Tag Archives: game gear

FGC #371 Taz-Mania (Sega Genesis) & Taz-Mania (SNES)

Gaming has changed a lot over the years. Nowadays, if a game is released for multiple systems, it is almost always the exact same game across different platforms, give or take a random feature or frame rate. Skyrim has been released for… let me do the math here… 70,000 videogame systems, and, by and large, every version has been, ya know, Skyrim. If there were some variation in there, you better believe you’d see promotion for the brand new Skyrim Jr., Skyrim Babies, or Skyrim: Centaurs Among Us editions. You buy Skyrim, you get Skyrim, and whether your buddy has an Xbox or Playstation, you’re both talking about the same dragonborn at the end of the day.

Back in the 90’s, things were not so simple.

We consider them members of the same console generation, but the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo videogame consoles were wildly different systems. For one thing, Super Nintendo had Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid, while Sega Genesis had Ecco the Dolphin. Ha ha! I’m joking, because I was primarily a Nintendo kid, and I absolutely will never get over those console wars. I lost good friends to that battle, and I’m not going to let young Jason’s sacrifices (he had a subscription to Sega Visions) be in vain. And why were there such console wars? Well, mostly because of advertising. But! Another significant factor was that a number of games for both systems were as different as their base consoles, so you could experience entirely different playstyles if you decided to pick up a title for Sega or Nintendo. Back then, even a humble Looney Tunes spin-off could be the spark that reignites the blaze of war.

He's the dad in Taz-ManiaTaz-Mania was always an odd duck. For reasons that I’m sure annoy tattoo artists to this very day, Taz the Tazmanian Devil became extremely popular in the early 90’s. This also roughly coincided with the rise of WB/Fox Kids animation domination, so, hot on the heels of Tiny Toons and just before the rise of Animaniacs, Taz got his own animated variety sitcom. This was… an odd choice. Taz was always popular for his general unleashed, unhinged, and non-verbal personality… so naturally they gave him a loving, perfectly normal nuclear family. Jean Tazmanian Devil is a dedicated housewife, and Hugh Tazmanian Devil is a Bing Crosby wannabe perfect father. Molly and Jake are archetypal siblings, and Dog the Turtle is a typical dog (who is a turtle). Basically, Warner Bros. Animation crafted an amusing farce where a feral beast is forced to live with a modern family that inexplicably and unconditionally loves the destructive eating machine. … And it suddenly becomes clear where my generation earned its absurdist sense of humor. Regardless, Taz was joined by a few other characters/shorts (because WB Animation seemed to assume that kids have the collective attention span of a particularly excited chihuahua), so even the main appeal of its chief character was lost for entire segments at a time. For a series that was ostensibly created to capitalize on Taz-mania (oh, I just got that), it sure took a weird route to get there.

But, like the Addams Family before it, it was considered a popular enough show to earn a videogame or two. The first release was Taz-Mania for the Sega Genesis. And, lo, it was good! As one might expect from the era, Taz-Mania was a 2-D platforming adventure featuring Taz questing after a giant egg, because eating things is funny. And Taz-Mania properly featured Taz’s excessive gluttony in other ways, too! Taz would devour anything he could fit in his giant maw, which included food, 1-ups, monsters, and even entire water bottles (he drank the water first, naturally). This even became an interesting gameplay wrinkle, as there were items like bombs and weed killer strewn about, and they could be used as items, but only if you made Taz resist devouring them outright. FrostyFun fact: weed killer is not a balanced part of a tazmanian devil’s diet. Beyond that, this was a gorgeous, fairly basic 2-D platformer, and the goal was to jump on everything from here to the end of the stage. You could even use Taz’s whirly attack every once in a while… but it’s generally not recommended, as it will absolutely get you killed.

Which was kind of the problem: Taz-Mania was super hard.

With save states and other modern innovations, the scope of Taz-Mania is easy to see. However, back in the day, this was a pretty basic platformer for a few levels, and then a series of instant death traps that would banish the player back to Level 1 pretty quickly. In fact, you could easily point toward one single mid-level stage, a freaking a mine cart level, that is a wall-to-wall Taz slaughter. No devils have any hope to survive, and the mere concept of reaching later stages is nothing more than a pipedream. There are a few other sticking points (floating logs introducing perspective to a 2-D game is particularly cruel), but, short of rote memorization, there was no way Taz was going to make it past some terrible mines. Not that the end game is that exciting! But not knowing how Taz’s adventure ends (it’s a fight against a giant seagull, ‘natch) might convince a poor Genesis kid that a purchase is better than a rental. Well played, Sega, well played.

And then, a scant few months later, Sunsoft released its version of Taz-Mania on the Super Nintendo. It was dramatically easier, and, incidentally, boring as hell.

WeeeeYou will never be able to convince me that Taz-Mania (SNES) did not start as a Wily E. Coyote game that was randomly modified to be a Taz-Mania tie-in. This title plays vaguely like SNES Mario Kart, and takes full advantage of Mode 7 capabilities to place Taz on an endless stretch of highway where he must catch kiwis (the highly mobile birds, not the much easier to catch fruit). Every level contains an escalating number of kiwis, and there are few hazards (like buses and… mostly just buses) to keep Taz down. After catching the requisite kiwis, Taz falls asleep, the kiwis escape his gaping maw (that’s how digestion works, right?), and the whole thing starts again. Repeat for five acts (worlds) with three stages each. Throw in a few bonus stages where you can catch infinity kiwis for a score that impacts nothing, and you’re got the entire game.

And, in this case, that’s the clear problem: after playing a whole one stage, you’ve seen everything this title has to offer. Later stages seem to climb in difficulty only by adding incredibly unfair traps (arrows will spawn practically on top of Taz, and presumably you’re supposed to dodge them by using psychic powers), but it’s mostly moot anyway, as devouring practically anything (including your kiwi goals) refills your health. Like the endless stretch of highway to which Taz has been sentenced, the game is just an interminable slog of the initial stage repeated a solid fifteen times. Backgrounds change, sometimes you see the Road Runner, and occasionally you’ll earn a powerup that makes Taz move slightly faster, but other than that, it is tedium. It’s tremendously more beatable than its Genesis cousin, but even the first act makes it clear that there’s no future for this Taz. It’s the exact same plot across both games (Taz hungry), but there is exactly zero reason to progress through the SNES version.

GULPSo who wins? Guess it depends on your mood. SNES-Mania is basically an endless runner (almost literally), and is good, repetitive fun if you’re in the mood for such a thing (the sales on mobile games seem to indicate this is true of at least some people). On the other (brown, furry) hand, you’ve got Genesis-Mania, which is a creative, intricate platformer that requires endless memorization or a healthy glut of cheating. It’s (God help me) the Dark Souls of 90’s WB Animation Game Tie-ins. So, in this situation, it’s like comparing apples and oranges, and one could no more declare a winner than objectively determine that ducks are more suited for space travel than vegemite. In this situation, both systems have their own, personal Tazs, and that’s just fine.

Which is nice for Sega, because the SNES wins at everything else.

FGC #371 Taz-Mania (Sega Genesis) & Taz-Mania (SNES)

  • System: Sega Genesis for the platformer, SNES for the runnin’ of the Taz. The Genesis game was compromised and ported to Master System and Game Gear, too. Also, there was a Gameboy version that had nothing to do with anything.
  • Number of players: Single player across the board. The SNES version could easily have had a head-to-head kiwi catching contest, but noooooo.
  • Favorite Level (SG): It’s a shame that the final area of Genesis-Mania is so difficult to reach, as its “ancient ruins” aesthetic is great for the level design, and contains a number of gags that indicate Taz’s ancient ancestors were just… Taz. He’s perennial!
  • Favorite Level (SNES): There is no way to tell these stages apart, and I will not entertain notions of trying.
  • OUCHLet’s Talk Cartoons: Given the choice, I’d take Taz-Mania the Series over a number of its descendants, like Histeria!, Animaniacs, and a third one that I know I’m forgetting. Freakazoid is the best, but Taz’s general… Tazness fit the variety show format well. Also, I really enjoy orange juice, and no one understands when I make that Hugh reference anymore.
  • Did you know? Genesis-Mania contains a complete debug cheat, which allows for level skipping, invincibility, and instant health restoration. SNES-Mania simply contains a level select code. Welp, I know one place where the Genesis version excels.
  • Would I play again: SNES version isn’t happening again, as I’m not one for score-based games. Genesis version is a maybe, but only with the assistance of save states and such. Or… probably not ever, because there are better games available in both genres. Sorry, guess the Taz stays in Taz-Mania.

What’s next? Our next SNES/Genesis matchup is… Billy and the Clone-Osaurus! There’s a park full of dinosaurs, and I guess we’re trying to escape it for some reason! Please look forward to it!

The kid

FGC #363 The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants

Here come those SimpsonsThe Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants is either one of the most clever, innovative licensed games of the early 90’s, or it’s a steaming pile of garbage.

It’s The Simpsons!

TS:BvtSM was the first Simpsons videogame. At the time, The Simpsons was a bonafide cultural phenomenon, having premiered (basically) a year earlier (technically The Simpsons started [as an independent series] in 1989, but it was December 17, so that barely counts… there, satisfied, nerds?), and setting the world ablaze with that whacky Bart Simpson and his lovable catchphrase… uhh… it was something about eating cow, I think. It was a long time ago! Regardless, at the time, there was more Simpsons merchandise than you could shake an officially licensed Groundskeeper Willie protractor at, so a videogame was just a matter of time. This title scooted out the door before… let’s see here… the game was initially released the same week as the premiere of Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment, Season 2, Episode 13, Production Code #7F13. This means the game was likely planned and produced before the second season even aired. Imagine! A time when there were only thirteen episodes of The Simpsons! John Swartzwelder had only written four scripts!

This, naturally, led to the game being written while Springfield still had a pretty shallow pool of characters and quirks. Lisa Simpson, for instance, had barely been established as the smartest little girl in town, and was hardly more than Bart’s sister. Maggie did not possess her love of firearms, and Homer still only sounded brain-damaged, as opposed to actually being brain-damaged. Realize that Bart Simpson (who the hell are you?) was the most developed Simpson, and this game starts to take shape.

On the other hand

Did any of these versions even get the colors for our favorite family right?

It's Bart!

Don’t tell me the NES couldn’t support Marge’s usual green! Maggie got it for some reason! And the Genesis has absolutely no excuse! 16-Bits of raw power! And nobody look at Homer’s shoes! They’re weird! Basically, pick your version, but everyone is just off model enough to be recognizable, but completely wrong.

And that’s before you get into the actual usage of The Simpsons characters. Homer is known for dropping black sludge and hanging out at the museum, right? And who could tear Marge Simpson away from the mall? It’s nice that someone tried to wedge the whole family in there before their personalities were completely solidified (and then fossilized), but Maggie randomly shoving bowling balls at Nelson Muntz… doesn’t make the most sense.

The Plot ain’t Bad!

Here he comes!Bart was the pint-sized star of the show back in the 90’s, so naturally he was featured in an adventure where he… fought aliens?

That sounds a little crazy for a typical cartoon sitcom family, but it’s not that absurd. The whole point of a “side story” like this is that it is something you wouldn’t normally see on a “mundane” series until about the 562nd episode, so fighting aliens seems like fair game. After all, it’s an excuse for Bart to get out there and do something good. In fact, it plays into the whole “Bart the scamp” narrative, as it gives our lovable hero an excuse to commit mischief, but, ha ha, he’s doing it for the good of the human race, and no one must ever know. He’s not spray painting trash cans because he’s a lil’ bastard, he’s doing it for the world. Hey, look, this whole thing is a lot more believable than the entire family beating up Homer’s boss in a giant mecha suit.

On the other hand

This is the exact same plot as Fester’s Quest.

Sitcom protagonist learns there’s an alien invasion, gets some help from his family, and ventures forth to save the day.

It's Bart! It's Fester!

They’ve probably even got the same stupid glasses!

And, yes, for anyone wondering, Fester’s Quest was released two years prior. Is this some popular trope I’m missing? Am I out of touch? No, it’s the producers who are wrong.

The Gameplay ain’t Bad!

So the aliens are going to take over the world, and they need particular objects to achieve their global dominance. In each level, Bart is tasked with stealing and/or destroying every one of these objects he can find. For instance, in the first level, the aliens are using objects that are purple, so Bart must do everything in his power to mask or destroy all purple objects in Springfield. And you, Bart-troller, have got options!

There is a lot of purple in Springfield, and this leads to a number of different techniques and tricks for repelling the purple menace. Spray paint is the first and most obvious option, but outright destruction through cherry bombs and firecrackers is allowed. And sometimes you can even find ways to make the purple come to you, like by crank calling Moe’s Tavern and spray painting his signature purple apron (?) when he comes out to murder the ten year old. Honestly, the whole situation, complete with a talking statue imparting sage advice, becomes almost indistinguishable from King’s Quest and other adventure games. And we needed more creativity like that in gaming at the time! We still do! And Mario should have access to firecrackers!

On the other hand

UGHEvery other level sucks.

The first stage presents this huge, expansive Springfield where you have to solve riddles and interact with the denizens of our favorite stink town. And, from that point on… it’s just a lousy platformer. The second level is all floating platforms (over “wet cement”, the lamest of all bottomless pit substitutes) and mini bosses. The third level seems like it might be returning to the “town” atmosphere of the first stage, but then it turns out it was just a few mini games that quickly devolve into more lousy platforming hijinks. The museum of the next stage is an excuse for rejected levels from other videogames (which would later become the theme of 16-bit Simpsons titles), and the final stage is a maze. This is not to imply that the last level is a fun maze; no, this is more akin to “find the right path” castles from the original Super Mario Bros. They were not fun there, and they are certainly not fun in a labyrinth featuring space aliens.

And this all wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Bart didn’t control so absolutely terribly. For reasons that can only be described as a hate crime, Bart’s “run” button is the same as his jump button, so you must hold jump to build momentum, and then… press jump to jump. It’s a little unintuitive. And it also makes some of the smaller platforms nearly impossible. This wouldn’t be noticeable if more of the game was like the introductory level, but instead we’re dealing with nearly impossible gaps seven seconds into the second stage. Oh, and if you want a little more momentum while jumping, then you press the action button, because that makes perfect sense and wastes whatever limited ammo item you might have for the stage. Everything is coming up Milhouse!

The Bosses ain’t Bad

It's Moe!Okay, the levels might suck, but the bosses are cool. The first level sees Bart battling Nelson, just like in Bart the General. The second stage is versus the Babysitter Bandit, who nearly stared in the first Simpsons episode! Krusty Land is dominated by Sideshow Bob, and Dr. Marvin Monroe is employing shock therapy at the head of the museum. There’s no boss for the final level at the Nuclear Power Plant, but one would assume that’s only because C. Montgomery Burns was getting ready for his big beat ‘em up premiere in the arcades.

On the other hand

None of these boss fights make any sense. Okay, maybe Nelson gets a pass, but hopping on a psychiatrist’s head is just confusing. And Bart and Lisa may have discovered the nefarious Ms. Botz thanks to her suitcase, but reversing gravity on bags while Marge chucks bowling balls is a little unusual. Sideshow Bob almost makes sense with the foot stomping thing, but if you somehow missed that episode, it’s nearly impossible to realize what you’re supposed to do during that battle. Is there a single other spot in the gaming universe where foot stomping is the right answer?

And that’s basically The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants in a nutshell. It’s unique among its videogame peers… but it’s also kind of terrible. No fun, and no satisfaction. And no fun and no satisfaction make Goggle Bob something something.

FGC #363 The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants

  • Thanks, GrandpaSystem: I always think of this as a NES game, but it’s also available for Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Game Gear, Master System, and Sega Genesis. The screenshots for most of this article are from the Sega Genesis version.
  • Number of Players: It’s Bart! He’s alone.
  • Port-O-Call: I’m not going to try every version, but I can safely say that the Genesis port has more faithful graphics (though not completely faithful graphics), but less official Simpsons music than the NES version. This is probably for the best, as you can only listen to the Simpsons Main Theme so many times before mailing dead lemmings to Danny Elfman.
  • An End: The finale features Bart Simpson defeating the Space Mutants, and then, in an act of contrition, they paste Bart’s head on Mount Rushmore. Depending on the version, Bart’s head is either erected on the far left or far right side of the monument. Does… that mean something?
  • Favorite Simpsons character (this game): Krusty the Clown is the icon for 1-Ups, and he’s got his own carnival, and you explore a giant version of his head, but I don’t think he actually appears anywhere in the game as a proper human being. So I think he wins by default for just providing a pile of off-brand merch in his absence.
  • HAW HAWDid you know? Bart fights aliens in this title, but they are notably not Kang and Kodos. And, for that matter, the space mutants don’t look consistent between their bipedal and tiny-tentacled forms. And they look totally different between different versions of the title, too. Weird aliens.
  • Would I play again: Nope. Don’t have a cow, man, but this game kinda sucks to play. It’s an interesting curiosity, but I’m not touching it again.

What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… The Adventures of Bayou Billy for the NES! I guess it’s suddenly very hard NES games week! Or something! Please look forward to it!

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Catches flies... or somethingThis game was my first exposure to Spider-Man.

Okay, that’s not 100% accurate. Growing up, I had a “read along” children’s book featuring Spider-Man at the circus. I think he fought a clown? I’m moderately certain elephants were involved. Additionally, I might have seen an episode or two of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, which apparently ended its original run shortly after I was born, but there may have been a rerun or two bumping around when I was a kid. But! That’s it! I never received current comics as a kid (see the bullet points section for more details on that), the Spider-Man animated series was still four years away, and, when The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin was released on Sega Genesis, Tobey Maguire was 16 (Tom Holland was, of course, negative six).

So, while I had a general mental image of Spider-Man (red/blue pajamas, spins a web, any size), I didn’t have a clue about all the things that make the man a spider. Peter Parker? First I heard of him. Daily Bugle? Oh, so he’s a newspaper guy like Superman, I guess. And the entire rogues gallery? First I’m hearing of them.

In other words, everything I ever needed to know about Spider-Man, I learned from a Sega Genesis game. See, Stan Lee, it’s not only any issue that might be a reader’s first, it could be a videogame, too!

With that in mind, we’re going to look at the main players of Spider-Man’s big Genesis adventure, and compare their impressions within the game to their current place in Marvel comics continuity. Let’s find a new way to learn about Spider-Man!

The Kingpin

Initial Impression: Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, is responsible for everything in this game, so it’s only natural to assume he’s Spider-Man’s prime villain. In short order, Kingpin…

    Nice suit

  • Hijacks a television station
  • Plants a mega-bomb somewhere in New York
  • Frames Spider-Man for said mega-bomb
  • Offers a huge reward for the head of Spider-Man
  • Commands every other villain to mess with Spider-Man
  • Orders Venom to kidnap Mary Jane
  • Camps out in his scary base five feet from the mega-bomb

Aside from that last blunder (when you plant a mega-bomb in a city, you leave the city), it’s clear that Kingpin is a genius and the head honcho of crime in Spider-Man’s New York. Could you even conceive of a villain more frightening than a monster that accidentally kidnaps your wife as part of a master plan?

Real Continuity: Kingpin is a big, scary villain… but he’s not really Spider-Man’s villain. Kingpin has drifted away from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, and has been primarily a Daredevil villain for… I want to say as long as I’ve been alive. This makes sense, as Kingpin is generally responsible for the death of Daredevil’s Daredaddy, and the greatest rivalry between Spidey and Kingpin is merely an ongoing discussion regarding Slimfast. Though Kingpin now has a more mundane adversary (Daredevil’s super power is “can see, but only kinda”), he has gotten up to the more ridiculous supervillainy on occasion, as there was a not insignificant run there where he commanded a legion of immortal ninja. Basically, Kingpin is every bit the badass he is in this game, he’s just not Spider-Man’s badass.

Doctor Octopus

Swings a leg, regular sizeInitial Impression: Doc Ock is a pushover in this game. Literally! He’s balancing on his long, noodley octo-arms, and, a few jump kicks to the face later, he’ll be toppled over like a turtle. And then Spider-Man webs him up, and gets him to rat out every one of his cohorts. He’s a first level boss! With a bowl cut! He never had a chance.

Real Continuity: Doctor Octopus is, depending on the week, either Spider-Man’s greatest or second greatest villain. On one tentacle, he’s never been responsible for anything so traumatic as the death of any given Spider-Girlfriend; on the other pseudopod, he did straight up kill Spider-Man once, take over his body/life, and…. Earn Peter Parker a doctorate. It… probably sounded more villainous at the time. Even before all of that, Doctor Octopus was a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side, capable of matching the wit and knowledge of Spidey in a way that Hammerhead, the man with a flat head, couldn’t even touch. Oh, and he tried to marry Aunt May one time. That had to be a huge hassle.

Point is that videogame Doctor Octopus got robbed.

The Lizard

Rock outInitial Impression: A mutant reptile that lives in the sewers? Gee, where have I heard that one before?

Real Continuity: It’s hard to sneak nuance into a Genesis game, but would it have killed anybody to have Dr. Curt Connors revert back to human form and apologize? The Lizard is yet another Jekyll/Hyde character for the Marvel pantheon (see also: Hulk, The), and his greatest tales always revolve around a man trying to make himself whole again (and then accidentally turning into a lizard). Granted, this does make Connors the dumbest scientist in the Marvel universe (“Maybe this time I won’t turn into… Nope, looks like I’m eating rats again.”), but his heart is in the right place. He might just be a stooge in this game, but The Lizard is worth one or two good stories in the real continuity.


ZAPInitial Impression: Here’s some loser with electric powers.

Real Continuity: Here’s some loser with electric powers. Seriously. For having starred in a movie and possessing nigh unlimited power usage potential (electricity is pretty important, y’all), Electro seems relegated to Rhino Tier with the other nobodies that occasionally pop up for an annual every other year or so. In fact, he accidentally got his girlfriend fried, she came back to life with his powers, and somehow she wound up being a more interesting character than OG Electro. That makes Electro even worse than The Scorpion, and you don’t want to be lower on the totem pole than a dude whose only power is “has a tail”.


Dust in the windInitial Impression: Technopop apparently wanted to include one puzzle boss in this adventure, so Sandman winds up being nearly invincible. After Spidey has to fight an escaped gorilla in Central Park (hey, Circus Caper!), Sandman attacks, and he is completely invulnerable to Spider-Man’s webs and spider strength. The solution is to lure Sandman across the entire stage to a random fire hydrant, punch said hydrant, and then soak the man made of sand into inanimate mud. Even when you win, however, victory is fleeting, as you are informed Sandman is the first villain to escape Spider-Man’s web. Sandman must be some kind of super-super villain!

Real Continuity: He’s a jobber in a stupid sweater. Sandman did lead a long and varied life at some point in the comics (he was an Avenger! It happened!), but he’s been stuck in a generic supervillain loop of depression, loneliness, and bankrobbing for the entirety of the 21st century. I think he recently got a new suit? Yeah, that’s useful when you’re a pile of sand. For having nearly godlike (or at least Green Lantern-like) powers and virtual immortality, Sandman has been slotted into the little leagues with Paste Pot Pete and that guy from Wings.


WeeeeeInitial Impression: Spider-Man, unable to find his next villain to trounce, determines that since Kingpin put a price on his head, he could just walk around in broad daylight, see who shows up, and then it’s clobberin’ time. This miraculously works, as Hobgoblin shows up about twenty feet outside the Daily Bugle. And then Spider-Man whacks the goblin right off his dumb glider. The end.

Real Continuity: There was a magical time in Marvel Comics when a villain could stay dead for longer than a week, so Hobgoblin is clearly subbing for the then-deceased Green Goblin. This is Hobgoblin’s lot in life, as anyone in that costume is meant to be a stand-in for Spider-Man’s greatest/greenest foe, and… can you name the secret identity of even one Hobgoblin? Kingsley? Does that sound right? Doesn’t matter. He’s a knockoff, and it doesn’t matter if he gets his own sewer gang, he’s never going to be an inadvertent Trump analogue like Osborn.


We are VenomInitial Impression: Who is this guy? He looks scary enough, but he seems to be everybody’s sidekick. Play the game on hard mode, and Venom shows up as a secondary threat during any given boss fight. And… he just kinda jumps around like a monkey. That whole “unsettling black alien” thing is menacing, but that gorilla from the park was more threatening.

Real Continuity: Venom has become one of Spider-Man’s most aggressive and iconic foes, but he had only been around comics for a solid two years before his Master System debut. It’s no wonder no one really had any idea where he would “officially” fit into the Spider-Mythos at that point. He doesn’t even showcase his super rad tongue! But that tongue has been featured ad nauseam in the intervening thirty years, and now Venom has been everything from an intergalactic military vet to a tyrannosaurus. There was even a recent special wherein Venoms from different universes all banded together to fight Kinda-Venoms from other, more different universes. That’s right! Venom rips off everything about Spider-Man, all the time. But back in 1990, he barely even got web shooters.

Mary Jane Watson

Secret CrushInitial Impression: She’s stated to be Spider-Man’s wife (“your friend Peter Parker’s wife”), and she’s kidnapped by a Kingpin/Venom combo (not the cool kind of Kingpin/Venom combo, they’re just working together) in time for the final stage. During the ultimate, vaguely impossible boss fight, she is slowly lowered into a vat of acid while Spider-Man and Fat-Man duel. If you win, Spider-Man is happy to be reunited with the redhead; if you lose, Kingpin escapes, and Spider-Man gets really depressed. So she’s Spider-Man’s Princess Peach. Got it.

Real Continuity: Mary Jane Watson is the Lois Lane of DC Comics. Thanks to a million writers over a billion years, MJ is simultaneously a strong, interesting character in her own right, and a damsel that must be rescued at all times. It depends on the week. As of this writing, she’s recently been an assistant to a mostly comatose Tony Stark… which sounds like a pretty cushy job. On the other hand, she had her entire marriage mystically annulled because her husband wanted to rewrite all of reality on a whim, so that probably detracts from her agency just a tweak. Also, like practically all women in comics not continually wearing spandex, when she isn’t dating a hero, her appearances are rare (see One More Day for a fine example). So, despite the fact that she could totally carry another Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, she’s hasn’t seen as much exposure since she cut the (spider-)man out of her life. So, yep, she is Spider-Man’s princess.

Way to go, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, you’re a pretty good introduction to Universe 616 after all.

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

  • System: Sega Genesis was the big one, but the Master System version was released a year earlier. There’s also a Game Gear version that was based on the Master System version, and a Sega CD version based on the Sega Genesis version. Got all that? I could make a chart.
  • Number of players: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Alone.
  • Dumb monkeyPort-o-Call: Dr. Strange appears for no reason in the Master System/Game Gear version. The Sega CD version adds two new levels/bosses, and cutscenes that are… very strangely animated. Peter Parker and Mary Jane kiss during the intro and… it’s the least romantic cartoon ever.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So my parents had a friend that worked at an antique shop. Any time he would wind up with “dollar comics”, they would be donated to the Wee Goggle Bob Needs Something to Do fund. Thus, I had a number of disjointed, completely random comics as a kid. While this did nothing for me learning the wonders of Marvel continuity, I did wind up being exposed to Silver Surfer Mœbius comics from a young age, and that may have had an influence on my imagination
  • Continue? The plot dictates that any time Spider-Man gets a game over, he is captured by the local constabulary.

    Right in the kisser

    This leads to the most NWA continue screen of the 16-bit era.

  • Threat or Menace: The other cool thing about this title is that it encourages you to take pictures as Spider-Man, and use the cash to earn web fluid refills. On one hand, this is amazing, and kind of a big deal innovation in light of every damn hero having a camera nowadays. On the other hand, web fluid refills are generously scattered about any given stage, so it’s kind of unnecessary. Oh well, at least J.J. will be happy.
  • Did you know? In the main continuity of Marvel 616, the Venom symbiote has possessed Peter Parker, Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, Carol Danvers, Groot, and Mr. Fantastic. And some dinosaurs. And at least one dog. That thing gets around.
  • Would I play again: Did I not mention that I love this game? It’s a pain in the ass by modern standards, but I played it for pretty much a solid year when I was a kid, so it is good stuff. Forget all those later games that were all about flying through the city on webs, I’ll take Spider-Man awkwardly stumbling through the sewers any day.

What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Monster Rancher for the Playstation! Gonna raise up some eyeballs to fight dragons! Please look forward to it!


FGC #334 NBA Jam Tournament Edition

Let's get ready to rumble?I’m a gamer. I rather loathe that moniker, but the shoe does seem to fit. And, as you’ve no doubt noticed, I’m a gamer that cares about videogames. It’s not about the physical cartridges or discs or the history of gaming or anything so concrete; no, I care about actual fake videogame people and concepts. At any given moment, I’m worried about what Ryu is getting up to. I have cried over fatally kabobed JRPG heroines. I have spent a great deal of my life logging the goings on of one moron with a key-sword. And these are all not “default” settings for the human brain. Had I never “gotten into” gaming, I’m sure I’d be worried about other, more mundane pursuits, like how often I get laid, or how I could totally crush it at beer pong. Also, I might give a damn about sports. I’ve always been confused by that one.

Before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear (and spell it out for myself so I don’t meander later in the article… eh, that’s probably inevitable): I am not the kind of person that sees “I don’t like sports” as some kind of higher calling. It’s very easy to insult any given sport for being “a bunch of adults that get paid millions to play a children’s game”, and I want to be absolutely clear that that is not how I see it. I don’t like sports, but it’s not somehow the corner of my belief system or identity. I’ve been to a couple baseball games, I tried watching college basketball with an ex, and I was dragged along to a number of marathons by another ex. Did I think these events were wastes of time? Or perhaps that the players involved would be better off applying their phat physical skills to, I don’t know, repaving my driveway? No, of course not (though if any NFL stars would like to repave my driveway, please give me a ring. I’ll accept estimates). There are people that think Shigeru Miyamoto has not actually contributed to the betterment of mankind, and there are people that think the same of Babe Ruth. They’re both wrong. In my opinion, if you make people happy with what you’re doing, and you’re not hurting anybody while doing it, then you’re doing a good thing. I’m not going to lambast anyone just because they’re not specifically making me happy.

He's on fire!But, as a giant nerd, I’ve always wondered why I didn’t like sports. It’s not because I have the physical coordination of a beached manatee, because I know plenty of people that can barely leave their couches, but adore the sweet sciences. It’s not because of some lingering obsession with “jocks” and “nerds” from high school, because some of my best friends were jocks (when you have spindly little arms, you learn pretty quick to make friends with people who could, twenty years later, please move your couch). And I can’t imagine it’s because I didn’t have parental encouragement, because my dad tried to get me to throw the ol’ pigskin around roughly 20,000 times before he finally realized I wasn’t going to stop cowering at an incoming ball-shaped object. And I did always enjoy gym class and “playing sports” and such… even if I wasn’t any good at anything. Look, I was a kid, I couldn’t even beat Castlevania, I knew I wasn’t that great, and I didn’t have high hopes for my soccer career. Oh, and I’ve always enjoyed swimming. That’s a kind of sport, right? I like sports, maybe! Kinda!

But I’ve never liked sports games. And it’s not for lack of sports games entering my orbit as a child. Tecmo Superbowl was played quite a bit, and I believe it was NES Baseball that taught me the wonders of following a ball’s shadow. Ken Griffey was on the cover of at least one of my beloved Nintendo Power issues! Sports was all around me, but… It just never really registered as a “fun” thing. Was it simply because I found watching sports to be incredibly boring, so “playing” said sports on my television was equally dull? Or did I not care about a bunch of anonymous randos known only as “catcher” and “pitcher” on “blue team” when I could be playing a perfectly good adventure game starring an elf? I’d play sports games, but I wouldn’t salivate for them like some of my more preferred “sports”, like bombermanning or beat ‘em upping.

And then there was NBA Jam.

I don't get itNBA Jam is ostensibly a sports title. It’s a basketball game. It features real basketball teams. It stars authentic, live basketball players like that one guy that is our ambassador to North Korea. You score three pointers and dunks. Passing is important, traveling is not allowed, and getting that last toss off at the buzzer is as important as ever. This is basketball. This is unmistakably basketball, one of those sports things that doesn’t do anything for me.

So why did I play NBA Jam, NBA Jam TE, and NBA Hangtime for approximately 100 billion hours?

While it would be easy enough to blame my peer group (we were all nerds, but some of us were nerds with delusional aspirations of becoming some manner of sports hero just as soon as that all-important “growth spurt” finally hit [“Vinne, your dad is like 5’ 3”, don’t kid yourself”]), but I think NBA Jam is something much more simple: it’s basically a fighting game. It’s 2v2, but that second player is only on your team for passing along the ball when things get crowded. Once you get past that, this is basically just a one-on-one fighter with rad dunks substituting for jabs. And I understand fighting games! This isn’t about “plays” or “stats” or whatever the heck happens in Hockey (what the hell is “icing”?), this is about scoring hits on your opponent and blocking every time the offense gets offensive. You’re only as behind as your score (formerly health) allows, and even the turbo works as a sort of “super meter”. Throw in a kombatant or two, and this would be indistinguishable from some of the other arcade offerings of the time. And I know every game at the arcade.

BOINGSo that, evidently, is what it takes to get me to care about sports. I might not give a damn about the Celtics or the Knicks, but I know that any videogame where I get to play one-on-one with my archrival is going to get my attention. No homeruns, no commentary, just two opponents, and a seesawing score card that is ruled by a turbo meter. That’s what I like to see from videogames, and that’s what I like to see from a sport.

FGC #334 NBA Jam Tournament Edition

  • System: Super Nintendo is dear to my heart, but also available on Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega 32X, Sega Game Gear, Playstation, Jaguar, and (dear God no) Nintendo Gameboy. Also, there’s an arcade version, because that’s where it started.
  • Number of players: Two for realsies, but there’s probably a version out there that allows for four. Did the arcade? You’d think I’d remember such a thing.
  • Port-o-Call: I don’t own the original NBA Jam, because I think I rented it until it just became one with my SNES. TE came out at just the right time for a gifting holiday, though, so that actually wound up in my collection. I believe TE started the substitution system, and also included the “crazy” powerup/extra point options, but who cares? It’s all basically the same (fun) game.
  • Favorite Team: Is there a single person who played NBA Jam and didn’t just choose the Chicago Bulls every single time? I know nothing about basketball, and even I knew that was the team to play.
  • GET IT!?Greatest Loss: Somehow, there was never a NBA Jam/Space Jam crossover. However, you are welcome to listen to the Space Jam soundtrack while playing NBA Jam. I mean, if your Jock Jams tape is busted or something.
  • Hidden Players: This is somehow the second game of the FGC to make weird, innocuous jokes at the expense of the Clintons. In retrospect, we all should have expected a Clinton loss in 2016, as she’s been the butt of random jokes for two decades. Good thing our current president hasn’t been the subject of media mockery since the 90’s.
  • Did you know? Most people know that the Mortal Kombat 2 incarnations of Raiden, Reptile, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion were all cut from the arcade game. But did you know that we also lost the Grim Reaper, King Kong, and some dork with a weird nose named Elviscious with that same update? NBA Jam… is a weird game.
  • Would I play again: Maybe! Like, if I’m suddenly twelve and stuck in my old life again, NBA Jam would certainly be on the menu. Otherwise, no, probably not. Not a big sports fan.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rayman 2! Pirates and frogs ahoy, mateys! Please look forward to it!