Tag Archives: gods

FGC #385 God of War 2

Oh godsSo God of War 2 and Kingdom Hearts 2 are basically the same game.

Venture with me now back to the early days of the Playstation 2. Many forget such an important fact, but the PS2 (and the consoles of its era, but PS2 was first) was the first system that could really “do everything”. And, no, I’m not talking about being a DVD player while hopping online and eventually supporting a hard drive for one game; no, I’m talking about actually displaying “reality” and “cartoons” as easily as network television. The Atari was squares fighting other squares. The NES was a little better, but still relied heavily on a healthy imagination to call that pile of rectangles an elfish warrior. And the Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64 both generally created characters that were more block than man. The 16-bit generation came the closest to making “cartoon graphics” that actually looked like a controllable Disney movie, but it couldn’t render a “real” looking human for all the coins in the Mushroom Kingdom. The Playstation 2 was the first system that could really pull off that kind of rendering, and, if you look at the PS2 launch lineup, it’s obvious that the creators of the era knew that well. Unless you want to claim there’s some other excuse for The Bouncer…

ZapAnd it was in this “anything is possible” era that both God of War and Kingdom Hearts were born. To the credit of everyone involved, you do have to acknowledge that either franchise would have made much less of an impact on earlier systems. In the case of Kingdom Hearts, you absolutely need the voice acting and deliberate mishmash of “animation styles” to really sell the idea of a universe made of random Disney feature films. And over in the God of War corner, Kratos could easily have been another generic videogame action hero, but the raw, visceral rage that permeates his every movement and action could only make its premiere on the Playstation 2. And it was the advantage of the Playstation 2 that no one would confuse these two games for each other. Happy lil’ boy with a keyblade that palled around with Aeris was never going to be mistaken for the Ghost of Sparta that successfully beat Ares to death with some manner of chain blades.

But there is one place where both Kingdom Hearts and God of War were very similar: they were both games with stories that were clearly intended to be finite. Sora saves the universe, Kratos becomes the God of War, let’s all hit the pub.

Now, to be clear, this is not to imply that both games were never intended to start franchises. Quite the contrary, as both titles end with trailers for multiple potential sequels. Kingdom Hearts has not only its dangling thread of Sora and Kairi being separated, but also a teaser that included the coolest keyblade fight in the franchise’s history. And God of War managed to squeeze three separate teasers into its bonus features, with a glimpse of not only Kratos’s future, but also a potential adventure wherein modern archeologists come upon an ancient dungeon on the back of a humongous skeleton. Pretty much any videogame made… ever has expected a cavalcade of sequels, and it’s kind of naïve that two titles that helped start the AAA trend would ever ignore such an obvious payday.

URGHBut don’t tell that to the writers of both of those original hits. In both cases, our protagonists are dealing with antagonists with clear goals and origins. Ansem is a mad scientist/king that went a little too mad, and wound up becoming more Kefka than Galuf. Ares is the God of War that has been using Kratos as a pawn for decades, and he’s bound to get what’s coming to him. In both cases, the big bad gets too full of himself, and winds up vaporized by his opponent. But don’t forget about the journey! Both Kratos and Sora go from nobody to somebody, and learn a thing or two about not plunging into sorrow along the way. Sora saves the universe and gains his own private Excalibur, and Kratos becomes a literal god. Nowhere to go but up from there, folks.

And then we got the inevitable sequels. And… they maybe didn’t come together all that great.

From a story perspective, Kratos gets to make a little more sense, but just barely. Now, instead of being spurned by one dick god (er, to be clear, that’s a god that is a dick, not Penilicus, God of Dicks), he must defend himself against… one dick god. But he happens to be his dad! Oh, wait, sorry, was that a twist? Did I just ruin the complex mythology of every Greek tragedy ever? So Kratos winds up battling against Zeus through the exact same arc as the first title, just in a slightly different order: stripped of powers, killed by god, go to Hell, go to a magical dungeon land, murder a few mythological figures, and then fight Zeus in a final battle that… can’t go anywhere. Sorry! Turns out that this story is now firmly entrenched in trilogy land, so you’ll have to wait for God of War 3 to see the thrilling end of Zeus and his brand new band of surly gods. At least Kratos made a new friend along the way!

Keep your eye on the prizeKingdom Hearts 2 meanwhile… does the exact same thing. The title retreads much of the adventure of the first quest, introduces a villain that is somehow bigger and badder, but still exactly the same, and, in the finale, ends with Sora scoring some new allies, but failing to banish the big bad from the universe. In Kingdom Hearts 2’s case, it seems a little more definitive than Kratos’s lack of a victory, but, come on, half the game was laying the very bread crumbs that would lead to a certain someone’s complete resurrection. And it’s not like that franchise could ever suffer a different villain anyway.

But it’s not just about the plot! Both games started with slightly upgraded beat ‘em up gameplay, and gussied up “press attack a lot and dodge roll all the time” with a leveling system that superficially added JRPG elements to very basic gameplay. But both Kingdom Hearts 1 and God of War 1 built levels around their dopey (but fun!) combat. In some cases (like GoW’s Hell or KH’s Oogie Tower) these levels didn’t work, but they were certainly a break from the monotony, and Kratos or Sora coud showcase their acrobatic prowess to maybe find some treasures. Well, the world(s) got a lot flatter in an effort to please the fans, as God of War 2 and Kingdom Hearts 2 both vastly cut down on exploration potential in favor of hammering that attack button over and over again. Hey, sometimes there’s a block to push, or a switch to pull. That’s kind of like variety, right?

And don’t get me started on how both franchises decided to treat quick time events and canned dialogue like they were the best thing since sliced Spartans.

Doomed!God of War 2 and Kingdom Hearts 2 are different games. One has a dude beating up random monsters from the myths of Greece, and the other already burned through its hydra in the first game. But, once you get into the details, it’s easy to see how both titles come from much the same place, and amount to a pair of parallel products.

GOW2 and KH2 are two games cut from the same cloth.

… And then Kratos killed Clotho. Dude does not take criticism well.

FGC #385 God of War 2

  • System: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and Vita, though the PS2 version is obviously the source of all this mess.
  • Number of players: This former god of war works alone.
  • Other similarities: Oh yeah, then both franchises went on to crank out a prequel on the PSP, and follow that up with a third “concluding chapter” on a totally different system. Well, I have to assume the latter on the part of Kingdom Hearts, as I’m pretty sure Kingdom Hearts 3 won’t be a PS2 release.
  • Favorite Relic: Remember when time manipulation was all the rage during that console generation? Prince of Persia and… uh… Blinx? Well, it happened again here, and Kratos can slow time with the Amulet of the Fates, because… why not? I mean, if you’ve got dominion over time, may as well use it to beat some random undead soldiers to death.
  • Whip it goodFavorite Game Moment: This is the God of War title wherein the entirety of the Spartan army is wiped out by Zeus (because, again, giant dick), but one lone Spartan warrior survives! Then Kratos kills him. By accident. Because the sun was in his eyes. Look, I’m no stranger to accidental murder, but I feel like Kratos should maybe look where he’s swinging those blades.
  • Did you know? Like God of War (1), there was a novel released based on God of War 2. It was written by Robert E. Vardeman, who was also responsible for a number of Star Trek and Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels I have never read this God of War 2 work, however, because I have to assume half the text is just some variation on the phrase “angry growling”.
  • Would I play again: Nah. Unlike Kingdom Hearts 2, I have a hard time with Kratos’s whole… thing. He’s so irritated all the time! And murderous! I find it off putting. I want my murderous heroes to at least make a quip every once in a while. Is that too much to ask?

What’s next? Looks like it’s Valentine’s Day next week, and you know what that means! Love and harmony Wankery Week! Come back on Monday for a look at one of the best most passable examples of sheer wankery of 2017.

This doesn't make any sense

FGC #307 Disney Infinity 3.0

Here comes some merchandisingYour love isn’t real unless it’s physical.

Look at most media… Hell… Look at practically the entire breadth of human creative output throughout history. Look at it, and consider how much of our entertainment is based on the simple notion of concretely defining fundamental concepts. “Family” isn’t the people you’re related to, it’s the friends you made along the way. “Hate”, “vengeance”, and “spite” will always rot you from the inside. Even the concept of a “soul” is obviously, in its own way, completely fictional. To be precise, I believe in “souls”, but I also know there’s absolutely no way to measure or quantify such a thing. Ultimately, we, as human beings, are continuously attempting to bottle and compute abstract concepts, and, somewhat ironically, we’ve managed to create more fiction about these imaginary concepts than should have ever been possible. Or maybe I should just write a story with the theme of futility to further innumerate this point.

But more than any other concept, the simple emotion of “love” has inspired more creative work than anything else in the feelings pantheon. Love can move mountains. Love can save the world. Love can change a person. Love is the strongest force in the universe. Assuming you were raised on a steady diet of cartoons, Disney, and Disney cartoons as a child, before you were even old enough to acknowledge what’s between your legs, you knew that love was the most important thing on the planet, and love is the answer to all problems. Even if you somehow missed that traditional modern fiction upbringing, this concept is the base of most religions, too. Love each other, love thy neighbor, and love your mother and father as The Father loves you. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Jesus, Buddha, or chaos, even when you’ve got a God that has a tendency to turn people into pillars of salt, He is still doing it because He loves you. Without love, there is nothing. Everyone understands that, from toddlers to your bald-headed granny.

Poor Nick FuryExcept… we’re idiots. We are human beings, and, even after thousands of years of proper society, we are still meat machines piloted by ignorant monkeys. We talk endlessly about how we believe in the fantastic (whether that be supernatural forces or unquantifiable abstracts) but, end of the day, we’re morons that can’t get through the day without forgetting something important. Ever study advertising? People will “lose their faith” in any given product or service if it isn’t drilled into their collective brains on practically an hourly basis. Pepsi is ubiquitous, but history has proven that if it stops spending billions of dollars on reminding people that Pepsi exists, its sales plummet. Small businesses constantly hit an echelon of profit that they think will be maintained forever, cut back the advertising budget, and then shriek as sales shrivel. And, let’s be real here, name any forgotten religion, and I’ll show you a people that didn’t lose their faith, but maybe did forget how to appeal to the youth market.

In fact, let’s look at religion a little closer. Christianity is omnipresent in the Western world, but do you ever wonder how it got to that point? Was it because 100% of US presidents have claimed to be Christian (Oh, I’m sorry, are we claiming Jefferson was an atheist this week? You do know he wrote his own Bible fanfic, right?)? Was it because many towns in America built a local church before they ever built a place to buy actual food? Or was it because there was never a time in American history when you couldn’t buy a happy little cross to hang around your neck? In short, Christianity is Christianity in America not because the country is filled with believers that are just that dedicated to the faith, but because you can’t go two square miles from Atlantic to Pacific without running into a random Christian totem. “Christian Love” is abstract, the church’s real estate records are not.

I am a Christian (we’ve covered this). I believe in things I can’t see, like Jesus, miracles, and an afterlife that will hopefully involve more communing with God than damnation. I also have one (1) cross on display in my home, distinctly placed on my inherited piano (a former possession of my very religious grandmother). I consider it a sort of communion with my faith, and my faithful ancestors. I consider it a sweet, sacred sentiment… that is slightly counterbalanced by the presence of Optimus Primal, Megatron, and a Pokémon.

Play it again, Megatron

I am a nerd, and, when you get right down to it, nerdity is a modern religion. I believe in the strength of Voltron, the compassion of Optimus Prime, and the insatiable desire of Galactus. I have experienced stories that took hours and hours to absorb, and then spent the rest of my life contemplating the greater ramifications of Unnamed Main Character’s decisions. I will one day forget my grandchild’s birthday, but I will always remember where I was when I first beat Kid Chameleon. These are the abstract memories that, when I think about what and who I am, define my life. I’m not only defined by my raw geekery, but it is certainly one of a few lenses I use to see the world and my place in it.

But those lenses, those memories are imaginary. They are intangible, and, as save batteries are notoriously fragile, one day there will be no real proof that I played Super Metroid until my thumbs fell off (well, I guess my bionic thumbs could be used as proof, but, for all anyone knows, I could have just lost the old ones in the revolving door). I may love videogames, but how do I prove I love videogames?

Well, I guess filling an entire room of my house with cartridges and discs dating back thirty years, and then haphazardly tossing amiibos all over the place, is a start. Oh, and then I bought some shelves for these dorks:

With Princess Leia!

As I mentioned last year, I bought all these damn figures when the line was being discontinued, and you could buy one and get four free. I still claim it all started with the Inside Out cast, but… why did it start there? Oh yeah, because I liked that movie an awful lot, and I wanted to support it in some way. And I feel about the same way about Brave and Frozen, so grab a few of a those. Oh! Wreck-It Ralph! That makes perfect sense in a videogame room. Tinker Bell is adorable, so is Stitch, and Aladdin has always reminded me of my childhood. The Avengers? Guardians of the Galaxy? Oh yeah, it would be cool to have a Gamora toy. And I guess I may as well pick up the Star Wars characters while we’re at it, as, come on, I have a nerd rep to maintain here. How could I pass up a wookie? … By about the time we get to some members of the Cars cast, frankly, I don’t even remember what I was thinking. Something about completion? Maybe it was just to round out a “get four free” tally.

Just alongBut those are all excuses. The reason I bought these damn things is simple: it’s a covenant. I love my silly, hollow, nerdy interests, and I, even if only subconsciously, feel a need to prove that love. I enjoyed and continue to enjoy these properties, but a DVD on a shelf doesn’t cut it. I want a proper little totem, a tiny representation of my love, to always remind me of the good times. I want a framed portrait of my beloved family, and I want a Donald Duck statue right next to it.

We all have our fetishes. We all have pictures, crosses, and/or amiibos. We all have physical representations of our loves, because that makes the imaginary real, and we, as humans, need that. We all have our own Tangled statuettes, and that comes from a desire for the physical that dates back to the dawn of man. Our make-believe feelings become real because we make them such, and any ornament that does the job is a good one.

Well, except Funko Pops. Those things are ghastly.

FGC #307 Disney Infinity 3.0

  • System: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Apple, aaaand Android. That everybody? I wound up with the WiiU version, incidentally, because the vaguely portable capability of the WiiU always seemed like fun.
  • Number of players: Two, I think? You can only fit two little dudes on the scanning platform.
  • Rad!Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This game feels like playing with toys. And that’s not a good thing. Everything feels very light and… inconsequential? Maybe it’s just a testament to how far games have come in recent decades, but the music and level design seem phoned-in, thus creating a weird disconnect between the fun of the gameplay (Nick Fury is fighting Captain Barbossa on the moon!) and the apathy the game direction seems to show for everything that is happening. In a weird way, this makes Disney Infinity the antithesis of Super Smash Bros, a game wherein everything feeds into hype. See also Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for something involving Marvel characters.
  • Why did this ever stop? Seriously, this whole thing seems like a slam dunk. Disney nerds by the figures even if they’re not going to play the game. Disney has an outlet to release “the official [insert movie title] game” within Infinity, and may then sell five random figures instead of just one game disc. Fresh franchises can be supported by setting up New Rando Character right next to beloved characters like Jasmine and Spider-Man. And there’s an excuse to release a “new” version every year or so that uses all the same assets. I’m really kind of amazed Disney got off this money train.
  • Favorite Disney Infinity Figure: As a surprise to even myself, I’m going to go with Princess Elsa of Frozen. She just looks so… dynamic. And her “character” is pretty useful, too!
  • Did you know? Apparently unrealized Disney Infinity figures include Moana, Spider-Gwen, the Rocketeer, Neytiri, and a figure that was described only as “all the hopes and dreams you ever had as a child.”
  • Would I play again: I’m going to be looking at these figures for the rest of my life… and I might play the game again, like, once. It does seem like the kind of game that might be fun to play with like a seven year old, though, so maybe I’ll break it out if I ever have a kid (and the squirt hasn’t destroyed my entire collection before being old enough).

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… well, technically BEAT chose it on the stream… Etrian Mystery Dungeon! Time to go dungeon diving with giant-eyed anime children! Please look forward to it!

Hover on

FGC #263.1 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a marvelous game, and, unlike so many recent games, it is amazing almost exclusively for its gameplay. There’s no third act swerve, no meta commentary on gaming, and no “we’re secretly all Bokoblins” twist awaiting the player; the magic of Breath of the Wild is simply in everything Link can do, and this amazing world he gets to explore. There are surprises (“Did… did I just tame a bear?”), but it’s not a surprise-based game. In other words, for once, it really is all about the game, and not the plot.

So, naturally, I’m going to talk about the plot.

… What? It’s surprisingly interesting!

Link is indisputably the hero of Breath of the Wild. Link must venture across Hyrule, unearth mystical shrines, free friendly ghosts, and eventually confront (Calamity) Ganon, the dark smoke piggy. Even if the player doesn’t get to name our hero, Link really is a “link” for the player inhabiting Hyrule, and, save a crushing princess or two, Link is almost entirely a blank slate. He doesn’t even have a buddy on this adventure! Kinda. You, player, are Link’s buddy, and you’re the one saying, “hey listen” when you want your elven friend to sneak around an enemy encampment instead of slaughtering the whole lot of ‘em with a stick. It’s Link against the world, and you’re his only reliable ally.

But the story of Breath of the Wild is undeniably the legend of Zelda.

If you’re worried about spoilers, don’t click here.

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!