Tag Archives: christmas

FGC #388 Secret of Mana (2018)

Mana comin'When I was a wee Goggle Bob, I had a very limited number of NES games. This paired very poorly with being a child, and having approximately 32,000 hours a day to burn up before hitting the sack. Thus, I played my limited collection of games nigh constantly, and practically memorized the ins and outs of such luminaries as Back to the Future. There was also Super Mario Bros, which meant that, by the early 90’s, the Mushroom Kingdom had soaked into my DNA. So I played World 3 once or twice.

It's a-me!

World 3, as you can see, is Mario’s first “dark world”. After World 1’s sunny skies and World 2’s moist oceans, World 3 is a stage set against a dark, foreboding backdrop. As a child, my friends and I discussed this ominous level, and determined that this was an area of the Mushroom Kingdom already ruled by Bowser. It was dark and frightening because evil had already subjugated part of the land, and a resistance against this encroaching blackness was exactly why Mario had to fight. Battle through the night of World 3 to the shining future of World 4!

And then Super Mario All-Stars was released. This increase in Mario fidelity lead to…

Mario!

Oh. It’s just a snowy night. Huh. It wasn’t a dark and scary place at all. It’s… kinda nice. A lovely oasis of tranquility for our dedicated plumber. Maybe he could start up some Winter Games while he’s here…

And this blew my young mind.

Super Mario All-Stars is likely as “pure” of a videogame remake as we are ever going to get. The original staff was directly involved in the remake, and there wasn’t a dramatic shift in “what players want” in the years between OG Mario and his All Star incarnation. There wasn’t a need to change Mario’s controls or iconic look, it was just an opportunity to use new hardware to make right what once went wrong. Old, compromised graphics could now be replaced with what was always intended.

Which, apparently, included snow. I guess.

IS SNEKThis is a longwinded way of saying that I’ve been considering “directorial intent” versus “what is actually possible” since roughly 1993. Super Mario Bros. was practically my Bible when I was seven, and, straight from God Miyamoto himself, here was the latest testament, and it didn’t match my outmoded beliefs. What did this mean? Were other games similarly compromised? Was every black background just an excuse for a snow level? Were modern (1993 modern) games similarly compromised? In some glorious, far-flung future, would we find that Celes Chere was supposed to wear pants?

Well, the future is now, and here’s Randi with a grim visage of how we don’t understand anything.

Secret of Mana was always a hard game to tonally parse. On one hand, we have the iconic title screen with its gorgeous watercolor visual and deeply emotive opening theme. On the other hand, it’s hard to take a game seriously when you’re summoning a magical mermaid to cure your woodland sprite of the “moogle” affliction. But, when you take the plot of Secret of Mana as a whole, it is downright tragic. Boy is an orphan who finds his mother just in time to watch her get chopped down. Girl is trying to save her kidnapped lover… and it ends poorly for everybody. And Sprite loses memories, an entire village of family members, and, eventually, existence itself. And I’m pretty sure you have to murder your own airship somewhere in there. It’s for the good of the planet!

Sticky!Combine that heartbreaking plot with music that would be right at home with classical requiems, and you might get the impression that Secret of Mana is serious business. Or, at least, that was always my impression of the game. When I was playing SoM back in the early 90’s, my imagination went wild with thoughts on the “real” Secret of Mana, a game that could nary be contained by a simple 16-bit cartridge. The sunken Mana Palace? That was supposed to be a window into a destroyed city from “our” modern times, right? The faux subway car fall of zombies could have been indistinguishable from Resident Evil if the SNES had a little more horsepower. The gorgeous forests would still have been a tour de seasons, but it was only a lack of bits that held us back from witnessing Flammie’s mother’s ultimate fate in the jaws of a giant serpent. I was a pre-teen that played violent videogames, of course I imagined Secret of Mana as a gore fest. And, while my desire to see a submerged city full of corpses has lessened over the years, I still have always seen Secret of Mana as a serious game for serious people. I might have scored a midge mallet from a dwarf after fighting a whacky robot, but the somber opening and ending of Secret of Mana leaves an indelible impression that this was a story slightly deeper than your average plumber v. turtle morality play.

And now we have Secret of Mana 2018, and… not exactly what ’93 Goggle Bob expected.

First of all, if history has taught us anything, it’s that I absolutely don’t want to see a Secret of Mana “complete remake”. Yes, SoM is right up there with Xenogears for a legendary production cycle that eventually led to much of the game being cut. Secret of Mana was originally intended for the Nintendo Playstation, but, when that system wandered off to greener pastures, it was scaled back to its current incarnation. And, incidentally, the game was only ever held together with duct tape and good intentions to begin with, so things like “fighting”, “using magic”, or “walking” don’t work in the most pleasing manner. And maybe a version of SoM that gave a purpose to the lighthouse or bothered to code an actual Moon Palace would be interesting, ZOMBIES!but I don’t want to risk playing through another Mana remake that is objectively worse than its source material. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. And I’m not sure I could take another vastly reimagined remake this year. I’m not saying Secret of Mana Remixed couldn’t be a good game, simply that the odds of it being what I consider “Secret of Mana” are low.

So SoM 2018 is “just” a Secret of Mana upgrade. And that’s fine! It’s not like a wildly popular videogame system was just shipped bundled with Secret of Mana, so having a way for a new generation to experience the glories of Thanatos-slaying with a few modern upgrades sounds like a great idea! The whole experience controls slightly better (less like steering a train, now more like steering a minecart), voice acting eliminates the need for all that pesky reading, and the translation has been punched up with at least one Who Wants to be a Millionaire reference. The kids like Regis Philbin, right? And the most obvious change of all: the graphics and music have been not just “upscaled”, but completely replaced with new tunes and models.

And If I had to use one word to describe the 2018 SoM design choices, it would be… “pastel”.

The one sad partThe new, randier cast of 2018 SoM is theoretically exactly the same. But, take a moment to participate in any inn-based party chat event, and you’ll find they’re a tweak sillier. Popoi the sprite has an ongoing fascination with licking mana seeds. Primm is still in love with Dyluck, and that’s still going to end poorly, but now she gushes about him like a teenage girl (which is appropriate, as she is a teenage girl). And our brave hero of Mana has gone from nearly mute swordsman to your typical shonen hero that has doubts about his own ability to save the world ten seconds after receiving his first sword. And these “changes” absolutely work, as the character work was already there. Sprite was always kind of goofy, Girl was always rather single-minded, but now their only defining personality traits are their only personalities. The world was expanded just to show how tiny it really was. The potential opera has become a Saturday morning cartoon.

The darkness is still there, technically, but it is, now and forever, a gorgeous snow scape.

And, in the end, I can’t even be mad. I’m not sure why I would be! When I played this game as a ten year old, I thought it was the most “adult” story in the world, something right up there with Final Fantasy 3 (6) and maybe at least one Stephen King novel. Now it’s all… kiddy. Now it’s deliberately presented like something for, ugh, ten year olds, and the deep, somber Secret of Mana of my younger years is all but gone. This game adds nothing to Secret of Mana but a fresh coat of paint, and it’s a shade I can barely stomach.

Secret of Mana 2018, you have destroyed my memories, and dumbed down one of my favorite experiences. This shall not be forgiven.

Well, maybe I’ll forgive you… After I earn this platinum trophy…

FGC #388 Secret of Mana (2018)

  • System: Playstation 4 and… There was a Vita version, wasn’t there? Anybody want to fire up the ol’ girl and check the Vita store? No? Fine.
  • Number of players: Three, and that’s always awesome. Yes, couch co-op makes a return.
  • Get 'emI Run So Far Away: So the “run” button depletes your 100% Weapon gauge one percent at a time. Was it always supposed to work like that?
  • Just play the gig man: The new soundtrack puts its worst foot forward, and leads with the absolute foulest remixes it can muster. However, by the time the party is blasting off to ice countries and desert lands, it’s clear the composers know what they’re doing. Yes, it would be nice to have another orchestral remix for every last area, but, more than being “epic”, it seems like the music tries to be tonally appropriate. And I guess early areas deserved an accordion.
  • Regarding Voice Acting: I did not expect every last NPC to be voiced. I also did not expect “The power of Undine” to sound so much like Primm shouting “The power of undies!”
  • Favorite Weapon: Was the whip always this good? Or the spear? For a series named for its signature weapon, the sword kind of sucks by comparison.
  • Did you know? Kettle Kin, the second robot unleashed by the Scorpion Army, was inexplicably “censored” into being an exact copy of Kilroy in the original Secret of Mana USA version. However, Kettle Kin is back to normal for the remake, and sports his unique chainsaw and drill bottom. Welcome back, robo guy, please use your chainsaw responsibly.
  • Would I play again: Probably yes. I honestly prefer this version to the original, as the combat seems a lot more manageable (and some kitty-based bosses no longer strike fear into my heart). I’ll probably revisit this Mana World again in no time at all.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario 3D World! It’s Mario! And kitties! Please look forward to it!

HAIL

FGC #366 Snowboard Kids

Here’s my video Christmas card for the year.

Enjoy the sleigh ride, everybody!

FGC #366 Snowboard Kids

  • WeeeeeSystem: Nintendo 64. And it was on the Playstation 1 in Japan? I had no idea.
  • Number of players: Four sounds like a lovely number for a N64 game.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s like Mario Kart 64… if Mario Kart kind of sucked. Look, I really appreciate what they were trying to do here, but the way momentum works with the attack items really sucks for anyone going for the gold. We are well past the horrors of blue shells here: get hit by the dinkiest missile near the finish line, and you will never regain the momentum necessary to so much as finish the course. Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but, as someone who tried to “conquer” this game back in the day, it sticks in my craw.
  • Other N64 Problems: This title is Controller Pak based. One day, I will find every last developer responsible for the Controller Pak, and I will *REMAINDER OF MESSAGE DELETED IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS*.
  • Say something nice: There is some great variety in the (nine) stages, and the fun park (Busy Land… get it?) containing basically every standard amusement attraction is certainly a fine design.
  • Favorite Character: So many characters with goggles! Makes it so hard to choose! I guess I won the most races with Jam, so there’s my pick.
  • Thirsty?Did you know? Most people know about Snowboard Kids 2 (which is vastly superior to SBK1, as it contains a robot), but there was also a Snowboard Kids game for Nintendo DS about seven years later. It wasn’t bad, but it was also anime as hell, so it gets a number of points in the negative column.
  • Would I play again: Nope! Mario Kart 64 is right there! It is slightly more technical, and it has a gorilla. Clear winner.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man X8! It’s a Megamas miracle! Please look forward to it!

FGC #220 Mega Man X2

FGC #220 Mega Man X2

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

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

Bam

Christmas Comes to Pacland

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Pacland
Only one family was stirring, that of Pac-Man.
Mister, Miss, and Baby were out in the snow
Trying to give this capering thing a go.

The happy family

The ghosts appeared to ruin everyone’s fun
To see that the Pac-Family would be forever done.
But they were swiftly banished with a power pellet
And during their escape, upset a man in red velvet.

Santa fell to Pacland with a tremendous clatter.
The Pac-family rushed to see what was the matter.
“Stay away from that man,” warned Missus Pac,
“You never know when strange creatures will attack!”

You don't know where it's been!

The moon was high in the sky, but Santa was not.
The ghosts didn’t know the horror they had wrought.
With good St. Nick buried and crashed,
Hopes for a jolly Christmas were dashed.

The Pac folk were scared, but still resolute.
They had to help the strange man in the red suit.
So they dragged the gang out of this quagmire,
And stuck them all in front of the fire.

Now Dasher, now, Dancer, now, Prancer and Vixen,
Oh, Comet, oh, Cupid, oh Donner and Blitzen!
They all had bumps and bruises and cuts,
But the biggest problem was Santa the klutz.

They look dead to anybody else?

The sleigh had been full of toys for every boy and girl,
But when the ghosts attacked, they flew off in a whirl.
So the toys were lost, forever and ever, it would appear,
Which was a much bigger problem than eight damaged reindeer.

But Pac-Man spent his life collecting weird dots,
So it shouldn’t be a problem to find toys for tots.
He set out into the blizzard with his loyal Pac-Dog,
While Santa sat and warmed himself by a burning Yule log.

Those ghosts, they recovered, and got to the toys first.
Maybe not all monsters are naughty, but these were the worst.
They played with the toys meant for every good lad
Even though they knew they had been nothing but bad.

They're just having fun!

Under the snow, Pac-Man did stealthily burrow,
But his sneaking skills weren’t exactly thorough,
The ghosts discovered the intruder with some haste,
And then the poor Pac-Man found himself chased.

So proud of himself

If there was one thing he could do, it was outrace a ghost,
So Pac-Man maintained speed, and kept the monsters engrossed,
While a furry little pac-dog grabbed a great big sack,
And started the long journey home, all the way back.

Pac-Man escaped, and the ghosts were lost,
But the blizzard was blowing a killing frost.
About the time man and dog fell right off a bluff,
Well, the odds of success were looking pretty rough.

Down I go...

But they both made it home safe, all the toys in tow,
Even if Pac-Man did look like a corpse from Fargo.
So Christmas was saved… except now it was much too late,
Just hours to go, even Santa couldn’t fly so fast, so great.

Pac-Man had another idea, and they all rushed to the orchard,
Where power pellets grew abundantly, and ghosts were tortured.
Hyped up on pac-drugs, every reindeer started to glow.
Now Santa wouldn’t be late, the reindeer were ready to go!

That can't be natural

So Santa flew from this place, bidding every pac adieu.
The jolly old elf leaving behind this spherical hullaballoo.
Pac-Man and family went home, proud of their good deed,
While reindeer pulled a sleigh at light speed.

But the tale was not over, oh no, not yet,
There were still gifts for the family to get.
A visit from St. Nick meant presents for all,
Like the pac-cat, Sourpuss, who got a yarn ball.

Even the ghosts, whose plans were often malicious,
Received a host of presents, some of them delicious.
Everyone was happy, everyone was filled with joy,
And Pac-Man went back to Smash, where he battled Roy.

D'aww

And Santa flew through the skies, contemplating that weird land,
That, he surmised, was likely related to a video game brand,
“But no matter,” he was heard to say, with some pomp,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good chomp!”

Thanks for putting up with this nonsense!