Tag Archives: nintendo ds

FGC #408 Emily the Strange: Strangerous

So strange“Why aren’t there any videogames for girls?”

… Is how a number of completely bullshit think pieces have started since the dawn of gaming. Which is odd, because gaming, there at the beginning, was fairly unisex. Aside from that one version of Pong that could only be controlled with a flaccid penis, the early days of gaming were practically genderless. It wasn’t Mr. Pac-Man, it was simply a yellow ball gobbling up dots. Space Invaders was maybe boyish because it involved shooting something or other, but it certainly wasn’t coded specifically to appeal to the dudes. Asteroids? Adventure? The absolute best of 80s gaming wasn’t squarely aimed at the boy demographic, and some titles (like Centipede) were even coded by women. Videogames weren’t male-based any more than books, television shows, or movies.

Or… maybe we should explore that for a moment.

I am writing this article having recently seen Ready Player One, a Spielberg filmed based on your childhood. And the great thing is that, thanks to some manner of cross (or crass) marketing, “your” childhood doesn’t just have to be the 80’s that were featured in the book, there are also Gundam (didn’t make it over here until the late 90’s), Iron Giant (’99), MMORPG (not really a thing until the mid aughts), and even Minecraft (right now) references. Heck, if you saw The Shining (1980) as a kid (because you have terrible parents), it’s appealing to 70’s kids! Yes, with its Battletoads, Mortal Kombatants, and Tracers, Ready Player One runs the full gamut of cultural references, so no matter how old you are, there’s something in there for you.

Except if you’re a woman looking to relive her childhood. There isn’t much in there, then. Uh… maybe some Hello Kitty characters… uh… somewhere?

At first, it’s easy to rationalize why this happened. I didn’t see any Transformers running around, so it appears Hasbro wasn’t onboard with that film. That precludes the big girl franchises like My Little Pony, Jem and the Holograms, and Pound Puppies. But there’s no Barbie? Come on, that doll is synonymous with childhood, and you can’t tell me the plastic ideal of womanhood wouldn’t inspire more than a few digital avatars. And when the “worlds” are shown at the start of Ready Player One, there’s a gambling planet and a combat planet, but you’re telling me there isn’t a single “women only” safe space area? Of course, there’s an easy answer to that question too: there is a planet of Barbies and Ponies palling around without any male-influences, but we’re not going to look at that planet, because it isn’t relevant to the movie. But doesn’t that raise its own unfortunate question? Why the heck don’t we care about what half the real world population is doing in this pretend world? And why the bloody hell is there only one piece of girl-aimed media mentioned in the movie (Nancy Drew), and it’s revealed to be a vice of the main villain?

MeowMeh, you know the answers: Ready Player One is squarely targeted at a male audience, and every second given over to exploring the extent of girly stuff in The World is a second that could otherwise go to Mecha Godzilla punching a DeLorean. “Girly media” is not celebrated in the same way as boy stuff… or at least, it isn’t monetized in the same way at all. Do we have Funko Pops of every Jem character yet? I know we do for every Power Ranger that has ever existed.

So merchandising is obviously key, and (finally) getting back to videogames, it seems like we might see less “girly” videogames as a direct result. Videogames may have started unisex, but, as the “mascot” character grew to prominence, more and more heroes were men, and more and more objects were women. Mario must rescue the princess. Link must rescue the princess. Sonic didn’t have a single woman anywhere in his first game. Mega Man has a sister that is unplayable and stays home to do laundry. Kirby is a freaking pink ball with legs that occasionally rides rainbows, but only has a female companion in one lousy N64 game. It’s easy to see how these games are aimed squarely at boys, with nary a thought given to that other gender that seems to be floating around. There are no videogames for girls!

But that’s still bullshit, because there are games for girls. They’re just games that are wholly ignored.

I hates mathsAnybody remember Kim Possible? It was a 2002-2007 Disney cartoon featuring the titular Kim Possible, a teenage girl that flew around the planet and saved the world through James Bond-esque spy maneuvers and the occasional bout of cheerleading-based gymnastics. She’d stop the nefarious Dr. Drakken, and then get home in time to crush on the star quarterback. This was a show that was obviously aimed at the “girl” demographic, but also had plenty of action (and an omnipresent pair of male sidekicks) for the boys. Kim Possible was a huge success, and won awards and an audience that was so dedicated, they successfully petitioned Disney to release a fourth “victory lap” season after its initial cancellation. Kim Possible even got two movies and an Epcot ride! The show was an unprecedented success.

Kim Possible also starred in seven distinct videogames across four different systems. Ever heard of any of them? Didn’t think so.

And don’t try to tell me you didn’t hear about these games because they weren’t any good. Who cares if they were good! You’ve heard of Shaq-Fu! You’ve heard of Aero the Acro-Bat! You damn well know we saw videogames for every show that was ever on Fox Kids or the matching WB programming block. There has been a new Spider-Man title every other year since the birth of time, and only about two of them have ever been any good. But you know they exist! You know you considered playing Rocko’s Modern Life at some point! But did you ever even notice Kim Possible and her multiple games? There were monkey ninja involved! You love that kind of absurdity, right? 2-D action platforming sound like fun? Or maybe puzzles are more your thing? If so, you still probably ignored today’s game, too.

I’ll stop ranting for five minutes so we can examine Emily the Strange: Strangerous.

Yay!Emily the Strange: Strangerous is a 2011 Nintendo DS game. It is, essentially, an old school adventure title. Emily’s cats have been kidnapped, and you must guide her around her world to rescue the felines and eventually… well, things get a little strange towards the end. Let’s just say this might not be the only game I’ve ever played that dabbles in multiple dimensions. Regardless, the basic gameplay is predominantly based on solving item-based puzzles to open new pathways (Sierra-esque “use slingshot on weather vane to change the direction of the wind” style thinking), and then solving actual logic puzzles to obtain the items you need. Every once in a while, there’s skateboarding or target practice, but, by and large, this is a game where trees inexplicably have three matchsticks, and you’re expected to do something with that information. And, to be clear, these puzzles may contain everything from visual puzzles that come off as advanced connect-the-dots to reason puzzles that involve the enemy of all mankind: basic math. Basically, on the system that made Professor Layton a household name, here’s another option for all your on-the-go puzzle needs.

But you’re not going to see Emily the Strange vs. Ace Attorney anytime soon.

For anyone that missed this bit of pop culture past, Emily the Strange started as nothing more than a sticker. She was a skateboard brand mascot. In time, she gained popularity, and became the star of a number of comics and books, eventually earning her this videogame. And it would be fair to say that this game is just a licensed cash-in on a mascot character that was popular at the time. Emily the Strange isn’t the next Mario, she’s the next Young Justice: Legacy. Her title shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Professor Layton, as, come on, Goggle Bob, why the hell are you letting this random chick property hang out with the clear successor to Sherlock Holmes. That’s high literature!

And it’s all bullshit, because it’s all… bullshit.

Wait, I can probably phrase that better…

It looks familiarSuper Mario defined gaming. He is the face of an amazing franchise that has arguably never produced a dud. Some of “his” games might be less enjoyable than others, but none sink below the level of “pretty good”. Well, except those learning games like Mario is Missing. Oh, and that CD-i title. But Mario is pretty great, aside from that! Well, save some surprisingly lame cartoons. And that one manga where he’s naked for some reason. And his breakfast cereal. No, not the one from the 80’s, I’m talking about the one with the amiibo functionality. And, speaking of which, why can I buy a plush goomba at the thrift store? That thing is the lowest quality I’ve ever seen, but it seems to have an official Nintendo Seal of Quality on there. Christ, they’ll slap the Mario brand on anything!

And how is that any different from a skateboarding mascot earning her own game?

Look, it’s pretty simple: girls need heroes. Girls need role models. And, more importantly, girls need role models that do all sorts of things. Emily the Strange is a teenager that enjoys skateboarding, gothic aesthetics, and cats. She’s smart. She’s capable, and when some jerkass kidnaps her cats, she’s self-sufficient enough to solve her own problems (though maybe with your help). Can you name one other female protagonist that fits all of that criteria? I know plenty of women that are goth skateboarders (or at least were before they had to be adults), but such a “unique” trait is largely missing from our national consciousness, because it’s never seen in our media. Girls are either only hot, smart/nerdy, perfect, or, on rare occasions, “the hippy” (and please watch Boy Meets World to watch one character go through each of those permutations). Goth is allowed, and “skater girl” is something you’ll see once in a while, but both at once? And throw in puzzle solving, so she’s smart, too? Are women even allowed to be more than one thing? Shouldn’t there be a law against that?

TUMBLING!So what does this all mean? Well, it means that we should stop asking where the games for girls have gone, and just start producing games with girls. And, more importantly than that, when a “game for girls” is released, we should give it the same fair shake that we grant Bubsy Bobcat’s latest revival. You or I might have a complete inability to produce the next great female protagonist, but we could at least acknowledge that Kim Possible, Emily the Strange, and their ilk, ya know, existed. Recognize that half the population has their own fandoms and interests, and join them. Let girls know that it’s okay to be anything, and not just a thin caricature of a male fetish. Let “girly media” be part of our national discourse, and stop acting like anything that might involve makeup is forbidden.

That doesn’t sound so strange, does it?

FGC #408 Emily the Strange: Strangerous

  • System: Nintendo DS. If this were a remotely more popular property, we’d see a PC port, as it’s practically made for such a thing.
  • Number of players: Only one girl can be this strange.
  • Defining Aesthetics: This entire game is monochrome with occasion flashes of red. This is always stylish, and it’s weird that the only other game I can think of that employs this style is primarily chainsaw-based.
  • Favorite Puzzle: Something about the lock picking puzzles just seem right. Maybe I missed my calling as a burglar? I should really look into committing more crimes.
  • So, did you beat it? I’m honestly not a big fan of puzzle games, so no. This is also why you’ll never see a Professor Layton review on the site. I have better things to do than measure hats!
  • Ulterior Motives: I just want us to acknowledge “girly” media so we can have a Sailor Moon fighting game as good as Dragon Ball FighterZ.
  • Actual Conversation That Happened When Researching this Article:

    Goggle Bob: Do you or did you ever skateboard?
    Queen Goth of Gothania: Yes, but not for 20 years.
    Goggle Bob: That’s okay! I just want to say with confidence that I know multiple women that are/were goth skateboarders. I did not have to ask you about the goth thing.
    Queen Goth of Gothania: Yup. That was me! Doc martens on my Chester Cheetah board.

  • PointyDid you know? There is a rich mythology surrounding Emily the Strange’s four cats. This is the kind of thing that happens when your main character is basically a crazy cat lady in training. Wait a tick… The very concept of a single woman living with beloved cats is misogynistic all on its own, isn’t it? Hmph.
  • Would I play again: Nope. Emily the Strange and her fellow female protagonists might need more exposure, but this simply isn’t my genre. The only puzzle I want to solve involves finding Wood Man’s weakness.

What’s next? Random ROB may as well take a day off, because I’ve talked about Kirby randomly during the last two articles. The only way I’m going to get this creampuff off my brain is to address Kirby Star Allies! Please look forward to it!

FGC #381 Diddy Kong Racing

Let's race!Diddy Kong Racing had a fairly interesting and ridiculous development process. Almost immediately after the launch of the N64 (and the release of Killer Instinct Gold), Rare started in on their next game and first “original” N64 title (as KI Gold was basically an arcade port). This process started with “Wild Cartoon Kingdom”, which was basically a real-time strategy game (!) based on an executive’s trip to Disney World. Then, for reasons that are no doubt lost to time/whiskey, the RTS became a racing game, and mutated into Pro-Am 64, an RC-car based title. Then, a certain bear and bird got their big debut game delayed, so Rare/Nintendo needed a big mascot title to fill its upcoming holiday season. Pro-Am 64 was modified again, and, this time, “Cartoon Kingdom” returned with a number of furry animal pals in cars, planes, and hovercrafts. After a long and confusing road to creation, a certain monkey got slammed on the marquee, and Diddy Kong Racing was born.

But was it any good?

Wait, belay that question. I don’t mean “was the game any good?” Diddy Kong Racing was an interesting take on racing games (which, thanks to the technology of the late 90’s, was a genre that had seen about 7,000 titles in two years), as it combined the exploratory nature of action games like Mario 64 and the tight racing experience of Mario Kart. It wasn’t a very complicated or nuanced take on either of its two contributing gameplay styles, but it was certainly fun. While Mario Kart 64 might be the most fondly remembered racing title of the generation, there’s nothing wrong with being in second place in that race. Diddy Kong 64 was weird and experimental, but it was certainly good at being an amusing racing game with its own identity.

But it’s that identity that we’re here to investigate. DKR took a long road to production, but, somewhere in there, it was nearly a bunch of anonymous windup cars. Then, in an effort to be a “big name” title, it grabbed a kong, and turned all of its unknowns into what would hopefully be the next Mario Kart. Or do you want to tell me you ever considered the intelligence of your average koopa troopa before he started pelting you with red shells? Diddy Kong Racing was clearly intended as a way for Rare and Nintendo to promote a new stable of remarkable characters, but how did they do? We’ve got a couple of decades of hindsight here, so let’s answer this question once and for all: Are the stars of Diddy Kong racing any good?

Diddy Kong

Diddy!Diddy is the one known quantity for Diddy Kong Racing, which is probably why it’s, ya know, Diddy Kong Racing. After appearing in Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and every Donkey Kong title that doesn’t involve tinker toys, it’s hard to believe, but Diddy Kong was still a pretty new quantity back in 1997. Donkey Kong Country was only three years old, and it wasn’t like Diddy ever gained the same kind of traction as the upcoming Pikachu. He wasn’t even playable in Donkey Kong Country 3! However, as legend tells it, Donkey Kong was originally slated for this spot, but Rare suggested Diddy star for a little variety. Donkey already gets to hang out with Mario, why not promote the lil’ chimp with his own franchise? And, hey, DK could still swing by next time, anyway. What have you got to lose?

Well, seems that Rare and Nintendo made the right choice in this one, as Diddy really does fit his eponymous game pretty well. Donkey would have a tendency to overshadow the rest of this cast not only figuratively, but literally as well. DK is a big guy (ape)! Diddy’s presence allows for more “childlike” mascots, like… almost the entire cast, and that gives Diddy Kong Racing a different identity from its Mario-based cousin. Diddy Kong Racing doesn’t have to be for kids, but the “kiddy” characters and visuals give it a more whimsical feeling, and that’s important when you’ve got magical vehicles that change shape at the behest of a genie.

Verdict: Diddy Kong has been an excellent mascot for Nintendo for years, and he fits the game perfectly. Good job, Diddy!

Krunch

Get emAnd here’s our first dud.

Mario Kart has always been a pretty interesting title without its cast, but nobody would have ever played the thing if it featured a bunch of anonymous randos. See also: Smash Bros and the confusingly high number of Melee/Brawl clone games that are dropping within the year. Sure, the gameplay is great and fun and whatever, but, dude, I signed up to play as Samus Aran, not generic lady with a gun. But we take for granted that these games have these all-star casts. It’s likely impossible to figure out the chicken and egg of those franchises, but, at some point, somebody in Nintendo had to say, “Hey, let’s actually include all of our best characters. And Captain Falcon! That should get people’s attention!” Mario Kart could easily be Mario racing against seven goombas, but it is so much sweeter when Yoshi is in the mix.

Krunch Kremling is a Kremling, and the sad thing is that he could have been any Kremling. At this point, we’d already seen three Donkey Kong Country titles, and, in all of those games, Kremlings were the main antagonists. This means that there was already an entire army of kritters to choose from, yet Rare decided to go with a generic representation of the species. Sure, he’s got a cool motorcycle jacket, and I guess he gets bonus points for being a Kremling with the wherewithal to follow Diddy to a magical island, but he’s no Kaptain K. Rool. Don’t want your Bowser eclipsing the cast? Klubba would be a fine choice. Or Klobber! Or any Kremling that is at least recognizable, and not “just a crocodile”. Come on, Rare, you’re trying to build a brand here. Use the tools you have.

Verdict: It’s nice to see an established “race” represented in the game, and it’s always good to have an enemy-turned-ally, but Krunch is a disappointment in every other way.

Banjo

BANJO!Banjo is a star in waiting. If you’re curious about the timeline here, the entire reason Diddy Kong Racing is Diddy Kong Racing is because Nintendo/Rare needed a mascot game for Christmas, and the original intended title created to fill that slot was Banjo-Kazooie. So, effectively, if it weren’t for Banjo Bear being slow to the starting line, we wouldn’t be looking at Diddy Kong Racing at all, and I might be posting about Uniracers 2 or something. For this reason alone, Banjo should be celebrated as the savior of DKR Island.

And, even if it was Banjo’s lack of haste to be blamed for DKR, it was still a great idea to include Banjo on the roster. This is the proverbial “passing of the torch” from one mascot to another. Donkey begat Diddy, and now Diddy shall beget Banjo. And it worked! Banjo was a success, and, even with a measly three games under his belt, Banjo still holds enough cultural clout to warrant his own Mighty Number 9. And the games weren’t bad, either! Everybody wins! Let’s hear it for Banjo!

Verdict: Way to go, bear! You may have yet to discover your companion bird, but you’re going places.

Tiptup

TipsyNow here’s a guy who is such a loser, nobody can even remember his origins.

Tiptup did technically premier in Diddy Kong Racing. And, let’s face it, he’s basically a joke. He’s a turtle in a race. There are entire fables about why that is a terrible idea! But Tiptup didn’t stop at Diddy Kong Racing, he waddled on to appear in Banjo-Kazooie as a support character with his own choir. And then he became (or already was) a dad in Banjo-Tooie. And I’m pretty sure he at least made a cameo in that other Banjo game. And he was originally intended to be a friend of Banjo in the scrapped Project Dream game that would eventually morph into the “real” Banjo franchise. In short, Tiptup is indisputably a part of the Banjo universe.

But, when Diddy Kong Racing was eventually rereleased for the Nintendo DS, Tiptup was still there on the roster. This might seem natural, but Banjo and Conker were both dropped from that title, because Rare had long since abandoned Nintendo for softer pastures, and “their” property wasn’t going to see any extra eyeballs.

But Tiptup was still there, abandoned by his friends.

And considering “The Tiptup Case” isn’t a part of Nintendo legislative history, it doesn’t look like his owners thought he was anyone important either.

Sorry, Tiptup, you’re so forgettable, your own creators don’t give a damn about you.

Verdict: Don’t worry, I won’t forget about you… uh… turtle… guy?

Timber

Is he supposed to be a lumberjack?Diddy is the visiting celebrity, Banjo is the next generation in waiting, and poor Timber the Tiger is the intended protagonist of the piece. Diddy Kong Racing does have a plot, and it’s that the nefarious Wizpig swooped in and cursed the inhabitants of this happy little island while Timber’s parents were off, I don’t know, getting high in a van by the river or something. Timber is still home alone, and it’s up to him to de-curse the island with the help of his whacky friends. … No wonder he requested a chimp for assistance. This kid is doomed.

Unfortunately, DKR was built for players that could choose any character for any level at any time. And that’s great! A large adventure like DKR would be terrible if it locked you into one racer for every last challenge. Unfortunately, that means that any focus on Timber is completely lost, and most people only know Timber is the intended protagonist from the instruction manual (and even that was likely forsaken for that piece of cardboard that explains the controls). Combine this with the fact that Timber didn’t even make it to the cover of his own game on the DS rerelease (but there’s Tiptup!), and Timber pretty much fails in his protagonist role. Sorry, Timber, you’re another forgotten casualty of the franchise.

Verdict: Timber didn’t even have the star power to sneak back into a Banjo title. Guess his parents aren’t letting him out of their sight for a good long while.

Drumstick

BAGAWNow here’s a plot hero! Drumstick is supposedly the Obi Wan Chicken of DKR, and he’s the first to challenge Wizpig to a race for the island. He loses immediately, and is transformed into a frog for his troubles. Whoops. Drumstick spends the majority of the story as a frog with a rooster comb, but, should you rescue the majority of the island anyway, you’ll be able to release the curse on Drumstick, and thus the chicken man will be yours.

And that’s awesome! Unlocking characters started to become a means unto itself at the start of the millennium, but there was still a little mystique to earning a rooster dude through sheer effort back in 1997. And, what’s more, with the “legend” of Drumstick being the greatest racer on the island, you, the player, felt like the greatest racer around when you finally de-frogged the guy. And heroes transforming into frogs was all the rage back in the 90s! Just ask that marshmallow kid!

Verdict: Drumstick winds up being the one racer that actually seems related to the plot, so he’s a bit more memorable than the rest of these nerds. Too bad someone decided his ideal design would be “rejected KFC mascot”, though.

Pipsy

SqueakyYou know it’s a 90’s game when there’s “that one girl”. The lone female of the DKR species is Pipsy the Mouse, and, to her credit, she’s one of the best racers in the game. Sure, that might be a subjective statement in most any kart racing game, but Pipsy is a damn beast, and her handling is second to none. But, other than that, Pipsy has absolutely no defining features beyond her gender. There’s a reason we never saw Pipsy’s Big Adventure.

Verdict: If you’re going to have a cartoon mouse mascot, you have to go big. Pipsy did not.

Bumper

The goggles!And here’s Bumper the Badger. As far as anyone can tell, he was intended as the “big and friendly” archetype in this lineup. He’s… big… and… uh… friendly. That’s all we got here. Nothing much to… Wait a minute. Is he wearing goggles? He is! Bumper the Badger is wearing goggles! That should be praised! Bumper knows what’s up! He has his furry paw on the pulse of fashion! Way to go, Bumper! We need more rockin’ Badgers!

Verdict: I assume the great, unwashed masses could not see the inherent value of the goggles, so Bumper wound up another critter in the loser column.

Conker

Conks!Conker is a squirrel in a t-shirt. Nobody is ever going to toss a game to this nobody.

Verdict: Welp, that’s everybody. We’ve got more losers than anything, so it certainly seems that Diddy Kong Racing irresponsibly squandered its mascot powers, and never went anywhere with these also-rans. Hey, you can’t always win the gold.

FGC #381 Diddy Kong Racing

  • System: Nintendo 64 initially, and then a rerelease on Nintendo DS, the system where N64 games went to retire.
  • Number of players: It’s four players, right? It’s a N64 game, so that’s my best guess.
  • Hey, what about T.T. the Clock? That is an imaginary character, and you clearly just made him up.
  • Dirty Cheater: Not unlike Goldeneye, there are a number of cheats “built in” to the game. Some of the cheats impact the random battle items that are earned during races, which is a feature Mario Kart players have been begging for forever. There’s also a cheat that is titled “TOXICOFFENDER”, which turns all balloons green. That is delightful.
  • Raj!Favorite Boss: Wizpig is the Wizard Pig should win on sheer chutzpah alone (when life gives you pork, become a wizard!), but I’m going to choose Bubble the Octopus as my favorite semi-malevolent opponent. He was an angry octopus boss before Mario and squid kids made it mandatory.
  • Did you know? Pipsy is supposedly based on a character from a canceled project named Astro Mouse. The titular Astro Mouse is male, has a space helmet, and seems to have a healthy amount of 90’s ‘tude. He could be the origin of Pipsy, but, seriously, how many different ways can you render a mouse?
  • Would I play again: Maybe, once, for the nostalgia. I’m not playing the game “for real” ever again, but trying out a track or two every once in a while wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Ball FighterZ! Or maybe I just want to play another DBZ game. DBS game? Whatever! What’s important is that Goku is coming to town. Please look forward to it!

FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

Just like that legend!Motion controls, “shaking”, and general stylus/touch gaming… it’s all terrible. Buttons are here. Crosspads are perfect. Why reinvent how Link wanders over his world because you need to accommodate the latest gimmicks? Mario spin jumps just fine with that A button, thank you very much. Trick controls are lame, and I loathe their implementation in otherwise worthwhile games.

But WarioWare: Touched! isn’t lame, it’s fun.

WarioWare: Touched! is a phenomenal experience that was released early in the DS’s lifespan. This was a godsend, as previous Nintendo DS titles did little to push the benefits of the system. Oh boy! I can play a falling block puzzle game, but now I can tap on random squares for some opaque reason? No, that’s not going to push any portables. And this was a time before touch-screen cell phones began to dominate the market (hard to believe, I know), so even the mere concept of “touch here” seemed weird and foreign. I have to use this pen thing? Like I’m in school? No thank you, Nintendo. This sucker will never work. I’ll just put some preorder cash on the inevitably super successful Playstation Portable. That’s the future right there.

But WarioWare turned those opinions around in one tight/bonkers experience. Fresh on the heels of the previous WarioWare, Wario returned with more silly microgames meant to get the player using that stylus, microphone, and touch screen. And, like WarioWare before it, those minigames had a tendency to lean heavily into “what’s going to happen next?” (which is rather fun when “next” is all of ten seconds away) with games like “cut the snot”, “blow up the planet”, or the incredibly ludicrous “play the Metroid game”. It winds up being one of those experiences that can easily be described as entertaining, and, whether you’re five or five hundred, everyone can enjoy dicing flying vegetables.

Loop forever!But why does WarioWare Touched! work? Why, at a time when touch controls were new and scary, did WWT prove conclusively that touch controls are pretty damn awesome? Why does Wario succeed when even Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link all completely failed to push the idea that “gimmick controls” are your friend? And why did anyone ever think that Phantom Hourglass was a good idea? … Okay, that question is only tangentially related… but still!

The answer is simple: WarioWare Touched! works because it isn’t like other videogames.

Touch controls are an interesting beast, because, conceptually, they should be the same as buttons. “Touching” is a basic move for any given human. Even babies can do it! And using your finger to direct someone or something, whether it be a Hylian or Mr. Driller, seems like the most basic thing in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a finger or two to trace a route through an actual map of the world (“the world” in this case being “the path to the nearest Big Lots”), and that should translate well to guiding adventurers through dungeons. And, similarly, it’s completely natural to “shake it” when something isn’t going your way, so maybe a shake or two would be appropriate when you want Mario to have an extra jump. These are all perfectly normal, almost reflexive reactions, so they absolutely should work in a videogame. You can press A to jump, and you can shake it, too. Simple, right?

WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING!?Except, somewhere along the line, games became looooong experiences (I blame this guy). The latest Zelda game has a certain expectation of play length, and you better believe you have to collect three random mipmaps before gathering another pile of otherwise useless crap. You may not defeat Ganon until you’ve eaten every last vegetable, young man. And when an adventure becomes at least 20 hours (at least), that means that what may have previously been a quick play experience rapidly spirals down into the slog hole. And you know what we don’t need in the slog hole? An excess of movement. It’s super cramped in the slog hole!

You want to know why buttons are successful? It’s not like these lil’ duders were the only things available to early systems, because you all know I’ve got that Colecovision with the light gun to disprove that theory. The reason buttons are the dominant life form on Planet Videogame is because they require nothing. It takes next to no effort to push up on a control pad, and, if you have to do it for twenty solid hours, you’re not going to think about it even once. Give or take the occasional game that is all about timed button pressing, pressing a button is natural, its subconscious, and, once you understand a controller, it’s easier than drawing a line or shaking a chunk of plastic. For further examples, please note that that this article was written via a magical device featuring at least 26 characters that I can instantly access and use to type some weirdly high number of words per minute. And ain’t nobody writing a novel with “gestures”.

RAWK!That’s why touch controls don’t work, but why do they work with Wario? Because “mini” means “not twenty hours”. The average WarioWare game is limited to a whole ten seconds, and, win or lose, it’s done in less time than it takes to sneeze. And that’s brilliant for touch controls! It means that you are active, and moving, and enjoying these touch controls in the tiniest of bite-sized chunks. The slog hole is vaulted, and we’re happily skipping along the… let’s call this The Fields of Happiness. There is never a point in a WarioWare game when the player feels exhausted, and “actively” participating in WarioWare’s touching feels more akin to playing a sport or doing that going outside thing I keep hearing about. WarioWare isn’t a hike, it’s an inning, and that means you don’t have to hear whining about stopping for a water break every fifteen minutes. Play through a few periods, hit the bench for a break, and then return refreshed to hit a few more zingers.

And this is the essence of touch gaming. The best touch-based games are not Mega Mans or Marios; they’re short, quick affairs that you can play while waiting in line (for the latest Mega Man or Mario release). WarioWare hit the nail on the head (also a minigame) well before the idevices conquered the world, and your Flappy Birds and Fruit Ninjas owe it a debt.

Short, to the point, and touchy is the future, and Wario always knew that. Wario has all the best ideas. He’s greedy like that.

FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

  • System: Nintendo DS. Also playable on the 3DS… and I think it was a downloadable title? Maybe with Club Nintendo? That would be nice.
  • Number of players: One toucher at a time.
  • Eat-saFavorite Microgame Set: The answer to this is always the Volts, 9-Volt and 18-Volt. I could play mini classic Nintendo games all day, and… Oh, they eventually made that game.
  • Mikey likes it: Mike the Karaoke Robot exists exclusively to test the microphone capabilities of the DS… and then he disappears forever. This is in stark contrast with Ashley, who also premiered in this game, and went on to become some kind of internet darling.
  • Did you know? This game wound up released in America before WarioWare:Twisted!, the game that introduced the rich Mona lore regarding Mona Pizza. This means that that storyline in Touched is super confusing for anyone that just finished the original WarioWare. … Well, it confused me at the time.
  • Would I play again: Yes, absolutely. This is one of my favorite DS titles. I might not play from a “fresh” save file, but I’m certainly going to bite down on some random minigames again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy! Wait… just Final Fantasy? Like… the original? Not mystic, legends, adventure, explorers, tactics, theatrhythm, dissidia, or, I don’t know, Episode Pompadour? Neat. Time to save Kary for last, everybody! Please look forward to it!

Rake it in

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

Should I be shouting this?You ever try to trace down the exact origins of your own quirks?

I’m a big videogame nerd (thanks for reading entry #317 in a series about videogames I done played), but I’m also into other nerdy pursuits. Comic books? All over that. Anime? That’s a big duh. And that somehow translates into an unending love for animation in all its forms, too. “Anime” is its own genre with its own set of tropes, but I will gladly watch most anything that is even the slightest bit animated. Do we consider this “Western Animation”? Or just call it Looney Tunes? Doesn’t matter, as I’ll watch everything from God, the Devil and Bob to Son of Zorn before I watch a single episode of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve been watching The Simpsons for three decades, but I drop SNL the minute TV Funhouse doesn’t show up. I like cartoons.

And, since about five years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I like cartoons. Why did this quest start five years ago? Well, because there was a hurricane of some repute, and my mother decided to hole up at my place to weather the incoming storm. I don’t have cable, so when I asked my dear mother what she wanted to watch (as the likes of Netflix requires premeditated viewing habits), her response was a curt, “Just as long as it isn’t a cartoon.” Needless to say, I was offended. This woman comes into my house to watch my television, and she has the audacity to claim that I watch… what is the implication here?… that animation is somehow low brow? Not as good as “real” TV? Look, my-so-called-mother, I realize watching that marathon of Digimon Frontier may not have been your cup of tea, but no need to denigrate an entire medium because you were not entertained by Ranamon’s antics. I watched Bob’s Burgers, too! That’s for adults! I think!

LOSERBut, yes, after I managed to calm down and narrowly resist kicking my mother out of my house and into a deadly hurricane, I began to assess my media consumption. And it appears that mother is always right; I do watch a lot of cartoons! And, while we’re at it, let’s admit that the live action shows I do watch are pretty close to cartoons, too. Is there really that much separating CW’s The Flash from Cartoon Network’s Justice League? Is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s description as “a live action cartoon” that far off base? I’ll even admit that Riverdale is pretty much an anime, complete with a bland male protagonist that seems to have a harem of attractive and varied ladies (and they even found an excuse to get those ladies into swimsuits by the third episode!). Even when I’m not watching cartoons, I’m still watching cartoons, and I’d like a decent explanation for why.

And, sorry readers, I got nothing. Maybe it was an overexposure to Voltron, maybe I just really liked Ghostbusters as a kid, but I can’t tell you where this all started. I just… like cartoons. That’s it.

But, when I think about it, I can tell you my earliest “maybe I have a problem” memory.

My grandparents owned a guest house in a shore community, all of a block from the beach. I always lived one town over from said grandparents, and my parents, like many parents before them, often needed a break, so I wound up at the grandparents for the afternoon. This worked out well for all parties, as my parents could go do adult stuff (side note: I’m an only child, so they clearly never did anything interesting), I could maybe convince my grandfather to take me to a boardwalk arcade, and my grandmother had a fierce maternal instinct, so, for some reason, she liked babysitting. My mother was an only child, but she is still quick to recall tales from her childhood of my grandmother effectively adopting other young family members for months at a time while their parents “relaxed”. I guess my grandmother just had the “grandma gene” activated at a young age. Whatever the case, everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, and I wound up staying with my grandparents at least once a week (assuming it wasn’t winter, when they had a tendency to flee to Florida. Hey, everybody needs a break).

Excellent...But while this arrangement worked out rather well when I was all of three, things started to get more dicey when I hit the later years (like when I was old and mature enough to enter kindergarten). At a certain point in your life, you realize that you must be entertained at all times, and just sitting on the floor staring out the window is no longer going to cut it. And, when your current caretaker is also running an entire guest house business and attempting to keep you diverted… well, it’s time to turn on the TV. Which could have worked… if it wasn’t the mid-to-late 80’s, when the average person had all of twelve channels, and all of them were running reruns of Mr. Ed. Sweet, beautiful cartoons might be on in the morning, but this was a time before even The Disney Afternoon, so, unless Grandpa got the VCR working again, I was stuck with stupid, lame adult programming.

But there was one show my grandmother and I could watch together with no objections from either side: Press Your Luck.

Press Your Luck is basically a game show for stupid people. Uh, to be clear, I’m saying the contestants are dumb, not the people watching it. Those contestants, though? What a bunch of morons. Basically, whereas any other game show at the time (the 80’s) was generally skill based (even if that skill was just “know the price of beans”), the hook of Press Your Luck was that all your correctly answered questions earned you “spins” on the “board”… so basically you got another shiny quarter for the slot machine. About 10% of the game was proving your worth with ridiculous questions, and the other 90% was praying to CBS that you didn’t land on the square that would bankrupt you instantly, the Whammy.

But, oh man, that Whammy. That was why I watched.

WHAMMYI suppose in an effort to differentiate Press Your Luck from Wheel of Fortune, the Whammy was an animated, red “gremlin” that would appear and “destroy” the player’s earnings. And no two Whammies were alike! Okay, that’s a complete lie, but there were something like 50 different Whammies, and it was unlikely you’d see too many repeats in a week’s time. Some Whammies used giant cartoon bombs, some Whammies acted out little skits, and some Whammies imitated The Beatles for reasons that were never clear. They were basically five second Chuck Jones skits, and they were glorious. Well, to a five year old at least.

But that’s all it took to bridge the generational gap between my grandmother and I. On one side of the aisle, you’ve got a woman that literally grew up on a farm, a devoted Christian woman of many decades watching a show that is half trivia and half live gambling. On the other side, you’ve got a tiny child that just lives for every time that silly little red guy pops up on the screen. And, for a half hour, everyone is happy.

So maybe I have no idea where my love of cartoons originates. And maybe I’ll never know. But I do know that sometimes that love of cartoons allows for generations to be crossed, fun to be had, and for hearts to be as one… while watching Press Your Luck.

Look, this is my blog, not a Hallmark card. Screw it, I’m gonna go watch some more Adventure Time.

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

  • System: Nintendo Wii for this review that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Also available for the DS, PS3, and various idevices.
  • Number of Players: Three. Not coincidentally like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Look, it’s Press Your Luck. It’s 10% trivia and 90%… pressing your luck. Huh. Just got that. What’s important here is that some of the questions are written for the legally brain dead…

    THIS AM HARD

    And I’m not even sure this next one is accurate!

    MANTIS IS DEER!

    But I don’t know enough about moose to say for certain.

  • Climb the ladder: While the game seems to be built for multiplayer, there are apparently twenty different “levels” to this adventure. Each “game” takes way too long as is, though, so be glad I ever got up to Level 3.
  • Press Your Facts: In researching this article, I was shocked to find that Press Your Luck only filmed episodes from 1983-1986. That can’t be right! But, then again, they apparently recorded 758 episodes during those three seasons…. And that’s probably accurate.
  • Did you know? Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp animated the Whammies. Those two knuckleheads would go on to be responsible for a lot of animated nonsense in the 80s and 90s, and were the creators behind Eek! the Cat. And, additional fun fact, if you think Eek! The Cat is bad, I will fight you.
  • Would I play again: In memory of my dear, departed grandmother…. No. This is not a fun game. There are better experiences available on… every other system. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy Fractured Furry Tales for the Atari Jaguar! Seriously!? I have six Jaguar games, and four Bubsy games, and somehow ROB managed to choose three of each? I don’t like those odds. Oh well, what could go wrong? Please look forward to it!

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Yes, all according to plan…