Tag Archives: not a fps?

FGC #464 Pokémon Snap

Gotta photo capture 'em allPokémon Snap doesn’t get enough credit for being the only Pokémon game that matters.

Pokémon Snap was not always a Pokémon game. It apparently started its time well before the release of the Nintendo 64 as “Jack and the Beanstalk”, a game that does not, in any perceptible way, exist. Was it intended as another Mario 64-esque platformer? A beanstalk-explorer like Ocarina of Time? Or was it actually some manner of JRPG? That last choice might be the most accurate, as, apparently, features from Jack and the Beanstalk were eventually integrated into the N64 release of Mother 3… which was then also scrapped. However, we do know that the original Jack and the Beanstalk did involve photography, as Iwata once confessed that Snap’s ancestor did allow the player to take pictures, but nobody could figure out why the player would take pictures. Yes, in the days before camera phones, selfies, and a built-in screenshot button, it was assumed that someone wouldn’t take random pictures if they didn’t have to (Final Fantasy 15 would be a very different game with this philosophy). What was the solution? Add something people actually liked looking at! Pokémon! Yes, Pikachu is on everything, so why not capture him on film instead of in a pokéball? He’d probably be happier that way…

So Pokémon Snap was designed around taking pictures of “peaceful” Pokémon, and not the pocket monsters that constantly assault young children scampering through tall grass. This, bizarrely, transforms the game into a first person shooter. You’re stuck on (literal) rails behind the eyes of Todd Snap, a kid who has been conscripted into a photographic war that vaguely resembles Disney Land rides. Todd must take the best pictures of Pokémon possible, and, while this is supposed to be a serene environment, he’s often asked to hurl apples and smoke bombs in the name of that perfect shot. Yes, Todd, we all believe that you beaned that Diglett into catalepsy because you were trying to feed the little critter. But, even with the nonlethal ammunition, the entire experience seems a lot closer to Doom than Pokémon Red or Pokémon Stadium. Even ignoring the lack of critter kidnapping, this is a very different Pokémon game.

And, in 1999, that is exactly what the franchise needed.

SAUR!Gamers almost always, as a rule, ignore tie-in media and how it impacts their favorite games. Many of Mario’s biggest fans grew up with the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and now publicly disavow any knowledge of that time Luigi was cursed by Mario’s errant copy of the Necronomicon, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, had to be summoned to purify our favorite plumber. That is not canon. Nor is it canon that Link frequently uttered “excuse me, princess” while palling around with a surprisingly horny fairy. And Mega Man certainly was never green (unless he was equipped with Leaf Shield) and was never transformed into a robot caveman. Cartoon tie-ins (and their brethren: cereal, toys, and all other kinds of merchandise) are to be considered completely non-canon. And nothing much about that has changed in the years since Captain N. Yes, Persona and Blazblue have their own modern animes, but they’re wholly useless, as they just rehash the already robust story modes of their respective games. It’s cool to see Yukiko in full animated regalia, but it’s an experience just as empty as watching Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. Actually, at least MK:DotR had the decency to include original content to sate an appetite for stories…

But there’s a reason Pokémon: The Animated Series blazed the trail for the “anime invasion” of the early 21st Century. You could claim it was simply its easy to understand, but robust story. You could claim it was the generally gorgeous animation (for, ya know, the late 90’s). You could even claim it was just a matter of good ol’ Pikachu being as cute as a button. But all that is secondary to the real reason Pokémon: The Adventures of Ash Ketchum and That One Squirtle was good: it took the concept of Pokémon Red/Blue and made it real. Let’s be honest here: Pokémon Red/Blue (and Green?) is an extremely limited experience. You find monsters, you catch monsters, you fight monsters against monsters. The end. There’s an overarching plot, and there’s an evil organization of propulsion-based baddies out there to defeat, but the world of Pokémon Red/Blue is otherwise very… sparse. Psyduck might have an interesting pokédex entry about lulling opponents into a false sense of security with its odd expressions, but it’s effectively the same as any other random water Pokémon in a battle. And battles are all you have!

Love that eggBut that’s the rub about Pokémon Red/Blue, the iconic pokédex (which appears to be some kind of magical, hand-written encyclopedia in the original game) tells a tale about a much more interesting world of magical creatures. Marowak throws its bone like a boomerang. Jynx starts dance parties with its mighty hips. Porygon can live in the internet at will. Lapras was hunted to extinction by previous generations. Hell, the very concept of a “legendary” Pokémon barely exists in the gameplay of the original game. The super birds are just randomly found in caves (and one power plant), but their pokédex entries claim they are mythical monsters that appear before the damned (which, granted, is probably the natural outcome of encountering a creature that can capriciously summon lightning). There are oodles of lore, both magical and mundane, relayed through the pokédex, but absolutely none of it appears in the game proper. If you ever wanted to see a herd of Pikachu in the forest, or a Cubone gently weeping from behind its skull mask (you monster), you needed to look elsewhere. You needed to look to the Pokémon official anime.

And, eventually, you could look to the first game that involved Pokémon being Pokémon: Pokémon Snap.

Mew!Yes, Pokémon Snap has very different gameplay from other Pokémon games. But, more importantly, it allows its Pokémon to be divorced from their usual game-based battles, and lets Pokémon just be… Pokémon. Pikachu is allowed to scamper and surf around. Gyarados is free to swim up waterfalls with impunity. And events that could only occur thanks to a boring “level up” in the “real” games are free to happen as nature intended. Magnemites gather in a trio to form a Magneton, and Slowpoke fishes up a Shellder to become Slowbro. These are all events and behaviors outlined or implied in the greater lore, but never given a chance to breathe thanks to the gameplay being entirely monster violence based.

And, ultimately, this is why Pokémon Snap doesn’t need a sequel (though, let’s be clear, I would jump on such a thing immediately). What’s important about Pokémon Snap isn’t beanstalks, photography, or its gameplay, it’s that the world of Pokémon was finally fully realized in its proper, digital format. Taking random cues equally from Pokémon Red/Blue as the Pokémon television series, Pokémon Snap took the Pokémon franchise into a direction that allowed its monsters to be more than movelists. Yes, a thunder stone will evolve Pikachu, but wouldn’t you rather see Pika play with some berries? Maybe, maybe not, but what’s important is that Pokémon Snap created a world where that was possible. And that world…

Bewear!

Is now the world we live in…

Pikachu!

In more ways than one.

Pokémon Snap was the first Pokémon game to truly explore the world of Pokémon. And that matters.

FGC #464 Pokémon Snap

  • System: Nintendo 64 for the initial release, but also eventually available for Wii and WiiU. I highly recommend the latter versions, as the N64 is unpleasant to look at.
  • Number of players: Sorry, my dude Todd rides alone.
  • Wasn’t Hey You, Pikachu the first real Pokémon spin-off? I didn’t say it wasn’t. It was just not at all important to anyone but microphone enthusiasts. Didn’t Alakazam own a shop in that thing? Non-canon.
  • They can be friends!Not Canon: The three legendary birds hatch from eggs found around the various environments. But everyone knows legendary Pokémon don’t hatch from random eggs! They are summoned by Lord Arceus in a grand and unerringly confusing ceremony that takes place on a sacred mountaintop. And then they hatch from eggs! But smaller eggs! I think!
  • Make it a Blockbuster Night: I still have the original manual and insert that advertises how you can take your Pokémon Snap cartridge to Blockbuster Video to print out poképhotos. When Snap was rereleased on Wii/WiiU, it changed this functionality to online sharing. And that’s great, but looks like I still have to go to Blockbuster to hang these gorgeous polygons on my wall.
  • Favorite Pokémon (this game): Magikarp appears in more stages than Pikachu, so it is clearly the MVP of the event. And it only gets to evolve into a Gyarados in its final appearance. What a little trooper!
  • An end: Your reward for completing all the (relevant) tasks is an opportunity to float above the clouds and photograph the mythical Mew. And that’s right about when the game just wholesale turns into Killer 7, as you have to “pester” Mew into losing its shield, and then take photos of the naked genetic Pokémon. It’s an odd choice, particularly given the whole “cloud” area would be the perfect opportunity to involve other flying/fascinating Pokémon. Also, harassing Mew is just plain mean.
  • Did you know? A mere 63 Pokémon appear in this adventure, despite the fact that the entire goal of the franchise is “catching ‘em all”, which, at this point, was a measly 151 Pokémon. This is likely the result of Pokémon Snap being demoted from its original position on the doomed 64DD expansion, and not at all an intentional slight against my man Drowzee.
  • Would I play again: Maybe for a level or two. Pokemon Snap requires a lot of “grinding” to gain the more useful items (it’s a good way to get extra play out of a game with only seven short levels), but replaying stages with everything available is rather enjoyable. I wouldn’t say no to a portable version that already has a flute unlocked…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tetrisphere for the N64. It’s like Tetris, but round! Please look forward to it!

I have no idea

FGC #416 Bioshock Infinite

Note: This article does contain spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. You have been warned!

BIOSHOCKIN'Bioshock Infinite is god damn terrifying videogame. And it’s even more terrifying that no one identifies it as such.

Let’s hit the basics before we get into the abject horror. Bioshock Infinite is a story-based first person shooter from the creators of Bio/System Shock. As such, it is a ludicrously complicated videogame from multiple perspectives. Combat is conceptually simple (shoot man in head, move on, shoot other man in head) but multiple weapons of a mundane (all of the guns, forever) and magical (“Look, pa, I can shoot lightning”) nature allow for an amazing number of options. Is there water on the ground for conducting electricity? How about some nice, flammable oil? And is this a situation that would better warrant a sniper scope, or a shotgun? Or screw all those options to the sticking place, and ride some sky rails to channel death-from-above action. In a genre that often panders to the lowest common denominator with boring hallways and tedious, linearly graduating weaponry, Bioshock Infinite’s wide open Columbia and all the options it affords are a godsend.

But, as great as the gameplay is in Bioshock Infinite, memories of BI are not of battling crow cultists or the occasional ghost mom; no, Bioshock Infinite, like its Bioshock brothers before it, is all about the story. In this case, we have the tale of Booker DeWitt…

FGC #181 Splatoon

Dance the night awayI dislike anything that looks like a FPS. I’m almost pathologically noncompetitive, not a big fan of guns ‘n ammo, and find the idea of “ranking up” to be tedious.

So why do I like Splatoon?

In fact, why do I really like Splatoon?

Alright, first and most obvious answer is the colors, Duke, the colors. We all know that the FPS genre long ago adopted the gritty, realistic aesthetic and never looked back. My response to this choice has always been some mixture of shock and revulsion. Brown? Bad news, guys, that’s the color of poop. With the possible exception of an emoji or two, “like poop” has never been a desirable trait in any context (see also: UPS). I suppose I understand how some people want realism in their games that involve repeatedly dying and then instantly being reborn exactly the same, but it’s not for me. I’m someone that, for better or worse, painted every room in his house in honor of the great Roy G. Biv. I wore red sneakers to my grandparents’ funeral. I like color, dammit.

Splatoon presses all the right color buttons, and, what’s more, it’s Nintendo-ified up and down. Like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong, the squidlings are pretty rigidly defined and a bunch of nebulous ciphers. There’s no way you’d mistake a squid girl’s silhouette for anything else, but you’re also free to write a ten thousand page fanfic about the adventures of Mary, Best Squidling Ever (who also might have a tragic past). SwooshThe Splatoon world is typical Nintendo sunny and happy (and maybe post-apocalyptic), and the plot of the single player mode is simultaneously goofy and epic. I doubt the next Marvel Cinematic Feature will involve a malevolent DJ attempting to conquer an old man and two pop stars with the power of octo-beats, but it certainly makes a good capper to some Splatoon times.

Color, engrossing characters, and a fun story? Is that what does it? No. If that were so, I’d be playing Overwatch, which, like many FPSs, I can identify as a good game, but seem to be completely incapable of enjoying the dang thing. So it’s not just the Splatoon universe that gets my ink squirting…

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not really a FPS. FPS stands for “first person shooter”, and I’ve only really been applying the term here because it “works” so much like other FPS games. This isn’t a first person play experience, the camera is distinctly behind the squidlings, so it’s third person, and thus more… what? 3-D Contra? Maybe something more like Metroid: Other M? Wait, no, I just realized those two games are terrible, it can’t be because I like that perspective if those are the first examples I can recall.

Maybe I just like to jump? I mean, most games that involve jumping I absolutely love (see Mega Man, Mario, and let’s say… Rampage?), and the camera and arenas of Splatoon virtually encourage leaping all over the place. There are moving platforms! And changing water levels! And the fact that it’s not a “true” FPS really helps, because, as the Metroid Prime games confirmed, jumping when you can’t see your feet is maybe not the most fun thing in the world. Not to say it’s impossible in a FPS (I do want to point out that I happily cleared two out of four Metroid Primes), it’s just a tweak more frustrating.

But… there are a number of “FPS games” that aren’t true FPSs. I’ve said before that I’m terrible with “real” genre designations, but is this where the term “Arena Shooter” applies? Or “Twitch Shooter”? Whatever the case, there are plenty of games that share Splatoon’s perspective and general “feel”, and none of them have held my interest longer than a month, left alone a year’s worth of Splatfests.

And it’s not Callie and Marie, because admitting that would be revolting.

No, it’s none of these things that keep me coming back to Splatoon. It’s not the transparently shallow “level up” mechanics, it’s not the easy Miiverse communication in the hub town, and it’s not the flood of puns that threaten to drag Spike the Street Urchin out to sea. No, what keeps me playing Splatoon is one simple thing…

SPLAT

I can shoot the floor. And I’m helping!

I can try to take an objective tone to this problem all I want, but the simple truth is that I’m terrible at FPS games. I have awful aim. My depth perception has always been crap (and it’s a chicken/egg debate as to whether that was impacted by early [continuous] videogame playing, or I naturally gravitated toward videogames because “defined” pixel distances in 2-D games made more sense to my child-brain), and, frankly, I have difficulties with everything from sniping to Pokémon Go (“Yes, keep throwing that pokéball over that Rapidash’s head, good.”). In fact, the idea of a “sniping” based videogame where you sit around and wait to pick off some poor malcontent is right up there with a toenail clipping simulator on the list of games I absolutely never want to play. One of my good friends adores anything that involves a scope, but… ugh, not for me.

And, frankly, I have terrible spatial relations in FPS games. Maybe it’s something about the layout, feedback, or something, but, despite liking SPLATBioshock, my most immediate memory of that game was watching my character’s health drain in a bathroom stall as a splicer repeatedly stabbed me in the back. I know my health is draining for some reason… oh… there you are! Please stop that! I’ve never missed a boo or goomba sneaking up on Mario, but put me in a first person (or similar) environment, and suddenly I have the awareness of a deaf sloth. Splatoon is no different, and the raw number of times I’ve been “splatted” is a testament to that.

And, to top it all off, my brain can’t deal with ammo. I have two mental settings: hoard and berserker. At all times, I am either carefully preserving each bullet like they are precious children, or I’m unloading every last shot into the darkness with the hope that maybe I’ll hit something or other. There is no middle ground. I blame JRPGs and their imaginary insistence that I save that megalixer for some unforeseen threat, but I literally cannot properly ration ammo in a FPS. I’m either going to die clutching that dear rocket launcher ammo, or blow up the entire surrounding area (and myself) inside of three seconds.

This is who I am. And Splatoon helps that person.

Ammo is no big deal, because, while I’m likely to run out, I can quickly refuel in any nearby puddle. I’m going to get splatted, and often, but respawn is quick, easy, and virtually without consequence. And, finally, I need not worry about aiming, because I am WEEEEEEwinning simply by shooting the floor. Heck, I technically don’t have to interact with a single other player if I wander off into some alley and aim down to my heart’s content. Splatoon seems made for me and various neuroses.

Splatoon is an amazing FPS game for people that are bad at identifying/playing FPSs. I’d love to discuss it further, but I’ve got to get back to Inkopolis now. There are some floors that need splatting.

FGC #181 Splatoon

  • System: WiiU, and I hope Nintendo’s next offering involves a similar controller, because Splatoon wouldn’t be as fun without that controller map.
  • Number of players: I guess… eight? I’m going to mark it down as four for the tags, though. Fear of new tags, you understand.
  • What’s in a name? I’ve had the Goggle Bob moniker since high school, so there are a number of people who have been calling me that name for years. This has led to an amusing quirk as my friends started breeding, as now there’s an entire generation of young’uns who only know me as Goggle Bob, as if “goggle” were a title like “mister” or “uncle”. So I was talking to my buddy’s son, an eight year old, about Splatoon. At one point, he asked for my “Wii name”, and I told him it was “Goggle Bob”. He made that Look away“oooooooooh” sound that many kids reserve for when someone says a swear, and he quickly chastised me with, “Goggle Bob, you know you’re not supposed to use your real name online!” I think this generation is going to be alright.
  • Splatfest: I’m going to miss scheduling my weekend around playing Splatoon. It wasn’t about the wins for my team or collecting the shells afterwards, I just liked the idea of people from all over the country coming together to fight for the glory of… Fancy parties? I must have missed that one.
  • Favorite Squid Sister: Callie, you were robbed. Purple and peppy beats green and sullen any day.
  • Did you know? We never received mods/outfits to officially play as Octolings, and that’s terrible.
  • Would I play again: This is one of the few FGC choices that I was basically already playing when it was chosen, and will go back to playing once again after the article is complete. I’m not, like, playing it all the time, but I probably pick it up at least once a month. If you need further explanation of that, please read the article again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for the DS! Phew, that’s a mouthful. At least there’s guaranteed to be robots… right? Please look forward to it!

Me too