Tag Archives: bowser

FGC #350 Super Mario Odyssey

It's a-me!  Cappy!The reason it’s so difficult to convince the general public that climate change is real is that weather is continually simultaneously reliable and anomalous. It is cold in the winter. It is warm in the summer. There is never a year where this is not the case. But, if you stand downwind of anyone that has been in the same area for longer than about five years, get ready to hear the stories about when it was scorching on Christmas, or that time it snowed in May. These stories aren’t lies, because, yes, sometimes you get an “Indian Summer” or a “Kinda Racist Winter”, and, inevitably, this just leads to the thinking that everything is absolutely fine. So you have to wear your shorts in November? Phhht. It’s happened before! The record set in 1999 is for 76°! This doesn’t mean anything!

Mario has the same problem.

Now, before we go any further, I want to plainly state that I love Mario games. I love this Mario game. It is amazing! There are dinosaurs and mariachi bands and Mario made frogs cool again for the second time in my lifetime. Not only is Mario Odyssey good, it’s damn near flawless. As of this writing, I have collected a good couple six hundred or so power moons, and I have rescued Princess Peach from nefarious nuptials, so I’m pretty confident that, while jumping rope might be a bear, the actual minute-to-minute of this Mario adventure is top notch. In a year packed with absolutely stellar titles, this little plumber is staring in one of the best.

So why is my general feeling something like…. Underwhelming? Yes, that’s it. I am underwhelmed by Mario Odyssey.

WeeeeLet’s look at those other “games of the year”. Persona 5 was probably the most traditional game on the list, but it was still the first time we saw the series on a modern console (or two), and you can’t say it wasn’t stylish as hell. Do you understand how much of the Persona 5 soundtrack has been playing in my head since April? NieR: Automata also wound up on that mental playlist, and those phat beats were somehow attached to a game that was not only fun to play, but also managed to question the very nature of humanity. Even “lesser” games, like Sonic Mania or Cuphead, managed to distill exactly what makes their respective genres excellent into a mouthwatering fruit, smoosh that conceptual fruit into a jam, and spread out those picture-perfect ideas into some of the best experiences available for modern consoles. And then there’s The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild.

It feels almost gauche to discuss this game again, but here we are. Some eight months ago, Nintendo released what might have been the most important game in a franchise that has been important for three decades. In short, in one sweeping motion, Nintendo threw out everything that made Zelda Zelda, yet, against all odds, created an experience that is Zelda in every conceivable way. I already put on my lab coat in an attempt to explain this phenomenon, but Breath of the Wild is unmistakably the end result of every Zelda that has ever been. It is also not Zelda at all, and a completely new experience from the absolute moment you realize Link has a dedicated and permanent jump button. Breath of the Wild doesn’t just stop at revolutionizing Zelda, though, as it rapidly becomes the best open world title this world has ever seen. See that hill over there? You can climb it. You can glide to it. You can buy a big fluffy sweater so you’re not cold when you get there. You can kill every errant fox between here and there with your enormous death horse (named Ganonhoof). Breath of the Wild is an amazing experience, and an experience that is completely unprecedented in all of gaming.

Mario Odyssey? Mario Odyssey is merely amazing.

ShiversAnd, let’s be clear, I’m not saying that carelessly. I started this article just after finishing the game, and, somehow, since then, I’ve collected about 400 more power moons, completed the darkest side of the moon, and happily followed a weird little skeleman in his taxi trips across the globe. I did this all with an enormous smile on my face, and never once complained about every time I had to possess a toad instead of a tyrannosaur. Mario Odyssey is fun from the depths of the ocean to all the way up to the top of the moon, and, give or take a few finicky flicking controls, it is an unequivocally perfect experience.

But, it’s a Mario game, so that’s expected.

This might be a controversial statement, but I’m willing to state that there has never been a bad Mario game. Ever. Mind you, that’s with the caveat that I’m exclusively talking about Mario-platformer games, as I’m pretty sure that one Mario baseball game was absolute garbage, and anything involving hotels is obviously not to be trusted. But when you look at the clear line from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Odyssey, you see a lot of phenomenal platformers along the way. And I know it’s dope and hip to claim that Mario Sunshine or Mario That One 3DS Game were not really good Mario games, but, come on. I’m not saying every Mario game has been perfect, but if you claim you could never have fun blasting a water gun around Delfino Plaza, well, congratulations on learning to read, you soulless demon from the depths of Hell. Has there ever been a flawed Mario game? Certainly. But have they all been fun, well-crafted adventures involving some of the most joyous movement options available? Double yes. When Mario is Mario, he is always good.

Right in the kisserAnd I literally can’t think of another franchise that has ever done that so well and for so long. Zelda? Phantom Hourglass had some neat ideas, but its centerpiece dungeon was hateful. Metroid? Let’s be real, there has been one really amazing game starring Samus, and everything else has just been… Echoes. Every fighting game ever has at least one entry that could be best described as disappointing, and every new entry in a modern JRPG or shoot ‘em up franchise runs the risk of being really interesting and immersive or a lolicon underwear simulator. And that’s really what it comes down to: with so many franchises, you have no idea what you’re going to get. Sonic the Hedgehog is somehow simultaneously responsible for one of the best games I’ve played all year, and a title where the only plus is presenting offline access to Deviantart. Mario doesn’t ever run that risk. A new Mario platformer is always good, whether it be our first Gameboy outing or something with a few more dimensions.

And all those amazing Mario games? They’re all here in Mario Odyssey. Would we have the frequent 2-D sections without Mario Maker? Probably not. Would we have the “themed world” and personable companion without Sunshine? Seems like the clear source there. Would we have a Mario in a sombrero without Qix? Well, maybe… but still! From Galaxy’s amazing controls to 3-D Land’s musical notes to even something as established as Yoshi’s Island’s butt stomp, all of Mario has been wrapped up and stuck beneath an adorable top hat.

And that’s the problem.

(No, not the top hat.)

Take a look at this challenge stage:

Weeeee

And tell me it couldn’t be any other Mario game released in the last fifteen years. It could be a “FLUDD-less” area from Mario Sunshine. It could be a random planet from Mario Galaxy. It could easily be any given stage from 3D Land or 3D World. It’s great! It’s fun! But it’s also very, very familiar. This is not a case of redefining the very landscape of gaming like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros 3, or Super Mario 64. Heck, even “lesser” entries did everything they could to explain why waggle could actually be fun (Galaxy) or 3-D is a perfectly good reason to make a new portable system (3D Land). Mario Odyssey is just kind of…. Really amazing.

And that’s why, while I absolutely adore this game, I still feel underwhelmed. This is Mario at its best… but the best is exactly what I expected. This is snow in the winter: it’s anticipated, and, what, you wanted a beach trip on Valentine’s Day? Those have happened before, right? I remember that one really warm February back in the Winter of ’17… Can’t we have that again? Can’t it not only be flawless, but also revolutionary? Is that asking too much?

Mario Odyssey: One of the best games I’ve played this year… but I expected more.

FGC #350 Super Mario Odyssey

  • System: Nintendo Switch. I believe this is the first game that I’ve reviewed for the site that is exclusively for the Switch. Yes, Breath of the Wild was for WiiU, too! Never forget!
  • Number of players: Technically two, but only because that’s the only way to beat volleyball.
  • Favorite Kingdom: Sand Kingdom, bar none. I’m not certain if it’s been mentioned before (I really need to reread some of these articles sometime), but I am a sucker for Dia de los Muertos aesthetics. While I generally hate deserts, I love mariachi skeletons. And when one skeleman decides to take a cab ride around the world? I think he’s my new hero.
  • AHHHHFavorite Capture: Actually, I think the capture mechanic summarizes this game perfectly: it’s always fun, but it’s exactly what you expect. T-Rex wrecks up the place, glider dino glides, and a piranha plant just hurls the contents of its non-existent stomach. That said, the humble goomba is my favorite capture, as it offers a clear powerup (better traction), but the additional fun of goomba stacking to satisfy a horny girl-goomba. I just want Mario to go that extra mile (to please goombas).
  • Switch it up: Okay, it’s subtle, but Mario Odyssey does its best to sell the features of the Switch… exclusively to me. I’ve spoken before about how my ideal game is one that is “widescreen” for the big dramatic moments, but then I can futz around in the postgame while watching TV or something. Mario Odyssey’s huge postgame is built for this, and, it seems like introductions to the kingdoms are meant to be docked, while postgame “100 random moons” are intended for less laborious portable play. The Switch was made for that kind of dichotomy! Just… doesn’t exactly come off as revolutionary.
  • Gooey: Oh, can we please get an option to disable the on-screen tutorial for every power and climbing pole? Look, I’ve been playing the absolute final level for the last hour, I don’t need a reminder to press B to jump every time I possess a lava ball and stand still for two seconds.
  • I’m just disappointed: The Rabbit Wedding Planners are a wonderful concept, but I’m dissatisfied with their work. I don’t mind that they stole every valuable item from every kingdom they could find, but they arranged for Bowser’s chapel to be like two blocks down from their home. For professionals, that’s just egotistical and lazy.
  • Just play the gig man: I do not understand why this game has ambient effects for some areas, and bombastic, amazing big band music for others. It makes perfect sense for some of the “set piece” areas (like New Donk City in the rain), but why the pastoral post-game kingdom is completely silent is anybody’s guess. Hey, at least you can cue up Jump Up Superstar at any time from the pause menu.
  • ClassicDid you know? Assuming you disregard the opening “prologue” kingdom, our first world is grass land, the second is desert, the potential third is under the sea, number five is a brief visit to the sky, and you’ve got the ice and lava stages shortly thereafter. Mario is a man of tradition.
  • Would I play again: I technically haven’t stopped playing this one yet. It might not be revolutionary, but it is a damn lot of fun, and it’s unlikely to leave my Switch for a good, long while.

What’s next? I’m taking a break. I’ve got a couple of random projects I’ve been ignoring because “oh I have to get the next FGC article done”, and I need a week to not have that excuse. Doesn’t mean there won’t be some content next week (there certainly will), but at least I don’t have to beat a Mario game to get it up. … Probably could have phrased that better. So FGC officially resumes on 11/20, and, in the meanwhile… well, I’ll try to find something to post during the week. Oh, and when we get back, we’ve got Kirby and the Crystal Shards on deck. Please look forward to it!

I like stickers

FGC #240 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

ClassySuper Mario Bros. can be completed within about fifteen minutes. Had you told me this information back in the 80’s, I would have never believed you (okay, I might have believed you, I was a dumb child that believed in things like Santa Claus and people who could make it past the first level of Kid Icarus), because I would routinely spend hours playing Super Mario Bros, and it was a long, long time before I ever conquered Bowser once and for all. But, if you know what you’re doing, hold down that B button, and grab all the warps, it’s actually not that difficult to sail past every last Hammer Bro into Peach’s waiting arms. And, yes, the princess is in this castle, and you made it in the time it takes to watch an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Now we can all move on to more important matters, like banishing Dracula or something.

Over time, Mario’s adventures got lengthier. While Super Mario Bros. 3 can be completed in… three minutes? Really? Okay, let’s say fifteen minutes again, that sounds more sane. Super Mario World is in the same boat, but already Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island hits the “you will complete every level” bar, bumping its speedrun times up to at least an hour. Super Mario 64 is similarly at the “ready in about an hour” bar, and Super Mario Sunshine continues the trend. Yes, these giant, sprawling 3-D Mario games still maintain a “speed path” that allows for some insane acrobatics and practically instantaneous princess saving. Forget Wee Goggle Bob’s confusion at modern day speedruns, Present Goggle Bob is amazed at these super-fast Marios right now. Even the entire galaxy of Super Mario Galaxy can be conquered inside of three hours!

And I mention this because, in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, it seems like one battle lasts roughly three hours.

PUNT!M&L:BIS is a Mario RPG. Somehow, there are now three different Mario RPG “branches”. There’s Super Mario RPG, the Mario/Square jaunt that was basically a Final Fantasy game (complete with random kingdom in the sky and ancient caves abound) with Mario characters and a slightly active battle system. Unfortunately, this branch kind of died on the vine (… is that how metaphors work?), and we never saw another Mario RPG quite like it. Then we got Paper Mario, which is adorable, and features a sort of “evolved” version of Mario RPG’s battle system. Maybe “devolved” is the proper term? Get ready to see an HP count that never exceeds double digits, and a damage count that can’t even clear the number five. Personally, I love the aesthetic and not arbitrarily doing 1,200 HP damage every round, but I can see how it all adds up to something that seems very… childish. It’s like a pop-up book with tiny, easily counted numbers! Your little brother will love it!

And then there’s the Mario and Luigi franchise. I kind of hate the Mario and Luigi franchise.

Mario and Luigi, at first glance, is very much like Mario RPG or Paper Mario. You’ve got Mario and Luigi, and they’re in JRPG-style battles, and you better learn about timed hits, or you’re going to lose a lot of health points. Generally, in M&L games, it all starts off simple enough, and you jump to dodge, and hit the button at the right time to get a few extra points in, and, easy peasy, you’re done with the opening areas inside of a few hours. But then it gets… tricky. More special attacks are introduced, more ways to move and attack start trickling in, and then, by the time the final boss rolls on in, you’re swept up in a torrent of jump jump slide attack that would put Mega Man 8 to shame. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve played some minigames in other JRPGs that are less complex than one round of combat in a Mario and Luigi game.

And it’s exhausting!

TAKE THATI want to say that it leads to some overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when you complete each round of these Mario & Luigi trials, but… not so much. One boss might challenge M&L to a metaphorical game of jump rope every other round, but, end of the day, once that boss is defeated, it’s just another boss down, have some EXP, end of story. The JRPG trappings of Mario & Luigi make it similar to every JRPG that has existed since Erdrick’s descendant first picked up his blade, except every battle plays out like a damn exercise routine instead of aiming the cursor at “fight” and calling it a day. And, make no mistake, the other JRPG trappings are here, too, so you’ve got to resource manage, equip proper armor (overalls), and explore puzzle-y dungeon mazes between those grueling battles. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (aka M&L1) is one of the few games I’ve ever played where I got to the final boss, lost a couple of times, and then said, “Screw it, I’m gonna play something else.” And it’s all because the final boss’s attack sequences each, individually, seemed to take entire hours of my life. Who has time for that (gigantic exaggeration)!?

In fact, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the only Mario & Luigi game I’ve ever completed. Why? Well, as much as people complain about some of the minigames in this game (and their endless tutorials), I found that some of those distractions (and super giant Bowser) are enough of an interruption from the usual gameplay that it… is “refreshed” the right word? Yes, the silly minigames made me want to play the game more because the normal game is so exhausting. I beat M&L:BIS, felt happy to have accomplished such a feat, and then never picked up another M&L game ever again. Brothers, I don’t care if your writing is really clever and your sprites are delightful, I got better things to do than dodge a shy guy over and over and over again.

Not so shy nowAnd that’s why I’m unlikely to play another Mario & Luigi game again. It’s not that Mario & Luigi games are bad. Quite the opposite, despite how much vitriol has been spewed all over this post. M&L games are well crafted and charming, with colorful characters and interesting variations on established Mario characters. Unfortunately, the games also take forever, and for the exact same “reward” as any other Mario game. You saved Peach. You defeated Bowser (even if he was helpful at one point). You stomped a lot of goombas, and had fun doing it. It just took days, when other Mario adventures can take minutes. I don’t want to take five minutes to show a koopa troopa who’s boss when it can take a button press.

I’ve got limited time for turtle stomping nowadays, and fifteen minutes should be the entire game, not one battle.

FGC #240 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

  • System: Nintendo DS. This one make it to the Virtual Console? No? Okay.
  • Number of players: Despite the obvious two player title, it’s a one player affair. JRPGs, ya know.
  • Uh, dude, you barely mentioned Bowser: Well! I already talked about him a lot during the Paper Mario article! It happens. But seriously, probably the other half of “why I beat this game” is that the Bowser portions are a hoot, and he’s a lot less taxing to control than the brothers. Really, half the problem I have with these games is the “dual dodging” thing, which is why I gave up Partners in Time (with quad dodging) almost immediately.
  • Also, Fat Toads: Blorbs are adorbs.
  • FATTY!Favorite Boss: Midbus is the obvious choice here. I feel like anytime Bowser gets a decent rival, fun times are had. Okay, maybe he’s not really a decent rival, but he’s at least amusing, and I like him better than Fawful. You heard me, Fawful-fans! Your fav is one note!
  • Did you know: There are unused Yoshi voice clips hiding in the code. One would assume this means Yoshi was originally intended to have a greater role… but isn’t there already enough swallowing going on in this game? Though I would likely play a new Mario & Luigi game that explored the digestive/reproductive system of your average Yoshi…
  • Would I play again? Another situation where the article answers this question entirely. Just for the statistics, the answer is a plain no.

What’s next? Random ROB… is taking some time off for Valentine’s Day. But we’re going to have content. Oh yes, we’re going to have a full week of moderately Valentine’s Day related content. Though… probably not what you’re thinking. Come back Monday to find out what’s on the agenda for the week. Please look forward to it!

FGC #203 Paper Mario

Here comes something!Paper Mario proves it: We want to be Bowser.

Maybe I’m just sensitive to such thinking because of my recent “love for the bad guys” article, but let us consider the whole of the Paper Mario franchise. Recent Paper Mario games, like Paper Mario: Color Splash and Paper Mario: Sticker Star, feature Mario working together with Toads and the gimmick du jour… but not Bowser. Bowser is, like in every other Mario game that does not involve sportsmanship, an antagonist, and nothing more than an obstacle to be overcome. And, hey, guess which Paper Mario games are the least liked.

But let’s go back a little further. Super Paper Mario is probably best described as “experimental”, as its fusion of platforming and RPG mechanics simply did not work in a lot of places. But it’s also a damn memorable game, with some set pieces (like a destroyed world, 8-bit Hell, and some nerd’s basement) that seem to be wholly unique within the franchise. And, yes, Bowser is straight up a playable character alongside Mario, Peach, and that green guy. The giant lizard even gets some kind of story arc and a rival to battle against! You can’t tell me that Super Paper Mario doesn’t get extra adoration for its playable Bowser.

And then we go back a little further, to the impeccable Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. This is a game that requires no excuses; it is simply a beautiful, delightfully constructed RPG absolutely oozing with creativity and wonder. It’s a story for another article, but I would say, without question, that if the Gamecube somehow was only capable of supporting one game, PM:TTYD would still make the system essential. But that’s all fluff compared to the simple truth that the best damn part of that game is playing through the opening stage of Mario Bros. as a constantly growing Bowser. PM:TTYD was demoed for the world with two stages: a battle against Hookbill representing the “real game”, and fun times with Bowser, the event everyone reported. How did that not become an entire game!?

Winner!This brings us back to the originator of the Paper series, Paper Mario. Those of you that have played the game are probably already disagreeing with my thesis, as, come on, Goggle Bob, Bowser is the main and undisputed villain of Paper Mario. There is no Shadow Force or Mr. L or even a mysterious, last minute “I was secretly responsible for everything” monster at the end of the book. Bowser is the bad guy, he’s identified as such before even Mario is introduced, and he’s the final boss. He doesn’t even transform into some kind of Final Fantasy version of Bowser for that finale, either. He’s “Bowser, but, ya know, bigger”. I guess he borrowed a weapon from the Kirby series? That’s about it.

But consider Mario’s role in the story. Mario is, as ever, the hero. Mario ventures across the Mushroom Kingdom’s latest incarnation, and collects about 113 less stars than in his last adventure. Mario stomps on shyguys, kicks over turtle shells, and wields a mean hammer when goombas finally decide to get some headgear. Coins, fire flowers, and mushrooms are collected, and, in the end, Mario finds all the stars and saves Princess Peach from Bowser’s uncertain machinations (I guess he’s just a single dad looking for a strong female presence in his household?). For the entire world, this looks like a pretty typical Mario adventure, complete with some fireworks and parade floats in time for the credits.

But…

ShinyMario makes a lot of friends during his quest. I’m partial to Goombario the goomba and Kooper the koopa troopa, but there’s a place in my heart for everybody’s favorite manic mailman, Parakarry the parakoopa, too. Lady Bow the boo is a bit too high society for my tastes, but Bombette is to be commended for contemplating the rights of sentient explosives. Watt is just a wee baby sparky, and would probably get along well with Mama Sushi… if cheep cheeps could deal with electricity a little better. And Lakilester the Lakitu… well, I guess he tries. And that’s Mario’s JRPG party.

And you may have noticed that not a single one of those allies are “good guys”.

Mario has a pretty healthy support staff. There have been Peach, Toad(s), and Green Man ever since Super Mario Bros. 2. Since then, we also gained Yoshi(s), Daisy, and a handful of occasionally helpful monkeys. That cast has mushroomed (ha) in recent years, with the Piantas, Nokis, Rosalina, Toadette (she counts!), Wario Bros, and I guess we could even include the baby bunch. Point is that, assuming you need to fill a JRPG or karting roster, you’ve got a lot of Mario friends to choose from before you have to dip into the villain pool. Well, Wario might be kind of a gray area, but he’s… certainly helpful to the party’s wallet.

But Paper Mario is all about the villains. Okay, yes, technically every Mario ally is on the side of the angels, and it’s not like Mario had to coerce his party (too much) into joining the battle to restore wishes; but the fact remains that every one of these creatures is from a wicked gene pool. I’m trying not to be judgmental here, but forget thumbs, almost half of this roster doesn’t even have arms. I don’t see any famous pieces of art coming out of the bob-omb galleries, and I’m pretty sure that goombas are more teeth than man. Again, I commend the likes of Kooper for joining in a benevolent quest, but that doesn’t make up for nearly every one of his contemporaries being accessories to kidnapping over the years. Mario’s friends are Bowser’s usual army.

So, are you really Mario?

HilariousYou jump. You swing a hammer. You can shoot fire. And so can Bowser. Bowser premiered in Super Mario Bros. with the exact same skillset as Mario (and an endless supply of hammers rescued from an ape’s construction site). Aside from a slight size difference, the key difference between Bowser and Mario was simply that Mario was alone, and Bowser had eight levels of minions to toss at the hapless plumber.

And now, here we are: Mario has his own army. It’s limited, but they’ve got 1-up mushrooms, so Goombario is going to last longer than his usually squishy brethren. Do you really need a house full of boos when you’ve got one Lady Bow? Of course not. So now we’ve got one or two extemporary minions versus a mass of anonymous randos. We know who is going to win this one, but hasn’t Bowser already won? In order to defeat his greatest enemy, Mario has become the very thing he battles. Mario is Bowser.

And we all ate it up with a spoon. Paper Mario is the story of Bowser fighting another, slightly less-equipped Bowser. And all we want is more.

Bowser is the hero Paper Mario fans desire.

FGC #203 Paper Mario

  • System: N64, and Virtual Console. Highly recommend the Virtual Console release, as that allows one to ignore the weird visual stink of the N64.
  • Number of players: One Bowser Mario.
  • Favorite Companion: It’s Watt. There’s something delightfully… spooky regarding her incarceration as a lantern sprite, and, once she’s on the team, she shocks monsters with the best of ‘em. And she’s friends with Fuzzipede, too!
  • STAR POWER!Reused Plot: So there was a time in history when there were exactly two Mario RPGs, and both games told the story of a villain damaging the universal mechanism for stars granting wishes. Was this a calculated move to “retell” Super Mario RPG, or did no one have any original ideas? We’ll never know.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I want to say this was the last game I bought at the tail-end of my “poor college student” phase. Shortly after I bought this game used (well after the heyday of the N64), I picked up my first “adult” job (even if I was still a student), and suddenly had enough spare income to afford things like used videogames. But I can still remember when I bought this game assuming its scarcity would only increase in the future, and I pretty much threw away my last $30 to play a children’s storybook game. I regret nothing.
  • Reused Game: Apparently the previous owner of my copy of Paper Mario was named Rachel. I cannot bring myself to delete her last save file, because there is something wrong with my brain.
  • Did you know? Every last Paper Mario support character was apparently supposed to reappear in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, but I guess they got cut for time, as only their updated sprites remain in the code of the final version. This is a tremendous loss.
  • Would I play again: This is a great game! It’s also a game that is completely overshadowed by PM:TTYD, so… Sorry.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon’s Crown for the Playstation 3! Get ready to beat ‘em up while possibly nursing severe back issues. Please look forward to it!

Go nerds!

FGC #197 Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

What a titleDr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a Puyo Pop clone with a Sonic skin. Dr. Robotnik is mechanizing the peaceful people of Beanville, and it’s up to you, player, to defeat the bad doctor and his robotic minions in a series of head-to-head puzzle challenges. Triumph, and the beans will be free to roam around and be joyful little loco roco rejects; fail, and Dr. Robotnik will utilize his new robo beans to conquer Mobius.

Feel like something is missing? That’s right, Sonic the Hedgehog is nowhere to be seen. Sonic, Tails, and Charmy Bee are all completely absent from this adventure. Dr. Robotnik gets the title, and Sonic doesn’t get so much as a chili dog.

And I think that’s a good thing.

Villains have a tendency to be more interesting than their heroic rivals. Dr. Robotnik is a mad scientist with an IQ of 300, a grandfather that tried to blow up the moon, and a revolutionary method of converting useless bunnies into robotic abominations. He’s dedicated to his twin goals of conquering the world and maybe building a shway theme park. Despite failing over and over again, Robotnik soldiers on, and doesn’t let a little thing like having his Egg Fortress obliterated get him down. Sonic the Hedgehog… likes to run fast.

And this happens in a lot of videogames, to the point that I’m now going to pit classic videogame heroes and villains against each other in a battle for supremacy (or at least top billing).

Mario and Bowser would be the obvious starting point… but that already seems kind of unfair. Mario is, essentially, a charismatic, well-liked soldier. Bowser is menacing toads again! Somebody call the one and only guy that ever seems to curb that dreadful dinosaur. PHOTO OF BOWSER UNAVAILABLEOn the other side of the aisle, though, you have Bowser, who is the king of a very eclectic kingdom. Peach rules a kingdom of funguys that are virtually indistinguishable from each other, while Bowsie corrals a mix of chestnuts, beetles, cacti, turtles (both bipedal and quadrupedal), and the occasional homicidal sun. And he somehow commands all those creatures to literally die for his cause. Peach can barely get her toads to venture outside the castle walls, and even her second best soldier is more likely to cower than conquer. Mario jumps, Bowser rules.

To be clear, I’m not saying Bowser is a good guy. He’s a very violent fire-breathing turtle monster, and his “grab ‘em by the Peach” policy should only be derided. But when you consider what goes into the average Bowser plan versus a Mario plan (run, jump, repeat), Bowser undoubtedly leads the more interesting life. But does Bowser get anything other than the occasional tennis match or RPG cameo? No! Meanwhile, Mario is munching on mushrooms on his 12,000th adventure. That mustache has to rescue… I don’t know… have we saved Candy Land, yet?

WIN!And this reminds me of another grand conqueror, Ganon, and I guess that damn Link kid, too. Ganon (give or take a dorf) must have the absolute worst luck. At this point in Zelda mythology, we know that Ganon is the reincarnation of a gigantic, malevolent demon that once threatened the very gods of Hyrule. It’s kind of a shame, then, that he’s routinely routed by a kid that herds cows. Ganon comes from an oppressed people, wants nothing but, ya know, water and other basic resources for his thirsty family, but is still turned away at the gate because a precocious preteen princess decided to tell everybody about some bad dream. He tries to make alliances with a shady sister kingdom, and his calls just keep going to voicemail until some damn jester picks up. Poor ginger tries to revive an entire mystical kingdom, and he gets a divinely-mandated sword in his forehead for his troubles. Link, meanwhile, seems to continually luck into the most powerful relics on the face of the Earth (“Gee, nice flute you got there, you say it controls all of time and space?”), and lays claim to these holy relics because… he’s courageous? Ya know, I’m pretty sure I could successfully poke some giant worm in the butt with a sword if the alternative meant death or falling off a tower. That should only merit The Triforce of Basic Survival, not Courage. Ganon fights for the good of suppressed others everywhere; Link usually only has one brunette in mind.

Speaking of generational heroes battling an immortal dictator, Dracula already has the title in Japan’s version of “Castlevania”, so I think he’s getting his due.

CRYDr. Wily, now there’s a guy who should get top billing. Screw “Mega Man” “Rock Man” or “Rainbow Man”, the true title of that franchise should be something along the lines of “Dr. Wily’s Funhouse (featuring some robot boy)”. Raise your hands if you wanted to be Dr. Wily as a kid. Thought never crossed your mind? Okay, but did you ever create your own robot masters? Design your own levels or weapons for Mega Man? Guess what! That’s Dr. Wily’s job! Dr. Light built one adaptable fighting robot, and then Dr. Wily built six death mazes and an entire castle to fight back. And then another eight levels, robot masters, and a castle. And then again! And again! Sometimes he built entire “dummy” castles just to screw with Rock-for-Brains! And when he ran out of ideas, he kidnapped another scientist so Mega Man could have even more robots to fight. And there was a soccer tournament somewhere in there! That is some insane dedication to his craft. Maybe mad. Obviously they can’t all be winners (Stone Man? Really?), but every once in a while you get a robot master choo choo or snake, and it all works out. Mega Man knows one big thing, but Dr. Wily knows many things, including how to build a fortress in the shape of a giant skull.

SO ANGRYBut I guess now we’re talking about Hedgehogs again. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine might not be the “The Adventures of Eggman”, but it is at least a chance for the mad scientist to shine outside of that rodent eulipotyphla’s limelight. Maybe we’ll see more Eggman times in the future, but for now, we must be content with one measly villain owning a puzzle game. We’ll get that hedgehog next time.

FGC #197 Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

  • System: Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and a menagerie of rereleases on later systems. Despite the assumed licensing issues, this game has no problem resurfacing every generation.
  • Number of players: Two player head-to-head puzzle action. Eat your heart out, Nintendo Tetris.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s Puyo Pop. It’s a match-color game. It’s practically Dr. Mario. It’s also really difficult for some reason. Like, the second stage is already pretty rough with piling the garbage blocks on the player.
  • So, did you beat it: Once, on one of the Sega/Sonic Mega Collections. I want to say Playstation 2 era? The final boss is Dr. Robotnik himself.
  • Hey, speaking of villains headlining games, what about Shadow the Hedgehog: This blog does not recognize color swaps as real characters. You heard me, Reptile!
  • Did you know? The aesthetics of this game are predominantly based on the Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. The, uh, daily one, not the one that only aired on Saturdays and was super rad because Sonic the Hedgehog was some kind of freedom fighter and there was a rabbit that was also a cyborg and I think Sonic had his own Uncle Ben. … The 90’s were a weird time to be alive.
  • Would I play again: No. I’m proud of Robotnik being immortalized in the title of this Puyo Pop clone… but it’s still just Puyo Pop. So why don’t I just play that?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ducktales, the Wayforward version! Get ready for life to be like a hurricane! Please look forward to it!

Ugh