Tag Archives: childhood

FGC #250 Kid Icarus

You are now hearing this theme songKid Icarus isn’t bad, but there is definitely something “wrong” there. In replaying through the whole of the game for this review, I desperately tried to figure out the problem. Was it the deadly vertical scrolling? No, that’s a pain, but it didn’t offer any challenges that Mario or angel alike couldn’t overcome. Was it the labyrinthine, repetitive dungeons? No, they’re annoying, but a quick trip to the internet made those maps surmountable (I suppose graph paper could have sufficed in a pinch). And the final level is actually kind of a fun reward for completing the rest of the challenges, so that can’t be the trouble.

No, in playing Kid Icarus, I realized where the real problem lies: Every single time a new monster popped on the screen, I said, “Oh great, it’s this butthead.”

Watch out for buttheads

Like, look at these buttheads. Infinitely respawning buttheads? Yep, right here in the first level, and then every level after that.

GAZE

And these buttheads just float wherever they want. Monoeyes? Oh, that’s a clever name… for a butthead.

Grandpa, that's just Maggie

Ah, the grim personification of death, or just another butthead that is going to kill Pit? I think you know the answer.

There are so many buttheads, we might be here a while…

FGC #238 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

CowbungaI’ve mentioned before that, as a kid, you kind of take everything in stride. Super Mario Bros. is about a plumber that jumps on turtles and saves mushroom people? Yeah, okay. Oh, wait, now he’s a live action dude on a variety show that features cartoons that include a magical elf every Friday? Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, now Mario can fly because he gained the tail of a raccoon, a creature not traditionally known for its flight capability? Whatever, man, as long as it’s fun. Similarly, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got their first videogame, I was elated, because, duh, Ninja Turtles and videogames: two tastes that go great together (like whipped cream and pizza). And thus did I play TMNT for hours, and I thought very little about its origins or eccentricities.

But now that I’m playing the game as an adult, I’m shell-shocked at how this might be the weirdest game on the NES.

It’s definitely a Ninja Turtle game

First, for anyone that skipped this magical adventure, I want to be absolutely clear that this is certainly a TMNT game. This is not the case of a bizarre localization where Goku became a random Native American or something. This is a radical turtle adventure that starts with an attract screen that is practically off the back of a TMNT action figure. Watch four mundane turtles mutate into awesome teenage ninja with four distinct weapon types! Look out for the evil Shredder! Bebop and Rocksteady are up to no good!

And it’s not just the intro, the overarching plot of this one could be a week-long arc on the cartoon. April is kidnapped. The Foot are going to destroy a local landmark. Splinter is kidnapped. Splinter is rescued, but it’s time to hunt down the Technodrome once and for all. There’s that nefarious Shredder, and we beat ‘em, but will he be back next week? Throw in Krang and maybe a random mutant or two, and you’ve practically got the entire series in one game. They even managed to wedge that silly blimp into a cutscene or two.

And speaking of cameos…

The Bosses are Amazing

Incoming!Bebop and Rocksteady are up to no good, and you personally get to stop them. And their boss patterns make sense: they’re both animal-people known for charging in headfirst, and here is a pair of jerks that do just that. It’s a shame you don’t get to fight them simultaneously, but there is something appropriate about Rocksteady watching Bebop get defeated and then just wandering off. Foot Mutants totally aren’t bros, yo.

But the later stage bosses are the real gems. Metalhead is not “Mecha Turtle”, dammit, he’s clearly the robo-turtle of the TMNT universe. Then we’ve got Big Mouser that, okay, maybe it doesn’t move much, but it is certainly the granddaddy of all mousers. And there’s a fight with the entire Technodrome. Sure, the scale is way off, but it’s probably the best turtle vs. tank battle you’re ever going to see in this or any other medium. It’s bigger on the inside.

The bosses are pretty damn TMNT, and their accompanying Foot Soldiers fit the flunky bill. But things start to go off the rails when you look at…

The Other Guys

Okay, so the Foot Clan are ninja. That can account for a lot of different variations on a theme. I mean, you’ve got all the crazy ninja weapons, and you could have mutant ninja, and maybe like big ninja to accompany nimble ninja. That all makes perfect sense, and this is a robot army of ninja, so even the occasional jetpack or laser gun would be allowed.

LOOK AT MEBut what we have here… uh… did anyone order a crawling eyeball? Or flying manta ray creatures? And are those Human Torch-esque “fire men”, or did some random Foot go full Thích Quảng Đức and decide to immolate around the place? I can deal with the occasional mutant frog monster, that’s practically canon, but “Chainsaw Maniac”? I think you might be a genre off, dude. And then there’s the… thing… that is just a bunch of spikes with legs creeping along the ceiling. That shouldn’t be a TMNT enemy. I’m not even certain that creature should be haunting anyone other than Lovecraft…

Oh, but these random Boomerang Buttheads (you never forget what you named enemies when you were seven) seem eerily reminiscent of Goriya, which reminds me…

Wow, this game is like The Adventure of Link

Back in 1989, videogames hadn’t quite coalesced into the rigidly defined genres of today. So when TMNT seemed a little bit like The Adventure of Link (a game released, in Japan, two years earlier), nobody thought much of it. Nowadays, we’ve had roughly six total games throughout history that can be described as “like The Adventure of Link”, so it kind of sticks out.

Party time!It’s a shame, too, because this set-up works surprisingly well with the level structure of TMNT. Heck, I’d argue that the overworld overhead perspective and underground “connected dungeons” structure of TMNT NES world works better than in The Adventure of Link. And it’s not just because of the Party Van! Let’s face it, you continue in The Adventure of Link, and the trek back to your favorite palace is more of a slog than anything. That huge, wide-open overworld is great in the beginning, but it’s just another stupid obstacle by about the time you acquire the raft. In TMNT, each level is self-contained and, more importantly, ends. Assuming you’ve got a continue remaining, you don’t ever have to cross the sewers of the first world ever again, and that’s a good thing for anyone that cares about their own time.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little disingenuous. You’re going to see the first level again and again, because, frankly…

This Game is Super Hard

It’s a NES game, so it’s a given that everything is trying to kill you. Also, this was before even the concept of “refill stations” or “save points” existed, so good luck rationing enough pizza to guarantee Donny has a full life meter at all times. And, yes, because Konami (Ultra if you’re nasty) is full of vindictive monsters, there are instant kill traps. If you want to count those Foot Tanks, there are instant kill traps on the first screen. Hope you didn’t pick your favorite turtle to inevitably be squished first!

And the platforming in this game is just plain cruel. See this? See this right here?

ARGH

I still have nightmares about this jump. Here’s your fun fact for the day! If you, like many poor, scrubby children of the 80’s, used a Game Genie to secure infinite life for your dear turtles, and you missed that one damn jump, the game would permanently freeze, and you’d have to start the whole adventure over again. What I’m saying is that even when you cheat, TMNT finds a way to punish your subpar ninja skills.

And I’ll remind you that this was a game essentially aimed at seven year olds. Konami, the “NES Generation” was already good at videogames at this point, but not this good.

Maybe I’m being hyperbolic. I mean, it’s not like there was an entire level that nobody ever got past.

Paddle on, bro

Oh, right, never mind.

So this is Turtle Power?

This all adds up to a very confusing game. It’s super hard, but made for children. It features the heroic Ninja Turtles and their mortal enemies, Robot with a Jet for a Head and Spikey Wall Guy. There’s The Adventure of Link gameplay, but with the water level nobody ever asked for! When I was a kid, I thought this was as normal as butter sandwiches (RECIPE: butter bread, put on top of other piece of bread, eat), but now, as an adult, I see this is a game as strange as spreading animal fat on couple of slabs of wheat and calling it lunch. WhoopsI understand licensed games could be anything back in the day, and Konami probably had all of about two hours of lead time to get this project out the door, but it still came out very… confused. Wolverine is a terrible game, but it’s a predictable terrible game. NES TMNT seems to zig every time you might expect a zag, and then you have to fight a mutant hedgehog for some reason.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES is a damn confusing game. It’s also kind of awesome, so, ya know, cowabunga.

FGC #238 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. It was also ported to various home computers of the time. Oh, it was also on the Wii Virtual Console for a hot minute, but it got rescinded due to licensing issues. I wonder how many games have actually left the Virtual Console never to return…
  • Number of Players: Four turtles, but only one player. Quite the let down for Wee Goggle Bob.
  • Favorite Turtle: Donny is best pony. Seriously, is there a reason to use anything other than that enormous bo staff? Donatello can murder Rocksteady without even having to stand up, and that’s to be commended.
  • What are they?Other Influences: The stage leading up to the Technodrome takes place in a series of caves, and there are floating jellyfish monsters. Now, I’m not saying TMNT ripped off Metroid (mainly because TMNT caves look more like “caves” than the caverns of NES Zebes), but it is a damn weird coincidence. Are, like, cave-based jellyfish creatures a thing in Japan? I’ve never been.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes! I even beat it back in the day, but, like Back to the Future, it was one of those deals where I beat the game, saw the very confusing ending (Splinter is human again? Huh?), and then was never able to get back there again (before the advent of savestates). I swear I thought I dreamed that sequence for years…
  • Land of the Rising Fun: In the Japanese version, April is identified as Splinter’s daughter, because why not? It’s not like the turtles would rescue a random woman in a yellow jumpsuit for no reason.
  • Did you know? The DOS port of TMNT contains an impossible jump in the third stage, so it’s technically impossible to beat without cheating/glitching. This is kind of amusing, because the “impossible jump” is not over an instant kill hazard, so it’s very likely that a lot of poor players banged their heads against that particular wall for years. Okay, I at least know my buddy Matt did that, because he talks about it every damn time someone so much as mentions a ninja turtle…
  • Would I play again: This game is weird and confusing, but I kind of love it. I like weird and confusing, evidently. So, yes, I’m probably going to see it back in the NES again before too long.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bobby is Going Home for the Atari! Ah, for the halcyon days of titles giving away the entire plot. Will Bobby make it home? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

Not that kind of fun

FGC #231 Scooby-Doo Mystery

Now you're hearing that stupid musicI have never met a human being that actually liked Scooby-Doo.

I find this… odd.

I’ve privately referred to this phenomenon as the “Wendy’s Effect”. I’ve never met anyone that really loved Wendy’s. Yes, I’ve known people that eat there, and even possibly people that eat there quite often. But, aside from “it’s 2 am, what’s open?” I’ve never met anyone that genuinely stated, “Oh man, I’m hungry, let’s go get some Wendy’s!” I’ve seen endless debates about McDonalds vs. Burger King, and I’ve seen, firsthand, the casualties of the Taco Bell vs. KFC wars, but Wendy’s? It’s dog food for people. You open up a can of that stuff, slurp it down, and move on to licking your own genitals. I’ve seen people go crazy for White Castle sliders. I’ve seen people brag excitedly about how many Taco Bell newspaper-based tacos they can consume. I’ve seen people that openly believe Big Macs are made from edible materials. I’ve never seen a human being sincerely excited about Wendy’s.

Yet Wendy’s is everywhere.

Scooby-Doo seems to occupy that exact same space, as, despite the fact that I’ve never heard a human being say “let’s sit down and watch Scooby-Doo”, it’s been on the air in various forms since before I was born, and I’m convinced they’ll employ cyborg technology just to guarantee Frank Welker will be voicing Fred until the end of time. Is it because it’s cheap? I remember when Scooby-Doo headlined the USA Cartoon Express. I remember when A Pup Named Scooby-Doo kicked off Saturday morning cartoons. I remember when Scooby-Doo practically defined Cartoon Network, and, later, Boomerang. Scooby-Doo is big business! And the show has always been awful!

WeeeeAnd, before anyone says it, dude, I know it’s for kids. Think you I would forget such a thing? The only time I could even tolerate Scooby-Doo was when I was a kid, and even then I was desperately fumbling to find something else on the boob tube. Never mind the fact that there might be mutant reptiles or space lions on other channels, I’d be content with some alternative Hannah Barbara offering, like Flintstones or Jonny Quest. Josie and the Pussycats (IN SPACE!) or Dynomutt shouldn’t be too much to ask for, but I’ll even settle for Shirt Tales over yet another “let’s split up, gang.” Go ahead and drive yourself nuts and look up how many episodes of Scooby-Doo are out there. There are 26 episodes of The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show alone! That’s thirteen hours of pure animated crap beamed directly into children’s eyeballs. The Geneva Conventions do nothing to protect us from this!

It’s also not hard to analyze Scooby-Doo. Here’s a fun fact: every damn episode is the same. It doesn’t matter if the Globetrotters or Batman show up, it’s always the same plot with the same running animations in slightly different locales. In a weird way, I can’t even rely on my memory to recall exactly whether there were an overabundance of haunted theme parks in the general Mystery Machine area, or if that was simply the same episode over and over again. How often did Shaggy ‘n Scoob wind up on a rollercoaster? Was that part of (one of) the opening credits, or was that just an easy bit of animation to reuse? Who cares? I’m not watching an episode of Scooby-Doo to make sure. That nonsense is boring.

So, in a way, Scooby-Doo Mystery for your favorite 16-bit platforms is completely true to its source material.

Really?SDM is, basically, an adventure game. To be clear, this isn’t an adventure game like Zelda, this is much more in the King’s Quest vein. Here’s another fun fact: want to know why the adventure game genre languished in failure for so long? It’s not because developers became convinced no one wanted to play adventure games or whatever Double Fine is claiming this week, it’s because it’s really hard to wholesale steal a good adventure game. You can make Mario-alikes, GTA-alikes, or Final Fantasy-alikes until the cows come home, and people are likely going to identify those clones as, if not good games, at least passable experiences. There are men out there that will die on the “Aero the Acro-Bat is good” hill, and it’s because it barely takes two thumbs to make a remotely enjoyable game where “jump” and “attack or something” are the only ways to interact with the world. On the other hand, adventure games are naturally boring, and live or die on their writing. The writing doesn’t have to be funny (though that really helps), but it absolutely has to be compelling enough to trick the player into searching a beach for a damn feather or whatever stupid doodad is going to advance the plot. As such, an adventure game absolutely needs good writing, which is difficult! Writing good is harder than… something… that is… particularly hard. Uh… a rock?

Though I suppose it is possible that a rock wrote Scooby-Doo Mystery. I call this an adventure game because you have to explore a (mostly) nonthreatening (though spooooooky) environment to find the right items to pass the right obstacles, but a number of the objects are just “clues” that are to be delivered to Velma, and… that’s it. Velma comments, “Oh, this clue is really going to help the case,” but the majority of this game is laid out in a manner no more mysterious than your typical Mega Man stage, and, here’s a tip, I think Magnet Man is going to be responsible for the caper that takes place in Magnet Man’s stage. So, without clever writing or even the remotest reason to explore beyond “gotta find stuff”, the only challenge in this game lies on the shoulders of random traps and animals that BANG“scare” Shaggy and Scooby. But, assuming you can master Shaggy’s anemic jump, there isn’t even a challenge there, and the player is just left with… boredom.

So, congratulations Scooby-Doo Mystery, you captured the very essence of Scooby-Doo. This game is boring, rote, and repetitive to the point of parody. The only saving grace of this adventure is that, thanks to the fact that nobody really likes Scooby-Doo, it probably sold all of six copies before haunting EB used bins for the next decade.

Scooby doobie do, where are you? Hopefully nowhere near a controller.

FGC #231 Scooby-Doo Mystery

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The Super Nintendo version has the occasional platforming area, while the Sega Genesis version is just the adventure game elements. Pick your poison.
  • Number of players: Even though “control both Shaggy and Scooby” would have been a no-brainer for two controllers, it’s one player.
  • Just play the gig, man: Oh, and the music is that one stupid Scooby-Doo song that was probably composed in all of seven seconds by farting in the general direction of an oboe with the slightest amount of rhythm. That’s pretty much the entire soundtrack. Come to think of it, if this article comes off as mean-spirited, it’s likely because of that damn song.
  • And such small portions: The Genesis version is two stages, and the SNES boasts a total of four. That’s it. Even for a licensed cash grab, that seems particularly short.
  • SPOOKY!For the record: I am aware there are likely people that distinctly like Wendy’s and Scooby-Doo. I’m just assuming they are such a small subset of the population so as to be statistically insignificant.
  • Minigame Mania: There are two (seemingly random) minigames that involve Scooby gathering sandwich materials and Shaggy playing whack-a-mole with rubber-mask monsters. Both games have the possibility of awarding extra lives… and probably the only reason this game has “lives” at all is to justify the minigames. It’s an endless cycle of terrible.
  • Say something nice: Okay, Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. is actually a worthwhile Scooby-Doo experience. It doesn’t justify decades of absolute crap, but it at least makes an unlikely heroine out of a woman named “Hot Dog Water”. I can get behind that.
  • Did you know? Shaggy is just a nickname. His real name is Norville Rogers.
  • Would I play again: You know what? I did not care for this game.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… War Gods for the N64! ROB, you’re on a real roll with “fun” games here. Is a “3-D” fighting game featuring magical neon gods any better than finding clues with a cowardly dog? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

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