Monthly Archives: September 2017

Wild Arms 2 Part 02: The Girl in the Box

Previously on Wild Arms 2: Five years ago, Brad Evans was arrested for seventeen counts of gem theft, gate damage, and the extinction of an endangered beehive-based creature.

But that’s all behind us, and it’s time to check in with Palace Village. Come for the village, stay for the palace (note: there is no palace).

This appears to be some village elders’ meeting regarding hiring a mercenary. Oh, wait, excuse me, “Merc”. That’s the deliberate term for hobos adventurers in the Wild Arms universe.

There’s some random crosstalk here, but apparently these guys need a merc for something.

And then a girl dropped in…

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

Here come these dorks!This game is filled with hate… and it might be accidental.

Ex-Mutants is a 16-bit videogame for the Sega Genesis. Right off the bat, you’d probably assume this is some manner of Donkey Kong to X-Men’s King Kong. The videogame industry has a long and storied history of committing light plagiarism on the way to making an extra buck, and for every Enter the Dragon there are about six hundred videogame “homages” (and, oh yeah, the entire fighting game genre). It wouldn’t surprise anybody that, in an effort to get a chunk of that Fox Kids pie, someone cut off a slice of the X-Men, and renamed the thing to be just confusing enough to trick grandma into a purchase. Little Timmy really enjoys those Ex-Mutants, right? Better get this game featuring Gambo, Jaguar, and One-Eyed.

But the Ex-Mutants were not created to rip off the X-Men for videogame gains. No, the Ex-Mutants were created to rip off the X-Men for comic book cash. Back in 1986, Ex-Mutants was created to be, basically, a parody of the X-Men franchise. This was a sort of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles situation, wherein the original premise is kind of reversed or otherwise distorted (reminder: TMNT is a Daredevil parody that took on a life of its own), and a completely different animal emerges from the… mutation. In this particular case, in a world of mutants, five “genetically pure” humans are cloned and released into the wild. The humans are supposed to bring a message of hope and humanity… but with four women and one man, it winds up being a sort of goofy Tenchi Muyo-esque affair with an excuse for Ron Lim to draw pretty ladies every other page. What’s important is that the tone isn’t all that serious, and it wasn’t really meant as a “competitor” for the X-franchise any more than any other comic book. Oh, also, there were like ten issues, total, so it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Away we goBut then came the ridiculous comics boom of the early 90’s. For reasons no one has ever quite understood, comic books suddenly became collector’s items for a period of about seventy minutes, and the entire industry made a mad dash to publish any old crap and slap sixteen holofoil covers on said crap. Malibu picked up Ex-Mutants, and then the series ran for a solid eighteen issues (over a year!), before being cancelled forever. In case you’re curious, this Genesis game was based on the Malibu incarnation.

At this point, I’d like to describe the Malibu Ex-Mutants series for you… but, for some reason, there is a dearth of information available on the net regarding that particular failed franchise. Basically, every description of Ex-Mutants I can find is focused exclusively on the original series, and I guess nobody cares about the Malibu incarnation. This… may be for the best. From what I can tell, Malibu Ex-Mutants was much more of a dedicated X-Men/Gen 13 affair, and featured an even division of men and women. But don’t worry, Ex-Mutants did remember its roots, as the cover of issue 2 was already leaning pretty heavily into the cheesecake…

Let’s put this behind a NSFW link…

Of course, without some helpful Ex-Mutants wiki, those kinds of covers are all we have to go on for this series. It… looks serious? I mean… could it be when their prime villain is a giant slug named Sluggo? But these covers are practically indistinguishable from the X-Men 2099 line, and those were the most serious comics that ever happened. Oh, Ex-Mutants, we hardly knew ye.

But perhaps looking to the Genesis tie-in game will provide some answers. The Genesis X-Men games were some of the best on the system, and, for those of us that didn’t read comics, were an excellent introduction to the series. This is Gambit, these are his powers, and check out his rad stick. Here’s Wolverine, he’s got claws, and aren’t they cool? Ex-Mutants could do the same for its parent franchise, and the game does do a great job of introducing the premise right off the bat. Here’s a fun fact: the Ex-Mutants are racist!

The future is pale

Okay, this might be a problem with being a dedicated X-Men fan for decades, but when the concept is that mutants have “polluted our gene pool” and only “pure” humans should be the future… Like, that’s something the nefarious Senator Robert Kelly says before he’s proven to be a sentinel plant, right? This is exactly what Magneto was afraid of, and he’s usually right when he’s not secretly Hitler. But X-bias aside, there is the little matter that the “genetically pure” examples of the human race are… a little pale. The guys are certainly all white guys, and… I think we maybe have one Asian woman? Other than that, we have tan-white and super-white. I realize that this was kind of a standard for the 90’s (including “maybe Asian”, this is technically a gang that is actually more diverse than the cast of Friends), but it becomes something else when you’re talking about “genetic purity” and “the future of the human race”. The original Ex-Mutants included an African-American (… does that term still apply to ex-mutants of the future?) woman, I’m not sure why her and her entire race got ditched for the reboot.

Are you from the future?But, fine, let’s just chalk that one up to white defaulting and move on. Ex-Mutants for Genesis lamely chooses to follow the Battletoads route to success: there’s a full team of six Ex-Mutants, but all but Player 1 and Player 2 have been captured, because there is only so much sprite budget to go around. This is forgivable, but it does the franchise no favors, as we have no idea if the other Ex-Mutants are unique and beautiful humans (Princess Daisy) or just professional kidnap victims (Princess Peach). Then again, all we learn about the two playable characters are that Ackroyd has an axe, and Shannon has an ass. Not exactly a great way to get a neophyte into the franchise (unless you’re Sir Mix-a-Lot).

But we do get some information on Sluggy the super villain and Professor Kildare, the leader of the Ex-Mutants. Sluggo is a giant slug mutant… and that’s all we need to know about that. But Professor Kildare, now there’s a character! He’s a brilliant scientist and a cyborg! Who apparently runs on batteries! And, since he’s your boss, you have to find a fresh battery for him somewhere in every level, or you must repeat the stage! But it’s worth it! Because if you didn’t have Professor Kildare around, you wouldn’t have his great tips… on where to find his batteries. … This is cyborg slavery!

But don’t worry, the fun doesn’t end there! Ex-Mutants plays very similarly to the Genesis X-Men titles, but, while those could be generally difficult (or marginally impossible) because they were built to be difficult, Ex-Mutants is a pain in the ex-butt because of various places where the traps are ambiguously impossible. Alternating disappearing platforms are just fine in Mega Man because they’re precisely timed, in Ex-Mutants, you’re likely to jump around like an idiot because it will take a solid thirty seconds before all the platforms actually line up properly… and then you’re greeted with a deadly buzzsaw! Bosses, naturally, are no better, as they have long, long periods of invincibility or patterns wherein it’s impossible to even approach their general proximity without taking a hit. And, just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a mine cart stage! And it goes without saying that you get absolutely no invincibility frames after being hit.

BUZZ BUZZThis all adds up to… a less than enjoyable experience. Maybe Ex-Mutants started as a parody. Maybe the Malibu Ex-Mutants videogame was supposed to be an amusing spoof of similar videogames. Maybe this game was supposed to popularize the Ex-Mutants for the 16-bit generation. Maybe the game was supposed to be, in some tiny way, actually fun. Unfortunately, Ex-Mutants fails on all these points, and all that is left is a lousy platforming/action game that kinda looks like an X-Men title if you squint really hard. If you don’t squint, though, all you’ll see is hate. Hate for the player, hate for the franchise, and hate for the poor schlub that thought that was Scott Summers on the cover, and not some dork with an axe.

Ex-Mutants is hate for your Sega Genesis.

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

  • System: Sega Genesis. It’s the most Ex-system.
  • Number of players: Just one. You have your choice of Ex-Mutant, though.
  • Preferred Ex-Mutant: Between Ackroyd and Shannon, I’ll take Shannon. Ackroyd seems to do more damage, but Shannon is faster, and, like in other games, speed is king. Come to think of it, is that why the platforming bits were so difficult? Because Shannon moves faster than the “default” character? This is another reason this game is hate.
  • Because you Suck: Or maybe I just don’t like this game because it actively insults you for losing.
    Really?

    Thanks, playable character! Cram it!
  • 16-Bit Geography: As far as I can tell, this game takes place in a city, The Amazon Rain Forest, and then another city. Either that, or Central Park has gotten really overgrown in the future.
  • Did you know? The original Ex-Mutants protagonist was named Belushi. The second incarnation featured the heroic Ackroyd in the leading role. I’ll let you figure that one out.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the Ex-Mutants merchandise in the world.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… NBA Jam Tournament Edition for the Super Nintendo! Way to go, ROB! You’re on fire! Please look forward to it!

SLUGGO!

FGC #332 Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite

Note: This article may contain general spoilers for the story mode of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Nothing heavy, but you have been warned.

Gonna take you for a ride?I once claimed that Street Fighter V was the most disappointing game of 2016, and I stand by that statement. Street Fighter V at launch wasn’t a bad game, and it certainly was another Street Fighter game, just… Like the unenviable musk that lingers around anyone that stands downwind of Zangief, there was an unmistaken stench of exploitation surrounding the entire enterprise. Arcade mode was gone, survival mode was boring (could you please use random select for opponents? Please?), and online versus seemed built for someone that had already picked out a “main” (on day one, apparently). Eventually, we received a full story mode, new fighters (and a few old ones), and at least one character that apparently snuck in from a certain other game. Street Fighter V still comes off as disappointing, but now it at least feels like a complete game (albeit one still made for the more hardcore fans).

When I first started playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite while waiting for the complete download to finish, I was already noting why MvCI would inevitably be my most disappointing game of 2017. Admittedly, for my tastes, MvCI had an uphill battle, as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is one of my top games of all time. And, if that game didn’t exist, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would fill that same space. I’ve loved the Vs. series since Akuma first smacked around Cyclops, and the later entries that seem to include every character ever (except Daredevil) hit every neuron in my brain’s pleasure center like an epileptic Ping-Pong ball. I have videogame attention deficit disorder, and all I want to do is play as every character in every other round. I’m not certain I’ve ever picked the same team in MvC2 twice (except when trying to beat Abyss, then it’s Cable/Mega Man/Cyclops all the way). And MvC3 felt like a game that was built by people that played MvC2 for a decade, made a mental list of everything they’d add if they could, and then did. Zero! Thor! She-Hulk! Give or take an X-Man or two, that roster is perfect, and the gameplay matches it. And it’s even fairly balanced! No more Sentinel/Magneto/Storm defeating everybody! Most of the time!

Pew pewConversely, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite feels like it was designed by committee. There is not a single Marvel character that did not appear in a movie (or, in Captain Marvel’s case, is about to appear in a movie). The Capcom side isn’t much better, and features three stubbly white guys that have nearly identical facial portraits. We’re chasing power stones, where are the crazy anime characters of Power Stone? Where are my ghost tricks? Where is Ryu (the dragon, not the other one)? Heck, we don’t even have a single Street Fighter that was introduced after 1991. Akuma and Wolverine practically started this franchise, but they’re left behind because I guess the new, edgy version of Bionic Commando is a bigger draw (but not the new, edgy version of Dante, that guy sucks). And, while I know I’m railing at corporate overlords that only deign to make such a game because they have the spare cash from all the successes that are featured in this title (Avengers: The Movie made more money than the GOP of most countries, and I’m sure at least six people bought Dead Rising 4), I’m still more than a little annoyed at how… cheap this all appears. This feels like the most low-rent and recycled the franchise has ever been, and that’s even considering one of the best entries was about 80% recycled content.

And, oh yeah, the graphics suck. They, like, just do. I can’t explain Captain Marvel’s face. I… I don’t want to look at it anymore.

Lady Marvel

Dammit! Now I’ll never read this article again.

So I was all ready to hate on MvCI as the biggest letdown of the year when, after 40 gigs and 4 hours, the download finally completed (note: despite apparently having downloaded nearly 2 TB of games to my Playstation 4, I still only kill time with Sonic Mania. I will play that game until my eyes fall out of my skull). I could already play with the complete roster in versus mode, but now story and arcade modes were available. Fun fact: arcade mode is nothing, but it at least exists, so it has a leg up over Street Fighter V. And then there was story mode. I wasn’t expecting much, but, since I more or less bought the game “for the story” (it certainly wasn’t just so I could play as Rocket Raccoon [again]), I decided to give it a try.

And damned if that didn’t justify the entire endeavor.

Looks different, tooSaid it before, and I’ll say it again: There is no way to please fans of a crossover series. “Heroes” are meant to be the heroes of their own stories, and when you group a bunch of main characters together, everyone gets reduced to their component parts. A character that previously led an entire adventure is condensed to being “the smart one” because they solved like one problem without punching in the original tale. And, inevitably, your favorite character is reduced to being practically a sidekick to whoever is arbitrarily chosen as the “real” hero of the piece, and, ugh, did you see how Sora was able to defeat Power Trident Ursula with a stupid lightning spell? Totally non-canon. That would never happen.

And this is all utterly true of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite…

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

It's a-him!So here’s why Mario games are good.

Today’s game is Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final part of the Super Mario Galaxy duology. While some endlessly debate whether Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the better game (and I will remind you that SMG2 contains Yoshi), it is perhaps better to look at Super Mario Galaxy as one solid piece, accidentally fragmented into two sections. Let’s face it, SMG was released on the cusp of Nintendo learning how to add expansions to games (see the eventual joys of Smash Bros, Hyrule Warriors, and Mario Kart), and, should SMG have initially been released on the WiiU, we likely would have seen new planets until the release of the Switch. But, for now, the two games are separate but equal, with slight differences between the two, and an aggravating need to switch discs when you have to choose between riding a dolphin or a vulture.

But the reason the difference between the two games is insignificant is because both titles are amazing. Super Mario Galaxy is easily the apex of the Mario franchise (note for future readers: this article was published before the release of Mario Odyssey, or any other inevitable future endeavors, like Mario… Omniverse?), and the sheer volume of creativity and care on display in these games is astronomical. Yes, there are a few misses bouncing around the title (mostly experiments involving motion controls), and it would be nice to be able to play this Mario game with a “real” controller, but, by and large Mario Galaxy & Mario Galaxy 2 are perfect Mario games.

But why are they perfect? What is it about blasting around Mario’s Galaxy that makes these games so much fun? Is it the gravity? The enemies? The Bowser fights? (No, it’s never that.)

I’ve got a theory for Mario games (and nearly all action/platforming games), and it’s called “The Joy of Movement”. What makes a great Mario game? It’s whether or not you actually enjoy moving around.

WeeeeeAt first blush, this seems abundantly obvious. After all, sloppy controls are often the death knell for poorly received games. Amagon probably would be a passable adventure if it were at all possible for the hero to actually deal with the encroaching threats of Everything-Kills-You Island. And while even games with terrible controls may occasionally succeed (looking at you, Grand Theft Auto), they usually nail at least one thing completely perfectly (like using rocket launchers on pedestrians). But for successful franchises, it’s obvious that enjoying actually moving your digital avatar is the most important thing. Sonic the Hedgehog is the poster child for this phenomenon (and the recent Sonic Mania being essentially Sonic & Knuckles 4 and being wildly successful cannot be a coincidence), but Mega Man also slots in perfectly here, too. Mega Man might not have 360° aiming or the ability to bend his robo-knees, but he’s perfectly suited to his world, and there’s joy to be had in flawlessly stomping over the corpse of a robot monkey on your way to barbecuing a wooden man. The joy of movement is real, and you’ve subconsciously experienced it practically every time you’ve played a worthwhile videogame.

And Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2? Here is the apex of joy of movement.

It’s initially very simple: Mario just plain controls well. You’ve got analogue walking/running, you’ve got the triple jump, and you can even hold a button to crawl along. Start combining some of these commands, and you’ve got the inimitable long jump and backflip. Go a little further, and you’ve got Mario exploring weird little planets with their weird little gravities, but still “moving” exactly the same. And intuitively, too! Leaping from one planetoid to another always “feels right”, and switching gravities is as natural as stomping on goombas. And speaking of feelings, the aggressive spin attack or the frantic spin jump both feel wonderful when you use the technique to survive an incoming chomp or avoid a crushing black hole.

Well, I like itBut the powerups… now that’s where things get crazy. Bee Mario buzzes along and crawls exactly how anyone who has ever been outside would expect (though, granted, not every Mario fan has been outside recently). Boo Mario’s spectral floating feels fittingly weightless. Rock ‘n roll Mario moves with all the heft of a boulder, and no one bats an eye when inertia causes that Mario to go meteor. Running around at full tilt with an invincibility star is always cool, and fire flowers exploit a player’s desire to shake that wiimote and vaporize everything on six planets. Cloud Mario is likely the best thing to ever happen to the franchise, as generating your own platform with a panicked spin is something Mario has needed since he first dropped into that hole in World 1-1. Spring Mario can be a blast… you just have to think like a kangaroo. Or maybe an injured bird? Frog? I think frogs hop a lot.

Even Yoshi gets into the act. Tongue twisting across platforms is an innate delight, and swallowing every troopa in a ten mile radius is literally the reason these Yoshis were born. And Yoshi gets his own powerups! Balloon fetishists delight at a round and floating Yoshi. And the dash pepper leads to new and exciting challenges of the Turbo Tunnel variety, but with the important caveat of not being terrible. And, whether you’re riding a dinosaur or literally skating around a frozen planet, it’s all completely instinctive and… fun.

WeeeeeAnd that’s the joy of movement, the joy of a good Mario adventure. Every trot, every jump, every powerup just feels good, and that’s what keeps the player running towards 242 stars. Every obstacle course is masterfully crafted with Mario’s skills in mind, and every powerup is utilized in unique and electrifying ways to surmount new challenges.

When it feels good to just move, that’s when you’re playing a wonderful videogame.

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

  • System: Nintendo Wii. Also available on the WiiU download service… but that system plays Wii discs, anyway. So does that even count?
  • Number of players: I laud any game that involves a two player mode that is meant for casual accompaniment. Not enough people celebrate the humble person that wants to participate in a friend’s favorite past time, but has absolutely no skills suited to the task. I blindly tried to help my buddy, One Handed Joe, with his carpentry hobby a couple of years back, and it ended… poorly.
  • And where is the joy of movement in Fluzzard? The joy of Fluzzard is selecting another level that does not include Fluzzard.
  • Question for the Ages: What nimrod decided they should replace Princess Rosalina with Party Pants Starfy?

    GO ON A DIET

    Hey, Rosalina, get out of the shot! You’re ruining my bullet point.

  • Favorite Powerup: Cloud Mario has saved that plumber’s peperoni more times than I care to admit.
  • So, did you beat it? Of course. I got all the stars, and conquered the final daredevil challenge. I even tried that final stage again for this article… and I barely got past the first area. Look, I need to get back in practice, okay?
  • But you still beat the repeat of Luigi’s purple coins, right? Some things never leave you.
  • What’s in a name? The internal title for Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Super Mario Galaxy More. I agree.
  • Did you know? The Flying Star that barely appeared in Super Mario Galaxy is buried in the code of Super Mario Galaxy 2. But it’s not completely forgotten! It has an updated theme, and can be patched into being a wholly working powerup. This seems to suggest that the star was intended to be used in Super Mario Galaxy 2, but was left on the cutting room floor because it was too joyous for this fallen world.
  • Would I play again: I love this game. I love it so much. I’d like to be able to play it with a “real” controller, as the wiimote/chuck has never felt 100% natural to me, but, other than that, this is one game that I can practically guarantee I’ll play again.

What’s next? Random ROB… better shut his trap, because I feel like playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. That’s just the way it is, robot. Please look forward to it!

Yay Mario!