Tag Archives: explosions

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

Saints!Saints Row 4 is an over-the-top videogame about a world beset by aliens, destroyed, and then rebuilt in a Matrix-esque virtual reality wherein your player avatar, The President of the United States, is granted amazing super powers in an effort to eventually conquer the alien threat and conquer all of time so as to save the human race.

So let’s spend this article talking about urban planning.

Wait, sorry, I have been informed that it is moderately possible to stay on topic while addressing this blatantly boring matter, so we may as well give that a try. Take two…

Saints Row 2 was an amazing little chunk of a game. After Saints Row was reviewed as “like Grand Theft Auto, but we forgot to figure out the ‘but’”, Saints Row 2 shook the gaming world by being the most Grand Theft Auto-est Grand Theft Auto to ever Grand Theft Auto. That is to say, the Grand Theft Auto from before Rockstar decided to smother any fun in the franchise by sticking its head so far up its own butt that no excitement could ever escape this airtight asszone. And it wasn’t just about a completely bonkers plot that may or may not have contained covering sections of the city in raw sewage! No, Saints Row 2 took the customization features of San Andreas and dialed them up to eleven. So many options! So much clothing! Hell, they had to build an entire mall to house all those shopping choices!

And, in my humble opinion, that mall might be the best part of Saints Row 2.

WeeeeeYes, it’s just one silly area. Yes, it’s an area that probably ultimately only exists for one set piece mission that involves a shootout in a mall (that seems less funny in 2018). And, yes, I might just like it because I have a weird inclination toward hanging out at any mall, virtual ones included. But whatever the original reason for that lil’ shopping center, it is one of my favorite spots, and a significant reason for this is simple: it’s a place. It is somewhere in the Saints Row 2 city that you can actually go. It’s not just another empty, set-dressing building. It’s a real location, and, even if there is an obvious “now loading” parking garage or elevator, it still feels like an organic piece of the city. It’s not just a place to customize your trench coat, it’s a place, and it makes the world of Saints Row 2 feel that much more real.

And, like in our blighted present, you can never go to the mall again. Saints Row 3 dropped not only the mall, but seemingly the entire concept of going inside a big, open building.

And, let’s not kid ourselves, people noticed. I noticed. Saints Row 3 was an amazing game, but almost everyone seemed to recognize that its base city was somehow… less. There were more exciting cutscenes, set pieces, and the occasional reason to deploy a parachute after leaping from your hover-bike, but there weren’t any malls. There weren’t any places that made the SR3 city feel like a real place; simply stores that were singular rooms, and the occasional “level area” that felt very much like a Hyrulian dungeon. The Saints Row 3 city was a shell of the former glory of the series, particularly at a time when other franchises seemed to be moving forward with more immersive worlds.

And then Saints Row 4 effectively told the world that that was good enough, and outright reused the “old” city of Saints Row 3. New game, old city. Party foul, Volition, directors of Saints Row 4. You destroyed half the fun of an open world game before I even opened the box.

Tanks for the memoriesOf course, anyone familiar with the franchise or its producers knows the truth of the matter. In short, without reusing assets to an absurd degree, there literally would be no Saints Row 4. And that would be a major loss for the universe! Saints Row 4 is an irrational amount of fun, predominantly because it takes the typical, mundane world of Saints Row 3 (well, as mundane as any world with Mayor Burt Reynolds could be) and adds super powers. Run like The Flash, fly like Superman, and telekinetically whip some cars around like Matthew Malloy (like you can’t use Wikipedia). When you were previously tethered to finding a conveniently unlocked car every seventeen seconds, being able to Hulk jump straight out of a lake and onto a building is a bit of a game changer, and truly makes Saints Row 4 its own experience. The wisdom of Solomon is telling me you don’t need a new city when you’ve got the speed of Mercury.

But you know what? Let’s stop trying to justify the loss of a new city, and acknowledge that Steelport, the official city of Saints Row 3 & 4, is actually pretty great.

Consider the number one complaint about modern open world games: there’s nothing to do. From Breath of the Wild to Skyrim to Dragon’s… Dogma? Age? Something like that… For all of those worlds, it seems the number one complaint is that there’s a crazy, humungous world to explore, but nothing to do. And that makes perfect sense, as any neighborhood where every dungeon and dragon is squished together is going to feel a bit claustrophobic. If your horse doesn’t have anywhere to run around, everywhere is going to feel like Hyrule Field, and then you may as well just be playing an N64 game. A big world needs the option to feel boring, because wide open spaces are practically a requirement.

WeeeeeeeBut all of the open world games named a moment ago are fantasy-based worlds. An empty field feels natural in Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls because “the wilds of the frontier” are practically built into the genre. That’s not going to fly in an urban environment, because, come on, when was the last time you saw seven inches of a city uninhabited by anything. In New York City, I saw a landlord-tenant dispute over a sleeping bag. This means that, assuming you want your sandbox city to be remotely realistic, it’s time to populate every millimeter of the place with something. There are no nice rocks or fields of tumbleweed in Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row; no, every bit of the city has to have a building or fountain or maybe just a spot where some dude carrying a dildo spawns. You need something, otherwise the world is going to look unfinished.

And then there’s the form and function factor. This is a proper videogame, not some manner of Endless Ocean nonsense, so there are missions. Missions require venues, so of course robbing the bank or destroying the alien antennae needs a spot to be marked on the map. So that means you have to build a bank or an antennae. And they can’t be next to each other! No! There must be some space between them. And there’s a car chase at the tail end of the mission? Wow, better design the streets around that for some interesting twists and turns. Don’t forget to add a fruit cart! Now multiply that kind of thinking by about, what, twenty? To account for all the story missions? And how many optional missions are there? How many street races, ragdoll showcases, and gang fights have to be included? And what do you do when missions start running into missions? It’s not like every section of the city is walled off entirely; you need to account for jobs that will use the same highways and byways. Everything has to fit together, and I don’t have to remind any artists out there how difficult it can be when you have to change just one thing, and are then forced to change every damn thing around it. Smoothing out one road might change the entire shape of the city!

Just thinking about it gets me exhausted.

Take a lookBut this is the strength of Steelport. With a limited number of changes, the same city was used for two different games brimming with content. And that’s amazing! Considering that Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4 have dramatically different movement options available (a tank is not the same as Supergirl speed), the fact that the same city can be used at all is a minor miracle. And once you factor in all the missions across both games, well, it seems a little silly to be worried about the loss of a few open buildings. Yes, you might not have the same “lived-in” feeling of Saints Row 2, but SR3 and SR4 both use their shared city to do their jobs incredibly well. If you can use the same city to stage a noir-ish gang war story of betrayal and luchadores in the same place as a sci-fi epic featuring aliens and Agent Smith, then you’re clearly doing something right.

There’s nothing lazy about building something to last, and there’s nothing indolent about Steelport. This is how you reuse assets: by building something amazing and adaptable right from the beginning, and showcasing that remarkable flexibility. Here’s to the city planners of Steelport, because they know how to shape a city for the ages.

Though I do still miss the mall…

FGC #421 Saints Row 4

  • System: Available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. The Gat Out of Hell expansion (/entirely new game) came out at just the right time to boot this one up to the current gen consoles.
  • Number of players: Like SR3, this one has multiplayer that I have literally never tried. Let’s assume it’s good!
  • Favorite Weapon: There is a gun that inflates people’s heads. While I would like the ability to randomly inflate other body parts (I would very much like someone to explode thanks to unreasonably swollen calves), I can’t say no to N64-style body morphing.
  • OuchiePresident for a Day: It impacts practically nothing, but this title begins with your protagonist as President of the United States. I would personally like to play more adventures where you’re a Super Hero President… but then I start thinking about how my ideal game is Dynasty Warriors: Oops All Presidents, and how much it would kick ass to take out hordes of enemies with an extremely over-leveled William Howard Taft.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes. This is one of the few titles I actually completely Platinum’ed. I would be more proud of that if it didn’t involve rubberbanding a controller so I could fly around on a hover bike for an hour…
  • Did you know? This game canonizes the “Saints Row 1 model” character as a virtual reality created “boss” during one mission. This means that, without a doubt, if your protagonist is female in Saints Row 4, she’s trans, and not just implied to “look different” like in Saints Row 2. I think this means we have exactly one videogame franchise with a potentially trans hero. Progress!
  • Would I play again: Absolutely. I intended to play through Saints Row 4 on PS4 for this review, even… but it’s a long game! And I have a 100% save file right there on PS3! And I like running around like an invincible idiot! It happens!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Captain Commando! Caaaaaaptain Commaaaaaando! Or… maybe I’m thinking of something else…. No matter! Please look forward to it!

Where did it all go?

FGC #160 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

WeeeGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the only Grand Theft Auto game I have ever played to completion. When this game came up on the FGC, my initial thought was to fire up the game and figure out exactly why. Then I, ya know, played the game, and, for all the reasons that I may have stayed glued to GTA:SA back in the day (conquering neighborhoods, “powerup progression”, or even just a tolerable plot), I realized the real reason I played GTA:SA so intensely was… cheats.

So, let’s look at the cheats of GTA:SA.

Incidentally, if you want the full cheat codes, go ahead and head over to Gamefaqs. I figure copy/pasting that one link is faster than blatantly copying all the inputs.

Instant $250,000, full health and armor

Ah, here’s the reason I finished this game. I’ve never liked the combat in GTA games, whether it involve fist-fighting, gun shooting, or katana slicing. The aiming system improved for San Andreas, but, seriously, I have never seen a franchise that was so successful with a series of protagonists that controlled so poorly. Yes, driving is the meat and potatoes of this series, but anytime you have to truck through a building and avoid gunfire… ugh… I’d rather take a nap in a lava bed.

However, with the cheat that effectively guaranteed infinite health, I was able to bulldoze those aggravating sections with the grace of a rhino (but with twice the armor). C.J.’s enemies never knew what hit them… or maybe they knew, but were less than willing to admit they were fighting some kind of immortal gangbanger. … Blacula would make an excellent videogame hero, come to think of it.

The rest of the cheats in this game make the experience more enjoyable, but this is the cheat that kept me (and C.J.) alive.

Spawn a Jetpack

VrooomAnd now for everything else. GTA:SA is kind of a terrible game in a lot of ways. For one, super obvious thing, checkpoints are practically nonexistent, and if a mission takes twenty minutes to “get there”, and your car mysteriously implodes ten seconds into the actual gameplay, well, tough noogies, it’s time to drive all over the countryside again. This has never been fun.

However, flying back to the mission marker via jetpack? That’s something I can endorse.

If memory serves, there are either no real jetpacks over the course of the game proper, or there’s approximately one, and it’s hidden in a secret spot in an air force base or something. This is absurd, because, obviously, there’s no finer way to zoom around San Andreas, or, barring that, pretend you’re the Rocketeer, and search for errant zeppelins. This jetpack isn’t perfect, as sometimes you want something a little bigger…

All Boats Fly

Oh, wait. Yes, that’ll do.

All Traffic Lights Stay Green

I was just recounting how videogames run by their own rules, and nobody gets a bonus for heeding traffic signals in GTA, but apparently AIs that live in GTA universes pay attention to the rules of the road, even when a capricious player destroys those rules. GTA:SA feels like the last GTA game where causing mayhem was the be all and end all, and it even includes these “little things” like watching every NPC slam into every other NPC. Oh, speaking of mayhem…

Max Fat or Max Muscle or Max Sex Appeal or Max Skinny or Max Wanted Level

BANGGrand Theft Auto 3 and its silent protagonist made a concentrated effort to make the player identify with the psychopath asked to kill thirty random pedestrians by the strange man on the other side of the pay phone. C.J. of GTA:SA is much more his own character: a man betrayed by the normal rules of society and, eventually, even the love of his companions. C.J. has hopes, dreams, and maybe a solid green suit, and his existence is very different from the tabula rosa of GTA3.

I’m not completely certain how I feel about this change, as it creates a weird disconnect from the insanity of the game itself. You’re not causing the chaos, its C.J. You’re not stomping a hooker to death, it’s C.J. You’re not seducing some random nurse for hot coffee/powerups, it’s C.J. It feels vaguely dishonest for a game that revels in its havoc to so totally detach the player from the avatar, and this trend only grows in scope as the series progresses (GTA5 arguably being the peak where the “crazy guy” is presented as an option and not the inevitable norm).

That said, I feel it’s this disconnect between player and protagonist that occasionally turns me into a vengeful god.

C.J. is just out for a stroll, taking his favorite uzis for a walk. And, whoops, for no apparent reason, he’s the most wanted man on the continent. His first impulse is to book it to the nearest vehicle, but, uh-oh, now he inexplicably weighs 300 lbs. And, a few steps later, all of his muscle mass has evaporated. As he desperately pushes his overtaxed heart to the breaking point and wedges himself into a nearby cab, he suddenly shrinks down to anorexic proportions… and that’s about when the tank shows up.

It’s going to be a long day for C.J.…

Spawn a Stretch Limo or Jump 10 times higher

And sometimes I am a caring god, and give C.J. everything he ever wanted.

All Pedestrian are Elvis, Clowns, Beach Goers, or Hookers

HOT DOG!Who doesn’t like a change of pace? “Pedestrians” in GTA games are a strange lot, as they pretty much have to be there to make all this carnage “mean” something, but, conversely, they’re… nothing. Cops and gang members are one thing, but pedestrians pretty much exist only to run away screaming and occasionally provide “witty” (Rockstar level witty) dialogue. Other than that, they’re mobile speed bumps. I’m having a hard time thinking of something in another videogame that is so simultaneously essential and useless.

Pedestrians get an upgrade when you can at least laugh at the fact that you forgot to turn a random code off. Oh, cool, it’s Elvis. There’s another Elvis. Oh and… right, yes, Elvis code. Never before has my lack of memory been such a boon! And the codes that randomly transform the populace (and C.J.!) into beach bums, sex addicts, or clown sex addicts (assumed) are ideal for when you feel like crusin’ San Andreas and getting your pie on. Okay, fine, there isn’t a crème pie weapon, but a Bozo tossing a Molotov is pretty much the same thing, right?

All Vehicles Explode on Contact

WHAMMOAside from the already mentioned Health Code, this would be the cheat I enter every single time. There’s something damn satisfying about absolutely everything exploding in your wake, whether you’re driving a hot dog truck or a hovercraft. I realize it’s a cliché to invoke the good name of Michael Bay, but it is damn fulfilling to be responsible for more explosions than Alfred Nobel. Some people just want to watch the GTA world burn…

As an added bonus, you may enter this code, and then attempt to drive the streets of San Andreas “for real”. Carefully drive at thirty miles an hour, stop at every traffic light, and… every time you mess up, something explodes. It’s just like real life, if everything in real life was made of nitroglycerin.

Bonus points if you’re driving an ambulance.

Weather Cloudy

Well, not every cheat can be interesting.

FGC #160 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

  • System: Playstation 2 is what I played for this review and what I’ll always remember, but the game also wound up on Xbox, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and wasn’t there a cell phone version or something? That had to be terrible.
  • Number of players: There’s only room for one king of San Andreas.
  • Hot Coffee: Does anyone even recall the “hot coffee” debacle? Remember how it was found that you could hack sex scenes into GTA:SA because the designers had wisely decided to drop that asinine feature People are going to have to diebefore release? And because of some random hackers, GTA:SA had to be sold with an “Adults Only” sticker and be completely recalled? Shouldn’t such a thing have had more of an impact on gaming history?
  • Favorite Vehicle: Why don’t tanks have radios? This seems like a major design flaw.
  • The Air up There: It’s kind of sad that I played GTA5 and then replayed GTA:SA to confirm one thing: Rockstar has no idea how to make plane controls “work”. Maybe it’s just me, but I can never steer a plan effectively in a GTA game, and nothing has improved across sequels. Granted, I’ve never flown an actual plane, so maybe it’s just too real for me. Either that or I am a living tree magnet…
  • Did you know? Hot Coffee gets all the attention, but a skateboard was also cut from the final game. Apparently, the skateboard would have worked like a combination vehicle/weapon, allowing C.J. to scoot along or wallop an officer with the board itself. This eventually got recycled into Bully, where it feels slightly more appropriate.
  • Would I play again: I had a lot of fun with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but everything I liked about it got magnified by 100% and transformed into later Saint’s Row games, so that’s where my current allegiances lie. They made cheats an integral part of the experience!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Athena for the NES! Speaking of vengeful gods, let’s take a look at a mostly-naked one! Please look forward to it!

Weeeeeee
I’m an excellent driver

FGC #094 Saints Row: The Third

SaintsSo you’ve decided to become immortal? Great!

Yes, more and more people today are choosing to become invincible, ageless perversions of nature. Whether it’s through an excess of wealth, fame, or just doing the same stupid task and over and over again, it’s easier today than ever to become completely invulnerable to the bullets, lasers, and flamethrowers of your enemies.

But new opportunities also present new challenges. Yes, being eternal helps with day to day activities like steering street cleaners off cliffs, but it can get old fast. You’ve achieved the collective goal of your dead ancestors, so what do you do now? Well, follow this handy guide, and you too can be an immortal with things to do.

Dress for Success

Redheads alwaysIt’s a cliché, yes, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Back in the day, man had to dress to accommodate the harsh and biting weather of Mother Nature, whether it be cold enough to require a host of furs, or warm enough to discourage anything but a grass skirt. In time, man moved its huddled masses inside, and invented all sorts of temperature controlled environments, so one could wear pretty much the same thing regardless of season, assuming a spare coat was somewhere in the area. The only limit, thus, was the norms of society.

You’re invincible now, so screw that.

Want to walk around naked? Go for it. If you think someone is going to stop your bare, invulnerable ass, they’ve got another thing coming. But as much fun as waddling around in the buff can be, you’re an immortal now, so why not set some of your own fashion trends? You’re going to be around for a while, and wouldn’t it be nice to be reminded of your younger days by retro fashions emulating your early days? The ageless don’t feel old remembering epochs gone by, just nostalgic.

Our model for this piece is wearing a cheerleader’s skirt, generic gray top, and a purple long coat. A pair of “geek chic” glasses adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the ensemble, and red heels, perfect for stomping on the throats of the pathetic, are the ideal footwear. Was this outfit hastily assembled from random stores about town? Yes. But what’s imperative is that the most important, influential woman in the city is wearing it, so who cares if it’s this or a panda costume? It’s going to catch on.

Home is Where the Heat Is

RighteousYou’ve got the look, now you need the crib. The average American spends 50% of their day in their home, and, while you’re anything but average, it’s still nice to have a hearth to come home to after a hard day of causing more property damage than Godzilla.

More common fellows have a tendency to focus on the kitchen or bathroom, but there’s no reason for you to think of such things. You defecate on the graves of your enemies and sip coffee from their detached skulls, so you need not worry about petty trifles. Obviously, the central piece of your lifestyle should be the living room. A 3,000” TV should do nicely, and don’t forget to litter a few stripper poles around the area for guests. An amazing bed would likely do well for nighttime activities, but remember, you’re an immortal now, so sleep isn’t strictly necessary. Yes, you could use your bed for other, more interesting activities, but why leave the warming glow of that titanic television. You have all the time in the world, you can multitask.

And it goes without saying, but be sure to purchase as much property around town as you desire. Why lounge in the same crib every day when you can fly across town and crash anywhere you’d like? “If you lived here, you’d be home by now” should be your mantra, no matter where your journey takes you.

Feel the Wind in your Hair

WeeeeeeGiven your enemies’ predisposition toward owning tanks, you probably want to live in a place that is as high in the sky as possible. This is ideal for our next tip, which boils down to “never use a door as an exit ever again”.

As we’ve already mentioned, you pretty much have to be as popular as possible to achieve the immortality you now possess, which means a lot of unwashed masses at the door. They want to see you, touch you, and, in some cases, lob a molotov cocktail at you. Don’t let that happen! Make it clear that you’ll be using your invulnerability for anything and everything, and dive off the top of your building and land wherever the wind takes you.

Sure, in your old, exposed days, this would have been a death sentence; but now you’re living large, and it’s the person you land on that will become a red smear, not your ageless body. Yes, you may reflexively scream, blackout, or even pull that parachute ripcord, but no matter what happens, you’ll be fine, and the various you-shaped holes around the city will stand as a monument to your magnitude.

Incidentally, if your adoring public is too large to clear with a simple jump off your balcony (or the wind today isn’t cooperating), feel free to take your helicopter, jet, or hoverbike out to a decent distance, and plummet from there. This will have the added effect of leaving a flaming vehicle crashing somewhere into the city, but don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of cash, you can always buy another one.

Think of the Little People

Upsie daisyJust because you don’t feel like dealing with the riffraff crushed up against your front door doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interact with the rascals at all. You’re immortal now, and it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone else in your immediate area knows what that feels like.

Let us consider our previous tip: no, the rabble of streets will never know the joys of achieving mach speed diving from the heavens like a human missile, but you can help them feel “the air up there” by hurling anyone and everyone into the air and allowing them to plummet delightfully down to Earth. A few bones may be broken in the process, but that’s a small price to pay to feel, if only for a few seconds, like you.

But that’s not all you can do to help those bottom feeders. Have you considered patronizing local businesses? You could visit any local Friendly Fire retailer, buy their entire inventory, and share it across the streets in generous helpings. Everyone is anxious to see how those futuristic uzis of yours work, and grenades make perfect stocking stuffers for Christmas or any time of year. Make your city a livelier place and share your hobbies at the same time. Everybody wins!

Petal to the Metal

WeeeeeWandering around on foot is for the pathetic and underprivileged, obviously you need a sweet ride to match your sweet lifestyle. A sports car says you have money, but it’s also available to every other rich jerk out there. You’re rich, yes, but you’re also immortal, so why settle for merely being identified as nouveau riche? You’re nouveau immortel.

In this case, the most obvious choice is a vehicle emblazoned with your dead friend’s bulbous head smoking an equally enormous cigar capable of detonating other drivers. If that is not immediately available, perhaps try souping up a more mundane vehicle with less than mundane improvements. A school bus with a custom paintjob is a great start, but add in a nitrous feed, and you’ll be tearing up the school zones even on snow days. A garbage truck will be chic when it’s loaded with gold bars and shredding around a mountain pass at 90 miles per hour.

And if you’re an immortal, that already means the public loves you, and believes your opinion is nothing less than the Word of God. As such, it is your power, nay, your duty to judge other cars on the road, and, if you find them wanting, launch them into the heavens. The method isn’t important (a nitrous bump if you’re on the road, utilizing your trusty rocket launcher if you’re walking around like a poor), but the message is clear, “This vehicle displeases me, and it should be banished from my sight.” You’re doing your city a favor.

Dance

Cha chaIn the end, what’s most important is that you relish your money, fame, power, and immortality. Take the time to enjoy yourself in any way you can, because, as the saying goes, who knows when a malevolent space alien may come and take it all away from you. In the meanwhile, though, just have fun with it, and damn anyone that disagrees.

Note: Please do not do anything outlined in this article. Not anything, not ever.

FGC #94 Saints Row: The Third

  • System: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and I’m betting there’s a PC version out there somewhere.
  • Number of Players: 2, with the odd caveat that I have played hours upon hours of this game, but never actually played any of the multiplayer modes. That is an extreme rarity, and as I have almost a compulsive need to share games I enjoy with my friends, but I guess I never thought too much of it for this one, as I was burned by GTA multiplayer in the past so badly, I never tried anything like it again.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Didn’t I? Oh, fine, yes, I unabashedly love this game, and mainly because it’s everything I enjoyed about GTA: San Andreas turned up to eleven. No, I’m not disparaging this game for being “yet another GTA clone”, I am praising it for noticing exactly what was fun in that game, and building an entire universe around that. At a time when Rockstar seemed to believe what the public wanted was to go on bowling dates with its most annoying uncle, Volition pumped out a game where you can run around naked save for your rocket launcher. And, oh yeah, they built a pretty amusing plot around the whole experience, too.
  • Immortality? If you’ve never played the game, or never played it to completion, the EXP system in SR3 allows you to, eventually, unlock invulnerability against all possible damage, and unlimited ammo Weeeeefor all your weapons. You would think this would make the game boring, but it’s only really available after everything else is completed, and it basically allows you to find new and interesting ways to turn the world into your playpen… or at least see which structures your Saint can bounce off of commendably.
  • Favorite Radio Station: Is it weird that I listen to the Adult Swim network the most? No it’s not, because Tim & Eric’s “Sports” song should be playing over 90% of the events of the game.
  • Favorite Rival Gang: There are a group of vindictive luchadores named The Luchadores. How could there be another choice? While The Deckers, a group of neon, Tron-esque hackers, do their best to steal the limelight, they’re just angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night. Or something.
  • Did you know? There is a weapon in the game that is… a dildo. In America, the weapon is called “The Penetrator”, but in Japan, the weapon is simply referred to as “Suspicious Bat”. This is so delightfully puritan (in a game that is anything but) that I must now refer to all remotely sexually items as “suspicious”. Suspicious websites. Suspicious magazines. Suspicious Sears Catalogue.
  • Would I play again: This would be a lock if it wasn’t for Saints Row 4. Even just replaying the game for this article, I was reminded how boringly slow and pointless it can be to wind up in some rocky area with no road access for a quick ride out. Walking is slow and stupid! SR4 improves this with the advent of amazing super powers, so that’s inevitably going to be my go-to for clowning around Steelport. If I ever get an impulse to play entirely through the single player campaign again, though, SR3 is my choice.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Demon’s Crest for the SNES. Criminy, ROB, you’re on a roll here with games I actually want to play. Keep it up! In the meanwhile, let us fly into the Demon Realm once more. Please look forward to it!

Kablowey

FGC #061 Bangai-O

Super Fighting RobotHere is my Jersey Devil story.

Actually, wait, I should probably explain that. See, I live in New Jersey, home of salt water taffy, the Jersey ShoreTM, and Fatteus Fatts, the fattiest fat in Fat Town. We’re also home to a local cryptid, the Jersey Devil, which, can’t stress this enough, is one single centuries-old demon that, surprisingly, really gets around. The tale of the Jersey Devil is an oddly enduring one, featuring poor Mother Leeds birthing twelve children, and then cursing the thirteenth to be a devil, because I guess every parent wants to see their child accomplish something, even if it’s just flight or goat mutilation. I encourage you, gentle reader, to research the Jersey Devil myth further, because the whole thing got going due to, apparently, almanac publishing feuds. New Jersey, everybody!

The origin of the Jersey Devil is unimportant, though, as what has endured is the fact that everybody has a Jersey Devil story. My school guidance counselor often weaved a tale of motorcycling down a local road around midnight and knowing, just knowing, that something was following him, matching his speed, from the woods. My first boss claimed he had seen the creature on a camping outing, when a… something came to join his troop fireside, and, yeah, all my buddies from the trip can confirm this, just give them a call. My own great aunt once even described a creature leaping above the tree line and temporarily shadowing the moon, and we don’t have any frogs that big around here, Bobby. I’m sure other regions have similar monsters and stories to accompany them, as legends like these are what make the world go ‘round.

KAPOWRecently, I’ve concluded that your exact maturity may be measured by your reaction to these stories. As a child, you believe everything you hear, and Santa Claus, the Jersey Devil, and your friend’s uncle who works for Nintendo are all equally valid, tangible creatures. In your teenage years, every adult is trying to lie to you at all times, because of course they are, so nothing is real, it’s all bullshit, man, and a sense of wonder is for whiney babies. But as an adult, you begin to believe again, not because you’ve suddenly grown more trusting of your peers (if anything, you’re likely even more jaded, just wearing fishnets less), but because, after your wild early years, you’ve learned that there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of on Wikipedia. Everyone has a Jersey Devil story because, whether they’ve met the malcontent himself or not, everyone has experienced something completely inexplicable, and it doesn’t matter if Robert Stack never heard of it, it happened.

So, it was my freshman year of college. I deliberately “went away” to college, because, seriously, have you met my parents? They seem to have improved over the years, but when I was a teenager? Oh man, worst human beings on the planet. So I ran off a solid two hours from home to get some of that edumacating, and left my video game systems at home, because I am well aware of my addictions, and I kinda actually wanted to learn something. This lasted for a solid week before I decided to import my Dreamcast, which was ideal for the poor college student, as it was already in its death throes by that time, and the entire library was selling for less than ten bucks used at any one of the local mall’s three Electronics Boutiques. The Gamecube would be released that November, so it is practically synonymous with that year in my mind, and then the Playstation 2 would migrate in by the second semester, for, I believe, Metal Gear Solid 2. STUFF IS HAPPENINGI at least stuck to my guns and never dragged a portable system to campus (I knew that would be the end of me), but, through it all, the Dreamcast was first.

My other educational safeguard was keeping my library not in my dorm, but the residence of my buddy Moko. This was, in retrospect, kind of an odd choice, as, while Moko had a TV, it had the same dimensions and fidelity as a cheeseburger. Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, and even Super Smash Bros Melee are all games that I remember most fondly on a screen roughly the size of a chiclet. The Gamecube had component cables? That’s great, but I’m still trying to figure out if this pink mush is Kirby or Jigglypuff. Roy? Do you mean Red Link?

Possibly as a result of all this, Bangai-O was a godsend. On the surface, Bangai-O is just a fun shooter game, complete with Treasure’s signature weirdness and anime influence. Come to think of it, it would have probably been game of the year for College Goggle Bob for those reasons alone. Have you seen the latest DVD of Akira yet? It’s totally rad. Anyway, Bangai-O’s greatest strength, in my humble opinion, is that, at a time when polygons were king and the more screen space your characters dominated, the better the game, Bangai-O decided to buck trends and just stick a tiny little robot in a great big environment and sprinkle a lot of bullets all over the place. Also, thick in the era of “Game has 80 hours of gameplay and a save point every half hour”, Bangai-O featured a host of bite-sized challenges that meant the player could enjoy themselves and make progress even if only five minutes were available. Bangai-O may be forgotten by a number of gamers now, but its emphasis on packed gameplay over graphics and respecting the player’s time can still be seen in later generations with games like Dead Rising or a whole slew of DS games (which, amusingly, eventually saw Bangai-O again).

But I remember Bangai-O for something else entirely.

Block puzzleIt was… I want to say March. It had to be past February, thanks to the games involved, and I remember it being kind of cold out, so March sounds right. I was alone in Moko’s dorm, attempting to conquer Master Mode in Gitaroo-Man, an excellent rhythm game for the PS2. For those of you that are unaware, Gitaroo-Man has a pretty casual Normal Mode, which then unlocks a Master Mode that expects you to have reflexes on par with particularly gifted cheetahs. As a result, I attempted to conquer the same (second) level repeatedly, failed continually, and, upon my eventual hard-won victory, decided I needed a break, so I switched over to Bangai-O.

As previously stated, Bangai-O is a shooter, and it’s a surprisingly complicated one. You are, in any stage past about Level 4, expected to, at all times, keep an eye on the terrain, fruit spawns, explosion meter, and, most importantly, an infinite hail of bullets and lasers. This, luckily, isn’t a game where one stray shot will immolate all your hard earned watermelons, but you do have to pay careful attention to all threats, whether they are overt blasts or debris falling from the sky. Speaking of debris, you’re also expected to manage that explosion meter effectively enough to unleash gigantic explosions of your own to demolish anything and anyone in your surrounding area. A well timed blast is, frankly, exhilarating, and its inclusion actually makes this one of the very, very few games where I don’t even care if my digital avatar survives the battle. Sure, I’d like to get that high score, but the actual minute-to-minute is just so much fun that I don’t care if I crash and burn.

Er-hem. I’m deviating from my original story of how Bangai-O granted me superpowers.

For some indeterminate timeframe, I played Bangai-O shortly after Master Mode Gitaroo-Man. It was… probably a period of no greater than an hour? Believe me, I’ve tried to duplicate this experiment, and I’m afraid the forgotten minutes involved are a factor. It may have been the time, it may have been the games, or it may even have been something to do with the teeny tiny television, but when I finally powered down the Dreamcast, I had been gifted with powers far beyond that of mortal man.

Ladies and gentlemen, for a scant half hour or so, time slowed down only for me.

DESTROYIt was, literally, the oddest experience of my life. I’ve never been a fan of drugs, and alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all, so perhaps this experience is standard for those that frequently indulge in mind-altering substances, but for me, perceiving reality at double slow speed was easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. It was almost exactly like someone hit the “slow” button on everything around me: humans, animals, and elevators alike, and I was operating like some kind of Bangai-O fueled Barry Allen. It was simultaneously amazing and wildly disconcerting, and it only ceased when, in a bout of just wanting the world to just go back to normal, I laid down on the floor for a little bit. Bad trip, man.

In a way, that’s my greatest regret from the experience: that I just panicked and gave up before I could do something actually interesting, like save some orphans from a burning building, or eat eleven tacos. Bangai-O literally temporarily altered my brain, and, with great power comes a great need to lie down. Lame.

So, sorry, I never encountered the Jersey Devil, and I don’t have any tall tales to tell around the campfire. But one day, thanks to one video game, I experienced something completely outside of reality, and maybe, just maybe, that’s good enough for a blog post.

FGC #61 Bangai-O

  • System: Originally it was on the N64, but only in limited quantities in Japan. Then it was on the Dreamcast, which is my jam. There was apparently a HD Xbox 360 version, too, but I seem to have missed it because… Huh… I’m going to blame this on Xbox 360 digital games being advertised poorly.
  • Number of Players: 1, right? There isn’t some crazy two player mode I’m missing? I mean, that does sound like it would be fun.
  • V POWERWeren’t you just complaining about N64 Treasure games? Yes, but this game does everything right. It actually has a use for its buttons, the cinematics are unobtrusive, and the graphics aren’t just programmers trying to play with their new toys. It’s a fine dichotomy of a company making a game at the start of a system versus its end.
  • Don’t watch anime: BEAT, this is a game starring Japanese high school students. Just so you’re aware.
  • It’s Thinking: Is this the first Dreamcast game I’m hitting for the site? Man, I loved that little system, just seemed like there was the exact right number of great games for it. Heck, I want to say that this was the system that finally perfectly emulated the arcade experience… just in time for arcades to die. And for Sega to leave consoles forever. Dreamcast: The best little pale rider.
  • Did you know? The manual itself says to change the default A/B/X/Y control configuration. How does that work? Like, couldn’t they have just made the recommended version the default, or was the instruction manual just made by a different department that actually realized how to play the game?
  • Would I play again: I am going to go find that Xbox 360 version right now!… Or soon, at least. My biggest gripe about this game is that it isn’t more readily available. A WiiU version for playing on screen and off? That would be amazing.

What’s Next? Nathan M, who I’m pretty sure is comments all-star Metal Man Master has chosen… Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts! I will admit, this one got up at the top of the list because I wanted another excuse to revisit that Rare Xbone collection, and I seem to be on a subliminal N64 kick anyway. So, it’s time for birds, bears, and automobiles. Please look forward to it!

Or it was all a dream?