This 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 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.
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), 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. Similarly, 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 hard 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 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 kindergarten, 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.