I spend a lot of time thinking about videogames (I mean, duh), but there is definitely a correlation between time spent continuously playing the game and time spent thinking about it. For instance, I may have devoted a nonstop year of my childhood to Mario games. As a result, when I’m desperately trying to remember my social security number, I’m usually only capable of recalling the exact path to make it through 8-4. Conversely, I’ve played a number of hours of puzzle and shoot ‘em up games, but those experiences have always been in short, hurried bursts, so even something iconic like Tetris occasionally looks foreign to my capricious mind. I’m supposed to drop the L-block where, again? Oh, right.
So, without thinking about it too much, the segment of my head dedicated to cataloguing minutia grouped a series of games into the genre of “music shooter puzzle thing”. There was Rez, a game famous not only for its trippy, trance-like gameplay, but also that whole “vibrator controller” thing that was hilarious about sixteen years ago. There was Lumines, a PSP (launch) puzzle game that relied on sound and “puzzle”-like gameplay. And there was Every Extend Extra, another PSP game that seemed based on playing Asteroids during a rave. I quietly filed all three games under a similar umbrella, and called it a day. On occasion (particularly the occasion that ROB demanded I dig out my Hannah Montana promotional PSP to play this game), I thought to myself, “Gee, these weird techno remix shooter/puzzle games seemed vaguely popular for a year or two there, wonder why you don’t see these things anymore?”
So imagine my surprise when I found that the entire “genre” pretty much originated with one guy.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi came from that strange little company predominantly known for making hedgehogs go fast. Mizuguchi apparently got his start at Sega designing graphics for interactive rides (think Back to the Future: The Ride or Star Tours… are those still things?), and then moved onto Sega Rally, a game I understand was heavily influential on racing games that do not involve flinging turtle shells. Then, after shifting through a few other racing games, Mizuguchi became the man behind Ulala and Space Channel 5.
Space Channel 5 will likely get its own entry in the FGC eventually, but I feel I need to talk about it for a moment for one simple reason: I hate Space Channel 5. God, I hate Space Channel 5. And it’s mainly because I love everything about Space Channel 5 (the aesthetics, the genre, the concept, the “story”, any outfit that isn’t orange…) except the gameplay. Space Channel 5 came from that proto-rhythm era when “gameplay” predominantly meant “play simon says” (see also: PaRappa the Rapper). I have approximately zero short term memory (see earlier comment about only being able to remember Super Mario routes), so the minute-to-minute of Space Channel 5 is about as difficult for me as cleaning my bedroom with my tongue. While the bedroom is on fire. As a result of loving everything about the game except actually playing it, I particularly loathe Space Channel 5, because I so want to enjoy it. I really do! But… better off just youtubing it. It’s… safer that way. For my controllers.
But then there was Mizuguchi’s magnum opus: Rez. Again, I’ll try not to talk about Rez too much because it’s inevitably going to be covered in a full article, but Rez is pure bliss. The aesthetic here is basically “the future imagined by the 80’s” coupled with some sick beats. And the gameplay is actually fun! With very little exaggeration, I could happily play Rez from now until the end of time… or at least for the rest of the afternoon. It is infinitely replayable, and, while it takes some practice, the bar of entry is fairly low, so it’s not difficult to get a friend hooked on those throbbing space beats.
If for no other reason than Rez, Mizuguchi is my hero.
So, naturally, Sega fired him right after Rez.
Alright, Mizuguchi wasn’t fired, but Sega “restructured”, eliminated Mizuguchi’s little gaming division, and transferred a chunk of the talent on his team elsewhere. He quit a month later. Can’t say I blame him.
This led to the creation of Q Entertainment (see? Mizuguchi was leaving gaming monoliths and starting his own companies before it was cool), and the eventual release of Lumines and Meteos. Despite owning both games, I remember Lumines better than Meteos. I wonder why. Could it be because the PSP launched with like three games, total, and one was a port of a decade old fighting game? Hmmm, mysteries abound. Regardless of the reason, Lumines became the Tetris of my PSP, so, while I’m unlikely to seek out the game again, it holds a special place in my heart as “that rhythm puzzle game thingy”. It’s an oddly specific place in my heart…
And then there was Ninety-Nine Nights. I have no idea what that is even supposed to be.
And then there was Every Extend Extra. This is probably the apex of the Mizuguchi design philosophy as… he didn’t actually make this game. Every Extend Extra is based on a freeware game, Every Extend, by Ω, aka Kanta Matsuhisa. Every Extend is basically a risk/reward game where the only way to succeed is by detonating your own ship/life, and hoping you take a good chunk of your adversaries with you. It’s a game that, frankly, breaks my poor videogame playing brain, because “try not to die” is so ingrained in my soul. Explode? On purpose? Whaddya trying to do to me, Ω? Brain problems aside, it’s a fun game from a “unique shooter” perspective, and, like a good puzzle game, it requires a lot of fast thinking and forward thinking.
But Every Extend Extra is where Mizuguchi got his mitts on the concept, and turned it into… a techno dance party. What was previously a game that could be described as “kinda neat” is now a pulsing, strobing, hypnotic bouquet of sights and sounds. It’s still… pretty much… the exact same gameplay, but now it has the Q style that makes you want to suck a lollipop made of black lights. Wait… don’t do that.
So, considering this all came from one man, the “music shooter puzzle thing” genre didn’t die out, it simply needed time to rest. Tetsuya Mizuguchi has been taking it easy since the PSP/DS days, and we’ve only seen new experiences in the form of Child of Eden (a game that I really want to like, but is kind of exhausting). We’ve also seen remixes of Lumines and Every Extend Extra on download services, but that’s about it.
However, the minute we get more Q goodness, I’ll be there with bells on. Or glow sticks. I think that might be more appropriate.
FGC #192 Every Extend Extra
- System: PSP initially, and then Xbox 360 for the remix. I guess the PC version counts, too.
- Number of players: Two? Another PSP game that I never saw played by a single other human being. Not that I’ve ever seen another PSP randomly in the wild…
- Big Boss: Every boss stage isn’t really about attacking the boss per se, it’s more about dodging the boss’s attacks and combo-ing as many of its minions as possible. Like the whole “exploding self” concept of the game itself, I find this to be completely incompatible with my understanding of videogames.
- Did you know? The Xbox 360 version (Every Extend Extra Extreme, or EEEE!) allows for using your own tunes to jam and explode along. I don’t understand why this feature isn’t standard with about 99% of games.
- Would I play again: I might fire up the X360 version on a lark, but the PSP version is staying right there, unplayed, on the PSP. It’s a fun experience, but not worth digging out that old portable again.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… SNK Gals’ Fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket Color! Finally! A fighting game that isn’t fueled by raw testosterone! Please look forward to it!