Tag Archives: nintendo age

FGC #376 Ghostbusters (NES)

Who you gonna call?Ghostbusters NES is an eternal plastic monument to how Goggle Bob was a stupid, stupid child.

It all starts with the Commodore 64. For anyone that missed it (because you’re not old as dirt), the Commodore 64 was basically the home personal computer before anyone could afford personal computers. It accepted (inevitably multiple) giant floppy discs, the printer was dot matrix, and it had roughly the same processing power as a bag of doritos, but it could help with work and games! Imagine! A device that mom could use for word processing, and Little Bobby could use for playing exciting games where one block attacked another block! And there were rudimentary programming applications available! Never forget Logo Writer, the “game” where you programmed a turtle to do whatever you desired… assuming you could master Logo programming language, a programming language never to be seen again.

If you haven’t already guessed from that glowing paragraph, the Commodore 64 was my secret origin in more ways than one. Before there was even a NES in the house, the Commodore 64 could (with proper supervision) be utilized by Wee Goggle Bob. And, while I abused the word processing program before I even really knew how to write (I lurned at some point, right?), my favorites on the C64 were always the games. There were many available (I’m not going to accuse my sainted mother of software piracy, but it sure seemed like our C64 library expanded faster than other systems where you couldn’t copy that floppy), but my top choices were always two games: Rampage and Ghostbusters. Rampage was pure Id, and often the choice for two players, but Ghostbusters was much more cerebral.

ZAPGhostbusters might have been my first “comprehensive” videogame. Mario Bros and Mega Man are amazing titles, but they only require you to understand the alphabet up to its second letter (the letter that lets you shoot). Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64 tried to do something different and much more complex. The plot of Ghostbusters is not that you are Ray and Egon, no, you’re you, and you’re starting up a Ghostbusters franchise in New York City. You’re responsible for purchasing equipment, you’re responsible for maintaining your haunted bank account, and, if a Marshmallow Man stomps a building to bits, it’s your ass that is getting fined. While the game does feature a lot of repetitive nonsense (driving to locations is almost entirely pointless, and catching ghosts doesn’t really warrant a half hour of the same gameplay over and over again), there’s enough planning involved that the whole experience could truly challenge players of all ages. Wee Goggle Bob just enjoyed hearing the theme song and getting slimed, but C64 Ghostbusters was borderline WRPGian in its complexity. Screw Dragon Warrior, this is where you could really learn about inventory management while fighting monsters.

And then, four years later, we were burdened with Ghostbusters on the NES. Good news: the car segments are now more interesting, as you can dodge other vehicles and score gas cans as you drive over to your next haunted mansion. Bad news? If you run out of gas, it leads to a “pushing the car” scene so boring, the concept would not be revisited in gaming for at least twenty years. And if you so much as nudge another car, you lose $400 (in 80s dollars!). Once you arrive, capturing ghosts is mostly the same, but 90% of the interesting “Ghostbuster franchise” gameplay has been dropped. Randomly forming giant gelatinous gentlemen are a thing of the past, and any sort of indication as to what you’re supposed to be doing or working towards is gone forever. And, should you survive the experience for entirely too long, you’ll be granted access to fight the final battle.

And that’s when the fun really starts.

The final stage of Ghostbusters is a trek up 25 or so floors of nothing but stairs. And you can’t just “walk”, no, you have to hammer the A/B buttons to get your Ghostbusters to scuttle forward. If you don’t have a turbo controller, please give up immediately, it’s not worth the permanent damage to your thumbs. But even with that (NES) advantage, you have to dodge a set of four ghosts with random patterns the entire time, and, three hits later, it’s game over, man. And the game over screen is depressing!

Loser!

Your only options to survive are outright cheating (say hello, Game Genie), or purchase a pile of helpful items from the shop… which would only require about an hour of ghost grinding. It is nearly impossible to conceive of someone beating this area “the right way”, left alone being ready for more after such a feat.

But assuming you scale those stairs, you’re still not done! The peak of the building features Gozer the Gozerian flanked by Zuul and Vinz, and you’ve basically got a bullet hell final boss. But that’s not all! The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is scaling the building, so, every once in a while, you have to retreat, zap Stay Puft down to the ground floor, and then, finally, resume your assault on Gozer. Lose at any point, and its game over. Actually succeed (against all odds), and you’ll be rewarded with one of the lamest victory screens in all of gaming.

Winner!

Thanks for playing the worst port of a licensed game ever!

But, for me, the “conglaturation !!!” screen is not the end of the embarrassment. No, the worst part of NES Ghostbusters is how I would have done anything to see that stupid ending.

I didn’t own Ghostbusters NES as a child, but a friend, Kevin, did have a copy. By about this time, the Commodore 64 had either been mothballed (I still have it!) or was just occupying the space in my head that said “that’s mom’s computer”, and it didn’t see any additional Ghostbusters time from yours truly. As a result, I had a fuzzy memory of “old Ghostbusters” to compare to new NES Ghostbusters. I recognized that you couldn’t buy a new car like in C64 GB, but, other than that, I assumed it was mostly the same game. And then revisiting the game at a friend’s house years (and many other games) later, I was determined to team up with Kevin and beat Gozer once and for all. Our parents didn’t let us sticky, clumsy kids take games out of the house, so I was unable to connect my Game Genie to Kevin’s Ghostbusters cartridge. Thus, thanks to horrible/prescient parenting, we were unable to cheat. But Kevin and I were in this together, and we were going to beat Ghostbusters if it killed us.

Spoilers: we are now both dead. Big twist: this article is being written by a ghost.

SexyIn all honesty, I think the friendship between Kevin and I couldn’t survive the mental strain of trying to complete this horrid NES game. But try we did! We couldn’t stop ourselves, and we were convinced it was our fault we couldn’t scale those damn stairs. How could there be a bad thing based on the Ghostbusters franchise? We love those guys! They’d never steer us wrong! And the Commodore 64 version was pretty fun! This is the version on the same system as Castlevania 3! It has to be good! What are we doing wrong?!

And then, decades later, ROB chose this ghastly game. And then I played it side by side with its C64 brother. And then, finally, after years of experience, I learned that Ghostbusters for NES is just the worst. I’m okay, Kevin is probably okay (we lost touch sometime after Sega Genesis), and it was Ghostbusters that was wrong all along.

So I only spent 30 years wallowing in ignorance. Could be worse. Could be 71 years…

FGC #376 Ghostbusters (NES)

  • System: A version more or less similar to this Ghostbusters appeared on the Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Atari 800 (don’t be confused by the lower number, it was the greater system), and Sega Master System. And, yes, NES, because there wasn’t enough pain in the world.
  • Number of players: Looks like we can get three Ghostbusters on the screen at a time, but only one player is allowed.
  • GrrrrJust play the gig, man: The Commodore 64 version starts with the Ghostbusters theme, and a “karaoke” style display of the lyrics so you can sing along to your favorite legally Huey Lewis song. This joy is mitigated somewhat by the digitized Ghostbusters theme being looped forever for the entire game.
  • Big Finale: There is no crazy staircase in the C64 version, but you do have to avoid a skipping Stay Puft Marshmallow Man before booking it upstairs to cross the streams and save the day. It is a tremendously more satisfying climax.
  • New Game Plus: And speaking of which, beating the C64 version will reward the player with a password that will allow the Ghostbusters to start with more money on the next playthrough. This might be the first “new game plus” feature in a videogame.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: All of these bullet points are about the C64 version because I never want to see the NES version ever again.
  • Did you know? The Commodore 64 version has four cars available for purchase, and one is a 1963 Hearse. This is the closest vehicle to the “real” Ecto-1 available, and may be purchased for $4,800. Strangely enough, the car’s model does not correspond with the movie’s Ecto-1, but the price is exactly what Ray pays for the vehicle. Take canon where you can find it.
  • Would I play again: Never. Never ever ever. There isn’t a ghost of a chance.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Warrior for the NES! Dammit! Is this because I insulted the title earlier in this article? I feel like I’m being punished with gaming history. Oh well. Please look forward to it.

This sucks

FGC #344 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

CowabungaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was indisputably the most popular children’s franchise of… whatever year I happened to be a child. After the likes of He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe paved the way for “Saturday Morning Cartoons” that could also dominate every aspect of a child’s life from cereal to underoos, TMNT dominated the landscape with toys, blankets, live shows… and I’m pretty sure I still have a TMNT sleeping bag in my shed. It is keeping my lawnmower warm and radical. So it’s no surprise that there were also TMNT movies and videogames, as, come on, total media domination can’t just stop at a cartoon series that ran roughly every minute of the day (on my VCR, at least).

But, when you get down to it, this all raises one very important (not at all important) question: Where is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie: The Game?

Konami (occasionally under the guise of Ultra) once seemed to churn out as many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games as possible. Come on, we all knew it was going to be a fad, right? It’s not like the franchise would be rebooted again and again until the end of time like Batman or Spider-Man; no, these fighting lizard people or whatever are going to be no more remembered in ten years than everything on the USA Cartoon Express. So let’s crank out those games! A title set before the franchise even became established? Sure. Arcade beat ‘em up? Konami can spin that gold in its sleep. And let’s toss a few random portable titles in there! Maybe one could be a metroidvania? That might be fun. Yes, Konami did its best to exploit the Turtles license, and… did anyone complain? No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure TMNT: The Arcade Cabinet was responsible for supporting the economy of entire small towns (or at least the roller rink). Konami had no problem producing new TMNT games at the drop of a bandana.

Going up?But, once you get past the initial… uh… confused TMNT NES release, these games were all based on the animated series. And let’s not pretend you’re ignorant of what that means. Practically from its inception, TMNT had a tendency to introduce children to the concept of “micro continuities”. First, there’s the comic book that is a mixture of absurd and grimdark, wherein, incidentally, they killed Shredder within the first ten minutes. Then there’s the animated series, which is cute and bubbly and “rude” Raph at most occasionally makes a joke about Italian food. Then there are the toys! You might claim that the toys were just a logical outcropping of the series, but those of us that studiously read the back of those boxes knew better! This version of Ground Chuck is clearly different from the raging bull we got in the animated series, so the action figures must comprise their own universe. And then there were the storybooks and whatever was going on in the live show and Ninja Rap and…. You get the idea. Logically, all of those versions of the turtles couldn’t coexist, so any given TMNT merchandise that came down the pike had to fit into one or another category. Is Baxter Stockman a fly in this one? That means we’ve got a videogame based on the cartoon! It’s science!

Obviously, the movies had to be their own continuity. The turtles and April just met? Raph is the real leader? Corey Feldman? Yes, there’s no way this is real Ninja Turtles, this is everything through the Hollywood filter of “what’s gonna keep kids buying tickets”. After all, it’s easy to sell a tot a toy or “free” TV show, but good luck getting mom to ferry the whole brood to the movie theatre for the seventeenth time this week. We need real, human turtle monsters, and they need to be dealing with real, human problems like baldness and ninja gangs. And then they can travel through time! Because that’s something to do!

Snapping turtleAnd, of course, the TMNT movies had their own merchandise. There we children’s books (guess where I learned to properly spell “katana”). There were toys of slightly squishier plastic. There were posters and clothes and Halloween costumes that looked marginally different from last year’s Halloween costumes. As a surprise to absolutely no one, the TMNT movie was just as merchandized as every other bit of TMNT media.

But there was no videogame.

Not to say the movie universe didn’t influence a few videogames! For an easy example, the mutant stars of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze, Tokka and Rahzar, appear individually in today’s (generally ignored) featured game, and as a duo in the arcade hit, Turtles in Time. But they’re not the only villains to stumble off the big screen: Tatsu, Shredder’s dragon du jour, appears in the Genesis-exclusive Hyperstone Heist as one of the turtle’s greatest opponents. Seriously. He’s just a human dude, but he can actually block, which pretty much makes you invincible in a beat ‘em up. So it clearly wasn’t a matter of TMNT Movie characters being off-limits or forbidden by license limitations. Pretty much everything that appears in any given TMNT movie (Foot soliders, unique mutants, bald men) takes a jump kick to the face compliments of Konami.

(Oh, and if anyone wants to be pedantic, yes, Tokka and Rahzar did appear in the animated series, but it was approximately three years after their videogame debut. And, reminder, three years when you’re ten is more time than there is in the universe.)

But an actual TMNT Movie videogame never surfaced for any of the consoles. It would have been easy enough, too. It’s not like Konami needed to use photorealistic graphics or some such nonsense, just follow the excuse plot of one of the movies (or both! Together!), make sure the foot soldiers say “barf” instead of explode, and maybe toss in a cooperative Casey Jones for good measure. Are there not enough bosses in your average TMNT movie? Original TMNT NES had the turtles fighting anonymous robots when its stable wasn’t too established, and nobody complained about that (and, yes, we could deal with always-on-fire guy returning). What could have possibly been holding Konami back from TMNT: The Movie: The Game.

Oh, wait. Maybe it’s because Shredder kidnapping April and then suspending Manhattan in midair…

FLY!

Is more interesting than anything that ever happened in the movies.

Yeah.

It’s probably that.

FGC #344 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m kind of surprised we never saw this resurface with the likes of Arcade and Turtles in Time. It’s a forgotten gem! (Not to be confused with Hyperstone Heist, featuring a literally forgotten gem.)
  • This is coolNumber of players: Two! And there’s a twist! There’s a “regular” mode, and a “friendly fire” mode wherein Raph can beat up Leo to his heart’s content. At least, that’s what happened every time I played with my friends…
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is a TMNT beat ‘em up, but it’s the only one distinctly made for the NES. It’s pretty good! There seem to be some console bits you wouldn’t see in the arcade (like more of a story), and the graphics look more like they were made for the system, rather than scaled down from more robust hardware. And the special attacks are pretty cool! It’s still a fairly boring game half the time (there is practically zero enemy variety), but it’s a fun time. Or that’s just the nostalgia talking.
  • Favorite Turtle (this game): Raph’s drill attack is pretty amazing, and his traditional short range doesn’t seem all that short when throws are the way to go for most of the game. And jumpkicks are universal. Donny is second, because he’s Donny.
  • Nintendo Switch: You’re allowed to switch turtles after every death, so you don’t have to wait and waste a continue just because you picked the wrong tubular teen. Why isn’t that a feature in every beat ‘em up?
  • Don’t judge a book: There is a triceraton on the game’s cover. Triceratons do not appear in this title at all. I want to fight more dinosaurs!
  • Smart Kid: Even as a child, I kind of had a problem with the plot. The turtles are in Key West, Florida, and their plan is to surf back to Manhattan. For one thing, surfing does not work like that. For another, we’re talking about… let’s check the ol’ Google Maps here… 1,446 miles. 22 hours or so. I don’t care how mighty you are, you’re not going to be much of a ninja by the time you hit landfall.
  • OuchDid you know? In TMNT 3, Rahzar has an ice breath attack. In Turtles in Time, Tokka has ice breath, and Rahzar has a fire breath attack. What kind of breath do werewolves have, Konami!?
  • Would I play again: The nostalgia may trick me into going down this road again. It’s better than TMNT 2 in every way, but it’s also no Turtles in Time. Decisions, decisions.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the Sega Genesis! Oh! Spooky! Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls! Please look forward to it!

Showin' Hesh

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

I can fly!The problem with pets is that there is a lack of communication. Yes, your average dog is confident in his good boyhood, and your average cat is well aware that you are a willing slave to the feline oligarchy, but relaying more precise concepts is very difficult. Yes, you, human, are yelling… but… why? Is it because food is late? Is it because good boy did not sniff enough telephone poles? Or is it somehow related to how that pillow had to be dismantled, piece by piece, because it might contain angry ghosts? And, of course, all of the other pillows had to be destroyed, because, come on, you can’t leave a job unfinished. Is that why yelling is happening? No, it’s probably that sniffing thing. That seems like the most important item of the day.

Unfortunately, videogames are much in the same boat. Mass Effect Andromeda was a failure. But why? Was it the graphics? The sound effects? An uninteresting and unsightly plot? Not enough homosexual scenarios available? An odd subliminal message that pops up every thirty seconds that reads “Trump for President” despite the fact that the game was released like six months after the election? It’s literally impossible to point to one distinct reason a particular videogame failed, and you average gamer isn’t much help in that regard, either. “It sucked,” is not constructive criticism! Not that the marketing department is ever going to listen anyway, they’re still too busy insulting review aggregator sites to notice why their game might not be scoring a passing grade. Once again, there is a lack of communication between the people that want something and the folks that can actually do something about it.

This is why the playtesting phase of any given videogame production is so important. There were maybe two games produced in the last three decades that significantly changed after a demo/release thanks to “player feedback”, so it seems obvious to the layman that programmers and other creators behind our favorite medium won’t change much once it’s “out in the wild”. But in-house playtesting can reveal much that a programmer too close to a project may have missed. Like, ya know, when an entire level doesn’t work. Yes, it’s very easy for us to note glitches and flaws well after the fact, but who knows how many problems have been preemptively fixed by diligent playtesters (and the design teams that actually PIRATES!listen to said test dummies). And, come on, videogames are meant to be played. Nobody wants to play a game of conceptual dodge ball; when you’ve got a game in front of you, you want to know someone played and enjoyed it before you. Tried and true and tested, that’s the sure route to fun.

And it’s very clear that THQ didn’t hire a single playtester back in the 90’s.

THQ, one way or another, is responsible for publishing a number of games for the original Nintendo console. We’ve got such luminaries as Home Alone, Swamp Thing, and (the only videogame I know of based on a friggen’ series of art books) Where’s Waldo. THQ itself came from the world of toy manufacturing (Toy Headquarters, Toy HQ, THQ), so it seems only natural that their plan for the NES, the “hot toy” of the 80s, would be to adapt every available children’s property into a digital format. You make your action figures for James Bond Jr., then you make a corresponding game, and then you have pillow fights with supermodels in your money bin. Licensing has always been the same, and a Home Alone tie-in novel or board game can’t be that different from an accompanying videogame. All works out identical in the end.

STAB!And, while it’s easy to say THQ had no vested interest in advancing the medium or making videogames a household name or whatever lofty goals you could likely attribute to the likes of Nintendo or Konami, you must admit that THQ did want to be successful. After all, why make videogames if not to sell videogames? In every medium going back to cave drawings, there has been a clear line connecting “success” and “quality”. Okay, wait, that might be a lie. But even artists not appreciated in their time were able to sell the occasional bit of scribbling, and they didn’t need the Wayne’s World license to do it. You can make a licensed game and a good game at the same time! Capcom did it often! And they were rewarded for it! You can do it, too, THQ!

Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates, THQ’s first ever release, seems to prove that THQ was never interested in creating a game that was capable of being enjoyed.

Peter Pan could be an interesting character for a 2-D platformer. In fact, Kirby with a sword basically is Peter Pan. Fly, slide, slash, and maybe make some manner of rooster sound. Battle through woods, coves, and pirate brigades, and avoid a crocodile along the way. Faeries are already an established powerup, and heck, if you want to really go nuts, you could include some kind of “duel” mini-mode like certain other releases. Peter Pan is all about an action-loving teenager with unparalleled movement capabilities and an established antagonist that just happens to have his own infinite army of mooks. Every videogame title should just be Peter Pan!

Very wetBut Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates manages to squander everything fun about Peter Pan within its opening level. Peter Pan has a sword! Or dagger! Something pointy! Unfortunately, it’s about the same length as a twinkie, so we’re stuck with the raw damage potential of a 2-D Hylian that managed to leave all of his magic skills at home. But Peter Pan isn’t about stabbing! He’s about flying! And… that is difficult to control. And hitting any one of the bizarre, poorly-defined hitboxes of enemy or platform alike will cause Pete to drop like a dead fairy. Oh, and all flight is limited by a fairy dust counter, because I guess Peter Pan only has so much happiness in his cold, black heart. Wendy appears once to say watch out for snakes, Tinker Bell is nothing more than a health fill-up, and there are warp mushrooms that will randomly toss you somewhere in the stage. It’s all extremely underwhelming, and a complete waste of a decent license.

And then it somehow gets worse.

FPPatP is an old school NES game, so that means three lives and no continues. Considering the length of the first stage and the sheer number of deadly pterodactyls contained therein, it would not be a stretch to claim that many kids never made it past the first stage. Oh, and the game requires you kill every rando pirate in every level, so if you did manage to get to the end, it was likely you were sent back to start because you didn’t nail a Smee. Anyone lucky enough to find stage 2 would then discover a level that is primarily pits and traps, so, uh, good luck with that and Peter Pan’s overly finicky flight skills. I would estimate that, just spitballing, of all the poor children that got stuck with this abomination, probably only about 3% ever saw the third level. Beyond that? That’s just impossibility.

And, while I’m applying this thinking to the poor saps that wound up with this lesser Barrie adaptation under the Christmas tree, it’s pretty clear that the playtesters didn’t get very far either. The controls are already terrible, but something is seriously wrong when the fourth stage is simply a recolor of the first. Though, it was the NES age, one might expect that echelon of cost cutting. What’s the next level?

AHHH

Oh God! What horrible Virtual Boy preview hath THQ wrought!? There is no way a single human being saw that color scheme (red on red on red on… maybe brown?) and thought, “Yes, this is something that should be unleashed upon children.” Hell, had a parent’s organization even been in the same zip code as that stage, we’d see a complete ban of all videogames as early as 1991. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that this hunk of trash was a contemptuous contemporary of Mega Man 4, Metal Storm, and Battletoads? This was seven years after Urban Champion, and someone thought it was okay.

And then the final level is the same stupid level repeated three times in a row, followed by a final boss fight that is simultaneously impossible, difficult, and as boring as counting rice grains. Your reward for completing the game is one lousy bitmap of Peter Pan and the message that “It is so much fun being Peter Pan”.

No.

No it is not.

Was Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates a success for THQ? Signs point to no. It probably sold a decent enough number of copies (currently available at around $30 for complete in box, so there is likely a lot of this trash out in the world), but no one ever lists this 2 star (out of a possible million) title on their “best of” or “fond childhood memories” list. This game was crap, and it bombed because it was crap. Was there any way to relay this information to THQ, though? Of course not. Whaddya gonna do, write a blog post about it?

So, anyway, if anyone from early 90’s THQ can read this… Uh, your game sucked. Just a head’s up.

Bad, THQ. Bad.

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. Please do not look for virtual console releases, as Disney has stomped this version of the franchise out of the universe.
  • Number of players: The other Lost Boys are completely absent. Seriously. Don’t think they even get a mention. I guess they’re…. lost.
  • Mushroom KingdomFoxy: “Fox’s” Peter Pan and the Pirates was a Saturday morning television show on Fox. Okay, you probably guessed that. Fox managed to outbid Disney for the license just this once, and made a surprisingly trippy cartoon series out of the whole deal. The Peter Pan nonsense was pretty tiresome, but there was a surprising amount of attention paid to (actually competent) Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Oh, and one time Wendy’s daughter from the future showed up, and Sailor Moon has taught me that that trope is always cool.
  • Say something nice: Unusual for a platformer, your health is a number in this adventure. And even more unusual, your health doesn’t seem to have an upper limit. So, assuming you stay out of the jaws of a crocodile, you should have practically unlimited health by the final boss. Or you’ll have practically nothing because of a random instant death trap. One or the other.
  • Did you know? Fox’s Peter Pan made Tinker Bell a redhead and the smartest of the Lost Boys. Disney’s Tinker Bell is a jackass.
  • Would I play again: And be the first person in history to play this game twice? Never.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project! Cowabunga! Please look forward to it, dudes!

TOO REAL

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

Rank up?I sometimes wonder if my neighbors think I’m a wizard.

As with all wizardry, it’s the little things that will give you away. I live in a happy little town, and, like many communities, we have a consistent garbage pickup day. Every Wednesday morning, some men that must have to buy new clothes weekly show up on the back of a large truck, and take all my trash away to parts unknown (I used to know the location of our local dump, but it was converted into an expensive golf course a couple years back…. Seriously). These pickups occur like clockwork, except when there’s a holiday. And it doesn’t even have to be a real holiday! Whether it’s Christmas or National Pug Day, if there’s a holiday at the start of the week, trash pickup is delayed a day. Trash then leaves on Thursday morning, not Wednesday. But what do my neighbors do? They put out their trash for Wednesday, same as ever, and I presume they are confused the entire day by that unusual reeking smell on their sidewalk. Why hast thou trash guy forsaken me!?

But I don’t do that. I never do that. I always know when to put out my trash, absurd holidays or no. I know the secrets of this schedule, even if my neighbors have no idea how what magics I employ to properly track the pickups. But, I am no sorcerer, dear neighbor, I am a mere mortal. How do I always know what to do? Simple, I have a written schedule, printed from the internet, and thus I know, with 100% accuracy, when my trash will be removed. It’s that simple, neighborhood!

But still, it feels good to get the day right. It feels right to gaze upon my downtrodden neighbors, hold my head high, and say, “No, foolish citizen, today is not the day your trash leaves. It is tomorrow, and I know this, for I am one who knows.” It’s a stupid, misplaced kind of pride, WINNER!because I know that I only “know” because of some random slip of paper I printed out around the new year, but… it still feels good. It feels good to look at this random world, and feel like you know.

And that’s how I play Final Fantasy games. That’s how I’ve always played Final Fantasy games.

I was an easily bored child. I suppose that is to say, I was a child. This Child Goggle Bob had to be entertained at all times, and my parents were fans of edumacasion, so, before I even realized what was happening, I had become a voracious reader. My parents were perfectly willing to purchase reading material or swing by the library often, so I read a lot of children’s fiction, a few graphic novels, Dave Barry, and, of course, any speck of the written word regarding my favorite medium, videogames. By third grade, I had a Nintendo Power subscription that would be renewed through high school, but even before that, I wound up with a number of “random” issues from convenience stores here and there. And one of those random issues happened to be this…

Straight from the Pros!

I have no idea where this (and, yes, “this” is this case is that exact Final Fantasy guide you see pictured there) came from. It was before I had a Nintendo Power subscription (let’s see here… the internet tells me this was Volume 17 in 1990, and I didn’t have a subscription until about Volume 24, 1991), and I had no particular love for Final Fantasy before reading the guide… Come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that issue was simply left at my grandparent’s guest house by a careless tourist. But whatever the source, I loved that lil’ strategy guide. I read it, cover to cover, roughly twelve billion times. It was my security blanket. I could immediately recount to any interested adult (none) how Kraken is weak to lightning, Black Belt becomes Master, and Astos is the secret Dark Elf that knows RUB. I knew that the most powerful magic spells were hidden off to the side of the final town, and I cowered in fear at the fact that revisited Lich knew one of those ultra-powerful spells. How could anyone ever defeat such a force?

Oh, which I suppose brings me to the other point of mentioning that beloved strategy guide: I had never played Final Fantasy. I did not own Final Fantasy when I first started reading that vaunted magazine, and, by some cosmic accident, none of the local video rental dens had a copy for renting. With the exception of a few whited-out rooms in the Temple of Fiends, I had memorized the entirety of the game before ever playing it. In fact, without a rental, I’m not certain I had ever even seen the game in motion. Most of my friends were playing Chip ‘n Dale at the time, obviously an “RPG” was off the table. So while I had to sit around and wait for the nearest Christmas, I planned my path of attack, all the while knowing that, when it was time to face Chaos, I would know what to do.

And the joke of it? I didn’t.

Lousy witchI don’t think I really understood Final Fantasy games (and JRPGS in general) until Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I was apparently a natural speed runner, and anything that made me finish the game faster meant I was playing the game “right”. I ran from a number of monsters. I’m pretty sure I only actually fought two battles in the Marsh Cave. I grinded the (mythical) Hall of Giants when I absolutely needed money for that exit spell. I didn’t notice I was severely underleveled. I didn’t notice that my party was… less than optimized. I just knew that I was getting to that rad airship faster, and then it was off to a class change with Bahamut. I was playing the game completely wrong, but I felt good, I felt right entirely because I read up on exactly what to do in Final Fantasy, and no multi-armed snake lady was gonna scare me!

And… that’s how I like to play Final Fantasy games. Heck, that’s how I like to live my life.

Presumably thanks to our crippling national addiction to social media (what’s next, electing a president based on twitter followers?) we currently live in an environment where spoilers are treated with the same severity as biological weapons. Everyone wants to point to Game of Thrones for making this some kind of national crisis, but going back a scant few years, you can trace that insanity back to Harry Potter, The Sixth Sense, or even any given Hitchcock film. Spoilers are something most people care about to an absurd degree, and being “spoiled” is something some people avoid through seemingly extravagant means. Don’t talk to me right now, I’m on a plane over the alps with my phone off because I don’t want to know what happened with that one zombie dragon.

That is about the opposite of how I feel. Personally? I like learning things on my own time. I understand the appeal of being surprised by the latest zig or zag, but, more often than not, I like to learn new things and digest when I choose. A shared cultural event is nice and all, but I’d much rather learn how Special Hero dies and inevitably returns when I’m reading a wiki at 3 AM and more in the mood for learning about that particular universe. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the show or read the book or whatever, too, DIE!but I’ve read far too many episode guides beforehand to really claim that the only way to enjoy a piece of media is through being immune to spoilers. Sure, I might know that Anti-Hero Protagonist dies ahead of time, but that can impact the viewing in its own way. I know how World War 2 ends, too, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a decent war movie.

And this is how I play Final Fantasy games. I understand that half the appeal of any given Final Fantasy release is “discovering” how the latest leveling system works, but… who has the time? Heck, who can play a Final Fantasy game, some of which involve literally 100 hours of commitment, and be okay with “maybe I’m missing something”? Not this neurotic nerd, I’ll tell you what. I had Nintendo Power for Final Fantasy “2” and “3”, purchased a strategy guide with all of the Playstation Final Fantasy games, and I kept it all going with Gamefaqs during the more lean financial years. Heck, I’d have probably bought a strategy guide for every Final Fantasy at release if it wasn’t for the Final Fantasy 9 guide being so abhorrently terrible. And I’ve never regretted it. Did I find out about Aeris’s death while reading through a strategy guide in a random restaurant? Yes. Did I discover the final boss of Final Fantasy 10 thanks to a FAQ? Of course. And did I know Kefka’s every move before I even booted up that precious little SNES cartridge? Certainly. But did it ever impact my love of these games? Did it make it so I can no longer stomach the mere thought of knowing Lightning’s final fate? Of course not. Chrono Trigger (a Final Fantasy in spirit) is one of my favorite games of all time, and I always knew how that one would end.

ToastyAnd I feel like I got more enjoyment out of the mere act of knowing than could ever be counterbalanced by a spoiler or two. I played Final Fantasy 5 with full knowledge of which jobs I wanted, and, rather than bumbling around as if trying to compose a meal while at the supermarket, I had a list, and I knew where I was going to get X-Fight. I never missed a summon materia in Final Fantasy 7, and I never missed a guardian force in Final Fantasy 8. I look back on my playthrough of Lightning Returns, and I’m content, because I know I unlocked every sidequest and accumulated every outfit. I know these things, and that makes me happy. I am happier knowing.

And it all started with the first Final Fantasy. I might not have been playing the game correctly, but it felt like I was doing something right, and that’s what’s important. I had 99 problems, but Lich ain’t one. I absorbed that Final Fantasy guide from cover to cover (complete with the random fanfic chapter introductions!), and it made the game better. I spoiled myself, and I’d do it again, because I’ve been doing it for years.

You might not have to be a wizard to hold arcane knowledge, but it sure does feel good.

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. I reserve the right to “review” any other releases, such as the Playstation Origins, the GBA Advanced, or the PSP whatever the hell was happening there. That was the worst “bonus” dungeon I have ever seen.
  • Number of players: One. Oh, which reminds me…
  • ELVES!What’s in a name: Since I knew all the stats and whatnot going in, I was careful to name my Final Fantasy characters according to their specialties. Fighter was Bob, because I’m the leader, duh. Black Belt was Jon, for one of my friends that was a fan of karate, and White Mage was Mike, one of my more helpful friends. My best friend, Jim, was granted Black Mage, because I knew he would learn the most powerful offensive spell in the game. However, the real life Jimmy was upset, because he wanted to be the “cool” Black Belt. I… I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a ninja was available. Anyway, I did correct those problems for this playthrough.
  • Favorite Party: Oh, and I’m also incapable of choosing any party other than Fighter/Black Belt/White Mage/Black Mage. I mean, I know there are other options available, but that would be like forsaking a family member.
  • Favorite Monster: The Minotaur Zombie aka ZOMBULL aka Necrotaur is my favorite creature, because it scares the hell out of me. Imagine slaying a minotaur, and then, what, it just gets up again? It’s an undead minotaur? What do you do then? You run, dammit. You fun fast.
  • Credit where credit is due: Nasir Gebelli programmed the original Final Fantasy. Yes, the game barely works, but no one noticed that thirty years ago, and this is a shining example of how code doesn’t have to be elegant, it just has to (mostly) work. Nasir is my hero. He also programmed Secret of Mana, so, ya know, double hero.
  • Did you know? NES Final Fantasy doesn’t have a proper title screen. On boot, you’ve got the legend of the crystals, and then a load/new game screen that doesn’t even mention any “Final Fantasy”. Gotta wait ‘till the bridge to see that.
  • Would I play again: This is one of the most important games in my existence, and has defined how I approach not only videogames, but also life itself. And I’m not playing it ever again. Do you know how long it takes to make it through the Marsh Cave? Those stun locking packs of ghosts? Jesus.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sneak King for the Xbox 360. Our next post is (not) sponsored by Burger King! Please look forward to it!

SPOILERS!