in the world loves it, but you, the viewer, only ever get to see a sentence or two. The story of a fictional band’s rise to fame is catapulted by an impossibly catchy single that the real audience never gets to hear. We see it all the time without even skipping a beat.

So here’s Isle Delfino, a vacation destination, we’re told, that is so amazing it’s fit for not one, but two royal families simultaneously. Mario, and by extension, the player, has free reign of Isle Delfino during the cleanup project, so, even though Delfino might not be at its best during your visit, you do get to see every nook and cranny of the isle. According to the in-game map, Mario even has access to every last “tourist trap”.

So would Isle Delfino be appropriate for your family vacation? Let’s take a look.

At a glance

We’ve got the Delfino Airstrip, which only seems big enough for a single seaplane. Being cramped into some puddle hopper is not the best way to start your vacation. Then we’ve got transportation around the island, which is… lacking. There are gondolas floating about here and there, but I’m pretty sure the kiddies are going to be bored out of their little heads mindlessly bobbing from spot to spot. And it appears that cars, cabs, jitneys, and tramcars are just right out. These roads are barely wide enough for a plumber, so get used to hoofing it from place to place. Bring comfortable shoes.

Bad ideaShopping
All shopping can be done at Delfino Plaza. Do you like fruit? Well we’ve got lots of fruit! Do you like shopping for anything else? Well, tough pineapples, you’re stuck with fruit. And you better believe customs ain’t letting you take any of that home. Also, there are approximately, what, a total of ten stands? At peak times, you’re going to be stuck waiting in line forever for that durian. And you just know Toadsworth is at the front of the line, holding everyone up with his endless harrumphing haggling. Just buy the damn papaya and be done with it, old man!

The jerk store calledLocal Color
Here’s a tip for all tourists: the locals hate you. You might see yourself as some kind of foreign, benevolent genie to these native people and their strange and primitive culture, spreading your American Money around and boosting everyone’s spirits, but, no, that is decidedly not how the locals see you. You are one of two things: a mark or an annoyance. To everyone below a certain income level, and particularly the youth of an area, you’re a walking, leaking moneybag that needs to be shaken in just the right way to see precious lucre dribble out, and nothing more. The rest of the population, generally the adults and people who can comfortably afford to live year ‘round in “paradise”, see you as something akin to a human-sized gnat: an overly large, buzzing irritation that makes a usually twenty minute trip to market last two hours because all of you people decided to clump up and forget how to purchase a banana.

The local Piantas are no different. Hell, we’re talking about a group of people that arrested an international hero about three seconds after he got off the boat. Sure, they act friendly, but that’s just the Piantas hoarding coins to acquire those imported green mushrooms. Visit Pianta Village at your own risk, less you get hurled from some massive mushroom and into the abyss.

Hoses are standing byLodging
Sirena Beach is home to Hotel Delfino, apparently the only Hotel on the island. Unless you’re a big fan of “rustic”, you’re going to be stuck paying exorbitant rates and booking years in advance for the only game in town. Speaking of games, Hotel Delfino has a casino, which is definitely a plus. A significant minus, though, is that the hotel is very, very haunted. Ghosts aren’t normally much of an active issue for most people, but it does raise an alarming number of questions. What happened at Hotel Delfino to inspire so many angry spirits? Could it happen again? And what’s with the red X’s painted on the walls? That is paint… right?

The hills are aliveYour rural alternative is Bianco Hills, offering some very cozy villas in the shadow of a number of windmills. Here’s another travel tip: the concept of rentable cabins is code for “if anybody from here actually wanted to stay in this spot, our ancestors would have built real houses here centuries ago”. You get to stay by the lake with the sashaying sentient cacti, and we’ll be back at home with the non-homicidal mushrooms. Feel free to use the lake for fishing, we’ve nearly exterminated the piranha population.

Isle Delfino doesn’t have to just rely on tourism, as it contains a booming shipping port at Ricco Harbor. This is great for Isle Delfino’s residents, but maybe not so great for visitors. I can’t imagine the joy of finally securing a room at Hotel Delfino, only to be awakened by a tanker’s bullhorn as it pulls into port at dawn. There’s also a juice bottling plant in the area, which, assuming it’s low on emissions, isn’t too terrible… until you remember that this kind of thing attracts the unique, tropical, water-solvent Yoshi tribe. Which horror would you like to explain to Little Timmy: “Yes, Timmy, all of our food and possessions have been eaten by a rampaging lizard,” or, “Sorry, Timmy, sometimes loveable dinosaurs just dissolve into oblivion on contact”? Either is a conversation you get to avoid when you just go to Disney World, where enchanting characters rarely die screaming.

Just gorgeous... but be carefulNatural Wonders
Noki Bay is a wonderful natural cove perfect for scuba diving and observing a waterfall that would put Niagara to shame. There are also no guardrails. At all. But you can balance yourself across tightropes to perfect vantage points that are incidentally moss covered rocks. This is as good a place as any to note that there appears to be absolutely no hospitals anywhere on Isle Delfino, which may be a blessing, as we have no idea what a health care system would even look like when it’s run by a bunch of creatures that evolved from palm trees. Hope nearby Cancer Island (official motto: “Like the crab!”) has a few medevac helicopters available, or remember to buy a family-set of helmets before leaving home.

Corona Mountain is also available for any budding volcanologists in your troop. Let’s see if there’s any…


Nope. Not going there. Not going there ever again.

DO NOT TOUCHLet’s Go to the Beach!
The previously mentioned Sirena Beach is probably your best bet, as it’s easily within walking distance of your only viable lodging and a juice bar (and if you can remember the shape of a Gamecube controller, you’ll never get lost), but Gelato Beach is also available. Gelato Beach certainly has more space than Sirena Beach, which is a boon during the peak season, but it’s also downwind from giant, grassy cliffs. I’ll forgive you for not being a beachologist (not a thing), but that kind of geography generally leads to a grand number of critters infesting the beach, like raccoons and wigglers. Also, nearby cliffs are just perfect for an overeager high tide to completely decimate any and all tanning locations. So, all in all, it’s a great beach, but only if you hit it at the exact right second when it’s not overcrowded, swarming with vermin, or washed out. If that all works out, here’s a gentle reminder to roll into that Hotel Delfino Casino.

Swingin' FunRides
Pinna Park is Isle Delfino’s premium amusement park. Accessible only through cannon (!), Pinna Park boasts upwards of ten or so rides that are sure to entertain the kiddies for maybe a half hour before they whine about never wanting to ride the stupid clamshells ever again. And then it’s time to cannon on back to the mainland, because this park is teeny tiny, and you can’t just sit around eating popcorn for the rest of the day. It seems like a theme park would be a shoo-in for innovative ideas in Rosalina’s Universe, where even the regal Princess Peach has an elaborate secret slide hidden in her castle, but, no, a couple of whirligigs and a roller coaster, and those lazy Pinatas called it a day. Salvage fun for minutes at a time at Pinna Park!

Book your trip now!
Or don’t. Isle Delfino might be a neat spot for an adventure, but you’re going to get nothing but whining from your imaginary backseat the entire time you’re there. Sure, the theme parks and beaches sound appealing, but they’re just not made for a relaxing time. Know what might be fun? Why not hit Dinosaur Land? At least they’re not putting on airs. You know where you stand with Reznor.

FGC #32 Super Mario Sunshine

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube, though I’d really like to note other systems here, Nintendo, hint hint.
    Number of players: Just one dude with a talking water blaster.
  • Dozing offMaybe actually talk about the game for a second? Isle Delfino might be an appalling vacation destination, but it’s a wonderful place to set a Mario game. I acknowledge that Sunshine is not the best of the Mario oeuvre from an objective perspective, but, to me, it’s one of my favorite games to just pick up and play and run around and just have fun with various FLUDD nozzles. If Nintendo ever breaks out some kind of virtual reality/holodeck hardware, this would be the first game I’d like to just be “in”.
  • But blue coins are still terrible, right? Oh, the worst. This might be the only Mario game I haven’t 100%’ed, and those stupid things are why.
  • Would you like to save your game? Shut-up.
  • Favorite Level? Something about the layout/flow of this game makes all the stages blend together in my head. That said, I’ll choose the one that stands out the most: Pinna Park. Yes, it would be a stupid place to spend an actual day, but something about Mario leaping across swinging pirate ships just feels… right. Sonic got an entire game set inside an amusement park, why not Mario?
  • Favorite incidental detail: I could bounce on Toadsworth’s head for days.
  • Did you know? This is the first real Mario game to feature full voice acting. Why do I note “real”? Well, technically, the first Mario game with this feature was Hotel Mario, and the first rule of Mario Club is we don’t talk about Hotel Mario. Though kind of amusing that both games involve hotels…
  • Would I play again? I have a tendency to boot this game up about once a Summer, and had even played it a little bit back in June when I was making sure my Gamecube was still functioning after being wiiplaced for a number of years. Good news, everything is alright, and Mario is still jumping and sliding around like a champ. Did I say, “yes” yet? Yes.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… A Boy and his Blob. NES or Wii version? Well, grab some jellybeans, and find out in a couple days. Please look forward to it!