Monthly Archives: January 2016

Xenosaga Episode I Part 09: Here Comes a Special Boy

Previously on Xenosaga: Nearly the entire playable cast got together on the Elsa, so now they’re gonna sit around with their hands under their butts waiting for number six. Number six? Please take the stage.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

Then a strange thing happened.

Alright, here’s our newbie, Junior, and he’s riding in a mech the size of an elephant, or something. Scale is terrible out in space, but this thing has a leg up on the meager AGWS I keep ignoring.

From Baum to Shakespeare. At least our new hero is well-read.

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

Yeah, subtly call your subordinates stupid. It’s the Allen School of Management!
Click for more witty banter!

FGC #088 Skullgirls

All dem skullgirlsSomething that seems to get lost in video games is that video games are made by actual people.

Novels, traditionally written by one person, seem to get the most human recognition for their authors. J.K Rowling, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman are likely to have their name showcased on their works larger than the actual title, and, even though a Google search for “famous authors” returns a plethora of black and white images of white men that died centuries ago, there’s still a very firm “authorial intent” grasp around novels, magazines, and even blogs. Movies aren’t far off, but they’re primarily featuring the actors or directors, as opposed to the actual writers (or anyone else). What is Spielberg trying to say with Transformers 2? That he’s the executive producer and likes cashing checks. Television shows are even further down on that totem pole. A lot of shows just seem to… happen, and it’s only when there’s a dramatic hit that someone looks behind the curtain. Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston elevated Breaking Bad to lofty levels, but I can’t name a single director, writer, or actor from Malcolm in the Middle.

Video games, like movies and TV shows, require gigantic groups of people to produce a final product; but the sad thing is that there has to be a cut-off for the national consciousness. I have a hard enough time remembering the names of my second cousins and grand uncles, there’s no way I’m going to remember the name of the guy that worked as a key grip on four out of five of my top movies. Hell, I’ve got laundry to do today, I barely have the time to remember what a key grip is. So it’s no great surprise when even a remotely interested public can’t remember the name of that dude who translated half the games that came out of Japan for a year, or the woman that was responsible for modeling proper spandex textures for every Madden game. It’s a thankless business (and I’m talking about any media production here, to be clear) for anyone not distinctly at the top, and, even if your résumé is as long as your arm, nobody is signing up for your fan club anytime soon.

Which, seriously, is a gigantic shame when it comes to video games. Video games, as they’ve grown from “I whipped up a tic tac toe app over lunch” to “a team of thousands are here to animate Lightning’s hair” have also grown alongside the internet. The internet that was once a collection of nerds sharing risqué photos of Gillian Anderson over 28.8 has now become a pulsing wad of hypergeeks posting upskirt photos of Jennifer Lawrence. Wait, no. What I mean is that now, more than ever before, there is the possibility of connection between creators and consumers through the information superhighway, and that highway has done nothing but expand as video games rose to prominence. From a historical perspective, you’d expect this parallel growth could lead to VG creators becoming the rockstars of the cyber generation, but, no, we already have Strike up the bandrockstars, and movie stars, and People Magazine, so, sorry, even with the internet, the Famous People Boat has already reached maximum occupancy, and it sailed out to sea a long time ago.

And to stave off any random comments to the contrary, yes, I am aware there are famous video game directors and writers and artists, but go ahead and tell me that Shigeru Miyamoto holds the same cultural clout as, I don’t know, Sammy Hagar. Tell me Hideo Kojima could have his own reality show. I’m pretty sure Stan Lee has had seven. Oh, wait, my bad, should I be naming more Western video game producers? Sure. Give me the name of someone that worked on Grand Theft Auto V. I just googled “grand theft auto 5 credits”, and the first three links are people complaining about the length of ‘em. “Rockstar Games made Grand Theft Auto”, okay, sure, who is Rockstar Games?

Why am I yelling at clouds over this one? Because Skullgirls is a damn treasure.

As has been discussed before, I like anime. I also like women. I’m a heterosexual male, and I am wired to appreciate the female form. I also was primarily raised by my mother, my father, and Voltron: Defender of the Universe. As a result, I’m a cat person, and I love color. Brown, gray, and off-brown are all fine colors, but you’re reading the words of a man that painted every room in his home a different, generally bright color. My “entertainment room” is deep violet, because I wanted something dark enough to create a “movie theatre” experience, but damned if I was going to paint the room black. And it allows me to call the place “The Violet Room”, which makes me chuckle to myself every time, even though no one ever gets it.

Point is that, out of the gate, the aesthetic of Skullgirls was going to appeal to me.

She looks like funThat said, there are plenty of “anime fighters” out there. Seriously, check PSN sometime, and you’ll find not only luminaries like Guilty Gear and Blazblue, but an entire catbus full of lesser fighters that seem to be based off whatever may have been lying around the production office that week. Arcana Hearts is a continuing series based on schoolgirls battling it out for… some reason… and at least one of them is wearing a child’s swimsuit and manipulating a gigantic ball of ooze. Or there’s Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, which is a dream match (literally, given the plot) of various manga/anime stars, featuring characters from series like Sword Art Online and A Certain Scientific Railgun. It’s not a bad game, just pretty haphazard with its kitchen sink approach to… well… everything. And rounding out ridiculous anime fighting games I can name right off the top of my head is Under Night In-Birth.Exe: Late, a perfectly competent anime fighter that reeks of “you’re supposed to play this forever and learn all the little nuances”, but doesn’t offer a single compelling character. Like, that’s cool an’ all, but I just don’t feel like dedicating my life to learning how to properly utilize Random Special Japanese School Boy #4,821 when Blanka is right over there. He learned how to generate electricity from eels! It’s kind of amazing that the “anime fighter” genre was so clearly and easily parodied by Waku Waku 7 approximately a million years ago, but here we are again, watching the same tired tropes battle it out for a piece of toast.

And you know what? There might not be anything original in Skullgirls, either. Filia has been plainly stated to be an “homage” to Millia of Guilty Gear, another follically-based fighter. Cerebella is equal parts Robin and Harley Quinn. Big Band is just a noir, cyborg detective with a penchant for brass knuckles. Painwheel and Soul Calibur’s Voldo are clearly pen pals. In a way, yes, this is just another anime fighter with cute girls beating up other cute girls in an effort to win one true wish. It’s practically Fighting Game 101, with a final boss that escaped from Castlevania.

But the devil is in the details. Like pretty much every other article on this site (give or take a Let’s Play), I’m tapping out this article while completely divorced from the game at hand. Yes, I’ve played it recently, but I’ve also done a number of things since then, so it’s not like I jumped over to the keyboard moments after putting down the controller. That said, SKULLSwithout assistance, I could name and describe every last playable character in this game inside of thirty seconds right now. No cheat sheet, no missing Double, and even including the later DLC characters, I could hammer out a detailed list of all these girls (and two guys). This is important because I have approximately no memory for that kind of thing. Tekken is cool and all, but past “there’s a bear and usually a robot”, I can barely tell one karate man from another unless they’re right there on the screen in front of me. Skullgirls? I know the Skullgirls.

And the last time I could say that about a fighting game was Street Fighter 2.

(Okay, if I’m being completely honest, this is also true of the Persona fighting games, but there are mitigating circumstances.)

And, to be absolutely clear, this is not a result of Filia having just the right hip proportions or Marie being that visually distinct for a skele-creature. No, it’s not because I’ve run through story mode enough to convince myself I understand these characters. And, no, it’s not because of spending way too much time in versus matches against friends/online enemies. No, it’s not any one thing, it’s that all of these factors gestalt together into a tremendous whole that makes every last character in this game distinct beyond reason. I took a glance at Filia and Cerebella’s basic movesets just now, and, with the exception of one move (Princess Cut, incidentally), there’s not a single move that doesn’t distinctly belong to its owner. Down to the minutia of even move names, these characters are rigidly defined, so there’s not a generic “fireball” or “spin kick” to be found.

That’s even before we get into the insanity that is a myriad of endearing details. Like every Fighting Game, each character has a variety of color swaps available. Unlike every fighter, though, every single one of these colors has a distinct story or homage, and is not simply GET IT!?“let’s make Dhalsim blue now”. One out of a hundred matches will start with the statement that “the guerilla fate is yearning”, a delightful easter egg for anyone that’s played 10,000 hours of Blazblue with its one and only battle intro. Story modes actually involve stories, and not just two pictures and a paragraph that explains Mike Haggar went on to become President. Skullgirls is dripping with detail and facets upon facets.

And, yes, even without all the little things that make life great, it would still be a great, dependable Fighting Game, too.

And someone, sometime had to make everything here.

When I first considered this article, I thought about basically what you’ve already read up to this point, and then realized, “Wow, I know nothing about the people that made this game.” Okay, that’s not completely true. I knew about Mike Z’s involvement, but that’s only thanks to random bleed from watching youtubed fighting tournaments. Beyond that, I just knew that Skullgirls came out of “Lab Zero Games”, which, like, Rockstar Games, could be anyone on Earth. And, yes, I knew about the kickstarters (not kickstarters) for this game, dlc, and other, future Lab Zero games, but, again, this wasn’t Mike Z asking an audience for funding. No, it was Lab Zero Games again, which is fine, but it’s about as “human” as complimenting Friend Computer. I don’t want to talk to Microsoft Support, I want to get Bill Gates on the line!

So you know what? Screw it. I’m tired of just writing about Skullgirls being great. Yeah, it’s subjective, and you might not be a fan of short skirts and long trombones, but this game tickles my fancy in all the right places, so I’m closing this article out with a thank you to the people that actually made this game.

Thank you, Mike Zaimont, for making this game move, and infusing it with more Fighting Game Squidly Bitsreferences than should be allowed.

Thank you, Alex Ahad, for sketching Filia in the margins of your notebooks until she became a real girl that can occasionally defeat eldritch horrors.

Thank you, Benjamin Moise, for stringing together enough if/then statements to allow a cat girl to break into pieces and come back together again, give or take a head.

Thank you, Michiru Yamane, for the training music that will likely be stuck in my head until the end of time.

Thank you, every person involved in creating Skullgirls, and all the people I likely ignored when I possibly misattributed tasks to the people already named. You made one hell of a game, and I’m nobody, but somebody should recognize you for it.

FGC #88 Skullgirls

  • System: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, PC. No portable version? Meh, just as well. I’d probably destroy the poor Vita’s gamepad, anyway.
  • Number of players: It’s a Fighting Game, so you can guess this one. Hint: It rhymes with “boo”.
  • Port o’ Call: The different versions of Skullgirls, legal issues aside, basically exist as “Super Turbo 2: Champion Edition” progression, so I can’t say there’s any reason to go for an earlier version. I highly recommend the PS4 version (featured in this review), because the voice acting really adds a certain… believability to the talking cat robot.
  • Memories: Even if this game wasn’t any good (which it is!), I’d probably still have fond memories of the thing, because it was released just as I was moving into my current abode. As a result of the move (before and after), pretty much my entire life was in boxes, and all my usual sources of entertainment boxed with it. OwieA wonderful, detailed, downloaded game was exactly what I needed on my PS3, and that’s exactly what I got. I can still remember attempting to master Cerebella while sitting on over-stuffed apple boxes.
  • Launch Woes: But it wasn’t all good! Skullgirls has dramatically improved over its iterations, and the initial launch definitely felt lacking. It didn’t feel bad, mind you, simply that things like team mode seemed woefully incomplete with only 8 characters. The art gallery wouldn’t be unlocked for years, and character move lists were available online… on a site that had already cracked under the pressure. But it got better!
  • Favorite Character: Alright, I appreciate Filia’s character design, but I’ve never been a big fan of how she plays. I mean, I can see how she “works”, but it’s not my favorite playstyle, so I don’t traditionally use her. Fukua, meanwhile, I adore, and she’s a “my favorite color” swap of Filia’s design, so we have a winner. Yes, I know she’s a joke character, but I was also a big fan of Reptile back in the day, so it makes a certain kind of sense.
  • Umbrella? I do not care for Umbrella.
  • Did you know? Peacock’s two bomb buddies, George and Lonesome Lenny, are obviously a reference to Of Mice and Men (and any Tex Avery characters of the same names), but they were originally known as Little Boy and Fat Man, which would be the same names as the atomic bombs dropped over Japan at the end of World War II. Before release, someone finally noticed that this might be a tweak insensitive, but you can still find a reference or two to their old names floating about.
  • Would I play again: I hate to say it, but this is my favorite fighting game of the PS3 console generation. Yes, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is right there, and that game is great for playing with people who have not dedicated hours of their lives to frame cancels, but when it’s just me, a controller, and a hankerin’ for a fight, it’s going to be Skullgirls. Why does that statement sound moderately embarrassing?

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Road Runner for the NES. That’s… odd. I remember the SNES version, but there was a NES game, too? Guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!

Night night

FGC #087 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

What I did on my Summer Vacation by Adrian F Tepes: Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4

FGC #87 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

  • System: Playstation to start, but then it wound up on PSP (by way of another game), Vita, and Playstation 3/Xbox 360. There was also a Saturn version that does not in any way count. Interestingly, this means the Vita has two different versions (PSX/PSP) on one system.
  • Number of Players: Wouldn’t it be cool if a second controller could steer your familiars around? That wouldn’t be game breaking, would it? Bah, until that glorious day, just one player.
  • Port o’ Call: The Playstation version is the base, and that’s what’s been ported to future systems. The Saturn version features a playable (and fightable) Maria, and two new areas that add Crashabsolutely nothing to the game, but seemed like the coolest places in the universe back when importing was impossible(ly expensive). The PSP version, itself an unlockable in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, has a playable/fightable Maria, but she has totally different moves from her Saturn incarnation. And, of course, the Saturn areas have returned to the graveyard. Given the PSP game is on the PSP, that makes it kind of hard to choose a definitive version. Like, I like Maria and all, but I like proper proportions better.
  • Favorite Castle Denizen: Beelzebub drives me nuts. Dracula just decided to have a hanging, giant corpse in his upside-down castle? Why is he there? Do the flies know what they’re doing? Does Beelzebub summon them deliberately? How long can he operate without a head? So many questions for a boss that most people just randomly stumble into (and are then poisoned to death immediately).
  • Sword Problems: Has anyone ever gotten the Sword Familiar (or any familiar) up to Level 50 without dedicated grinding? I equip that dude the minute I find him, and he’s still barely level 20 by the time castles are falling.
  • Stumble into Success: From Iga’s own mouth, the claim has always been that Symphony of the Night was an attempt to ape The Legend of Zelda more than Super Metroid. Honestly, this makes sense for a lot of reasons, chief among them would be a Japanese developer copying Metroid over Zelda would be like a Western developer copying Dragon Quest over Final Fantasy. And, yes, there’s a lot of shared DNA between Alucard acquiring new movement “spells” and Link gaining new movement “items”. Does this mean the “Metroidvania” genre was created almost by accident, and each subsequent “Igavania” was an attempt to mimic a genre that wasn’t understood in the first place? Only the Librarian knows for sure…
  • Crash x 2Did you know? At over 50 MB, Symphony of the Night was once one of the largest games on the Xbox 360 Arcade service. I just downloaded a 7600 MB game the other day… and I got it for free!
  • Would I play again: Yes. A thousand times yes. Big gigantic yes. One of the most firm yes’s that has ever been on the site. That’s a yes, if you’re not paying attention.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Skullgirls! Guess I’ll tackle the most recent version, so you can see all your favorite Skullgirls like Beowulf and Big Band. Please look forward to it!

FGC #086 Archer Maclean’s Mercury

ShinyThis is FGC #86. As we rapidly approach FGC #100, anyone that has been reading this site from the beginning (or even, like ten posts back) has likely already picked up on a number of my writing “ticks”. For one thing, I have a tendency to use quotes “completely” randomly. Also (and this has always been a problem), I’m a big fan of parenthesis. I’d probably use footnotes, but those kind of suck for websites. Wait for Gogglebob.com: The Hard Cover for that. And, of course, I’ve ignored every English Teacher I’ve ever had and completely dropped any pretense of avoiding the first person voice when composing a persuasive essay. I just don’t like it!

Even beyond literacy issues, you’ve also likely noted what I seem to notice in games journaling. I always note a game’s system, not only because it’s important to finding the game, but also because saying “Sega Saturn game” or “Playstation 4 game” denote wildly different things for not only graphics, but also storytelling and tutorial usage. Similarly, I always note the number of players a game has, because a crummy “story mode” may be redeemed by an exciting multiplayer mode, or what could be a simple one player game may be marred by a soldered on death match mode. Beyond that, I have a tendency to log favorite characters or stages, because that usually puts me in a good mood (or at least encourages me to say something positive about a turd of a game). And the “Did you know?” question is an excuse for me to research the featured game for more than just five minutes, and attempt to turn up something that makes the game unique. Or I just prattle on about some comic book trivia. Either way works.

“Would I play again” is the most important bullet point in my mind. I’m not one to worry about metacritic or similar “please assign a numerical value to this game” type reviews. As you can probably guess due to my chronic aptitude to vomit words all over the place with reckless abandon, I actually prefer reading long, detailed reviews that outline exactly why a game is good or bad. But, yes, sometimes I want a straightforward, final “Is it good?” and I feel like asking the question of “would I play again?” neatly summarizes my feelings for a game. When you get right down to it, that’s what’s important about a video game: sure, it’s good, but how likely are you to ever pop it in ever again? We have mountains of entertainment media available to us, and, since we only have so much time on this planet, what’s the point in playing games that are best described as “Bubsy-esque”?

And, be honest, how many bosses/levels/side quests/etc. have you completed, and then exclaimed, “Boy! I’m glad I never have to do that again!”

However, with all the things I tend to mention, one thing I generally do not note is the “genre” of any given video game. And there’s a particular reason for this: I have no ability to distinguish video game genres.

This isn’t to say I don’t try. As I’ve made oblique references to in the past, I have a database of all my (preeeeecious) video games; a complete inventory that allows me to, at any time, remember if I own Get away!Ducktales 2 or not (hey, I do!). Honestly, that’s pretty much how it started, because when you start collecting video games, you roll up to a “new” retro game store, excitedly exclaim “Oh man, Final Fight 2! I loved this game when I rented it!” get it home, and then put it with your other six copies of Final Fight 2. Actually, I’ve privately referred to this as “Disney Franchise Syndrome”, because I have a tendency to say things like “Ha, the Lion King for SNES is only five bucks. That was a fun movie, so why not?” and… well… without the database, I’d be able to build furniture out of Goof Troop cartridges. And while the database’s main job is to save me from my own first world problems, it also provides the very valuable service of naturally sorting all my games. My main indexes are by system, then genre, and then alphabet. So if I can remember all that easily, it’s a great way to find Silent Hill on a foggy day.

So, yes, privately I “define” the genres of different games, but I feel like my own sorting methods are not ready for the outside world. I’ve seen wars fought over JRPG vs. TRPG vs. WRPG, and I have no desire to join the fray to die on some hill gasping that Donkey Kong Country is not that distinct from Sonic the Hedgehog.

But, hey, we’re a good 80 or so entries into the site now, so I may as well share my own madness. Remember, this is a safe space (for me), so try not to be offended when I misfile a favorite game.

Action is my “catch all” category, and, conveniently, alphabetically first. This contains basically any game where you’re a dude (or, rarely, dudette) that has the capability of jumping, attacking, and moving forward, whether it be in a 3-D or 2-D space. As I said, this means a lot of games fall into the Action slot, from Yo! Noid on the NES to Mario Clash on the Virtual Boy to Ghostbusters on Xbox 360. Additionally, because I have a clear and overwhelming addiction, pretty much any game that I haven’t actually played, but looks like it might fit thanks to box screenshots, winds up in this category until proven otherwise.

Right?Platformer has a lot of overlap with Action, but my definition of a platformer game is, basically, “is a weapon your main offensive move?” If you have a whip, sword, or blaster, you’re playing an action game. If your primary offense is jumping on, over, or around enemies, then you’ve got a platformer on your hands. If I’m being honest, this genre exists almost entirely because I wanted to distinguish Mega Man gameplay from Super Mario gameplay, but considering platformers seem to be more easily accessible and deliberately less convoluted than Action games of the modern age, I’m happy there’s the division. In my head, Platformers include pretty much all of the Super Mario Bros. games (random exception already mentioned), most Sonic the Hedgehog games (go away, Shadow), and, for a more modern example, Little Big Planet.

FPS, to me, is any action game that has thrown the view back into the head of the protagonist. Honestly, I sort this genre as such because I’ve never been a gigantic fan of that (I really need peripheral vision), and it’s almost become a quarantine genre. This may be entirely the fault of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and early Doom builds. It’s not like I don’t enjoy anything I consider to be a FPS, though, as Metroid Prime Trilogy and Bioshock Infinite are among my favorite games.

Shooters or Shoot ‘em Ups are basically all Gradius, all the time. Contra and its friends are Action, but if you’re in a lil’ ship and irreparably damaging cores, you’re in a Shooter. Unfortunately, this genre hasn’t seen nearly enough entries in the physical universe recently, but I count about 12 billion shooter games on PSN and alike services, so it’s a matter of scale.

Also containing a lot of the same DNA with Action is Adventure. To me, an adventure game is basically just an action game with an inventory, but still action-y enough to not warrant the distinction of being a RPG. I consider The Legend of Zelda (any of them) to be an adventure game the same as Kingdom Hearts, Drakengard, or even the likes of Skyrim. And, yes, I do consider Lucasarts/Telltale style adventure games to fall under this same umbrella, because I can still remember thinking King’s Quest “use this item on this wall” isn’t that different from Zelda “use this bomb on this wall”, so The Walking Dead and Mass Effect wind up in this department just the same.

I don’t have to explain the RPG category, do I? Yes, this includes anything that can be considered a RPG, just so long as it didn’t already pass the Adventure smell test. I admit, even some of these RPGs should be considered Adventures by my own standards (Lightning Returns comes immediately to mind),Gross but considering the bleed in recent years between Adventure and RPG, I usually stick to franchise standards. Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core is an Adventure game? This is why I try not to think too hard about this stuff…

One of the few genres I consistently “log” on the site is Fighting Games, because there is so little variation in that genre. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! I’m just saying that there’s, on a conceptual level, gigantic gulfs between Action titles like Mega Man and Deadpool PS3, but Street Fighter 2 and Tekkn 6 could cross-over easily, and no one would bat an eye. Oh wait, that already happened. For the record, I consider Super Smash Bros. to be an (albeit competitive) Action game, it’s only a Fighting Game to me if you must use a complicated motion to do something. (I said “must”!)

Related by blood to Fighting Games is the Beat ‘em Up genre. Admittedly, I’d likely lump this group in with Action if I wasn’t such a Final Fight/Double Dragon 2 fan back in the day, but I do have to admit that a game somehow feels different when you have to stand around and defeat enemies, rather than just dash forward and avoid all that messy gameplay. The first game I tackled on this site was a Beat ‘em Up, and more recent examples of the genre seem to live on in Code of Princess and Senran Kagura… hey, I guess Haggar set the dress code for this genre.

Racing is similar to Fighting Games with its clear boundaries. Mario Kart, F-Zero, Nascar 07: if there are wheels and time trials involved, it’s a racing game. I’ll even throw in some games without wheels that are clearly conceptually Racing, like Kirby’s Air Ride and Snowboard Kids. Gotta go fastSimilarly, Sports contains anything that is distinctly a sport, whether it be Football or the Olympics. Very close to Racing, just with more grand slams.

Rhythm is the final “easy one” on this list. If music is happening, and you’re supposed to do something to keep that music playing correctly, you’ve got a Rhythm game. This includes games that require whacky, real-life instruments (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Donkey Konga), or the story based games like Gitaroo Man or Parappa the Rapper. Incidentally, this is the genre that seems to have the greatest odds of accidentally conquering my life. Just ask Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call.

There are about seven games in my collection that fit this genre, but I’ve always referred to FMV, pre-recorded video based games as Controlled. This started with Dragon’s Lair, and continued with games like Hologram Time Traveler, but the gist of it is that this involves any game where you just press a button when the game tells you to. See: half the Sega CD library, including the abhorrent Night Trap.

Similarly limited in scope is the Free Form genre, which includes Mario Paint and any other game that lets me do whatever the heck I want. These games are pretty rare, as even modern successors to Mario Paint like Super Mario Maker and Little Big Planet are more geared toward another style of gameplay after your creation time is finished. That said, we do have Sega’s Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio, and… Make My Video: Kriss Kross? Woof. At least we’ll always have Mario Paint.

Board Game is any game that might be better served stuck at the top of my attic. Pictionary, Monopoly, and other “digitized” games belong here, along with more modern successors, like the Mario Party franchise. Oh man, I just realized my amiibo collection will one day rot next to a copy of Clue.

Various is my catch-all (also, conveniently last alphabetically). It serves not only as my miscellaneous category (which I try to avoid indulging too much) for games like Wario Ware, but also games that are compilations of wildly disparate games, like Sonic the Hedgehog collections that include platforming, racing, and fighting games. I’ve considered making a “Collection” category since around the Gamecube era, but I do prefer these “grouped” games to hang out at the end of the alphabet.

And now, after 2,000 words, I’m going to start acknowledging the actual featured game for today. The Puzzle genre has always been Puzzlinghard for me to define. To me, without question, Tetris and Dr. Mario are puzzle games. That’s a puzzle game to me. King’s Quest or Zelda involve puzzles, but there’s also a whole lotta walkin’, so they get disqualified. Layton games, meanwhile, are puzzle games through and through, because that’s the emphasis of the game: you’re playing it for the puzzles.

This creates a weird “gray” area for what others might call “action puzzle” games. I’m not referring to Zelda and alike for that description, no, what I’m referring to are games that involve puzzles that also involve a great deal of physical skill. Alright, I know I’m already contradicting myself, because Tetris involves probably just as much quick thinking and quick reflexes, but there’s always a distinction between a falling block game and a game where you have to “steer” an object somewhere.

So, I made my own, wildly specific, yet still seen pretty frequently used genre:

Ball Based

Ball Based started when I was still a young whippersnapper with Marble Madness. Since then, there have been a number of games that are simply… ball based. I know we all had fun with those little “labyrinth” wood maze/marble games as kids, and, really, this might just be an easy way to showcase physics manipulation, but there’s a number of ball based games out there, even in the horrid wastes that is 90% of the app store. Monkey Ball conquers all platforms!

Mercury, to me, is yet another ball based game. True, you’re not strictly a ball for much of the game, but you are controlling a sliver of occasionally balled-up mercury. Actually, more precisely, you are whatever omnipotent entity is manipulating the stage to make the mercury go where it’s intended. It’s pretty straightforward, and remarkably similar to Monkey Ball, because, really, what else can you do with this kind of game? Add a few enemies (weird, mercury devouring bugs), include some whacky teleporters, and maybe slide in a gimmick or two. To its credit, Mercury’s gimmick is at least visually appealing: sometimes you need a new “color” of mercury, but there aren’t any paint stops available to make your mercury, say, green. However, there are blue and yellow paint stops, so spilt your mercury in twain, grab each color, and then recombine to make green. It’s always good when a game encourages you to remember something you learned in Prettykindergarten, and, to be honest, the whole reflective, changing color thing looks pretty rad on the PSP. I give Mercury’s gimmick high points for trying.

But, in the end, Mercury is just a Ball Based game, and your patience with it is directly proportionate to how much you enjoy that very precise genre. Or, maybe it’s not a genre at all, and I just made the whole term up so I could more easily find Ballblazer. It’s my video game database, not yours. Hisssssssss.

FGC #86 Archer Maclean’s Mercury

  • System: PSP. Is it available for the Vita, though? Yes it is! The future is here! A future where the Vita still exists!
  • Number of players: Just one. This was an early PSP game, so they hadn’t started trying to shoe-horn wireless features into every stupid game yet.
  • Failing Memory: I know I have a completed (or near completed, never been one for high scores and their unlockable levels) save of this game somewhere, but that memory card isn’t in my PSP right now, so I’m just playing the requisite hour or so of the game, and capturing what’s available in the first few stages. I feel like I’ve already devoted more hours to this game than it deserves.
  • Favorite Color: What? Like, always, or within Mercury? Yeah, I guess there aren’t any real “characters” in this game, and the levels are primarily just different layouts with different random traps. Huh, not a lot that’s very distinct going on in this game. Anyway. Ummm. I guess green? That’s always been my favorite color, but I do wear a lot of red…
  • More to come: This Mercury got a remake on the downloadable services of PS3 and Xbox 360 by the name of Mercury Hg (clever), and Mercury’s sequel, Mercury Meltdown was on the PSP, and then wound up with another Mercury Meltdown Revolution (clever?) on the Wii. Mercury Meltdown went with a more cartoony visual style, as opposed to the “hard steel” look of the PSP game. I kinda like both.
  • Did you know? Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. For my Ball Based fun, I choose Monkey Ball every time. And, seriously, there are so few reasons to turn on my PSP anymore.

What’s Next: Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania Symphony of the Night. Ha. Sarcasm. Of what profit is it to a man, if he reviews every game ever, but loses his own soul? Please look forward to it, I believe.