Monthly Archives: May 2017

FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

Welcome to HellWhen I was a young boy, my father forced me to get a job. There weren’t many places that would hire a child, so I became a paperboy. Thus, for two years, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn, bike down to the newspaper office, pick up a stack of papers (that was easily heavier than I was), and deliver papers all through the neighborhood. There was no way to enjoy this. If I failed to deliver to the right house on time, I was punished. If I delivered to the wrong house, I was punished. And, of course, if I was late to school because of some stupid dog or a particularly chatty old lady, I was punished there, too. Every morning, in the scorching heat or the freezing cold, I was out there delivering papers, while my contemporaries slept, cozy and unemployed in their beds. “Surely,” I thought to myself for two endless years, “This job must be Hell.”

In time, I grew older, and finally graduated to a job that could at least be done inside and at a reasonable hour. And, while I may have cursed his name for a number of reasons over the years, I suppose my father’s lesson did pay off, as I learned I never, ever wanted to have another job outside performing manual labor ever again. I went to college. I got degrees. I became a white collar professional, and, while I may have had to step over a few broken bodies to attain excellence, I eventually found myself quite content with my station in life. And, if I may say so, watching print media slowly die did offer me some small amount of schadenfreude, even if it meant I couldn’t push my own children into the same “cycle” my father started. I suppose that may have been a good thing.

Though I guess I didn’t do enough good things, as, upon my death, I found myself in Hell.

And, with no explanation whatsoever, I found myself back on that same bicycle, back in that same neighborhood, back with those same papers. I was a boy on his paper route, again, and damned to be one for all of eternity.

WIN!At first, everything was pretty straightforward: I pedaled down familiar streets, delivered papers to expectant subscribers, and then, when I was done, I was forced back to the newspaper office to start the process all over again. Sometimes the weather would change, sometimes I would be told different homes were my targets, but, more or less, it was what I remembered. Then… things started to change. The first major switch-up was that the newspaper office outright disappeared. I suppose some infernal demon realized I could actually take a whole five minute break while I was picking up fresh papers, so, nope, I’m stuck pedaling forever, my calves growing more swollen by the day. Now I have to pick up new bundles of papers from the streets themselves, and, should I run out, I’m chastised just the same as when I miss a house (or damage a window or pedestrian… I admit I may have initially tried to… rattle the chains of my captors). What’s more, the “hazards” of my childhood have all come to revisit me continually, so I am faced with marauding dogs and vicious neighbors. I am nearly mowed down by an errant car every other minute. What’s more, I am beset by dangers I only imagined in my mundane childhood, like statues that spew flames, or the specter of Death himself. I know… in my rational mind… I know that I am already dead… but still… that pale, ghastly visage continues to haunt me.

But this… even this I could get used to. The punishments, the monsters… it did become what was simply my life (or my afterlife, as the case may be). I’d bike down the same streets, deliver the same papers, and that was it. It was Hell, but it was my Hell, and I expect that could be enough.

But this is Hell. They found a way to make it worse. After fifteen years, I was inflicted with the greatest punishment they could imagine: freedom.

OwieMy route had always been a straight line. I would pedal down endless streets and deliver endless papers. It was distressing, but, after a while, I learned that it required very little thinking. I’d keep my eye out for my targets, and if I missed, that was that. I did everything I could, after all.

But now… now they decided to grant me autonomy. Horrible, mind-destroying free-will.

I realized the change almost immediately: I could now pedal in any direction. I could turn around. I could visit the other side of the street. I could… jump. At first, I was elated. “Finally,” I thought, “Someone thinks I’ve paid my dues. I might still be stuck down here, but I’m not stuck in that awful, robotic rut. I can do whatever I want!” But, no, the reality of my unreality quickly caught up with me. I still had to deliver papers. I still had to dodge homicidal dogs. I still had to do everything I did before, but now I was granted the teeniest, tiniest taste of independence… only to be doomed to never enjoy it. I still had a strict, condemning time limit. I could leap my bike over ramps, feel the wind in my hair, and enjoy my existence for once… but if I did that… If I spent too long on pleasure… then the pain… the punishments would be even worse. And then I would have to start the whole route over again, knowing full well that the “fun stuff” was there and available, but experiencing it again would mean… I don’t want to think about it.

Hell… Hell had become more hellish.

Might as wellAnd they taunted me even more! Where once I was constrained to my old, familiar neighborhood, now I was forced to deliver papers in more exotic locales. A trailer park might not seem like anyone’s idea of a vacation, but the smell of barbecue and kids playing outside while you’re stuck pedaling and pedaling is… cruel. And then I was forced to deliver at a camp ground! And the beach! When I eventually found myself in a dark, monster-infested town, complete with Frankenstein’s Monster and a vampire or two, I thought someone was just plain running out of ideas. But I didn’t have time to think that for long, as now I was being chased by dogs with three heads. And then I was back to my old neighborhood again, forced to relive the loop of changing neighborhoods until I delivered enough papers.

But it’s never enough. I can never satisfy the quotas. I can never escape this Hell. I will be here… I will be here forever.

I am the paperboy now, and that’s all I will ever be.

FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

  • System: Probably N64. Let me check here… Yep! N64.
  • Number of players: There can be only one paperboy.
  • Or Papergirl: Oh, yes, the game does offer you the option of being a papergirl. It’s kind of weird that most of the Papergirl’s canned voice clips compare herself to Paperboy, though. Eat your heart out, Paperboy, indeed.
  • LaboratoryMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s an attempt to make the original Paperboy more of a “modern” (circa 1999) game, but… it doesn’t really work so well. The original Paperboy is basically a shoot ‘em up with an unusual premise and perspective, and attempting to add collectibles and “free roaming” is about as effective as making a Gradius game that plays like Mario 64. This actually may have been an impressive concept back in the bygone past of the 20th Century; but nowadays, it’s right up there with Atari revivals like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. Oh, also, it’s ugly as hell.
  • And there are bosses: Yes, there are bosses in a game about delivering papers. Yes, the bosses are simple “throw papers at the weak point” affairs. Yes, it is completely boring and flimsy.
  • Favorite Neighborhood: Pelican Beach has friendly dolphins! Or it should!
  • Did you know? Neither Paperboy nor Papergirl wear a helmet while delivering papers. This is dangerously unsafe.
  • Would I play again: I compared the game to an eternal hell. What do you think?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Drakengard 3 for the Playstation 3! Let’s drag this dragoon into fun times! Please look forward to it!

FGC #282 Breath of Fire 3

Pictured: WinnersThe first thing you see when you boot up Breath of Fire 3 is a mural of the heroes of Breath of Fire 1. This mural depicts everyone in the original BoF party fighting Myria, a nefarious goddess that threatened to destroy the world through war and destruction. This opening seems to say, “Here, player, here are the heroes you remember, who triumphed over impossible odds and won the day with guts and swords.” Breath of Fire 3 starts by showcasing the gallant and daring heroes of a previous BoF adventure, a group that literally saved the world and everyone in it.

So it’s kind of a shame that the heroes of Breath of Fire 3 are such failures.

Breath of Fire 3 is the story of a world in decline. Deserts are overtaking forests, wild animals are becoming scarce, and nobody vacations on that island with the flute girls anymore. This seems to be epitomized with Nina’s people. The Wing Clan is a race that, during the time of BoF1, could transform into gigantic birds. By BoF2, the Wyndians had lost this ability, but could still flutter about with their large wings. Now, in Breath of Fire 3, the “Wing Clan” possesses wings that are merely decorative, and are about as useful for flight as flapping your arms. This degradation seems to have spread to other clans as well, with many of the old “standby” kingdoms and people of previous Breath of Fire adventures completely missing, and the last remains falling into unrecognizable states. Rei the kitty cat man is in danger of outright devolving into a beast, and your resident plant-dude is practically a Pokémon. And the Dragon Clan? Well that’s where things get really sad.

In Breath of Fire 1, the Dragon Clan threatened to destroy the world. And they weren’t even trying! The Light and Dark Dragons Tribes were just fighting over some magic keys, and the rest of the world had the pleasure of hosting the battleground for people that can transform into mammoth, fire-breathing monsters. It… didn’t end well. Then, during Breath of Fire 2, while the Dragon Clan had mostly retreated underground, remaining dragon people still had enough strength to seal away Anime Death Jesus (it was a weird game), while the rest of the races of the world couldn’t even plink that dude’s front door. And the dragons, “the Brood” are still powerful in Breath of Fire 3! They’re just powerful as… fossils. Basically, all of the dragons are dead by the time of Breath of Fire 3, and their remains are being used as an energy source that only creates horrible mutants about a third of the time. And, side note, dragons aren’t dead by accident; that nefarious Goddess Myria ordered their complete extermination a couple years back. But there are a handful of dragons remaining, and Ryu, the undisputed protagonist of BoF3, is one of ‘em. Go, Ryu, save the world in the name of your departed brethren!

Or fail at absolutely everything you do. That’s good, too.

Damn you guysFailure is an integral part of most videogames. Even before Dark Souls and alike made “death” a fundamental mechanic, there was always a learning curve. Everybody died to those opening goombas at least once, and everyone learns from that experience and changes Mario trajectory accordingly. You fail, death happens, you get back up on that Yoshi and try again. Meanwhile, JRPGs often make failure an essential and inevitable part of the narrative. You need to collect the six mipmaps or the nefarious ULTRA EVIL DEMON will awaken and destroy the world? Well, I’ve got some bad news: you’re probably going to collect those six mcguffins, but they’ll be stolen by the bad guys at the last minute, and you’re going to have to fight ULTRA EVIL DEMON anyway, because, come on, we didn’t design that three-screen high sprite for it not to get used. Besides, failure is basically a requirement for any game with a modicum of story. 90% of these tales are based on the basic “hero’s journey” plot outline, and what’s the point in winning if it’s not a comeback from some insurmountable defeat. You have to lose to rally and win, win, win!

Nobody wins in Breath of Fire 3.

Here’s a brief plot summary of Breath of Fire 3: Ryu is an orphan who teams up with two other orphans, Rei and Teepo. The trio decides to help out the local town through a Robin Hood-esque caper involving stealing from an evil Scrooge McDuck and distributing that wealth to all the downtrodden peasants. This plan technically works, but it turns out the richest man in town can hire some damn good security, so a couple of reverse-centaurs show up and tear Ryu’s life and “family” to shreds. Ryu survives, but Rei and Teepo are missing, so he sets off on a quest to find his missing friends. Ryu makes new friends along the way, including a failed princess, a failed scientist, a failed science experiment, and, most importantly, a man who has lived for centuries and is a literal dragon slayer. Their “friendship” goes about as well as you’d expect, and Ryu is knocked out for a solid decade. Ryu eventually wakes up again, decides he’s going to look into this whole “the world is dying” thing, finds his way halfway across the world (literally), and eventually traces it all back to the goddess that screwed with his ancestors. In the end, Ryu defeats Evil Goddess, and is rewarded with the knowledge that, as sucky as the world is, “Evil” Goddess was the only thing keeping it just that sucky, so good luck living in an endless desert, stupid!

Dammit!Oh, and somewhere in there, Ryu had to kill Teepo, because of course he did.

But don’t worry, Ryu isn’t the only ultimate failure in this party! Nina is the princess of Wyndia, and she has no idea how to be a person and a royal sovereign… Actually, that’s probably a pretty typical failing of royalty in JRPGs. What else we got? Well, there’s Rei, who apparently spent most of his teenage/adult life trying to avenge a pair of kids that were actually alive… oh, and then he fell over dead at the finish line. Doesn’t that just beat all? We’ve got Momo, who has spent her life following her father’s research, and she winds up exploited for her knowledge (and eventually finds out the answers to life’s mysteries are “a wizard did it” anyway). And Garr… good ol’ Garr the Guardian… was born and bred to kill dragons, and decided to ask “what if… not kill dragons?” of the goddess that created him. That… did not end well for him. Basically, every “hero” in Breath of Fire 3 is stuck in an unwinnable situation practically from the get-go. Nina wants to be a better person? Bad news, lady, you’re not going to get there by pounding slimes with your magic wand.

But, maybe, sometimes being a failure is okay.

For being a JRPG, Breath of Fire 3 does a pretty good job of presenting that “gray area” of morality. In BoF1, Goddess Myria might put on a nice face, but she is unequivocally the Goddess of Destruction. In BoF2, Anime Death Jesus, Goddess Myria’s only begotten son, has started a religion that has a tendency to kill you and your loved ones over and over again. That’s bad. But BoF3 Goddess Myria really is a benevolent goddess. She’s done bad things, but she’s done them in the name of protecting the people of the world. The Dragon Clan were alright blokes, but they could also kill everybody with a misplaced sneeze, so they had to go. Yggdrasil was a wise ol’ spirit of the forest, but its anti-Myria sentiment could lead to wars, and that’s not so great, so time to stop feeding the tree. And modern technology just means modern bombs and bioweapons, so maybe we could tape that back down to something more medieval. Myria committed a few sins, but that’s the price of being a leader. Myria sees herself as the mother of all humanity, and sometimes being a mother means exterminating all ice cream from the universe. It’s for your teeth. You’ll thank me later.

This is cuteBut Myria is the antagonist of Breath of Fire 3. This is a JRPG, and, in the end, you need a final boss you can hit with a sword. There isn’t going to be a solution where you talk this one out, and Myria has got to go out in a way that makes the player justified in overleveling and collecting all the best equipment on the planet. These are the rules. But thou must.

And, in most games, that complete lack of choice is often contrary to the premise of the adventure. Aside from narratives where you are a puppet is the moral, most modern games (and “modern” in this case meaning “any game made after 1992”) seem to revel in the choices available to the player. It’s a different experience every time! You never know how the story is going to go! You are playing a game wherein you play a role! You are the hero! … Except, it’s bullshit, because, whether you make important choices or not, one way or another, it all ends in the same place. You always fight the final boss. You always make it to that finish line. Even if it’s not in the way you may have expected, you always succeed, one way or another, in accomplishing something.

In Breath of Fire 3, Ryu and his gang do defeat the goddess. … But… Do they win? And, more importantly, would you expect this gang of failures to win? The ending of Breath of Fire 3 was an anomaly in an age of JRPGs that traditionally featured twenty minute FMV finales. All we have at the end of BoF3 is the surviving party members walking through the desert, and Peco the Plantémon sprouts a leaf. The end. Thanks for playing. This is clearly intended as a statement of hope for a world now without a goddess, and, coupled with the party’s earlier “we’re like little kids” speech, is supposed to indicate that humanity (or whatever passes for that in a world with kitty cat people) has now entered its own adulthood, free from the shackles of an overbearing mother-goddess. The kids are going to be all right!

Move along… Except, this entire tale was one of unintended consequences and… failing. Had Ryu and his band of thieves succeeded in their first task, they’d be legendary, and happy, local heroes. Had Ryu found his friends in a timely, less fatal manner, they would have returned home and lived happily. If Nina was a worthwhile princess, she could have been, ya know, a princess, and lived happily. If Garr could be content with the function he was literally made for, he could have retired happily centuries ago. Ultimately, if the heroes of Breath of Fire 3 could just stop failing for ten seconds at any point in their lives, they could have had a happy ending that didn’t involve deicide at pretty much any time. But, no, they’re failures, so they collectively wound up on a path that would change the world.

Every inevitable failure in their lives contributed to a final, humongous task that may have itself, been a failure.

But it did change their world forever.

Mural or not, I guess maybe failures can be heroes, too.

FGC #282 Breath of Fire 3

  • System: Playstation 1 here in The States, but you could also play it on PSP in every other region on Earth. … You can probably still import the PSX version to Vita, though.
  • Number of players: JRPGs are solitary affairs.
  • Favorite Dragon Gene: Every time Ryu gets transformed into a Pygmy Dragon, I have to laugh. He’s just so rolly-polly!
  • Regarding the Wings: This might be my favorite Nina in the series. “Rambunctious Princess” is basically the collective Nina archetype, one way or another, but here it really feels like she’s a spoiled brat playing at being a hero for her childhood, and then a slightly more mature version of that for her adult form. Slightly. All the same, Young Nina comes off like a magical girl, and that’s a lot more amusing than the more dour Ninas elsewhere in the series.
  • Slum it with us!Feeling Bleu: Deis, the snake-tailed goddess, doesn’t join the party for the first time in the franchise, and gets stuck in a room by her lonesome for most of the adventure. She deserves better! And, no, getting stuck in a sentient suit of armor is not an upgrade.
  • Did you know? There’s a dummied out item called THE MOCHI that cures petrification. The reason it was dummied out is because “stoned” has never been a status effect in the Breath of Fire series. Oops?
  • Would I play again: Probably not! I didn’t get around to mentioning it, but I have an extreme fondness for this doofy game (and the entire series). Something about the Breath of Fire franchise has always clicked with me, and I’d love to see a modern revival, whether it be more “old school” or “Dragon Quarter”-y. … Just not a cell phone game. That said, replaying BoF3 is sobering and exhausting. There are random encounters every seven feet. It’s… tiresome. And I’d rather play Breath of Fire 4, anyway. You don’t have to train some bloke to beat Bluto in that one. So, sorry, BoF3, it ain’t happening.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Paperboy for the N64. Let’s deliver some papers! I guess! Please look forward to it!

I want you back

FGC #281 Doom (32X)

Starring DoomguyI remember being cool in high school. … Wait, no, that’s a lie. I was never cool in school. I’m sure you don’t remember me. However, I know I was cooler than a lot of other losers. I was, like, the coolest kid in the computer club, bar none. I dated actual, real-live women. I went to two proms with three dates. I’m moderately certain I was the envy of at least seven freshmen. And, when I graduated high school, I easily cruised right into college, and wasn’t some lame, always-stuck-in-his-hometown dropout of society. I might not have been the coolest kid in the class, but in high school, I was at least… cool enough?

But a funny thing has happened in the intervening million, billion years since high school. I look at pictures from my old yearbook, or albums from cherished field trips, or even some random pic that gets posted on Facebook, and I see… a nerd? Okay, I’ve always been a nerd, but I at least always had an idea of what was stylish, right? What the hell am I wearing in that picture? And why is my hair… doing that thing? Wait… why in God’s name am I wearing nail polish? I wasn’t goth! Wait… I was dating that one girl for…. But that was just a gag! Like, I didn’t look like that for… where did this picture come from again? Can it be burned? Can we destroy the entire internet and any record of human life from before about 2010? That’d be great!

It's a party!Of course, the only thing keeping me going is that I’m not alone in this phenomenon. My best friend looks like just as much of a nerd as me, thank God. That girl I had a crush on for a solid ten years has hair that looks like it lost a fight with a stylist from Full House. And back to that terrible yearbook, even the cool teacher that was literally voted “Coolest Teacher” looks like something out of a particularly poorly cast 90’s after-school special (maybe something hosted by Garfield?). In short, it is horrifying to gaze upon your own past, as it turns out it’s not just the kids these days that have rotten trends and fashion, it’s everybody.

So what else was popular when I was rocking an ill-fitting Final Fantasy t-shirt and thinking I was the coolest thing since Coolio? Doom.

Doom is a classic videogame. Like Super Mario Bros, Doom basically invented a genre that is still going strong today, and, also like SMB, Doom established that genre by just plain being a good experience. … Except, as has been mentioned once or twice, I’m not a big fan of that genre. And there’s probably a reason for that! I was a console gamer. I’ve never been a fan of using computers for gaming because, basically, I rationalize computers as “work” devices, and have since sixth grade. Couple this with years (years!) of learning that keeping your computer “up to date” is a fool’s errand (I realize this has gotten better in recent years, but the mere mention of “video cards” still makes me indirectly nauseous), and it all adds up to Goggle Bob generally avoiding “computer games”. Sadly, this has continued into the modern age, and I still haven’t played Undertale (I’ll get to it!). Whatever the reason, Doom: The Game To Play wound up not being my thing, so I missed that particular trend, and any fond memories of a Doom-based childhood.

Except… that isn’t completely accurate.

Word!I may not have had a gaming PC, but I did have a whole pile of videogame consoles, and a serious drive to be one of the cool kids playing the cool videogames. This eventually led to purchasing Doom on the 32X, obviously the most superior Doom. It’s got all the Doom you love, and hasn’t been reduced to 16-bit low-fi. It’s got a six button controller, so you’re not limited by a keyboard or a mere four buttons! And it’s a cartridge, so no load times! Eat it, Playstation. This is the game of games on the system of systems! This is the best thing ever! … Or at least that’s what my friends seemed to believe.

And I play it now, and… huh. This is embarrassing.

First and foremost, that precious six-button Genesis controller is not meant for a FPS. In Doom’s defense, for exclusively working with a crosspad, Doomguy controls pretty alright, but little things like, ya know, aiming are impossible. Are the legions of Hell slightly above you? Sorry, you’re going to die. And, as far as I can tell, there’s no jump or climb button, so there are these awful pits that just leave you there to die… but not nearly fast enough (side note: I have no idea how body armor is impacted by standing in a puddle of acid). So, right off the bat, steering Doomguy is about as fun as navigating a hallway full of iron maidens in the dark.

But that kind of thing is understandable. You can start a genre, but it’s unusual to start a genre and perfect it, so a few hiccups are to be expected. And, hey, this was designed for the computer in the first place, of course the ol’ joypad is going to have a problem or two. Nobody ever chastises a teenager just for being young, and nobody chastises a port for not perfectly emulating the source material (this entire sentence is a lie).

No, what is most embarrassing about Doom is… Doom. Or, more appropriately, what Doom used to be.

BLAMMOMy social circle was convinced that Doom was the most mature game in history. There aren’t silly yo-yos or swords here; this is wall to wall guns. You’re not fighting daffy robots or whacky Universal monsters, you’re up against hellspawn and spikey eyeballs. There’s no puerile plumber bounding fifty feet in the air, Doomguy is a real person, he can’t jump or shrink or turn into a raccoon; it’s just him and his bare(ish) fists against the world. Monsters bleed. Doomguy grunts. This is real videogames for real adults, not those childish antics you see on your ‘intendo.

And revisiting that attitude as an actual adult? It doesn’t exactly do the game any favors. Have you been looking at these screenshots? Doom looks about as realistic as something you’d hang on your fridge after Timmy has been a good boy. Hell, some of those “scary” demons look downright cuddly. Cuddly isn’t cool. Cuddly isn’t cool at all!

Doom is a great game. Doom is responsible for much of where gaming “is” today, and nothing will ever change that. However, I opened up Doomguy’s yearbook last night and… uh… Bad news, Doomguy, I think…. I think you might have been a nerd.

Please don’t hit me.

FGC #281 Doom (32X)

  • System: Doom got around, bro. It was on the computer. It was on the Super Nintendo. It was on the 32X. It was on the Jaguar. It was on the Playstation, Saturn, and 3DO. It eventually wound up on the Gameboy Advance. It was released on something called “The Acorn”, which sounds pretty nutty.
  • Number of players: I think we’re stuck with one on the 32X. Was there a deathmatch version here? I’m not going to go back and check.
  • Really?Hot Takes from 1993: Why is Doomguy wearing ab-bearing armor? He’s wearing gloves on the title screen, but his fists are bare when punching demons. John Romero has silly hair! Ha-cha-cha-cha.
  • Favorite Weapon: I am partial to chain guns. Chainsaws are a second runner-up. Maybe I just like chains?
  • Did you know? A lot of people seem to forget that Doom claimed a lot of notoriety by being partially released as share-ware at its release. Trying to make your franchise the hottest thing since sliced bread? Give it away! That always works!
  • Would I play again: I feel like I should… but nope. This is another one that isn’t nostalgic enough for me to hold my attention, and has been improved in every conceivable way by later editions. Sorry, yearbook, you’re going back on the shelf.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Breath of Fire 3 for the Playstation! Now it’s time to see Ryu’s baby photos. Please look forward to it!

FGC #280 Super Troll Islands

Huh?The eyes always have it.

It’s fascinating how much humanity is obsessed with eyes. When you get right down to it, eyeballs are just another in a long series of random bits of anatomy, but it’s not like any gems are named “cat’s elbows”. Eyes are said to be a window to the soul, while absolutely nobody is looking up your nostrils to determine the contents of your heart. Maybe the gateways through which we see the world were always destined to be a focal point of our collective attention, or maybe a beautiful set of baby blues just are that gorgeous. One way or another, eyes have been the subjects of more sonnets and songs than fingernails could ever hope to imagine, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Eyes are here to stay (in our collective unconscious/skulls).

Symbol or no, though, there is power in the humble eyeball. Obviously, people behave differently when they’re being watched. Do you read this site at work? Look out! Your boss is right behind you, and the jerk knows you’re reading a site with a series of articles titled “Wankery Week”. You’re fired, you damn pervert. … Or no one is watching you right now, so you can do whatever you damn well please. Want to open up a bag of doritos at your desk and dip ‘em in hot fudge? Go for it! Don’t get any fudge on the keyboard, and you’ll be fine. But what does that really mean? Essentially, there are two different realities, one where you are being supervised and restrained, and one where you can do anything in the world. And if this sounds bonkers, consider that the basis of some entire religions is simply “capital-G God is always watching you”. God has got his eyes on you, and he knows what you’re doing with those doritos.

But here’s a fun fact: people react to simple representations of eyeballs, and not just actual, living eyeballs. Studies have proven (google it!) that when an eye is in the area, like a simple poster with eyeballs staring straight at ya, people perform… better. People litter less when they get even the impression they’re being watched, and face punching incidents drop by almost 85% [citation needed]. Basically, humans are social creatures, but we’re also stupid creatures, so if we’re in the presence of even a fake audience, we behave more responsibly. This is why I’ve painted pseudo-eyes on the side of my house, and now those neighborhood kids have stopped peeing on my lawn. Life is good with eyes!

Just chillSo it’s interesting to look at how eyes evolved in videogames. Nowadays, even Link is looking fairly realistic, but back in the early times of 8-bit adventures, eyes were a luxury some heroes couldn’t afford. Simon Belmont? No eyes. Bill & Lance? No eyes. Orin the Falconer of 8 Eyes? Barely got eyes. OG Pac-Man is eyeless (his opponents are sometimes only eyes), and Samus Aran can only win eyes through defeating Mother Brain. In fact, you could probably point to some of the most known mascots of the NES/Gameboy era for their eyes. Mega Man and his signature blinks come to mind, and Kirby is all about the eyes, angry or not. And then we’ve got Mario and his world that is filled with eyes. Turtles, chestnuts, mushrooms, bushes, clouds, and I’m pretty sure I saw a few eyeballs on flaming plants somewhere in there. And guess which franchise captured children’s hearts for a generation or so? Yep, it’s the one with the googly eyes all over the place.

But by the age of the Super Nintendo, sprites were getting a bit more spacious. Now we had room for big, cartoony creatures with appropriately scaled eyes. Now we could actually get some of those Mickey Mouse/anime eyeballs in there, and…. Sometimes it went terribly wrong…

Super Troll Islands is a very limited game. You control one of four trolls, and an evil fog has made the whole of the world (Troll Islands?) monochrome for some bizarre reason. But I guess trolls leak color wherever they go, so you’ve got to guide your troll to, basically, just walk all over the place, and thus this fog thing will just work itself out. Your troll doesn’t even have to walk everywhere, you just have to aim for places where, thanks to a number of ladders, you can navigate in a general square/rectangle around an area. Repeat forever, throw in a few bonus stages, and call it a day. Actually, to be honest, I have no idea how many levels are in this game, as I got bored about seven levels in, but there are definitely those seven levels. Are there bosses, too? Who the hell knows.

But that’s not what’s important about Super Troll Islands. What’s important is that, for reasons that can only be imagined by mortal man, at no point in this adventure do these damn trolls stop looking at you.

WHAT IN GOD'S NAME!?

They’ve got cold, dead, black eyeballs, and they’re always staring right at you, player. Running left? Running right? Climbing a ladder? Swimming? There is nothing you can do to get these damn trolls to look in any other direction. Actually, forgive me, there is one thing: the tornado “super move” will temporarily transform your chosen troll into a whirlwind of deadly hair (?), and, for one brief respite, you are free of the troll menace. Then, after the powerup wears off, it’s right back to staring history’s lamest fad right in the face. Trolls are watching you. Trolls will always be watching you.

ArghAnd you really have to wonder what the designers were thinking. This troll staring thing is immediately and obviously… disturbing. Some people might like troll dolls, but nobody wants to have a staring contest with the little buggers. This isn’t “that should be fun for kids”, this is the game you see in the opening to a particularly poorly planned horror movie from the 90’s starring Macaulay Culkin as the unfortunate child that thought he was just purchasing a simple Super Nintendo game, but wound up taking home… a monster! Super Troll Islands isn’t fun, it’s horrifying, and that’s not exactly a good match for a game where you collect ice cream after spreading rainbows. There’s… a bit of a disconnect there.

So remember the lesson of Super Troll Islands: eyes are important, but do not use eyes for evil. Just don’t do it. You are being watched.

FGC #280 Super Troll Islands

  • System: Super Nintendo exclusive! Obviously, it was too much for the meager Sega Genesis.
  • Only Troll Game on the SNES? Nope!
  • Number of players: There isn’t even a perfunctory two player alternating mode here. One troll at a time, losers!
  • Optional: The options menu allows you to adjust the control scheme, or…. Change the direction of your troll’s hair. That’s… important?
  • BONUSFavorite Troll: I don’t know, the green one, I guess. I’ll also note here that I enjoy fluorescent colors… though you probably already guessed that from the site design. Hm. I should switch things up again at some point.
  • Did you know? Troll Dolls have been around since 1959, but they really did the whole fad thing sometime around the early 90’s. This would be right around when the trolls released singles covering Beach Boy songs. It was a weird time to be alive.
  • Would I play again: The eyes… they… they haunt me.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Doom! DOOM! DOOOOOOOOOOOM! For the 32X. Please look forward to it!