Tag Archives: friendship

FGC #309 Excitebike

You are now hearing this song in your headLet us consider the life lessons of Excitebike.

Excitebike is a racing game featuring the player scooting along on his little (excite) motorcycle. Like any racing game, the goal is to get to the finish line in the shortest time possible. Like its spiritual descendant, Uniracers, Excitebike is stuck in a 2-D plane, so “racing” is nothing like modern 3-D affairs. Basically, your job is to steer your racer around and over obstacles, and carefully gauge your engine’s temperature. Keep cool metaphorically and literally, and you’ll come out on top. Fail to properly right your cycle or overheat your engine, and, well, kiss the checkered flag good-bye. It’s one of those “basic” early Nintendo games that is pretty straightforward in a one paragraph description, but can be difficult to get right every time during the heat of the race. Or you can just watch Excitebiker roll around like a tumbleweed, and get your jollies from the suffering of pixel people.

Obvious perversions aside, though, there are a few things that separate Excitebike from the typical “racing genre” fair. For one thing, there isn’t really a “grand prix” as we know it, and, aside from saved (temporarily) “best times”, there isn’t any real progression in the game (or, to be more precise, you don’t lose any progression after placing 30th). And the other big, confusing change for anyone used to typical racing games: there is no such thing as a “place”. Whether there are other racers on the track or you’re just by your lonesome, all that matters is your final time, and you may place “first” even if you saw a bunch of other losers cross the finish line ahead of you. Speed is king, the end.

And that is important.

Roll on!There are two modes in Excitebike: Selection A and Selection B. This was pretty common back in the old days of NES games, but, while I’m still trying to determine the distinction between Mode A and Mode B of Donkey Kong (is Mario wearing a different hat? No, that looks the same), SA and SB of Excitebike are very distinctive. Selection A is what might be today considered the Time Trial Mode. It’s just you and the (not so open) road, and your job is to get the best time available. All the same obstacles and pitfalls are here in SA, there are simply no other racers around to interrupt your perfect jumping. SB, as one might expect, winds up being more difficult, as it is very likely another racer is going to knock your biker down a few pegs. Perfect jump, perfect landing… and you’re still rolling around in the dirt because another racer happened to get in your way. Hell is other excitebikers.

But therein lies the lesson. One way to interpret the other racers is as mobile, marginally invincible impediments (you technically can trip another biker by hitting their rear tire… but your only reward for such an action is the smug feeling of causing another biker pain). On the other hand, you can watch your opponents, and actually learn.

Excitebike originated on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1984. Nintendo Power officially launched four years later, though the Nintendo Fun Club (which you should join, Mac) Newsletter was available a year earlier. This was also a time when “‘intenda games” were new and novel, and most adults did not expect a videogame to feature gameplay more complex than Pac-Man. FAQs? Tips and tricks? Classified information? Tips straight from the pros? There was none of that available to a player, and the best any school kid could hope for was some legit advice from a fellow gamer who miraculously wasn’t blathering about some nonsense HAMMER THAT A BUTTONcheat code to get Princess Toadstool naked. It was also a lot more likely that your source for videogame news was your best friend’s older brother, a scary individual that once sent you home in a garbage can when you claimed you could win at Duck Hunt. He wasn’t going to give you any tips, or he was, but you wouldn’t be able to hear them above the sound of endless noogies.

But Excitebike Selection B, that was something special. Mario got the tiniest of “attract” demos, Zelda got an intro enumerating all those magical items you’d never find, but Excitebike had a demonstration baked directly into the game. Don’t know how to properly balance your cycle after a jump? Watch. Afraid you’re going to hit that ramp the wrong way? Watch. How do you hurdle those… hurdles? Pop your bike back into the upright position, and watch. The computer plays fair, and you may watch that AI do everything right, and thus you can do everything right. No more do you have to rely on playground gossip to be the best excitebiker out there; just watch, and learn from the pros.

Look at 'emAnd that’s the true lesson of Excitebike. You can stick to Selection A, play by yourself, and have a fun time. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, how about taking a lesson from your betters? How about hitting that Selection B, and seeing what all the real bikers are up to? Sure, it might be difficult getting stomped by the veterans zooming around the track, but every scrape and tumble is making you a better biker. Learn from your mistakes, learn from their mistakes, swirl all that information around in the blender that is Excitebike, and drink a delicious slurry of experience.

You’re allowed to see other people as moving obstacles. Or you can view them as a way to improve, and ultimately make your own life better for it. The selection is up to you.

FGC #309 Excitebike

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, and… uh… a surprisingly high number of other systems. Arcade and 3DS come to mind, but I want to say there was a Gameboy Advance release in there, too. Oh, and that blasted NES Mini while we’re at it.
  • Number of players: Let’s include Vs. version, and say two. One way or another, this was a great game for competing with one controller to see who got the best times.
  • So how does Design fit into this life philosophy? Uh… some people like to blaze their own trails, I suppose. There, that sounds right. Make your own excitetrack, like the Buddha.
  • Did you know? Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium was a Japan-only Satellaview remake of Excitebike that featured the Super Mario Bros. ensemble. The gameplay was largely unchanged, and the graphics were very reminiscent of Mario Kart, but it’s fairly notable for being the first game with a “friendly” competitive Wario. In case you’re curious, yes, he was still completely obsessed with coins.
  • Would I play again: Probably. Excitebike is a fun little game to play for five minutes, and it seems to pop up here and there on random retro releases. So I’ll probably play it again, but mostly by accident.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below! How many slimes can we kill in five minutes? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

Winner!

FGC #004 Mortal Kombat Trilogy

Stryker is bad and should feel badMortal Kombat is a sincerely weird series.

Right from the get-go, MK was a strange mix of realistic graphics and over the top gore, famously featuring a masked ninja effortlessly plucking the head and spinal column from a blonde in gym wear. Somehow, seven random fighters (“A Japanese god and… how about an Australian cyborg? Do we have one of those yet?”) with approximately three special moves apiece and barely any variation in “normal” moves combined to form a Voltron of unstoppable arcade juggernautery. I almost feel bad for the makers of Street Fighter II, who must have put hours of effort into something as silly as every last fighter having an “electric x-ray” animation in response to one character’s special move, and then watched as Mortal Kombat flew to the top of the pack based exclusively on its ability to just tear your heart out.

Oh, and Goro. Goro was always pretty cool.

Mortal Kombat quickly begat Mortal Kombat 2, which was a typical video game sequel: more of the same, with maybe a few bits of “silly” tossed in to offset the ultra-violence. Don’t worry, moms, we’re all in on the joke here! Your kids can’t turn into dragons, right? See, it’s all whimsical, loony tunes violence. Please ignore that fellow with the hat bisecting that man with the swords in his arms.

Bunny!Speaking of Looney Tunes, this is about where the insane mythology creep started, as Mortal Kombat was no longer a martial arts tournament hosted by an ancient master, oh no, this was all a plot by the ruler of another dimension that got all of its fashion tips from Mad Max. And that green ninja hiding in the first game? He’s a member of an ancient lizard race and secretly fighting for oh man I cannot finish this sentence.

Can’t we just have a ludicrous four armed dragon man without having to explain his entire breed’s history?

And then came Mortal Kombat 3, where we learned the four armed dragon men had a long standing rivalry with the fanatical horsey man with the metal tail.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy is appropriately named, as it is the third version of the third game in the Mortal Kombat series. Featuring the largest cast Mortal Kombat would ever see until Mortal Kombat Armageddon (effectively Mortal Kombat Trilogy 2), you’ve got a lot of choices for pummeling in MKT, from She-Goro to She-Kahn or even She-Reptile (note that She-Sub-Zero would not be introduced until Mortal Kombat 5, and we’d have to wait until MK6 for She-Kano). There’s even some male characters, like Yellow Ninja, Blue Ninja, Prince Reference, Red Ninja, and two versions of Gray Ninja! How do those boys at Midway come up with this stuff!?

Shake it, sisterSecret shame? I might be a little harsh here with a series that is, at its core, just an excuse for roundhouses and uppercuts, but the sad truth is that I eat this stuff up with a spoon. I have always been a sucker for “comic book” universes, and Mortal Kombat is no exception. You can sell me one hundred issues of the Green Lantern Corps fighting the Yellow Lantern Corps and better watch out for the Red Lantern Corps, and you can keep me up all night on a wiki detailing the full exploits of the guy named after a temperature.

Let’s take a look at the theoretical Mortal Kombat mascot: Scorpion. For those of you that are unaware, Scorpion is literally part of Mortal Kombat’s current caretakers’ logo and has appeared in nearly every Mortal Kombat game and spin off (he missed the original version of Mortal Kombat 3, but swung back in with a vengeance in MK3 Ultimate and Trilogy). Scorpion is the face of Mortal Kombat, and no one has ever had any idea what to do with him.

In Mortal Kombat I, Scorpion was a simple skeleton man that wanted revenge on Sub-Zero, who had forcibly caused Scorpion to lose about eleven pounds during a previous, fatal encounter. Fire Ghost vs. Ice Man, a tale as old as time. Scorpion wound up scoring the only fatality to canonically take place during Mortal Kombat I, and introduced Sub-Zero to his own private burning man exhibition. Flame Wraith gets his revenge, end of story.

Mortal Kombat 2 sees Sub-Zero return, and Scorpion could swear he remembers killing that guy, but maybe his fireball missed? Or Smokey the Bear put him out? Who knows, Scorpion telejumps at the chance to double kill Sub-Zero. But Scorpion finds that, whoops, this Sub-Zero is actually the younger brother of the dead Sub-Zero, and cools his skull down to friendly fire levels. Young Sub-Zero seems to bear Scorpion no ill-will for his part in his brother’s flambé, which, really, we could all learn a lesson here about forgiving unstoppable murder skeletons.

Shao Kahn gets downright glutinous in Mortal Kombat 3, attempts to steal all the souls on Earth and in Hell, and accidentally releases Scorpion to roam the Earth and thrash ninja robots. Scorpion’s bio for the game claims he’s unaffiliated with any side, so he’s just running around, throwing spears at folks because it seems like something to do. Suppose it beats Hell.

Toasty!Scorpion remembers nothing and goes right back to trying to kill Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 4. Scorpion completely flakes on not only having already killed Sub-Zero, but also learning that Current Sub-Zero is not Dead Sub-Zero. Scorpion comes this close to committing murder for absolutely no reason, but pulls back when he learns that Quan Chi, the Shang Tsung of MK4 (… err… MK2 Shang Tsung), was actually responsible for his family’s death. Whoops! Scorpion is actually pretty good at this vengeance thing, so he drags Quan Chi to Hell… wait… we’re calling it the Nether Realm now.

In what seems to be one part Dante and one part Three Stooges, Scorpion continues to torture Quan Chi until the start of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. He just chases him around not-Hell, swinging his axe all over the place and presumably repeatedly shouting something about getting over there. Quan Chi eventually found a couple of oni (onis? It’s just one of those words you hope you never need to know the plural), was like, “Hey, you guys? That yellow ninja guy said yo’ mama so fat, when she sits around the third circle of Hell, she sits AROUND the third circle of Hell!” Quan Chi then scampered off and started the titular Deadly Alliance while Scorpion dealt with the dual oni, Bashy and Pigpen. According to canon, Scorpion didn’t even really participate in MK:DA, and was simply tossed into a soulnado (glossary: soulnado: a tornado of souls) which sent Scorpion off to the Realm of the Elder Gods, effectively MK’s Heaven.

The afterlife of the Mortal Kombat universe is peculiar and terrible.

The Elder Gods are basically DC’s Guardians of the Universe: know-it-alls from the dawn of time that somehow have never made a worthwhile decision within our generation. The Elder Gods take one look at Scorpion, avenging demon from Hell, and unanimously decide to elect Scorpion as their champion, successfully making him the champion of all of existence. I don’t need to add anything to that, do I? Flaming Vengeance Incarnate is the defender of all that has ever been? Gonna end poorly.

And it does! All of reality gets sucked down the toilet, and Lord Raiden reboots all of existence after making a brief stop over in the DC Universe. A new world is formed in Mortal Kombat 9, and… Scorpion is a vengeful wraith hell bent on liquefying Sub-Zero. Go with what you know, right?

Penguin!Now we’re up to Mortal Kombat X, home of a very much alive Scorpion. How did that happen? I’d claim you should play the game and find out for yourself, but, spoilers, it’s because Cyber Sub-Zero was a hit in Mortal Kombat 9, and the writers needed a new “the same, but different!” iconic character. So, Scorpion, best known as “Ninja Ghost Rider” is now some Asian guy with inexplicable fire powers. Of course, if Cyber Sub-Zero is any indication, Scorps will be back to normal by next game, probably due to a flesh mangling accident with a paper shredder Sub-Zero was trying to repair or something, so let’s not get too used to the new status quo.

Bizarro PitMy point to all this nonsense? Mortal Kombat’s story is about as well plotted and forward thinking as your average DC comics plot (Hal Jordan: Hero, Out-of-Touch Old Man, Super Villain, Dead, Alive, Greatest Hero Ever, Renegade, Space Hobo). Mortal Kombat Trilogy is an early, lame effort to bring these characters together for one final showdown before beginning the truly terrible era of “games no one liked that introduce sixteen new characters a game that are all the same as the previous characters, but maybe with different hair” (MK: GNOLTI16NCAGTAATSATPCBMWDH). It is impossible to play this game today without seeing the insanity of the future stretching before it, and it’s retroactively ruined an experience that could just be a man with metal arms shooting missiles at Elvira.

Or maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve wasted so much valuable brain space on this series. Did you know Stryker was originally intended for Mortal Kombat I? See the original idea…

FGC #4 Mortal Kombat Trilogy

  • System: N64, Playstation
  • Number of Players: 2, really. 8 in a “tournament”, but good luck getting that going.
  • This Roster Looks Familiar: It is, give or take, exactly the same as the MK9 roster. Assuming Random ROB ever chooses that game, I’ve got a lovely post about reliving past glories all ready to go.
  • Admit it, you’ve played this and Killer Instinct Gold more hours than you’ve devoted to anything else in your life: Never!
  • PSX or N64: The N64 is lacking the ability to play as the bosses and unmasked Sub-Zero, and it lacks the PSX’s one-button fatality cheat that makes life so much better. On the other hand, the load times on the PSX edition are atrocious, particularly in a game where matches are over in fifteen seconds. So, good news, we’re all losers! Maybe the Saturn version was best, but I’m not buying this game again!
  • Did you know? The PSX version is the only MK game where you can play as a centaur without any kind of code. This should be an option in other games. I’m not talking about just other Mortal Kombat games, I mean every video game. Think about it. Princess Zelda is just chilling in Ganon’s clutches, and to her rescue is Link, brave Hylian Centaur of Lore. Wait. Nevermind, just googled that. Bad idea.
  • Would I play again? Exclusively for nostalgia purposes. The actual nuts and bolts of playing this game are improved upon in every conceivable way by Mortal Kombat 9. Assuming some centaur-related DLC was ever released for that game, we’d have absolutely no reason to turn on MKT again.

Quite the Fatality

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Yoshi Touch & Go. Woof. Alright. Let’s see how that shakes out, you stupid robot. Please look forward to it!