Tag Archives: childhood

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

Rank up?I sometimes wonder if my neighbors think I’m a wizard.

As with all wizardry, it’s the little things that will give you away. I live in a happy little town, and, like many communities, we have a consistent garbage pickup day. Every Wednesday morning, some men that must have to buy new clothes weekly show up on the back of a large truck, and take all my trash away to parts unknown (I used to know the location of our local dump, but it was converted into an expensive golf course a couple years back…. Seriously). These pickups occur like clockwork, except when there’s a holiday. And it doesn’t even have to be a real holiday! Whether it’s Christmas or National Pug Day, if there’s a holiday at the start of the week, trash pickup is delayed a day. Trash then leaves on Thursday morning, not Wednesday. But what do my neighbors do? They put out their trash for Wednesday, same as ever, and I presume they are confused the entire day by that unusual reeking smell on their sidewalk. Why hast thou trash guy forsaken me!?

But I don’t do that. I never do that. I always know when to put out my trash, absurd holidays or no. I know the secrets of this schedule, even if my neighbors have no idea how what magics I employ to properly track the pickups. But, I am no sorcerer, dear neighbor, I am a mere mortal. How do I always know what to do? Simple, I have a written schedule, printed from the internet, and thus I know, with 100% accuracy, when my trash will be removed. It’s that simple, neighborhood!

But still, it feels good to get the day right. It feels right to gaze upon my downtrodden neighbors, hold my head high, and say, “No, foolish citizen, today is not the day your trash leaves. It is tomorrow, and I know this, for I am one who knows.” It’s a stupid, misplaced kind of pride, WINNER!because I know that I only “know” because of some random slip of paper I printed out around the new year, but… it still feels good. It feels good to look at this random world, and feel like you know.

And that’s how I play Final Fantasy games. That’s how I’ve always played Final Fantasy games.

I was an easily bored child. I suppose that is to say, I was a child. This Child Goggle Bob had to be entertained at all times, and my parents were fans of edumacasion, so, before I even realized what was happening, I had become a voracious reader. My parents were perfectly willing to purchase reading material or swing by the library often, so I read a lot of children’s fiction, a few graphic novels, Dave Barry, and, of course, any speck of the written word regarding my favorite medium, videogames. By third grade, I had a Nintendo Power subscription that would be renewed through high school, but even before that, I wound up with a number of “random” issues from convenience stores here and there. And one of those random issues happened to be this…

Straight from the Pros!

I have no idea where this (and, yes, “this” is this case is that exact Final Fantasy guide you see pictured there) came from. It was before I had a Nintendo Power subscription (let’s see here… the internet tells me this was Volume 17 in 1990, and I didn’t have a subscription until about Volume 24, 1991), and I had no particular love for Final Fantasy before reading the guide… Come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that issue was simply left at my grandparent’s guest house by a careless tourist. But whatever the source, I loved that lil’ strategy guide. I read it, cover to cover, roughly twelve billion times. It was my security blanket. I could immediately recount to any interested adult (none) how Kraken is weak to lightning, Black Belt becomes Master, and Astos is the secret Dark Elf that knows RUB. I knew that the most powerful magic spells were hidden off to the side of the final town, and I cowered in fear at the fact that revisited Lich knew one of those ultra-powerful spells. How could anyone ever defeat such a force?

Oh, which I suppose brings me to the other point of mentioning that beloved strategy guide: I had never played Final Fantasy. I did not own Final Fantasy when I first started reading that vaunted magazine, and, by some cosmic accident, none of the local video rental dens had a copy for renting. With the exception of a few whited-out rooms in the Temple of Fiends, I had memorized the entirety of the game before ever playing it. In fact, without a rental, I’m not certain I had ever even seen the game in motion. Most of my friends were playing Chip ‘n Dale at the time, obviously an “RPG” was off the table. So while I had to sit around and wait for the nearest Christmas, I planned my path of attack, all the while knowing that, when it was time to face Chaos, I would know what to do.

And the joke of it? I didn’t.

Lousy witchI don’t think I really understood Final Fantasy games (and JRPGS in general) until Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I was apparently a natural speed runner, and anything that made me finish the game faster meant I was playing the game “right”. I ran from a number of monsters. I’m pretty sure I only actually fought two battles in the Marsh Cave. I grinded the (mythical) Hall of Giants when I absolutely needed money for that exit spell. I didn’t notice I was severely underleveled. I didn’t notice that my party was… less than optimized. I just knew that I was getting to that rad airship faster, and then it was off to a class change with Bahamut. I was playing the game completely wrong, but I felt good, I felt right entirely because I read up on exactly what to do in Final Fantasy, and no multi-armed snake lady was gonna scare me!

And… that’s how I like to play Final Fantasy games. Heck, that’s how I like to live my life.

Presumably thanks to our crippling national addiction to social media (what’s next, electing a president based on twitter followers?) we currently live in an environment where spoilers are treated with the same severity as biological weapons. Everyone wants to point to Game of Thrones for making this some kind of national crisis, but going back a scant few years, you can trace that insanity back to Harry Potter, The Sixth Sense, or even any given Hitchcock film. Spoilers are something most people care about to an absurd degree, and being “spoiled” is something some people avoid through seemingly extravagant means. Don’t talk to me right now, I’m on a plane over the alps with my phone off because I don’t want to know what happened with that one zombie dragon.

That is about the opposite of how I feel. Personally? I like learning things on my own time. I understand the appeal of being surprised by the latest zig or zag, but, more often than not, I like to learn new things and digest when I choose. A shared cultural event is nice and all, but I’d much rather learn how Special Hero dies and inevitably returns when I’m reading a wiki at 3 AM and more in the mood for learning about that particular universe. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the show or read the book or whatever, too, DIE!but I’ve read far too many episode guides beforehand to really claim that the only way to enjoy a piece of media is through being immune to spoilers. Sure, I might know that Anti-Hero Protagonist dies ahead of time, but that can impact the viewing in its own way. I know how World War 2 ends, too, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a decent war movie.

And this is how I play Final Fantasy games. I understand that half the appeal of any given Final Fantasy release is “discovering” how the latest leveling system works, but… who has the time? Heck, who can play a Final Fantasy game, some of which involve literally 100 hours of commitment, and be okay with “maybe I’m missing something”? Not this neurotic nerd, I’ll tell you what. I had Nintendo Power for Final Fantasy “2” and “3”, purchased a strategy guide with all of the Playstation Final Fantasy games, and I kept it all going with Gamefaqs during the more lean financial years. Heck, I’d have probably bought a strategy guide for every Final Fantasy at release if it wasn’t for the Final Fantasy 9 guide being so abhorrently terrible. And I’ve never regretted it. Did I find out about Aeris’s death while reading through a strategy guide in a random restaurant? Yes. Did I discover the final boss of Final Fantasy 10 thanks to a FAQ? Of course. And did I know Kefka’s every move before I even booted up that precious little SNES cartridge? Certainly. But did it ever impact my love of these games? Did it make it so I can no longer stomach the mere thought of knowing Lightning’s final fate? Of course not. Chrono Trigger (a Final Fantasy in spirit) is one of my favorite games of all time, and I always knew how that one would end.

ToastyAnd I feel like I got more enjoyment out of the mere act of knowing than could ever be counterbalanced by a spoiler or two. I played Final Fantasy 5 with full knowledge of which jobs I wanted, and, rather than bumbling around as if trying to compose a meal while at the supermarket, I had a list, and I knew where I was going to get X-Fight. I never missed a summon materia in Final Fantasy 7, and I never missed a guardian force in Final Fantasy 8. I look back on my playthrough of Lightning Returns, and I’m content, because I know I unlocked every sidequest and accumulated every outfit. I know these things, and that makes me happy. I am happier knowing.

And it all started with the first Final Fantasy. I might not have been playing the game correctly, but it felt like I was doing something right, and that’s what’s important. I had 99 problems, but Lich ain’t one. I absorbed that Final Fantasy guide from cover to cover (complete with the random fanfic chapter introductions!), and it made the game better. I spoiled myself, and I’d do it again, because I’ve been doing it for years.

You might not have to be a wizard to hold arcane knowledge, but it sure does feel good.

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. I reserve the right to “review” any other releases, such as the Playstation Origins, the GBA Advanced, or the PSP whatever the hell was happening there. That was the worst “bonus” dungeon I have ever seen.
  • Number of players: One. Oh, which reminds me…
  • ELVES!What’s in a name: Since I knew all the stats and whatnot going in, I was careful to name my Final Fantasy characters according to their specialties. Fighter was Bob, because I’m the leader, duh. Black Belt was Jon, for one of my friends that was a fan of karate, and White Mage was Mike, one of my more helpful friends. My best friend, Jim, was granted Black Mage, because I knew he would learn the most powerful offensive spell in the game. However, the real life Jimmy was upset, because he wanted to be the “cool” Black Belt. I… I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a ninja was available. Anyway, I did correct those problems for this playthrough.
  • Favorite Party: Oh, and I’m also incapable of choosing any party other than Fighter/Black Belt/White Mage/Black Mage. I mean, I know there are other options available, but that would be like forsaking a family member.
  • Favorite Monster: The Minotaur Zombie aka ZOMBULL aka Necrotaur is my favorite creature, because it scares the hell out of me. Imagine slaying a minotaur, and then, what, it just gets up again? It’s an undead minotaur? What do you do then? You run, dammit. You fun fast.
  • Credit where credit is due: Nasir Gebelli programmed the original Final Fantasy. Yes, the game barely works, but no one noticed that thirty years ago, and this is a shining example of how code doesn’t have to be elegant, it just has to (mostly) work. Nasir is my hero. He also programmed Secret of Mana, so, ya know, double hero.
  • Did you know? NES Final Fantasy doesn’t have a proper title screen. On boot, you’ve got the legend of the crystals, and then a load/new game screen that doesn’t even mention any “Final Fantasy”. Gotta wait ‘till the bridge to see that.
  • Would I play again: This is one of the most important games in my existence, and has defined how I approach not only videogames, but also life itself. And I’m not playing it ever again. Do you know how long it takes to make it through the Marsh Cave? Those stun locking packs of ghosts? Jesus.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sneak King for the Xbox 360. Our next post is (not) sponsored by Burger King! Please look forward to it!

SPOILERS!

FGC #289 Altered Beast

Reason I love videogames number two hundred eighty nine:

Okay, we’ve got this dude, nothing much going on here.

But then he kills this blue, multi-headed dog.

Grabs the orb that the dog inexplicably turns into…

And then he loses his shirt. Uh… Is that a good thing? Let’s try that orb thing again.

Whoa! Now I’m totally swole! Yeah! Let’s go kick some wolf asses! Shattering zombies with one punch! I kicked that gargoyle thing right off its wings! What’s another orb going to do for me?

HELL YEAH! FIREBALLS! FIREBALL DASH! ELECTRIC… SHOCK… THINGYS? TURNING DUDES TO STONE WITH SOMERSAULTS! I AM BECOME DEATH! NOTHING WILL EVER STOP ME!

Okay, that’s the article for today. That’s all Altered Beast needs. That’s all Altered Beast ever needed. Thanks for reading.

FGC #289 Altered Beast

  • System: Sega Genesis! It was the original pack-in game! It was also available in the arcades, and, more importantly, that one Pizza Hut where your mom would always give you a quarter because she knew it took her a damn half hour to eat a slice of pizza.
  • Number of players: Am I the only one that assumes the plot of Altered Beast involves Contra’s Lance and Bill being revived in a Greek Mythology-based underworld? Lance and Bill don’t even have to be canonically dead, it could just be one of the many Lance and Bills that I accidentally killed over the years.
  • Favorite Beast Form: The dragon always got my attention. There was something about flight in the ol’ 2-D games that was just irresistible… though it is a shame that poor dragon gets saddled with the absolute worst boss. Oh, I also liked the bear, because that meant I actually made it to Level 3.
  • Filthy Cheater: The “code” for level select and expanding your lives stock is almost too complicated to type. You have to hold down the B button, and then press Start on the title screen. Do you think you can handle that?
  • Did you know? Okay, Altered Beast actually came out for a lot of different systems, including the Famicom in Japan. And in that version, you could transform into a gorram shark. A shark man! How did we miss this!?
  • Would I play again: This game isn’t very good by basically any rubric, but damn does it feel good to turn into an unstoppable wolf man. I will inevitably replay Altered Beast again, even if it’s just for ten minutes.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Virtual Boy Wario Land! Get your 3-D glasses ready, you nerd! Please look forward to it!

AHHHHHHH

FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Zip alongMuscle memory is a hell of a drug.

While I’ve become something of a videogame glutton over the years (now celebrating my 70th purchase of a port of Tetris), when I was a wee Goggle Bob, my inventory was severely limited. If memory serves, by the time the Nintendo was being retired (which, reminder for you young’uns, the NES kept on trucking well after the release of the SNES, as companies didn’t quite know when to stop back in the day), I owned a whopping thirty NES games, and considered that dirty thirty to be more NES games than anyone would ever need. After all, I had Mega Man 1, 2, and 6, why would I need anything else?

But the flipside to this titanic collection was the rolling “neighborhood” games. I was a Nintendo kid, and my best friend was a Nintendo kid, and that one guy down the street was a Nintendo kid, and… you get the idea. We had our collected collections, and, pooling our resources, we created a sort of neighborhood library of Nintendo cartridges. Ultimately, it was no different from trading baseball cards or…. What do kids today play with?… Pogs? It was just like trading pogs, only with videogames, and, ya know, there was a significant expectation that you’d get the game back. And if not, then it was time to tell mom, because I wasn’t the one that blew fifty bucks on Wizards and Warriors 2. And speaking of mom, it was clear the parents of the neighborhood were on to our little NES black market, so it was very common for birthdays and Christmases to see complimentary games across the region. I got Ducktales, and Jon got Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. And when we’re both done, guess what’s going to happen? Trading time!

Of course, not all games are created equal.

Ducktales is a great game, but it’s a “kiddie” Disney game, and I have always been a totally, radically mature soul. So, right before Christmas, I changed my vote, claimed Ducktales was stupid, and convinced my parents (errr… Santa Claus) to purchase some other Nintendo game. I want to say it was TMNT: The Arcade Game, but it’s entirely possible it was any other videogame on Earth. Unfortunately, my best friend Jon’s parents didn’t get the memo (or didn’t care), so he still wound up with the “matching” Chip ‘n Dale. This, I figured in my young mind, was fortuitous, as it meant I got to play excellent Disney Capcom gaming just as easily when he was inevitably done with the game and I’d borrow it away to my Nintendo. Everybody wins! The only hang-up was a few months later when I discovered that he wasn’t ever going to let it go.

MeowChip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is a two player co-op game. What’s more, it’s a two player co-op 2-D sidescroller on the NES, meaning it was released at a time when that kind of thing was almost completely unheard of. If you think about it, that’s really weird, as 2-D sidescrollers were all over the place, but I guess Super Mario Bros. was 2 player alternating, so that’s what everyone aped. In a way, this made CnDRR a magical unicorn in a field full of tubby cow ponies. But even more than that shining bit of rarity, CnDRR was just plain fun, and it was just as fun to play with a buddy as it was to play alone. Yes, two player “cooperative” might lead to a few more deaths by Chip scrolling Dale right off the screen, but it also meant instant respawning, which was fairly essential in some of the later stages/bosses. This all Voltroned together to make CnDRR the first “Smash Bros.” in my memory: if we were getting together (what today might be referred to as a “play date”), we were going to play Chip ‘n Dale, because it was fun for the whole (two people) gang. It didn’t matter if it was a joyous Saturday afternoon or ten minutes after Great Aunt Bernie’s funeral, it was time to hurl red balls at Fat Cat.

So the good news was that we had found a fun game that was going to dominate all of our play time for at least the next year, but the bad news was that Jon was going to continue to be the keeper of Chip ‘n Dale, and I could borrow the cartridge roughly around the same time that Monterey Jack gives up cheese. So I, poor wee Goggle Bob, was forced to only play this excellent game at Jon’s house, and never in the relaxing luxury of my own basement. Mine was a harsh childhood.

But this lead to an unusual phenomena.

Out!As previously mentioned, I had a collection of Nintendo games as a child. And, as you might expect, I am very good at these games. I’m not breaking any speedrun scores or however we judge Nintendo skill, but I’m pretty sure I can clear Quick Man’s stage on one life (don’t hold me to that). That said, many of the games from my childhood collection, whether through nostalgia or some manner of drive to learn the classics, I have played and re-experienced as an adult. To use Mega Man 2 as an example again, I’m likely to replay through the entire Mega Man franchise at least once a year, and most of the time that isn’t even because they just released yet another Mega Man collection. It’s just one of those things that happens, like an inexplicable urge to once again conquer Giant’s Imaginary Hallway in Final Fantasy.

But that never happened for Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. Maybe it was because I played it so much in my childhood (and it’s not exactly a complicated game), or maybe it was a side effect of always considering the game to be “kiddy”, but, one way or another, I never really got back around to playing CnDRR. I don’t feel like this is something I have to apologize for, I mean, there are other games on my backlog that have been sitting unplayed since the late 90’s (I’ll complete you one day, Castlevania 64)… Though, on the other hand, I do feel a little bit of guilt at not playing a game that had so completely ruled my childhood. What’s that? There’s a new Disney Afternoon Collection by the same folks behind the most recent Mega Man collection? And it’s available now? Oh, let’s do this thing.

And that’s about when I learned that that game you played over and over when you were seven might just stick in your brain.

YummyI plowed through Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers in about twenty minutes. I didn’t get hit at all during the first stage. The majority of the bosses (save that damn caterpillar) never touched Chip. Gadget was rescued, Fat Cat was trounced, and the day was saved, once again, by the indomitable Rescue Rangers. Also, I got that P bottle, and I’m still not completely sure what that does.

And… should I be surprised? I haven’t played the game for twenty years (low estimate!), but it’s like riding a bicycle (sidenote: bad simile, as I am terrible at riding a bicycle. Don’t ask). I didn’t think videogame “skills” were that pervasive in my unconscious mind, but, just like I can still open my high school locker in a few twists (assuming they haven’t changed the combination in fifteen years), I can beat Chip ‘n Dale inside of an hour. One whole game condensed to some part of my brain that will always remember exactly when to duck into a box. My conscious mind boggles.

Muscle memory: horrifying and useful.

FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

  • System: NES, and now, against all odds, available on the Playstation 4, Xbone, and PC. Yay!
  • Number of players: Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers.
  • Favorite Boss: Even though I usually skip his stage, this really is the game where Mega Man X3’s Volt Catfish got his start. Bless you, Capcom, and your unending reserves of electric catfish.
  • ChuggaUseless powers: Also, that same stage includes “the raft” and a hammer that may be used to clobber your way through dirt blocks. That makes two completely unique items in a completely skippable stage. What was going on there?
  • Chip or Dale: I always choose Chip, as he is the leader. And he has a cool hat. I decided to go with Dale for the FGC article, though, in the name of trying (absolutely not really) new things.
  • Further Childhood Memories: I remember being at Disney World when I was like five, and I asked my dad how to tell the difference between Chip and Dale. He replied that there was no way to do that, they’re just chipmunks, move on. Then a helpful Disney employee explained that Chip has a black nose “like a chocolate chip.” I was impressed with this knowledge, but even more than that, I remember my traditionally stoic father lighting up like an enthusiastic Christmas tree at this new information. See? You’re never too old to learn new facts about chipmunks.
  • Did you know? The flowers are supposed to provide 1-Ups after every 50 pickups (according to the manual), but it actually requires the more NES standard 100. There’s apparently a beta version of CnD floating around out there, though, where the fifty thing stays true. I can understand the change, at least, not like this game needed to be easier.
  • Would I play again? Probably! Just might take another twenty years. Let’s see how good I am at this game then.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS! Coins! All the coins for Mario! Please look forward to it!

DAMN BOXES

FGC #273 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

ThwipRobin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a NES movie tie-in game. We just covered Home Alone, released the same year, and that was a game that contained one stupid concept that was supposed to stretch over twenty minutes. RH:PoT is Home Alone’s bizarro evil twin (is that redundant?) , while HA did one thing poorly, Robin Hood attempts to do everything possible on the NES. And, head’s up, it still does it all poorly.

It’s a movie game!

First and foremost, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a licensed NES version of Kevin Costner’s film of the same name. Does… does anyone remember Costner’s Robin Hood? I saw it in theatres when I was a wee Goggle Bob, and I remember exactly two things about the movie: it was boring, and my dear mother had a minor freakout over an incredibly chaste sex scene that I can only vaguely recall. That’s… about it. However, I would have more fond memories of the movie if, like in the videogame, there was…

Dem Bones
A GIANT FUGGIN’ SKELETON MONSTER.

RH:PoT does its best to follow the will of Costner, but I apparently wasn’t the only one who was generally bored by the film. In addition to the basic stuff like Robin must befriend Little John and defeat the Sherriff of Nottingham, there are quite a few (mandatory) “side missions” on Robin’s to-do list. I guess there’s a rampaging boar attacking the countryside? Well, slaying that is a good way to earn the people’s trust. Then it’s time to take Robin’s Merry Men on a quest to get some actual weapons training. That’s probably a good idea, too. And, for some reason, everybody gets a bad case of the runs (maybe after eating that boar?), so Robin has to find a magical healing spring. Nothing like mystical bodies of water to keep the gang going.

Okay, let’s face it, with the exception of the boar, everything above sounds like a bore. But it does pad out the run time of the game… which is kind of weird for a NES game. This was well before the “80 hours of gameplay” bullet point, and, again, contemporary release Home Alone could only provide 20 minutes of gameplay. It’ll take you that long to get out of the first dungeon (literally a dungeon, for a change) of Robin Hood. That could have been the whole game! Nobody would have been upset! But no, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has so much more to offer, likely to justify…

It’s got the inventory from hell!

I don't know what to do hereWith the exception of a few random bits we’ll be discussing shortly, you exclusively control Robin of Loxley for the majority of this game. Yet you pick up two new party members within the first screen, and gradually accrue more and more buddies from there. What’s the point when you’re only ever Robin? Simple: Robin can only carry six items at a time, and you’re going to need much, much more inventory space to conquer England. Robin needs to recover health, and Duncan has got some meat, so pass that ham over here, blindy, it’s time to top off the ol’ HP. I knew there was a reason we were keeping you around!

Unfortunately, this whole system goes downhill really quickly. To say it’s overcomplicated is kind of an understatement: Robin has multiple “body” slots, and an item like an amulet that proves your lineage can be “equipped” on any given body part (Hand? Chest? … Do amulets go in your pants?), or “used”, or even “eaten” if you want Robin to have to make a quick run to the healing spring. But first you have to remember which one of the knuckleheads in your party has the jewelry in the first place. Morgan Freeman, you got it? No? Little John? Nope? Dammit, did one of you dorks pawn that priceless family heirloom for beer money? I need that thing for a fetch quest, dammit!

And a quick side note, absolutely nothing about this inventory system is at all “necessary”. Final Fantasy (1) of 1987 solved the whole “try every inventory item everywhere” conundrum with its separate item, equipment, and key items slots… but Robin Hood didn’t get the memo, I suppose. Hey, Virgin Games? The NES controller only has four buttons. Maybe we could cut down a little on the bloat? Then again, bloat seems to be the name of the game, as…

It’s got four different gameplay modes!

They're made of dynamiteYou are Robin Hood. You are in a top-down, Zelda-esque environment. This seems to make sense, as you’re using keys and finding secret passages and battling guards in various Zelda-esque ways. You’re not going to be lucky enough to find any heart containers, but, aside from the thick layer of brown that’s been smeared all over this game, a lot of Robin’s adventure seems almost like a lost prototype for The Legend of Zelda 2. Okay… maybe Willow 2. Still! Not bad!

But then, after stabbing a guard down in top-down perspective, the second guard in the first area of Robin Hood suddenly initiates a “duel” system, and now you’re in a 2-D perspective that seems like some kind of weapons-based Street Fighter analogue. It’s time to d-d-d-d-d-duel, and it’s exactly as fun as repeatedly poking an opponent with an ineffectual stick can be. On the plus side, though, Robin suddenly has amazing ninja jumping skills, so he can leap eight feet in the air and somersault across the screen. Or roll around the ground like the sprightliest of hedgehogs. And I’m sure this isn’t all just to save on the animation budget. No, there was a lot of somersaulting in the movie, right?

And then, of course, post duel everything is back to top-down, because I guess that one guy was worthy of a duel, but every one of his identical buddies is just going to get stabbed in typical Zelda-style. It’s the NES-era, there doesn’t have to be a reason for anything.

Speaking of top-down, every once in a while you will be informed that “many” soldiers/enemies/skeletons are coming, so it’s time to zoom the camera way the hell out, convert all the sprites to something that would be comfortable on the Atari, and become Gauntlet: No Fun Edition. These “army fights” are the only spots where Robin’s Merry Men get to shine… and by “shine” I mean they all die instantly because they stand in front of the one dude shooting arrows like he’s on a CW drama. You-as-Robin must inevitably kill every last army opponent, because you can’t count on NES AI to do anything, and I suppose you’re expected to heal your now mortally wounded teammates after every skirmish. But what’s the point? They’re just going to die instantly again, one way or another. Nihilism, thy name is Robin Hood.

And then there’s an entire other mode for when you’re riding horseback. And it’s a lame knock-off of the Turbo Tunnel! Nobody wanted anything like that!

It’s a terrible NES game!

I say thee neighOn one hand, I want to laud Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for trying so much when then average NES game offered so little. On the other hand, I feel like half the problems in this game are a result of design excess continually leading to further excess. You’ve got extra characters, so there has to be a battle mode to justify them, even if it isn’t any fun. There’s an inventory system that involves disproportionately intricate management, so let’s have 900 useless items. There are “significant” battles, so let’s make a half-baked entirely new mode for each “boss”… or any creature that remotely looks like a boss. And horses! We need to have a whole new world for horses! Horses are cool!

Unfortunately, and fairly obviously, none of these systems mesh together into anything approaching a fun experience. Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves might be the most robust licensed game on the NES… but it’s just about as fun as Home Alone.

Sorry, Virgin Games, no points for trying.

FGC #273 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. … Wait, there’s a Gameboy version, too?
  • Number of players: The stupid army segments might almost be passable if they allowed a second player to help out, but nope. Or, oh! A two-player duel mode! Could base an entire franchise on that.
  • You have failed this quiver: Robin Hood does get a bow pretty early, and it is nice to have a long-range weapon handy. Unfortunately, this Robin isn’t very dexterous, and “strafing” is pretty much beyond him. As a result, while the bow is useful for sniping melee opponents, Robin will always lose against some other dink with a bow. And then it’s back to that super fun inventory system to juggle over a more apt weapon…
  • Devil’s in the Details: Each character has a “look” command, and it’s your typical “describe the item” narration to help you distinguish a blob of pixels that maybe looks like a potion from a blob of pixels that maybe looks like bread. However, if you try to use Duncan’s “look” command…

    Poor guy

    … Poor Duncan.

  • Favorite Merry Man: Azeem is found just chilling in his cell, but he tells Robin he dug a secret passage out of the prison like five feet over. Was… was Azeem just waiting for some white dude to come along so he could help his escape? Huh. Little John’s “has a stick” kind of pales in comparison.
  • Filthy Cheater: There’s a complete “start on any chapter” password system that is accessible with a secret code. Unfortunately, the passwords will often start you off in levels where you need some particular item, and, nope, it’s completely inaccessible now. Karnov asks: why bother?
  • Did you know? They accidentally switched the character portraits for Guy of Gisbourne and The Sherriff of Nottingham. This is yet another slight that Alan Rickman was forced to endure.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the gold in Sherwood.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Arcana Heart for the Playstation 2! Wow, we went a while without a fighting game. Almost hard to believe. Now it’s time for teenage girls to fight for the amusement of perverts! Please look forward to it!

Ugh
Just roll with it