Tag Archives: nintendo entertainment system

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 #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

Everything is painThis game is cursed.

I’ve told this story elsewhere, but I own this game because I made a very poor decision as a child. I saved up my allowance for weeks, finally scraped together a little over ten bucks, and decided I would purchase a “used” videogame from the local rental hut. Mega Man 4 was available, but I decided that, since I had already played and beaten that game, I would pick up Wizards and Warriors 3, a game that promised three different “classes” for Kuros. Maybe, like my beloved Final Fantasy, I would have a fun time with these JRPG elements. I didn’t. I got the game home, played it for maybe a half hour, and returned to my mother sobbing, begging that we return the wretched game that literally made me cry. My mother did no such thing, and I learned a very valuable lesson about never trusting Rare Ltd. ever again.

Of course, since I had a whole twelve (or so) NES games when I was a kid, I played W&W3 continuously (bad blood is still allowed to be fresh blood), and did eventually beat the game. Now, some decades later, I decided I would share my W&W3 skills live on a stream, and showcase the misery for all to see (and to find out how much of a game I hadn’t played in years was still stuck in my head). And I did play through the game on a stream last Friday night with some very special guest stars (or the usual guest stars), and a good time was had by all.

But this game is still cursed, so, naturally, the audio got messed up, and the recording is pretty much just my microphone. It’s the whole of Wizards and Warriors 3, with me occasionally agreeing to comments that can no longer be heard. In one particularly surreal bit, I ask BEAT for a rundown on the indie rap scene, and then, a few moments of silence later, I agree that that sounds very interesting. It’s almost as terrible as Wizards and Warriors 3.

So, in lieu of having a video of my complete playthrough, we’re going to claim that that was a “live exclusive experience”, and here’s a consolation list of reasons Wizards and Warriors 3 is terrible.

This is a supremely glitchy and ugly game

That's not how you treat a ladyRight off the bat, practically everything is wrong with Wizards and Warriors 3. Animations for characters don’t seem to make any anatomical or kinetic sense. It’s impossible to visually distinguish between antagonistic and helpful NPCs (protip: they’re all appalling). Kuros (our hero) occasionally takes a moment to flash some leg at the audience. No part of this game is coherent, and it’s immediately apparent to even the most casual viewer.

What’s worse is that this game is swarming with glitches and things that may or may not be glitches. There are “gatekeeper” invincible monsters that can stretch the length of the screen, and… are they supposed to do that? It… doesn’t look like it. Similarly, it’s easy to push any NPC off the edge of the world, and giggle as they fall into oblivion. In fact, if you shove an opponent off any platform, and said foe isn’t already using their “jump” action, they will fall forever, presumably eventually perishing somewhere near the Earth’s mantle. I saw that happen on an episode of Batman once, and it looked… unpleasant.

Everything, practically from the moment you press Start, seems to be fragmentary, and the punch line is that, apparently, the game is unfinished. According to some sources, Zippo Games completely sold out to Rare Manchester during development, and most of the staff wound up quitting thanks to an overwhelming feeling of “you used to be cool, man.” Wizards and Warriors 3 was thus rushed out the door, and slowly made its way to the hands of poor, uninformed children. Thanks, Pickford Brothers (the original folks behind Wizards and Warriors), you’re on the list!

Your HP or your GP

We don't serve your kindWizards and Warriors 3 is a game not unlike Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest or The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. You have a large area to explore, and you can access newer, more interesting (lie) areas through acquiring intriguing (also a lie) upgraded abilities. It’s a Metroidvania! And an insult to that entire genre! But what really separates W&W3 from the Metroidvanias of today and yesterday is that there is no way to save. There are also no passwords. There’s no level select code. There’s nothing. You have three lives, you cannot acquire more lives, and there are no continues. Even if you Game Genie your way into additional lives, the game isn’t even programmed to display a life counter value greater than three. And once you’ve spent those three lives, you’re right back to the beginning, even if you spent the last four hours of your life attempting to make progress.

(Do you understand the tears now?)

Your only options are the limited meat items scattered across the map, or spending every last cent you find on food from various shops so you can keep Kuros’s health topped off. But you also need keys, because treasure chests and (mandatory) doors always seem to be locked. So you’re forced to either budget for an indefinite amount of damage that could leave you stuck back at the title screen, or blow your cash on those keys that you’re probably going to need to progress anywhere. How does a first time player make the decision between forward progress keys or saving progress with a pile of meat? I know what I did, which is demand that this game be traded for Mega Man 4 this instant. It didn’t work out.

Combat is optional and/or obligatory

DorkThere are three main areas to Wizards and Warriors 3 (huh, wonder if that was deliberate): the castle, the town, and the underground. Kuros also has three corresponding forms: knight, thief, and wizard. If you remember to always wear the appropriate disguise in the right area, you won’t have to fight a single random “monster”. Okay, that isn’t exactly true, as there are these floaty green dudes in the underground that will kill just about anybody, and there are a few birds that are absolute dicks, but other than that, the game pretty much plays by the rules. This means that, despite Knight Kuros’s kickass flying axe, you pretty much never need to use any combat skills in W&W3.

Except for the boss monsters.

The bosses are mandatory, and, aside from a really simple knight and worm, all of them follow the same pattern of “stand on top of Kuros at all times”. Assuming you’re not ready for these bosses (and why would you be? You literally don’t have to fight any other thing like these creatures in the entire game), you’re likely to lose some of those precious lives the very minute you open their boss doors. Oh, and never mind that you get stuck with the supremely underpowered thief class for a couple of those battles, because you apparently can’t change forms while inside a room. You’ve got limited resources, and very aggressive bosses. That is not a good combination for anyone that actually wants to enjoy this game.

Oh, and the “upgraded” form of the worm boss is… two worm bosses. That’s just lazy.

The best part of the game is also the worst

Comin' atcha!The very reason I bought this game at all is the advertised “guild” factor. Kuros can adopt different personas, and wield magic as a wizard, or swing around a giant key like a Sora thief. This is good and right, and adds some much needed diversity to the Wizards and Warriors formula (which previously only saw a hero that could jump, swing a sword poorly, and occasionally become invisible). And, since this game is a metroidvania, the acquisition of new “ranks” in these guilds/costumes means access to new areas. Also, acquiring a flight ability, no matter how dreadfully slow, is always a good time.

Unfortunately, to earn any of these skills, you have to complete guild challenges. This always involves fighting a random boss somewhere in the world, collecting a statue, returning to the guild with said statue, running through an obstacle course of dubious graphical fidelity, and then fighting another boss. Each of these challenges is exactly the same, though with increasing difficulty through the ranks. And when I say “difficulty”, I apparently mean “we just made the platforms smaller, and threw in a couple of practically unavoidable traps.” Since these obstacle courses reset from the start every time you fail, this means the average player will spend something like 70,000,000 hours attempting to jump between moving platforms over either poorly rendered spikes (thief challenge) or absolutely nothing (wizard challenge). After clearing all of these challenges, actually being impaled is more fun than dealing with the magical doors-directly-to-spikes again.

There’s a hateful inventory system, too

Way to go, prezThere are key items in Wizards and Warriors 3, and you may only carry four at a time. Under normal circumstances, this would just be annoying, but could actually lead to some decent gameplay moments. You must stay on target with one task or another, and attempting to collect everything on the map in one go is discouraged. That can be okay. Regrettably, in this case, the game is still a glitchy mess, so it’s entirely possible to get four random key items, and thus be unable to pick up a fifth item that you actually need to progress to unload said four random items. For an easy example, it’s very easy to get guild statues out of order, but it’s impossible to challenge the guilds with said statues out of sequence. Got the golden thief statue before silver, and need that (golden) key to get rid of the rest of your crap? Sorry, you’re screwed. May as well reset. Back to the beginning, again.

What’s more, a number of key items exist exclusively for the benefit of wise men that provide such useful information as “kill the dragon” or “you need to go in the giant, imposing door to reach the final boss”. Thanks, guy, I really didn’t need to run all over Piedup with this stupid rosary pendant to learn that valuable nugget of information.

This dragon is stupid

Look at this daffy thing.

Three heads are better than one?

The Bad Ending sucks

This ends poorlySo after earning all of the guild ranks, rescuing and lying to three princesses, conquering the dragon, and maybe bribing some old men into taking arbitrary trash off your hands, it’s time for the final boss. Malkil, Kuros’s eternal rival, has conquered the strangely vertical town of Piedup, and sits on the throne in disguise as the king. Before the final battle, Malkil offers Kuros a choice: fight to the death, or join together, and rule this hamlet in tandem. Should Kuros choose to join his antagonist… he is vaporized immediately. Game over.

In any other game (Dragon Quest comes to mind), this would simply be annoying. Oh well, that was the wrong choice, time to reload from the most recent save. However, W&W3 still only provides exactly zero continues and/or opportunities to save your progress. So it’s possible to battle through the whole game, reach the finale, and lose everything to one poor selection. This should be treated as a war crime, and, if more people had actually played W&W3, most of the Rare staff would be in jail by now.

The Good Ending sucks

Just bad all aroundAnd should you actually have enough health and lives to finish off Malkil the Happy Evil King, the ending isn’t exactly a reward. Kuros is sucked into a time warp (apparently a magical portal that Malkil can now summon at will?), and, while you’re assured that Piedup saw the return of its true and just King James, Kuros is never seen again. The obvious sequel hook is some manner of reverse Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the concept of Knight Kuros becoming Laser Knight Kuros is a promising one. But we never saw another Wizards and Warriors, and the franchise seems to be all but forgotten.

Actually, wait. That is a happy ending. Rot in hell, Wizards and Warriors 3. You ruin everything.

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was even ignored for the recent Rare Replay collection on Xbone. How bad do you have to be to be forgotten in favor of Digger T. Rock?
  • Number of players: I don’t even want to imagine a world where a two player experience was shoehorned into this nonsense.
  • Favorite Costume: Thief, with the crowbar, in the castle.
  • Regarding the stream: I am disappointed that the audio from that adventure is lost forever. I appreciate everyone that participated, and I had a really fun time recording it while playing one of the most loathsome games in my library. All that said, if you missed it, we spent most of the night recounting unrelated favorite tweets, so no big loss.
  • Say something nice: It is kind of fun to see how many NPCs you can “ride” and/or push off the world into oblivion.
  • smexyDid you know? Oh God, I just realized where I recognized the Pickford Brothers name from! These are the people responsible for Plok, too! And they worked on the worst Marvel/LJN games. It’s weird how these two are tangentially involved in a number of games that influenced my childhood… for better or worse (mostly worse).
  • Would I play again: I was amazed during my live playthrough at how much of this game is still second nature (I only really needed a FAQ to remind myself where that dragon was hiding). That said… God, I never want to see this thing again. The pain still feels fresh…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rolling Thunder 2 for the Sega Genesis. I believe that is some manner of weather pattern? Is this a Weather Channel simulator? That might be fun. Please look forward to it!

Ugh
I still have nightmares…

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!