Tag Archives: minecart

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Monkey NoisesVideogames can do a few things better than any other medium, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze does one of those things perfectly.

DKC:TF is a pretty straightforward platforming adventure. Donkey Kong was just donkeying around, enjoying his birthday with the members of his family that he remembered exist this week (sorry, Lanky Kong), when a group of malevolent penguins invaded his home. With the helpful flippers of some Viking walruses, Donkey and pals were escorted far from Donkey Kong Country, and banished to an even five islands away from home base. Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, and even Cranky now must fight their way back to their tropical island, and there’s only an army of owls, deadly pits, and other assorted nonsense to repel the apes. At least there are a few frozen bananas to nab along the way.

And, so I can pretend I maintain a proper gaming review blog, I’ll note the experience does play like a dream. The DKC series may handle like Super Mario Bros. on a fundamental level, but the big guy always feels completely different than his plumbing rival. Recent Donkey Kong Country games dial that “heavy inertia” feeling from the original Rare games up to eleven, and, If you’re doing your best hedgehog impression and always moving as fast as possible, it’s very easy to experience a “rollercoaster” feeling. Yes, you have full control of everyone’s favorite gorilla, but there’s that unmistakable feeling that you can’t slow down, that you’ve gotta go fast, and you’re just doing your best to steer this barreling freight train as best you can. Mind you, that metaphor becomes a bit more superliminal on the actually-a-rollercoaster minecart levels, but that feeling persists through the rest of the game. And, if you don’t like it, don’t worry, you can still take it slow, too. Well, on most stages. I wouldn’t slow down when you’re attempting to outrun a lava flow.

But that’s all auxiliary to the best event in the game (and possibly the franchise). After five “worlds” of random island hijinks, the final (well, final-not-secret) world is… Donkey Kong Country.

THIS IS EVERYTHING

You’re finally home! Hooray! … Except, yes, the Snowmads have conquered the tropical paradise, and turned it into a frozen stronghold. So DK and pals must fight from DK home up to the tippy top of Big Crazy Volcano… which is the premise of the previous game, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The final world of Donkey Kong Country Tropical freeze is Donkey Kong Country Returns.

And I love seeing this kind of thing in a videogame.

Other noisesEven if nobody noticed, this got its start back in The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. If you hang out on the south-western “Death Mountain” region of the map, you’ll note the bottom section of the peninsula is actually the entirety of the overworld from The Legend of Zelda (1). In one instant, that simple plot of 8-bit pixels completely recontextualizes Link’s entire adventure, and, wow, did you see that? This new game is, like, 800 times larger than the old one! Oh man, how is Link going to survive his biggest adventure ever!?

(And, for the record, I feel like every Zelda after Ocarina of Time has failed for using the same basic layout as OoT [and arguably A Link to the Past]. It’s not exciting to find Death Mountain in the North or Gerudo Desert in the West, I want to see what’s past those landmarks. C’est la vie.)

But this same trick has been used in a variety of games for a variety of reasons. In Metroid Prime, a frigate is explored early in the adventure, and then, after it crashes to the planet below, it becomes a sunken “ghost ship” that is an entirely new “level”, but is still recognizable from its earlier appearance. Speaking of Metroid, you see this often in “prequel” games, where an important location from the “next” game is revisited by a different group that has no idea about the significance of the latest locale. See Lufia and Lufia 2 for a fun, fatal example of this concept. And while we’re on the subject of 16-bit JRPGs, time travel is great for video games for this exact reason. The Black Omen might be unchanging, but it’s fun to see how the simple villages and dungeons of 600 AD evolve in 400 years.

Hot stuffAnd why does this work? Why is this fun? It’s all because videogames have to be very mindful of “space”. While your average modern action movie doesn’t have to worry about the surrounding area for its epic battles at all (pop quiz: how many countries have been destroyed by random Transformer fights?), videogames are all about space, because the player must inhabit those locations for proper exploration and storytelling experiences. It doesn’t matter in every game (I admit, I might not be able to draw a map of Metro City), but so many games must keep an eye on distance and location, else, well, nobody likes to get lost forever. And, if everyone is doing their job right, the player learns the ins and outs of any given area almost subconsciously, and, before you know it, you’re able to recall the layout of Midgar a lot more easily than your home town. If you’re going to swing by my place, just take the third left after Wall Market.

I’ll save any further gushing about this concept for when ROB inevitably chooses Bioshock, but the flipside to memorizing a map or area is that, when that area is changed, your brain immediately notices. Even if it’s been fifteen years since you played the previous game, since you spotted the new, “different” area, some part of your head recognizes that something is wrong, and why is this wrong, and let’s explore a little further, and find out what happened here. And, on top of that, when something that was previously “the size of an entire game” is reduced to “now it’s smaller”, you I can't see what's happening!subconsciously feel awesome, because, wow, look at how much more I’ve accomplished than last time! Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is six times larger than Donkey Kong Country Returns! DK is huuuuuuge!

Oh, and it is pretty fun to replay through reimaginings of all the Donkey Kong Country Returns levels in a frozen wasteland, too.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an entertaining game all on its own, but the way it recontextualizes Donkey Kong Country Returns is amazing.

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

  • System: Nintendo WiiU. A months ago, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a 3DS port, but now I’m kind of expecting a Switch port. We’ll see if that pans out.
  • Number of players: Two! And I really want to try that sometime! Diddy and the other helpers apparently can assist with a second controller, but I’ve never thought to actually try that with any of my real-life buddies. There are so many other games we can play where we can have apes fight, ya know?
  • Favorite buddy: Cranky Kong has Scrooge’s pogo stick! That makes him tougher than the toughies. On the other hand, the pogo ability is just as finicky as it was back in the NES days, so I’d rather have Diddy in my corner. Can’t tell you how many times that jetpack saved my bacon.
  • Jerks!Favorite Boss: One baboon laughing at Kongs is bad enough, but a baboon that splits into three just to mock a monkey even more? That’s cruel.
  • Did you know? There’s a patch/update for this game, and it seems to exist entirely to fix a glitch in the third world that would prevent the next level from unlocking. “Beat stage, go to next stage” is pretty much videogame 101, so you have to wonder how that glitch got out into the wild.
  • Would I play again: If there is somehow never another Donkey Kong Country game “like this” again (you never know with Nintendo), then I’ll play this again in due time. If there is a DKCR3, then I’m all about leaving the past behind.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Streets of Rage 2! Good! I was getting tired of using the “Nintendo” tag continuously. It’s time to see some streets raging! Or maybe people raging at streets. I don’t know! Please look forward to it!

Huge hooters

FGC #191 New Super Mario Bros. Wii

There they goAnd now for a brief history of multiplayer in Mario games, and why that’s important.

Mario started with multiplayer. Donkey Kong, the premiere of Jump Man, was two player alternating, but when Mario gained his first headlining game, Mario Bros, is was with a two player simultaneous mode. And that really is the best way to play! Kicking over turtles and crabs is fun an’ all, but it’s much more enjoyable to do that while pushing a hapless Luigi into oncoming bees. Collect those coins before the green guy grabs ‘em! And, yes, if you’re in a particularly puckish mood, flip that turtle, piss him the heck off, and watch Luigi get bowled over by a rampaging tortoise. It’s right there in the title! This is Mario Bros, and the essence of family is sibling rivalry.

Unfortunately, Super Mario Bros, the iconic game that launched the Nintendo Entertainment System, returned to its alternating player roots. But two player is still two player! Even if you had to wait for your selfish friend to plow through every last goomba and buzzy beetle on the way to the princess (full disclosure: I was that selfish friend), eventually it would be your turn to play. Mario and Luigi both had the same quest, and it wasn’t up to some capricious console owner to finally pass the controller, the game did that for you. It might sound silly, but being seven and trusting someone else to eventually “give you a turn” is not how games get played. Look to Super Mario Bros 2 for proof of that. Was I the only kid that played “Okay, any time you pick Toad or Luigi, I get to play”? Fun fact: then nobody ever plays as Luigi or Toad. Funny how that works.

But Super Mario Bros. 3 brought back two player simultaneous play through a rehash of Mario Bros, and added a lot more strategy to the concept of two players in a Mario game. The “world map” of SMB3 might be seem quaint and unnecessary today, but “trapping” another player into a round of Mario Bros, or clearing stages in a WIGGLERSparticular order that guaranteed you’d be the one to claim that mushroom house was a game all its own. If you’re ever playing SMB3 alone, and wondering why it feels so different from when you were a kid, it’s because some part of your brain still remembers assaulting your best buddy for his star card so you could claim that precious 5-up. No, you didn’t need all those lives, but who could deny the joy of obtaining such a thing?

Super Mario World was the beginning of the end. SMW is a great game, but its entire 2-player mode seems like an afterthought. There’s the ability to transfer lives… and that’s it. If you beat the game as Luigi, the eternal player two, Mario is thanked for saving Princess Peach. The stupid dinosaur is praised, and Luigi is forgotten. He’s standing right there! Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island completely dropped its second player, which, on one hand, makes a certain kind of sense. On the other hand, well, there’s a reason I remember Kirby Super Star seeing my SNES a lot more often…

Then came Super Mario 64. You will note that it is not Super Mario Bros. 64. That is because Luigi is entirely missing from the experience, and any trace of a two-player mode with him. This was also the first Nintendo console to launch without a second controller… and there might be a connection there. The N64 was phenomenal for multiplayer experiences (Smash Bros, GoldenEye, Bomberman 64), but Mario was alone in his quest to get some cake and eat it too. This was eventually rectified in the DS remake (one way or another), but in 1996, the message was clear: two player Mario is over.

WeeeeWhen Mario decided to go on vacation, he went alone. When Luigi won a thoroughly haunted mansion, he explored it alone. When Mario charted the galaxy itself, he could have a little star buddy shooting star bits at aliens, but that was the tiniest of concessions to the idea of a two player experience. And any time Mario decided to play in the portable realm, well, maybe you have more friends than I do that buy the exact same games, but DS wireless play isn’t the easiest thing in the world, even if it is just for some minigames. Mario’s cast and extracurricular activities may have expanded over the years, but his own adventures had become depressingly solo.

Mario dropping his brother is significant. In a way, for many years, so went Mario, so went the world. He ushered in the concept of the “starring” mascot character (screw you, Pac-Man), the abstract world of gaming (jump on that turtle!), and, of course, the 2-D, scrolling platformer. When the N64 arrived, 3-D platforming arrived with it, and nobody remembers Jumping Flash, it’s Super Mario 64 all the way. And whether he’s promoting go-karting or smashing brothers, Mario has a tendency to get people’s attention.

But it’s not just about Mario being Mario, it’s about Mario always being in vicinity of the fun. And you know what isn’t fun? Sitting around and watching someone else play a videogame. Okay, maybe Let’s Plays have disproven that theory, so to take it a step further: nobody gets together on a Saturday night to watch LPs. You’ve got your friends over, you’ve had some juice and/or beer, and now it’s time to do something. What’s the better choice: everybody grab a controller for some Dammit, Toaddeath match fun times, or are we going to sit quietly and watch Goggle Bob collect another star from that giant dinosaur creature? Hey, who wants to watch me beat Super Mario Sunshine again? No you can’t have the controller, that’s mine.

And maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but I feel like the reason the platformer has fallen behind the likes of “open world adventure” or “FPS” is because a platformer is all about playing it, and watching it is only really exciting when someone is really good. Otherwise? Let’s grab something else we can all play. And thus does the next crop of games tout bullet points along the lines of “like Skyrim but” and “The Dark Souls of vegetable chopping”. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a “Mario-like” that didn’t use the word “retro” a thousand times.

But there is hope for the future, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii started it. Nintendo realized that its target audience was a group of people gradually becoming disturbed loners, so NSMBW featured the ability to play through every last level with four players. Simultaneously! And dropping in and out of a game was as easy as pie, so if you wanted to beat World 3 while your friend was off honeymooning with his real life, you could! The platformer was for friends again, and the world breathed a sigh of relief.

And it’s only getting better! Super Mario Maker doesn’t have a “true” two player mode, but it offers the ability to create and share levels with friends across the globe. Weeee, againBetween the overt sharing, encouraging house guests to play created “worlds”, and watching LPs of the most difficult stages, Super Mario in his purest form is finally social again.

And that’s important.

For something to be popular, whether it’s a video game franchise, movie, or just a dirty limerick, it has to, by definition, be talked about. And the easiest way to get people talking about something is to share it. It’s cool that Band X released an album for ten million dollars that can only be purchased by one person, but if that one person doesn’t feel like sharing, it’s not going to make much of a cultural impact. Similarly, if Mario 64 is only played by one person per cartridge, that’s going to lead to an increasingly shrinking population of Mario players as further games are released. Nobody wants that, least of all Nintendo! Mario is to be shared, and someone finally realized that.

So good on you, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You brought the brothers back to the brothers, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

… Mainly because I get to push Luigi into oncoming turtles again.

FGC #191 New Super Mario Bros. Wii

  • System: It’s a Wii, Wario. Wait, what?
  • Number of players: Four. Did you get that?
  • Dammit, guysHave some friends over: In the spirit of the game, I invited some buddies to play along on this entry. As you can see from some of the gifs, they’re terrible.
  • Favorite powerup: Penguin suit all day long. Screw the propeller hat, I wanna slide along on my tummy!
  • Koopa Kritters: This was the first “real” reappearance of the Koopalings since Super Mario World. I mean, they guested in a few Super Scope 6 and Mario & Luigi games, but those hardly count.
  • Did you know? This is the first game to feature the “super guide”, the little block that is supposed to make it so you are not ever permanently stuck on a particular level. Unfortunately, more often than not, it just serves to remind you that you suck, or died an unfathomably large number of times trying to get that one stupid bonus coin. Screw you, super guide!
  • Would I play again: Most certainly!… if there wasn’t a New Super Mario Bros. WiiU, at least. And its Luigi version. With an invincible Nabbit buddy. Seriously, it’s an improvement in every way.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Every Extend Extra for the PSP! Or is that Every Extra Extend? Bah, I can never remember correctly. Anyway, please look forward to it!

Weee
Hey, I’ve see this before

FGC #129 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

Can you hear the theme song?Let’s talk about Quantum Theory.

Quantum Theory is a huge part of advanced science, and its basic origins lie in a desperate need to explain the more unexplainable pieces of our universe. While the term “quantum” is often applied to whiz-bang future sci-fi, Quantum Field Theory was originally put forth in the early 20th century, thus making Quantum Theory literally older than Howdy Doody. Of course, at that time, Quantum Theory was little more than math nerds tossing theoretical equations back and forth, nowadays, we’re closer than ever to observing what was previously purely hypothetical, and, yeah, there is something a little sci-fi about the fact that we might stumble into multiple worlds.

The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is pretty simple to explain (particularly if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Flash). Every action made has a possibility to go in multiple directions. For instance, if you bite into an apple, you might get a fresh chunk of fruit, or you might lose a tooth. If you just had a tasty treat, your day continues unimpeded; while a damaged incisor means a much more complicated experience. And what if you were to meet your spouse on apple day? In one instance, you are happily married with 2.5 children and a surprisingly stupid dog, in the other, you’re forever alone, hording cats due to a dental based repulsion. According to the many-worlds interpretation, both of these universes “happened”, and you’re merely observing one or the other. Multiply this concept by every living creature on Earth, and you’ve got a whole heck of a lot of different universes. Some where you’re exactly the same, some where, through a series of fortunate coincidences, you are President for Life of the United States of Mexico.

Now, a number of scientists believe that the many-worlds interpretation is nothing more than a thought experiment, something used to demonstrate the way quantum mechanics could He's so happypotentially work, but not necessarily how it does work. After all, there’s only so much energy in the universe, and it would run out pretty quickly if a new universe had to be created every time you thought about your underwear choice (this is why I rarely go clothes shopping, the thermodynamics, you understand). But if you take the many-worlds interpretation literally, it means that there are infinite universes out there, and we got pigeonholed into a meager one universe. Hard not to feel a little indignant…

It’s interesting how this intersects with the famous quote of 18th century philosopher/math nerd Gottfried Leibniz, who stated that we live in the, “best of all possible worlds.” Ultimately, this phrase was interpreted as an approval of God (Christian version, natch), who, in his infinite benevolence, allows suffering, yes, but the suffering is apparently at an acceptable level. If there was any more suffering in the world, the world would be crap, but currently, there is only suffering so that the good may prosper and enjoy life. This sounds like an extremely First World Privilege interpretation of all the misery and pain in the world, but it is supported by many other religions across the world. Consider the Daoist Yin Yang, a symbol of good and evil eternally swirling, showing a perfect balance between the two. Is there an absolutely equal amount of anguish and joy in this world? Could such a thing ever be proven? If Aunt Bernie gets a bad haircut, does a starving child get a cupcake?

Really, it’s a matter of personal interpretation. Quantum Theory or no, Man has always imagined what could have been. “For want of a nail”, the proverb seemingly originating from time immemorial, states that even the Catchytiniest change in a battle plan could result in failure, and, if only that horse had a proper shoe, the battle would have been won. This is the dream of the loser, that some tiny change would have delivered the lost to a fortunate outcome. This is not the consideration of the winner, the one that believes, once again, that this is the best of all possible worlds. In modern times, you see it after every election (“Oh, if only Gore was president, then we’d all be skipping around breathing the freshest air!”), every war (“This is what America would look like after a victorious Confederacy”), or even random video game releases (“This cancelled game would have catapulted the Xbox to market dominance!”). We all have our interpretation of the best of all possible worlds, whether it involves marrying our prom date, or seeing a second season of Firefly.

But the other side of the many-worlds interpretation is the brass tacks of “this is the only world we got”. For better or worse, we are collectively observing this world, and it’s set in stone. Elvis, David Bowie, and Prince are all dead, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about that. You are you, and you are capable of change, but your past will always, one way or another, be a part of you. Five thousand years of recorded human history got us to this collective point, and, while we might squabble about the details, nothing is going to change the past. There’s no stopping this world to get off, there’s just what you’ve got, whether you think it’s the best possible world or the worst, technically, it’s both. This is the only world we got, and we only have fiction for comparison. It’s easy to imagine marrying your high school sweetheart and living forever in happiness… or “sweetie” murdered you on your first anniversary during an underwear choosing based “grizzly accident”.

This is the world we have, and it’s all we’ll ever have.

And it’s a world that contains Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.

wakka wakka?We live in a world where Pac-Man, a maze-based game about a circle with an eating disorder avoiding the vengeful undead, was an unbridled success. For years, and even arguably today, Pac-Man was imitated time and time again, spawning clone after clone… or is it “homage”? Regardless, Pac-Man was an unbridled success, and it not only devoured quarters at the arcade, but also gobbled up hearts and minds with more merchandise than could be imagined. We point to Star Wars or Pokémon today for examples of unfettered, exploitative merchandising, but there was a time that the pop charts were dominated by Pac-Man Fever.

Pac-Man begot a series of dubiously legal clones of his own, and the Pac-Man “formula” continued within its own franchise. Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania: there was no lack of Pac-Man games that were all basically “Pac-Man… with a new hat!” I’ll admit that, as a child during the age of Pac, I played all those games (except Pac & Pal… I think), and was never disappointed by the “new” challenges. Nowadays, each of those entire games would likely be little more than “another level” to be seen within the original game, but in the early 80’s, it was a fine way to blow through some change.

As seen in Smash BrosPac-Land was the outlier of this group, as it was a 2-D side scrolling game that was very similar to what would now be known as an Endless Runner game (or Adventure Island game?). You might be able to claim that this game was trying to adapt the “old” mascot to steal some of upstart Mario’s thunder… if the game hadn’t been released a year before Super Mario Bros. It was ahead of its time, but it was also generally the least well received Pac-Man. I’m only basing this on my own memory of the time, but I know that I saw about five Jr. Pac-Man machines to every one Pac-Land back in the heyday of arcades.

Despite all this, someone decided that Pac-Land would be the ideal starting point for the long awaited Pac-Man 2. So, in 1994, Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures was unleashed on the SNES and Sega Genesis.

It was… something.

I maintain that everything about this game is completely impossible. No, the game isn’t that difficult (the whole experience could be completed inside of two hours if you know what to watch out for), what I’m referring to is the sheer absurdity of nearly every decision that went into creating this game.

First of all, it’s a “playable cartoon”. This means you don’t have any control over Pac-Man, and all you can do is, basically, encourage Pac-Man to maybe do what you want. “You” also have a slingshot available, and its most common use is repelling various hazards from Pac-Man’s periphery. Also, you can hit Pac-Man rightIs this your fetish? in the face, and piss him way the hell off. So, right off the bat, you’ve got the world’s first sadism simulator[citation needed].

Next, there’s Pac-Man’s world. While it could just be a coincidence, it seems like a lot of the trappings of this game rely on the Pac-Man Animated Series, which would make a lot more sense if that show hadn’t concluded in 1983, a full eleven years before this game’s release. Yes, the show was probably bumping around at 4 AM on a random cable network, but considering the target audience of the show (widdle bitty babies), it comes off as an strange choice.

Then there’s every other bonkers thing that happens in this game. Pac-Man must get milk for Pac Baby straight from the cow, which involves being menaced by a crow. Neighbors will murder Pac without notice. Hot dog vendors are homicidal. Ghosts disguised as security guards. Rooftop ziplines. Hang gliders. Used gum monsters. Evil witches. And apparently randomly placed skateboards are the most deadly obstacles in Pac-Man’s universe. Pac-Man can play arcade games featuring himself and his wife. This is a world that makes zero sense to its inhabitants or us, the omniscient observers who keep shouting commands at the hapless, round creature.

Pac-Man lives in the craziest of all possible worlds.

Which forces me to consider our place in the multiverse. According to the many-worlds interpretation, we live on one of an infinite number of worlds. When you consider that, the raw odds of you (an exact genetic “copy” of you) even existing on 1% of the universes out there are infinitesimally low. And that’s even ignoring all the worlds where you died in the crib, got flattened by the school bus, or inadvertently wandered into the local tar pits. It sounds incredibly narcissistic, but consider that this might be the best of all possible worlds simply because it’s one where you exist at all.

Is this your fetish, too?And it’s a world where Pac-Man 2 exists, too. It’s a world where the sequel to one of the most popular and plagiarized games of all time starring one of gaming’s most iconic mascots is something that has barely ever been seen again. It is crazy from top to bottom, with nary a screen containing something that might be considered remotely “normal”. Pac Man 2: The New Adventures is absurd in every conceivable way, and it’s hard to picture the team of escaped lunatics that put this package together.

So whether you believe this is the best of all possible worlds or not, this is a world with Pac-Man 2, and that means, at the very least, we live in a world filled with wonder. Best or worst, that has to count for something.

FGC #129 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Also currently available for the WiiU.
  • Number of players: Just one, assuming you don’t acquire an audience over the course of playing the game.
  • Port o’ Call: The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo editions are pretty much identical, except the SNES version contains Ms. Pac-Man, while the Genesis gets a version of Ms. Pac-Man that is reskinned to star Pac-Man Jr. This was apparently a result of Ms. Pac-Man being released on the Genesis shortly before Pac-Man 2, so the designers didn’t want to slash sales of their own prequel.
  • WeeeeBastard Child: If you didn’t know, the “original” Jr. Pac-Man was a Baily-Midway hack, and not officially sanctioned by Namco. This is similar to the origin of Ms. Pac-Man, but the difference is that everyone liked Ms. Pac-Man.
  • What is dead may never die: You can “die” or “lose” in areas of this game, but it’s the rare 16-bit game that didn’t bother with “lives”, so you’ll never see a Game Over screen. That won’t help you in any of the more death-prone areas of the game, but at least you don’t have to head home after every three losses.
  • Minecart? Yes, it is a 16-bit 2-D game, so there is a minecart stage. Whether it is more horrifying than the hang glider section is entirely up to the player. I hear some people just can’t beat that area.
  • Did you know? The Ghost Witch, main antagonist of this game, returns in Pac in Time, another 16-bit Pac-Man game that does not involve the traditional mazes. That game was actually a reskin of another game, Fury of the Furries, which only now features Pac-Man thanks to Namco wanting their mascot to get a little more exposure. So… was Namco hoping this Ghost Witch thing was going to take off, or did they just not feel like coming up with another villain?
  • Would I play again: Hey, Pac-Man is always good for a laugh. I can probably be counted on to play up until the second level/quest again… then things might get dicey.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mario and Donkey Kong! The oldest rivalry in gaming (… aside from ghost versus puck) is rekindled again. Please look forward to it!

What are you hiding?

FGC #025 Dino City

Like Battletoads!As I mentioned in the last FGC post, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of being hyperbolic about games, whether it be glowing praise involving wanting to have a developer’s babies, or horrifying condemnation and calling for a producer’s head on a pike. I’d hate to blame the internet for this behavior, because the truth is that headlines have been the order of the day since the invention of the printing press. Nobody wants to pay a newsy to bark about clear skies and a happy day, no, you want that lil’ scamp screaming about how the sky is falling and maybe an Orange Lantern is running for president.

The real world isn’t all headlines, though; in fact, it is mostly business as usual. For the average person, there isn’t a crisis a day, and the television is still pumping out 570 channels of the same thing it spewed out yesterday. Video games are no different: there are blockbusters once a quarter or so, but most of the time, this week’s releases are just as forgettable as last week’s offerings. Hell, Gamestop’s entire business model is based on the idea that you’re going to get tired of game x faster than game y is released; the whole thing falls apart if there really is a “must buy” video game every Tuesday.

The blockbuster mentality permeates video game history like any entertainment medium, and leads to some odd misconceptions. There are, I believe, 300 released N64 games in North America. Here’s a challenge: name fifteen. Bonus points for not including Link or Mario. If you actually did come up with that list, it likely featured a mix of successes (Goldeneye 007, Mischief Makers), failures (War Gods, Clayfighter 63 ⅓), and maybe some old standbys (Madden NFL ’99, Jeopardy). Even if we were to consider that extremes account for a full third of the N64 library, which seems like a large number, we’d still be left with 200 games that are just kind of… there. Sorry, Fighters Destiny, you’re just floating in the middle.

Not a wizardAnd it’s in this roundabout manner that we find DinoCity (No space? Okay). Dinocity is a SNES platformer set in a variety of different environments featuring a human riding a dinosaur and fighting hordes of prehistoric forces. It was released over a year after Super Mario World, so let’s just nix the idea that this is a remotely original idea for a platformer. In fact, this game is based on a movie that I’m not sure even really exists. I know there were like seventeen Land Before Time movies, but I’m at a loss trying to remember a movie featuring a radical 90’s kid getting sucked into a science experiment to hang out with hip dinosaurs. Seriously, that is exactly the kind of movie I would have watched about a billion times in the early 90’s, so I’m pretty sure the entire thing is some elaborate ruse. It’s okay, Dinocity, you don’t have to make up an entire film to justify your existence. People bought Aero the Acrobat, and that game was based on nothing more than hate and malice.

Dubious origins aside, Dinocity is a perfectly competent platformer. You have the option of controlling Timmy or a girl whose name I don’t know because she doesn’t wear her name on her shirt. Both Timmy and Girl have dinosaur companions that do all the heavy lifting, though you can dismount your dino buddy on occasion to jump around like a Castlevania fleaman. Aside from a few places that absolutely require the extra altitude of leaping off a dinosaur, there is never any reason to do this. But I suppose it’s nice to leave the option available. Don’t want Girl getting saddlesore. Your dinosaur choices are Rex the T-Rex and Tops the Protoceratops, and, oddly, the T-Rex is the dinosaur with the weakest offense. Tops shoots little bolts from her fists, while Rex just utilizes a melee attack with his buff-for-a-t-rex arms. The difference is tremendous, akin to playing Mega Man 3 only using the Mega Buster or only using Top Spin. Oh yeah, the humans have stun guns that are available when they’re exploring on their own, and they’re just about as offensively effective as, oh, I don’t know, Rush Coil. Don’t leave your dinosaurs, boys and girls.

I like this little gizmoWhether it be Tops or Rex, your dinosaur explores a series of six levels that each include a bunch of wildly disparate stages. We’re talking grass field to ice cave to electric warehouse to grass field to elevator… and then you fight a genius neanderthal as a boss. And that’s just in the first level! The following level closes with a pair of giant sand worms, and the third is some kind of amusement park/koopaling castle. There’s a lot of variety in these levels, but not a lot of cohesion. Also, about every third thing has spikes on it, not of the instant kill variety, thankfully, but there’s enough thorny bits to go around that jumping most anywhere requires a lot of looking before that leaping. Point is, this isn’t a “hold Y and sprint to the goal” kind of SNES platformer.

And it’s all perfectly capable, but perhaps a little forgettable. There were approximately eleventy billion cartoony platformers on the SNES before a certain hedgehog made his debut and ushered in another trillion imitators. This isn’t something amazing like Donkey Kong Country or Tiny Toons, but it’s also not a complete turd like Bubsy or Super Troll Island, it’s just… there.

Dinocity, good job being… just there.

FGC #25 Dino City

  • System: Super Nintendo
  • Number of players: 2 players, alternating, like, say, Super Mario World.
  • Look awaySexual Dimorphism: Aside from the female dino being dramatically better than the male, there’s also the enemies, which consist of a bunch of grubby neanderthal men and one cavewoman that looks like she just stepped off the catwalk. Dinocity is a classy place.
  • Easier than Battletoads? By a country mile. Though this is another one of those weird games where there are limited continues, but you can start from any level with an easily provided/entered password. Assuming you have a pen and paper, you could probably beat this game inside of a few hours.
  • Did you know? Tops is a protoceratops. Protoceratops remains have been found in mines going back thousands of years, and it’s believed that ancient Greeks being exposed to these bones dreamed up the griffin as a result of seeing these “beaked” creatures. It’s kind of funny that it took us, what, a few thousand years to circle back to “dinosaurs are birds,” when our ancestors kinda nailed it from the get-go.
  • Would I play again? Nope. It’s not a bad game, I just see absolutely no reason to play it. There is nothing here that says, “Oh man, I’d like to revisit that.” Nothing.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy 8. Seriously? Alright, I already put in my time with this game back on the Talking Time forums, so I’m just going to HD up that post. If you’ve already read it, there’ll be pictures; if you haven’t read it, then it’s new to you. Please look forward to it!

Wee Roller Coaster