Tag Archives: digital pictures

FGC #464 Pokémon Snap

Gotta photo capture 'em allPokémon Snap doesn’t get enough credit for being the only Pokémon game that matters.

Pokémon Snap was not always a Pokémon game. It apparently started its time well before the release of the Nintendo 64 as “Jack and the Beanstalk”, a game that does not, in any perceptible way, exist. Was it intended as another Mario 64-esque platformer? A beanstalk-explorer like Ocarina of Time? Or was it actually some manner of JRPG? That last choice might be the most accurate, as, apparently, features from Jack and the Beanstalk were eventually integrated into the N64 release of Mother 3… which was then also scrapped. However, we do know that the original Jack and the Beanstalk did involve photography, as Iwata once confessed that Snap’s ancestor did allow the player to take pictures, but nobody could figure out why the player would take pictures. Yes, in the days before camera phones, selfies, and a built-in screenshot button, it was assumed that someone wouldn’t take random pictures if they didn’t have to (Final Fantasy 15 would be a very different game with this philosophy). What was the solution? Add something people actually liked looking at! Pokémon! Yes, Pikachu is on everything, so why not capture him on film instead of in a pokéball? He’d probably be happier that way…

So Pokémon Snap was designed around taking pictures of “peaceful” Pokémon, and not the pocket monsters that constantly assault young children scampering through tall grass. This, bizarrely, transforms the game into a first person shooter. You’re stuck on (literal) rails behind the eyes of Todd Snap, a kid who has been conscripted into a photographic war that vaguely resembles Disney Land rides. Todd must take the best pictures of Pokémon possible, and, while this is supposed to be a serene environment, he’s often asked to hurl apples and smoke bombs in the name of that perfect shot. Yes, Todd, we all believe that you beaned that Diglett into catalepsy because you were trying to feed the little critter. But, even with the nonlethal ammunition, the entire experience seems a lot closer to Doom than Pokémon Red or Pokémon Stadium. Even ignoring the lack of critter kidnapping, this is a very different Pokémon game.

And, in 1999, that is exactly what the franchise needed.

SAUR!Gamers almost always, as a rule, ignore tie-in media and how it impacts their favorite games. Many of Mario’s biggest fans grew up with the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and now publicly disavow any knowledge of that time Luigi was cursed by Mario’s errant copy of the Necronomicon, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, had to be summoned to purify our favorite plumber. That is not canon. Nor is it canon that Link frequently uttered “excuse me, princess” while palling around with a surprisingly horny fairy. And Mega Man certainly was never green (unless he was equipped with Leaf Shield) and was never transformed into a robot caveman. Cartoon tie-ins (and their brethren: cereal, toys, and all other kinds of merchandise) are to be considered completely non-canon. And nothing much about that has changed in the years since Captain N. Yes, Persona and Blazblue have their own modern animes, but they’re wholly useless, as they just rehash the already robust story modes of their respective games. It’s cool to see Yukiko in full animated regalia, but it’s an experience just as empty as watching Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. Actually, at least MK:DotR had the decency to include original content to sate an appetite for stories…

But there’s a reason Pokémon: The Animated Series blazed the trail for the “anime invasion” of the early 21st Century. You could claim it was simply its easy to understand, but robust story. You could claim it was the generally gorgeous animation (for, ya know, the late 90’s). You could even claim it was just a matter of good ol’ Pikachu being as cute as a button. But all that is secondary to the real reason Pokémon: The Adventures of Ash Ketchum and That One Squirtle was good: it took the concept of Pokémon Red/Blue and made it real. Let’s be honest here: Pokémon Red/Blue (and Green?) is an extremely limited experience. You find monsters, you catch monsters, you fight monsters against monsters. The end. There’s an overarching plot, and there’s an evil organization of propulsion-based baddies out there to defeat, but the world of Pokémon Red/Blue is otherwise very… sparse. Psyduck might have an interesting pokédex entry about lulling opponents into a false sense of security with its odd expressions, but it’s effectively the same as any other random water Pokémon in a battle. And battles are all you have!

Love that eggBut that’s the rub about Pokémon Red/Blue, the iconic pokédex (which appears to be some kind of magical, hand-written encyclopedia in the original game) tells a tale about a much more interesting world of magical creatures. Marowak throws its bone like a boomerang. Jynx starts dance parties with its mighty hips. Porygon can live in the internet at will. Lapras was hunted to extinction by previous generations. Hell, the very concept of a “legendary” Pokémon barely exists in the gameplay of the original game. The super birds are just randomly found in caves (and one power plant), but their pokédex entries claim they are mythical monsters that appear before the damned (which, granted, is probably the natural outcome of encountering a creature that can capriciously summon lightning). There are oodles of lore, both magical and mundane, relayed through the pokédex, but absolutely none of it appears in the game proper. If you ever wanted to see a herd of Pikachu in the forest, or a Cubone gently weeping from behind its skull mask (you monster), you needed to look elsewhere. You needed to look to the Pokémon official anime.

And, eventually, you could look to the first game that involved Pokémon being Pokémon: Pokémon Snap.

Mew!Yes, Pokémon Snap has very different gameplay from other Pokémon games. But, more importantly, it allows its Pokémon to be divorced from their usual game-based battles, and lets Pokémon just be… Pokémon. Pikachu is allowed to scamper and surf around. Gyarados is free to swim up waterfalls with impunity. And events that could only occur thanks to a boring “level up” in the “real” games are free to happen as nature intended. Magnemites gather in a trio to form a Magneton, and Slowpoke fishes up a Shellder to become Slowbro. These are all events and behaviors outlined or implied in the greater lore, but never given a chance to breathe thanks to the gameplay being entirely monster violence based.

And, ultimately, this is why Pokémon Snap doesn’t need a sequel (though, let’s be clear, I would jump on such a thing immediately). What’s important about Pokémon Snap isn’t beanstalks, photography, or its gameplay, it’s that the world of Pokémon was finally fully realized in its proper, digital format. Taking random cues equally from Pokémon Red/Blue as the Pokémon television series, Pokémon Snap took the Pokémon franchise into a direction that allowed its monsters to be more than movelists. Yes, a thunder stone will evolve Pikachu, but wouldn’t you rather see Pika play with some berries? Maybe, maybe not, but what’s important is that Pokémon Snap created a world where that was possible. And that world…

Bewear!

Is now the world we live in…

Pikachu!

In more ways than one.

Pokémon Snap was the first Pokémon game to truly explore the world of Pokémon. And that matters.

FGC #464 Pokémon Snap

  • System: Nintendo 64 for the initial release, but also eventually available for Wii and WiiU. I highly recommend the latter versions, as the N64 is unpleasant to look at.
  • Number of players: Sorry, my dude Todd rides alone.
  • Wasn’t Hey You, Pikachu the first real Pokémon spin-off? I didn’t say it wasn’t. It was just not at all important to anyone but microphone enthusiasts. Didn’t Alakazam own a shop in that thing? Non-canon.
  • They can be friends!Not Canon: The three legendary birds hatch from eggs found around the various environments. But everyone knows legendary Pokémon don’t hatch from random eggs! They are summoned by Lord Arceus in a grand and unerringly confusing ceremony that takes place on a sacred mountaintop. And then they hatch from eggs! But smaller eggs! I think!
  • Make it a Blockbuster Night: I still have the original manual and insert that advertises how you can take your Pokémon Snap cartridge to Blockbuster Video to print out poképhotos. When Snap was rereleased on Wii/WiiU, it changed this functionality to online sharing. And that’s great, but looks like I still have to go to Blockbuster to hang these gorgeous polygons on my wall.
  • Favorite Pokémon (this game): Magikarp appears in more stages than Pikachu, so it is clearly the MVP of the event. And it only gets to evolve into a Gyarados in its final appearance. What a little trooper!
  • An end: Your reward for completing all the (relevant) tasks is an opportunity to float above the clouds and photograph the mythical Mew. And that’s right about when the game just wholesale turns into Killer 7, as you have to “pester” Mew into losing its shield, and then take photos of the naked genetic Pokémon. It’s an odd choice, particularly given the whole “cloud” area would be the perfect opportunity to involve other flying/fascinating Pokémon. Also, harassing Mew is just plain mean.
  • Did you know? A mere 63 Pokémon appear in this adventure, despite the fact that the entire goal of the franchise is “catching ‘em all”, which, at this point, was a measly 151 Pokémon. This is likely the result of Pokémon Snap being demoted from its original position on the doomed 64DD expansion, and not at all an intentional slight against my man Drowzee.
  • Would I play again: Maybe for a level or two. Pokemon Snap requires a lot of “grinding” to gain the more useful items (it’s a good way to get extra play out of a game with only seven short levels), but replaying stages with everything available is rather enjoyable. I wouldn’t say no to a portable version that already has a flute unlocked…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tetrisphere for the N64. It’s like Tetris, but round! Please look forward to it!

I have no idea

FGC #441 Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II

Here comes some starsThe original StarTropics game was an action/RPG hybrid that saw young Mike Jones venture through some ill-defined “South Seas” Caribbean-esque tropical venues. Mike traversed caves, spoke to parrots, and eventually discovered the source of all of his woes were mysterious aliens. The aliens are well established as antagonists from early on, though (StarTropics), so they’re not completely out of left field in this otherwise mundane adventure about Mike exploring some deadly vacation destinations. In a time when NES titles were often incredibly bonkers, Mike’s quest was arguably simply a much more ordinary Legend of Zelda.

And then we got StarTropics 2. And it was insane-o cuckoo banana pants crazy.

So, in the interest of properly conveying the plot and further adventures of Mike Jones, please enjoy these 30 unmodified images from my playthrough of StarTropics 2. It’s pretty straightforward!







Let’s see what else happens to Mike…

FGC #221 INXS: Make My Video

Here comes a fun time!You’ll forgive me if there is already an established term for this phenomenon, but when constructing any creative work in any medium there’s something I like to call “the embarrassment threshold”. The embarrassment threshold might be the most important part of any creative work.

To explain the concept, the embarrassment threshold is the exact point a project dies because someone else said to the original creator, “really? That’s what you’re doing?” For an easy example, consider Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction. According to statistics provided by deviantart, left to their own devices, the average person will create 12,000,000,000 instances of Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction in his or her lifetime (note that “fanfiction” in this example includes sketches of original characters, whom you should not steal). Now, if you leave the average person alone with a Sonic Fanfiction Community, that output is never going to change; however, if you introduce the fanfictionado to a nearby friend, and tell said friend, “Hey, this is Chris. Chris likes to write about situations where Sonic the Hedgehog is more naked than usual,” Suddenly, Chris’s Sonic fanfic output drops to zero, because, outside of some random corners of the internet, Sonic fanfic is considered a less than savory pursuit. Thus, the embarrassment threshold saves society from being buried beneath an inescapable deluge of Tails x Shadow erotica. This is a very valuable purpose!

Now, the embarrassment threshold may have lost some power in the computer age when you’re just a post button away from uploading your Amy Rose magnum opus at any time, but your average video production requires an almost insurmountable embarrassment threshold. Come on, I know I have some creative types out there in reader land, tell me you’ve never tried to film a short story or skit or something, and found that getting even five people together at the same time to actually listen to a director for a half hour (it’s never just a half hour) is completely impossible. I mean, at least if they’re doing it for free. Next time someone Keep rollin'complains about Tom Cruise earning the gross national product of Ecuador to appear in one movie for six minutes, you punch that person right in the face, because herding a smile like that into Vanilla Sky is worth every gleaming penny. And do you see Tommy complaining about how Edge of Tomorrow’s time travel mechanics make no sense? No, of course not, he’s a consummate professional, and an incidental million dollars lowers anyone’s problems with a script. Nobody is embarrassed to be involved in Fanfic: The Movie, but that’s because Hollywood gives out shiny, golden trophies to celebrate its craziest ideas. That’s right, folks, rewards shows are the natural antibodies fighting the embarrassment threshold. Why do you think so many dames win Best Actress for playing complete uggos?

And, despite a complete lack of award-winning, INXS: Make My Video completely blows the embarrassment threshold out of the water.

What?The embarrassment threshold probably didn’t hold much power over the videogame industry back in the 16-bit days. Want your hero to be an overweight plumber fighting dinosaur turtles? It’s your game, do whatever. Future guy with a sword fighting mutants that may or may not be future guy’s brother? Go for it. And, somehow, a worm in a suit fighting a booger was deemed “cool” by the masses, so that’s not even an issue. Videogames of the Play it Loud era tried to be dope and radical, but we still got stuck with Izzy, so it’s clear that push for blast processing in all forms was not a big concern. But this was also likely a side-effect of the industry itself: at the time, most videogames were coming out of large Japanese companies, and if your game featured a ninja fighting an octopus at an amusement park, that’s no big deal, the guy down the hall is making a game where a space ship fights moai heads. Don’t worry about it, dude, we’re all in this embarrassing industry together.

But the advent of the CD technology allowed for more “interesting” experiences, and games that included real life actors and actresses. Consider the possibilities! Finally, a real way to “play the movies” and be the heroes of your favorite films and TV shows. You could be Luke Skywalker! Or MacGyver! Or… INXS? Or how about, uh, someone making music videos featuring INXS for a pair of woman playing pool at a bar? Does… does that sound like fun?

What?INXS: Make My Video is a whole lotta “movie” before you get to the actual game (“game”). The premise is that two women are playing pool in a crowded bar, and four separate factions want to sleep with these women, or play pool, or maybe play pool while sleeping with these women. I don’t know, it’s a very complicated plot. But the two women (apparently named Layla and Joey) aren’t going to give up their pool or panties until someone creates “the ultimate INXS music video”. This might sound like some kind of “when pigs fly” esoteric wordplay, but, no, they honestly want the best INXS music video, and they want it now. So you, player, must listen to each of the random want-to-have-pool-sex factions, follow their instructions, and then make a flawless INXS music video.

Yep….

Yep.

Yep, this happened.

There is potential in music video creation software. This game was released in the heyday of the MTV era, and, full disclosure, there was a time I probably would have crawled naked through a broken glass emporium to be able to “make music videos like the pros”. Unfortunately, this is not music video creation software. I’m familiar with making music videos, and it’s a tweeeeeak different from what we have here. INXS: Make My Video offers a “live” editing experience: you have three different feeds, and you have to splice the feeds together while the featured song is playing. Okay, fine, this is a videogame, I guess that adds a little urgency to the normally slow and methodical video editing process. That’s okay. But what’s not okay is that one feed is playing the original music video for the song, and the other two feeds are playing complete nonsense. It’s mostly (entirely?) stock footage, and during a few videos, I was able to spy with my little eye:

what?

  • A Circus
  • 80’s Bikini Babes
  • The Olympics?
  • Some cartoon about a monkey
  • Can-can Dancers
  • That one clip of the whirligig flying machine that you see everywhere
  • A family of meerkats
  • Dancing skeletons
  • Race cars!
  • Martin Luther King Jr.

These are all, clearly, things that belong in an INXS video.

But the complete insanity comes in attempting to tie it all together. In order to justify making a music video that is “the regular INXS video plus stock footage of grandma”, each of the pool-sex factions offer advice on what they’d like to see in their “perfect” music video. This leads to actual, real live human beings saying things like:

  • “Let’s see some more cows and shoes.”
  • “We need beaches… swimming pools. But cut the letters floating in the water, they’re irrelevant to the idea.”
  • “And put in mean streaks. But lose the umbrellas.”
  • “Add zebras and prison bars.” “Yeah, that’s cool.”

You know, basic stuff that would come out of your human flesh mouth at any given drinking bar.

And that’s what really gets me about this whole game. I can buy a Sega CD game that uses “live” video splicing to make a game out of editing. I can believe that INXS saw no problem with lending three songs (three whole songs!) and a few images to an “up and coming” medium. I can believe that someone at Digital Pictures thought the starved Sega CD user base would leap on any available game like a rabid dog. No.And I can even believe that someone thought a script where “cool” people made recommendations on what random stock footage to use in a video would work out. It takes an exhausting amount of mental gymnastics, but I can believe all of that.

But what I can’t believe is that actual, living people (paid actors or not) got all the way through this script, and didn’t revolt. The footage got filmed, the game got made. At least ten people said… everything… in this game, and nobody destroyed everything about this production for the good of humanity. I’m currently writing thousands of words about a JRPG where a robot with a tummy laser turns out to be Mary Magdalene, and I can’t believe a real person put on a leather jacket, faced the camera, and said, “How about this? Some skeletons. And a shot of that mummy!” That’s… how can that happen?

The embarrassment threshold was hastily invented at the start of this article for a reason, people! There are supposed to be safeguards built into our society. If this can happen once, what’s to stop it from happening again? And again? Before you know it, kids are going to be wearing their pants backwards and rapping about makin’ videos with Betty Boop, and there will be nothing we can do to stop it!

So, in conclusion, INXS: Make My Video eroded the very fabric of society. Have a nice day.

FGC #221 INXS: Make My Video

  • System: Sega CD, and, with God as my witness, I will see that it never appears on another system again.
  • Number of players: Do not play this game with anyone else in the room. In fact, why not always make sure you’re not in the room when it is playing, too. It will be fine without you.
  • No FX: Oh yeah, forget to mention that you can add some stupid “effects” to your music videos, like “make everything green” or “make everything fuzzy”. Actually, given the fidelity of Sega CD video, practically every effect is “make everything fuzzy”. So, uh, enjoy?
  • So, did you beat it? Surprisingly, yes. You only have to follow the instructions to a T for one video to win, and the punk girls’ recommendations of “make everything puke colored” and “use the mummy” seemed to work out for me. See?

    WINNER

    Eat it, Kathryn C!

  • Favorite INXS song: Uh… I mostly just confuse INXS for XTC, because my brain works like that. I just checked my playlist, and I have one INXS song on there: Kiss the Dirt. So I guess that’s my favorite? It’s not in this game, though.
  • Come to think of it, there’s a lot of Sonic fanfic bashing here for someone who has written Sonic fanfic: That does not count. That was raw.
  • Did you know: Scott Menville, who seems to pop up in the “did you know” section of this site once per hundred entries or so, actually appears in this game. He’s not doing a voice! It’s actually him! He’s playing Ted! Oh, this is an exciting day, indeed.
  • Would I play again: Ah ha ha ha. Oh God, no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Out to Lunch for the Super Nintendo! Last entry of the year, and it’s a game about… eating? Maybe lunch meetings? I… have no idea. But we’ll find out! Please look forward to it!

What?
And then they traveled through time…