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FGC #383 Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

Here is the case for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg:


And here is the main reason anyone ever bought Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg:


And that starburst is no lie. Billy Hatcher is the creation of Sonic Team and its (then) head, Yuji Naka, the man widely credited with the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog.

But does that mean anything?

Sonic!Let’s start with Yuji Naka. To start, Yuji Naka is a programmer, not an artist or character designer, but it is that programming that is absolutely the reason we have Sonic the Hedgehog. Naka created one simple trick for animating hedgehogs: he developed an algorithm for rendering sprites on curves. And that’s huge! We absolutely take it for granted now, but the very concept of Sonic on a loop would be impossible without such coding. So, sure, Naka didn’t draw the first Sonic, nor did he design the hedgehog’s levels, but he was responsible for a part of Sonic that is so iconic, it is still a huge part of the blue blur today. You don’t see Mario doing loops, but it is practically synonymous with Sonic the Hedgehog.

And the rest of Yuji Naka and Sonic Team’s history seems to be based around similar breakthroughs.

I don’t need to write a history of Sonic the Hedgehog, as such a thing has been covered by minds much greater than mine. However, there is a dearth of information on the trajectory of Sonic Team. We all know about Sonic, CDs, and Knuckles, but let’s talk about the heroes that never met Eggman. Let’s revisit Ristar.

GRAB!Naka didn’t seem to have much to do with Ristar, but the basic concept for the adventure came from his pre-rolling ideas for Sonic the Hedgehog. The “original” Sonic (or at least one of them) was a bunny that would grab enemies with his extendable ears. This concept fell by the wayside when Sonic earned his speed and rolling (rabbits don’t roll, do they?), but was eventually revived for Ristar. And it was good! In a time of innumerable “mascots with attitude” (which only existed because of Sonic anyway), Ristar stood out not only for his memorable design, but also his fun “grab and fling” gameplay. Sure, we’d see something similar again with Mischief Makers, but it was almost wholly unique for the time (and still is). Ristar, like Sonic, rode a wave of a new and interesting gameplay mechanic, and could easily have been the hedgehog’s successor.

But Ristar premiered all of a few months before the release of the Sega Saturn, so that rising star got eclipsed by a planet, and was never seen again.

But Sonic Team still had Sonic, so they still had the ear of their parent company. That Saturn release brought new opportunities, and, with the innovation of an analogue controller, Nights Into Dreams made the scene.

And, boy, did that game ever suck.

FLY!Okay, I’m just salty because Nights is a terrible, terrible game, but many people saw the appeal of the action floating title. Once again, Sega took a new technology (the aforementioned analogue controller), and married it to some gameplay that had never been seen before. Naka (he’s back!) endeavored to make a game that was based on flight, but a more gentle flight, as opposed to the cape or raccoon-based actions of some other heroes. And, to Nights’ credit, that feeling absolutely comes through during the gameplay. Nights may have been phenomenally boring for anyone that was expecting another Mario 64, but, taken on its own terms, it’s a pleasant experience. Once again, Sonic Team used unique physics and development to create a singular game, this time complete with the rare human character that has the same kind of universal appeal as your more memorable mascots.

But the Saturn crashed and burned, so there was no new Sonic to be found there.

But speaking of burning, Sonic Team’s next big release was Burning Rangers, a sort of action/FPS-ish mash-up that focused on futuristic firefighters… uh… fighting fires. It’s what they do. At a time when Doom and Final Fantasy 7 alike were setting the world ablaze with complicated heroes and murder rates that put Robocop’s Detroit to shame, Burning Rangers was a semi-serious “anime game” that focused not on combating people or demons, but fires. And the future setting allowed for some interesting gameplay maneuvers, like jet boots (always appreciated) and a host of fire-retardant “weapons”. And the fires looked pretty cool, too! It’s still the Sega Saturn, but fire was a lot more believable here than on a number of contemporary systems. Go Burning Rangers, go! For inflammable justice!

Unfortunately, Burning Rangers had the dual problems of “not good enough (hit detection)” and “such small portions (of four levels)”, so it got flushed down the same toilet as the Saturn. Oh, and there wasn’t a memorable enough character in the whole ranger squad.

MICE!But the Dreamcast brought new opportunities, and a metric mickey-load of mice. ChuChu Rocket! was described as an action puzzle game, but that is completely wrong. ChuChu Rocket! is frenetic joy in mini, mousey form. Once again, Yuji Naka used the latest technology to create something that appeared to be graphically simple, but had a lot going on under the hood. At any given ChuChu moment, there may be hundreds (or at least a hundred) lil’ mice on the screen at a time. While we take such a thing for granted nowadays, that was an exciting new frontier in 1999. And the Dreamcast was capable of supporting this nonsense not only on the couch, but online as well. No small feat in the age of AOL. Or, actually, it meant a lot of small feet puttering around and attempting to avoid KapuKapus. And, can’t stress this enough, ChuChu Rocket! was one of the best multiplayer games of the era, and certainly the most unique.

But it all paled in comparison to Sonic Team’s Phantasy Star Online. Naka simply produced this title, but it was another example of Sonic Team pushing technology to the limits. In this case, the online capabilities of the Dreamcast were extended to create arguably the first MMORPG on a console. And it was good! And fun! And full of hungry mags! And if it were released on a system that was actually popular, and during an era when high speed internet was standard (and not the exclusive domain of college students) it might have been one of the defining works of the genre. But, unfortunately, PSO seems to be remembered and recounted in the same breaths as Atari’s Adventure: it basically started a genre, and did it well, but by the time that genre was actually mainstream, the ancestor was all but forgotten. Sorry, PSO, at least we’ll always have old Penny Arcade strips to remind us of the good old days.

Samba de Amigo was also a Dreamcast title that utilized a brand new piece of technology. And that tech was… plastic maracas. Uh, for some reason, that failed to capture the zeitgeist of the nation.

EGG!And then, finally, we arrive at our “from the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog” title of the day, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. BHatGE was the first new Sonic Team IP to ever appear on a non-Sega system. Sonic Team had already gained some Gamecube experience with rereleases of the Sonic Adventure titles, and Billy Hatcher does feel like a natural evolution of the SA engine. But this is no mere Sonic clone! Even with a “spin dash” like egg rolling skill, nearly all of Billy’s moveset is all new… or at least all different. Rolling an egg and “using” the egg for acrobatic maneuvers sounds pretty straightforward (see any game where you push boulders or blocks), but it’s obvious that a lot of care and effort went into… egg physics? Is that a thing? What’s important is that “Billy” and “Billy with an egg” are arguably two totally different characters, and the utilization of both movesets (and protecting your egg whenever possible) is important to making progress.

So if you’re expecting Sonic out of Billy Hatcher, or any other non-Sonic Sonic Team game, you’re out of luck. Billy Hatcher is no more Sonic the Hedgehog than Ristar or Burning Rangers. But if you look at the history of Sonic Team’s other adventures, that’s exactly what should be expected. Sure, Sonic Team is known for their eponymous mascot, but they have an established history of using new technology and techniques to create new IPs and experiences. Granted, not a single one of them has moved on to anything but random crossover games, but it’s the thought that counts. After all, the world would be a lesser place without Nights or PSO, so keep on innovating, Sonic Team! And keep on rolling, Billy Hatcher!

FGC #383 Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube. There was also a PC port in Europe, because… I have no idea.
  • Number of players: Multiplayer egg races are available, so four. Did you know that Billy has all sorts of friends that I absolutely cannot name right now? Maybe his girlfriend is named Roll? I might be thinking of some other hero, though.
  • GET OUTSonic Team Coda: Aside from Feel the Magic, it seems post-Billy Sonic Team has been exclusively sticking to established IPs, like Phantasy Star and Puyo Pop. However, the spirit of innovation seems to live on in the Sonic series, as it’s pretty obvious how Sonic Unleashed was an attempt at 3-D Ristar. Of course, most of this experimentation has not been remotely well received by the fanbase, so is it any wonder that Naka is moving on to squarer pastures?
  • So, did you beat it? Back in the day, I got really into Billy Hatcher, and unlocked/beat about 95% of the game. I exploded so many ravens, it was ridiculous. This was back when Mario 64-esque action games were completely my jam. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I no longer have the attention span to 100% most any game that includes physical challenges (JRPGs are easy, and can be 100%’ed while watching The Good Place), so I kind of miss my old standards for dedication when I see a completed (or thereabouts) Gamecube-era save.
  • Favorite Hatchling: You can gain the cooperation of a KapuKapu, and that is marvelous.
  • Connectivity: Oh, and this is one of those old Gamecube games that utilized the ability to send games to your Gameboy Advance through a link cable (and, in this title, hatching the proper egg). I never got to test out such features (as it would have interrupted my Pokémon Ruby/Metroid Fusion time), but it’s always nice to have portable options. And to be reminded the VMU ever existed…
  • Aborted History: This was released during the epoch when Nintendo seemed kind of skittish about referencing other systems when a Nintendo alternative was available.


    Look, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog! From that one Gamecube game!

  • Did you know? There is a real life Billy Hatcher! He played major league baseball for a number of teams back in the 80’s/90’s. William Augustus Hatcher’s batting average was 264, had 54 home runs, and he even played for the Philadelphia Phillies at a time when I remotely paid attention to such a thing. I am absolutely sure he doesn’t see a dime of royalties, either.
  • Would I play again: Billy Hatcher is an interesting, enjoyable game. I’d be all about a Billy Hatcher 2, but I doubt I’ll ever play the original again. This is another Sonic Team forgotten gem (emerald?), but I think I like Sonic Team’s more memorable gems better.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sega 3D Classics Collection for the 3DS! Guess we’re going to see Sonic again, but with a little more depth this time. Please look forward to it!

Get 'em

FGC #373 Aladdin (SNES) & Aladdin (Sega Genesis)

Wah WahIf you want to understand East vs. West gaming philosophies, look no further than Disney’s Aladdin for SNES and Genesis.

Disney’s Aladdin should require no introduction. At the time, it was “yet another” brilliant Disney animated musical, and came hot on the heels of other perennial favorites like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. But Aladdin offered a rare opportunity: the story of Aladdin is one of swordplay and derring-do! It’s a boy’s story! And boys play videogames! Sure, Ariel made due with shoving seashells by the seashore, and Belle & Beast got their own boy and girl versions (it was a weird time), but Aladdin is an adventure story from start to finish. There’s an evil wizard, ancient sealed magical force, helpful monkey, and at least two dungeons. This is practically a JRPG before you introduce the princess with a pet tiger! Couple the dominance of Disney with a story that couldn’t be more suited to a 16-bit game if it had a mine cart, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a generation-defining videogame.

And then we got two interpretations of that blockbuster.

On one side, we have (give me a second to flip a coin here) Aladdin for the SNES. This was a Capcom release, and it shows in every way. Cross Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse with Ninja Gaiden for cinematics, drop any and all transformations, and add a Genie-based roulette wheel to bonus stages, and we’re good to go. There’s a rudimentary collectathon Weeeeelement for completionists, but otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward platforming experience. Aladdin jumps, swings, and bops over enemies, and the most common monster appears to be a blind bird in a pot (really quite threatening, obviously). There are a pair of magic carpet rides for some dangerous/bonus variety, and, in the end, Jafar must be defeated by head-vaulting. Roll credits, move on to the next Capcom blockbuster.

On the other side, we’ve got Aladdin for Genesis. This is another platformer, but Aladdin has become blood-thirsty, and he’s gained a sick scimitar. Additionally, while Aladdin had apples for stunning on the SNES, now hurling fruit will damage opponents completely, effectively granting Al a gun. The animation is gorgeous, the levels are lush and creative, and there are even a few full-fledged bosses (whereas the SNES only had Jafar and one pissed off merchant). Even the bonus stages are fairly innovative, offering a fine excuse to control a monkey in a fez as he gathers treasure. Basically, the Genesis title has the same bones as its SNES cousin, but it seems to do so much more.

It’s also tremendously less fun to play.

WhammoOkay, sure, fun is subjective. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that value the Gen Aladdin experience over SNES Aladdin’s more muted adventure. But there are quite a few items that make the Genesis title objectively worse. For one thing, many of the more labyrinthine stages feature “European” layouts, i.e. stages that zig and zag all over limited screen space, and it quickly becomes difficult to know if you’re actually making forward progress. Another obvious flaw is an overabundance of bottomless pits and other instant death traps that seem to litter every stage after Aladdin escapes the streets of Agrabah. Oh, and those bosses? They seem to exist exclusively to drain you of your apples, and, like bosses in a certain other franchise, it’s often difficult to know if you’re dealing damage at all. Basically, the minute you start really looking at the nuts and bolts of Genesis Aladdin, you’ll quickly notice every place where it falls apart.

But is it the poorer title? Well, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to that conclusion.

Genesis Aladdin is known for having some of the smoothest, most amazing animation of the 16-bit generation, but focusing on that is unfairly ignoring its true greatest strength. Genesis Aladdin is creative to a fault. Aladdin the Movie might contain a story tailor-made for videogames, but it could still use a little expansion to round out the levels. Genesis Aladdin drops in an extra trip to the desert to claim beetle fragments, and a street-rat trip around the palace to eventually defeat Iago. In both cases, what could be trite, typical videogame levels pop with beauty and imagination, all while things like the pink flamingos in the Sultan’s massive pool style firmly tie the style to the source material. The animation is what catches everyone’s eye, but the little things, like a Sega Genesis hiding in the background of Genie’s lair, are what really make the game.

WeeeeMeanwhile, SNES Aladdin is an enormously competent platformer, but fails to add anything to Disney’s Aladdin. Your extra stage in SNES Aladdin is a pyramid, which kinda fits the story (supposedly Abu falls off the carpet on the way back from the Cave of Wonders… so did they take a detour to Egypt on their way? Not all deserts are the same!), but it’s about as generic as a videogame stage can get. Falling sands waterfalls (sanderfalls?),lit torches, and the general threat of the undead? It’s a pyramid, and this could be part of Aladdin, or any other videogame ever made. But what is there to complain about? Sure, squint and you could mistake Aladdin for Mega Man 4, but this is a damn fine platformer, and hopping and bopping around the pyramid feels as good as any given Mega Man title. And that is no small feat.

And, playing both of these games side by side in the far flung future of 2018, it seems these differences echo the state of gaming today.

I’m inevitably going to oversimplify, but it seems like when you compare Western “game of the year” titles to their Eastern counterparts, a few patterns emerge. Fallout and Elder Scrolls (Skyrim) titles are always amazing, right? They’re huge. They’re creative. They’re also buggy as hell, and, let’s be honest here, generally have improbably convoluted controls. Maybe I’m weird, but I feel like picking up a cheese wheel should be an easier experience than piloting a plane. Conversely, you have titles like Persona 5 or NieR: Automata that are amazing games… but their gameplay is often indistinguishable from their forebears. Bite!NieR: Automata is astounding! But its basic combat is Bayonetta-light (dodge! dodge! dodge!) with a dash of shoot ‘em up spliced in for good measure. And Persona 5 is stylish and rad… and could probably be effortlessly modded to be Persona 3. In other words, while we’re still seeing amazing advances in story-telling and what a videogame could even be, we’re still looking at a pretty overt split: Western titles are huge, imaginative, and often objectively worse to actually play, while Japanese titles are excellent, reliable games that rarely take obvious risks. Again, I’m well aware that I’m generalizing, and I’m not saying one technique is somehow better than the other, but it seems to be a trend that has been recurring since the 20th Century.

And it’s not a bad thing.

There is room enough in this world for two different interpretations of Aladdin. There is room on your shelf for Persona and Skyrim. And, if you’re lucky, you’ve got enough space in your heart for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Different strokes for different folks, and, if you can open yourself up to both experiences, more power to you. Some people like pet monkeys, some people go for tigers. There’s nothing wrong with either choice, and what’s important is that you enjoy what you have.

So the final winner in the Sega Genesis vs. Super Nintendo debates? Well, if you can accept the differences in both platforms, then, in the end, a winner is you.

FGC #373 Aladdin (SNES) & Aladdin (Sega Genesis)

  • System: You already know the obvious ones, but there was also a Gameboy, Nintendo, and DOS version, if you were in the mood. The Game Boy Advance version was a port of the SNES version, too, if memory serves.
  • Number of players: Never had a friend to play with. One.
  • Realistic Graphics: Hey, who do I speak to about making Sega Genesis Annoyed Jasmine a meme?

    Really think this one has legs.
  • Other differences: The interior of the Genie’s Lamp level appears in both versions, and that seems like another fine way to compare systems. The SNES Lamp is bright and pastel and… fluffy. The Genesis Lamp is dark and muted, but still just as magical with neon signs and flying pillows. Given how a number of other games turned out on both systems, the whole level seems indicative of the generation.
  • And they’re the same: Genesis is more like Battletoads, and SNES is more like a shoot ‘em up (just without the shooting), but both games interpret the escape from the Cave of Wonders as a one-hit kill, flying carpet-based race against lava. Some things are just inevitable, I suppose.
  • So cuteGoggle Bob fact: So the Sega Genesis version of this game was given to me by an ex. She was my girlfriend at the time, and, when I expressed an interest in replaying the title, she gave me the game without a second thought, likely happy to be rid of another piece of trash that was destined for Goodwill when she finally completely emptied out her childhood room. I, as someone who even then could only view my life through the lens of videogames, thought that giving up a beloved childhood game was the greatest sacrifice a human being could make for another. … I don’t really wonder why we’re no longer together.
  • Did you know? Aladdin was the highest selling game for the Sega Genesis not featuring a hedgehog. This likely had nothing to do with the advertising campaign that was running on all channels, all the time.
  • Would I play again: Either one might get a replay at random times. I have fond memories of both titles, and nostalgia will probably get the better of me one of these days. Then it’s back to hopping on snakes to save princesses.

What’s next? Random ROB is back, and he’s chosen… Destroy All Humans! for the PS2! Well, guess we have to do what the game says. Time for an extinction level event, I guess. Please look forward to it!

Exploding skeletons?

FGC #341 Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

It says Super Mario World right thereI would enjoy Yoshi’s Island a lot more if I were at all capable of enjoying Yoshi’s Island.

Back when I was Wee Goggle Bob, Christmas was pretty much the only time I ever saw a new videogame (save birthdays, of course, but my birthday is way the hell over in April). I had no disposable income (or… income), but I did have well-meaning parents and grandparents, so every holiday would see at least one game. And, by about 1995, my family had determined that videogames were the only hunks of plastic capable of bringing me joy, so I basically became the boy who got everything he ever wanted. In one Christmas haul (combining gifts from all relatives, I want to be clear that no one member of my family was Scrooge McDuck) I received Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, Earthworm Jim 2, Secret of Evermore, Tetris Attack (I was excited about this… for some reason), and today’s featured title, Yoshi’s Island. It was an embarrassment of riches… only slightly offset by the fact that I had pneumonia and thought I would die at any given moment. Oh, hey, my family took pity on me, just got that. Errm… anyway… once I felt better, I had what was probably the best continuous run of gaming in my life, as playing the best games of 1995 one after another was some manner of nerdvana. Even now, I’m kind of jealous of my past self: can you imagine completing Chrono Trigger, and then immediately moving on to a fresh, new Donkey Kong Country 2? Ah, to imagine there was once such unmitigated joy in my life.

And, to be absolutely clear, all of the Christmas ’95 games I played over and over again. I rescued Princess Whatshername (aka cow). I tossed every hero coin at Cranky Kong. I practically memorized every stupid movie reference in Secret of Evermore. This also means that I scored 100 on every stage in Yoshi’s Island, played through each extra level, and I think I even managed to memorize some of the match card setups for the bonus games. I mean, I didn’t get a Yoshi’s Island tattoo (only Chrono Trigger gained that honor) but I did play the game often enough that the main themes are permanently etched into my mental jukebox. I played Yoshi’s Island a lot, and, even with other great games available, I was inordinately pleased with the insane amount of “stuff to do” on Yoshi’s lil’ island.

But now… Now I look at this…

It's a secret to everybody

And all I see is a threat.

Yoshi’s Island is the first “collectathon” Mario game. Despite what Advance remakes may tell you (wait… do people even remember the Advance versions anymore?), Mario was previously all about the running and jumping, and did not give the tiniest flip about hidden Yoshi eggs or eight red coins. And this was right and good! Mario started his rescuing career in the arcades, and “arcade experiences” aren’t about exploring vast virtual worlds, they’re about getting to the end of the stage as quickly as possible so you can impress that one kid with the greasy hair who probably comes from circumstances but gets really excited whenever you make it to the flagpole. That kid isn’t going to wait around and watch for you to score some damn hidden flower thingy!

Squishy!Actually, perhaps that’s The Illusion of Mario (perfect name for Super Mario RPG 2). There have always been secrets in Mario games. There have always been warp zones, negative zones (hey, an accidental secret is still a secret), hidden mushroom houses, alternate exits, and whatever the hell you had to do to turn a hammer bros into a magical ship o’ coins. The very first stage of Super Mario Bros. hid an invisible 1-up mushroom, and the next level dared you to break the boundaries of the world itself. Mario has always had plenty of bonus skeletons in his closet, from Super Mario Land to Super Mario World.

But Super Mario World 2 changed one important thing: it made the secrets mandatory. Yes, you can complete any given stage in Yoshi’s Island without touching a single red coin or flower, but, whether your explore every nook and cranny or dash like a mad dinosaur, you’re going to be judged at the end of the level. You can beat the game as an unaware lizard, but it also means being scored at a sad, sad 34 on every other stage. That’s not a passing grade! That’s barely even a valid number!

But let’s assume you decide to play along with Yoshi’s Island’s little scoring scheme. Let’s say you realize that Yoshi has the most robust movement scheme ever in a 2-D Mario game (egg tossing, butt stomping, repeated flutter jumping, and that’s all before you get into the vehicle morphs and Super Baby), and that it’s only natural the good people at Nintendo would fill SQUISH!every stage to the brim with stuff for our favorite steed to do. So you want to be the best you can be, and you try in every level. You go for the gold, do your best, but still miss a coin or star here and there. A 97? 99? That’s a pretty great score! Don’t forget to stomp every last piece of dirt! You’re doing swell!

And it doesn’t mean shit.

Yoshi’s Island demands perfection. If you score a flawless 100 on a stage, that’s great! If you “achieve” anything else, sorry, you may as well have not tried at all. And, don’t worry, this isn’t just a matter of looking at a strategy guide and mapping out the best route to red coins, you’ve got a few “random” factors, like…

  • Flying shyguys (Flyguys?) with red coins that will scroll off the stage forever
  • Flashing Eggs that may be lost before they’re ever used
  • The slightest tap from any enemy near a goal post will reduce your star count
  • Ditto on giant bosses that live to ruin your stars
  • Invisible Red Switch hidden areas
  • Auto scrolling stages
  • Auto scrolling stages and Flyguys
  • Those goddamn Bandit enemies

GET IT!?Fall victim to any one of these pitfalls, and, sorry, the only solution is suicide (in the game! Don’t do anything rash!) or restarting the level from scratch. And Yoshi’s Island does not feature short levels, oh no, these things are easily three times the length of any given SMB stage. And if you manage to surmount your previous trials and tribulations, but miss somewhere that didn’t trip you up the first time, don’t worry, you still have to repeat the stage, because perfection is mandatory for that all-important 100.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to get a 100. You don’t have to get a 100 at all. All imperfection means is that you’ll play less game, have less fun, and leave portions of Yoshi’s Island completely unfinished. You’re okay with that, right?

Well, I’m not. Shocking but true: I absolutely can’t deal with anything less than perfection in Yoshi’s Island. I know I’ve found these red coins before. I know I’ve beaten Tap Tap without taking a hit. I know I can discover that Poochy ain’t stupid on my own, so why the hell haven’t I gotten a hundred on this damn fuzzy stage yet!? Oh, there was a jump plate hidden in the sky? That makes perfect sense.

Get Biz-aySo, unlike practically every other Mario game (give or take a few stressful blue coins), I find myself incapable of enjoying Yoshi’s Island. I know, conceptually, that I can avoid the coins. I know I can just boot up that beloved SNES cartridge and play all the levels I want. I know there’s probably a 100% unlocked ROM floating out there somewhere that would alleviate all my woes. I know, somewhere deep down, there’s that enjoyable experience from twenty years ago lurking somewhere around Yoshi’s Island. But now, in my mind, it’s buried beneath a pathological need to acquire flowers and avoid the unshaven. Thus, Yoshi’s Island becomes less “a way to unwind” and more “work”. Work isn’t fun. Work is stressful, and that’s Yoshi’s Island to me.

Yoshi’s Island, the best, most fun game that I absolutely cannot enjoy.

FGC #341 Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

  • System: Super Nintendo. Do we count the Gameboy Advance version, too? No. No Super FX Chip, no sale.
  • What about the SNES Classic? Oh, that too. Yes, I did use the SNES Classic as the perfect excuse to test Yoshi’s Island. Or the other way around? Something like that.
  • Number of players: This was the first Super Mario Bros. title to be only one player. Now a Super Mario Bros. game that is multiplayer is a friggen event, and nobody is expecting Mario and Luigi co-op in New Donk City. I blame Yoshi. Again.
  • ZOOOMFavorite Level: World 2-Special is a rollercoaster ride of red switches that can, incidentally, be completed in all of a minute. It also still manages to contain all the mandatory Yoshi’s Island doodads. This is the game I want to play.
  • Unsolved Mysteries: Who is Huffin Puffin, the chubby bird in party pants, and what is his deal? Why is it okay to steal his (her?) children? Why are said children natural boomerangs? What is the origin of those pants? Now I’m stressed out all over again!
  • Just play the gig, man: I already said that this music was burned into my brain, but I’d like to note that, when I’m in “creepy” situations, I naturally whistle the intro to the final Bowser battle. Bum bum bum buuuum bah bump. Bum bum bum buuuuum bah duuu~uump.
  • Did you know? There are some extremely minor and seemingly superfluous changes to the various icons (oh yeah, I miss having a real map screen, too!) across international versions, but you have to appreciate that they properly colored the SNES buttons purple (as opposed to Super Famicom rainbow) for the US controls button.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. I acknowledge this game is good. I also acknowledge that I hate playing this good game. Sorry.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Taiko Drum Master for the Playstation 2! It’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m going to beat this game. Ha ha ha. Mercy. Please look forward to it!


FGC #330 Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

KAHBY!There is only one Mario. There is only one Donkey Kong. Bowser has a shallow gene pool, but he is the only King of the Koopas. There are not multiple Fox McClouds, just one singular Captain Falcon, and if you see another Samus Aran, it’s an alien parasite mimic of some sort. Even some Nintendo mascots that are supposed to be species are generally regarded as singular. Yoshi is that “one” Yoshi from Super Mario World, and Pikachu is “Ash’s Pikachu”, star of stage and screen. Leads are supposed to be singular, and no one wants to explain to an audience how there are multiple Mickey Mouses or Supermans. We want unique heroes, and the most successful companies are happy to deliver.

Oh, and then there’s Kirby. Nothing makes sense about Kirby.

Kirby was established as singular in his first outing. Kinda. Anyone that ever beat back the nefarious King Dedede knows that when Kirby returned the stolen food to the good people of Dreamland, they appeared to be… Kirbys. Plural. Granted, they’re only seen in silhouette, but Kirby(s) has a pretty distinctive shape. You could probably chalk this up to Kirby’s Dreamland being nothing more than the start of the Kirby Expanded Universe, and also being eternally tied to very limited hardware. Future versions of Kirby’s Dreamland rewrote Dreamland as a place populated by its own unique species, and the army of hungry Kirbys were forsaken for a more solitary hero. But even when Kirby is alone, he is many. Ever beat a world with our favorite creampuff? Think it… strange that the individual Kirby will split into three to dance with himself upon victory? Shouldn’t he have used that ability earlier, when he was actually fighting the boss, and not just to dance on its grave? Is this some kind of after image thing? Is he moving too fast for even saiyan eyes? Kirby is full of mysteries!

Stupid cupidBut the origin of multiple of Kirbys is no mystery in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Dark Meta Knight (the version of Meta Knight that is black instead of dark blue) has escaped from the mirror-verse, and dices Kirby into four inexplicably differently colored kirbys. The quad o’ kirbys all vow revenge, and venture through the mirror-verse, occasionally using a cell phone (that Kirby likely accidentally vacuumed off a passerby) to call each other for help with locked doors and giant bosses. In general, the Kirbys all operate independently, and leap and scurry around the screen doing whatever the heck they want. That… is pretty normal for any given Kirby, as Kirby Prime does seem to have the id of a toddler. It’s a wonder the mirror-verse survives a swarm of Kirbys at all…

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror was released in 2004. The Legend of Zelda Four Swords was released with Link to the Past Advance in 2002, and the more accessible The Legend of Zelda Four Swords Adventures was released in 2004. At the time, it seemed like this whole “there are now four players” thing was some manner of new, here-to-stay Nintendo trend. After all, the Gamecube and N64 both proudly touted their four player capabilities, and it seemed only natural that “let’s play as four Links” or alike was an evolution of any franchise that didn’t already have enough supporting Luigis. Single player experiences are for JRPGs, man, it’s time for these super advanced videogame systems to step up to the next level and get everyone playing at once. Or at least four everyones. Maybe we’ll work on some networking for the next Mario Kart game, get that number up to infinity.

Woooo!However, a future of four simultaneous Donkey Kongs was not meant to be. The Mario series has carried the four player torch with its Mario, Luigi, and Toads (and the occasional thieving rabbit), but, aside from that recognizable example, the era of the four heroes seems to have ended as quickly as it started. Maybe a mere three Links might team up to offer a princess fashion tips, but now Mario is forever one Mario, and Samus has to recruit random federation dorks to fill out her multiplayer experiences.

But Kirby has never been one for rules.

Despite the multi-hero trend shuffling off this earthly coil, many Kirbys persist. Kirbys appear constantly in Kirby-based minigames throughout the series. Return to Dreamland offers Kirby’s unique friends, or the ability to just play as another quad of Kirbys. And then there’s Kirby Mass Attack, a game that is all about having as many Kirbys as possible. Why stop at four? There needs to be a Kirby crowd stomping across the planes, laying waste to any and all obstacles in their path! Kneel before the Kirby army!

But why does it work for Kirby? Why is Kirby allowed to be Kirbys, while Mario and alike are carefully cultivated and held to their inimitable standards. Even the Multi-Link had to be taped down with one magical sword, and there is absolutely no expectation that Breath of the Wild Link is suddenly going to split up to pilot all four Divine Beasts by his lonesome (though, admittedly, that would be pretty cool). Kirby is many, but his contemporaries are singular. Why is Kirby special?

NOTHING WILL SURVIVEThe answer is likely simple: Kirby is a locust. Well, maybe not specifically a locust, but Kirby is an eating machine that demolishes all in his path regardless of alliances because, I don’t know, someone stole his cake. Kirby is an unstoppable force of nature, and like any force of nature, it is just naturally (see?) assumed that he could be many and one at the same time. In the same way we fear “bees” and not “Jerry, that one bee that is kind of a dick” Kirby is practically a species onto himself, and has been for his entire existence. The fact that Kirby has been singular in many adventures is an accident of fate, and we always knew the impending Kirby-pocalypse would one day be upon us.

And that’s why Kirby can carry multiple versions of himself. In our hearts, we know what Kirby actually is, and we accept it readily. His name is Kirby, for he is many.

FGC #330 Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

  • System: Gameboy Advance, and WiiU Virtual Console. Also available on the 3DS should you be one of the chosen few.
  • Number of players: How many Kirbys we got? Four? That sounds good.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is one of my least favorite Kirby games. That still makes it better than like 90% of the games out there, but the lack of a decent map (or a map that makes any kind of intuitive sense) and the “one hit, lose your power” pairs poorly with what seems to be the largest of the “labyrinth” style Kirby adventures. That said, it’s still a fun time, and there is something infinitely satisfying about summoning a multitude of Kirbys to beat down a random tree.
  • AHHHHFavorite Kirby Power: Kirby finally leaned into the Smash Bros. fame, and gained the “smash” ability from devouring an errant Master Hand. And it was good! It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, but it’s fun seeing “Smash Kirby” demolish a traditional Kirby game.
  • Did you know? The Batamon, an “enemy” in Kirby’s Dreamland 3, might be the first appearance of a Kirby-like creature during gameplay. They’re usually seen exploring areas that are inaccessible to Kirby Prime… but feel free to murder the doppelgangers with any copy skills you have laying around.
  • Did you know addendum? Batamon is the first appearance of a Kirby-like creature during gameplay… Except maybe Keeby. But nobody remembers Keeby.
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only on the technicality that this is loaded into my 3DS, so I’m very likely to play it again when I’m on the go and feel like getting a Kirby experience. Even when Kirby isn’t making headway, it’s still fun to bumble around as the pink puff, so it’s hard to say no to the little guy(s).

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Nintendo Wii. Yeeeeeeees. Please look forward to it! I am!

Not quite Whispy