Tag Archives: gameboy

FGC #251 Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters

Here comes the heroSuper Kid Icarus would have been amazing.

I feel like Super Mario Bros. 2 defined how Nintendo makes sequels. Which Super Mario Bros. 2 am I talking about? Both! Super Mario Bros. (1) was an unprecedented success that led not only to Nintendo’s dominance of the videogame market, but also roughly ten billion imitators. Run, jump… who cares if we get the physics right, it’s all the same, let’s snipe some of that sweet Mario money (coins?). Thus, Nintendo had to create its own Super Mario Bros. sequel to maintain its grip on “this is how it’s done”. And Super Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels (let’s just use that title so I don’t have to awkwardly type “J” repeatedly) was born. The Lost Levels was, in essence, a continuation of Super Mario Bros, with (pretty much) the same sprites and physics, just greater and deeper challenges for a population that had already mastered Mario’s first adventure. And… Miyamoto didn’t like it. So when Super Mario Bros. 2 came stateside, it was a totally different game, with a full cast of unique characters, magical dream worlds, and a giant frog instead of a giant turtle. Yes, it was, basically, an “official” rom hack of another game, but this is what America saw as “the second Mario game”. And, of course, it was successful.

And it seems like that trip to Sub-Con set the tone for future Nintendo franchise sequels. Super Mario Bros. 3 returned to “old” Super Mario Bros. gameplay… but with the notable addition of flight and frogs. And completely new sprites. And practically every opponent using new patterns or skills. Super Mario World again changed the game in every conceivable way, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island changed so much that it’s barely even considered a proper sequel. Meanwhile, Link went through three very different iterations between The Legend of Zelda, Link’s Adventure, and A Link to the Past. Even “lesser” franchises and characters follow a similar arc, whether it’s Donkey Kong (1) vs. Donkey Kong (’94), or Kirby’s Dreamland (a suck and spit adventure) vs. Kirby’s Adventure (meet the copy ability). While Nintendo is consistent with its franchises offering the same general gameplay across sequels (almost consistent, look forward to the next entry…), there’s often more innovation than iteration than seen in other companies’ franchise sequels. Or, put another way, it’s difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish the difference between a Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 stage, while no one is going to mistake a SMB3 world for a SMB1 world. Heck, I think there’s so much nostalgia for Super Mario Bros. 1-1 in later Mario games because we didn’t revisit that same basic layout for, what, twenty years? Where have you been, old friend?

DIE!Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters seems to follow this template. KI:OMAM could easily have been a straight NES-to-Gameboy port (not like the NES original was all that complicated from a graphical or bytes perspective), but, no, like a tiny, gray version of Super Mario Bros. 3, we’ve got a game with all new sprites, all new enemies, and all kinds of interesting gameplay improvements. Remember how every last item is completely unexplained in Kid Icarus? KI:OMAM actually involves NPCs that explain how extra weapons work, where secrets may be hiding, and whether or not that off-color water is lava or a healing spring. As someone that has never seen a Kid Icarus instruction manual, this is a Palutena-send. And, despite the cramped Gameboy screen, it seems like fewer monsters spawn directly atop poor Pit. Hooray! And, even better, you can actually duck without instantly dying, as most platforms are now completely solid, and you can scroll the screen down without repercussions. Everything wrong is right again!

And, while the bosses of the original Kid Icarus seemed like mythological (and generally misspelled) names randomly applied to blobs of pixels (how is this smoke monster supposed to be Pandora again?), there is much more of a myths and monsters bend to the creatures of KI:OMAM. “Kid Icarus” absolutely should fight a minotaur, and, look, here’s one at the end of the first stage. And a flying skull with wings might not be the most Grecian thing in the world, but, hey, I’m going to go ahead and say it’s more of a “monster” than that attempt at a dog sprite from the first dungeon of Kid Icarus. And the final boss might not be Medusa, but it is basically the Roman version of Satan. This makes him a tweeeak more threatening than a giant eyeball and its accompanying lazy snake. Dude has horns for days!

WeeeeWhen you put it all together, you get an experience very much like Metroid II: The Return of Samus. Metroid 1 was good, but flawed, with far too many opaque systems and items and Jesus Christ what do I have to do to get an auto-map?! Kid Icarus was very similar in his maiden voyage, and, while his adventure was filled with buttheads, there was a glimmer of a more refined experience in there. Kid Icarus: OMAM is that refined experience. And, more than anything, it’s a fun, “new” sequel that borrows from the old but winds up being a distinctive, excellent experience.

But, for confusing reasons, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was never released in Japan. It’s a first party Nintendo game, but it never saw its native shores, only America and Europe. Likely for this reason alone, when Mario, Link, and even Little Mac were all getting their 16-bit makeovers, Pit was left out in the cold. The Hero of Angel Land never saw a Super Kid Icarus, and we’re poorer for it.

If Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was the template for the future of the Kid Icarus franchise, we lost something special when Pit never ascended with his Nintendo brethren. Super Kid Icarus could have been another Super Metroid, and, heck, if it hit that echelon, it could have chiseled out its own genre. But, no, we are forever denied that beautiful, fictional version of 1994.

But at least we got a pretty good Gameboy game out of it.

FGC #251 Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters

  • System: Gameboy. It also saw some Virtual Console love, mostly as a canny way to promote our next FGC entry.
  • Number of players: Pit is a solitary hero.
  • He's hairy, tooFavorite Boss: The final battle with Orcos is pretty dang epic, and almost reminds me of Super Kraid. This is something of a major achievement on the Gameboy, even if it’s abundantly obvious that no more than one “part” of Orcos can appear on the screen at one time. Hey, it’s rough being a colossal boss on a system that can barely generate four shades of gray.
  • Other Improvements: The three treasures of Angel Land now enhance Pit’s natural abilities, and don’t transform the final stage into a completely other genre. This feels a lot more appropriate than Kid Icarus’s finale.
  • Makeover, Makeover: Palutena’s hair is canon gray for this adventure. Yes, it’s a Gameboy game, but she’s rocking the gray locks in instruction manual illustrations, too. This is probably because no one working on the manual finished Kid Icarus, either.
  • Did you know? When Orcos appears, he turns Palutena to stone. And all the centurions have been similarly transformed into a more statuesque form. That move made a lot more sense with Medusa…
  • Would I play again: The mystique of this game is all wrapped up in what could have been next. The actual game is a step in the right direction, but, like Metroid 2, kind of difficult to revisit after decades of innovations (mostly innovations in screen size). So, while this game is good, no, I don’t think I’ll be playing it again.

What’s next? You know the answer to that one.

Away!

FGC #222 Out to Lunch

Fun times aheadSometimes I wonder if Nintendo Power did permanent damage to my brain.

Today’s game is Out to Lunch. Out to Lunch is one of those “could have worked on the NES” style SNES games. You’re Pierre le Chef, a happy little dude that apparently lives in a waking Hell where all food items are giant, sentient, and capable of escaping from the fridge. Pierre doesn’t want to starve to death, so he grabs his best butterfly net and sets out to re-capture the ingredients for… let’s see here… potatoes, turnips, tomatoes… I suppose he’s making Ice Climber soup. Each level winds up being something of an expanded-Bubble Bobble type affair: each “board” is a seemingly random assortment of obstacles, and you’ve got to stalk your veggies all over the map, capture ‘em, and then drag them (presumably kicking and screaming) back to a specially prepared giant vegetable cage. Jumping on an escaped foodstuff stuns the thing-that-should-not-be, and there are a few powerups lying around, like hot sauce that can lead to fire breath, and salt that is… salt. Look out for Le Chef Noir (roughly translated: something racist), Pierre’s nefarious rival, who will open the cage and let your meals run wild again! The lunch rush was never so literal! Food pun!

Out to Lunch isn’t a bad game, but that paragraph contained basically everything there is to see in the game. Aside from a roaming bacteria or two, practically every trick and trap this game has in store for the player can be experienced within the first level, and, a half hour in, you’ll be ready to put the controller down and play something slightly more robust, like Duck Hunt. Yet, somehow, there are 48 separate levels in this game. That would be kind of impressive on a NES cartridge, but this thing is on the same system as Super Mario World, and that game had 96 exits and a dinosaur. Nowadays, Out to Lunch would be a simple browser or cell phone game, and maybe it would be pay-per-salt to gain an advantage over your unseasoned foes. There they goOne guy would pay a thousand dollars for a million Lunch Coins, Facebook would mock him for a solid week, and that would be that. The world keeps turning, and Out to Lunch is quickly forgotten.

But… why do I own a copy of Out to Lunch?

It’s not because it’s a treasured childhood memory. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even rent this generic platforming whateverthingy. Launch games like the previously mentioned Super Mario World, Final Fight, and even Gradius 3 were all much better experiences than OtL. And it’s not because Pierre le Chef is some beloved childhood character. Even today, I’m likely to buy a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Star Wars game on the spot on the power of license, because I’m weak and a slave to my desires. But Out to Lunch has no such hold over me. Where did this blasted cartridge come from?

And then it hit me: this game was a mistake.

I never wanted Out to Lunch. I wanted Panic Restaurant.

I still have yet to play Panic Restaurant. And why is that? Simple, it currently sells for about $500 used. It’s a NES game, and it was one of the last ones off the assembly line, and nobody bought it because panicking eating establishments are not the most appealing venues for videogames, and, fast forward about two decades, now only six people have a copy. There was probably a time in history that I would have shelled out that kind of dough for a rare NES game, but now, even with a more significant disposable income, the rise of reproduction carts has frightened me away from the field. What’s the point if you can’t even know you’re buying the real McCoy? And am I going to disassemble something I bought for half a grand to find out for sure? Hell no. It’s not like the ROM isn’t right there, and I probably know enough about cart engineering to make my own if I was really that dedicated. YummyWhere was I? Oh yeah, I’m never playing Panic Restaurant for some stupid excuse I’ve concocted. Same goes for you, Little Samson!

But I did always want to play Panic Restaurant, and that’s entirely thanks to Nintendo Power. Panic Restaurant was featured in Issue 38 of Nintendo Power, coincidentally the issue that covered Street Fighter 2. As you can probably guess, since I was young and hungry for street fighting, I read that issue an estimated twelve billion times. It was also the July issue for the year, which meant it got some “extra” reading over the course of the annual Florida vacation (which involved a car ride that lasted roughly as long as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire). Oh, and was this an issue with that Legend of Zelda comic? It was! Oh God! This is a perfect storm, people! I might be able to recite portions of this magazine from memory. I bet Super Mario Bros. 3 was the number one NES game that month! … Okay, that was a gimme.

But, as I now leaf through this issue of Nintendo Power (yes, I have it readily accessible… don’t you?), I realize that a number of these games I wouldn’t play for another ten years, if at all. Magic Sword? Going to have to wait for emulation for that, young Goggle Bob. Gameboy Toxic Avengers? Sorry, same deal (and it ain’t gonna be pretty). Even R-Type, Super Smash TV, and Shatterhand, all featured in this month’s Classified Information, were games that I wouldn’t touch for years, if not decades. Make no mistake, I wanted to play Super Smash TV (the arcade… comes home!), but I think I want to rent the new, BOUNCEnot-in-arcades Mega Man X this week. But that desire… the need to play these games featured in a magazine I read over and over… that only grows… and festers… and, soon enough, I’m at a used game store ten years later, looking at a SNES cartridge with a whacky chef on the cover, and… yeah… I think this is something I want, right? Yes, please, let’s buy this, play it for five minutes, and then never think about it again until some daffy robot demands it be played. That’s a plan!

And I wonder: if Nintendo Power can get me to buy some weird 16-bit game on a misplaced memory of an 8-bit game, how else is that beloved publication influencing my thinking today? Are articles I read twenty years ago manipulating the life or death decisions I make daily? Is Counselor’s Corner controlling the man I am now? Oof, that’s almost too much to contemplate. I’m my own person, dammit, I’m not going to let Nintendo Power tell me what to do!

I think I have to go lie down now. Maybe I’ll call my doctor, get some advice straight from the pros…

FGC #222 Out to Lunch

  • System: Super Nintendo and Gameboy. This game would be more tolerable in a portable format… but then it would probably also just be Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle. That’s not a good thing.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. And you both play as the same chef. Couldn’t get a recolor going, guys? Lame.
  • GotchaFavorite powerup: There are spiked shoes, and I thought they would help stomp on enemies more effectively, but, nope, they let Chef “stick” to the icy platforms, and not slip around. Considering that damn slipperiness pretty much killed my desire to keep playing this game, I’d say that’s the best powerup available.
  • So, did you beat it? Nope. I’m not sure I’ll ever be bored enough to grapple with this much tedium.
  • Did you know? Because I will never own the game, I will never review Panic Restaurant as part of the FGC. And that looks like a more interesting game than Out to Lunch, too! Right here in Nintendo Power, it says that…
  • Would I play again: I never wanted to play this game in the first place!

What’s next? Let’s review 2016! Please look forward to it!

FGC #199 Tetris Blast

Blasting offReason Goggle Bob Feels Ashamed #4,631 (not high school-related count): I like Tetris Blast more than Tetris.

It is literally impossible to measure the cultural impact of Tetris. While it’s entirely possible that Bill Clinton never played Super Mario Bros. or George Bush never touched a Final Fantasy in his life, I completely believe that every sitting president since the invention of the Gameboy has played Tetris in one form or another. It was a national phenomenon for what seemed like a decade, established and solidified Nintendo’s grip on the handheld market, and I’m pretty sure it single-handedly extended the USSR’s existence for a solid year or two. The dates match up, people!

On a personal level, Tetris was always the game that established that I might not be a complete weirdo. It was the adults of my extended family that first caught the Tetris bug, and, like settlers infecting indigenous peoples with well-meaning/diseased blankets, my mother and grandfather shortly thereafter succumbed to Tetris-mania. My father and grandmothers seemed oddly resistant to the strain, but, in no time at all, my grandfather had received a Gameboy as a Christmas gift, and my mother, shining bastion of restraint that she forever will be, would often sneak the device back home, only to be returned when the batteries ran dry. I wasn’t allowed to have a Gameboy of my own (as I’ve mentioned before, it was assumed that allowing me to have an “always available” system would lead to becoming some filthy videogame blogger or something), but the mere fact that the maternal side of my family was so dedicated to playing one single game seemed… empowering? I wasn’t alone in my “childish” hobby. Here are a World War II vet and a historian both playing with the same d-pad as yours truly. DOUBLE!Sure, they still didn’t know the secret hiding place of Dungeon 7, but it’s enough that they now understand why I get upset every time I’m asked to give up on a high score for dinnertime. I just got a long piece, I can’t quit now!

Of course, other than that, I didn’t really like Tetris.

To be clear, this is another case where I “like” Tetris, but I’d rather be playing Mega Man. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t play videogames (this is a lie, I remember the first time I saw Super Mario Bros like most people remember the first time they saw their spouse… er… hmm….), which means that, whether it was because of Nintendo Power ads that convinced me I “need” the latest game, or because I never beat Friday the 13th, I have pretty much always had a backlog. “Would I play again” has always been an important question in my mind, because there’s more out there in the wide world of gaming, and I’m never going to save all those princesses if I spend all day stacking blocks. Tetris is, at its core, a score-based game, and, like its cousins in the sportsball arena, I’d rather be playing something with a clear goal or “plot”. The plot might be completely bonkers, but I get so much more joy out of overanalyzing a vaguely religious space opera than praying for one less square block to fall. Everybody knows that everything about Tetris is random, right? It’s just a waste of time and effort! Soylent Green is made from tetrominoes!

And I say this all as someone who has somehow purchased a copy of Tetris for every system he’s ever owned. Hey, it holds my attention for ten minutes or so.

Dance!But Tetris Blast? Tetris Blast was somehow made for my unique psychological issues.

Tetris Blast came stateside as a (Super) Gameboy game, but it saw more systems and wider release in Japan as Bombliss. You will note that “Bombliss” does not include the title “Tetris”, but, hey, if you’ve got the license to use the name of one of the most well-known videogames in history, may as well slap that thing on everything from explosion simulators to Yoshi block puzzles. Tetris Blast is pretty damn Tetris, though. Your goal is to line up blocks, but, unlike in OG Tetris, lines do not naturally disappear when properly assembled. You must also include at least one “bomb block”, and, if that bomb is in a complete line, then it will explode the nearby blocks. A single line causes an explosion that is a single line’s height (though not necessarily width, so a bomb at the far edge might not eliminate an entire line), but if more than one line is amassed simultaneously, the blast will be larger. Line up four rows and then that single bomb block that would be piddling on a single line completion becomes celebratory fireworks. Couple this with the ability to combine four little bomb blocks into one giant bomb block, and you’ve suddenly gained the ability to blast the entire screen with one well-placed block. Granted, that takes a lot of planning (or luck), but it’s phenomenally satisfying when you pull it off.

WOOOOOTetris Blast shines brightest with its “modes”. There’s two player head-to-head, so, right off the bat, it has a leg up over NES Tetris. Then we have Training, your Mode A, and Contest, Mode B. Contest deserves some major kudos for designing a series of interesting, escalating “puzzles” that teach the basics on early levels (big bomb = good), and slowly ramps up to “this is a weird collection of blocks, but I think you can figure it out”. It’s also features breakdancing Pac-Man rejects every five stages, and I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

But what always seems to hold my attention is Fight. Fight is Tetris Blast, but a small “monster” is skulking around the stage. There are eight different creatures, and each has a different ability, like making your pieces fall faster, or eating your meticulously placed bombs. Your goal is to blast these critters with your bombs until their hit points are exhausted, or you clear the stage of every last block, which I suppose causes the monsters to commit seppuku in failure. These beings are completely “there”, too, which means you can squish them with properly placed blocks, or attempt to “box ‘em in” to curtail their dangerous habits. It’s not unlike playing Tetris, but having a lil’ Mario or koopa troopa scampering around on your growing tower. It’s simultaneously dumb and surprisingly endearing.

And I love it.

DAMMIT!It appears the secret to holding my attention is slapping a pair of googly eyes on a random shape and calling it my enemy. Squidly, Dug Grub, and Creepa are all rivals to my Tetris Blast happiness, and they must be stopped. I must defeat this charmingly named menace by any means necessary, else the previously blissful land of Bombliss will forever fester beneath the rule of B. Boy. God help me, the minute the Tetris world gained a rival faction, I was interested again, and wound up playing this nonsense for hours on end.

Hi, my name is Goggle Bob, and I prefer a cheap knock-off to a timeless classic because it features a monster named Gloop. Thanks for reading my blog.

FGC #199 Tetris Blast

  • System: Gameboy and Super Gameboy. The Super Gameboy factor is the only reason I owned this game when it was current.
  • Number of players: Usually one, but with that link cable? Oh boy, good times ahead!
  • Favorite Monster: Dug Grub seems to inspire the most strategy. He will eat our precious giant bombs, but he only does so from the top, and not that quickly, either. This means you often have the opportunity to squish him before he gobbles up your hard work… but then there will be an errant block on top of your giant bomb, possibly causing more issues down the line. In closing, Tetris Blast is a land of contrasts.
  • New Game Plus: There is a “second round” of even harder monsters after the first group. They can be unlocked by completing the game once, or entering a secret code you found in Nintendo Power. The most significant change for this challenge mode is that clearing all the blocks will not end the level, meaning some jerks, like Squidly, the beast that just chills and refills his own health, will take forever.
  • Number of times I resisted making an “explosive” pun during this article: 1,205.
  • Did you know? Tetris Blast seems to have inspired Super Puzzle Fighter and Lumines in various design decisions. It’s not like Tetris Blast invented the “puzzle game where things explode” genre, but there is certainly some shared DNA there.
  • Would I play again: Probably not, as the Gameboy and its library rarely sees replay in my home outside of an elf’s adventure to wake a fish. That said, if this thing gets a rerelease or redux, I am totally there.

What’s next? Random ROB… Listen to me, robot. This is entry #200 coming up, and I don’t want you to blow it like last time. So pick something good, ROB.

And the winner is… Wayne’s World for Super Nintendo!

Dammit, ROB!

How am I going to get something memorable out of that? Bah, I’m sure I’ll think of something. Please look forward to it!

That's that