Monthly Archives: February 2018

FGC #387 The Death and Return of Superman

SUPERMAN!The Death and Return of Superman is a singular event in comics and videogames.

But not for the reasons you think…

First of all, let’s address the inevitable vocal nerd in the room. You might not comment, you might not say it out loud to anyone in particular, but I see you, comics nerd, because I am right there with you and your inevitably contrary opinions. In this case, my imagined strawman is spouting off the modern response to The Death and Return of Superman: “it doesn’t matter anymore, every comic book character dies”. And that’s true! In the current, modern age of comics (so defined as “any comic that came out after Iron Man: The Movie made Marvel a mint”) pretty much everyone has died and been revived in one manner or another. Spider-Man was mind-killed (but got better), every Green Lantern was killed and/or banished at one time or another (they’re all cool now), and even the Human Torch died and was revived in an event absolutely no one cared about. Death means nothing in modern comics, and even some of the “perennial” deaths have been overturned. Jean Grey is back as a teenager and a head-sock wearing adult, Bucky Barnes is an (apparently) immortal cyborg, and, despite the presence of like sixteen Wolverines across the X-franchise, it appears “regular” Wolverine is going to be back in action shortly. Death holds no sway over the comics page, and it’s a shock when Professor X actually stays dead for longer than ten minutes. Remember that time he got shot in the head, and it cured his paralysis? Good times.

So The Death and Return of Superman should have lost some of its luster after a thousand imitators. Heck, it wasn’t original in the first place, as it wasn’t even the first time Superman died. He used to die every other week back in the Silver Age of Comics! I know that sounds ridiculous, but, come on, if you found out your marriage to a gorilla (which only happened because you were cursed with a lion head) was legally binding, wouldn’t you rather conquer death before having to familiarize yourself with gorilla divorce law? Just leave your will etched into the moon, and you’re good to go hang out with mermaids again. WeeeeePoint is that Superman was never going to stay in the grave, and, while there was a bit of buzz over “how does he die?” and “how does he come back?”, The Death and Return of Superman was never going to be all that original an idea right from its inception. It started as a writer’s room joke! The entire thing happened so they could sync a comics wedding with a television wedding! This whole event should have been more doomed than Superman!

But… it wasn’t. Whether it was because of a surprisingly focused media campaign or just a bunch of nerds really interested in watching Superman bite the big one, The Death of and Return of Superman was a cultural event. Actually, it was probably that “Death” that was more read than the inevitable “Return”, but it’s likely at least 12% of that audience stuck around to figure out exactly why Clark Kent suddenly had a mullet. And, by comic book numbers, that’s an unprecedented success! Superman dying reinvigorated the whole of DC Comics, and paved the way for all sorts of amazing new story ideas and characters. Remember Kyle Rayner? Please say you do!

And, as an inevitable side-effect of being popular in the mid 90’s, The Death and Return of Superman got its own Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis game. This, taken on its own in 1994, should not have been a surprise. What is a surprise is that, in the intervening (nearly) 25 years, we haven’t seen a single other videogame based on one single comics arc.

That… is a bit absurd.

OuchFor those of you that don’t follow comic books, comic “arcs” are frequent, numerous, and often define a solid six months or so at a time. Because it’s difficult to write new and interesting plots every month, comic books often pursue arcs that are generally based on one hero battling one villain… but a lot of little problems get in the way for issue after issue. Often times, these arcs are transformed into “events”, and an event comic sucks every other comic it can find into its orbit. It’s not just about Batman fighting Joker, it’s about Joker infecting every other villain he can find, and, this month, The Flash has to battle Captain Cold, but he’s wearing clown makeup, so that’s new and interesting… right? These events are frequently just an excuse to goose the sales on good but publicly ignored titles (“This week, Yellow Lanterns fight The Blue Beetle! Next week: The New Gods!”), and, while we’re at it, maybe get some buzz from the fans thanks to some killer pull quotes like “things will never be the same again” or “Radioactive Man dies on every page”. Again, it’s all been watered down after years (decades) of repetition and hyperbole, but it appears to be the lifeblood of the superhero comics industry. Marvel Comics without sporadic events where everyone turns out to be a Nazi would hardly be Marvel Comics at all.

What happened here?But, for every giant arc and epic event that has gone through DC and Marvel comics, barely any have made the leap to videogame land. What’s more, of the few arcs that made the transition to pixels (and weren’t just based on movies that came out a month prior), all of those stories were rewritten and repackaged as more generic adventures. It’s not “The Fantastic Four battle Galactus”, it’s “Marvel Superheroes”. It’s not “Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin”, it’s just “Spider-Man”. And when he teams up with the X-Men… it’s not exactly because someone loved that time Arcade built his latest Murder World, it’s entirely because some company wanted to smoosh two super popular franchises together. There is a huge market for people that would absolutely kill for a Blackest Night or Sinestro Wars videogame… but the best we’re ever going to see is a generic Green Lantern game starring only Hal Jordan. And even that is probably only going to happen if there’s a new movie to promote.

So what was different about The Death and Return of Superman? Why, of all the many, many comic book “epic stories” to come out over the last few decades, was this story of man vs. rock monster chosen to be exalted into beat ‘em up Valhalla with Mike Haggar and Michelangelo? Why is The Death and Return of Superman in my Super Nintendo, and not Generic Superman Adventure #327?

And, in playing The Death and Return of Superman, I think I have an answer: This is all about Superman, and that’s it.

The Death and Return of Superman technically features five playable characters: Steel, Cyborg Superman, The Eradicator, Superboy, and Superman: Original Flavor. Officially, that is five different people (mostly people), but, for the purpose of this beat ‘em up, they all play exactly the same. They all have a projectile, they all have a screen-clearing “super move”, and they all have a flurry of generic combos and attacks. And, in a way, that is fairly on-point gameplay, as there is supposed to be confusion as to who is the real Superman. Superboy is a clone, The Eradicator has the power, Cyborg Superman could have the body, and Steel has the heart and drive of the Man of Steel. They’re all supposed to be worthwhile Superman replacements, and, since they all play the same, they could all qualify. So machoIt’s not lazy coding, it’s a feature! And speaking of potential laziness, every boss (aside from Doomsday) is either an anonymous “trap” (like an angry robot), or another one of the Supermans. Cyborg Superman vs. Superboy. Eradicator vs. Steel. Superman vs. Cyborg Superman. This could practically be a fighting game for much of the plot, and it would be one featuring only variations on one character.

And that is the genius of it.

Remember those gigantic, epic “event” comics I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that those stories often feature a cast of hundreds. And it’s easy to see how that happens, because when the average super team has an average of ten members, and everyone has to show up all at once, suddenly you’ve got a convention crowd battling the latest invader du jour. And that’s difficult to follow! Sure, you understand Superman or Batman’s deal, but what’s up with Elongated Man this week? Wasn’t he dead? Why does he look like a 20’s gangster? And is that supposed to be Martian Manhunter over there? Why the heck is he cosplaying as Blade? And this is all assuming this event isn’t occurring at some random point in another comic’s current “event”, so Wonder Woman isn’t inexplicably being played by her mom, or Batman isn’t a crazed Frenchman. In short, most comic book events require a primer just to know who’s who, and the industry has solved this problem by… releasing “the road to” comic events that explain the premise for the next event. Also, sometimes there is a denouement “aftermath” series that explains how everyone is reacting to the events of the last event. It generally previews the next event, too. What I’m trying to say is that reading comics requires a healthy amount of dedication, possibly bordering on constructing a bulletin board with a number of multicolored push pins.

WeeeeBut The Death and Return of Superman doesn’t need any of that. Yes, the original series was grand and sweeping, and we certainly had at least one tie-in where we learned exactly how Aquaman felt about losing his land pal, but the core of the story, that which could be converted into a 16-bit title, is just a Superman story. It’s Evil Superman fighting Sidekick Supermans until Real Superman decides to make the scene. You don’t need Lois Lane. You don’t need Lex Luthor. And you certainly don’t need a guest appearance from Robin #4,187. No, all you need is a bunch of Supermans punching each other, and we’re good to go. The Death and Return of Superman is the ideal comic book event, because it can be converted into any format, and the audience doesn’t need to know anything more than the title. What is the Eradicator’s deal? Who cares! It’s time for super punches now!

And that’s why The Death and Return of Superman is the only videogame distinctly based on one comic book event.

Well, except Maximum Carnage. But that one sucked.

FGC #387 The Death and Return of Superman

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The SNES version came out first, so I’m assuming the Genesis version is more of a port.
  • Number of players: Despite the host of extra Supermans laying around, it’s only one player. A real shame there isn’t a playable Jimmy Olsen available.
  • Friendly Fire: One interesting shift in the beat ‘em up standard here is that the random mooks can accidently fire missiles and punches at each other. Some really deft and careful dodging could probably lead to a successful “pacifist run” of everything but the bosses.
  • Super Destructive: On the other hand, there’s something just plain satisfying about tossing a mutant into a background window, and earning a powerup for your troubles.
  • Get 'em!The Superman Problem: This is a beat ‘em up starring Superman, so, naturally, we have to deal with the whole “he’s not that super” problem. Doomsday is one thing, but OG Supes can lose health and lives to random punks with chainsaws! And so many random robots! Bah! Repeat to yourself it’s just a game, and you should really just relax.
  • Favorite Superman: I’m going to say Steel for this game, as he’s the only Superman smart enough to show up with a weapon (a rad hammer, at that). Look, I know Superman has twelve billion powers, but kryptonite surfaces every other day, so maybe it would be a good idea to have a backup plan, Clark.
  • Did you know? This game was developed by an early Blizzard Entertainment. Yes, that Blizzard. If you ignore Blackthorne (which almost everyone did anyway), this might be the first chronologically developed Blizzard game as Blizzard (as they were previously Silicon & Synapse). That’s just super.
  • Would I play again: This is a beat ‘em up, and, while it’s interesting as a cultural artifact, it’s neither two players nor interesting enough to play again. Pass.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Secret of Mana 2018! Or I just spent all weekend playing that game, and I really want to talk about it! Which I’m going to do! Please look forward to it!

I hate your little jacket

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

Trash!And now for a peek behind the curtain at the many rejected ideas for how to approach Oscar’s Trash Race.

This is a counting game: Try to determine if readers can actually count.
Rejected: This site is based on numbers going up, readers obviously can deal with high numbers.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, write an entire article while “grumpy”.
Rejected: That one cat has grumpy covered for the entire internet for years.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, your favorite muppet, talk about that.
Rejected: The world doesn’t need to know about my various grouch-based fandoms.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about Sesame Street, the children’s television show.
Rejected: Your humble author has incredibly vague memories of ever watching Sesame Street, predominantly because my recollection as a toddler is a bit sketchy. There is also a general feeling that any other writer on Earth could write a more loving and carefully researched article on Sesame Street, particularly in comparison to that love letter to Voltron.

Trash!This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about your first beloved portable videogame system: The Cookie Counter.
Rejected: It was a basic calculator with a built in game of Juggler. I think I loved that device more than some of my childhood pets. And, God, I am never going to admit to that in public. It was a calculator! I don’t own enough pocket protectors to confess to that kind of embarrassment.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about going to Sesame Place as a kid.
Rejected: Nobody ever wants to hear stories about other people’s vacations. Or day trips. Or whatever it was when I got my cousin to throw up in the water park, and it was the funniest thing a five year old had ever done.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about the way public broadcasting allows for a universal, pre-school sharing of culture and ideas that allows for greater socialization for both kids and adults.
Rejected: Pretty sure I’ve covered the concept of shared experiences already by claiming we are a generation raised by the good lord Hasbro. Big Bird is nothing before The Primes.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about another PBS star, Mr. Rogers, and reveal the secret about Mr. Rogers that no one must ever know.
Rejected: No one must ever know.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about how Public Broadcasting is important for education across economical classes, and it is currently in danger thanks to our government.
Rejected: Again, there are those that can write so much more eloquently on the subject of PBS being important, and probably wouldn’t have their Ice Climbers fanfic thrown back in their face in an act of proving that all education is moot.

Hey, speaking of the current state of our government, this game is called Oscar’s Trash Race. Why not compare the current state of politics to a “trash race”?
Rejected: A little too “how about those clowns in congress”.

Oh, come on, you could easily compile a list of Trump’s actions since his campaign started, combine it with all those times he said and did the complete opposite while holding the position of president (but never did whatever is the opposite of “being a racist”), and end it all with a note on how the race is still going, and we’ll probably see something even worse in less than a few hours.
Rejected: That sounds way too depressing.

So much trashAnd the Democrats! They’re doing nothing to stop anything! Just roll over and show your bellies, minority party, God forbid you do a damn thing to actively support the people that voted for you. Senator Jeff Flake, a man who has never ever voted against Trump’s interests, has more public clout as “the resistance” than the milquetoast losers helming the Democratic Party. And Sanders and Biden are apparently top contenders for 2020! Has anyone learned anything!? Maybe we don’t run a bunch of rich white people that are old enough to have personally told Martin Luther King Jr. that he was being “uppity”! This is the greatest trash race of them all!
Rejected: What did I just say about things being way too depressing!

This is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: And how the hell is the Government shutting down every other week a thing that is happening now? I don’t care that it only shut down for a couple of hours, that’s a couple of hours too many! It’s not just because we should care about government workers, we should also care about the people that are supported by and rely on government assistance. People that just want to live without fear of their lives being effectively cancelled because some tyrant with significant ties to construction companies wants to build his damn impenetrable/invisible wall!

Take it offEr-hem, this is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: Oh, right. Yes, you need a special number pad controller for this counting adventure, and that probably wasn’t the easiest thing for parents of toddlers to understand back in 1983. Heck, people still barely understood the concept of the WiiU three decades later… and I don’t want to run in that trash race, either.

Just make a post about all the possible ways this article could go, and call it a day, because this is a game that was made for toddlers, and playing it as an adult is not exactly the most thrilling thing in the world.
Rejected: That… That actually works. Approved!

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

  • System: Atari 2600. I really doubt we’ll see a mobile rerelease of this one.
  • Number of players: Two? Weren’t all Atari games two player in some way? Don’t quote me on this, I’m not a trashologist.
  • Favorite Trash: About the only interesting thing in this game is what trash the trashman drops off to placate Oscar and his apparent need to count trash before waddling forward. One of the possible dumps is a series of TVs, which, considering this was at a time when Atari still had to accommodate for black and white sets, must have been horrifying for any parents in the room. Think of the expense!
  • All trashDid you know? Then and now, I’d rather be playing Big Bird’s Egg Catch.
  • Would I play again: Only if I forget how numbers work. Oh man, I hope this isn’t some kind of ironic wish situation, and I’m in a horrible accident later today. Please, God of Horror Comics, please don’t do this to me!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Death and Return of Superman! Geez, title, spoilers! Please look forward to an inevitable resurrection!

Wild Arms 2 Part 22: The Final Battle! Liz and Ard and Some Other Guy Return!

Previously on Wild Arms 2: Kanon finally decided to stop trying to kill Ashley, and joined ARMS with the express purpose of eventually killing Ashley. But he’s cool with it! See? He can accept Kanon for who she is.

And now we’re investigating The Coffin of 100 Eyes, which is supposed to be a power source for Odessa’s latest scheme, but Ashley ain’t buyin’ it.

Uh-oh, looks like someone hasn’t been monitoring Lilka’s sugar intake.

I choose to believe Lilka’s previous outburst echoed down giant, empty halls for like an hour.


“One of their little traps.” Yes, Kanon, like one of those traps you used on the rest of ARMS. Twice. At least once yesterday.

“Meh, a dungeon is a dungeon. Let’s go for it…

WW #10 Persona 5

Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…

Also, this article will absolutely contain spoilers for Persona 5, assuming that is something you are concerned about.

GrabbySo, as I mentioned on this site a couple of times last year, Persona 5 could have been my “Game of 2017” in a much less interesting year for gaming. This is entirely because of the general “style” of the game, and how, if I had unlimited technology and budget back when I was approximately 12 (or whatever year I first played Final Fantasy 6), I probably would have made something very much resembling Persona 5 (though probably shorter). Cool thieves, cool tunes, emphasis on “role playing” as well as dungeon sneaking: it all kinda clicks together to be the perfect JRPG in my mind.

Or at least my 12 year old mind.

This is because I know when I’m being pandered to, and it probably has something to do with an entire high school full of women that only want to jump “my” bones. So, with that thinking in mind, I’m going to approach Persona 5 from the perspective that it couldn’t be more built for horny boys if it tried. And, as a corollary to that, the game is rather off-putting toward that entire “other” gender.

With that in mind, I enlisted a guest. Rosella, please say hi, or something like that.

Rosella: Hello! I am excited to be here to say inflammatory things about a generally beloved game.

Goggle Bob: Excellent! So what’s your relationship and/or past with Persona 5?

Grabby!Rosella: So I was a big fan of Personas 3 and 4, and played both of them multiple times. I preordered the ultimate “Take Your Heart” Edition of Persona 5 and was very excited to finally get my hands on it, but, uh, it didn’t quite work out that way. I streamed P5 for a little over 113 hours, when you count all the times I had to pause to rant about how the game seemed to have a giant “Women Aren’t Real People” sign on it. It was an experience.

Goggle Bob: And so we’re here to talk about said “experience”. Again, I’m theoretically the target audience for this, and, while the whole thing should supposedly wash over me and be generally subconscious, even I was a little put off when the final(ish) dungeon takes a time out so the female cast can hop back into bikinis.

Rosella: Of course, you can have them in bikinis the whole time with the free swimsuit DLC!

Goggle Bob: DLC I will not publicly admit to using…

Rosella: I will, and I am extremely upset that Yusuke’s beach outfit did not come with lobsters.

Goggle Bob: Just to put you at ease:

Crusty

Rosella: The one and only time I thought “Man, I’m glad Yusuke was in this scene”

Goggle Bob: Yes, well, speaking of which, given P5 is a gigantic, 100 hour experience, we could recount every last bit of the game until the end of time and still not cover everything. So, with that in mind, let’s take a more focused look at the female cast. Would you like to start with anyone in particular?

Rosella: Makoto Niijima was my (one) romance during my playthrough, so she holds a special place in my heart.

Goggle Bob: Haha, we seem to have that in common. I mentioned it in my original P5 article, but I seem to gravitate toward the student council across Persona games

Rosella: To me, she just seemed like the person with the most healthy relationship with our protagonist. She’s trying to re-examine her life and figure out which of her goals are actually hers and which ones she picks up just because she “should,” and our protagonist helps with that. It’s very charming!

Goggle Bob: And she just incidentally can punch demons through walls.

Rosella: And rides a motorcycle.

Goggle Bob: A motorcycle that is parenthetically attached to a ridiculous dirty joke.

Rosella: Oh no, did I miss something incredibly obvious?

Goggle Bob: Haha not obvious: There’s a keyhole on Johanna’s seat. It’s a reference to the myth of how certain chairs were used to confirm future post-Johanna popes were male.

Rosella: Yikes.

Goggle Bob: Hey, Persona is all about the history…