Monthly Archives: September 2015

FGC #046 Krion Conquest

HOWDY HO!Hey, kids! Wanna play a video game? How about a 2-D action game where you’re fighting an army of evil robots using only your ability to jump and shoot a handful of different weapons? It’s fun and exciting and there’s no messy swimming in water stages! You even change colors every time you switch weapons! Sounds good? Okay! Let’s play The Krion Conquest.

Oh, I’m sorry, were you thinking of something else?

The Krion Conquest was released in Japan at the tail end of 1990, and saw release over here a month later. Also, I’ll note that Mega Man 3 had a Japanese release date of September, 1990, and Mega Man 2 was released in ’88. Just a fun bit of trivia that has no bearing on anything. Back to our star, The Krion Conquest had something of an auspicious beginning, as it was originally conceived as a licensed companion game for 1986 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime, an anime that has its own bizarre history of being thoroughly dejapanified in its American HBO release. Second aside aside, Vic Tokai wasn’t able to obtain the license, so Dorothy from Kansas became Doropie (sound it out) the magical kid. Yes, obviously, The Krion Conquest is known as Magical Kids Doropie in its native land, because marketing is very different across cultures.

Magical Kids Doropie has one of those plots that is simultaneously convoluted and simple. An evil mechanical army has taken over the world, and Boy summons the magical witch girl (is that redundant?) Doropie to save the day, as there weren’t any blobs handy. Doropie is effective because alien I've got a great walkrobots have a natural weakness to magic, kryptonite, and the rays of a red sun. However, it all takes a turn for the worst when Boy is captured by Evil Queen, who uses her hostage to manipulate Doropie into unsealing great evil powers. So, to be clear, Evil Queen had the foolproof plan of amassing a robot army that is invincible to everything but magic, thus forcing a magical girl to be summoned as a counter, and then using that same magical girl as a key to unlock further power beyond the invincible robot army. Glad that all worked out for her. Or it doesn’t: Evil Queen is eventually thwarted when Doropie invades her space base (!), rescues Boy, and, I don’t know, I guess Doropie hit the universal off switch for the robots.

Again, this game was originally based on The Wizard of Oz.

Almost all that story nonsense was cut from the American release, though, simply retaining the opening cinematic of Boy summoning Doropie, now renamed Francesca. Oh, I’m sorry, you’re asking where the title comes from, then? Evil Queen’s army in the Japanese version is known as the Akudama Empire, while here it got translated to the cooler sounding Krion Empire, thus, The Krion Conquest, because women can’t headline NES games. A magical girl adventure creeps a little closer to being Blade Runner, and now we’ve got a game that… I don’t even think Nintendo Power gave the time of day. That can’t be a good sign. Another bad sign: because the localization team (alright, probably one guy) did not give the tiniest damn, all the giant stylized A’s prominently featured across this world(A is for Akudama Empire) now no longer make a bit of sense.

But you didn’t come here for stories or alphabets, no, you came for some of that grand ol’ NES gameplay magic. So, let’s see what our little witch can do! Menu, tell us what we’ve got!

  • Looks... familiarFirst option is the stunningly bland “Normal” attack. This is a traditional tiny “bullet” that can be charged to a larger, slightly more effective fireball. Just thinking out loud here, but it did predate the chargeable Mega Buster.
  • Then we’ve got Fire. Never use Fire. Fire is a screen clearing phoenix summon that, in complete contrast with myths and legends, drains half your life on use. I don’t think there is ever once a situation in this game that needs every enemy dead that quickly, so just keep your health and shoot around randomly like a proper witch.
  • Freeze is the appropriately named ice power that will freeze enemies in place. According to the developers, this was supposed to turn enemies into useable platforms, but that was too hard to implement, so… it doesn’t. Just temporarily pause enemies that would die in three hits anyway. Another completely unrelated fun fact: Metroid was released four years earlier.
  • Ball might be the most interesting offensive option, as it allows Fran to bank magical yellow balls off walls and into enemies. Couple this with the fact that Fran can fire directly up (or more like an oblique upward angle for this item), and Ball can pretty much hit any enemy, anywhere, though is compensates for its metal blade-like efficiency with the raw damage output of a slumbering newborn.
  • Shield creates a motionless bullet wall that is an insult to the very concept of a shield. This was another weapon that was supposed to have a dual purpose with falling horizontally and then becoming a platform, but, nope, that didn’t get implemented. Most disappointingly, the exact same Shield is occasionally utilized by enemies, and it’s a lot more useful for robots that don’t have to move an inch.
  • Fly alongBroom is the best of the lot. Broom isn’t an offensive spell, though it does allow you to use your (unchargeable) Normal blast while it’s in use. Broom creates a broom platform that can then be steered left, right, or up for some excellent platforming avoidance. This Faustian bargain here is that entire sections were made from brooming around, and the best the designers could come up with was rows and rows of deadly ceiling/floor spikes. Unlimited mobility must be punished!

It’s nice that Francesca has infinite power for all these “secondary” weapons, or she might be in quite a pickle with all these Krion Empire robots hopping around. Individually, these big-eyed bots aren’t too much of a hassle, but they have a tendency to lump together very easily, and then swarm just in time for some stationary, shielded sniper to pick the poor witch off. Fran’s small reprieve is a lack of knock-back on enemy impact, but that’s balanced with the aforementioned plethora of spikes and pits across stages.

There there’s the bosses. The Robot Masters… no… that’s not right… hm… they all have number designations, right? These “Mighty Numbers” come from Alternate Caption: Fat Man takes flightthe poor side of boss design, where it’s completely standard to zoom around the screen in some invincible but generally boring pattern, and then putter about waiting to be hit before launching back into that same pattern. Repeat for far too long. My kingdom to never again have to kill time dodging continually while waiting for the one time I can use the fire button. For a more modern example, please see Hyrule Warriors. Strangely, the final bosses seem to abandon this model for some more pleasing continual, active dodge ‘n fire, but it comes far too late in a game that isn’t even really that long. Good luck getting past Mighty Number One and his ability to turn into a living laser!

And that’s Krion Conquest in a nutshell. One little witch girl against the world (of robots). Give it a go sometime, and marvel at how your instincts will tell you that something familiar/good is happening here, while you conscious shouts out in horror at the dreck that is the actual game. It’s magical.

FGC #46 Krion Conquest

  • System: NES, though apparently there’s a mobile phone port in Japan for that legion of Doropie fans.
  • Number of players: One magical girl. They could have at least thrown Boy a bone here, but, nope.
  • Difficulty: This game could be simply NES action difficult: scary at first, but you’ll learn all those traps and patterns eventually, and then kick some ro-butt; unfortunately, it was not to be, as the NA version scrapped the “continue” option, so good luck getting through the entire game on three lives and maybe an additional four 1-ups.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes, but with an infinite lives cheat so I wouldn’t have to start back at Level One every time Francesca exploded into little balls. Did I mention that? Witches, upon death, burst into little circles that fly off in eight directions.
  • ALERT ALERT ALERTMega predictions: The Krion Conquest also has a flashing “ALERT ALERT ALERT” screen before every Mighty Number, and then throws up a dossier with a “message for you from your friend’s (sic)”. Unnecessary/uninteresting “warnings” and insipid dialogue before a boss fight? Maybe Francesca can see the future, too.
  • Did you know? Apparently, the game was initially going to be titled “Francesca’s Wand” in the US. I’m almost certain that if I stop typing right now, I won’t make a masturbation joke.
  • Would I play again? The only way I would possibly go back to flicking Francesca’s wand would be if the entire Mega Man franchise had to be abolished to appease some capricious space deity, and all we were left with was The Krion Conquest. Even then, I’d probably rather play Castlevania.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Maximo! From ghost to glory, let’s get our Fall on with a visit from our good buddy, Death. Please look forward to it!

FGC #045 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters

ELITE NINJAA generation ago, it would have been absurd to even think of the phrase “my first fandom”, but now here I sit contemplating whether or not I could consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be the first fandom in my life. I wonder what the qualifications are for such a thing, as, even at the age of four, I probably qualified for #1 Voltron fan in the tri-state area. But I was, you know, four, so it was hard for me to really absorb everything that was available, or even have the slightest inkling that Voltron was a heavily modified import (“Sven didn’t die, he’s at Space Hospital,” sounds so natural to a toddler). Transformers was another biggie, but I was still shackled by my age (and generally low earning potential), so, while I never really wanted for more, all I had was the original animated series and maybe twenty different toys. I think I even missed the movie because I heard there was a swear in there.

Then there was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I want to say I got in on the ground floor of this one, but I know that isn’t true, as the original Eastman/Laird comics were decidedly not for me. But I was definitely there at the start of the action figure line, complete with the little origin comic on the back of the box that explained turtles and their rivalry with Shredder, who had originally used the ooze to poison (human) Master Splinter, but wound up creating the Turtles (and a giant rat) instead. This was the beginning of what I consider to be “following a fandom” in more ways than one.

When you’re a kid, everything is concrete and factual. There are no gray areas, there are just facts and lies. Birds fly, fish swim, your parents are always right, and thunder is your deceased Great Uncle Bernie bowling in Heaven. You’re old enough to understand that reality is reality and fiction is fiction, but fiction follows the same uniform rules as reality: everything in a proper sequence, and the beginning of the story doesn’t just change willy-nilly because it would lead to a more exciting ending.

NEVER HAPPENEDSo imagine my shock when I first saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle animated series and its origin story didn’t exactly match the story presented on the back of the five dollar toy I’d obtained on the boardwalk. I don’t know how, as there was nary an Internet to be found back then, and it wasn’t like there were (informed) news reports on the Ninja Turtles either, but at some point shortly after the premiere I received my answer: there was an old “for adults” Ninja Turtles comic, and an animated series for kids like me. And the toys themselves were an additional third pillar that didn’t have to adhere to either continuity. I didn’t know the word “continuity”, but I came to understand there could be different histories and worlds for the same turtles. It was a revelation.

The reality of story-telling is that stories change wildly over time and through authors. There’s people who don’t understand this (just google “Simpsons goofs” to find a whole host of them), but it’s a natural part of fiction that it adapts and changes to the times and audience. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles itself started as a parody of Frank Miller Daredevil comics, and from that narrow sliver of a field it evolved into a multi-million dollar child entertainment empire. It was natural that a few things were going to change along the way.

Assuming I had never learned this simple lesson years earlier, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters would have broken my brain.

The waffles aren't even that greatFirst of all, TMNTTF has three different versions across the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. We’re primarily looking at the SNES version here today (as that’s the copy I own), but it’s worth starting with the NES version. NES TMNTTF is one of the few NES fighting games (as the processor, controller, and graphics of the system were all terrible for the genre), and its roster is suitably “NES limited”, featuring the four turtles, Casey Jones, Shredder, and Hothead. Hothead is likely the name you don’t recognize there, but, even though he never appeared on the television show, he did appear as an action figure. So we’ve got a roster that at least is consistent with the toys, if not the show. Maybe you just missed his episode in the rerun schedule…

Then there’s the Genesis version. Here we have the same turtles and Casey Jones, but we’ve dropped Shredder in favor of Krang in his robot body (go find some footage of Krang fighting in this game, by the way, as he has an adorable “pugilist” fighting stance that matches that crazy body perfectly). April O’Neil also joins the fight (and this is the only version that lets her out of her yellow jumpsuit for a workout), along with Ray Fillet, a popular toy/character that popped up in an episode or two, and an unnamed Triceraton, another Animated/action figure mainstay. Then we have a completely original character, because there weren’t enough random mutants crawling around the TMNT franchise, a beetle mutant named Sisyphus who looks vaguely samurai-ish and might be a complicated, mythological poop joke. The final boss is Karai, Shredder’s successor in a lot of different media, but at this point in time, she had simply appeared in the comics series. I suppose her presence explains the lack of Shredder, but there’s no explanation for why the designers decided to pair her up with “Animated” Krang. Already we’re starting to see a game that is a desperate turtle soup of continuities, but at least it has the backdrop of Dimension X to claim “anything can happen”.

Finally, we have the SNES version. Once again, here’s the turtles, but Casey Jones has been relegated to background cameos. Also in the background but not participating: Baxter Stockman, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Poor green rhinoWho would want to play as those guys, afterall, when you can play as Chrome Dome, a Foot Clan robot that appeared in a pair of Animated episodes. Shredder is back with the moniker Cyber Shredder, but he still looks and acts like regular Shredder, so who knows what’s going on there. The official story is that Shredder has “left New York” when the game begins, so maybe this is just his life model decoy? Guess it works for Dr. Doom. Wingnut and The Rat King, both (basically) from the Animated Series and toyline, are also available. For some reason, Rat King is promoted as the winner of last year’s tournament, and has been enjoying his winnings from the luxury of his sewer lair. The footski doesn’t build itself.

Then things get weird. First, there’s Armaggon, a mutant shark, who, admittedly, would fit right in on the show, but originated from the Archie Comics. Another case of “maybe I missed that episode” in a time before Wikipedia. Also, for reasons I’m not going to get into, Armaggon is a mutant shark from the future. Have to note these important developments. Then there’s War, another Archie creation. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Archie Comics characters are more “hardcore” than their Animated counterparts, and War is here to remind you of that as he is literally one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Of course, he just kinda looks like yet another Dimension X whatzit, so pretty par for the course for Ninja Turtles.

It's like having a dinosaur between your legsAnd then there’s the most… lurid character: Aska. Aska, like her beetle buddy on the Genesis, is a completely original Konami creation. She’s also not wearing pants. She’s basically wearing a swimsuit with thigh high boots, and in the Japanese version, that swimsuit has morphed into a thong. Her primary attack is tossing herself butt-first at her opponent, or performing a vaulting split that catches the enemy between her thighs before smashing them to the ground. She kicks high. Nowadays, she’d just be labeled as the “sex appeal” character, and we’d call it a day, but back in ’93 it was downright puzzling. Hell, it’s still pretty quizzical, given the TMNT franchise wasn’t exactly a bastion of maturity at the time (or would ever be). In a game where a radical, pizza-loving turtle hurls “dragon breath” at a mutant shark from the future, here’s a Japanese teenage dream trying to raise money for her dojo. It’s a neat trick that the most mundane, bland fighting character in the game also winds up being the most incongruous.

As in the Genesis version, Kairi is the final boss, and, perhaps as an apology from the producers, she’s presented about as sexily as Raphael (maybe even less, after all, Raphael is mostly naked). There’s at least an in-game explanation this time around confirming that Kairi is the leader of the Foot Clan now, so maybe the less comic-inclined fans would just assume this tournament takes place in the future? Doesn’t explain why all the Animated characters are just hanging out in the background, but, hey, you didn’t hit start for the story, you came to play as that weird purple guy about which you know nothing.

SPIN TO VICTORYThe Super Nintendo version, as often happened during this era, is the far-superior game. Both the NES and Genesis versions have a measly two attack buttons, so the simple improvement of having a King of Fighters-esque four button attack option is a boon for the SNES edition. But the NES and Genesis games both have a much more familiar roster. Casey Jones is a lynchpin in the TMNT franchise, and he’s just a background element on the SNES, where a space bat takes center stage. Bebop and Rocksteady are absent from all rosters, which is a travesty, as, come on, I could create a moveset for a bipedal rhino in my sleep. And Splinter, a karate master that can put Shredder to shame, plays the part of captive in two out of three games. Forget Ms. Fanservice, a modern release of this game would have been wall-to-wall “characters you actually want” DLC.

But it was released in the twentieth century, around when I was eleven, so you better believe I played it like the controller was glued to my hands. Yes, I would have rather played a game with a playable Krang or Baxter Stockman, but I acknowledged that there were other characters in the TMNT universe, ones that I didn’t know about, and I accepted them. I was a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no matter the medium or characters, and would enjoy anything that came my way, canon be damned. Turtle, shark, or spiked scaly thing, all are welcome.

You always have a softspot for your first.

FGC #45 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters

  • System: Were you paying attention? NES, SNES, and Genesis. SNES is what you’re looking at for the article, though.
  • Number of players: 2. Well, technically you can get a tournament going with more players, but only two at one time.
  • Version Differences: I already pretty much covered them, but let’s note that the NES version requires a “powerup” to do any useful special moves. The NES was not made for fighting games, cannot stress that enough.
  • Favorite Fighter: War, huh, what is he good for? Absolutely wreckin’ stuff. Huh! Good God, ya’all.
  • Difficulty: Oh yeah, every version of this game is adamantium hard. Like, beating the game on Difficulty 3 is difficult, and Difficulty 7 is just impossible. It’s one of those lovely fighting games before the advent of combos where you just have to throw out a bunch of fireballs and hope for the best.
  • Because he's a batKonami Code: Wingnut is a bat from deep space, or another dimension, or something. His favorite videogame is listed as Castlevania 2099. Oh, what I’d give to see Castlevania relevant through 2099…
  • What does it mean to be a TMNT fan from the 80’s? Yes, TMNT has my obsession for much of my childhood (which seems longer when it’s happening). Barring some of the ultra rarities, I probably have every TMNT action figure and vehicle thanks to a combination of generous grandparents and various holidays. And this isn’t past tense, as I am incapable of letting anything go, I have a good couple of tubs of the guys. There’s no way any kind of “resale” money could outweigh the value of just knowing where Monty Moose is in my home.
  • Glad you got over that kind of behavior: I know, right? By the way, anybody know the next time I need to line up outside Target at 5 AM for amiibos? I’m a Falco away from completion, and I’m trying to plan my week.
  • Did you know? The Genesis version is the only one that doesn’t allow the player to control the bosses. This is a great loss for anyone that wants a playable Krang, but it seems fair to keep Kairi out of the hands of player vs. player, as she can drain an entire life bar with approximately three hits. Did I mention this game is stupidly hard?
  • Would I play again? Behind the arcade games, this might be my favorite TMNT game, so it does wind up on my big screen every once in a while. I never play it for very long, but it’s charming enough to flail around with Donny on occasion.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Krion Conquest for the NES. Never heard of that game? That’s okay, let’s just say… it’s a literal slap in the face. Please look forward to it!


Kingdom Hearts FAQ #12: Titles

A door to knowledge?Q. Why did they number the Kingdom Hearts games so dumb and weird?

A. Here are the ridiculous title explanations you were waiting for.

Kingdom Hearts, aka Kingdom Heats 1, is the most straightforward of the bunch. As a reminder, yes, Kingdom Hearts is revealed to be an actual object in the game/series, and is not just some random nonsense title. Gilgamesh is not searching the multiverse for the Final Fantasy, and Benjamin does not live in Final Fantasy, USA.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the Gameboy Advance game that was kind of a retelling of Kingdom Hearts 1, kind of its own original story. So, the “Chain of Memories” is a gentle reminder that you’ve seen everything in this game once already, and a descriptor for how the plot of the game involves Naminé, the slave witch, altering Sora’s memories by inserting herself into key moments. She is breaking Sora’s chain of memories, while you are trying to get a chain combo going through your own memories of a game you already played. Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories was the PS2 remake of the game that has a title based on an email subject misunderstanding.

Quirky?Kingdom Hearts 2 is the sequel to Kingdom Hearts, and the last time we saw a straightforward title in this series (it’s been almost a decade!). The “2” here could also be a clever reference to the fact that Sora and Kairi are both accidentally duplicated for the entirety of the game (Roxas and Naminé, respectively), or how Sora wields a pair of keyblades during special occasions. Also, every world winds up getting visited twice, so Kingdom Hearts 2 is twice as padded as Kingdom Hearts 1.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the DS is where we start sliding off the rails forever. This impossible to abbreviate title features Roxas (Sora clone) and new character Xion (… also a Sora clone) palling around with Organization XIII for the period of time between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. We’re talking about 358 Days, and since the relationship between Roxas and Xion is central to the plot, it is 358 days divided by two people. Also, a DS screen can be used by better games (thinking of Contra 4 here) as a sort of giant screen divided into two. It all adds up to KH358/2D being titled unusually so as to discourage people from playing that turd.

LIAR!Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is the prequel of the series, thus the whole “Birth” thing. Aggravatingly, this is not the origin story of the main villain of the series, Xehanort, so we’re probably going to see another, earlier prequel somewhere down the line to cover the Birth of Darkness. Interestingly, while this game is mostly in media res because someone lost the ability to tell stories with concrete beginnings, the game does open with the literal birth of Sora, which causes Ven, an identical cousin of Sora, to awaken from a deep sleep. The game is then bookended with Ven knocking back into a coma while his heart flutters off to hang out with child Sora, so “Birth by Sleep” actually makes a sort of sideways sense. If you squint. Note that, thanks to its plot placement before Kingdom Hearts 1, BBS is sometimes referred to as Kingdom Hearts 0, which will be important in a moment.

Kingdom Hearts Coded was a damn episodic cell phone game that got rereleased as a complete DS game named Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. This is the story of Mickey Mouse trying to get with the times and digitizing Jiminy Cricket’s dusty old journal which, naturally, leads to the world nearly being destroyed, because technology is scary and somehow scanning a book creates sentient life, most of it malevolent. “Coded” is referring to the scanning (coding) process here, and “code” is also a synonym for “puzzle” according to Word’s thesaurus, which alludes to the fact that this is a puzzle game. “Re:coded” is just what those whacky programmers were complaining about when they were informed the game would be reheated for the DS.

When your hero doesn't understand...Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is just… ugh… still mad at this one. First of all, yes, if you abbreviate the title, it just appears as Kingdom Hearts 3, which we… *cough*… I mean fans have been clamoring for since Kingdom Hearts 2 six years prior. Now, to be annoyed by the very next letter, it’s “3D” not just because it’s in 3-D, but because the subtitle is three sequential D’s: Dream Drop Distance, which is a previously unmentioned keyblade ability that allows the user to drop into the dreams of the heart… which are… just regular dreams. Anyway, to the game’s credit, it does continue the “story” of Kingdom Hearts, so it did work out like a pseudo-Kingdom Hearts 3. Of course, now we’re all excited about the real Kingdom Hearts 3, and nobody cares about the 3DS anymore, so let’s resubtitle the game as 2.8, since we already used 2.5 for the Kingdom Hearts 2 HD release, and we can’t exceed three. There are an infinite amount of numbers between two and three, and I’m betting 2.9 is reserved for some kind of prologue cell phone game released three months before KH3. Or a paid demo! The possibilities are endless!

Speaking of lousy promotional games, Kingdom Hearts χ was a browser based game set ages before the events of any given Kingdom Hearts, pre-Keyblade War, which was fought over the χ-blade. For those of you without a doctorate in Kingdom Hearts History, this would be akin to setting a Star Wars game a thousand years before the birth of Chewbacca. Kingdom Hearts χ is a nothing of a game, basically meant for playing around the Kingdom Hearts universe while your boss is off hitting on Debra in accounting (think about it, Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002, the teens that played that game and bought Nobody hoodies and custom zippers are well into their cubicles today). There were a few inklings of the plot in there, though, so those scenes are being repackaged as the movie Kingdom Hearts χ in the new set, like 358/2 Days in KH1.5HD and Re:Coded in KH2.5HD. Wow, Team Kingdom Hearts really has this down to a science.

And χ is pronounced “key”, of course.

Moving right alongFinally, we have Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (KH0) ends with Aqua sucked into the Realm of Darkness, which is also where a whale of a lot of worlds also wound up during the time period between BBS and Kingdom Hearts 1. This means that we can just reuse Aqua’s BBS HD Remake model and animations to explore a whole host of “lost” worlds that are just reused assets from previous KH games modified to a darker palette for inclusion in the Realm of Darkness. It’ll be Birth by Sleep 0.2 alright, as the whole game will likely involve two new worlds, one new Square guest star (let’s say… Laguna?), and the other 80% will be stuff we’ve already seen.

I’ll buy it day one.

Q. Any handy visual aids available for the series?

A. Here’s the boxart for Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD

The Whole Gang

Highlighted below are all the characters that are, or have ever been, Sora.

The Soras

Now here are all the characters that are, or have ever been, Xehanort.

The Xehanorts

And, finally, here are all the characters that are… female.

Kinda Lonely

That help?

FGC #044 Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings

Pretend to be a winnerHistory has proven many things: you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, you can’t walk 500 miles by tonight, and you can’t make Izzy happen. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put an Olympic Mascot like this back together again. Not that they ever tried.

Izzy was born in 1991, created by John Ryan of the incredibly trendy sounding DESIGNefx. This was an auspicious beginning for the young whatizit, as, clearly, this was a creature designed by committee to appeal to the masses. Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, even more contemporary creations like Finn the Human are timeless creations that could also have been birthed from a child’s notebook margins; Izzy was made to be cute and appealing, but was neither. Izzy was officially unveiled during the finale of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the attending crowd didn’t know if that loud farting noise was part of the creature’s shtick or the sound of the universe audibly mocking its least favored creation. Bad news, guys, it can be two things.

Atlanta had a short four years to polish the big, blue turd into a shiny state of at least tolerability for the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and, bad news, they couldn’t pull it off. Among various other attempts to make Izzy a friend to children, there was an Izzy rollercoaster in Bush Gardens Williamsburg, an animated movie on TNT featuring noted Ninja Turtle Rob Paulsen as Izzy’s Dad (fictional dad, not the ad man that actually birthed him), and a trio of video games. The final game was an adventure affair for PC that didn’t see release until 1996, but the twins that were released in 1995 were a pair platformers created by “US Gold” and “Alexandria” for the SNES and Genesis. For the curious, US Gold was a game publishing company that published a number of Olympics based games up through 1996 (probably not a coincidence), and also was responsible for the PC ports of a number of Capcom games, like Final Fight and Street Fighter 2. They were also based in the UK, which raises questions. Alexandria, meanwhile, is a complete mystery due to its difficult to google name, so let’s assume they’re a legion of undead skeleton programmers who walk the Earth during lunar eclipses and animate mascot platformers when they get bored.

The chaseIzzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings, as previously mentioned, was a mascot platformer, which was basically the baseline videogame of the time. Izzy himself went through a number of physical permutations throughout his lifespan, but it’s likely no accident that, by the time he decided to hit the 16-Bit world, he was a svelte, athletic blue creature with prominent red sneakers. Izzy graduated from the Bubsy school of platforming: he was destined to parade around poorly designed, repetitive worlds with his only reliable offensive maneuver limited to hopping on the same three or four hastily designed creatures. The Olympics is Greek, right? Here’s a medusa! You don’t get more Greek than Medusa, right? And how about a fire guy? Fire is an Olympic thing, too! Oh yes, before I forget, the plot of the game is that “The Ring Guardians” (who, let’s think about this, are probably guarding the rings for a reason) have decided to stick to their title and are guarding the Olympic Rings from Izzy, who wants to return the rings to Atlanta, because otherwise there would be no Olympics, and Ted Turner would be most cross. So off Izzy goes, jumping and climbing and losing an entire dimension in an effort to prove himself useful to his Olympic handlers.

Izzy has one other arrow in his quiver, and it’s the amazing power to turn into the Olympics. Well, nothing quite as amazing as that sounds, simply the ability to morph into various 2-D interpretations of Olympic events. “Fencing” creates a straightforward, sword-adept Izzy, while the shot put is swung over Izzy’s head to create a helicopter effect. There’s also a skateboard, because it’s a 90’s platformer, and the rocket transformation, because… someone on the team liked autoscrolling bonus stages? Was there a “space” component to the ’96 Olympic Games? Could… could someone look into that? Could someone make that happen?

ZOOOMIf I’m not being clear, Izzy wasn’t any good. Erm… Talking about the game this time, not the terrible mascot. It’s kind of weird, too, because US Gold was known for making Olympic based sports games, so, assuming that’s the one thing US Gold was good at, why didn’t they just take the route of going with what they know? You can’t blame Izzy’s utter lack of popularity on everything, I feel like if you got even just one or two popular mascots together, forced them to compete in the Olympic Games, and then just plotted everything after the real Olympics, you might have a hit on your hands. Hell, maybe you could still include a blue mascot in red sneakers. I realize this line of thinking is a mere pipedream, as I doubt any worthwhile game company would bother with the Olympic license nowadays, but maybe there could be a popular franchise to grow out of the oldest global sporting event in human history. Hell, it’s not like people line up to buy the same stupid sports game year after year. Nobody who likes videogames likes sports.

Perhaps Izzy (back to talking about the mascot) was simply not meant to be. Izzy was followed by The Snowlets, a quartet of adorable owls that look less like they were designed by committee and more like something that would be seen on a proud parent’s refrigerator (even if they share a similar corporate origin). Later mascots seemed to follow suit, with the next American mascots looking very much like a trio of vaguely anime-ish Hanna Barbera characters. Perhaps to stave off the focused failure of Izzy, nearly all Olympic mascots since ’96 have been “groups”, Toastysave WENLOCK, THE ALL-SEEING EYE, LONG MAY HIS GAZE LINGER ON THE DIVINE of the 2012 London Olympics. Izzy seems to have become a cautionary tale for Olympic Wranglers: never put all your eggs in one blue blob of a basket.

Izzy was terrible. Izzy’s game was terrible. But, since we’ll never see a game based on the adventures Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat, he’s about all we’ve got for Olympic Mascot platformers. Aero? Bubsy? You now have a buddy in mediocrity that can turn into a javelin. Try not to poke an eye out.

FGC #44 Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings

  • System: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis.
  • Number of players: The can be only one Izzy.
  • Version Differences: Wow, yeah, I can barely play twelve minutes of this on the SNES. Let’s assume the Sega Genesis version was equally bad. That’s probably accurate.
  • Could you check Youtube or something? Oh, fine. Oh, yeah, look, it is exactly the same. Geez, Izzy has the stupidest walking animation. Maybe that’s the source of the failure here: he’s the main character, and I just want to see him fail… or at least get hit in the face with a boot. Worn or unworn, doesn’t matter.
  • Any ’96 Olympics Memories? There’s a really popular pizza place by here that everyone raves about, but I’ve never been a big fan (and I live in an area with absolutely no lack of good pizza places). I remember distinctly the last time I was in said popular pizza place, the ’96 Olympics was on the TV, so I can very accurately recall the last time I ate there. That… is about how much I’ve ever paid attention to the Olympics.
  • Test it allFavorite Olympic Mascot? Miga, the 2010 Canadian “Mythical Sea Bear” that is a cross between a bear and an orca, and is possibly the best thing to ever come out of the Olympics. Aw, she has a lil’ scarf and enjoys surfing. Miga, you are the anti-Izzy.
  • Did you know? There’s a sort of “animation test” feature available right from the options menu of Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings. It’s kind of neat to see that a lot of effort was put into making Izzy at least remotely memorable in his movements and “morphs”. It’s less neat to notice that maybe this is where the entire game’s budget wound up getting flushed.
  • Would I play again? Complete disclosure? This might be the least I’ve played any FGC game thus far. It’s not even that it’s particularly bad (which it is), it’s just so repetitive and boring. I would liken it to driving through the most boring state (or province, Miga) you can name. That is not something I want to do for recreation.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters for the SNES. Now there’s a palette cleanser! Let’s get some Wingnut vs. Shredder action going for the good of turtle power. Please look forward to it!