Tag Archives: horror

FGC #397 Friday the 13th (NES)

STABWe all live under petty delusions. How many people could you take in a fight? Your answer is a lie, and you know it. Are you a good driver? Ha ha, of course you aren’t, and everyone knows it. And I don’t care if you’re an accountant, I’ve seen your home, you are terrible with managing money. How else could you explain that Smash Mouth Discography Box Set? Of course it was on sale! No one on Earth would actually buy such a thing otherwise!

But one delusion we all seem to share is the fantasy “if I had it to do it all over again”. And I’m not just talking about past loves or lost jobs or whatnot in this situation; no, I know one misbelief we all share: “If I went back to high school with what I know now, I would totally rule.” Look, I’m not saying that some manner of time travel hijinks wouldn’t guarantee a re-teenaged you becoming the ruler of Stupid Regional High School, but there is a bit of a caveat to that thinking. It might be easy to use future knowledge to inform the star quarterback that he’s going to work in a convenience store for the rest of his life before he finally gets fired for stealing gum, or reveal to that cheerleader that she is actually going to marry the smelly kid, but, even beyond that, we all think we’ve gotten cool in our old age, right? We now know that members of our desired sex are just as confused and stupid as we ever were, so it would take zero effort to be a “stud”. We know that getting in trouble is a fake idea, so maybe missing one homework assignment wouldn’t sink the “your whole future is ahead of you” ship. And, possibly the most important truth of all, we all know that high school isn’t the beginning and end of the world, so maybe it’s okay that Suzie Steinberger doesn’t hang out with you anymore. In short, we all believe we could be the sovereign, but only with the power of wisdom that has come with age.

Find your way!And it’s all bullshit, because of course “do-over you” would just find new and exciting ways to screw up in ways you could never imagine. High school sucks, man, and I don’t care if you’re 15 or 50, you’re going to get sucked into the suck-o-sphere.

Today’s game is Friday the 13th for the NES. This game was an inextricable part of my childhood, as it was one of the few NES games I owned back in the day. I also distinctly remember hating the game. I never beat Friday the 13th. I never got past the first “level”. I played with my neighbor/best friend, and we, combined, never got anywhere. I played with my neighbor’s older brother (who was really good at videogames! He beat Simon’s Quest without codes!), and he was able to score a machete, one time, and we couldn’t figure out how he did it. And he couldn’t figure it out, either. So he never got anywhere. And, all the while, we were playing a game that constantly punished us for even trying. Grand Theft Auto might be afraid to have kids in its murder-based universe, but there are children all over Friday the 13th, and Jason is murdering them constantly. I was barely out of primary school, and I was watching my peers die! And I couldn’t do a thing to save them! God, I hate this game!

I suppose I should describe this adventure for anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure. What we have here is a fairly basic action/platforming game twisted into a proto-survival experience. You may choose to play as one of six camp counselors, and it’s your job to venture around Camp Crystal Lake and stop Jason, the unstoppable (hey!) axe-wielding maniac in a hockey mask. While you’re exploring the campgrounds, Jason may attack any of the five defenseless counselors you’re not currently controlling, or a cabin full of a limited number of children. Jason is a literal murder machine when you’re not keeping an eye on him, so this isn’t a “losing health” situation, it’s a “get there right now, and save the children, or they’re all going to die” dilemma. When the HUD starts teasing that Jason is after someone, you better book it over to their location, or you’re going to have a body on your hands in about a minute.

Too wetNow, the trick here is that, while you’re supposed to permanently stop Jason, there’s no clear indicator on how to do that. You’re welcome to explore the campgrounds to your heart’s content, and you’re going to find some useless tips, medicine, and maybe a dagger, but there’s no obvious sign of “this is going to work”. When you encounter Jason, he will lose health if you fight back, but, at a certain point, that just stops. Then what are you supposed to do? Search the area? Defeat the random zombies that are wandering around? Maybe sneak past a wolf and explore one of those cabins in the woods? It’s not crystal clear at Crystal Lake, and, while you’re trying to figure everything out, Jason is slaughtering your comrades. That is not a situation that is very conducive to deductive thinking.

But it turns out there’s an answer. In fact, the game outright tells you what to do right from the start: go to each of the large cabins, and light the fireplaces. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be given a flashlight. Use that flashlight in the cave (basically the only “dark” area in Camp Crystal Lake), notice that there are now secret passages all over the place, and use ‘em to almost immediately find Jason’s Mom(‘s head). Murder the flying head (because how else are you supposed to interact with a giant, floating cranium), be rewarded with a machete, and then machete kill Jason until he don’t move no more. Repeat as necessary, and the kids are going to be all right.

And it’s just that easy! Looking back on the game now, and realizing that, if you know what to do, you can beat the game in under an hour, it seems almost absurd that Wee Goggle Bob couldn’t defeat the undead menace. After all, I was able to beat Contra (with 30 lives), every stage in Super Mario Bros 3 (except that one in Ice World), and end the Chaos menace (with a strategy guide) all before I hit puberty, so what was the big deal with this game? You can describe everything you need to do in a paragraph. I could have totally done that!

And that’s when you realize applying modern reasoning to your own past is not reasonable at all.

AH!Let’s revisit those “simple steps” with the technology (and actual game) of 1989. You’re supposed to light those fireplaces? Well, that’s great, but there is absolutely nothing that logs your lit fireplaces, so if you miss one cabin, you’re going to be searching the entire world over and over again. And not all of the cabins “count”, either, as there are hidden cabins in the woods that don’t impact anything. Want to waste all your time wandering the forest for no reason? That’s always fun! And the cave? Sure, Jason’s Mom is easy to find if you know where to look, but that’s another maze that could potentially be explored for hours without finding the exactly one room that actually provides a reason to be there. And Jason! Sure, the machete (and the later pitchfork) will actually eat chunks of Jason’s health, but it’s kind of hard to focus on that bar when a knife wielding maniac is hurling hot death directly at your face. And all the while, a constant stream of zombies are popping up everywhere, so you’re very likely to lose your councilor’s life not to the imminent threat of a mobile hockey mask, but just the mundane attrition of zombie bites. In other words, this entire game actively wants you to fail, and does absolutely nothing to guide the player.

STABBYSo let’s be honest with ourselves. High school? Childhood? It was always going to be rough. Sure, we’ve got a manual in our heads now, but no such thing existed when it would have actually helped (“What about all that advice you got from your parents?” “Ha ha, who would listen to them?”). In the same way that the campers of Crystal Lake were always going to be doomed, you were always fated to screw up, date crazy, and maybe drive your car through your geometry teacher’s living room. It was inevitable! Some things may look easier in hindsight, but there, in that moment, there was never anything you could do. Imagining playing the game as an adult is a different experience from actually being there.

And, while we’re at it, stop thinking a machete is going to solve everything .

FGC #397 Friday the 13th (NES)

  • System: Just for its reputation as one of the worst games of all time, it’s kind of amazing that Friday the 13th for the NES hasn’t seen any systems other than the NES. Maybe the curse demands it has to be properly contained?
  • Number of players: Just one. Back in the day, when practically everything was 2-player, whether it made sense or not, this was another major check in the minus column.
  • Unsolved Mysteries: I have no idea where this game came from. I mean, in my own collection, not its existence at all. It was a game I’ve owned (and hated) since childhood… but who bought it? My parents were savvy enough to not ever risk a horror movie based game, and my grandparents usually only took recommendations from those previously mentioned parents. I don’t have any weird uncles… Huh… Maybe it just… appeared one day…
  • Say something nice: This might be the first game I ever played that involved choices for characters of varying gender, skin color, and body shape. It only really meant that my friends and I got to continue being childish assholes (“You play as the fat kid, because you’re fat, fatty!”), but, looking back on it now, it might be one of the few NES games where you could actually choose to be a woman or a person of color over “generic white guy”.
  • Other Good Things: None.
  • GROAKFavorite Weapon: I remember there being a fire weapon somewhere in the game… but damned if I can find it now. There are hints scattered around the campground alluding to such a thing, too, but… Dammit, I am not looking at a FAQ for this stupid game again.
  • An end: This game is artificially inflated by requiring three separate Jason kills. This is fairly appropriate, given the source material, but it’s also inordinately anticlimactic when you finally beat Jason, and the narration just says, “Yeah, he’s dead this time.” At least you win! (?)
  • Did you know? This title is considered a canon “sidequel” to Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood. I never really enjoyed the Friday the 13th films (that weren’t based in space), so I have no way of verifying this bit of trivia. I was always more into the television series that no one ever remembers.
  • Would I play again: Never! I might know what to do, but I don’t want to do it ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Jr. Pac-Man for the Atari 2600! Running from Ghosts: The Next Generation. Please look forward to it!

Daw

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
YOU COULD HAVE ALL GONE AROUND!

FGC #065 Any Clock Tower

Top of the TowerYesa Aravena requests “Clock Tower; any one in the series.”

Any clock tower in the series, eh?

Alright, I choose the clock tower from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

C:SotN was a landmark Castlevania game in a lot of ways, and its clock tower magnifies this fact. In nearly all previous Castlevania games, the clock tower was a grueling platforming challenge, with grinding gears and swooping medusa heads constantly encouraging the Belmont du jour to reach terminal velocity on his way to some uncomfortably placed spikes. In the SotN clock tower, all of those elements are present, but they have been defanged by the new “explore ‘em up” nature of the game. No longer do you have to fear an unforgiving death plummet into the unknown, no, now you have the full height of the screen to explore, and Alucard doesn’t dread a fall from a tower any more than diving off a waterfall or jump-kicking out of his dad’s throne room. In making Symphony of the Night a more interesting game, a less challenging, but more fun, clock tower was created.

The charm point of this area is the four gears scattered about the vertical areas. I realize I just finished talking about how this game made the clock tower calmer, but these gears can be a major pain in the butt for the intrepid explorer. Each of these gears must be hit by Alucard a distinct number of times in order to access a worthwhile hidden area, so, assuming the player doesn’t just want to jump around like an idiot, Alucard temporary enters something like a tower defense situation to properly grind those gears. An infinite number of medusa heads are incoming, and a harpy or two is likely to interfere, but persevere, young dhampir, and you’ll have your treasure soon. Oh, and be sure to pump up the volume, you do not want miss that satisfying victory click.

For eagle-eyed, nostalgic players, you may notice that the “end” area of the clock tower leading directly to Dracula’s loft is very Grindin' alongsimilar to the final area of Castlevania III, not at all coincidentally the first game where Alucard appeared. This is yet another Castlevania franchise reference in a game packed with them, but it’s welcome, assuming you’re going through the clock tower in the intended direction. Assuming you’re not, however, you’ll be greeted with the lackluster boss of the area first thing. Malphas, a crow demon, is the greatest misstep in this area, as I have literally never encountered this boss at a time in my Castlevania journeying that he hasn’t been a complete push over. Would it have been so bad to have the first form of Death hiding in the first castle? No, we get stuck with this lame feather demon that can barely get an attack off. Absolutely no one is surprised when he pops up in equally ineffectual numbers in the reverse castle.

And that’s about it for my chosen Clock Tower!

Wait…

Why did I capitalize that?

Huh… it was capitalized in the original request, too. Could it be…

Oh, bugger, there’s an entire Clock Tower franchise? It’s its own game!?

Rargh, okay okay, don’t panic. Don’t panic. You can do this… you’ve… you’ve still got time to turn this one around… yeah… don’t let that stupid robot think you can’t survive without him… her?… whatever… you can handle this… yeah… there’s gotta be… yes, okay, good, you’ve got one of the Clock Tower games, Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within… oh, bless my tendency to buy games exclusively based on their titles… alright, now just have to pull an article together… bang out a couple hundred words, shouldn’t be an issue… you once wrote a ten page book report on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a book for which you, technically, only read the back cover… you can do this… let’s start with that back cover… that’s always good…

Look at that... stuffEr-hem.

Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within is the sequel to Clock Tower, another clock tower-based video game. Like the previous entry in the series, Clock Tower 2 is a survival horror game, with an emphasis on the whole “survival” thing. The heroine, Alyssa Hale, must survive a world of horrors beyond imagination, with terrifying creatures like zombies, a knife-wielding child, and the nefarious Ghosthead (note to self: please look up whatever that is. It sounds stupid, but could probably fill a paragraph.) But sometimes, the danger comes from within, as Alyssa has a split personality. Possibly as a result of being buried alive, Alyssa will occasionally transform into her alter-ego, a darker, more violent Alyssa that might be more likely to survive, but is Alyssa ready to survive as such a creature (Yeah, that’s usually how these things go). Alyssa is thirsty for revenge, but what part of her will do the drinking? (Deep, awesome)

The graphics here are pretty normal for the Playstation, though maybe a little better than some of the early stuff, as the game was released in (CHECK WIKIPEDIA FOR YEAR). It’s more Final Fantasy 8 than Final Fantasy 7, basically. The control innovations of the time arrive in full force here: you can use the dinky ol’ PS1 controller, the GET IT!?“new” analogue stick, or even the Playstation Mouse, because, like MTV Music Generator, I guess that peripheral works with this game. The rumble feature even works with Clock Tower 2, which is great, because Playstation games always used rumble effectively to build tension, and not just to remind the player they had just fallen down. (Snark portrays confidence!)

Like Chrono Trigger before it, Clock Tower 2 boasts thirteen different endings, which, at the time of release, generally implied a wealth of gameplay options. You have to understand that, back in the day, when most video game choices boiled down to “continue?”, all we had were games with multiple endings to cover the advanced storytelling options offered by the digital medium. “Multiple Endings” was not just a bullet point; it was an unspoken promise that guaranteed this was a game with real choices, and thus a much more mature narrative for the discerning player. Yes, many of the thirteen endings of Clock Tower 2 are disappointing (a given… oh, the cleverness of me), but the fact that the game doesn’t just end with “You are a super player” blazed the trail for the more modern morality dilemmas and branching stories of today. (Yeah, video game history for the win)

Obviously, there are problems with Clock Tower 2. It’s a Playstation 1 game, so using the digital PSX pad as opposed to the analogue control feels a bit cumbersome. I can see why the mouse might come in handy as an alternative (why not?). Additionally, when the game asks you to do anything with an eye on action, like when Ghosthead is barreling down upon you, it doesn’t feel quite as GET OUT!precise as when you’re just walking around. Yes, this probably helps to build the suspense and horror of the game, but it doesn’t make things any more fun to play. And, of course, despite all the cinema being tossed around, it’s still PSX era graphics, so humans come off as creepy creatures more than some of the actual monsters. I’m sure it was a fine game for its time, but it was never meant to be on a screen the size of a truck begging for a resolution somewhere in the thousands. And the voice acting? Ugh. (This really can’t be wrong)

In conclusion, Clock Tower 2 is a game of contrasts. (Nailed it)

FGC #65 Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within

  • System: Playstation 1, though it’s not like it couldn’t be on INSERT MODERN DOWNLOAD SERVICE, eh?
  • Number of Players: 1. Horror games should always be one player, because if you’ve got someone covering your back, the horror is reduced by at least 125%. This is how you can tell the more recent Resident Evil games are “merely” action games. However, all that said, a game like this can be enhanced with additional audience members, assuming you remember to turn off the lights.
  • Horror Times: I actually generally don’t enjoy “horror” games, whether it be action survival or just point and click. Horror games are really only doing their job if you feel generally uneasy while playing the game, and, honestly, that is the complete opposite of the reason I play video games. I like to relax when I’m holding a controller, and not ice skate uphill. And, having said all that, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is one of my favorite games. Goggle Bob is a man of contrasts.
  • HERE HE COMESFavorite Monster: Well, obviously it’s Ghosthead. You know that Ghosthead, always ghostheading around like he ghostheads the place. I hear Ghosthead was so popular in Japan, they named the entire game after him. Ghosthead is like a Japanese Jason Voorhees!
  • Japanese? This game takes place in “San Francisco”, but it’s an alternate dimension where there’s a significant Japanese population on the West Coast, so all signs in public places like the hospital or Shinto Shrine are in Japanese. It’s like a sunnier Canada!
  • Did you know? Alyssa’s alter-ego is known as “Bates”. There has never been another character in horror fiction that possessed a split personality and that last name. Mother told me so.
  • Would I play again? Wait… Again? Erm, I mean, yes. Afterall, I didn’t find all those endings, and nothing is more exciting to me than replaying Playstation horror games! Woo and whatnot.

What’s Next? Random ROB is back!

See, I set up one of those security cams on the happy family…

See?

Zoom in! Enhance!

See!?

And everything I know about biology makes sense again! See, there was no robot love, just a capricious ditto, and that makes perfect sense.

Perfect.

Sense.

Anyway, Random ROB has chosen… Gradius 3 for the SNES! Get your options ready, the Vic Viper flies again! Please look forward to it!

(And a special thanks to everyone that participated in the Reader’s Choice Challenge. I’ve had a blast playing all these games, one way or another. You guys rock.)