Tag Archives: fanfic

FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

Welcome to HellWhen I was a young boy, my father forced me to get a job. There weren’t many places that would hire a child, so I became a paperboy. Thus, for two years, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn, bike down to the newspaper office, pick up a stack of papers (that was easily heavier than I was), and deliver papers all through the neighborhood. There was no way to enjoy this. If I failed to deliver to the right house on time, I was punished. If I delivered to the wrong house, I was punished. And, of course, if I was late to school because of some stupid dog or a particularly chatty old lady, I was punished there, too. Every morning, in the scorching heat or the freezing cold, I was out there delivering papers, while my contemporaries slept, cozy and unemployed in their beds. “Surely,” I thought to myself for two endless years, “This job must be Hell.”

In time, I grew older, and finally graduated to a job that could at least be done inside and at a reasonable hour. And, while I may have cursed his name for a number of reasons over the years, I suppose my father’s lesson did pay off, as I learned I never, ever wanted to have another job outside performing manual labor ever again. I went to college. I got degrees. I became a white collar professional, and, while I may have had to step over a few broken bodies to attain excellence, I eventually found myself quite content with my station in life. And, if I may say so, watching print media slowly die did offer me some small amount of schadenfreude, even if it meant I couldn’t push my own children into the same “cycle” my father started. I suppose that may have been a good thing.

Though I guess I didn’t do enough good things, as, upon my death, I found myself in Hell.

And, with no explanation whatsoever, I found myself back on that same bicycle, back in that same neighborhood, back with those same papers. I was a boy on his paper route, again, and damned to be one for all of eternity.

WIN!At first, everything was pretty straightforward: I pedaled down familiar streets, delivered papers to expectant subscribers, and then, when I was done, I was forced back to the newspaper office to start the process all over again. Sometimes the weather would change, sometimes I would be told different homes were my targets, but, more or less, it was what I remembered. Then… things started to change. The first major switch-up was that the newspaper office outright disappeared. I suppose some infernal demon realized I could actually take a whole five minute break while I was picking up fresh papers, so, nope, I’m stuck pedaling forever, my calves growing more swollen by the day. Now I have to pick up new bundles of papers from the streets themselves, and, should I run out, I’m chastised just the same as when I miss a house (or damage a window or pedestrian… I admit I may have initially tried to… rattle the chains of my captors). What’s more, the “hazards” of my childhood have all come to revisit me continually, so I am faced with marauding dogs and vicious neighbors. I am nearly mowed down by an errant car every other minute. What’s more, I am beset by dangers I only imagined in my mundane childhood, like statues that spew flames, or the specter of Death himself. I know… in my rational mind… I know that I am already dead… but still… that pale, ghastly visage continues to haunt me.

But this… even this I could get used to. The punishments, the monsters… it did become what was simply my life (or my afterlife, as the case may be). I’d bike down the same streets, deliver the same papers, and that was it. It was Hell, but it was my Hell, and I expect that could be enough.

But this is Hell. They found a way to make it worse. After fifteen years, I was inflicted with the greatest punishment they could imagine: freedom.

OwieMy route had always been a straight line. I would pedal down endless streets and deliver endless papers. It was distressing, but, after a while, I learned that it required very little thinking. I’d keep my eye out for my targets, and if I missed, that was that. I did everything I could, after all.

But now… now they decided to grant me autonomy. Horrible, mind-destroying free-will.

I realized the change almost immediately: I could now pedal in any direction. I could turn around. I could visit the other side of the street. I could… jump. At first, I was elated. “Finally,” I thought, “Someone thinks I’ve paid my dues. I might still be stuck down here, but I’m not stuck in that awful, robotic rut. I can do whatever I want!” But, no, the reality of my unreality quickly caught up with me. I still had to deliver papers. I still had to dodge homicidal dogs. I still had to do everything I did before, but now I was granted the teeniest, tiniest taste of independence… only to be doomed to never enjoy it. I still had a strict, condemning time limit. I could leap my bike over ramps, feel the wind in my hair, and enjoy my existence for once… but if I did that… If I spent too long on pleasure… then the pain… the punishments would be even worse. And then I would have to start the whole route over again, knowing full well that the “fun stuff” was there and available, but experiencing it again would mean… I don’t want to think about it.

Hell… Hell had become more hellish.

Might as wellAnd they taunted me even more! Where once I was constrained to my old, familiar neighborhood, now I was forced to deliver papers in more exotic locales. A trailer park might not seem like anyone’s idea of a vacation, but the smell of barbecue and kids playing outside while you’re stuck pedaling and pedaling is… cruel. And then I was forced to deliver at a camp ground! And the beach! When I eventually found myself in a dark, monster-infested town, complete with Frankenstein’s Monster and a vampire or two, I thought someone was just plain running out of ideas. But I didn’t have time to think that for long, as now I was being chased by dogs with three heads. And then I was back to my old neighborhood again, forced to relive the loop of changing neighborhoods until I delivered enough papers.

But it’s never enough. I can never satisfy the quotas. I can never escape this Hell. I will be here… I will be here forever.

I am the paperboy now, and that’s all I will ever be.

FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

  • System: Probably N64. Let me check here… Yep! N64.
  • Number of players: There can be only one paperboy.
  • Or Papergirl: Oh, yes, the game does offer you the option of being a papergirl. It’s kind of weird that most of the Papergirl’s canned voice clips compare herself to Paperboy, though. Eat your heart out, Paperboy, indeed.
  • LaboratoryMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s an attempt to make the original Paperboy more of a “modern” (circa 1999) game, but… it doesn’t really work so well. The original Paperboy is basically a shoot ‘em up with an unusual premise and perspective, and attempting to add collectibles and “free roaming” is about as effective as making a Gradius game that plays like Mario 64. This actually may have been an impressive concept back in the bygone past of the 20th Century; but nowadays, it’s right up there with Atari revivals like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. Oh, also, it’s ugly as hell.
  • And there are bosses: Yes, there are bosses in a game about delivering papers. Yes, the bosses are simple “throw papers at the weak point” affairs. Yes, it is completely boring and flimsy.
  • Favorite Neighborhood: Pelican Beach has friendly dolphins! Or it should!
  • Did you know? Neither Paperboy nor Papergirl wear a helmet while delivering papers. This is dangerously unsafe.
  • Would I play again: I compared the game to an eternal hell. What do you think?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Drakengard 3 for the Playstation 3! Let’s drag this dragoon into fun times! Please look forward to it!

FGC #249 Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen

This review is ogreOgre Battle aka Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen is a TRPG from way back in the early nineties. I never played the title on its original SNES cartridge, but I did quickly pick up the Playstation edition (ironically due to extensive Nintendo Power coverage). According to this memory card I have here, I apparently beat the game. That… kind of makes sense? This would have still been the “early Playstation” era, the tail end of my “childhood” years when I didn’t have enough (or, really, any) disposable income to buy new games. If I’m being honest, nowadays I would never have completed this TRPG, as, come on, TRPGs are boring. But back in ’97 or so, yeah, I’d be all over finding every secret and recruiting every available character.

Except… I kinda forgot how I did that. I know I beat this game. I know I played it for hours… but I don’t really remember that much of it. I know my heroine used her ice blast so much, Disney based a musical on her, and I know vampires are rad, but that’s about it. I think there may have been a demon in there somewhere? I think?

So, in the interest of this not happening again, I’ve referenced a few wiki pages, replayed some of the game, and slapped together a brief synopsis of the plot of Ogre Battle. This is for the benefit of future generations (or just my failing memory).

ChillyOgre Battle starts with an unnamed hero… but it’s our duty to name him… so let’s call him Mike. Mike is just chilling in Zeltenia, minding his own business, not doing a damn thing, when he is accosted by some of the Black Queen’s soldiers. This seriously harshes Mike’s buzz, and he’s a cranky sort, so he decides to put together a little rebellion and toss the Black Queen out on her duff. However, he’s up against an entire army, and you can only repel huge masses of people alone in JRPGs, not TRPGs. So Mike begins to amass an army, and immediately picks up a goofy sidekick, Warren. Warren is a fast –talking wizard that “can see the future”, but, in reality, he’s pretty much just a judgmental ass. First thing this guy does is claim he knows Mike better than anybody because of some stupid tarot card reading. Shut-up, Warren, nobody is buying that Princess Cleo crap.

So the obvious answer to the problem here is to march right up to Queen Endora’s castle and demand that these damn soldiers stop mucking all over the place, but she’s still got a bigger army than everybody and the throne. So what’s Mike going to do? He decides it’s best to fight through a few stupid fetch quests. So he picks up… let’s see here… The Star of Heroes, the Key of Destiny, and, oh yeah, Tristan, the adorable scamp that is the real heir to the throne. That’s handy to have!

SPELLS!  FUTURE!  WIZARD STUFFMike also met Norn along the way. Norn had previously lived the sheltered life of a priestess, and she was forever cursed to be separated from those she cared about. Initially, she is irritable towards Mike, but she eventually softens and seems to develop a sense of comradery with the rebel leader. Also, despite being “just a priestess”, she kind of kicks ass, so that’s a plus.

But not everything is friendship and magic! Queen Endora had the short and short-tempered Sage Rashidi on the payroll, and he wanted to own the whole of the land just as badly as the next guy. And it turns out he got his chance when Mike wiped the floor with Endora and her generals, and Rashidi was free to summon an unspeakable, ancient evil. You know, as you do. So the Black Queen was a feint all along, and Rashidi was the real enemy. And he’s got a dragon! Three of ‘em! Okay, technically he just controls the guys that control the dragons, but still, that’s basically like having your own dragon(s).

So, once again, Mike fetch quests all over the place, and I think Warren fell in love with one of the dragons somewhere along the way. Mike never played Saga Frontier, so he didn’t know you’re not supposed to mix tarot and rune magic, so he gathered up the twelve zodiac stones to banish Rashidi once and for all. And… then he did. OuchWhat, did you think this game would have an unhappy ending? Well, okay, it often does have a calamitous ending, because it is next to impossible to understand exactly how the whole alignment/fame system works, but let’s just claim that defeating Rashidi was all Mike ever had to do.

Rashidi is devoured by a dragon, Mike gets the girl (let’s say… Norn) and everybody dances around like an idiot to a Smash Mouth cover. There. Ogre battle is ogre.

FGC #249 Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen: Love is Ogre Edition

  • System: Super Nintendo initially, but only in extremely limited quantities. Playstation (1) saw a rerelease, and it was named the “limited edition” despite being more bountiful than the SNES version. And there was a Japanese Saturn version, too. Incidentally, if you want the SNES version, just check the Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: I want to claim that there should be a market for multi-player TRPGs, as, ya know, chess has been a thing for eons. And I’m going to keep saying this until it changes!
  • Feelies: For whatever reason, the Playstation “limited edition” came with memory card stickers. So, for the rest of time, I have a green memory card with an Ogre Battle sticker as its label. Oddly, my actual Ogre Battle game save is on a different memory card…
  • Boo-urnsHow does this game work? I have no earthly idea. I’ve read the FAQs. I’ve poured over Nintendo Power’s tips straight from the pros. I even checked the wiki once or twice. I’m pretty sure I know how to play this game while maintaining good, friendly stats… but it never works out. And I can’t even recruit the bad guys for some quixotic reason! I wanted a demon on my team, dammit!
  • Favorite Character: Deneb is the Pumpkin Queen!
  • Favorite Unit: And, similarly, I gravitate toward the bad boys with all werewolf/vampire teams. I like day/night cycles in games typically, but I like them even more when my soldiers transform into wolf monsters and tow around coffins.
  • Did you know? On Queen’s second album, the indolently named Queen II, the sixth track is titled “Ogre Battle”, and the ninth, “The March of the Black Queen”. I’m going to assume “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke” had an impact on the proceedings as well.
  • Would I play again: I barely remember playing it in the first place… but I don’t think I’ll play it again. This is almost a wholly unique game in my collection, but it’s also kind of a drag. I respect Ogre Battle, and that’s why I’m not going to play it again.

What’s next? It’s number 250! And for our big round number du jour, Random ROB has chosen… Kid Icarus for the NES! Oh, that’s a good one! We come in threes here on the FGC, so let’s make a week of it. Get ready for more Kid Icarus than you can handle! Please look forward to it!

Make it explicit

FGC #245 Super Bomberman 2

Plasma changed color?The last time we saw a console Bomberman experience was seven years ago, back in happier times when the president wasn’t orange/bonkers and Super Mario Galaxy 2 had just been released. The last time Bomberman seemed nationally relevant was four years earlier than that, when Bomberman: Act Zero made us all laugh ourselves stupid at a realistic re-envisioning of a character that is best recognized with a purple deeley-bopper. And even before all that, twenty whole years ago, Bomberman 64 was the last time Bomberman was spoken of in the same tones as Mario and Zelda. Or… well… at least he got mentioned in Nintendo Power. That’s kind of the same thing. And, if you go back even further than that, to the far off epoch of 1994, you’ll find Super Bomberman 2, a game starring the titular Bomberman opposite The Dastardly Bombers, a group of nogoodniks that only ever appeared in one North American console Bomberman game.

So imagine my surprise when they were announced as the headlining antagonists of Super Bomberman R, a 2017 Nintendo Switch launch release.

So, since it’s been 23 years since Super Bomberman 2, I broke out the ol’ Know Your Bombers trading cards to help everyone get caught up in time for Super Bomberman R.

COLLECT 'EM ALL

FGC #245 Super Bomberman 2

  • System: Super Nintendo. It’s super!
  • BLOPNumber of players: Four! The original Super Bomberman came with the super multitap, and I’m betting pretty much everyone that snagged Super Bomberman also went for Super Bomberman 2. Well, except the six guys that just wanted that multitap for Secret of Mana.
  • Favorite Bomber Color: This was the first Bomberman (that I played) where you could freely choose your bomber’s color (as opposed to being stuck with white/black/red/blue forever). Green is a fine choice, but I have a tendency to go for Purple Bomberman. He’s so… regal.
  • Poor decisions: There are two additional stages in battle mode that are hidden by a secret code. They’re… not that exciting? They’re fun, and they’re “classic” stages, but I can’t find any rhyme or reason for why they’re hidden. It isn’t even a “beat the game to unlock” situation, they’re just… secret stages for the sake of being secret. What’s your angle here, Bomberman?
  • Did you know? Legend tells of Milon skulking around the password screen. Actually, there are four Milons to be found. That’s four more Milons than should ever be allowed on the Super Nintendo.
  • Would I play again: Here’s hoping Super Bomberman R supplicates any and all desires to return to this classic. Then again, if jelly bombs aren’t included…

What’s next? We’re going to look at the launchiest launch game of all time. No, not Mario. Let’s try something with a few more sports. Please look forward to it!

PUNT

FGC #225 Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow

Move alongCastlevania Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow revealed something important about the Castlevania Mythos: Dracula rules a castle of eclectic monsters because he stole the souls of every one of those beasts. In retrospect, this makes perfect sense, because, what, you think Dracula was paying Frankenstein to be eternally whipped to death by some barbarian dude? No, of course not, Dracula sees what he wants and takes it, whether that be souls or delicious cherry pop. End of the day, Dracula populated his abode with monsters from all over the place pretty much because he could, and I can’t blame a dude with a fabulous cape for wanting a few ectoplasmic entities floating about to add to the décor.

But then you have to contemplate: how did Dracula get all these wonderful toys?

Consider the zombies and skeletons that infest any given castle of chaos. These guys are obvious, right? Right from the start, nitwits with weapons slightly less effective than whips attempted to raid Dracula’s castle, and, whether they got past the first hallway or not, their collective tales ended in failure. Maybe it was the random bats (they’re indigenous), the basement full of mermen, or poor architectural upkeep leading to a number of staircase incidents, but, one way or another, Dracula probably had a plethora of human souls to toy with by the first time Trevor showed up. And why let a soul go to waste. Still got your skin? Go skulk around the entryway, you zombie. Feeling a little more boney? Then toss your infinity ribs at any invading vampire hunters. And if you don’t feel like being on the front lines, why not make Drac some curry? Special positions are still available for any lady zombies that have flesh and karate skills (and maybe a bone-based vacuum). And if your raid on Dracula’s castle was somehow a couple’s event, then feel free the haunt one of our many luxurious ballrooms. You’ll never want to leave!

OuchThen we start to get into the fun bits. Want to know why Dracula didn’t set up shop immediately after Legacy of Darkness (the game wherein Dracula rose to power through defeating the nefarious but generally nonthreatening Walter)? It’s because he went on a magnificent world tour! Whether you want a Medusa or just her head, you’ve gotta go to Greece. And while you’re there, why not grab a harpy or minotaur? Then it’s off to Mexico, because Quetzalcoatl ain’t gonna fly over to your castle just to hang out with fleamen. Balore and wargs love northern Europe, and Amalaric Snipers are really into the local goth scene. The Salem Witches probably come from somewhere, though I can’t immediately figure out where. Oh, and Mothman? There was an… incident involving a helpful peasant mishearing Dracula and providing directions to Pennsylvania. Got a random cryptid and an extra zombie soul out of that mistake.

A portion of Castlevania’s bestiary is clearly the result of Drac’s do-it-yourself, can-do attitude. Alura Une is the consequence of watering normal plants with blood? Great! Some of the walls of the castle have been bleeding lately, and it’s a shame to throw out good wall-blood. And while we’ve got the gardening equipment out, may as well get those skeletons to harvest screaming vegetables. And if some of the local slugs grow large enough to eat people, hey, bonus. Drac randomly stopping by a synagogue for a few weeks led to a few DIY golems, and any extra materials may be recycled into haunted tombstones. The haunted tables were just a happy accident. And that dang Quetzalcoatl seems to keep leaving his spare heads around the place, so let’s build those into chic pillars. An afternoon and a little superglue later, and you’ve got a lovely corner piece that incidentally is capable of incinerating your enemies. Hooray!

EwAnd then there are the more… interesting denizens of the castle. You know how Dracula always says he’ll return from the dead stronger than before? Well, he’s not talking about himself. Every trip to Hell is basically a scouting mission for our favorite vampire, and, despite the fact that he’s only there because he got his head whipped off (again!), the demons are dimly aware that Drac can get you a night or two off from eternal torment every century or so, so why not join up with the blood sucker? Giant pig monster with a cleaver? Come on down! Winged demons of all shapes and sizes? Get over here! We’re giving away free tridents, so if oversized metal forks are your thing, this is the castle for you! Cthulhu? Gas sha haftft u’a’ ha’a! And a locust summoning cricket destined to usher in the apocalypse? Man, what took you so long!?

And then Death just kinda brought Slogra and Gaibon to the party, and Dracula was like, “Yeah, sure, whatever. I didn’t know you had other friends, but it’s cool. It’s cool.”

GrossAnd, before you know it, Drac’s got a fully stocked castle. Mermen are happily swimming downstairs, skeletons are practicing their boomerang tossing, and some manner of long-legged owl is dominating a hallway or too. Vlad doesn’t even remember when the werewolves started showing up, but they seem to get along with the minotaurs well enough. The only hiccup seems to be that one zombie that is worryingly fond of his dog, but as long as he stays way the hell downstairs, Dracula is a happy vampire. It’s great when a plan comes together.

So good luck, Celia Fortner. I know you’re trying to get a whole new “Dark Lord” going with your candidates, but it’s pretty clear that centuries of development went into the original Dark Lord’s plan, and you can barely manage two jerks with bad haircuts. Did you think you could just dig up a devil foregemaster and be done with it? It’s not Soma that is going to wreck this evil plan, it’s a lack of dedication to the details that need to go into such an endeavor. Celia, do you have any idea how difficult it is to train a skeleton to serve food? Go back to your bush league, wannabe, and wait until Soma wants to go on his own globe spanning cruise. Then we might see some results.

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow: proving once again that it ain’t easy being Dracula.

FGC #225 Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow

  • System: Nintendo DS and… is that it? I… think so?
  • Number of players: Oh, this one is two player! Kinda! Like, you can design your own “dungeon”, and then a second player can challenge that dungeon. And there’s a soul trading option! This game is basically as two-player as Pokémon.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: The entire reason I don’t “review” videogames is because of titles like this. I like Dawn of Sorrow, but not as much as Aria of Sorrow. Why? I can’t really tell you. ZAPMaybe it’s because a few of the areas (like the imprisoned tower, clocktower, and entire ending section) feel like “levels” and less like Metroid-y zones. That said, I still love this game, and some of its more… interesting residents have a certain edge over Tsuchinoko.
  • The Holy Trinity: Julius mode is amazing in this game, and the ability to switch between three characters in a manner similar to Castlevania 3 is the bee’s knees. Though it’s a shame that restoring health is a bear, and most of the bosses require some very dedicated memorization. That said, I guess that does make it an old-school Castlevania experience.
  • Favorite Soul: This time, I have to go with Gergoth and his palm-based laser. There’s just something pleasant about vaporizing Groot like it ain’t no thang.
  • Favorite Boss: Puppet Master wins for being one of the most singularly creepy bosses in Castlevania, and possessing an interesting gimmick that seems insurmountable at first, but becomes manageable with a little observation. Or maybe that was just me? I just know that I wound up dying a lot to that creature the first… seventeen times I fought it.
  • Yum!A moment for Dmitrii: The best part of this game is battling Dmitrii, the man with the mimic powers, and seeing just how badly he can screw up those abilities. Have you ever tried licking him? It works out well.
  • Speaking of Bosses: Is there a way to beat Abadon, the lord of locusts, without abusing various souls? Is there a “naked” solution? I usually just use a combination of bats and lasers until the bugs are all gone, but that feels vaguely like cheating.
  • Did you know? I believe the best way to beat the Iron Golems is utilizing the nunchakus. Nothing works better on a metal monster than a couple of chained pieces of wood.
  • Would I play again: Inevitably. I even kind of like the glyph sketching! I’m weird!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Monkey Ball for the Nintendo Gamecube! Break out the quarters, kiddies, it’s time to earn some vending machine monkeys! Please look forward to it!

Welcome back