Tag Archives: comics

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

MajesticWithout whipping out the chart, there’s a clear geek hierarchy out there. Sure, I play a lot of videogames, but at least I’m not one of those nerds playing MMORPGs and letting their lives be dictated by party raids and random character nerfs. Ha ha! Those nerds! They’d never have time to write about three separate videogames a week and then do a yearlong Let’s Play of a decade old videogame franchise nobody likes! Losers! Everybody hold up, I have to go put the finishing touches on my Allen Ridgley cosplay.

Things get even weirder when you examine the nerd hierarchy in the comic book world, though (or, maybe, as a videogame nerd, I just think it’s weirder because it’s not my specific fandom). Batman, for instance, is always going to be popular. Superman, too, for that matter. Then you get into some of the lesser heroes, but, good news, many of them have movies coming up. Get ready for Aquaman aquaing around Aqua Town! … But real nerds don’t like those movies, because they’re too serious, or not serious enough, or Oedipal complexes are too complex, or whatever. No, the real place you want to see your heroes is… on the CW? No, that can’t be right… though I did once encounter a perfectly normal woman at the DMV excitedly telling her friend, “Oh my gosh, Flash is a new episode tonight! That’s awesome!” Yes, I suppose there are literally thousands more (popular) people that could identify Felicity Smoak than Oracle. But then you get into the animated nerds, that learned everything they need to know about Batman from Batman The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, or maybe Teen Titans Go. Hey, Dr. Light appeared in 66% of those productions, so they’re all valid ways to learn about superheroes and superteens randomly yelling. But then, there at the bottom, the nerdiest of the nerdy, are the geeks that actually, ya know, read comic books. Can you imagine? You have to use your hands! Like a baby!

Also… obviously… I’m one of those nerds.

WhoopsBut I know it’s crazy! I’ve discussed it before, but following “comics continuity” is basically a never ending trap. Here’s how it goes down: You’ve got A-Man, champion of the letter A. A decent writer and artist combine in some mystical fashion, and write one good comic series for A-Man. Everyone, yourself included, is talking about A-Man, and check out this great run, and A-Man is doing what A-Man has never done before; and it all gets bolstered by the fact that A-Man comics drop once a month, so this “one story” gets magnified by half a year of speculation and discussion. By the time the inevitably disappointing A-Man #6 hits the stands and finally ends the arc, everyone is disappointed, but that anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next” lingers, so, naturally, you pick up A-Man #7 with a brand new creative team. Here’s your Goggle Bob sports metaphor for the year: If a soccer team wins the World Series, and then everyone involved quits or gets reassigned to other teams, do you expect the “new creative team” to score enough touchdowns to win that Stanley Cup again? No, that would be silly, but comic book fans follow that “same” A-Man over and over again, until, finally, A-Man’s reputation is so terrible, “he” is selling about two issues a year. So then it’s time for a reboot! Toss out everything that doesn’t work (which is usually something like a decade’s worth of stories), start all over again, and maybe get someone half decent on the writing staff. Hire Alex Ross for a cover, and we’re back in business. A-Man is reborn (in an issue likely literally called “A-Man Reborn”), and we’re right back at the start of the cycle.

This is fun and all, but it can create some… hiccups. For instance, with the exception of the titans of the industry (not the Teen Titans, to be clear), it’s very difficult for a superhero to hold on to a supporting cast. Let’s use CW’s comics shows as an example here: can you imagine The Flash without Cisco? How about Legends of Tomorrow without Gideon? That disembodied voice is an integral part of the cast! Meanwhile, most comic books identify this “we need a supporting cast” problem, fill the hole, make some of the supporting characters I am the nightmore interesting than the boring hero who has to save the day every week, and then… well, sorry, there was a reboot, so that character doesn’t exist anymore. Oh, she was your favorite? Sorry, time to move on. Heck, Powergirl can barely hold on to her cat (and people love cats!), so I wouldn’t get too attached to her superhero understudy with the rock powers that gal palled around with her for like ten issues.

And this kind of “hiccup” can really annoy fans. And, to be clear (and I hate that I have to be clear about this), I’m not talking about “fans doxxing every women in the tri-state area”, I’m leaning more toward “unlikely to ever read a new issue pertaining to a previously beloved character ever again”. If you’re reading Blue Beetle because you really like his close family ties and friends that remind you of real friends you have in your life, and then, next month, those friends don’t exist anymore… that gets kind of annoying. And, again, it’s not like a fan is putting their foot down and demanding a boycott (which, of course, does happen), simply that when you enjoy something for a particular trait or cast member, and then that thing you loved is completely dropped, then why read it anymore at all? Reboots are feared by comic nerds because they have taken so much from us!

WetThis winds up being an exclusively comics problem, too, because, unlike other entertainment mediums, comics aren’t allowed to end. Somehow, some way, there must always be the Batman. He’s the hero we deserve. And there’s going to be a Joker, a Robin, and maybe purple gloves somewhere in there. Batman is always going to be “Batman” in the comic book universe. There is no “NuBatman” or “80sBatman” to differentiate, no, Batman is just Batman, because if he’s being identified as a “Batman variant” then that means this story isn’t important, and if the story isn’t important, then why the hell are you reading it? To enjoy it? Bah!

And then something like Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure comes along, and it’s salt in the wound.

Scribblenauts Unmasked contains an incredible DC Comics glossary. You want John Constantine to fight Swamp Thing? Cool, we got that. You want the NU52 Agents of S.H.A.D.E. (featuring Frankenstein and an immortal Asian schoolgirl)? We’ve got that, too. Want every damn Green Lantern concept that Alan Moore sneezed into existence? There’s Green Lantern Groot right there. All of your old friends are here: Wonder Woman (with or without pants), Batman, Superman, and Doctor Midnight. If you can name a DC comics character, they’re likely in here, and possibly with variants.

And it’s a damn shame, because it reminds the player of all the toys available to DC Comics that just aren’t being used. Depending on the week, the entire Justice Society, the heroes that fought in World War 2 and are the “grandpas” to the heroes of today, may or may not exist. And the Justice Society is a great concept! And they’ve got kids! And I like those kids! Mostly just Jade! But, nope, those toys are stuck in the closet, because DC determined it would be more interesting this week if Superman was the first superhero ever, and he’s macking on Wonder Woman for some reason. Oh, wait, no, he’s dead, now there’s the old Superman who loves Lois, and he’s got a kid of his own. Wait… does he remember the Justice Society? Can he bring them back? Please? Oh well, at least I can still pit Alan Scott against Larfleeze in Scribblenauts, a game that has no impact on anything.

ORANGEAnd that’s what really gets my goat about Scribblenauts Unmasked: I want to see these toys be free. Maybe I’m at the bottom of the nerd ladder for this, but I believe that, when you’ve got the potential for unlimited interesting stories, you take that potential and grab it. Don’t limit yourself to one universe, don’t limit yourself to one fandom, and be more like Scribblenauts, and include everything available. You’ve got nearly a century worth of interesting toys to play with, so play with ‘em all.

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

  • System: WiiU, 3DS, and Steam. Really? That’s it? I’d expect a greater range here, but I guess the stylus/keyboard part is kind of necessary.
  • Number of players: Just the one. Which is also surprising, as the whole “plot” is basically about dueling scribblenauts, so you’d think they’d find a way to make that more playable.
  • Favorite Adjective: Moist. Moist for days. Mooooooist.
  • Favorite DC Hero: Matter Eater Lad popped out without so much as a suggestion. I mean, ya know, Mon-El had a problem, so I had to summon the luminaries of the Legion of Superheroes, right? Bouncing Boy was my second choice.
  • Con man... get it?Did you know? John Constantine once got a drug-addicted ex-girlfriend hooked on hallucinogenic magical sand that nearly destroyed the entire universe. And here he is in a Nintendo WiiU game about randomly summoning Tomorrow Gal. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I prefer the less story-driven Scribblenauts games. As much as I love a toy chest containing the entire DC universe, I still like solving problems exclusively through T-Rexes more.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy for the Atari Jaguar! That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Here he comes!I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around Turok: Dinosaur Hunter since ROB chose the dang game, and now you’re going to have to read my meandering thoughts.

First of all, if I hadn’t already written that Goldeneye article, this one would be almost exactly what you see there. I have never been “into” FPSs, and, frankly, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter never did that genre any favors. I guess it was the first unique FPS on a Nintendo platform? If we’re not including Faceball? Look, I’m not a FPSologist (I’m still trying to work out the plural of “FPS” here), but I can tell you that Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a big deal with people that would care about such a thing. It’s like Doom! But for the home consoles! Think of the inevitable rage wars to come! And, honestly, before I played the game, I was kind of excited about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I mean, seriously, you can’t go too wrong with dinosaur hunting, and I want to say I was still riding a wave of dinosaur excitement from Jurassic Park, the movie that reaffirmed everyone’s longstanding belief that T-Rexes are cool. Oh, and it’s one of those games that has every weapon from bow ‘n arrows to grenade launcher. I’m always happy to see that.

And then it occurred to me: the only reason I knew about Turok’s better points before it was actually in my hands was Nintendo Power. As I’ve mentioned before, I read that magazine from cover to cover on a remarkably frequent basis (I can probably quote Counselor’s Corner more accurately than my own mother), and if some game made it into that elusive (re: not at all elusive) cover spot, then you better believe I was on board (Well, except Ken Griffey Baseball, I’m not one for the sports). And Nintendo Power spoke of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the same excited tones as other N64 hits like Mario 64 or Killer Instinct Gold, so obviously there must be some meat on these dinosaur bones.

GET EMSo I got Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Christmas and, spoilers, it sucked. It’s not my genre, I know that, but I’ve made it past the first level in a few other “not my thing” games. I’ve never been a big fan of the pre-RE4 Resident Evil games, but I always gave the ol’ college try on those zombie ‘em ups. That didn’t happen with Turok. And, yes, I have to add the caveat that maybe Turok gets better after its introductory stage, and maybe the raptors stop running into my bullets, and maybe any opponent with heavy weaponry doesn’t instantly kill Turok, and maybe, just maybe, the jumping improves from the absolute horror show that inevitably leads to a mountain of Turok corpses…. But I don’t have much hope. I have (had?) friends that were into Turok back in the day, and, as far as I remember, not a one ever mentioned, “Oh it gets so much better after it turns out the whole thing is taking place in primitive Middle Earth, and you’re secretly King of the Dwarfs”.

Suffice it to say, I did not hold out much hope for the ROB-mandated half hour of Turok that preceded writing this article. “Let’s get this over with” was my primary thought on the matter. And then I actually played Turok for the first time in… wow, the game turns twenty this March? Yeesh. Anyway, I played Turok and…

Well, it still sucks.

But I can see where they were going with this. There are arrowheads that, like coins in Mario, lead Turok forward. There are initial “weak” enemies, and then a progression of stronger critters. Initial “sub bosses” and such seem to be easy to take down even if you suffer a few hits. And, while it is still absolutely annoying, the first major “jumping area” is over a shallow lake that forgives misses, and doesn’t instantly lead to total Turok death. There are some… passable concessions to “is this your first FPS?” in the opening areas of Turok, and, given its placement in the grand timeline of videogames, that seems completely reasonable. Turok is still awful, but the opening “soft tutorial areas” seem less… militant about it.

And then I realized what I wanted all along: I needed a straight-up Nintendo produced FPS.

Hot hot hotSay what you will about tutorial stages and golden guide blocks and whatever, but Nintendo is great at “is this your first videogame? Well, we’re here to help!” World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and Miyamoto’s “I design world 2 first, then I go back and make the baby training levels” design philosophy have been analyzed repeatedly by smarter men than I, but it seems that you can point to nearly any Nintendo game in existence and see the similar thinking. Star Fox? This is how you play a shoot ‘em up, and, by the way, if you’re feeling saucy, trying flying through those arches, and see what happens. Wii Fit? Let’s start with basic standing, and eventually you’ll be twisting yourself into a pretzel and balancing perfectly. Mario Kart? Assuming you don’t start time trialing Rainbow Road right out of the box, those opening tracks and the 50cc are there specifically so you can learn the ropes and maybe win a trophy while you’re doing it. And that same guiding hand even seems to have been applied to “second party” games, like Pokémon or Donkey Kong Country. Pokémon is the most beloved JRPG series worldwide, and part of that must be because of its general… gentleness in poking the player forward. That, and the sheer adorableness of Hypno.

WeeeAnd now I kinda feel like the entire reason I missed out on enjoying so many FPSs along the way is because Nintendo never made its big “this is the FPS from Nintendo” franchise. Before and after Turok, it was a long time before I played anything that even looked like a FPS that took the time to “train” the player for the hard parts, and, without that base level of skill, I never got into the genre. It’s not Acclaim’s fault. It’s not Id Software’s fault. It’s Nintendo’s fault! You failed me, Nintendo! Where’s the whacky, cartoon FPS that gets me into understanding the genre? Help me get good at death matches, Nintendo!

Anyway, I feel like washing the stink of Turok out of my brain with some Splatoon, so if anyone wants to hop on later, let me know.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

  • System: N64 and PC. And I guess there was a remake recently for modern systems? I’m not even going to address that concept.
  • Number of players: Just one. The days of mandatory death matches were still a few months away.
  • Hey, wait, you cited Donkey Kong Country as an example, shouldn’t Goldeneye count, too? Let’s claim Rare was well on its way out at that point, and was taking fewer notes from Nintendo. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  • ARGHRelics of a bygone age: Oh, my controller pak isn’t saving data properly? I am shocked by this information.
  • Say something nice: Turok climbs vines/ladders/etc like a boss. So fast! A certain Hyrulian Hero could learn a thing or two from this guy.
  • Dirty Rotten Cheater: Like GTA, this is yet another game that is enhanced by its extensive cheat list. Disco Mode? Yes please.
  • So, did you beat it: Actually, I lied in the article. I did play levels other than Level 1, as I cheated forward quite a few times to see what was going on. I was not impressed. I do think I cheated straight to the credits one time, though?
  • Did you know? Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was actually basically a promotional game for the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comic published by Acclaim Comics. Acclaim Comics came about when Acclaim purchased Voyager Communications (founded by Jim Shooter) back during the 90’s comics crash, and then Acclaim Comics became simply Valiant when Acclaim went bankrupt. Look, what’s important is that Ivar, Time Walker is in the same universe as Turok… or… something?
  • Would I play again: Not even if it meant I could win my own pet T-Rex. And I really want a T-Rex.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wrath of the Black Manta for the NES! Look out, Crocodile Hunters, the Black Manta is coming to town! Please look forward to it!

Noice

FGC #219 X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

Here come the X-DorksThere has been an evolution in established property licensed games over the console generations.

In the beginning, the best we could hope for from the genre was a “random adventure” that did its best to get the character out the door and into your gaming console. Wolverine fought Magneto for some reason, Fester had his quest, and Batman generically battled Firefly. I’m not sure if it was the belief that videogames were a fad (so get your licensed property to generate some quick cash while you can), or simply that nobody had any idea what they were doing (Superman likes the Statue of Liberty, right?), but, ultimately, most licensed games of the NES era were fairly lacking in anything but “now you get to control a real life superhero (or Fester)”.

By the 16-bit era, we were at least getting plots that seemed more “built” for videogames. Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge is a terrible game, but its “Arcade built a brand new Murderworld” story adapts instantly to the eclectic stages you usually see in a SNES game. Similarly, X-Men for the Sega Genesis and its “malfunctioning Danger Room” allows for all sorts of interesting vistas from X-Men history, and also leaves room for a “real” plot (and some really confused X-Men). This was also the era that started to adapt current stories, so we saw a Justice League fighting game featuring exclusively Grant Morrison’s JLA, and The Death and Return of Superman: The Game. You too can finally play as an alien that is completely doomed!

WeeeeeThe Playstation hosted a fair few “random” licensed games (Spider-Man springs immediately to mind, and that Star Wars fighting game? Yeesh), but things were already starting to go in the direction of licensed games endorsing “something” in addition to just the featured licensed character. For instance, it’s often overlooked that the atrocious Superman 64 is based on Superman: The Animated Series. I suppose monolithic companies finally acknowledged that videogames were here to stay, and, if you’ve got a property to advertise, why not use videogames to do it? Why simply promote Spider-Man when you can promote Spider-Man: The Movie, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, or Spider-Man: Whatever Stupid Thing We’re Doing in the Comics This Week? Who knew Maximum Carnage was such a trendsetter?

This brings us to today’s featured game, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. XML2RoA is yet another X-Men videogame, and, at first blush, it appears to be another “random” X-Men adventure. This time, mutant maniac Apocalypse is trying to take over the world (well, he’s always trying to take over the world, just it’s not somebody else trying this week), and the X-Men and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants must team up to put a stop to Apocalypse’s plan to steal the mutant powers of Jubilee or whatever the hell is going on. The main appeal of the game is that you may now play as a great many villains as well as the heroes, so Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Grey can fight alongside Magneto, Juggernaut, and Gambit (okay, he’s not a bad guy, but he is a bad guy). This is all pretty basic “X-Men stuff”, and, come to think of it, it wasn’t even the first time most of this roster had come together in one game (and where’s the petition to get Bishop in Marvel vs. Capcom?).

But the Nightcrawler’s in the details, so let’s look at the blatant “signs of the times” in this X-Men licensed game.

Ultimate X-Men

NerdsThis is probably the most anachronistic item for any modern X-Fan to see in this PS2/Xbox/Gamecube title. While it’s not as “in your face” as some of their appearances, it’s pretty clear that Marvel’s Ultimate X-Men are the featured heroes (and villains) of the game. Okay, I suppose there’s a lot of “original” (Uncanny?) X-Men DNA in the story, too, but that mainly seems to serve as an excuse to get some old school villains to plump up the boss roster. Everything else: the costumes, characterizations, and character’s general ages all seem to point to “this is the Marvel Ultimate Universe”.

This makes a lot of sense, as, at the time, Marvel was trying very hard to promote its new “Ultimate” line of comics, a shared universe where all the superheroes were “new”, and nobody was bogged down with a collective forty years of continuity. It was a good idea! Nobody wants to read another story where they have to be reminded Black Tom ever existed, so let’s reduce the Juggernaut that palled around with Dazzler for some reason back to his basic, “nothing stops the Juggernaut” form. The Ultimate Universe was a good idea, and we should be happy to see it immortalized here.

Because it ain’t around no more.

Marvel should have seen this coming: The Ultimate Universe was great at its outset because it wasn’t drowning in the continuity that had existed before most of the audience was born. But that didn’t last, because modern comics gather continuity snarls like Final Fantasy heroes horde megalixers. In no time at all, the Ultimate X-Men became an endless knot of nonsense where Cable was somehow Wolverine (but from the future), Beast had died and come back and died again, and Colossus was on drugs because his skin was too heavy. Also, an X-Man had cybersex with The Blob. You don’t come back from that.

So the Ultimate Marvel Universe had… I want to say there were three apocalypses. The first one was pretty floody and bloody, then Super Galactus ate New Jersey, and then the Ultimate Universe smashed into the Regular Universe. The Regular (616, nerds) Universe had better sales, so Ultimate ejected its Spider-Man and called it a day. No more Ultimate X-Men.

So it’s funny to be reminded they existed at all in this lil’ Marvel time capsule. Speaking of which…

Age of Apocalypse

Check out the tongue“Age of Apocalypse” was a 1995 X-Men Crossover “Summer Event”. The basic concept was that Professor X had been accidently murdered by a time traveler, and, whoops, that time traveler was his kid, so paradox time, son. The Marvel Timeline convulsed and reconfigured itself until a new universe was born where Apocalypse ruled the world, the X-Men were led by Magneto, and Cyclops was actually pretty cool (and appropriately named). This crossover only lasted a few months, but it left an indelible mark on the X-Men for years, as readers just plain liked a story where half the heroes were villains and pretty much everybody died. Jamie Madrox died like a hundred times!

So Marvel, never one to let a success rest, went back to that well again and again, usually reviving the Apocalypse universe (kinda literally) every two or three years or so. There was the time that AoA turned out to be bright and sunny outside of Apocalypse’s rule, there was the time it was so crappy that someone ate a baby, and there was an entire miniseries where all the mutants were humans and I think top hats could eat people or something. None of these revivals ever seemed to stick around for longer than a few issues, but why not try to milk a little more cash out of that one successful crossover from twenty years ago?

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse isn’t a straight retelling of Age of Apocalypse by any means, but it is the annual excuse to use all your favorite AoA characters (like Sugarman! Everybody loves Sugarman!), and even pigeonhole a few good guys into their AoA bad guy roles (Hey, Beast, you’re evil now, don’t ask why). It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty clear that Marvel used this game as a way to remind everyone of that one thing they liked that one time. Kills time before releasing the movie a decade later.

And speaking of movies…

Special Guests: Deadpool and Iron Man (before they were famous)

Big scary dudeXML2:RoA was released three years before Iron Man, the movie that officially launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s possible that Iron Man was included in this game with that event in mind… but it was probably just an excuse to promote Marvel Ultimate Alliance (coming soon!). Iron Man winds up as a “hidden character” that must be unlocked through random scavenger hunt nonsense. I guess that’s appropriate, it’s not like he’s a mutant (most of the time). Similarly, Deadpool is unlocked after completing the game, and… yeah. Can you imagine saving Deadpool for a “hidden character” slot in today’s environment? He’s had more games than Cyclops at this point! And there was the best superhero movie of 2016 somewhere in there, too. You can’t stop the ‘pool!

But here are Iron Man and Deadpool, slumming it in the reserve section so you can play as such amazing X-stars as Sunfire, X-Man (PSP only, to be fair), and friggen Toad. Yes, I know Toad was in the X-Men movie of 2000, but he was also involved in the single worst line-read in cinema history, so I don’t think he should be involved in anything. Get Deadpool back in there! He has teleporting powers for some reason! Bodyslide by fun!

Let’s punch dinosaurs in the Savage Land

Oh, that’s perennial. Licensed games or no, some things are always going to be entertaining.

FGC #219 X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

  • System: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, PSP, and… N-Gage? Seriously? Okay. For the purpose of this review (“review”), I played the Gamecube version, which I bought initially because…
  • Number of players: Four! This game is basically Gauntlet with X-Men, and that’s a thing I never knew I needed so badly before X-Men Legends (1).
  • Think about itSo, got played a lot? So much. Everything is unlocked, and I think most of the characters are at some “max level” stats. This is mainly because my friends and I played this almost as much as Smash Bros (this is a lie, but the hyperbole rings true), and good times were had by all. Just watch it when someone chooses Nightcrawler while cackling loudly (full disclosure: I am that someone).
  • Favorite Character: I liked Deadpool before he was cool, dammit. Also, quick-run Professor Xavier is hilarious. Of the characters that are more easily available, I guess Juggernaut saw a lot of play, but that’s mainly thanks to a residual love for Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
  • Port-o-Call: The PSP version contained extra characters, like Cable, but made multiplayer more of a bear, so screw that noise. The PC version also included Pyro and Sabertooth… so I couldn’t care less. There was also a phone-based version of the game that was a beat ‘em up. That actually sounds like it might be interesting.
  • Did you know? The Age of Apocalypse version of Sunfire’s “costume” is still the best thing that ever happened to that character.
  • Would I play again? I have a lot of affection for this game, but, man is it rough to come back to after a decade of gaming innovations. I can barely read the HUD! Love ya, XML2:RoA, but I’ve got some modern X-ventures to play.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man X2! Or maybe he didn’t choose it, and I’m on a run of X-Mas games. Who can say? Anyway, please look forward to it!

AHH