Tag Archives: hudson soft

FGC #349 Tetris Axis

TETRIS!What if someone made a Tetris game for people that hate Tetris?

Many “basic” games have the same problem: you only need one. Too often the gaming community focuses on every little thing about videogames and forgets that, before we had the technology of today (or the 80s), “games” had to be simple things to be at all practical. Poker might have nuances and strategies, but a second grader can learn every rule available inside of five minutes. Nobody ever has to explain checkers, and chess is just a matter of knowing that your horsey is clearly drunk. This is why these games have persisted for either hundreds of years or maybe seven weeks, depending on which Snopes article you’re reading. And the side effect of that is that your average person can literally inherit such a “game” from an ancestor, and never need a replacement. Granted, you don’t usually see a deck of cards passed from father to son (assuming your father isn’t Gambit, of course), but a family chess set isn’t all that uncommon (for nerds). Why reinvent the wheel when your current hooptie gets you everywhere you need to go?

Tetris is much in the same boat. While you could make new stages for Mario or design new Hyrules for Link, the simple tetromino needs only one home, and it’s a narrow playfield where the vertical line is king. Like Solitaire or Minesweeper, when the average person discusses “Tetris”, they might be picturing a black and white screen or a PS4-based colorplosion, but, one way or another, it’s the same game they have in mind. Tetris is Tetris. You could make a million different NBA Jams or NBA 2KXXs, but they’re all still based on basketball, and basketball is basketball. Tetris may have started as a videogame just the same as Mega Man, but we have never needed a Tetris 2 featuring Quick Man. Alexey Pajitnov got it in one, and, give or take a feature or two, Tetris need not ever change.

Which is not to say that producers haven’t tried.

My old friend is back!Let’s see here… before we even got past the age of the Gameboy, we had Tetris, Tetris 2, Tetris Blast, Super Tetris 3, and Tetris Attack. But that was the heyday of Tetris, right? The inevitable age of imitators that happens to every franchise from Mario to GTA? Well, yes, and some of those games had about as much to do with Tetris as Dr. Mario had to do with Yoshi’s Island, but the exploitation of the brand certainly didn’t end there. You want Tetris with Mickey Mouse? Tetris with online features? Goddamn Hatris? We’ve seen Tetris in every possible way with every possible system. There was a Tetris designed exclusively for the Virtual Boy! That system lasted twelve minutes and had six games! Tetris isn’t just ubiquitous, it’s also been adapted more times than Romeo & Juliet.

So, by the time we got to Tetris Axis for 3DS (released in the fall of 2011, the 3DS’s launch year) we were already looking back at over twenty years of Tetris remixes. In fact, we had just seen the preeminent Tetris remix a few years earlier with “what if Tetris, but sometimes Mario shows up”. That was the best! Now… what? 3-D graphics? Half-assed augmented reality modes? The 3DS shop wasn’t even quite live by the time this hit the streets, so we couldn’t even claim that a version of Tetris constantly loaded onto the system was the latest innovation worthy of our attention. Tetris Axis seemed doomed from the get-go to be yet another forgettable Tetris port, and it would soon collect dust next to The New Tetris.

And, at first blush, Tetris Axis seems to have plenty of reasons to be forgotten. It’s got your basic endless Tetris mode, and… we don’t really need much more than that, right? Well, we’ve also got survival mode, which limits the play area, and fever, which is all the Tetris you can play in one minute. That’s a pretty neat idea, particularly for a portable version of Tetris on a system with a handy sleep mode. Play Tetris at a stop light (note: never do this)! And there’s a two player mode that is ready for some 3DS communication or tetrising against the computer, so that’s handy. None of this is completely original, one way or another, but it’s not bad for a game from the Tetris franchise. Good, but forgettable.

But then there’s “party mode”. Despite the name, these modes seem to be dedicated to a one player, no parties experience. Or maybe I’m just some kind of weirdo that doesn’t find jigsaw puzzles to be party material. Yes, “jigsaw puzzles” is basically the theme of two party games, Shadow Mode (not that Shadow) and (appropriately named) Jigsaw. What do jigsaw puzzles have to do with Tetris? I guess they both involve blocks? Kinda? Then we’ve got Climber, which involves stacking your blocks so they don’t disappear, and an anonymous little stick figure can climb said blocks to the heavens. That’s the complete opposite of Tetris! And speaking of which, we have Stage Racer. Guide a tetromino through a maze like so…

Weeeee

And tell me that isn’t Life Force, Abadox, or any other damn shooter in the world. Except, ya know, minus the shooting. Guiding a tetromino? Does that sound exciting to anybody? This would be akin to someone looking at a Mario game, and commenting that it would be a lot more fun if the guy in the hat didn’t jump as much.

Such lightingAnd, ultimately, that’s how Tetris Axis feels. It’s a Tetris game that incidentally involves a number of modes that are barely Tetris. It’s a poker game where the main goal is learning to shuffle. It’s a football game where you see who can eat the ball fastest. It’s a chess game where you see if you can make the pieces kiss. It’s Tetris, but as an added bonus, here are a bunch of games that have nothing to do with Tetris. Did you want more Tetris in your Tetris, dawg? Too bad!

Tetris Axis is a Tetris game that, incidentally, wants nothing to do with Tetris.

FGC #349 Tetris Axis

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. And it’s got the lame 3-D mode to prove it!
  • Number of players: Two seems to be the right number here. There might be some additional, even more players modes, but they’re not readily apparent.
  • Favorite Mode: I can’t complain too much, because Tetris Blast does return in Bombliss Plus. It’s not as robust as the game that came out twenty years ago, but it’s always a fun time to play Tetris and make things explode.
  • Most Confusing Mode: Capture Mode is available, and it’s Tetris, but with some light color matching. It’s not terrible, but it indicates what you’re supposed to do so poorly that it really stands out as a dud. Or I’m just bitter because it took me forever to figure out and I lost a bunch of times. It’s one of those.
  • Did you know? There are AR modes in here, and they involve the question mark trading cards that came with your 3DS. Am… am I the only one that keeps those things handy for just such an occasion? I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to play a crappy Tetris mode on my real live floor.
  • WeeeeWould I play again: Tetris? Yes. Tetris Axis? Not so much. Maybe if it were to become a free downloadable title, I’d go for it, but I’d rather play Gameboy Tetris any day of the week. And, conveniently, guess what is already on my 3DS?

What’s next? Random ROB… is wearing an unusual red cap with eyes. What the heck does that mean? Guess we’ll find out! Please look forward to it!

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

Yay islands!Adventure Island 3 is a metaphor for the human condition.

The story of Adventure Island 3 is no epic tale. Master Higgins, a dude in a baseball cap and grass skirt, is chilling on a deserted island the size of a Dixie cup with his beloved Tina when a nefarious alien abducts the hapless maiden. Higgins boards the nearest plesiosaur, and paddles off to save the day. There is no trick or plot twist in this saga, all Higgins has to do to rescue Tina is venture across eight (adventure) islands, battle the occasional Mothra, and then conquer the aliens in an epic battle that involves fireballs and stone hammers. The aliens are not Dr. Wily in disguise, and no explanation is given for their preoccupation with poor Tina; they’re just monsters to be chased, and an excuse for Higgins to ride a dinosaur or six. Oh, and the adventure wraps up with Higgins and Tina back on their original weensy island (compliments of a pterodactyl), so it’s a zero-sum story from top to bottom.

But this is an ‘intenda game, so the story is perfunctory from the very start. What’s important is that good ol’ gameplay, and… Well, there’s not much to see here, either. This is a “NES platformer” at its most basic. Well, no, that would Adventure Island 1, wherein Master Higgins runs left to right and must at all time satiate his crippling fruit addiction. We’ve come a long way from those bygone days: now Master Higgins does the exact same thing, but sometimes he’s on a surfboard! Or a dinosaur! And, despite the fact that almost all stages only advance right and strictly forbid any backtracking, there are rare vertical levels that prove that Hudson does understand scrolling (and they don’t even involve Kid Icarus-esque scroll deaths). And the bosses are pretty neat, even if they’re about as fair as a thumb wrestling match against Eternia’s Fisto. Master Higgins can, at absolute best, suffer three hits (a bonus “heart” powerup plus a dinosaur buddy), and it’s very likely those damn boss monsters are going to barbecue the poor islander before he tosses the proper number of boomerangs. Boss patterns should not change mid-fight with a hero that has approximately zero HP!

This sucks!But all that cruft is neither here nor there. No, what’s important is what Adventure Island 3 represents. What’s important is that Adventure Island 3 is a failure.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a damsel is distressed when she is kidnapped by a giant, ambiguously evil monster. Her man springs into action to rescue her, and must battle across eight distinct lands to save the day. Along the way, he runs, jumps, and even recruits a dinosaur to beat back the nefarious forces of angry clouds and a strangely high number of murderous reptiles. After losing a bunch of lives due to the tiniest contact with random monsters (and the occasional bottomless pit), the brave knight saves his princess. And maybe there was a bonus stage or warpzone somewhere along the way, too.

Yes, obviously, Adventure Island 3 follows the exact same plot and general gameplay as Super Mario Bros. In fact, Adventure Island 2, the first game to feature Master Higgins riding a dinosaur, was released a few months after Super Mario World, the first game to feature Mario riding a Yoshi (and Adventure Island 3 improved on AI2 by… adding one more dinosaur). On a purely superficial level, Massy Hig’s Adventure Islands are incredibly similar to Mario’s treks across the Mushroom Kingdom and Dinosaur Land. Give or take the ability to actually dismount your incredible thunder lizard, you could probably provide the exact same instruction manual for both games. Master Higgins is a cape feather away from being an accomplished plumber.

Spooky!But that’s where the tragedy occurs. On a shallow level, Master and Mario are the same. They run, they jump, and they collect one hundred doodads to earn an extra life. But actually play the games, and the differences become apparent. Mario has a precise kind of momentum, while Master Higgins has a tendency to slip around like a greased up potato man. It’s telling that Master Higgins has to be wary of inanimate rocks, while Mario at least has the decency to vault moving rocks. And that slipperiness pairs poorly with a number of “platforming challenges”. Want to leap across a series of mobile clouds? That’s kind of fun in the Mushroom Kingdom, but over in the Adventure Islands, Master Higgins is pretty likely to fall to his doom after about the second jump. Once you hit an ice stage, things are more slippery, but, honestly? It’s not the same kind of dramatic shift you’d see in Super Mario. Bros 3. Oh, there is supposed to be a dinosaur that cuts down on Slippin’ Higgy? Yeah, that dinosaur is a lie. In fact, all of the dinomounts are lies, as they amount to little more than the difference between Mario and Super Mario. The only dinosaur that isn’t a “fireball” or “slight movement” powerup is the new, green triceratops, and that’s because he offers the ability to roll into a spiky ball for exactly a second before immediately losing that powerup to terrible hit detection. Beyond that, I’m not even certain what the plesiosaur is supposed to do, as he’s just as useless as the frog suit on land, but only marginally better than regular swimming Higgins on the high seas. He doesn’t even get a lightning tail or something! You have to bring your own hammer!

And, when you get right down to it, describing this game, describing Adventure Island 3, is recounting exactly what being a human is. All the proper components are there! You’ve got running! You’ve got jumping! You’ve got a princess and a monster and eight worlds! This is exactly what Mario’s got! This is exactly what that successful guy has got… so why isn’t it working here? I can see Mario’s Facebook, I know we’re on the same level, so why is he so much better than me!? I could be happy! I should be happy! Why can’t Master Higgins be half as successful as a damned plumber!?

Dammit!That’s Adventure Island 3. All the pieces are there, everything that should work is there, but… it doesn’t. Master Higgins is doomed to wallow on his teeny tiny island, while Mario just found out his ex built an entire city for his benefit. Adventure Island 3 is every one of us looking at that green grass on the next lawn over, and wondering what went wrong. And is this where I’m supposed to say something optimistic? Well, I’d love to say it gets better, but have you seen Adventure Island: The Beginning? Yeesh.

I just played Adventure Island 3… don’t expect any hopefulness out of this human for a week.

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s also a Gameboy port that is surprisingly faithful.
  • Number of players: One Master Higgins. Maybe the secret to success is having a Luigi?
  • Port-o-Call: The Gameboy version actually allows you to replay completed stages. I have no earthly idea why anyone would want to do such a thing, but at least it’s an option.
  • Favorite Dinosaur: I guess the blue dinosaur with the powered tail. He’s pretty much exactly the same as the red dinosaur with the fireball that is completely resistant to lava, but… he’s blue? He’s the underdog in a game starring an underdog.
  • Favorite Boss: Despite the inexplicable presence of Mothra, I’m going to pick the Salamander. He’s just like every other boss in this game (float and/or teleport around and lob fireballs), but he is at least on fire. And when he goes blue-flames, it at least looks cool.
  • Blind SallyIncidentally: This was supposed to be FGC #300, but I couldn’t find the rom while on the stream. Turns out it was there in the list, just under “Hudson’s Adventure Island 3” as opposed to in the I section where I expected to find such a thing. Oh well.
  • Did you know? If you see a flower, then that means a wolf is going to attack Master Higgins from behind. I still remember this tip from Nintendo Power.
  • Would I play again: Adventure Island 3 has struck me with an ennui that I can barely describe. So, uh, no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Robocop vs. Terminator for the SNES! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Some good ol’ fashioned cyborg on android violence. Please look forward to it!

FGC #245 Super Bomberman 2

Plasma changed color?The last time we saw a console Bomberman experience was seven years ago, back in happier times when the president wasn’t orange/bonkers and Super Mario Galaxy 2 had just been released. The last time Bomberman seemed nationally relevant was four years earlier than that, when Bomberman: Act Zero made us all laugh ourselves stupid at a realistic re-envisioning of a character that is best recognized with a purple deeley-bopper. And even before all that, twenty whole years ago, Bomberman 64 was the last time Bomberman was spoken of in the same tones as Mario and Zelda. Or… well… at least he got mentioned in Nintendo Power. That’s kind of the same thing. And, if you go back even further than that, to the far off epoch of 1994, you’ll find Super Bomberman 2, a game starring the titular Bomberman opposite The Dastardly Bombers, a group of nogoodniks that only ever appeared in one North American console Bomberman game.

So imagine my surprise when they were announced as the headlining antagonists of Super Bomberman R, a 2017 Nintendo Switch launch release.

So, since it’s been 23 years since Super Bomberman 2, I broke out the ol’ Know Your Bombers trading cards to help everyone get caught up in time for Super Bomberman R.

COLLECT 'EM ALL

FGC #245 Super Bomberman 2

  • System: Super Nintendo. It’s super!
  • BLOPNumber of players: Four! The original Super Bomberman came with the super multitap, and I’m betting pretty much everyone that snagged Super Bomberman also went for Super Bomberman 2. Well, except the six guys that just wanted that multitap for Secret of Mana.
  • Favorite Bomber Color: This was the first Bomberman (that I played) where you could freely choose your bomber’s color (as opposed to being stuck with white/black/red/blue forever). Green is a fine choice, but I have a tendency to go for Purple Bomberman. He’s so… regal.
  • Poor decisions: There are two additional stages in battle mode that are hidden by a secret code. They’re… not that exciting? They’re fun, and they’re “classic” stages, but I can’t find any rhyme or reason for why they’re hidden. It isn’t even a “beat the game to unlock” situation, they’re just… secret stages for the sake of being secret. What’s your angle here, Bomberman?
  • Did you know? Legend tells of Milon skulking around the password screen. Actually, there are four Milons to be found. That’s four more Milons than should ever be allowed on the Super Nintendo.
  • Would I play again: Here’s hoping Super Bomberman R supplicates any and all desires to return to this classic. Then again, if jelly bombs aren’t included…

What’s next? We’re going to look at the launchiest launch game of all time. No, not Mario. Let’s try something with a few more sports. Please look forward to it!

PUNT

FGC #126 Super Adventure Island 2

Can you dig it?The Theory of Evolution has been contested practically from its inception, back when Charles Darwin hopped back on the HMS Beagle and a deckhand started reading his notes and shouting, “Nuh uh!” Since then, Evolution has been a very divisive topic. This is to be expected, as a healthy portion of the population seems to believe that the mere existence of evolution somehow precludes the existence of a caring deity/universe. As such, Evolution’s opponents have composed a litany of “problems” with the theory over the last century, seeking to disprove a scientific theory with “scientific” facts that are primarily grounded in subjective reasoning. Yes, there are problems with the Theory of Evolution, but asserting that no one has actually seen a chimp give birth to a human isn’t going to slay the big bad Science Dragon.

A similar assertion is that Evolution doesn’t make enough “sense”. This anti-theory goes something like, “why don’t we still have tails, they’d be useful!” or “what’s the deal with the pinky finger? Male nipples? Appendix? We don’t need any of that!” In short, if Evolution is responsible for transforming monkeys into big, bad humans, why didn’t it make us, ya know, better? We’re apex predators, and why isn’t that more literal? We should have crazy head spikes and murder claws and laserbeam eyes! Evolution isn’t real, because if it was, we’d have more dangerbeasts running around.

And to that I offer the counterexample of Super Adventure Island 2.

Adventure Island, the original “Adventure Island 1”, is the story of Master Higgins, a half-naked man on a quest across islands to rescue a princess (Tina, her sister, came later). Adventure Island is, basically, the prototypical “endless runner” game. Higgins must keep moving forward and gulping randomly appearing fruit, because, should he ever go hungry, he will die immediately. I think it’s some kind of psychological disorder. Whatever the reason, Higgins must devour all, and will only find assistance in the form of primitive axes Not the other thing(okay) or skateboards (what?), while everything else on the island exists only to one-hit-kill our tropical hero. It’s a hard life.

It’s also Wonder Boy’s life.

Wonder Boy was a Sega Arcade title, and, when Hudson Soft was tasked with porting the game to home consoles, they dropped the titular Wonder Boy, and inserted their own company mascot, Takahashi Meijin aka Master Higgins, into the starring role. This means that, ultimately, Wonder Boy and Adventure Island had the exact same starting point, give or take a baseball cap.

Wonder Boy changed immediately. Wonder Boy 2 aka Wonder Boy in Monster Land became much more of an “adventure” type game. Wonder Boy collected and spent gold, spoke to “helpful” medieval villagers, and even gained a life gauge to weather all those monster hits. While there was a regressive Monster Lair quest in there, by and large, Wonder Boy continued on this adventure trajectory straight on through to Monster World IV, which dropped Wonder Boy entirely for a Wonder Girl, but still maintained the delightful adventure trappings of the franchise.

Adventure Island, meanwhile, iterated only on the established “endless runner” gameplay. In fact, while each Adventure Island sequel did add new innovations, it seemed like each game also dropped a useful skill. Adventure Island 2 introduced an inventory system and the ability to ride dinosaur pals (before Yoshi ever bust out of his shell), but also lost the ability to upgrade powerups and stage checkpoints. Adventure Island 3 added a duck command (eat it, Mega Man), but forsook backtracking and mobile bosses. And SNES launch(ish) title Super Adventure Island picked up gorgeous graphics but eschewed any and all dinosaur pals. Alright, Hop scotchmaybe the games weren’t released in that order, but close enough…

Adventure Island 4 (for the NES) was a departure from the runner basics of the previous titles. It… also never got out of Japan. I’ve never played it. I should look it up some time. I hear there’s an Eggplant Wizard in there.

Super Adventure Island 2 is theoretically (I can’t play every video game!) a continuation of Adventure Island 4’s innovations. SAI2 is an adventure game. Master Higgins drops the grass skirt for a full set of armor, trades his hammer for a sword and magic wand, and rafts around various “adventure islands” in pursuit of treasure and items. Every “stage” has straightforward objectives like “fight the boss”, but also hidden treasures gated behind abilities you’ll earn on other islands. There’s an overworld and a menu screen. There aren’t many “villagers” to speak to, but you can return to talk to the king for tips on betrothed rescuing/wife swapping. There’s an inn that restores health and magic. And if you don’t spend half your time skulking around the map looking for heart containers, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Adventure Island is again, after a few years of divergence, a Monster World game.

And, frankly, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with Master Higgins. Everything that was Adventure Island got tossed in the garbage (Higgins has amnesia, so he doesn’t even remember his strange fruit compulsion), and, in its place was basically The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link 2. Even that Higgins on a raft sprite Dang turtlelooks pretty damn familiar. Considering The Adventure of Link never saw a proper sequel, it was a blast to find similar gameplay on the “revolutionary” Super Nintendo. Pretty graphics, engrossing exploratory gameplay? What’s not to like?

And I’ve been asking that for years, because what do Super Adventure Island 2, Monster World 4, and The Adventure of Link all have in common? They’re evolutionary dead ends.

Wonder Boy/Monster World was just plain never seen again. “Zelda” obviously saw sequels for the rest of time, but none of them seemed particularly beholden to The Adventure of Link’s gameplay. And as for Master Higgins? Well, Adventure Island made it past the SNES in the form of the WiiWare title Adventure Island: The Beginning. It… wasn’t any good. What’s more, it was a return to the “original” Adventure Island gameplay, and completely dropped any and all adventure elements to accommodate Higgins’s enormous appetite. Sorry, folks, 2-D Adventure games just don’t work.

Video game producers are not making games for the hell of it. Obviously, every video game designer, from the staff at Nintendo to that one lonely guy coding Centaur Panty Fighter 2, wants to see their game succeed, and, during production, believes that the game being produced will be accepted. In short, there are dedicated, intelligent designers responsible for Wonder Boy and Adventure Island that both came to the same point of creating 16-bit, 2-D adventure games. And they both completely failed, taking the franchises with them.

Take a look at observable, historical evolution, and you’ll see that it’s a process, and even when it has the best of intentions, well… sometimes it doesn’t quite work. Evolution is Evolution, and part of evolution is failure. Adventure Island might just be Mauritius.

FGC #126 Super Adventure Island 2

  • System: Super Nintendo, though also available on the Wii Virtual Console. Not the WiiU Virtual Console, though…
  • Number of Players: Sorry, no co-op adventuring for you. Just one player.
  • Seriously?The Adventure of Master Higgins: Seriously, this game is biting on Zelda 2 so hard. You could argue LOZ:TAOL didn’t invent the rhythm of “go to dungeon, beat boss, find some random knickknack in subdungeon to access next dungeon, repeat forever”, but when you’ve got a game that also teaches a hero “random magic”, “upslash”, and “downslash”, then similarities start to become apparent.
  • Favorite Island: The “ice stage”, Hiya-Hiya Isle, is a tower containing a “puzzle” that involves tossing an ice block off the top so it can destroy an ice barrier in the basement. I think that’s neat. The stage’s layout vaguely reminds me of Ducktales’ Moon Stage, too, and that’s always a good thing. Also, the boss of the level is a Wooly Mammoth still frozen in ice. Master Higgins… can’t you just walk around that dude?
  • Did you know? There was an anime based on Adventure Island… sorta. It featured the little fairy creature that occasionally helps Master Higgins during his adventures, and she was responsible for banding together a group of random children to rescue a kidnapped Master Higgins and Tina. Bomberman was in one episode. It ran for 51 episodes and a movie. Clerks the Animated Series aired two episodes.
  • Would I play again: Yes. I like this game. Back when I was cashing in points on Club Nintendo, one of my last “purchases” was this very game. Granted, it’s because I had already purchased pretty much everything else offered, but I think I chose this one over downloading a random Castlevania game I also already owned.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ichy and Scratchy the Game for SNES! Another SNES game, this time of… decreased quality. Please look forward to it, I think!

Turtle meat