Monthly Archives: September 2016

FGC #188 GoldenEye 007

DUH DUH DUHHHHHThe Eye of the Beholder is a Twilight Zone episode you have likely seen before (or at least seen parodied). The basic plot is remarkably straightforward: Janet is undergoing surgery because she wants to “look normal”. Unfortunately, the procedure fails, and she is revealed to be… beautiful. But the twist is that everyone else in her society looks like some kind of puffy pig man, and her conventional beauty is regarded as a threat to the state. In the end, she is taken away by a handsome man, so she can flourish and frolic with her own kind. And we all learn a valuable lesson about how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and what some consider attractive could be ugly to others. Then you watch that episode about the dude with the glasses.

GoldenEye 007 is my The Eye of the Beholder. Everybody is talking about how great it is to be normal, and I’m off in the corner, wondering when we’re going to get back to Street Fighter. Somewhere, one of my friends is cleaning his snout.

I mentioned it in the Splatoon article, but I do not get along with FPSs. I’m not going to go through the reasons again (I trust you remember everything I have ever written), but know that this has been an affliction as long as the genre has existed. When my friends all got into Quake and Doom, I was advocating Bomberman and Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t because I was somehow worse at FPS games than any other genre, I just had about as much fun with even the best FPS games as I did with other “that’s nice, let’s play something else” games like, I don’t know, anything that involved going outside.

My distaste for FPS games may have elevated my position with the faculty of my high school. I was a member of the computer club (shocking, I know). I could maybe believe that there was a time when the computer club didn’t just sit around having LAN parties, but that was apparently long ago, because when I joined, PC FPS games ruled every meeting. I had a tendency to hang out during these events, but it was primarily for the “meeting” portion of the meeting, and not the death matches. This apparently did not go unnoticed, and I was approached by the advisor of the club, who informed me that I was, “the real future of the SAFEcomputer club, not like these kids that just joined to play videogames.” I joined to play videogames! Just other videogames! But I don’t think it was a coincidence when, shortly thereafter, I wound up with random teachers asking me for help with their various devices and computer problems.

So what I’m trying to say is that I’m apparently a nerd even among nerds. Hooray.

Wait… what was I talking about again?

Oh, right. GoldenEye sucks.

Alright, sorry, I know that’s not true. GoldenEye 007 is, from a purely objective perspective, a great game. It’s got interesting levels when most FPSs were simply gray corridors. It had stealth mechanics when that was still new and novel. It’s got a movie license and isn’t a complete pile of crap, which is still a rarity today. And it even has that “interactive cut scene” thing going on that has become so popular with the FPSs of today. Couple this all with the fact that Goldeneye practically singlehandedly revived any and all interest in the N64, and I really shouldn’t be complaining about such a revolutionary game.

But it’s that revolution that has caused me so much turmoil.

Back to the computer club: Do you know why LAN parties were so popular? It was because FPSs were pretty much only on computers (specifically PCs), and, while they tried, Doom and alike ports on the home consoles were pretty much always crap. Even if the graphics translated properly, you were still hampered by a gimped controller more meant for Mario than Heretic, and a complete lack of that all-important death match mode. So, go where the fun is, if FPSs were bad on consoles, it’s time to hit that PC market, and enjoy the Wolfensteins of the keyboard.

Sorry!But, and this may shock some of you younger readers, PC gaming was stupidly expensive at the time. The old adage of “it’s out of date before you get it out of the box” was in full swing during this period, and, even if you could afford a top of the line PC, you also had to have three friends who could all afford their own top of the line PCs, and those three friends all had to live in your house, because a 56K modem could barely load a proper JPEG, left alone support a full online experience. This was the appeal of the computer club: one could exploit the school’s endless resources (man, it’s weird being a kid), and get those super fun LAN parties a-goin’. Later we’ll burn some music on the school’s 2x CD burner!

But Goldeneye changed all that. Suddenly, there was a viable console FPS experience. And it didn’t hurt that it stared the iconic pinnacle of masculinity, James Bond, either. Now even your dad could understand the appeal of running around an ocean liner with a golden gun, so certainly the other kids from homeroom would comprehend. It’s predominantly because the game was so good to begin with, but Goldeneye was practically always going to make the FPS the hottest new genre on consoles. Halo (2) would one day perfect the stranglehold, but Goldeneye made it all possible.

And I can’t stand it.

Everyone started playing Goldeneye 007. I got Goldeneye for… I want to say Christmas? I didn’t buy it with my own money. I still own that same copy of Goldeneye 007, and it somehow has four completed game saves on it. I’ve never beaten the game myself once. Where did these save files come from? Simple, I had friends that were so obsessed with the game, they save the day, repeatedly, on my copy, just to unlock new Oogacheats / characters / stages. Such was the universal adoration for Goldeneye; that it somehow compelled people not only to play death match after death match, but also play through the single player campaign multiple times on (apparently) multiple carts. I can probably count the number of games released in the last three decades that can match that fervor on one hand.

And… I never got it. I never understood the adoration. I played it with my friends, because that’s what they were playing, but… it wasn’t fun for me. I… participated, and that’s the most I can say about it.

Bah, maybe I need to go off to the island of handsome people that play Secret of Mana. I should fit in there just fine.

FGC #188 GoldenEye 007

  • System: N64. Remakes do not count.
  • Number of players: Four. This is the primary way I experienced this game. For hours.
  • Favorite Crony: I don’t like playing this game, I want to be playing someone else. I’m choosing Oddjob, and you can’t stop me.
  • This guy are sic: Oddly, Microsoft Word is okay with “goldeneye” but not “GoldenEye”. So many red underlines…
  • Filthy Cheater: The “cheats” for this game are more like unlockable bonus options, and not really “cheats” at all. You would not believe how much this annoys me. I AM SO ANGRY AT THIS GAME! Eh, at least we got DK Mode.
  • Nice watchFurther Computer Club Stories: There were no girls in the computer club. None. One day, a girl who was a friend of mine asked me if she could join the computer club and hang out. I explained to her that she probably wouldn’t like it, because all anyone ever did was sit around and play FPSs. She didn’t join. It took me years to realize she was maybe interested in something else (which would be sometime around our first date).
  • Did you know? I could probably fill an entire article with all the cool little details in this game. Perfect for James Bond fans!… Except, screw it, I got better things to do.
  • Would I play again: Inevitably, because someone is going to notice that N64 sitting under my TV, and suddenly there will be the question, “You know what we should play?”

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic the Hedgehog 3! Please look forward to it! And Knuckles!

FGC #187 Chiki Chiki Boys / Mega Twins

Hmph. These articles are usually about a thousand words or so, which is equal to one picture, so let’s get a few paragraphs out of the way and spend this post looking at pretty pictures.

Chiki Chiki Boys is the Genesis port of the Capcom arcade game Mega Twins. The game sees the Kingdom of Alurea conquered by a murder clown, but, oh no, the people of Alurea of are too peace-loving to even know how to fight back. But the Chiki Chiki Boys are a pair of twins that are also princes or something, and they’ve got magic swords and Goddess Palutenia (with a perm) on their side, so it’s time to venture forth and stab a whole lotta goblins.

Mega Twins is a pretty damn fun game, actually. It’s one of those rare 2-D action arcade games that seems to follow the mechanics of Mega Man or alike, but maintains a beat ‘em up mentality of constant progress (and danger). Bosses are big and colorful (and quarter killers), powerups are interesting and plentiful (here’s a whole new way to kill everything on the screen!), and there are even health refills hidden about, which is the sign of an arcade game that doesn’t absolutely want you to suffer. Combine this with Capcom’s signature bright and colorful graphics, and Mega Twins is quite worthy of your hard-earned quarters.

And the Genesis Port, Chiki Chiki Boys, isn’t… all bad. It severely limits your credits, which is absurd in a game that is not rebalanced at all to compensate for being designed to empty your pockets. But aside from that and the sad loss of two-player simultaneous mode, it’s a pretty fun port of an arcade game that you only ever saw because some poor arcade manager mistook it for Mega Men or Mario Twins.

But enough about the game, let’s judge a book by its cover!

MEGA!

First…

FGC #186 Pokémon Blue/Red

Pokémon Blue shattered my faith.

Since videogames first made the scene, there was an implicit trust between the player and game: this is a game, and, thus, it can be won. This, of course, goes further back even beyond the invention of the monitor, as, ultimately, all games throughout history had some kind of “win” (or at least “best”) condition. Cone with a ball on a string might not have had a proper ending, but you could beat your last high score, and the same could be done with Tetris centuries later. All videogames have rules; if you follow those rules, and excel at the mechanics, you too can “beat the game”.

Now, in many cases, the game itself determined what the win condition might be. There’s a scoreboard in Super Mario Bros., but it’s irrelevant if you can’t save that all important princess (what was her name, again?). Dr. Wily is going to be back another six or ten times, but what’s the point in being powered on if you can’t beat all his robots and his stupid little saucer this time? And, while you might be able to tack “low level” or “no equipment” challenges onto the typical Final Fantasy, your goal is still to save the world and knock all the villains down. Personal challenges are still a part of any game whether it’s digital or not, but what’s important to most gamers is the game’s narrative, and how you, player, are going to accomplish your digital avatar’s goals.

But… why doesn’t the game just lie?

I say “the game” here, but what I really mean is “the developers”. When I was in first grade, my best friend had a theory on game design. “Why don’t they just make the first level the hardest?” he queried. “That way, no one could beat the game unless they were really good.” Even at seven, I knew the answer was, “Because then no one would play the game at all. Duh.” And, in a way, that’s the rule all videogames, from Deadly Towers to Super Mario Galaxy, follow. Start easy, get the player used to everything, and then ramp it up to more difficult challenges. There are some outliers, but, by and large, that’s the rhythm you can expect from a videogame. It’s easier to beat Level 1 than Level 8, but you can beat Level 8 if you practice and try and maybe sacrifice a goat to the Nintendo Powers that Be. Well, sorta?Ultimately, the developers want you to win, because then you’ll be happy, and you’ll tell others (‘ wallets) of your joy. It’s no coincidence that some of the most popular Final Fantasy games are incidentally easy and Marsh Cave-less.

But developers do have other aims, and sometimes it’s hard to ignore the baser instincts of man. Let’s face it: we all know “how people work”, and, aside from the circle of friends within our own monkeyspheres, it’s pretty common to assume everyone else is “out to get you”. Alright, yes, that sounds paranoid, but it is reality in many situations. End of the day, I know that I would rather have a buck in my pocket than yours, and you likely feel the same way. It’s human nature to look out for your own and hoard that which you think is going to help you survive, so it’s also natural to assume that game developers want as much as your hard earned gil as possible. This translates poorly into our modern era of DLC and other add-on content. I used to pay $40 and get a full game, now I pay $60 and have to pay another $20 for a season pass? These game companies are trying to cheat me! … Never mind that you’re likely getting more game than ever before (I would have killed for more Mega Man “DLC” when I was seven), what’s important is that you’re opening that wallet again for some greedy developer, and your precious hobby has become an avarice-fueled tug o’war. I want my GP to stay in my pocket!

Actually, semi-relevant to the subject matter, let’s take Pokémon Go as an example. Pokémon Go, at its core, is a completely free game that encourages you to walk around your neighborhood. You absolutely do not need to spend a dime in this game. Even if there is only one pokéstop in your vicinity, you can hit that same spot repeatedly, and fill up on consumables you need to play the game. Even the most remote locations seem to be stocked with rats and birds, and that earlier mentioned pokéstop may net you eggs that you can hatch with your free, unlimited incubator. SlapIt may take weeks, but you’ll see a gyrados in your stable before they release the next generation.

But…

It’s hard not to see the gears that keep this machine rolling. Pokéballs may be purchased, so it’s in the developer’s best interest to make Pokémon difficult to catch. Lucky Eggs double experience points and may be purchased, so it’s in the developer’s best interest to make the goals for that next level up more and more astronomical. Incubators break after a set number of eggs and may be purchased, so it’s in the developer’s best interest to provide more rapidly hatched eggs than valuable, slow eggs. In short, there are a number of different “random” occurrences in Pokémon Go that, with just a few tweaks, could net the producers of the game millions. A fun walking companion becomes a slot machine so gradually…

However, what’s important is that Pokémon Go doesn’t feel like it’s fleecing its customers. I have personally captured over 80% of the pokédex on random walks by the ocean, and only spent a Jackson on some egg hatching. Granted, I know damn well that I’m in a poképrevalent area (why hello there, my fourth jynx), but with random bouts of insomnia and some decent sneakers, I’ve found that, for all the ways the developers could steal my change, I’m making out okay. It might be an illusion, but I feel like I might be able to capture all those digital critters.

Which is more than I could say for Pokémon Blue.

The motto of Pokémon, as ever, is “Gotta Catch ‘em All”. Naturally, being a young (teenage), impressionable (cynical) child (teenager) when Pokémon first came to power, I believed that that was the ultimate goal of any Pokémon game. Being a gigantic nerd, I mapped out my pokéjourney beforehand, The most animation in this gamefinding any online resources I could (and Nintendo Power issues), and finally settling on Pokémon Blue (because it had Meowth). I knew the legendary birds and Mewtwo were one-time events, and I readied my savescumming skills with King’s Quest. I was equipped to catch ‘em all, dammit!

And I didn’t, because Pokémon Blue is a jerk.

I knew I needed to trade to get all the Pokémon. That’s baked into the experience, and I was certain to “assist” a greasy-haired friend of mine in his purchase of Pokémon Red. I traded for my growlithe and other “exclusive” Pokémon. I caught Mewtwo and the birds, and even combed the Safari Zone for every last ‘mon (Dratini, my sweet little worm creature…). I evolved Pikachu, Bulbasaur, and Jigglypuff.

And then… the wall.

I’m pretty sure I can name the “issues” off the top of my head. There are three moon stones in the entire game, and four Pokémon that require the rocks to evolve. One eevee, three choices. Hitmonlee or Hitmonchan? Two different fossil Pokémon, and each one evolves. And, the worst of the worst, there are three starters, but you can only ever have one. Like the fossil issue, this is terrible, because it’s inevitable that your buddy is going to evolve his starting Pokémon as quickly as possible, and then, whoops, no chance to ever get Charmander in your pokédex. I think God every day that I chose Bulbasaur as the starter, else the fact that my pokédex didn’t start at #001 would have killed me.

In short, unless you had another copy of the game that was a slave to a “real” copy (and was willing to be completely reset around Eevee acquisition), it was utterly impossible to “catch ‘em all”. Good try, sport, Mew Mewbut the unevolved form of Kabutops is forever out of reach. Maybe you’ll find someone right at the right point in the game, but for now, guess you’ll just have to dream.

And that… just about broke me.

Well, I mean, I survived. I didn’t have to be committed thanks to a severe case of pokéOCD, but it pretty much dashed my dreams for game completion. The Mew event came and went, and who cares? It’s just one more Pokémon out of fifteen that I’ll never see. There was a period of about two years where I didn’t give a damn about “the latest thing” in videogames, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that it was right after Pokémon Blue/Red was released. If videogames were impossible, what was the point?

Eventually, I got over it, and…

No. That’s a lie. Let’s try this again.

Eventually, Pokémon Silver/Gold was released. The newest Pokémon title allowed for “breeding”, which meant one could fish out those unevolved Pokémon. And there were free moonstones every Monday! So, years after its release, I caught every last Pokémon, and filled up the Kanto pokédex. Some dude from Gamefreak gave me a certificate, and I went on my merry way.

I guess, eventually, faith may be found again.

FGC #186 Pokémon Blue/Red

  • System: Gameboy, but better on the Super Gameboy. Gameboy Color, too? Why not.
  • Number of players: Two. Thanks, Link Cable!
  • Favorite Pokémon (Gen Red/Blue/Yellow): Hypno. I know psychic type ‘mons are overpowered in Red/Blue, but I’ll take the lil’ dream eater over any spoon bender or mutant any day. NOW SLEEEEEEEP!
  • SpookyWhat about the battle side of Pokémon? Bah! I got a team of psychic Pokémon, who needs to worry about that “meta game”? Everything will fall before Psychic!
  • Forgotten Pokémon Memories: I’ve lost the save file on my Pokémon Blue cartridge twice: once thanks to a N64 communication error over Pokémon Stadium, and once in the last decade thanks to a save battery failure. I’m not planning on hitting the game again, so I’ll just have to remember what it feels like to complete the first pokédex.
  • Other Pokémon Memories: I was the first of my friends to beat the Elite Four. It was, somehow, a spectator event, and everyone in attendance had no idea how to defeat the previously unseen dragon type. I finally remembered that ice was their weakness, and slaughtered the lot with a Slowbro. And then we were all surprised to see Gary as the real final opponent. I know, in reality, this occurred on a school bus with a borrowed Gameboy, but in my memory, I’m pretty sure it was in a stadium on an enormo-screen. There may have been cheering.
  • Did you know? Wrap sucks.
  • Would I play again: I mentioned this before, but Pokémon completely denies any and all reason to replay old versions. I know there are some people that enjoy the classics, but I absolutely cannot go back to manual box switching and moonstone hording. I only have so many years before the grave!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Chiki Chiki Boys for the Sega Genesis! Oh boy! I bet we’re going to have a mega time! Please look forward to it!

Xenosaga Episode III Part 08: What Time is It?

Previously on Xenosaga: KOS-MOS and T-elos got into a bit of a scuffle, and that somehow blew Shion into a forest? Huh?

Shion, dear, I handle the recaps around here.

KOS-MOS!!! Also… everyone else… I guess…”

So we pick back up here at… Forest. Well, that’s not very helpful.

Head west and find a locked tunnel or something, but more importantly, a shop and a save point.

We’ve got a few new items for sale. Huh. Why is this “full revive” item so cheap?

Equipment selection hasn’t updated, though. I like getting new weapons, but I also don’t like spending money, so I guess it works out.

Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be a key laying around for that tunnel, so let’s head back west this time…