Monthly Archives: March 2016

FGC #111 Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits

As you may already be aware, every game featured in the FGC is a game I already own. With that fact in mind, it’s no surprise that, given I already purchased the featured game for some reason, I have an idea for most articles before I even pick up the controller (or DS, in this case). Heck, some of my favorite articles are based on ideas I’ve had kicking around my head for ten years (see Ocarina of Time), and the FGC is just an excuse to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?).

So when ROB rolled in Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits I already had a plan in mind. KCS:AH is a compilation of Konami arcade games from the 80’s, so I’d pick one obscure title out of the fifteen (Circus Charlie was looking pretty tempting), write up some silly “where are they now?” screed, and knock off early, maybe try to win that game of tug o’ war I’ve been playing with a tree. But then I played the game, cycled through hits like Contra and Gradius, descended into lesser known titles like Time Pilot and Horror Maze, and… well… I think I blame the presentation for my change of heart.

See, each title scrolls through this little wheely gear thing, and there’s the year each game was published right there on the side. Scramble, a spiritual if not literal ancestor of Gradius, is the oldest game in the compilation, and it was published in 1981. Contra is the youngest game, and it hit arcades in 1987. The compilation itself, the “game” I was playing, arrived on the DS twenty years later, in 2007. That means that, in a little over 25 years, technology improved juuuuuust a tweak.

This is something that many gamers, particularly “experienced” gamers, take for granted. I know I do. I’ve said it before, but I feel Still looks wronglucky to have grown up with gaming. The Atari, with its one big stick and one shiny button, was practically my pacifier (full disclosure: that may be literal, as I may have chewed on an Atari stick or two… I’m moderately certain I was a puppy during my early years). The Nintendo Entertainment System was the first console that was “mine” (the Atari was my grandfather’s), and that went from simple, one-screen affairs like Popeye and Duck Hunt to more robust gaming experiences like Castlevania 3 and Super Mario Bros. 3. I matured with the deeper plots of Final Fantasy 6 and Breath of Fire 2 on the SNES, and even played Xenogears just in time to be an angsty teenager about it. Nobody understands how important and meaningful this story about giant robots fighting a slug is, man. College brought a glut of systems with four controller ports, so getting drunk and Smash Bros’ing around was the norm. Hell, Sega’s loss was my gain with the Dreamcast offering a very affordable, very fun library to a broke college kid. And, as I’ve grown older and friends have much less time to stay up until 3 am playing Rock Band, online play has usurped the need to assemble everyone on the couch. Yeah, it’s cool that you have to look after your daughter, but we can get in a few rounds online when you’ve got some downtime. And never mind recent (“recent”) releases like Nier, which deconstruct the tropes of the medium and may as well ship with a box quote that reads, “Been playing video games for years? This one is for you!” It seems wildly narcissistic, but there are times I feel like video games have been catering exclusively to me since I was approximately five.

As absurd as that sounds, it’s not entirely wrong. “The industry” ain’t stupid, and the people in charge know there is an entire I'm almost certain...generation of people that grew up combing through Nintendo Power and watching The Wizard, so just like you can film two hours of explosions, slap an “official Transformers product” sticker on it, and make billions of dollars, you can announce a revival of… let’s say… Clayfighter, and there’s an entire baked-in audience doing your marketing for you. From a less exploitative perspective, though, knowledge of the “gamer generation” has to have influenced hardware and software manufacturers alike. I have no hard evidence that systems around the turn of the 21st Century were aimed at the college kids who grew up on the Nintendo, but it seems like more than a coincidence that the Dreamcast, Gamecube, and Xbox were all so dorm friendly and released within a few years of each other.

But it’s that subtle kind of narcissism that makes us miss how technology has actually changed over the years. With rumors of the current console generation starting to adopt Sega CD-esque half measures, technology is once again at a point that it’s moving too fast for the average consumer. Like around a decade ago, the old standard of “it’s obsolete before you get it out of the box” seems to be making a comeback, and buying the latest, greatest gaming PC (or, apparently, game console) is a fool’s errand. Not only is something better due to come out next week, it’ll be at half price within the month. For some, though, that thinking has never abated. It's relevantTechnology advances at the speed of thought, and it’s always been that way, and it’s always going to be that way. Water is wet, technology marches on.

Like the beach that has eroded so slowly that we can’t even remember how far it once extended, we don’t notice just how far we’ve come. Konami was cutting edge in the arcades of the 80s and 90s, because you couldn’t be anything else and survive. If your cabinet’s attract mode only included six colors and abstract shapes that were supposed to be dragons, you were going to be out of business ten seconds after the cabinet across the aisle boasted donkeys that may have been monkeys. This compilation features six years of Konami history, and it shows the evolution from games that could practically be carved out of stone (Pooyan) , to games that we would consider complete today (albeit graphically “retro”), like Contra. In six years, “gaming” as we know it went from “graduated pinball machines” to the medium we know and love today.

And then we have the jump to the DS compilation. Given the larger timeframe involved, this one doesn’t seem quite so dramatic, but that’s probably more a fault of interest than technology. What’s important here is that, after three presidents, what was the absolute pinnacle of technology has become something that is crammed in with fourteen similar titles, stuck on a portable device, and is now playable anywhere on Earth. What once was shackled to an arcade cabinet heavy enough to perform a crushing Mortal Kombat fatality now fits on a cart the size of your thumbnail.

And it all happened as a matter of course. Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits probably wasn’t even the only portable compilation of retro games released that month, left alone that year. Now, with download services on every gaming system, a “new” retro game drops for a couple of dollars every other week. It’s the way of things, it’s just companies trying to make a buck on their rotting IPs, and, while we might not see a new Gradius any time soon, there’s a whole flock of aging nerds that will buy up that retro release every time. They’re preying on our poor nostalgic wallets!

But maybe the next time Bill Rizor asks you for another three Washingtons, consider what it took for the world to get here. What was once a luxury item that could only be “owned” by Damn clownssomeone with a successful business (the rest of us had to rent, one quarter at a time) can now be played infinitely for less than the cost of the Sunday paper. It can be downloaded in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Yes, those are just the modern conveniences of a modern age, but thirty years ago, it would have been as inconceivable as invading aliens.

The world is only getting better, and it’s getting better one Circus Charlie at a time.

FGC #111 Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits

  • System: Nintendo DS for the collection. Technically, all of these games are arcade games, so maybe that qualifies?
  • Number of players: 2, but only with local connections. Actually, any internet features would likely be defunct by now anyway, so I guess that one is a wash.
  • M2: Incidentally, this whole collection was developed by M2, absolute wizards of emulation that are also responsible for the current Sega 3-D Classics rereleases. Oh, also that Monster World collection. Them’s some good games right there, I tell you what.
  • Favorite Game (in the collection): Look, it’s Contra. It was always going to be Contra. It’s just different enough from NES Contra to be interesting, but it’s still Contra, so Contra Contra Contra.
  • “Arcade” Games: Come to think of it, the Contra Arcade Cabinet I saw most was at the local supermarket, just chilling by the exit for most of my childhood. PoohBecause she knew she’d never see me again, my mother only ever gave me a lifetime total of maybe a dollar to play that game. “You have that same game at home, you don’t need to play it here!”
  • Did you know? Tutankham and Super Basketball both had their names changed to Horror Maze and Basketball, respectively, for this release. I can see how Super Basketball probably interferes with some copyright for a random SNES game, but I have come up empty on Tutankham having a rival for the crown. Maybe they just didn’t want to piss off their mummy.
  • Would I play again: I would… but I can play what I want to play from this collection on other portable platforms now, mostly Vita. I’m all for high-fidelity ports, but I’m even more for not having to switch a cartridge out of my 3DS.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… oh ho ho. We’ve got a Mega Man game in the pipeline. I know better than to even mention which Mega Man game, because that kind of thing always leads to people making lists and debating noses and what have you, so you’ll have to come back Friday to see which Mega Man game ROB chose. Here’s a hint: it features the OG blue bomber, and there may be some blues, too. Please look forward to it!

FGC #110 Primal Rage

No one really wins65 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They ruled the world with an iron fist, crushing all other life forms with their clawed talons and mighty jaws. They were the dumbest creatures on the planet, but they were the majority, and the strongest, so they owned the place. However, political allegories must come to an end, and, according to top ranking scientists, Lavos fell to Earth and wiped out our giant lizard friends. Thus ended the tale of the dinos.

Now, even after millions of years, there is still a romanticism involved with the thunder lizards. Whereas the average adult hardly gives the lumbering lugs a second thought, children are often fascinated with creatures that, given the opportunity, would crush any manner of mammal that made them eat asparagus. Dinosaurs are embodiments of reckless power and strength, and, to the average hyperactive five year old, man is that cool. And, since most of us were once five, it will always be in our collective unconscious that dinosaurs are cool. Dinosaurs can do anything! And they can market anything.

Or at least try…

Meet Primal Rage, and, in this case, the SNES version, because it holds a special place in my heart… as cancer. Yes, one day I will die of heart cancer, and one of you crazy readers will say, “That’s because of Primal Rage! It killed him! It killed Goggle Bob!” And then, following a frivolous lawsuit with national attention, all heart cancer will be referred to as “Primal Rage” and my life will not have been in vain.

Yes, that’s why I maintain this site. For the future.

But back to our past. Closer to our epoch than the Age of Dinosaurs, the Age of Fighting Games occurred the precise moment it was cool to watch a FIGHT!hairy Russian wearing a speedo smash a petite Chinese woman into a pile of barrels. Think it was ’92. Anyway, from there, Mortal Kombat came out of nowhere to become a tech demo that went on to create a franchise based on unfettered violence. So producers knew people wanted fighting and they wanted violence, but there needed to be a new gimmick, something to separate a new game from all the Art of Fightings and Time Killerses. And who should come up with that new gimmick but Atari. Yes, the people responsible for the Atari Jaguar, the people who nearly leveled the gaming world with their amazing marketing strategies and game releases, the people who turned away little old Nintendo and that silly Donkey Kong, they had an idea. And that idea was Primal Rage. It’s dinosaurs fighting!

… Now you know everything you need to know about Primal Rage.

Well, to elaborate a little, it’s a Mortal Kombat generation fighting game, which means:

  • 1 on 1 fighting in 7 different arenas, each themed after the 7 different fighters
  • Unintelligible, seemingly random button motions required just to make your character burp fire
  • Combos that consist of guessing the proper button order for “punch in the face twice”
  • Fatalities with even weirder button motions for the major payoff of maybe a decapitation

But there were a few new and interesting things added to the fighting genre:

  • Eating humans chilling in the background for additional health

Yummy!And that’s it. There’s also the “final boss” that refuses to exist, so you just fight the previous six opponents again in an endurance match. Then the game ends, which is an event that should make anyone happy.

Speaking of endings, the plot of the game is that a meteor crashes on Earth, decimates civilization, awakens dinosaurs (dinosaur gods to be precise), arbitrarily moves the continents about, and irreparably destroys humanity’s ability to spell, as Earth becomes Urth. So a meteor destroys man and brings about dinosaurs? Man, those guys at Atari should get a prize. A “Being so Smart” prize. These dinosaur gods are awake and anxious to beat each other to death, because apparently that worked so well the last time they were animated.

And let’s meet those dino gods!

Armadon is an ankylosaurus, which is the walking armory of the dinosaur kingdom. Roughly every inch of this guy is covered in spikes, which would make him a horrible Mega Man stage. As essentially a walking mace, you’d think this guy would be one of the “evil” dinosaurs, but instead he’s a lover of nature and harmony, so naturally he clubs the tar out of his enemies. Blood is good for trees, I think. Evil trees.

Talon is the velociraptor, and has a special finishing move wherein he opens a door really slowly. It’s not very useful, but it builds tension. He’s the fastest of the group, which syncs up with actual raptor facts, but they’re supposed to be faster because they’re Yuckdramatically smaller than the other guys, so I guess Atari only got so far into The Big Book of Dinosaurs: A First Book for Young Children before quitting.

Blizzard is Sub-Zero.

Chaos (not chaos) is a giant ape who coincidentally looks just like Blizzard, except Chaos is red and Blizzard is blue. Really, who needs extra character models when you’re doing alright with just five? Chaos is based on every seven year old you’ve ever met, so he flails, farts, and pukes to victory. And if that isn’t bad enough, he has one fatality where he vomits into his own mouth, and another (which is censored in the SNES version) where acidic pee is involved. Kids love dinosaurs and farting, why didn’t this game do better?

Diablo is our complimentary fire-based tyrannosaurus. As if his name didn’t give it away, he’s supposed to be evil supreme around Urth, and thus hates the good, ice-based Blizzard. Diablo also brings to the forefront why a dinosaur-based fighting game is stupid. Imagine yourself the same size as a T-Rex. Now imagine boxing that T-Rex. You win! T-Rexes are not meant for fighting with their limbs: their arms are nigh useless, their legs are meant for standing, and when their tail isn’t in its normal spot, it’s falling down time. Oh well, at least this one evolved to fire breathing level. No one winsDiablo and Bowser should hang out.

Sauron is the good tyrannosaurus, and the orange version of Diablo. He seeks the one ring that will allow him to conquer Middle Urth, and finally… dammit! Wouldn’t it have been cool if the finale of Lord of the Rings was a hobbit fighting a t-rex? Like, Frodo’s all like, “I must use the one ring for good!” and puts it on and becomes this giant robot that shoots lasers out of its eyes and Sauron the tyrannosaurus is all like “You should have stayed in the shire!” and then they fight for a while and finally Sam has the good judgment to press the self destruct button on the ring which blows up the robot and Sauron and Frodo has sacrificed himself and the day is saved. Dude! That would have been bitchin’! Oh, and Gollum is a cyborg from the future or something.

Vertigo is a dilophosaurus, so she has all of the abilities of the dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park, which is basically just spitting acid on Seinfield extras. Vertigo is the only female dinosaur in the group, which doesn’t automatically draw comparisons to another fighting game with fatalities, color swapped fighters, an ice wielding warrior, a fire based warrior who hates the ice warrior, and a 14.2% female ratio of playable characters. Sonya Vertigo is also supposed to be the goddess of chaos, despite another character being named Chaos. The world is a complicated place.

If this game sounds flat and horrible, then I’m doing my job. There’s a mere seven characters, with five character models among them, which has to be some sort of record for laziness put forth by an established video game company. And the animation of these fighters, especially on the SNES, is Poundinginsanely limited. If there’s one thing a fighting game needs, its animations that seem to actually correspond to what you’re doing, and these guys… one step and it’s about a half hour before it looks like you can use a move again. Forget about jumping, it all moves at a pace that is indescribably wrong. Somehow the AI knows when to attack, though, so get ready for a long haul if you’re hoping to win. And I bet you never thought seven fights would be a “long haul”.

So Atari, in the same year Squaresoft released Chrono Trigger, gave us all Primal Rage for the Super Nintendo, a game so bad, it will eventually be the death of me. Don’t weep for me, for I know my fate, I chose it, albeit without knowing the full extent of the pain involved, but it was my choice. Just remember, for future generations, that this game is pain, inside and out, and should be avoided like radioactive ass lice.

… Dinosaurs are still cool, though.

FGC #110 Primal Rage

  • System: Super Nintendo, but also Sega Genesis, Game Gear, 3DO, PC, Gameboy, Playstation, 32X, Sega Saturn, and not just the Atari Jaguar, but the Atari Jaguar CD. Oh, and arcade.
  • Number of players: Can I just say “fighting game” and be done with it? No? Two.
  • Merchandising: I guess someone thought this game was going to take off, because, in addition to being released for every system that ever was at the time, they also produced a Primal Rage comic series, action figures, and even a novel. Michael Crichton was not involved.
  • And I bet you bought all the action figures: Well… they were cool! And there were a couple of characters that didn’t appear in the game, like this rad skeleton-dinosaur with wings that… oh man, so cool.
    So cool
  • Legacy of Rage: I guess that skeleton-dinosaur, Necrosan, was supposed to appear in Primal Rage 2, but that game never materialized, because there is a God. I guess the plot of Primal Rage 2 is what the novel is based on, too.
  • Favorite Fighter: Blizzard has Don King hair. Winner.
  • Did you know? Primal Rage was the first fighting game to show a “percent of damage done” indicator after performing a combo. Goes to show that even in the smelliest turd, there still might be a peanut worth saving. That analogy just made be throw up a little.
  • Would I play again: I’m more likely to play with the action figures again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Konami Classics Series Arcade Hits for the Nintendo DS! I believe that’s the compilation that contains arcade Contra, Gradius… and probably at least one other game? Guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!

Xenosaga Episode I Part 18: An End

Previously on Xenosaga: The two best characters in the franchise were introduced. I’m talking about Professor and Erde Kaiser. I’m not certain Assistant Scott even ranks…

Alright, after all the sidequests and poking around some previous areas for Door Decoder prizes (not pictured, I haven’t got all day), we’re at the 24 hour mark for the game. I could have played Super Metroid, like, eleven times!

You are allowed to leave the Proto Merkabah after docking there, so it’s not your final choice in the game or anything, but it is the final choice for my game. I am so done with Episode 1 at this point…

Junior, once again, is putting this whole situation on his tiny lil baby shoulders.

Shion assures him that it’s just what anyone with a crazy death-bot in tow would do. Oh, and Vector approves… saving an entire planet. Seriously, who would veto that idea?

Allen has to get in one last weenie comment before the big show.

Oh, I think I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow…