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FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Live!)

Let's get ready to go!Well, this went just about as well as expected.

In honor of FGC Entry #300, I decided to do a “live pick” with BEAT and FanboyMaster. In the end, the game wound up being Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, and… I’m not very good at it. Please enjoy watching Claire Redfield die a whole lot below.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

4:00 – Our first pick is… not allowed. It turns out that if you ask BEAT to choose a number between one and ten, he will choose twelve billion. Eventually, Adventure Island 3 is chosen… and then dropped due to not actually being emulator-ly available. I am not going to fight my NES for a half hour.

6:47 – The Sega Saturn Bootleg Sampler is mentioned. Despite the name, this was an official demo disc that came with new Sega Saturns. It had a playable demo for Sega Rally Championship, and a video preview of Daytona USA. Bless the short-lived reign of the racing game. Oh, and Etrian Mystery Dungeon is also picked… but man do I not want to stream that. There are no objections.

9:50 – Okay, now we’ve settled on our actual pick. Third time’s a charm! Now I just have to wander across the room to actually find the game.

14:05 – Now we’re actually playing a videogame! Sorta! I’m having difficulty even navigating the menus… and that’s a fine preview for the rest of the evening.

21:28 – FanboyMaster proves to be the Resident Evil guru around here, while BEAT learns for the first time that Claire on the game case is not the eponymous “Veronica”. Come on, BEAT, I’m terrible at this game, and I knew that.

27:13 – Let’s talk about Sonic the Hedgehog cameras while Claire is nibbled to death by the absolute earliest zombies available. What happened to the super agile Claire of the opening cinema?

Weeeeeee37:00 – FanboyMaster continues to provide excellent coaching, but I am just terrible at this game. I’ve said it before, but I cannot in good conscience complain about the overabundance of tutorials in modern games, because I do not miss nonsense like this. I’ll echo exactly what I said in the stream: I cannot tell you how many times I opened a menu or the map screen in an attempt to shoot a zombie, and, immersion or no, I’d kind of like to have an explanation of how to defend myself before I’m chewed to pieces by the walking dead. There, that’s my big takeaway from replaying a tanky Resident Evil about two decades after its release. Now we can go back to watching me die.

42:00 – There is a brief discussion regarding third party controllers. I looked it up afterwards, and, yes, the Super Advantage was a third party controller, but the original NES Advantage was first party. I’m glad I got that fact right while showcasing my embarrassing Resident Evil skills.

49:50 –

Albert Whiskers

58:00 – Please enjoy a brief discussion of Umbrella Co. bureaucracy while my brain breaks over the first puzzle in the game. I cannot imagine why I didn’t get into the Resident Evil series until 4…

1:06:00 – I am not a cool nerd: my greatest memory of StarCraft is getting a friend to eat dog food. And then we talk about projectile vomiting.

1:09:00 – FanboyMaster leaves for parts unknown, so BEAT ‘n Goggle Bob are doomed. Let’s talk about Let’s Play styles while Claire creeps closer to her inevitable death.

1:12:00 – FanboyMaster returns to discuss Phoenix Wright, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil 4. These are all games I would rather be playing.

1:17:00 – I finally throw in the towel, as FanboyMaster reveals I’ve been trying to extinguish the wrong fire at the wrong truck. Let’s look at some VMU saves instead.

1:20:00 – Now for random excerpts of BEAT and I chatting over Sonic Adventure 2, a Dreamcast game that I actually know how to play.

REEMAIL1:30:00 – It all comes back to Kingdom Hearts as we close out the evening around 1 AM. Thanks to everyone that watched the stream live, and extra special thanks to FanboyMaster and BEAT for guesting. Obviously, a certain non-skeleton someone was slightly more useful on this stream, but a fun time was had by all. Here’s to another 300 FGCs! Note: there will not be another 300 FGCs.

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

  • System: Dreamcast tonight, but it eventually returned on Playstation 2, Gamecube, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. What? It’s not on any modern compilations?
  • Number of players: The Redfield siblings are available, but only one at a time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Haven’t I talked about it enough!? The long short of it is that I am no good at tanky Resident Evil games, and absolutely never have been. This is another Goldeneye situation where my friends were all super enthused about this series, but I just couldn’t get into it until Resident Evil 4. As a result, what little skills I had in this franchise have atrophied over time, and, again, I’m not even sure I ever actually played this game in the first place. I remember watching friends play it, as I recall many of the plot points from the game, but the actually nitty gritty of where demon dogs lie is completely absent from my brain.
  • BURN!Aw, I wanted a real Resident Evil- Code: Veronica article, and not just Goggle Bob flailing about: Don’t worry, I’m sure ROB will choose one of the remakes eventually.
  • Favorite Button: Whichever one brings up the completely useless map, evidently.
  • I’m Consistent: Come to think of it, one of my first deaths in Bioshock was ducking into a bathroom stall that I thought was an exit, and, nope, dead-end. This seems to be a problem I have.
  • Did you know? If you’re as bad at this game as myself, you’ll be interested to know that there is a novelization of the game available. It’s fairly accurate to the source material, but (of course) does not include references to story bits added for the Playstation 2 version. Also, it adds one new shadowy badguy that is an original character, do not steal.
  • Would I play again? Now I almost feel like I have to… but I’m not going to. There are so many other things I could be doing, and most of them don’t involve steering hapless women into zombie outbreaks. Sorry!

What’s next? I’m taking the rest of the week off. There may be an article or two if I get bored, but the next official post will be on Monday 7/17, and it’ll be #301 Adventure Island 3. Please look forward to it!

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

BROSIt’s a common practice among nerds to attempt to uncover the “jump the shark” moment in a particular piece of media. As the theory goes, when a franchise has gone downhill in quality over time, you should be able to look back at previous chapters/episodes/editions, and find the exact moment everything started to decline. This expression originates from the show Happy Days, wherein The Fonz jumped his motorcycle over progressively more frightening sea animals, until it all culminated with a shark. And I guess the shark sued the production company for mental duress, and then the writer’s budget ran out, and the show got worse… or… something like that. Personally, I’ve never cottoned to the idea that there even are “jump the shark” moments, as I have faith that everything is connected, and nothing occurs in a vacuum. For a current example, I completely believe that American Politics 2017 is the direct result not of “but her emails” or anything like that, but a healthy combination of fifty years of politics being treated like a football game and a young Donald Trump getting his head slammed into a locker far too many times in high school. Our world, and our entertainment that reflects our world, is just the latest stop on a never-ending highway, and every shark along the way is just as important as every… not-shark? What’s the opposite of a shark? Bees?

But, beliefs aside, there are occasions when I need to admit I’m wrong, and maybe there is an exact moment when everything goes to hell. For the Sonic Franchise, it’s right about here:

This guy

Now, I want to be clear about why Shadow the Hedgehog is terrible. First of all, it’s not because he’s a lazy color swap of Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s not a color swap! He clearly has different shoes and he’s got frosted (blazed?) tips on his hair spikes. That makes him a totally original character, so do not steal. And, secondly, I don’t hate Shadow because he theoretically gave rise to the Sonic fandom’s bizarre obsession with slightly recoloring Sonic, calling it something like “Twilight the Hedgehog”, and then filling an entire Deviantart with hastily sketched nonsense depicting Twilight saving Sonic and being the ultimate best hedgehog forever before appearing in some barefoot-based fetish porn. I can’t blame Shadow for all of that, because, let’s face it, that was always going to happen. There are an equal number of ersatz Princess Peaches out there doing… stuff… and you know it. Shadow might be the start of everything wrong with Hedgehog Fandom (what an odd thing to type), but that’s not why he’s the forbearer of bad Sonic times.

No, Shadow’s worst transgressions are the result of his debut game, Sonic Adventure 2.

Hit a homerSonic Adventure 2 has a loose theme about good and evil. This is appropriate, as SA2 is an unholy abomination created by soldering a good game and bad game together. On one hand, we’ve got probably the best Sonic the Hedgehog 3-D gameplay ever seen. It is not by any means perfect, but, once you master the intricacies of some horrible hitboxes, you really do feel like you’re rolling around at the speed of sound. Clearing a level without stopping and just creating a blue blur of spin dashing, homing dashing, and light speed ring collection feels amazing, and that general rollercoaster feeling hasn’t been matched by any later Sonic games. On the other hand, this is the game that introduced Sonic to rail-grinding, and that has never been fun. Those stupid rails effectively turn great swaths of levels (including the final, real Sonic stage) into minecart challenges, and… no, just no. Basically, every moment a hedgehog is on-screen, it’s guaranteed that you’re either really enjoying it or participating in some manner of hell.

Which brings us to the other fun bit: you’re not guaranteed any hedgehog time from level to level. Sometimes you’re Tails, who has eschewed his normal wannabe Sonic gameplay for something more like the shooting bits of Sonic Adventure. And that’s not bad! The “robo sections” of SA were exciting in their chaos, and nothing much has changed between games, save eliminating the time limits that could make those areas stressful. And Nibbles is back in his SA role of finding emerald shards for the flimsiest of reasons, but that’s just SA’s excuse for more exploratory, less dash-y gameplay. It’s not what one signs up for with a Sonic game, but, for its epoch, it was an entertaining distraction. Though, I suppose, that is the issue, as, in order to play the Sonic game you inexorably wanted (there were two hedgehogs on the cover of this game, it should have to go fast!), you have to clear all the Tails/Nurples nonsense, which means slowing down to their levels. Boo slowdown!

But we still have the bad guy side. Dr. Robotnik is clearly the big bad of the Sonic franchise, so he’s obviously the leader of Team Bad. And, yes, he plays exactly like robo-Tails, so that kind of makes sense. But… aside from an army of generic robots, now we’re out of antagonists for the franchise. Sonic doesn’t even have a Tatanga or Wart, so I guess we need to get a Wario and Waluigi in here. Rogue the Bat was introduced as one part Catwoman and one part… No, she’s pretty much just a furry Catwoman, complete with the shifting alliances and a weird inclination toward being attracted to her oblivious rival. And then we’ve got Shadow, the escaped science experiment and preposterous dark hedgehog.

NOBODY LIKES YOUAnd Shadow… kind of works.

So he’s a cryogenically frozen hedgehog from two generations back? Sure, okay. I mean, there were already two games’ worth of echidna murals depicting a hedgehog saving the world, so it’s only natural that Grandpappy Robotnik would make his “ultimate life form” a hedgehog. Grease the wheels of prophecy whenever you get a chance, ya know? And he can pull off some magical teleporting abilities with the aid of a Chaos Emerald. That makes sense, too. I mean, Sonic and Knux are confirmed idiots, and Tails is pretty laser focused on machines, so it stands to reason there was more to those silly gems than going super saiyan. And Shadow has a bad attitude? Is that a problem? I mean, Sonic is the original animal with attitude (as far as videogames go, at least), and he’s only lost his edge over the years thanks to a decade of being merchandized by Urkel. Shadow the Edgelord is just a return to established hedgehog roots.

But the reason Shadow really works on an intrinsic level is that he is the core of the game’s plot. He was built by Grandpa Gerald to be the ultimate life form powered by Chaos Emeralds, and, by the end of the game, we’ll find that Gerald built his own Death Star and mecha-dinosaur, and it was all an insidious plot to destroy the world, and who will save us now!? Don’t worry, citizens, Shadow is here, and he’s equipped with the knowledge of the past and the support of Sad Auntie Eggwoman, and everything is going to be okay! Shadow will, at the final hour, sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, and, see? Team Bad Guy was actually Team Pretty Okay Guy all along.

WeeeeeAnd everyone knew that plot would work, because it’s the exact same plot as the last Sonic Adventure game. Shadow is basically SA’s Tikal, the ancient model swap of Noodles the Echidna that wound up wrapped up in an ancient weapon that threatens to destroy humanity and only focused caring will save us all. Except Tikal was not a hedgehog, so she was a lot more mopey than radical, and she never made it past her debut game (save a cameo or two). Shadow, meanwhile… well… Are there any games post SA2 that haven’t involved Shadow? Was he in Sonic 4? I want to say he at least got a cameo…

And that’s Shadow’s biggest problem: he just won’t go away. Shadow had a perfect little plot in Sonic Adventure 2, and, by the finale, it’s time for him to heroically perish, the end, thanks for coming by, Shadow. But, no, Shadow came back in the very next Sonic game, and he kept coming back after that. He even got his own game! It was confusing! And why did this keep happening? Was it because he was just that popular? The fans demanded it? Is it because it’s so simple to implement the Luigi to Sonic’s Mario? Does Sonic Team just want more gosh darn cussin’? Who can really provide the actual answer? I sure don’t know, but it is clear that Shadow the Hedgehog is here to stay.

The best characterAnd it’s that damn hedgehog that flushed the series. It’s not about him having too much attitude or using a gun or whatever other sins Shadow has committed; it’s about the keepers of Sonic looking at this singular, silly, dead character, and deciding to revive him because he should somehow be essential to the Hedgehog Universe. That makes Shadow the representative of the exact moment this franchise stopped being about blast processing, and more about the greater Chaos Emerald Mythology…. And Sonic got left by the wayside. It took over a decade after Shadow’s debut for Sonic and Sonic Gameplay to take center stage again, but, by that time, the damage was already done. We were cursed to live in a world where the word “werehedgehog” exists, and it all started with Shadow.

Shadow the Hedgehog, you were born the exact moment your species jumped the shark.

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

  • System: Well, “Battle” technically appeared on the Gamecube (and was the first time Sonic starred in a game on a Nintendo home console… I think), but the original Sonic Adventure 2 first appeared on the Dreamcast. It was also then rereleased on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Hedgehogs get around.
  • Number of players: There’s a two player “battle mode”, and it’s theoretically more robust on all post-Dreamcast releases. Except… there isn’t much of a difference. You can play as additional characters!… that were all in the original, but had to be unlocked first. And there are new costumes? Who cares.
  • PUMPKIN HILL, YOJust play the gig, man: This is the best music in the Sonic in the franchise. I’m not kidding. At all. The original games have fun music, but I find myself humming other Genesis tunes a lot more often. And the latter games have ridiculous lyric/guitar songs, but they’ve gotten progressively more… I think “trendy” is the right word. But for Sonic Adventure 2? Oh man, they totally got the sweet spot on something that will be in your head all day and is completely incomprehensible. That’s exactly what I look for in a Dreamcast soundtrack.
  • I am an addict: Let me tell you about how I was glued to a Dreamcast VMU for a solid two months thanks to the damn Chao Garden minigame. Actually, no, I’m not going to tell you about that, because I’m pretty sure it ends with my friends flattening that VMU for my own safety.
  • Favorite Character: I mentioned it briefly in the article proper, but I really do enjoy the Tails/Eggman sections of the game. And, of the two, I kind of enjoy playing as Eggman more. He’s just so happy about winning for once!
  • Did you know? There is also a lame racing game hiding in Sonic Adventure. It is… so terrible.
  • Would I play again: Every once in a while, I get a hankering to play City Escape or… whatever stage it is where Shadow is on the bridge. City… Hazard? Something like that. But other than that, I rarely revisit this game, as I generally prefer the good ol’ days of 2-D.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pac-Man for the Gameboy! Yellow Man becomes Gray Man! Please look forward to it!

Master Emerald?  Get it?
Should we be seeing this?

FGC #244 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The greatest trick Miyamoto ever pulled was convincing the world Link didn’t exist.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Link of The Legend of Zelda, has claimed that Link is named for the fact that he is a “link” to the player. When you’re exploring the realm of Hyrule, you’re not doing it “with” Link, you are Link, and his every grunt and tumble is actually your own. Almost every Zelda game highlights this fact with a nearly entirely mute Link that is not so much a legendary hero, but just a dude in a tunic. He might have a sister, he might be a random farmhand, or he might even be a fairy boy, but Link is always intended to be the player from the moment you hit start. Your life is over, bird-flying kid, you’re mine now.

Except… that’s not very Nintendo.

There are a number of reasons Nintendo is friggen’ Nintendo, but one rationale that I’ve always believed is that, from the moment Jump Man became Mario, Nintendo just plain knows how to establish its characters. Mario doesn’t coincidentally wear the same gloves as Mickey Mouse. Maybe it’s the merchandizing, maybe it’s an overzealous fanbase, but, somehow, Nintendo seems to effortlessly create memorable characters. When even Samus Aran, a woman who barely spoke anything but narration for fifteen years, has a “character” to accidentally break during Another M, you know you’ve done something right (or, again, maybe it’s just a deranged fanbase).

“Blank slate in a green tunic” doesn’t exactly fit this pattern, though. Mario is silent save a few woo-hoos, but his personality is firmly established in his actions and acrobatics. “Cowardly” Luigi (flying brave Sir Link’s colors) is much in the same boat. Kirby is a damn pre-verbal pink ball, and I can tell you more about his personality than the headlining characters of La La Land (though, admittedly, I’m not sure about Kirby’s feelings on jazz). Yet Link is, time and time again, the most lauded Nintendo hero. He’s so… quiet? Well, he’s cool, at least. We know that much.

But why do we know that? Simple. It’s because of this hated creature…

HEY LISTEN!

Link might be a “link” to the player, but the real hero of Hyrule is whoever happens to be hanging out with Link on his quest. Without Navi, Tatl, or Fi, Link is… maybe brain damaged? Sheltered, at least. Extremely sheltered. This is the desert of the Gerudo. This is the Dungeon of Bad Vibes, you’re going to need a key or two. This is the field right outside your house. Have you never been here before? Should I stick a little note to your tunic to remind you which way is north? It’s up. Go up, Link. Oh Keese, why are you rolling everywhere?

… What I’m saying is that, without a companion creature, Link is basically a toddler with a sword. And that’s a crafting recipe for disaster.

This, of course, brings us to today’s topic: The Legend of Zelda: Midna Rules Edition. And, yes, Midna rules. It’s right there in the title! But why is Midna the boss? It’s because Link is a person, and not an anonymous “link”.

CLANGWhen The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (alternate title) begins, Link has a pretty solid life. He’s herding cow creatures, hanging out with swollen headed moppets, and kinda-sorta dating Pony Princess. It’s a phenomenally boring life, but it’s a life, and probably not that far off from even modern countryside living. This all changes with the Realm of Twilight invades, kidnaps a few kiddies, and transforms the surrounding area into a waking nightmare. Link himself is captured, tossed into a dungeon, and transformed into a puppy dog (maybe not in that order). It’s here that he meets Midna, a spritely elf with a penchant for wolf-riding, and the adventure begins in earnest. Together, Midna and Link venture forth to save two kingdoms, and maybe see if Zelda knows how to use that sword (answer: not really).

Oh, also, Midna kinda hates everything.

Midna is the deposed princess of another world. That sucks. She also got transformed into her current “imp” form thanks to a dark curse. That also sucks. And the guy that cursed her and conquered her kingdom? He’s malevolent, power-mad, and crazy-go-nuts bonkers, so it’s hard to make peace with the new administration and “just give him a chance”. In short, Midna doesn’t have a single reason to be happy before the game even begins. By the time she’s forced to work together with a mutt to strike down monkeys and gather shadow pieces, she’s pretty much at her lowest point. She’s cursed, beaten, and is probably going to wind up with a back out of alignment thanks to that silly hat. Just not a good day for Midna.

And she lets Link know about it.

HEHEHEHE

While it’s absolutely true in other Zelda materials, it would be way too reductive to label Midna as simply the “tsundere” archetype. Yes, she’s about three seconds from “it’s not because I like you or anything”, but Midna’s personality does actually evolve over the adventure. Right around the time that Link and Zelda literally save Midna’s life, she seems to noticeably thaw a bit, and her icy exterior gives way to a character that has to shatter dimensions just to keep her feelings in check. Wait, is that tsundere to a T? My bad. Let’s just say that comparing any character this nuanced to a damn anime trope is bad form, and leave it at that. Midna has layers, and it’s not just because she’s attached to a thirty hour adventure.

And it’s Midna’s layers that keep Link alive.

In The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Link initially sets out from Outset Island (oh, I just got that) to rescue his sister. Along the way, he learns of a lost kingdom and magical swords and Bird Person the mailman. By the time Link is kissing the King of Red Lions good-bye, Link’s sister, his own flesh and blood, has been nearly completely forgotten. She’s still there, yes, but she has nothing to do with anything past her hair color, and Link is ready for new, bigger adventures without whatsherface. Can’t quite remember her name… starts with… A?

WaterloggedMidna doesn’t let Link forget about his life. Hey stupid, you’ve got to rescue those kids. Hey stupid, you’ve got to restore Pony Princess’s broken brain meats. Hey stupid, wasn’t there another princess in this story? Do something about that. Hey stupid, I’m not your personal secretary, I’m a damn princess myself, how about you keep saving your stupid kingdom before I turn you into Fido again.

Hey, Link, do what you’re supposed to do.

It’s likely no coincidence that this is the Zelda game with a magical mirror as its main McGuffin, as Midna is the perfect mirror for Link. Midna is selfish when Link is noble. Midna throws a tantrum, and Link stays cool. She is chatty, he is mute. She’s just sitting there, and he is running around on all fours. Midna (appears to be) everything Link isn’t, and that defines Link wholly. Midna is the monster, and Link is the hero.

Link is not a cipher. Link is, as much as any other Nintendo mascot, an established character with clearly defined traits. Link is best demarcated by his opposite number, but, in a pinch, any fairy, sword, or boat will do. Link is the Hero of Hyrule, and we only know it because of his helpers.

Just be careful if you’re going to call Midna a helper…

FGC #244 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

  • System: I’m always surprised that this game is on so many systems. Technically, it’s on Gamecube (with the original, scarce Gamecube version), Wii (much more popular), and WiiU (via the HD rerelease). I still think of Twilight Princess as a “recent” Zelda title, so it always confuses me to learn it’s already on three different generations of hardware.
  • Number of players: There is only one hero in these two realms.
  • WeeeeeeeMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: There are three reasons I dislike this game. One, during the main quest, it seems like there’s an interruption every five feet, whether it be sumo wrestling, fluzzard flying, or bridge dueling. Second, every “hidden area” seems to have a “come back when you have item X” sign, so exploring before you have dual hookshots doesn’t work out well. And, finally, once you do have everything, the map is so damn big that it takes for-friggen-ever to get anywhere. Lake Hylia is… unruly. All that said, it’s still a Zelda game, so even at its worst, it’s better than like 90% of my library.
  • Favorite Item: I don’t care if it only gets used in one damn dungeon, the Spinner is the bee’s knees. PETA might have issues with this, but I feel like Epona should have been ditched for the second half of the game, and the Spinner should have picked up all of her movement abilities. Spinner-back archery? Yes please.
  • Wii-mote Possibility: The constant shaking of this game isn’t the best thing in the world, but gyroscopic archery did a lot to sell me on the possibility of the Wii. I’m actually curious how the “protect the carriage” bit works out on the Gamecube, because the aiming fun of the wiimote makes that escort mission actually tolerable.
  • D'awwGoggle Bob Fact: I had a very long, in-depth conversation with my (then) girlfriend over the phone while playing through the Sacred Grove/get the Master Sword section of the game. While I can barely remember the actual contents of the conversation, I literally cannot play that area without distinctly recalling my old apartment, my old (garbage) couch, and attempting to juggle the ancient flip phone of the day while shaking the wiimote. Stupid flashbulb memories…
  • Did you know? Midna’s “talking sounds” are actually English voice acting played backwards and distorted. Is this meant to imply that the Twilight Realm was really America all along? You damn, dirty shadow monsters!
  • Would I play again: I’ve been working on the HD rerelease off and on for a little while, but I still haven’t completed it. I kind of cooled on the game when Breath of the Wild seemed imminent. You don’t want to play too much Zelda at once! That said, I know I’ll get back to it eventually.

What’s next? We’re celebrating the Switch launch with the prequel to an anticipated Switch title, Super Bomberman 2. It’s gonna be a blast! Please look forward to it!

Love that song
Midnight release

FGC #226 Super Monkey Ball

MONKEY!Now this is a launch title.

The Nintendo Gamecube was released my freshman year of college. While I was lucky enough to secure a cabal group of lifelong friends early in my first semester, I unfortunately was not able to convince any of my minions buddies to ferry me along to the Gamecube midnight launch. I suppose my greatest enemy was the premiere of the new Justice League animated series, and, ya know, some people are bigger comic book nerds than videogame nerds. Losers. Regardless, I was forced to purchase a Gamecube later in the week (the indignity!), and the only venue with ‘cubes available to gleam was Electronics Boutique. Because EB Games was frequently managed by charlatans and malcontents, the only way to secure a Gamecube was through a “bundle”, which would require the purchase of the base system, one additional controller, and three games. Ha! I eat three games for breakfast! Sign me up!

Now, I mention this story because, truth be told, I likely would not have purchased those three “extra” games if not for the (mandatory) bundle. I knew Smash Bros. was dropping within a few weeks, and, while I didn’t yet know just how amazing Melee would be, I knew I needed some of that hot Pikachu on Mario action. Couple that thinking with being a poor college kid (is that redundant?), and, for once in my life, I was very likely to ignore 90% of the new releases for the year. After all, the N64 was on its way out, and I could pick up like half of that library for approximately five bucks. $150 worth of games I’d never play? That’s like seventeen servings of buffalo wings I’ll never be able to afford. The horror!

ROLL ON!Regardless, I wound up going for the EB “deal”, and I came home with Luigi’s Mansion, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, and Super Monkey Ball. Rogue Leader I barely played, but a number of my cronies enjoyed it, so it wasn’t a total loss. Luigi’s Mansion I played to completion a few times the following summer, but it was certainly no Mario 64 or Super Mario World. And the final title of the trio was Super Monkey Ball, a game I barely chose over the latest Madden and Tony Hawk games. I didn’t really like Madden or Tony Hawk, but at least they were known quantities. This Super Monkey Ball was… a monkey in a ball? The hell? Man, why did I stop my Nintendo Power subscription? I have no idea what I’m looking at here.

And Super Monkey Ball turned out to be the best of the lot. Go monkeys. Go.

On the surface, Super Monkey Ball is just Labyrinth, that one stupid game that your uncle got you every Christmas where you try to manipulate a wooden maze until a marble falls into the right hole. Twenty minutes later, you’ve won, and you move on to more complex games, like cone with a ball on a string or Candy Land. Super Monkey Ball attempts to relieve the inherent boredom in the system with two key features. One, there are almost a hundred “mazes”, so there is a lot to master here; and two, there are monkeys in balls. Not sure which genius came up with this concept, but there are tiny monkeys trapped in transparent “vending machine” balls, and, well, that goes a long way to humanizing an otherwise uninteresting concept. Monkeyizing? Whatever. What’s important is that guiding Aiai to collect banana after banana is possibly the most important task you will ever be coerced into completing, and every time that monkey falls into the endless void that is outside the current stage… well… Let’s just say that nobody likes a pile of dead monkeys. That should be incentive enough.

DAMMITBut if Super Monkey Ball was just monkey balancing, I wouldn’t be talking about it right now. Well, I guess I’d be talking about it, as per ROB mandate, but I’d probably be engineering some amazing fiction about monkeys being sealed in balls and forced to collect bananas for an uncaring, but all seeing, God of Monkey Sadism. Huh. Maybe we’ll save that for the sequels. No, what’s important about Super Monkey Ball isn’t the monkeys or their mazes, what’s important are the minigames that account for about 7,000 hours of my Super Monkey Ball playtime.

Let’s do a quick rundown. We’ve got:

  • Monkey Billiards: It’s pool, but you’re generally seeing the game from the perspective of the cue ball. If you’re good at geometry, you’re probably going to be good at this. Cyclops is amazing at this one.
  • Monkey Golf: Like Monkey Billiards, it’s golf (or more like mini golf) from the perspective of the ball. Somehow the monkeys have putters inside of their plastic balls, and the physics of that are dubious at best. Nonetheless, it’s golf, the end.
  • Monkey Bowling: This time, the monkeys must defeat a nefarious dragon and save the princess before the king of all bananas returns to his kingdom. Nah, I’m just messing with you. It’s bowling.
  • Monkey Race: It’s like Mario Kart, if Mario Kart was extremely limited, and you could occasionally transform your opponents into useless cubes. Considering we were still a ways off from the amazing Mario Kart Double Dash, Monkey Race could potentially hold its audience’s attention for a few courses.
  • Monkey Fight: Now we’re talking. Monkeys in balls inexplicably now have giant boxing gloves, and the idea is to “box” your fellow monkeys out of the arena, and be the last monkey rolling. I’m sure there’s some level of strategy or cunning to this game, but, more often than not, it becomes about as frantic as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Sorry, new Gamecube controllers.
  • Monkey Target: And the most… misplayed Super Monkey Ball game. Your job is to build up speed, launch your monkey into the air, and then deftly navigate that flying monkey NOT REALonto differently valued platforms scattered across the ocean. This is impossible, so you spend most of the time discussing with your friends how exactly it would be the worst death ever to drown within a slowly leaking plastic ball as it sinks to the bottom of the sea. Also, this game is player-alternating, so feel free to get some drinks while the active player murders a monkey.

Individually, any of these “minigames” might occupy a night or two, and then be quickly forgotten; but when they all combine, they become a Voltron of unending fun. I don’t know if you know this, but people inclined to watch the many deaths of monkeys are also likely to have short attention spans, so “let’s try something else” without having to pop out a disc is a godsend. As a result, I can safely say that Super Monkey Ball was probably the most played console launch game with my circle of friends, and even rivaled Super Smash Bros Melee for that coveted “always in the Gamecube” position. It didn’t win, but it came close.

And I can’t help but feel like somebody noticed. After all, it seems Nintendo was just a generation away from making a system with a launch title that involved golf, bowling, and other “minigames” that somehow gelled together to build a better launch title. There may have even been a few boxing gloves involved.

One punch monkeyHm. Do people want a new Mario game with every system, or something that lets you freak out and break your fresh controllers with friends? Certainly something to consider when you look at those launch lineups.

Or maybe people just want to murder our monkey friends. I’ve never been good at reading the room.

FGC #226 Super Monkey Ball

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube and arcade. Oh, how I’d love to see one of those magical monkey machines.
  • Number of players: Four. Duh.
  • Number of dead monkeys at the bottom of Monkey Target Lake: Innumerable.
  • So, did you beat it? Kinda! I mean, I know I beat the beginner and intermediate courses…
  • Roll onFavorite Minigame: I have no idea why we played Monkey Bowling so much. It’s just… bowling. Like… who cares? Yet I’m pretty sure I saw that minigame every day for a year.
  • Favorite Monkey: Baby is a time traveling child of the hero from the future. How is that such a persistent trope?
  • Did you know? I want to say this is the first Sega game on a Nintendo console, but there was also Sega’s Chu Chu Rocket on Gameboy Advance first. Do portables count?
  • Would I play again: Replaying Super Monkey Ball was surprisingly nostalgic. I also no longer have patience for vending machine monkeys, so, ya know, probably not.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… T&C Surf Designs for NES! I foresee a surfing cat in your future! Please look forward to it!

BANANA