Tag Archives: matt

WW #07 Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed (Live)

Here comes funI fear for the children.

So here was my plan: get some friends together, get a live stream of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed going, and close out the week publicly mocking another lame example of “anime tiddy games”. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty… But it was not to be.

Akiba’s Trip is powerfully boring. Despite teasing animated titillation in all promotional materials, Akiba’s Trip… goes nowhere. I played this nonsense for an hour and a half, and was thwarted by an attempt to buy a book for a random NPC. I think Digital Goggle Bob stripped like six people. For reference, an hour and a half into Senran Kagura, I’m pretty sure I had seen the entire cast naked. In Custer’s Revenge, everybody starts naked. If Akiba’s Trip is the future of “thirsty” anime games, there is no future in the genre at all.

But, then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

If you’d like to judge for yourself, feel free to watch a recording of the stream below. Please enjoy the commentary of BEAT, FanboyMaster, Morning Song, Kaptain Kibosh, Wicket, and myself. And, as always, I want to excessively thank everyone that participated, commentators and viewers.

Time Annotated Notes!

WW #04 Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. We’ve got some PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware

Here's everybody!I’ve mentioned my buddy Matt before. Matt has two sons, one of which is prime video game playing age. As Matt and I are both tremendous nerds, no one disparages the child’s hobby, and while Uncle Goggle Bob may have had to unlock some of the more difficult content in some games (“Thanks for unlocking the weird mushroom, Goggle Bob”), the kid is pretty good for playing games to completion. Not too long ago, Matt’s kid dug up his father’s old Gameboy, and started playing Metroid 2. And, despite the game having the same graphical fidelity as a damp tissue, he enjoyed it. So, knowing that I’m a giant videogame nerd, Matt asked me what would be an ideal, similar game for the 3DS (his child’s general system of choice). Two games came to mind.

  1. Shovel Knight, because, while it may be difficult, I know the kid also enjoyed Duck Tales, so, ya know, if he enjoys Samus Aran and Scrooge McDuck, this seems like a slam dunk. Might be a little too difficult though, so I also considered…
  2. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse which, while it may rely on the Link’s Adventure formula of exploration, was still very close to Metroid 2 metroidvania gameplay. It also featured another fierce heroine (as opposed to hero), which is probably a good thing for boys to see every once in a while.

So, after deliberating on both choices, I decided to only recommend Shovel Knight. Want to know why? Well, in, say, Metroid 2, how do you get deeper into the game? You “land” on the planet, grab some powerups, shoot some blocks, discover the Alpha Metroid, kill it, and then proceed downward past some receding lava. This is some pretty typical video game advancement, so maybe we’ll look The Legend of Zelda 2: Link’s Adventure. In that game, it’s not unusual to have to deal with a villager that is claiming they have some spell or item you need, but you have to perform a fetch quest to obtain whatever this puissant peasant wants. Go to the Deadly Cave, obtain the Trophy, drag it back to Tom, Tom forks over the Jump Spell, and then it’s time to leap over that ledge in Frightening Cave and head onto Second Dungeon. This is much closer to how Shantae works.

Actually, let’s be particular about how Shantae “works”…

FGC #238 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

CowbungaI’ve mentioned before that, as a kid, you kind of take everything in stride. Super Mario Bros. is about a plumber that jumps on turtles and saves mushroom people? Yeah, okay. Oh, wait, now he’s a live action dude on a variety show that features cartoons that include a magical elf every Friday? Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, now Mario can fly because he gained the tail of a raccoon, a creature not traditionally known for its flight capability? Whatever, man, as long as it’s fun. Similarly, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got their first videogame, I was elated, because, duh, Ninja Turtles and videogames: two tastes that go great together (like whipped cream and pizza). And thus did I play TMNT for hours, and I thought very little about its origins or eccentricities.

But now that I’m playing the game as an adult, I’m shell-shocked at how this might be the weirdest game on the NES.

It’s definitely a Ninja Turtle game

First, for anyone that skipped this magical adventure, I want to be absolutely clear that this is certainly a TMNT game. This is not the case of a bizarre localization where Goku became a random Native American or something. This is a radical turtle adventure that starts with an attract screen that is practically off the back of a TMNT action figure. Watch four mundane turtles mutate into awesome teenage ninja with four distinct weapon types! Look out for the evil Shredder! Bebop and Rocksteady are up to no good!

And it’s not just the intro, the overarching plot of this one could be a week-long arc on the cartoon. April is kidnapped. The Foot are going to destroy a local landmark. Splinter is kidnapped. Splinter is rescued, but it’s time to hunt down the Technodrome once and for all. There’s that nefarious Shredder, and we beat ‘em, but will he be back next week? Throw in Krang and maybe a random mutant or two, and you’ve practically got the entire series in one game. They even managed to wedge that silly blimp into a cutscene or two.

And speaking of cameos…

The Bosses are Amazing

Incoming!Bebop and Rocksteady are up to no good, and you personally get to stop them. And their boss patterns make sense: they’re both animal-people known for charging in headfirst, and here is a pair of jerks that do just that. It’s a shame you don’t get to fight them simultaneously, but there is something appropriate about Rocksteady watching Bebop get defeated and then just wandering off. Foot Mutants totally aren’t bros, yo.

But the later stage bosses are the real gems. Metalhead is not “Mecha Turtle”, dammit, he’s clearly the robo-turtle of the TMNT universe. Then we’ve got Big Mouser that, okay, maybe it doesn’t move much, but it is certainly the granddaddy of all mousers. And there’s a fight with the entire Technodrome. Sure, the scale is way off, but it’s probably the best turtle vs. tank battle you’re ever going to see in this or any other medium. It’s bigger on the inside.

The bosses are pretty damn TMNT, and their accompanying Foot Soldiers fit the flunky bill. But things start to go off the rails when you look at…

The Other Guys

Okay, so the Foot Clan are ninja. That can account for a lot of different variations on a theme. I mean, you’ve got all the crazy ninja weapons, and you could have mutant ninja, and maybe like big ninja to accompany nimble ninja. That all makes perfect sense, and this is a robot army of ninja, so even the occasional jetpack or laser gun would be allowed.

LOOK AT MEBut what we have here… uh… did anyone order a crawling eyeball? Or flying manta ray creatures? And are those Human Torch-esque “fire men”, or did some random Foot go full Thích Quảng Đức and decide to immolate around the place? I can deal with the occasional mutant frog monster, that’s practically canon, but “Chainsaw Maniac”? I think you might be a genre off, dude. And then there’s the… thing… that is just a bunch of spikes with legs creeping along the ceiling. That shouldn’t be a TMNT enemy. I’m not even certain that creature should be haunting anyone other than Lovecraft…

Oh, but these random Boomerang Buttheads (you never forget what you named enemies when you were seven) seem eerily reminiscent of Goriya, which reminds me…

Wow, this game is like The Adventure of Link

Back in 1989, videogames hadn’t quite coalesced into the rigidly defined genres of today. So when TMNT seemed a little bit like The Adventure of Link (a game released, in Japan, two years earlier), nobody thought much of it. Nowadays, we’ve had roughly six total games throughout history that can be described as “like The Adventure of Link”, so it kind of sticks out.

Party time!It’s a shame, too, because this set-up works surprisingly well with the level structure of TMNT. Heck, I’d argue that the overworld overhead perspective and underground “connected dungeons” structure of TMNT NES world works better than in The Adventure of Link. And it’s not just because of the Party Van! Let’s face it, you continue in The Adventure of Link, and the trek back to your favorite palace is more of a slog than anything. That huge, wide-open overworld is great in the beginning, but it’s just another stupid obstacle by about the time you acquire the raft. In TMNT, each level is self-contained and, more importantly, ends. Assuming you’ve got a continue remaining, you don’t ever have to cross the sewers of the first world ever again, and that’s a good thing for anyone that cares about their own time.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little disingenuous. You’re going to see the first level again and again, because, frankly…

This Game is Super Hard

It’s a NES game, so it’s a given that everything is trying to kill you. Also, this was before even the concept of “refill stations” or “save points” existed, so good luck rationing enough pizza to guarantee Donny has a full life meter at all times. And, yes, because Konami (Ultra if you’re nasty) is full of vindictive monsters, there are instant kill traps. If you want to count those Foot Tanks, there are instant kill traps on the first screen. Hope you didn’t pick your favorite turtle to inevitably be squished first!

And the platforming in this game is just plain cruel. See this? See this right here?

ARGH

I still have nightmares about this jump. Here’s your fun fact for the day! If you, like many poor, scrubby children of the 80’s, used a Game Genie to secure infinite life for your dear turtles, and you missed that one damn jump, the game would permanently freeze, and you’d have to start the whole adventure over again. What I’m saying is that even when you cheat, TMNT finds a way to punish your subpar ninja skills.

And I’ll remind you that this was a game essentially aimed at seven year olds. Konami, the “NES Generation” was already good at videogames at this point, but not this good.

Maybe I’m being hyperbolic. I mean, it’s not like there was an entire level that nobody ever got past.

Paddle on, bro

Oh, right, never mind.

So this is Turtle Power?

This all adds up to a very confusing game. It’s super hard, but made for children. It features the heroic Ninja Turtles and their mortal enemies, Robot with a Jet for a Head and Spikey Wall Guy. There’s The Adventure of Link gameplay, but with the water level nobody ever asked for! When I was a kid, I thought this was as normal as butter sandwiches (RECIPE: butter bread, put on top of other piece of bread, eat), but now, as an adult, I see this is a game as strange as spreading animal fat on couple of slabs of wheat and calling it lunch. WhoopsI understand licensed games could be anything back in the day, and Konami probably had all of about two hours of lead time to get this project out the door, but it still came out very… confused. Wolverine is a terrible game, but it’s a predictable terrible game. NES TMNT seems to zig every time you might expect a zag, and then you have to fight a mutant hedgehog for some reason.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES is a damn confusing game. It’s also kind of awesome, so, ya know, cowabunga.

FGC #238 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. It was also ported to various home computers of the time. Oh, it was also on the Wii Virtual Console for a hot minute, but it got rescinded due to licensing issues. I wonder how many games have actually left the Virtual Console never to return…
  • Number of Players: Four turtles, but only one player. Quite the let down for Wee Goggle Bob.
  • Favorite Turtle: Donny is best pony. Seriously, is there a reason to use anything other than that enormous bo staff? Donatello can murder Rocksteady without even having to stand up, and that’s to be commended.
  • What are they?Other Influences: The stage leading up to the Technodrome takes place in a series of caves, and there are floating jellyfish monsters. Now, I’m not saying TMNT ripped off Metroid (mainly because TMNT caves look more like “caves” than the caverns of NES Zebes), but it is a damn weird coincidence. Are, like, cave-based jellyfish creatures a thing in Japan? I’ve never been.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes! I even beat it back in the day, but, like Back to the Future, it was one of those deals where I beat the game, saw the very confusing ending (Splinter is human again? Huh?), and then was never able to get back there again (before the advent of savestates). I swear I thought I dreamed that sequence for years…
  • Land of the Rising Fun: In the Japanese version, April is identified as Splinter’s daughter, because why not? It’s not like the turtles would rescue a random woman in a yellow jumpsuit for no reason.
  • Did you know? The DOS port of TMNT contains an impossible jump in the third stage, so it’s technically impossible to beat without cheating/glitching. This is kind of amusing, because the “impossible jump” is not over an instant kill hazard, so it’s very likely that a lot of poor players banged their heads against that particular wall for years. Okay, I at least know my buddy Matt did that, because he talks about it every damn time someone so much as mentions a ninja turtle…
  • Would I play again: This game is weird and confusing, but I kind of love it. I like weird and confusing, evidently. So, yes, I’m probably going to see it back in the NES again before too long.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bobby is Going Home for the Atari! Ah, for the halcyon days of titles giving away the entire plot. Will Bobby make it home? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

Not that kind of fun

FGC #097 Kid Chameleon

RadicalPrivilege is a funny thing.

The idea of privilege seems to have recently (ish) surfaced as a way to grasp a concept that has been around practically since the dawn of man: some people just have it better than others. Ultimately, privilege has always been and always will be an issue: right down to the genetic level, some people are simply better equipped for certain situations than others. Of course, it’s one thing to be born with biceps more capable of mastodon slaying, and quite another to be born simply “the right color” and have society treat you better as a result. One is a privilege of environment, the other is entirely societally made.

In my own life, my best friend, practically since high school, is a person who grew up, literally, five doors down from my home, went to all the same (pre-college) schools, eventually majored in the same field, played in the same woods, ate at the same restaurants, had at least one parent working in the educational system, and generally has always had a similar, innate inclination toward nerdish pursuits. He’s also a black male of West Indian heritage. I’m, as you may have guessed, white. In just our daily lives, I can see the complete opposite reactions people have to him (scary other) versus me (normal dude, kinda looks like Harry Potter). One particular event springs immediately to mind, and that was a recent incident when a parking lot attendant who hadn’t spoken to me for ten years finally decided to start being Mr. Question Man the minute my friend tried to pull his car (complete with wife and children) into the private lot. “We don’t get many of your kind here.” I never once considered that something I do on a daily basis could be such a hassle, but, here you go, can’t even park your car without being reminded you don’t look exactly like you’re “supposed to”.

But that’s the thing about privilege, practically from the moment you’re born, it becomes an inextricable part of “you”, and nigh-impossible to comprehend from the other side. This (aside from general dickery) is why people get so upset about being indicted with privilege: it is impossible to “accuse” someone of having privilege without, essentially, stating that there is something wrong with someone’s core self. This, taken rationally, is not true at all, but on an emotional level, a “check your privilege” translates to, basically, a Secret!“yo mama” joke (“Yo mama is so white she gets served right away at the dining establishment of her choice.”), it’s a disparaging remark at something you can’t change… kinda like racism. To be clear, I’m not saying condemning someone for having privilege is racist (“Isn’t that exactly what you just said?” “Shut-up.”), simply that even accusing someone of having privilege is a touchy subject, because it seems to insult not only the person, but all of that person’s accomplishments, which, theoretically, could have nothing to do with privilege at all. Or, that’s what the privileged like to believe, at least.

So, all that said, Nintendo is Nintendo because of the privilege of Nintendo Power.

Super Mario Bros. 3, no question, is an amazing game. It also contains, not including wandering Hammer Brothers, 90 levels. There is no save feature, and, from the information within the game itself, I would say that one out of the three “warp whistles” are easily acquired. For the record, I want to say that the warp whistle way the heck at the other end of World 2 is something that an inquisitive player might discover by identifying a weirdly placed rock, but the other two… I wouldn’t expect to find those by accident. Flying up over a ceiling in a fortress sounds easy, but is wildly unintuitive when you consider the layout (and powerups) of a rarely revisited area. And ducking on a white block for the proper number of seconds to hide behind the stage’s foreground? That has never made any sense. Don’t try to tell me Princess Peach’s letter explains everything, either, because that royal pain couldn’t even translate “goomba” properly.

And I don’t remember ever being young enough to believe a video game “move” I saw in a movie would actually work in reality. Screw you, Wizard.

But, despite all this, many of us finished Super Mario Bros. 3 with no problems, because, of course, Get ahead!we had Nintendo Power (or knew someone with Nintendo Power). I think I played Super Mario Bros. 3 “straight” for a whole two weeks before I received the news that I could skip straight ahead to World 9 from World 1. Hell, I still remember being at a friend’s birthday party (and said friend had everything, including that all-important NP subscription), and witnessing the magic of the warp whistles for the first time. Suddenly, a game that could take hours and hours to complete was nothing before an informed player, and Bowser’s defeat was at hand. Super Mario’s world was mine to control.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice I’m lauding SMB3 for the ability to skip great swaths of its content. But that’s the thing about video games of the era: due to creators with wildly different design philosophies (and seemingly random advancements in programming), the average player didn’t have a clue how long a game would (or even could) be. If the credits didn’t roll after an hour (or the game didn’t loop back to level one), you were left with an annoying choice: there were no saves (and passwords were not mandatory), so continue on and maybe reach the end, or stop now, and resume on another day when you’re more rested… but will have to complete that same hour of gameplay again. You think “Oh, I have OCD and have to complete the game 100%” is bad today, try the “good” old days of not having a clue what 100% could even be, five levels or ninety.

But Nintendo Power was here for all that. Even if there wasn’t a cheat code to grant invincibility, 30 lives, or level select, there was at least a guide (usually with maps!) that told you what you were in for. Remember that Donkey Kong and Final Fantasy both appeared on the same fledgling system, so a guide to “what the hell is happening” was almost mandatory. Today, we tout “hours and hours of gameplay” as some kind of golden bullet point, but back then, without information on what was coming, that was practically a threat.

And, really, I feel like Nintendo Power, with its Classified Information and maps galore, is a significant reason a number of games and franchises are considered “retro classics” today. No one would fondly remember Contra if they couldn’t pass the first level on a meager three lives. Cruisin'Castlevania II could have killed the franchise with its obscure graveyard ducks. And, sad confession, I never would have completed Super Metroid without the Nintendo Power Strategy Guide-provided information that a super bomb would detonate the Meridia glass passageway. I had my best fifth graders working on a solution to that Zebes maze, and we came up with nothing! And, let’s not kid ourselves, “beating a game” holds a significant bearing on your memories of the experience, while petering out because you can’t endure it any longer leaves a poor impression.

But what about on the other side of the aisle?

Kid Chameleon, surface level, is pretty much a Super Mario Bros. 3 clone. It’s a platformer, your main offensive maneuver is jumping on enemies, and your greatest threats are bottomless pits and moving platforms. Kid Chameleon’s main hook is taking the “suits” of SMB3 and turning them up to eleven. KC can transform into a variety of different forms, from the murderous Maniaxe to the agile Red Stealth, and use the different abilities of each suit… errr.. helmet to traverse the area. Each powerup helmet, of course, confers additional life, but, unlike SMB3, some helmets are mandatory, depending on the level. The Berzeker form is a charging rhino that can push blocks out of the way, and Micromax can fit into small passages; both skills are completely mandatory to finish certain levels. This is incorporated well, though, as, while I generally disparage required powerups, the levels and traps here are built to be challenges focusing on “can you survive this area and keep the required powerup?” There’s even a “give up” option (rarely seen in 8/16-bit games) so you can instantly restart a stage if you know you’ve gotten yourself into an unwinnable situation. This isn’t SMB3 (because what is?), but it is a very good, very thoughtfully designed platformer.

But there’s one thing everyone remembers about Kid Chameleon, and it’s not that the levels are carefully crafted, it’s that there’s so many of them. Kid Chameleon has no save points, no password system, and no immediately obvious “skip to the end” button, so every time you start Kid Chameleon, you’re starting it from scratch. This is daunting, as, like most platformers, the difficulty ramps up in the later stages, but you still must succeed in the earlier stages with all of your reserve lives intact, else it’s going to be a bumpy road ahead, and one that likely leads back to level one. I remember desperately hurling myself against the game as a kid, and, amusingly enough, even now, as an adult using save states to randomly pop in and out of the game, I still feel Storm's a-comin'physically tired as I get to later stages that, in my younger days, I would only ever reach roughly around bedtime. Kid Chameleon practically is exhaustion to me. It is the game that introduced me to entropy. I never beat Kid Chameleon as a child, despite trying time and time again. I thought such a task impossible.

But the sad thing about Kid Chameleon? I thought its challenges were insurmountable, and, now, in the age of wikis and faqs, I know that KC contains 103 levels, and that’s counting the “small” Elsewhere stages, because, without those, we’re down to 71 actually challenging stages. That’s less than Super Mario Bros. 3! That’s less than Super Mario World! I beat both of those games! I beat every last bit of both of those games! I can barely believe it, but Kid Chameleon was within my grasp, and the only thing holding me back was my own fear that the game was effectively endless. The end was within sight!

But, back in the early 90’s, I had no way of knowing that. I was a Nintendo kid with a Genesis, and maybe five games for the system, so I didn’t have a Sega Visions subscription, and, honestly, if you’ve ever read that magazine, it was exactly the propaganda rag that detractors always claimed NP was at the time. Nintendo Power wasn’t just a way to convince easily-led children to buy Abadox (though it certainly was that), it was a way of making a new generation an informed population, and granting a group of people that would one day identify themselves as “gamers” a chance to actually know their hobby. I love Contra. I love Castlevania. I love Super Mario Bros. 3. I love them all because I know them. They are not the maze of mystery that, even today, Kid Chameleon remains. I could tell you, from one blurry screenshot, Mario’s exact location in Super Mario Bros. 3, but I just played Kid Chameleon, and, seriously, I couldn’t tell you the name of the stage for most of the screenshots in this article that I just captured.

And, ultimately, that’s what privilege is. It’s looking at your past, looking at your accomplishments, looking at what you know to be true (Super Mario Bros. 3 Look out!is good stuff), and acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, there were some outside influences that formed those ideas. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a great game! That incidentally had its own movie. And cartoon. And strategy guide. And months of magazine coverage. Kid Chameleon barely had a six issue mini comic book. It’s also about as well remembered as Super Alfred Chicken. You mean there were other platformers for the Genesis besides Sonic the Hedgehog? You mean Sonic the Hedgehog 2?

Check your privilege, Nintendo. There’s a kid in a white t-shirt that could use a sequel, but he’s getting stopped by the doof that thinks he’s a security guard. Why not be a little more understanding of the ones that didn’t have everything?

FGC #97 Kid Chameleon

  • System: Sega Genesis, though it also appears on a number of Sega compilations throughout the systems. For this review, incidentally, I replayed it on the Xbox 360.
  • Number of Players: Two alternating, like, you know, Super Mario Bros.
  • So, did you beat it? Yes, but it wasn’t until I was in college, and had access to all the emulators ever. Do I still… yes, I still have a screencap of my accomplishment.

    A winner is me

    February 16, 2003, apparently. Oh man, almost posted this article on the anniversary.

  • “Thoughtful” Level Design? Okay, yes, the final world of Kid Chameleon has some downright hateful “looping” areas that make progress a slog unless you figure out the right route. But the same kind of nonsense was in Super Mario Bros., and reappeared with the ghost houses and Forest of Illusion with Super Mario World, but we look past those flaws.
  • Favorite Helmet: The Juggernaut is a tank that fires an unlimited number of skulls. This is rad. Granted, the Juggernaut is also the most limited helmet in the game, limited not only in quantity but also the number of places you can go with a tank as opposed to the more svelte any-other-helmet-ever. But it still makes for two completely unrelated FGC games in a row with a Juggernaut.
  • Die! Possibly the most iconic roadblock in Kid Chameleon is the Murder Wall, a mechanized horror that appears in auto-scrolling stages. The joke of it, though, is that the trademark Murder Wall only appears in a total of three stages. It’s the Kuribo’s Shoe of Kid Chameleon.
  • Fresh squeezed: Kid Chameleon, like his hedgehog brother and a friendly dolphin, has a major allergy to being squashed by moving blocks. Was this a Genesis thing? Jiggle physicsI seem to remember a number of NES games where the protagonist would just be squished and moved to some viable (or not viable, hi Samus) ground, but it seems like every Genesis hero is simply instantly killed.
  • What’s this about a hedgehog? Yes, people fondly remember Sonic the Hedgehog. His debut adventure also included the easiest level select code in the history of gaming. I don’t think these two items are unrelated.
  • Did you know? Yes, like Super Mario Bros., there are a series of warps in the game that will get you to the finale in pretty short order. You have to know exactly what you’re doing, though, so it would have been nice if there was a guide two decades ago. All the same, aside from the “skip to the final boss” warp in the second stage, most of the warps forward you to challenges that are completely insurmountable if you don’t have the skills necessary to get to said stages. SMB3 World 8 tanks are nothing in the face of Bloody Swamp.
  • Would I play again: Every once in a while I get it in my head that I’m going to sit down and defeat this game “for real” and, using only save states at the start of each level, beat the game straight through. I usually give up after an hour. But it will happen again, I know it. Maybe I’ll pick up an old save this time…

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Bleach: Soul Resurrección for the Playstation 3! We’ve got to save Heaven and Hell with Ichigo… but is he his own worst anime? Please look forward to it!

Get it?