Category Archives: Fustian Gaming Challenge

FGC #314 Kung Fu

HIYAHKung-Fu is the NES port of Kung-Fu Master, an arcade game originally intended to be based on Jackie Chan’s 1984 film, Wheels on Meals. By all accounts, such a dubious origin should not be the foundation for every fighting game that has ever been produced, but, hey, here we are.

Kung-Fu originates from the early “arcade” era of videogames, a time when “fun” had to be carefully balanced with “player will never ever succeed”. Kung-Fu appeased these twin masters with a fun, interesting gauntlet of unlimited, faceless mooks that want nothing more than to see your immediate death. Everyone remembers the bizarre “man train” of random dudes, but those that actually had the quarters to finish Kung-Fu also encountered dragons, moths, and a unusually high number of acrobatic dwarves. Each stage finished with a unique boss, and the final level of the pagoda hosted none other than Chuck Norris. Or maybe that guy from Karate Kid? Look, it doesn’t matter, the point is that that guy is capable of some punishing kicks, so trouncing him and reclaiming the captured Sylvia felt like a real accomplishment. And then the whole thing looped back to the beginning (complete with a bit of text that seems to imply that Sylvia is a professional kidnapping victim), because an arcade is not happy until you leave the place a penniless (quarterless) hobo.

Now, to be honest, that account could describe a number of games. Who is Mario but an average dude that deals with generic/murderous monsters on his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a big boss? And this game is based on a movie… a movie that didn’t have that much of an original plot to begin with. Come on, if battling up a pagoda was at all original, it wouldn’t be a lame sidequest in Final Fantasy 7. No, there isn’t much of a plot and story for Kung-Fu to latch onto. And if we’re going to claim this is the origin of fighting games, welp, it ain’t because this was the secret origin of Ryu.

Growl!But in the same way that Space Invaders tells you everything you need to know within its title, and Pac-Man never need be anything more than a puck-shaped man, Kung-Fu’s fighting origins come from the simplest of sources: the joypad. Ever seen a Kung-Fu Master arcade cabinet? There is a completely centered joystick, punch and kick buttons on either side (seemingly to, for once, placate our left handed community), and a complete lack of a jump button. Where did jump go? It’s the up key, and that’s all it ever needed to be.

And that changes everything.

Remember Donkey Kong? Why did Mario need separate “up” and “jump” buttons? Because ladders, that’s why. Mario had to distinctly climb his way to rescuing Pauline, and, while Jump Man may have been on a 2-D plane, he needed the faux 3-D motion of “going up” to properly ascend. In some stages there were elevators or moving platforms, but “up” was a necessary way of scaling the heights. “Jump” was there not to soar, but to avoid obstacles in Mario’s path. And when Mario became Super (after the release of Kung-Fu Master, incidentally), “jump” became Mario’s offense, defense, and a way to properly climb over blocks and up towards clouds. Mario’s jump was versatile to a ridiculous degree, and time has shown the many, many ways a jump can be applied to both terrible platformers and more interesting jump-a-thons.

But the jump of Kung-Fu is a very different animal. When you jump in Kung-Fu, you are doing one of two things:

  1. Avoiding a low attack
  2. Delivering a hella rad jump kick

HIYAHThat’s it! That’s all a Kung-Fu jump does. There are no ladders to climb. There are no doors to enter. Even vaulting over an enemy is less satisfying than simply kicking that creeping snake right in the asp. The jump of Kung-Fu is there for one reason and one reason only: it is another avenue of attack. The best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid a million encroaching dudes is to distribute a million deadly punches. If that doesn’t work, leap over the incoming attack, and, hi-yah, jump kick to the face. Who needs “environmental hazards” when you’ve got dudes tossing friggin’ knives!?

And that right there is the origin of the fighting game. I’ve said it before, but fighting games are pure expressions of basic concepts. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self (mirror match). Man vs. Metal Slug. When Chun-Li experiences a particularly bad Tuesday and needs to avenge her father, she doesn’t need to jump over seventeen barrels and then successfully bop sixty turtles before finally moving onto the main boss; no, all she need do is beat ten dudes to a pulp, prove her worth in a simple 2-D plane, and advance to the tournament organizer/Magic Hitler. And, yes, Chun-Li jumps by simply tapping up, because her jump exists exclusively to necessitate various kinds of sweet kicks. In fact, upgrade for better graphics, buttons, and the occasional fireball, and Chun-Li controls exactly like Thomas the Kung-Fu Dude. And the boss of the third stage of Kung-Fu? You can’t tell me that ain’t Mike Bison Balrog.

So many little peopleKung-Fu might not be a true fighting game, but all the elements are starting to coalesce here in this 1984 game. Play Street Fighter, Blazblue, or even Tekken, then return to Kung-Fu, and things will seem… very familiar. It all starts with a simple jump interface, and it ends with Ryu tossing dragon punches.

And the poor folks behind Kung Fu Master never get any credit…

Oh, wait, apparently Kung-Fu Master was created by Takashi Nishiyama, the man responsible for Street Fighter who then went on to SNK to start Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown. Huh. I guess that guy knew what he was doing.

Well, nobody ever claims Moon Patrol was the start of all fighting games…

FGC #314 Kung Fu

  • System: NES for the review (and certainly the version I played the most), but Kung-Fu also appeared in the arcades (duh), Apple devices, a couple of Ataris, and the Commodore 64.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. This is not the game where two guys fight in front of a judge with weird hair. That’s Karate Champ.
  • HIYAHFavorite Boss: The magician at the end of the fourth stage will literally lose his head if you knock it off with a kick. He… gets better.
  • Did you know? Koji Kondo, the composer for Street Fighter 2 (and thus, Guile’s theme) composed the soundtrack for the NES version. Another fighting game connection!
  • Would I play again: This is an important piece of history that is hard as steel. I might play it again for thirty seconds, but I’m totally quitting after my first death.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Generations! Dammit, ROB! Sonic Mania just came out! Can’t I write about that game? Or could you have picked Sonic Generations last week, and we could have made a theme out of it? No? Damn you, robot. Fine, Sonic Generations it is. Please look forward to it!

HIYAH

FGC #313 C: The Contra Adventure

Aliens!We use the phrase “bait and switch” a lot, but its original meaning seems to predominantly stem from fishing retail. The modern standard for the bait and switch is basically what you see every Black Friday: tremendous deals are advertised (bait), but when the customer arrives, all that is actually available are the same two Luigi amiibos you bought last year (switch). Unfortunately, this is basically how modern advertising works on a nearly global level, and it winds up applying to not only retail, but also politics (see the entirety of the Republican Party), employment (“This job will be fulfilling in a spiritual way”), and live theatre (“Sorry, Idina Menzel isn’t available tonight, but here’s Tammi, her understudy”). In fact, it’s hard to think of a facet of modern life that doesn’t frequently involve a bait and switch, as fleecing the customer is pretty much expected by anyone over the age of twelve. Nobody ever got rich actually giving the public what it wants, now go out and buy your new iphone 7 8.

Like everything else, the videogame market has a tendency to use bait & switch marketing. Gamers repeat stories about “fake” demos going back to the 90’s, and “real time graphics” wound up being a watch phrase for a solid couple of decades. Cloud looks amazing on that motorcycle, but you know he’s going to be strangely Popeyeish when the player actually has control. And even older than the demos of doom, we have the ever popular cover lie-a-thon. Pick a decade, and I’ll tell you what’s on the back of the box. 3-D rendered graphics? RPG-like elements? A huge, open world? How about the old chestnut of 80 hours of gameplay (for a game that can be finished within an hour)? Gamers are used to being lied to, and about the only thing you can count on to actually be correct on that back o’ the box is the number of players (and, come to think of it, that’s usually on the front).

But once you get past being tricked into actually getting that new game into your old game system, you should be in the clear. Give or take a strange tendency for games to turn into shoot ‘em ups in the final ten minutes (or whatever the hell happened in Solar Jetman), what you see on the first level of any given game is usually about what you’d see on the final level. The bosses may have gotten more apocalyptic, or your hero might have gotten a little more loaded for bear (or maybe your main character became a bear? It happens), LASER!but, one way or another, the game is usually recognizable between first world and last. Whether your new purchase is the best thing ever or sucks beyond the pale, nine times out of ten, it’s a similar experience from start to finish. Once you’ve hit the cash register, there’s no more need for bait.

Well… most of the time. Let’s take a look at C: The Contra Adventure.

As one might expect, C:TCA is a Contra game. That’s good! We all love Contra, right? Run, gun, turn some off-colored falcons to paste. This was also a release from a post Contra 3/Contra Hard Corps epoch, so there were decent odds on gigantic bosses and crazy, completely ridiculous shopping cart robots. Okay, not every game can be as delightfully insane as Hard Corps, but you might get some missile riding or something similar in there. And, hey, this is from Appaloosa, the weirdoes behind Kolibri, so there’s a good chance this will be some good stuff.

C:TCA starts out a lot like a combination of Contra 3 and Super Contra, and that’s certainly a good thing. We’ve got 2-D run ‘n gun gameplay. We’ve got climbing hand over hand above flaming debris. We’ve got infinitely respawning backpack soldiers. We’ve even got a choo choo ride at the end of the stage, and a multi-part, gigantic boss. Wow! It is like someone actually played Hard Corps! Contra is the Contra we all love! And, yes, it’s a little difficult, but that’s Contra, too! Going to take some time to finish that first level with three lives, but you can do it, soldier!

But that’s just the bait.

Past the first level, C:TCA is nothing more than yet another lame, vaguely Doom-esque 3-D action game. Run around 3-D mazes that are the tiniest bit reminiscent of Contra’s original “base” stages while deftly dodging bullets and aliens. And guess what? It’s super easy to survive Contra gameplay when you have 3-D movement and bullets are moving about as fast as a disabled penguin (on land, to be perfectly clear). Aside from some familiar weapons (flamethrower, spread, grenade launcher), this could be any other early 3-D action game starring a grizzled marine-ish dude battling space aliens. In fact, the aliens of this Contra adventure are less Red Falcon and a lot more H. R. Giger. Yes, there’s always been some overlap there, but it’s so flagrant here that no one would bat an eye at this being a reskinned Alien title. What?Plagiarism aside, play through C:TCA, and you’ll find that only the first and final levels are actually “classic” Contra levels, everything else is a switch over to the world of generic (and tepid) late 90’s 3-D nonsense. You have to play through this weak wannabe Contra game to find a real Contra experience!

What was even the point of such a thing? Appaloosa went to all the trouble of creating 2-D physics, monsters, and bosses for… a whole two stages. Was it so they could release screenshots and gameplay videos of “classic” Contra action? Was it because Blockbuster was still a thing, and they figured no one would finish the first (and seemingly most difficult) stage and find out the rest of the game was a sham during a rental? Was it to placate fans that despised the previous Contra: Legacy of War and wanted some classic gameplay? … For… two levels? Whatever the reason, C: The Contra Adventure was bait and switch from case to CD, and the advertised “Contra” here was practically nowhere to be found.

Pew PewLuckily, it looks like the bait didn’t attract that many fish. This contra adventure was apparently an abject failure, and nobody even bothered to localize it anywhere but the States. It would be another four years before we saw a new Contra game of any kind (and this was after seeing a new one every two years like clockwork). C: The Contra Adventure’s switch failed completely, and, to add salt to the wound, the franchise was left floundering ever since.

But one thing is obvious. Buyer beware: Contra adventures are not to be trusted.

FGC #313 C: The Contra Adventure

  • System: Playstation 1. I guess this means the game may be technically played on Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 as well, but don’t go expecting any digital releases.
  • Number of players: The general lack of 2-D also means a complete lack of 2 players. What were they going to do? Implement a split screen? Ha!
  • Say something nice: There is one stage that features Ray, our Contra hero, trapped in a rapidly descending elevator, so gravity is right out. This allows for some neat, floaty gameplay that is pretty much what I always expected a Contra “underwater level” to look like. Of course, the whole thing is only one screen with randomly arriving monsters, so it still feels kind of cheap… but it’s the thought that counts.
  • Grabity!Favorite Weapon: The flamethrower is a fine example of the difference between 3-D and 2-D gameplay. In 2-D mode, the flamethrower practically encompasses the horizontal length of the screen, and can vaporize most any creature in its vicinity. In 3-D mode, it barely seems to stretch inches ahead of Ray, and is really only effective against generally immobile sub bosses. So, to answer the question, my favorite weapon is laser.
  • Retro Roll Call: The final area (when it returns to 2-D) features a boss fight against the Terminator Twins and their colossal cousin from Contra 3. I have no idea why this boss fight was chosen as the reprise du jour in the middle of the alien base (where, I don’t know, maybe a more alien boss would make slightly more sense), but at least they got to rip off Cameron instead of Giger for a few minutes.
  • Did you know? Recent releases in the Contra franchise include Contra 3D, a pashislot game, and Neo Contra, a slot machine. Long live Contra!
  • Would I play again: Nope. Never. Man, this game is bad. There are so many actually good Contra games out there! Play those!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kung-Fu for the NES! Punch, kick, it’s all in the pagoda! Please look forward to it!

What?

FGC #312 Tomba!

Here comes Tomba!So what’s wrong with Tomba?

Tomba (technically Tomba!, but I don’t feel like driving the grammar part of my brain nuts[er]) is a 1998 release for the Playstation 1. Hot on the heels of Symphony of the Night, Tomba is one of those precious few 2-D action games for the system that was responsible for more polygons than you can shake a poorly rendered hand at. What’s more, Tomba is not only a metroidvania, but it is also a 2-D game on the Playstation wherein the developers actually tried. This isn’t some upgraded “last gen” experience or a faux-retro adventure that doesn’t quite understand what’s appealing about retro in the first place; no, this is much more like Skullmonkeys, a game with new advances applied to old conventions, and gorgeous PSX graphics may stand side by side with simple “press X to jump” gameplay. It’s the best of both worlds! A bold new world for the genre everyone loved on the old generations! All hail the conquering Tomba!

Except… Tomba sold about twelve copies. There was a follow-up, but it basically bankrupt the company. From a strictly sales perspective, Tomba was a colossal failure on par with the Hindenburg. I mean, I guess no one distinctly died (unless you count a pile of pink creatures), but, still, not exactly a fun time for anybody on the development side.

So… why? Tomba was lauded by critics, and this was less than a year after the release of SoTN, one of the most praised (and purchased) games in the Playstation library. Tomba didn’t have to be the next Final Fantasy 7, but it could have at least conquered an echelon that allowed its producers to subsist on sweet Tomba ports for the next decade or so. Tomba is a delightful romp featuring a shirtless dude hopping through magical islands, so it should have at least done better than Adventure Island!

So what went wrong? Well, it might have something to do with first impressions.

SnifferFirst of all, to judge a book by its cover, Tomba is a hard sell. In a time when videogames were either getting solemn (Final Fantasy 7 was clearly a serious story for our serious times) or radical (Tony Hawk is wiggedy wiggedy whack), Tomba arrived on the scene with a hero wearing ragged short shorts and sporting bright, pink hair. And what else is going on on that disc cover? We’ve got a pair of pigs, and one of them is doing the ol’ “bug eyes” look at Tomba. And there’s a clock tower in the background that resembles the iconic WB water tower. What’s the final verdict there? Tomba is evoking memories of old cartoons, and, more recently (at the time), Animaniacs. That was something you simply couldn’t do in 1998. You could be staid with realistic polygon people (or as “realistic” as possible), or you could be anime as hell (and thus foreign and interesting), but you couldn’t be cartoony. That’s for babies, Tomba! Nobody cares about your opening sequence being an elegant bit of animation, it would be right at home on Saturday morning cartoons, and that’s juvenile. We’re into adult games now. Take your cartoon pigs elsewhere.

But even once you get past the cartoons, things don’t exactly improve. Tomba is a metroidvania platformer, and that comes with its own set of problems. There’s a reason the typical metroidvania features a weaponry-based protagonist. Consider Super Metroid: over the course of that adventure, Samus acquires a breadth of weapons and items that perform many different tasks. The ice beam can freeze enemies, but it also allows for using those icy monsters as platforms. The space jump offers Samus unsurpassed mobility and the ability to reach nearly any area. Missiles open doors and blast bosses to smithereens. But when you think of the final sequence of that game, the final battle against Mother Brain and the escape immediately after, are you really using any tools that aren’t presented within the first moments of the game? It might be a little higher, but Samus jumps almost exactly the same whether she’s first landed on Crateria or she’s fleeing Tourian. The speed booster might move things along a little faster, but hold A (screw you, default control scheme) to run fast along the path is right there in the original space station escape. And, whether it’s the hyper beam or Samus’s original peashooter, aim and fire in regards to flying jellyfish is exactly the same from beginning to end. Samus’s repertoire grows as the game progresses, but she’s always drawing on an unchanged base of natural skills.

Swing is the thingUnfortunately, when you base a metroidvania around a platforming style hero, things are a little more difficult. Tomba starts with his default run speed, his default jumping ability, and his default spikey ball whip. All of these defaults suck. All of these defaults are supposed to suck. Like any great metroidvania star, Tomba starts out kind of terrible in comparison to his eventual kickass final form. However, this means that the player’s first impression of Tomba is that he sucks as badly as his initial abilities. Tomba will eventually gain a weapon that is not only effective, but also a grappling hook. Tomba will eventually run at top speed, complete with an amazing dash. Tomba will eventually gain a jump that doesn’t steer like a freight train. Tomba will eventually become a great hero… but for that first level, you’re likely going to get smacked around by a couple of pigs that are barely even mobile. Samus or your average Belmont start their adventures “weak”, but they’re still fun to control. Tomba has to take time to get there, and makes a very poor first impression for it. (And it’s no coincidence that both Symphony of the Night and Shadow Complex start with a sequence that effectively says, “Hey, look how awesome you are going to get”.)

Which segues nicely into the other Tomba problem: RPG elements. Tomba was slightly ahead of the Final Fantasy 7 hype train (from which there was no getting off), and incorporated a number of features you’d traditionally associate with JRPGs. There are towns. There is a complete inventory system. There’s even “leveling” of a sort (or maybe it works more like money? But to open treasure chests?). There are a number of JRPG-like bits to Tomba… and it all seems completely 3-d!perfunctory. Yes, Tomba acquires upgrades, but he has no more need to “equip” new items than Samus Aran. Yes, Tomba encounters friendly towns, but he has no more need to interact with “people” for clues than Alucard. These JRPG bits make Tomba a more complicated game, but they ultimately detract from the experience. It takes a surprisingly long time to open the menu, select your item, and then use whatever doodad you need to use to clear the latest obstacle, when, come on, just give Tomba the space jump and let the little guy have fun. Again, this isn’t game breaking in any way, it’s simply an unnecessary waste of time, and nobody wants to waste time when Xenogears is also readily available.

And that’s Tomba in a nutshell. It’s a great game! There’s a great presentation here, and it feels like another game smuggled away from the alternate universe where 2-D Playstation games were granted the budgets and care of their 3-D brethren. But Tomba makes a lousy first impression, and its vaguely Looney Tunes-esque aesthetics couldn’t succeed anywhere in 1998 past Space Jam. Tomba is a great game that everyone should play, but it’s easy to see why it was a failure in its time.

Tomba, I’m sorry, but sometimes the pigs win.

FGC #312 Tomba!

  • System: Playstation 1. Again, Whoopee Camp pretty much stopped existing after Tomba 2, so we were denied what would have been an excellent 3DS port (hey, Spyro wound up on the GBA, after all).
  • Number of players: One Tomba. Ever notice that a lot of Playstation games are one player? Was there a particular reason for that? Other than the “everybody wants to be a JRPG” thing?
  • WeeeeWhat’s in a name: Tomba is known as Tombi in Europe. This is presumably because “tomba” is slang for a woman’s genitals in England. Okay, that might not be true, but that’s the reason I don’t trust fanny packs.
  • Favorite Upgrade: Tomba does not get enough respect for being one of the great umbrella-wielders of the videogame world. Kirby gets all the praise.
  • Did you know? In Japan, Tomba has a complete theme song with lyrics. For the American localization, like many games, the lyrics were dropped, but an instrumental version of the theme plays on. In Europe, Tombi’s intro is scored by… the theme to BBC kids’ show No Sweat. This is… odd.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. You should play Tomba at least once, but it’s also a relic of its time. You could do worse to spend eight hours or so on this adventure, but that’s about all it will ever need.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… C the Contra Adventure for the Playstation! Wow, now it’s time for the other side of Playstation “2-D” games. Please look forward to it!

Pigs!

FGC #311 Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari

GrrrrrOn the surface, Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari is an unremarkable NES game. It’s another cash-in release from the popular (at the time) Town & Country Surf Designs company, and another opportunity to ream the last few dollars out of that bizarre surf ‘n skate rage of the late 80’s. While the previous game could charitably be described as a sports title, this is an actual platformer seeing Thrilla Gorilla, the hip-hop surfing gorilla, venturing through deepest Africa to rescue his girlfriend, Barbie Bikini.

… Okay, yeah, there’s nothing unremarkable about that.

But everything else about the game is remarkable and absolutely horrible.

This game is one big Turbo Tunnel

KapowLet’s start with the gameplay. There are seven “worlds” in Thrilla’s Surfari, and each world contains four stages and a boss. Pretty straightforward NES thinking there, but it all goes downhill the minute Thrilla starts to… go downhill. There are five different kinds of stages available, and three of those are almost completely impossible right off the bat. Desert and jungle stages see Thrilla skateboarding across the dirt and sand, while surfing stages get some mild paddling in across randomly occurring rivers. Skateboarding-a-stage has occurred in other games before (the Ninja Turtles were all about it for a level or two), but most of the time, that’s a way to make “normal” gameplay seem exciting by adding a scrolling background. Here, it’s an excuse for Thrilla to die horribly and often.

Technically (and only technically) Thrilla has a lifebar. However, those extra hits are not going to do the guerilla any good, as the most common obstacles are instant-death logs, rocks, and bottomless pits. And every death guarantees a one-way trip back to the start of the stage, progress be damned. While you can slow down to avoid many traps, Thrilla has a need for speed, and that “need” is a necessity because those bottomless pits are long and numerous. In short, this makes nearly every a stage a memorization challenge on par with Battletoad’s Turbo Tunnel. And at least the Turbo Tunnel had checkpoints! Every mistake here is an excuse to start the stage over again, and, should you miss a single jump, you know what you have to do all over again.

I’m assuming most people who dared play this game never got past the first stage, which is a shame, because it’s not even the most terrible experience available on this cartridge…

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

WeeeeeeDo you remember Mega Man 2’s spikey wall pit of doom leading to the Guts Tank? Or when it appeared again in Mega Man 3’s Spark Man Doc Robot stage? Was that your favorite part of the game? Or was that a terrifying drop into the unknown where you knew that gently nudging the crosspad in the wrong direction would spell instant death and a complete loss of progress? Do you still have nightmares about those death canyons? I do. I lose sleep over all the little metal boys I’ve killed in those drops.

And the waterfall stages of Thrilla’s Surfari are just that, forever, without the “warning” screen scroll. They are free falls where your action buttons do nothing (no swimming up the current for you), and your only hope is to steer Thrilla away from rapidly encroaching rocks. On the plus side, these stages are short, but on the minus side, they will eat up all your lives before you make it past the first strata.

Memorize, use “slow motion”/save states, or die. These are your only options in waterfall stages. Which is kind of a shame, because the waterfalls usually precede…

I’m on a shark!

I'm not the only one that sees that, right?Against all odds, the water stages of Thrilla’s Surfari are the best. Thrilla forsakes his beloved board for a shark, and suddenly the game becomes an underwater shooter. And, what’s more, it’s a really forgiving shooter.

I’m pretty sure this whole section of the game is programmed wrong. Every time Thrilla steers his shark up to a pocket of air, his health replenishes to something like 8 HP, which is considerable compared to his normal 2 HP (health may be expanded by collecting bananas in normal stages. Note: we have no bananas). With air restoring health to previously unseen levels, it would be natural to assume that the shark stages use a Super Mario 64-esque “health as air” system, but… nope. Your health descends only thanks to random jellyfish attacks, and that’s about it. So, for shark stages, you’ve got an enormous amount of health, and an easy way to replenish it all at the tap of a button. It’s… basically the opposite of the rest of the game. And that’s a welcome change.

The bosses are MS Paint fever dreams

Seven worlds, so seven bosses. The big final boss is unique (and like a lava slug monster), but his underlings are all recycled at least once, so we wind up with three bosses, and each has their own recolor. Pretty simple so far, let’s take a look at our first boss…

Charge!

Oh Jesus Christ what am I looking at here? That’s… a double rhino? With wings? And of course it shoots its horns at you, because what else would it do? Thrilla lobs back exploding coconuts in turn, but is that really going to do any good? Does this… creature have thick rhino skin? Or feathers? How does it fly? How does it… poop? Is that the purpose of the projectiles? This monster should not be!

There’s also a giant scorpion that is comparatively very tame, but before you fight that, there’s this fellow…

Sharky!

This is some “intern’s first day” pixel work going on here, and I’m pretty sure someone noticed, as this shark shoots toilets at its enemies. That can’t be a coincidence, right? That it is trash shooting literal garbage and bathroom equipment? Someone on the staff knew they were looking at crap, and planned accordingly.

Oh, and all of these bosses are, naturally, completely impossible, and Thrilla lacks any invincibility frames to even grant the player a moment’s respite amidst the projectile deluges. But I figure I don’t even have to note how wildly unfair this game is at this point.

The plot isn’t better than the gameplay

And when I say “isn’t better” I mean “is racist as hell”.

Thrilla’s girlfriend is Barbie Bikini, and she’s kidnapped by an evil god (or something) that wants to toss her into a volcano, because, I don’t know, I guess it’s going to keep the Double Rhino happy. And, in its own primitive, NES way, that’s fine. The whole kidnapped princess thing worked for Mario, it can work for Donkey Kong’s little brother just as well. Unfortunately, Barbie was kidnapped by a literal Witch Doctor, and that means a trip to Africa. And who is hanging around Africa? Spear-chucking natives of course! And there are no signs of civilization in darkest Africa, but there are stages named for native cannibals! Not okay, guys!

Luckily, all of Thrilla’s friends moved to Africa, too, so we’ve got the assistance of…

Tiki room

Tiki Man…

So cool

Joe Cool. And, of course, our favorite surfer-cat…

AHHHHH

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The game delights in trolling the player

So the third world is entirely desert based. The first two stages are pretty straightforward, but then the third is “the blue desert”. And it’s littered with coconuts, the items that allow you to play a completely annoying bonus game at the end of the stage. To be perfectly clear, every stage contains maybe a total of five coconuts, while this area has upwards of forty. The first thought of any given player is likely that this is some manner of bonus stage, a level made just to make you feel good, and, at the end, you’ll be able to earn a number of extra lives. It was very common in the NES days, and even Battletoads had the occasional stage that was just a pleasant breather.

But, nope…

WHAT?!

Ha ha. It was all a mirage. You stupid monkey.

So way to go, Thrilla’s Surfari, you’re memorable for all the wrong reasons.

FGC #311 Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. Like our other Town & Country release, I really doubt we’ll see this one revived for any reason.
  • Number of players: You can’t even die repeatedly with a buddy. One player only, suckers.
  • Say something nice: The game has a stupid difficulty curve, with the first level easily being the absolute worst (save waterfall stages). While it would have made an equally lousy impression for aesthetics, the game should start with the vastly easier desert environs. That would almost make the game…. At least playable.
  • An end: Despite the proliferation of cinema scenes throughout the game, the ending is short and to the point. It’s… fanservice.

    Teehee

    There. That’s the thirstiest image ever displayed on the NES.

  • Sidenote: Barbie Bikini appears to be the only woman in this entire game. Well, unless the double rhino is a lady double rhino.
  • Did you know? Town & Country Surf Designs is still a major manufacturer of surfboards, and they relaunched Thrilla and the Thrilla Krew branded merchandise last year. You too can finally own a Thrilla Gorilla t-shirt! Please note that Tiki Man has been rebranded as Wave Warrior, and Kool Kat is nowhere to be found.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the coconuts in Africa.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tomba for the Playstation! Do I smell bacon? Please look forward to it!

Cowabunga
At least there’s lava surfing