Category Archives: Fiction

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 #220 Mega Man X2

FGC #220 Mega Man X2

  • VrooomSystem: Super Nintendo initially, but then eventually any system with a pulse. WiiU, Wii, and 3DS for “just” the game, but the Mega Man X Collection also hit a number of older systems.
  • Number of players: X and… no, no extra characters this time. Sorry, GBD.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I know that, objectively, this game is one of the “lesser” Mega Man X games. I know Mega Man X is hard to top, and it wouldn’t be until Mega Man X4 that we would finally see that kind of innovation again in the series. I know all of that. I still like Mega Man X2. I like it a lot. You can cut a boss robot in half before it was cool. The head part does something useful. And the vehicle segment isn’t the worst thing in the game! There’s a lot to like here.
  • Favorite Maverick: Morph Moth. Was he always a cocoon? Like, was he part of the X-Hunter army as, what, a lil dude on a piece of silk? Was that his entire deal? And then, when he morphs, why does he keep fighting? X just lit you on fire, man, why did you come back? Fly away, Morph Moth, be with people who care about you.
  • A Pretty Penny: Presumably thanks to the included FX chip, this game was released at a high price, and then maintained that value on the used market. And apparently… it’s still going for about a hundred Washingtons? Huh. The Mega Man X collection is, like, ten bucks.
  • Did you know: The X shoryuken is not a universal instant kill attack. For many Mavericks, the shoryuken wins in two hits, and X absolutely will take damage if he tries to shoryuken everybody. On the plus side, though, it will not crash X against the spikes above Bubble Crab’s lair, so that’s nice.
  • Would I play again: It’s the best way to celebrate Megamas.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Make my Video INXS for the Sega CD! … I feel like I’m being punished for something. Maybe the sin of owning a Sega CD at all? Oh well. Please look forward to making music videos with or possibly for INXS!

Bam

FGC #201 Mega Man Zero 4

Here is the complete history of one reploid named Zero.

Our story begins back in the olden days of 20XX, when one Dr. Thomas Light worked together with Dr. Albert Wily. The two had been friends for many years, and, while Light was always considered the greater scientist, Wily possessed more of what is colloquially referred to as “drive”. This drove Wily to, upon the completion of Light’s initial eight numbers, steal the living hell out of the most dangerous robots this world had ever seen. Fireman may have been built for waste disposal, but any creature with flamethrowers for hands and a head does possess significant destructive potential. In response, Dr. Light modified the super cleaning robot, Rock, into Megaman, the little metal boy with a heart full of righteousness and an arm full of bullets. Megaman went on to totally crush Wily’s Robot Rebellion and demolish that hastily assembled Skull Fortress.

From that point on, the roguish Wily did everything he could to defeat Megaman. He built his own robots. He framed other robots. He hired Russian labor. He invented the worst board game ever. Soccer happened. Through it all, Megaman triumphed, and Wily was barely capable of achieving even fleeting victories. Couple this with severe budgetary issues (building a colossal fortress shaped like a robot’s helmet sounds like a great idea on paper…) and it’s a wonder Wily ever found the time to engineer his greatest creation.

GET IT!?As ever, Light and Wily worked in parallel. When Wily weaponized Gutsman, Light developed Megaman. When Gutsman became a tank, Megaman gained a hoverboard. Wily threw a giant cat into the mix, so Megaman got a dog. Angry robot birds to fight angry robot birds, and companion mecha armor to fling robot dog punches about. Years after their rivalry started lowering Monsteropolis property values, Light and Wily had transferred their enmity to their most prominent creations: Megaman, still defending Dr. Light, and Bass, the very similar robot designed by Dr. Wily.

But neither scientist was satisfied. And this rivalry would lead to the end of mankind.

Light was proud of Megaman, but his creation was not a true artificial intelligence. “It” was programmed to be good and noble and true, but the problem was that it was literally built that way. Megaman, for all his victories, was still just a robot, and could never be the real “son” Thomas had always desired. With this in mind, Light began work on the X project, a mechanical biped capable of more than simple computed thought, something more than a robot, something that would one day be known as a reploid.

Dr. Wily had much the same thought at the same time, but he was more focused on a bot that could double jump. Oh, and a virus that would infect that blasted Megaman if he ever defeated the beast. That would show ‘em.

Both scientists succeed in their endeavors, but, unfortunately, did not live to see it. Light sealed his newly created Megaman X in a capsule so it could run diagnostics confirming “he” would not go crazy and kill everybody upon awakening (Light watched a few too many Matrix movies during the project). Wily sealed Zero in a similar time capsule. It is not known exactly why the traditionally impatient Wily would do such a thing, but there is some record of a mishap involving a jealous Bass and, to quote a discovered recording, “that beautiful girl hair”. Whatever the case, both proto-reploids were sent forward in time to an age when the Wily Wars were long forgotten. And those that ignore history…

ScaryMegaman X was discovered by one Dr. Cain. Dr. Cain, unfortunately, was a complete idiot. Like, seriously, the guy couldn’t find his butt with both hands on a good day, and, on a bad day, he decided to arbitrarily clone a mysterious robot he found in a capsule. And from there, he decided modifications to the design would be a good idea, and created perfectly invisible chameleons made of spikes and octopuses equipped with all the missiles on Earth. Though he did make one adorable penguin, and that was pretty alright. Cain decided to call the reproductions of X “reploids”, and then he knocked off to the pub to have a pint and tell the guys about his great idea for a horsey that could punch fireballs.

Unfortunately, Cain’s sloppiness led to cataclysmic consequences. X had undergone a century of diagnostics to guarantee his heart was in the right place. Cain hastily copy ‘n pasted that code into a number of modified units, and found that the untested dittos had about a 20% chance of becoming instantly homicidal. Rather than halt production, Cain decided the best answer was more reploids (dude was all in on this project, it was either this or live with his mom), and, to answer the murderous “maverick” reploids, the Maverick Hunters were created, with Sigma, a reploid designed to never go maverick, at the helm. For the record, Cain didn’t implement that “immune to being maverick” code in every reploid because, as stated earlier, Cain was an idiot.

WeeeeSigma had a pretty good run as head Maverick Hunter, but eventually happened upon a long sealed cave that housed a certain red reploid. Yes, Dr. Wily’s long lost final creation had finally awakened, and, when Sigma attempted to subdue the rampaging Zero, the hero of humanity became infected with the Zero Virus meant for Megaman. Whoops! From that point on, Sigma started wearing clown makeup and commanding his trusted Maverick Hunters to hunt humans for sport. It was right about that point that it was a really good idea to grab a vacation home on some secluded island somewhere, as highway repair was about to fall far off to the wayside.

Mega Man X, who had previously been sitting out this whole war while reading a book on arm cannon philosophy, decided to wade into the fray to stop Sigma. It was on this adventure that he met Zero, now rehabilitated and working for the (human friendly) Maverick Hunters. Zero was far more experienced in the ways of combat than X, so it was only natural when, toward the end of X’s journey, Zero gloriously and suicidally exploded in an effort to destroy some ride armor that usually can only withstand like eight hits. Zero was blown into exactly three pieces, and X soldiered on to separate Sigma into many, many more pieces. Zero, Wily’s greatest creation, died saving Light’s legacy. There was poetry in the final, friendly end of an eternal rivalry.

But it didn’t last.

Wily’s Zero Virus had mutated in Sigma to become the Sigma Virus. So Sigma lived on past his destruction, and gained the ability to transfer his sentience through cyberspace, thus becoming more malware than man. Zero survived, too, after a fashion. Yes, Zero was trisected, but X was able to retrieve those pieces, and Dr. Cain was able to successfully weld those pieces together with superglue. Ultimately, it was Wily’s superior engineering that allowed his creation to breathe again. Yes, it only took a hundred or so robots, but Wily did finally realize that “extra lives” was the source of his constant failures.

He'll be back laterSo X and Zero defeated Sigma time and time again, fighting side by side, and only occasionally pausing to fight each other. Zero died again, came back, picked up a lightsaber, and killed Boba Fett a whole bunch. X quietly wondered what he was fighting for (Zero had a tendency to scream it), and dreamed of a day when Sigma was finally defeated, and all could live in harmony. Took about a century to get to that point.

Sigma’s defeat came from the most unlikely of sources: an elf. A “cyber elf” is a small, module-like piece of sentient programming that is capable of rewriting or overwriting code. Considering Sigma had essentially become code, the lead Mother Elf finally able to wipe Sigma off the face of the Earth. Yay! Now it was just a matter of eliminating the last remaining mavericks, and all would be well. Oh, my bad, I mean, everything would be Weil. Dr. Weil decided that the Maverick Wars weren’t ending fast enough, so why not kick Zero out of his (apparently immortal) body, drop the Mother Elf in there, and use her new invincible body and mind to overwrite and control every reploid on Earth. That would put an end to Mavericks/free will, right? That should make everything fine!

Zero and X weren’t into this plan. Zero got a new, slightly sexier body, and fought with X on the frontlines against his old body (now dubbed Omega). This led to a four year conflict where, somehow, 90% of all reploids and 60% of all humans died. Also, six cats were seriously inconvenienced. In the end, Zero and X defeated Omega before it could combine with Mother Elf, and Scary dudeWeil was transformed into a cyborg that was doomed to forever wander the mostly ruined Earth. Zero decided that, after centuries of fighting, he’d knock off and take a nap for a few years, and X was left with cleanup duty.

X wound up ruling what was left of the planet’s population admirably for a while, but, when faced with the Mother Elf still causing mischief for the population, he decided to sacrifice his body to seal the Elf for a solid couple of years. X lived on as a disembodied consciousness, though, and four Guardians who all embodied some random part of his personality. Fairy Leviathan, for instance, was born of the part of X that was a lady fish. But the universe abhors a vacuum, and, with only “segments” of X to keep the world happy, a young prodigy decided to be the second idiot in history to make a duplicate of X and hope for the best. It went about as well as the first time.

Copy X became, with very little exaggeration, Robot Hitler. Ciel, his creator (who also happened to be nine), regretted her decision, and founded a resistance movement consisting of reploids and humans. By the time she was the ripe old age of twelve, Ciel found Zero’s newish, sleeping body, and awakened him to fight once again. Zero finally fulfilled his destiny when, after fighting through four lesser versions of X, he finally got to slice Copy X in twain. Thus a Wily bot had finally and completely defeated the last Light number, and all was well.

Do not touchWhoops, did it again. All is Weil, as it turns out that sentencing a dangerous lunatic to become an immortal, unkillable monster man is not the best idea. Weil resurfaced shortly after Zero quit and then rejoined the resistance, and tormented the red reploid with vague hints that Zero was in the wrong body. Zero apparently didn’t have much a memory at this point (can’t blame him, death is tough on the brains), and fought Weil to discover the truth of Omega and the Elf Wars and why Fairy Leviathan keeps hitting on him. Finally, after every last aspect of X is sacrificed, Zero discovers the truth, and learns that he wasn’t really attached to his old body, anyway. Zero destroys Omega… but Weil still takes over the last vestige of humanity, Neo Arcadia. Win some, lose some.

Weil, it turns out, was really, really insane (like, more insane than usual), so he decided to destroy the planet. Like, literally, with a space laser. Dude belongs in a Final Fantasy universe. Regardless, Zero is called upon to save the world yet again, and, in his final mission, destroys Weil once and for all as the Ragnarok Orbiting Death Laser crashes to Earth.

Sorry?And, thus Zero’s story ends while being burned up in reentry. The rivalry between Wily and Light that started over construction robots ended with the near destruction of the very planet itself and literal centuries of war. In time, humanity as we know it would give way to reploid/human hybrids, and the very concept of saving without a monkey companion would become a long forgotten memory. Zero died as he lived: fighting some random lunatic over the fate of the universe, and Wily’s dreams died with him.

… And then some damn kids started wearing Zero like a suit because that idiot with the ponytail couldn’t leave well enough alone. But that’s a story for another day.

FGC #201 Mega Man Zero 4

  • System: Gameboy Advance for the original, DS for part of the Mega Man Zero Collection, and WiiU if you feel like playing a GBA game on the TV.
  • Number of players: Zero. Wait. I mean one.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s a Mega Man Zero game, the end. I’m sure I’ll have more time to examine what that exactly means in the other three Zero games, but, in short, it’s a difficult, “close range” Mega Man game. This seems to be the easiest of the Zero titles, primarily thanks to how the elves (well, elf) and ranking work. Though, an “easy” Mega Man Zero game is still pretty damn difficult.
  • RAWR?Favorite Einherjar Eight Warrior (seriously, that’s what they call the Robot Masters): Mino Magnus is a minotaur… wait… most reploids are half animal hybrids, is he still a minotaur, or just a bull/man reploid? No matter, what’s important is that he’s got a crazy axe and magnet powers. This guy gets my vote because he’s the archetypal “big guy” maverick, but he has the ability to magnetically separate and reassemble himself, so he isn’t just the typical “stand and slash” giant. Also, he’s dumb as a post.
  • Made it through a whole Mega Man Zero article without mentioning Mighty No. 9? Well… kinda.
  • What’s in a name? Mega Man somehow survived, in one way or another, through Mega Man Zero 3. He also makes a return as part of the X biometal in Mega Man ZX. But Mega Man X is completely absent from this adventure, so, despite the title, there is no Mega Man in this game. Technically.
  • Did you know: Albert Wily was named after Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein had an ancestor named Jakob Weil. … Well, I thought that was neat.
  • Would I play again: Of the Mega Man Zero games, this one might be the easiest to pick up and play. All the same, I’d rather be playing a straight up Mega Man game, so the odds are good, but not great.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Plok for the SNES! Guess it’s a good week for action heroes that gradually get disassembled! Please look forward to it!

Huh?