Tag Archives: one player

FGC #362 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Champion’s Ballad

Note: This article contains spoilers for the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Champion’s Ballad DLC. And regular Breath of the Wild, too. Please be aware.

Zelda!“DLC” has become something of a dirty word of late. Actually, that’s a lie. DLC has always been a dirty word. The mere concept that a videogame producer would choose to “double dip” and charge the poor player for further experiences when sixty buckaroos have already been spent is repulsive to a certain vocal subset of the population. And, honestly, that kind of thinking could be understandable. After all, gaming went through a solid couple of decades before a game ever requested a little more scratch to keep the lights on, and it’s not like Super Metroid ever needed a season pass to be more of a masterpiece. DLC, almost at its core, sounds like a scam, and people are right to be resistant to any profit model that asks for more and more from the consumer.

That said? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Champion’s Ballad DLC is exactly why DLC is great.

For anyone curious about Champion’s Ballad, but either unable or uninterested in downloading the DLC, here’s a complete run down of what happens…

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Catches flies... or somethingThis game was my first exposure to Spider-Man.

Okay, that’s not 100% accurate. Growing up, I had a “read along” children’s book featuring Spider-Man at the circus. I think he fought a clown? I’m moderately certain elephants were involved. Additionally, I might have seen an episode or two of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, which apparently ended its original run shortly after I was born, but there may have been a rerun or two bumping around when I was a kid. But! That’s it! I never received current comics as a kid (see the bullet points section for more details on that), the Spider-Man animated series was still four years away, and, when The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin was released on Sega Genesis, Tobey Maguire was 16 (Tom Holland was, of course, negative six).

So, while I had a general mental image of Spider-Man (red/blue pajamas, spins a web, any size), I didn’t have a clue about all the things that make the man a spider. Peter Parker? First I heard of him. Daily Bugle? Oh, so he’s a newspaper guy like Superman, I guess. And the entire rogues gallery? First I’m hearing of them.

In other words, everything I ever needed to know about Spider-Man, I learned from a Sega Genesis game. See, Stan Lee, it’s not only any issue that might be a reader’s first, it could be a videogame, too!

With that in mind, we’re going to look at the main players of Spider-Man’s big Genesis adventure, and compare their impressions within the game to their current place in Marvel comics continuity. Let’s find a new way to learn about Spider-Man!

The Kingpin

Initial Impression: Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, is responsible for everything in this game, so it’s only natural to assume he’s Spider-Man’s prime villain. In short order, Kingpin…

    Nice suit

  • Hijacks a television station
  • Plants a mega-bomb somewhere in New York
  • Frames Spider-Man for said mega-bomb
  • Offers a huge reward for the head of Spider-Man
  • Commands every other villain to mess with Spider-Man
  • Orders Venom to kidnap Mary Jane
  • Camps out in his scary base five feet from the mega-bomb

Aside from that last blunder (when you plant a mega-bomb in a city, you leave the city), it’s clear that Kingpin is a genius and the head honcho of crime in Spider-Man’s New York. Could you even conceive of a villain more frightening than a monster that accidentally kidnaps your wife as part of a master plan?

Real Continuity: Kingpin is a big, scary villain… but he’s not really Spider-Man’s villain. Kingpin has drifted away from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, and has been primarily a Daredevil villain for… I want to say as long as I’ve been alive. This makes sense, as Kingpin is generally responsible for the death of Daredevil’s Daredaddy, and the greatest rivalry between Spidey and Kingpin is merely an ongoing discussion regarding Slimfast. Though Kingpin now has a more mundane adversary (Daredevil’s super power is “can see, but only kinda”), he has gotten up to the more ridiculous supervillainy on occasion, as there was a not insignificant run there where he commanded a legion of immortal ninja. Basically, Kingpin is every bit the badass he is in this game, he’s just not Spider-Man’s badass.

Doctor Octopus

Swings a leg, regular sizeInitial Impression: Doc Ock is a pushover in this game. Literally! He’s balancing on his long, noodley octo-arms, and, a few jump kicks to the face later, he’ll be toppled over like a turtle. And then Spider-Man webs him up, and gets him to rat out every one of his cohorts. He’s a first level boss! With a bowl cut! He never had a chance.

Real Continuity: Doctor Octopus is, depending on the week, either Spider-Man’s greatest or second greatest villain. On one tentacle, he’s never been responsible for anything so traumatic as the death of any given Spider-Girlfriend; on the other pseudopod, he did straight up kill Spider-Man once, take over his body/life, and…. Earn Peter Parker a doctorate. It… probably sounded more villainous at the time. Even before all of that, Doctor Octopus was a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side, capable of matching the wit and knowledge of Spidey in a way that Hammerhead, the man with a flat head, couldn’t even touch. Oh, and he tried to marry Aunt May one time. That had to be a huge hassle.

Point is that videogame Doctor Octopus got robbed.

The Lizard

Rock outInitial Impression: A mutant reptile that lives in the sewers? Gee, where have I heard that one before?

Real Continuity: It’s hard to sneak nuance into a Genesis game, but would it have killed anybody to have Dr. Curt Connors revert back to human form and apologize? The Lizard is yet another Jekyll/Hyde character for the Marvel pantheon (see also: Hulk, The), and his greatest tales always revolve around a man trying to make himself whole again (and then accidentally turning into a lizard). Granted, this does make Connors the dumbest scientist in the Marvel universe (“Maybe this time I won’t turn into… Nope, looks like I’m eating rats again.”), but his heart is in the right place. He might just be a stooge in this game, but The Lizard is worth one or two good stories in the real continuity.

Electro

ZAPInitial Impression: Here’s some loser with electric powers.

Real Continuity: Here’s some loser with electric powers. Seriously. For having starred in a movie and possessing nigh unlimited power usage potential (electricity is pretty important, y’all), Electro seems relegated to Rhino Tier with the other nobodies that occasionally pop up for an annual every other year or so. In fact, he accidentally got his girlfriend fried, she came back to life with his powers, and somehow she wound up being a more interesting character than OG Electro. That makes Electro even worse than The Scorpion, and you don’t want to be lower on the totem pole than a dude whose only power is “has a tail”.

Sandman

Dust in the windInitial Impression: Technopop apparently wanted to include one puzzle boss in this adventure, so Sandman winds up being nearly invincible. After Spidey has to fight an escaped gorilla in Central Park (hey, Circus Caper!), Sandman attacks, and he is completely invulnerable to Spider-Man’s webs and spider strength. The solution is to lure Sandman across the entire stage to a random fire hydrant, punch said hydrant, and then soak the man made of sand into inanimate mud. Even when you win, however, victory is fleeting, as you are informed Sandman is the first villain to escape Spider-Man’s web. Sandman must be some kind of super-super villain!

Real Continuity: He’s a jobber in a stupid sweater. Sandman did lead a long and varied life at some point in the comics (he was an Avenger! It happened!), but he’s been stuck in a generic supervillain loop of depression, loneliness, and bankrobbing for the entirety of the 21st century. I think he recently got a new suit? Yeah, that’s useful when you’re a pile of sand. For having nearly godlike (or at least Green Lantern-like) powers and virtual immortality, Sandman has been slotted into the little leagues with Paste Pot Pete and that guy from Wings.

Hobgoblin

WeeeeeInitial Impression: Spider-Man, unable to find his next villain to trounce, determines that since Kingpin put a price on his head, he could just walk around in broad daylight, see who shows up, and then it’s clobberin’ time. This miraculously works, as Hobgoblin shows up about twenty feet outside the Daily Bugle. And then Spider-Man whacks the goblin right off his dumb glider. The end.

Real Continuity: There was a magical time in Marvel Comics when a villain could stay dead for longer than a week, so Hobgoblin is clearly subbing for the then-deceased Green Goblin. This is Hobgoblin’s lot in life, as anyone in that costume is meant to be a stand-in for Spider-Man’s greatest/greenest foe, and… can you name the secret identity of even one Hobgoblin? Kingsley? Does that sound right? Doesn’t matter. He’s a knockoff, and it doesn’t matter if he gets his own sewer gang, he’s never going to be an inadvertent Trump analogue like Osborn.

Venom

We are VenomInitial Impression: Who is this guy? He looks scary enough, but he seems to be everybody’s sidekick. Play the game on hard mode, and Venom shows up as a secondary threat during any given boss fight. And… he just kinda jumps around like a monkey. That whole “unsettling black alien” thing is menacing, but that gorilla from the park was more threatening.

Real Continuity: Venom has become one of Spider-Man’s most aggressive and iconic foes, but he had only been around comics for a solid two years before his Master System debut. It’s no wonder no one really had any idea where he would “officially” fit into the Spider-Mythos at that point. He doesn’t even showcase his super rad tongue! But that tongue has been featured ad nauseam in the intervening thirty years, and now Venom has been everything from an intergalactic military vet to a tyrannosaurus. There was even a recent special wherein Venoms from different universes all banded together to fight Kinda-Venoms from other, more different universes. That’s right! Venom rips off everything about Spider-Man, all the time. But back in 1990, he barely even got web shooters.

Mary Jane Watson

Secret CrushInitial Impression: She’s stated to be Spider-Man’s wife (“your friend Peter Parker’s wife”), and she’s kidnapped by a Kingpin/Venom combo (not the cool kind of Kingpin/Venom combo, they’re just working together) in time for the final stage. During the ultimate, vaguely impossible boss fight, she is slowly lowered into a vat of acid while Spider-Man and Fat-Man duel. If you win, Spider-Man is happy to be reunited with the redhead; if you lose, Kingpin escapes, and Spider-Man gets really depressed. So she’s Spider-Man’s Princess Peach. Got it.

Real Continuity: Mary Jane Watson is the Lois Lane of DC Comics. Thanks to a million writers over a billion years, MJ is simultaneously a strong, interesting character in her own right, and a damsel that must be rescued at all times. It depends on the week. As of this writing, she’s recently been an assistant to a mostly comatose Tony Stark… which sounds like a pretty cushy job. On the other hand, she had her entire marriage mystically annulled because her husband wanted to rewrite all of reality on a whim, so that probably detracts from her agency just a tweak. Also, like practically all women in comics not continually wearing spandex, when she isn’t dating a hero, her appearances are rare (see One More Day for a fine example). So, despite the fact that she could totally carry another Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, she’s hasn’t seen as much exposure since she cut the (spider-)man out of her life. So, yep, she is Spider-Man’s princess.

Way to go, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, you’re a pretty good introduction to Universe 616 after all.

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

  • System: Sega Genesis was the big one, but the Master System version was released a year earlier. There’s also a Game Gear version that was based on the Master System version, and a Sega CD version based on the Sega Genesis version. Got all that? I could make a chart.
  • Number of players: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Alone.
  • Dumb monkeyPort-o-Call: Dr. Strange appears for no reason in the Master System/Game Gear version. The Sega CD version adds two new levels/bosses, and cutscenes that are… very strangely animated. Peter Parker and Mary Jane kiss during the intro and… it’s the least romantic cartoon ever.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So my parents had a friend that worked at an antique shop. Any time he would wind up with “dollar comics”, they would be donated to the Wee Goggle Bob Needs Something to Do fund. Thus, I had a number of disjointed, completely random comics as a kid. While this did nothing for me learning the wonders of Marvel continuity, I did wind up being exposed to Silver Surfer Mœbius comics from a young age, and that may have had an influence on my imagination
  • Continue? The plot dictates that any time Spider-Man gets a game over, he is captured by the local constabulary.

    Right in the kisser

    This leads to the most NWA continue screen of the 16-bit era.

  • Threat or Menace: The other cool thing about this title is that it encourages you to take pictures as Spider-Man, and use the cash to earn web fluid refills. On one hand, this is amazing, and kind of a big deal innovation in light of every damn hero having a camera nowadays. On the other hand, web fluid refills are generously scattered about any given stage, so it’s kind of unnecessary. Oh well, at least J.J. will be happy.
  • Did you know? In the main continuity of Marvel 616, the Venom symbiote has possessed Peter Parker, Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, Carol Danvers, Groot, and Mr. Fantastic. And some dinosaurs. And at least one dog. That thing gets around.
  • Would I play again: Did I not mention that I love this game? It’s a pain in the ass by modern standards, but I played it for pretty much a solid year when I was a kid, so it is good stuff. Forget all those later games that were all about flying through the city on webs, I’ll take Spider-Man awkwardly stumbling through the sewers any day.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Monster Rancher for the Playstation! Gonna raise up some eyeballs to fight dragons! Please look forward to it!

Grrrr

FGC #358 Feel the Magic XY/XX

FEEL ITYou don’t have to be Senran Kagura to be misogynistic.

We’ve all heard the facts. From practically its inception as a medium, videogames have had a problem with women as objects. You could replace Princess Peach with a particularly valuable fruit bowl, and absolutely nothing about nearly every Super Mario game would change (“You-a better gimme back that fruit bowl, Bowsie!” “Roar!”). Zelda named her series, but it wasn’t until Wind Waker that she was able to even remotely display some personality traits (and even then, her agency dropped the minute she donned a dress). And this isn’t just some artifact of a bygone age: even today “winning the girl” is a problem in a great deal of videogames, even if it’s often disguised as a secondary part of your victory (“Wow, I found the ancient treasure of Los Jaggoff, and, incidentally, the woman that previously thought I was a rival loves me now, too! Score!”). And don’t get me started on games where you can “equip” women like items (looking at you, Xenoblade).

At first glance, Feel the Magic: XY/XX might seem… okay. Yes, it’s immediately and obviously problematic that the entire point of the game is to get the (male) main character laid. Yes, there’s an entire mini game that is all about undressing your girlfriend on the beach by a bonfire, and it’s followed by a game of “heart tapping” that could only be more of an overt metaphor for sex if Prince was involved. Yes, that’s all true, but the game is very tongue-in-cheek about the entire affair. The unnamed hero is not attempting to woo this woman on his own, he’s assisted by a group of silly men in bunny ears. The WarioWare-esque minigames are not all stripping and hand holding, as the majority of them are whimsical takes on reality. Why wait at a bus stop when you can impress a Take it by the hornspretty girl by strapping yourself into a giant hamster ball and bowling over pedestrians? At its core, this is little more than a touch-based minigame collection with the flimsiest of excuse plots, and it seems disingenuous to compare it to the “sexy touch simulators” or “sexy cooking games” of the modern era. Feel the Magic ain’t Custer’s Last Stand, and comparing the two seems like frantic moralizing.

But… the point of the game is still to “win” the girl. The anonymous girl that is incidentally svelte and busty. And, oh yeah, while she doesn’t have a face, you can dress up “the girl” in any outfit/fetish you’d like. That’s right, you can define your prize.

There have been an absurd number of sexual harassment stories recently, but let’s focus on Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein is the producer for a number of amazing films, such as Teaching Mrs. Tingle and David the Gnome: The Movie, but he’s also a serial sexual predator. These two items are not unrelated. I’m no Hollywood insider, but I have seen a few movies. One such movie is the aptly named The Producers, a comedy that tells the story of a mere accountant graduating to becoming a (Broadway) producer. In the modern musical reproduction, protagonist Leo Bloom’s chorus girls distinctly sing, “He wants to be a producer with a great big casting couch”. In the original film, it is merely implied with Leo immediately casting and falling for his leading lady. And that original film? It was released in 1967. “Become a producer, sleep with any woman you want” has been a hoary(/whorey) cliché for fifty years. And that’s just the most immediate example I can recall, it’s all but certain that this kind of rational has been prevalent as long as media has existed.

Cheers!But let’s specifically look back at Harvey Weinstein. I mean, actually look at him. I don’t mean to denigrate a man based on his appearance, but let’s be clear here: he’s a tubby, hairy guy. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Some of my best friends are furry fat guys. That’s okay! But a beer belly doesn’t exactly get the ladies. It absolutely can be attractive to some people, but it’s not the default standard for beauty in the Western world. Weinstein should have no problem finding a girlfriend/wife/whatever, but he might be ice skating uphill if he’s trying to score a supermodel. Or a famous actress. There’s very little obvious appeal to ol’ Harvey, so he had to seek other means to be able to sleep with every woman he could ever want. And everybody knows a producer can do that! Hooray!

Does… does any of this sound completely insane?

Society has dictated that men and women should be monogamous. Sure, that’s fine, but it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s fine, too, when you get right down to it. People change as they grow, and I can certainly say the woman that was the love of my life in college is in no way the same person I would want to be with today (editor’s note: Goggle Bob is incapable of getting over anyone or anything, and it is amusing when he attempts to claim otherwise). Point is that people can be expected to have multiple sexual partners throughout their lives, and your desires are just as valid if you’ve ever wanted to be with one person or one hundred.

But “every woman you’ve ever seen” is crazy. We can agree on that, right? It’s okay to have a crush, it’s okay to be attracted to people, but it is not okay to force yourself on any person you want. It is not okay to “whip it out” just because your monkey brain determined that those curves in front of you are rather comely. And it is absolutely not sane to think this kind of thing could be okay. The very concept that any woman alive could be yours if you just follow the right steps or “play the right minigames” is absurd because it discounts one very important thing: it disregards the feelings of the woman. She’s just not into you, guys, move on. The idea of everyone on the planet being attracted to one person because they have a proper checklist of traits is bonkers. Money? Fame? Power? It doesn’t matter, because we live in a world where we can’t unanimously agree that ice cream is good. Some people don’t like it! What hope do you have!?

SmexyBut movies don’t work like that. Videogames don’t work like that. Whether it’s played completely straight (“Oh, save me, hero!”) or is more subtle (“Thanks for saving my life, hero. But this doesn’t mean I like you [blush].” ), the message is always clear: save the world, get the girl. It’s always a girl to be won, because of course the hero is male, and it’s always a world to be saved that impresses her. No, it doesn’t have to be a real world that needs saving, you’re welcome to enjoy a great many stories where “the world” is merely a report that needs to be handed in on time or a check the needs to get to the orphanage by this morning, but there’s always some heroic act to be completed. There’s always some perfect way to make sure the ice queen melts, and then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump into bed. Or implied bed. Let’s face it, the inferred ending to like 90% of “wholesome” Disney movies is wild and crazy nonstop magic sex. Ariel has had legs for like three days, and she’s gonna be pregnant inside of six.

And media, particularly children’s media, is where we learn. Beast was a heel, but he’s going to get his Beauty. Mario has awesome jumping ability, and that’s all it takes to win the Princess. Bruce Willis is going to save his marriage by kicking some terrorists off a building. It all comes back to the same stupid moral: if you do something important, or are something important, you will have that woman, even if she initially despised you. Oh, wait, sorry, I went back to not assigning genders there. She will be yours if you’re important and male. Is it any wonder that men in power have been abusing their power for sexual gain? It’s been the number one lesson that has been reinforced over and over again since they were children. And it’s still happening! Wonder Woman was an amazing bit of feminist movie making, but it also included Steve Trevor implicitly “conquering” that crazy warrior woman that was always taught men are horrible because he was just that great. She’s still thinking about him a century later! You can be that great, too, men! Go for the gold! Go for the wonder!

Seriously?So, yes, Feel the Magic XX/XY might not be the latest breasts-based Marvelous release, but it may be just as insidious. Under the guise of humor and playfulness, it is yet another story of boy does stuff, and said stuff wins the girl. “The girl” is a thing to be won, and she may as well be nothing more than a silhouette wearing a dress. She’s the prize, the goal, and nothing more. And Feel the Magic is just another in a long series of games, movies, and books that instantly reinforces this seemingly accepted truth.

Maybe men should be taught to feel the magic of actually treating women like people instead.

FGC #358 Feel the Magic XY/XX

  • System: Nintendo DS. Given the prevalence of touch gaming, I’m kind of surprised this one didn’t resurface in time for the smart phone revolution.
  • Number of players: You’re going to have to touch by yourself.
  • Favorite Minigame: The nightmare bull rush is pretty fun and frantic. Overall, I’d say a number of these minigames are over before they begin, and the whole presentation lacks the WarioWare “rapid fire” nature that makes those miniest of games so much fun. Not that Feel the Magic is bad, just not nearly as fun as the king of minigames.
  • Please Touch: It’s kind of amazing that this early Nintendo DS title had to do so much to “encourage” the audience to pick up and use that stylus. We now live in a magical world where every damn thing is touchable, but a mere thirteen years ago? Completely new technology.
  • Yay!  Kitty!Say something nice: Vaguely misogynistic or no, I do have to say I love the art style for this game. Everyone being little more than a walking silhouette allows for some interesting visuals, and properly sidesteps the usual “launch game” problem of no one having any idea how to make characters more attractive than jagged rocks.
  • Did you know? This game was developed by Sonic Team! Other non-Sonic Sonic Team games include Burning Rangers, Phantasy Star Online, ChuChu Rocket, and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. I want to say that there is not a single game in that list that comes close to this level of lunacy.
  • Would I play again: Not at all likely. Feel the Magic is fun, but it still pales next to WarioWare. And I know which game I’d rather touch.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin for Sega Genesis! I know what this blog needs to be popular! More pictures of Spider-Man! Please look forward to it!

BARF
This is probably a metaphor for something

FGC #354 Sonic Mania & Sonic Forces

SONIC!In the year of our Lord 2017, two Sonic the Hedgehog games were released within months of each other. And both of those games were really good.

That has never happened before.

This is an unprecedented event. This is the kind of thing that shakes your belief system. This is akin to discovering that your soul mate is and has always been a 90 year old retired construction worker named Danielle. How does something like this happen? What does it say about you? Does this mean that other “impossible” goals in this reality were actually achievable? Was there some secret way to breed ponies and kittens together to create the mythical/adorable pitten? All things are possible in this post-Sonic the Hedgehog Can Be Good Twice world, and we should all live in constant fear of the next shock to our collective system. Next, Aero the Acro-Bat is going to come soaring in to rave reviews, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it!

But before that happens, we are going to look at the differences between Sonic Mania, an amazing 2-D Sonic title, and Sonic Forces, an amazing 3-D/2-D Sonic title. Maybe we’ll discover the secret to Sonic success? Or does only madness await us? Let’s find out!

Stage Length is Important (or not)

Weeeee!Sonic Mania is, for all intents and purposes, Sonic 4 & Knuckles. Or Sonic & Knuckles 2? Look, what’s important is that it is very much a sequel to the Sega Genesis titles, and it employs a number of tricks and tips from that era. Included in that bag of tricks is the ol’ “giant stages full of secrets” standard that became popular with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and its many hidden giant rings. Sonic has never been about exploring, but Sonic 3 did add the joy of pushing on all “solid” walls at all times. Could there be a secret in this direction? Or maybe over here? Let’s explore every nook and cranny until time runs out. Or… wait… that’s terrible! We don’t want to run out of time! These stages should be smaller! … But we don’t want to lose any content! This is confusing!

Meanwhile, Sonic Forces is all about shorter stages. The average Sonic Forces stage can be completed within all of two minutes. This is something of an accomplishment, as 3-D platforming games have a tendency to take hours just to burn through the “introduction” portion of a level. Traversing 3-D space takes a long time! But, despite the existence of these short stages, there are a myriad of routes available, so, like in Sonic Mania, there are secrets to discover up and down Sonic’s world. You’re unlikely to ever see ten minutes on Sonic Force’s timer, but levels can still be played for hours in an attempt to find new and fascinating routes.

Basically, we’re looking at two completely different approaches to level design and how to discover secrets. One takes the “old school” concepts of 2-D design, but expands them to possibly unwieldy levels, while the other shrinks 3-D sensibilities to bite-sized nuggets that are over before they begin. And they’re both great! Bah! That doesn’t make a lick of sense!

Bosses should be one thing (or the other)

He has somewhere to beYou finished a stage, and now it’s time for a boss. Sonic Mania throws everything at poor Sonic, up to and including a kitchen sink that will eventually be transformed back into a penguin. Some stages end with a simple “jump here” boss. Some levels lead to a high-speed chase. Sometimes the boss is a puzzle that requires careful observation, timing, and bouncing. Sometimes you have to fight Shinobi. And, if you’re particularly unlucky, you might be faced with that one damn boss from Hydrocity wasn’t any fun the first time, so why the hell did some nitwit decide it was time for that jerkass to return!? Er-hem. The bosses of Sonic Mania are an eclectic bunch, and a lot of stress is derived from whether or not you’re going to face Heavy Rider & Jimmy or goddamn Metal Sonic. But, stupid Metal Sonic aside, nearly all of these boss battles can be completed inside of thirty seconds, so there’s not much to complain about.

Sonic Forces, naturally, features bosses that take much longer. By and large, the bosses of Sonic Forces are generally more cinematic affairs, and do their best to utilize the story telling potential of 3-D adventures with epic clashes between Sonic (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and his most dangerous foes (and that one dork from Lost World). Thus, these battles generally contain multiple phases, wildly changing patterns, and the occasional finale that features any number of hedgehogs powering up to supersonic speeds. In general, this leads to more interesting battles, though at the cost of having to hear about Sonic believing in you over and over again should you hit a particularly rough spot. Sonic, dude, I know we can beat this boss, just shut up about it and get your damn homing attack working properly. I’m just as tired of this Virtual Boy dimension as you are.

So, once again, both games take completely separate paths to reach the same generally enjoyable but somehow flawed destination. Huh.

Show Don’t Tell (or Shout Everything)

I like the look of these guysSonic Mania contains the typical Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Genesis plot: Dr. Eggman is up to no good, and it’s time to stop him. Not a single bit of dialogue is spoken, and the new antagonists, The Hard Boiled Heavies, are not given names during actual gameplay. But, in the same way you learned everything you ever needed to know about Knuckles from his ability to jump on switches (he’s kind of a dick), the Heavies are clearly defined by their actions. In the end, Sonic saves the day (of course) and puts down a minor robot uprising while sending Robotnik packing. Oh, and there might have been time travel involved, too? Doesn’t matter, a rollercoaster doesn’t need a story to be fun.

Sonic Forces has the most bonkers plot to ever grace Sonic’s elongated snout. Sonic the Hedgehog is dead! Forever! And Eggman has conquered the entire planet inside of a couple of months! Our last hope is Original the Character and a resistance of whacky animal pals! And Tails had such a sadgasm over his dead buddy that he summoned another Sonic the Hedgehog from another dimension! And it turns out (regular) Sonic is alive again! And all of this happens before the fourth stage (of thirty)! I’m not even going to get into how Eggman gave a magical rock that controls reality to an anonymous moron that is cataclysmically annoyed by Shadow the Hedgehog. And then somebody summons the freaking sun like gravity ain’t no thang!

Sonic Forces’ plot never shuts up, and that makes it glorious. There is not a single sane person on this planet that ever needed to see Knuckles the Echidna and Vector the Crocodile discus the horrors of war, but here it is. Sonic instantly makes best friends with the player’s haphazardly created deviantart avatar while Tails wanders around with his mentor’s inter-dimensional ghost from another timeline. I’m pretty sure Amy Rose makes a joke about having an all Sonic threeway somewhere in there. The story moves at breakneck speed, it’s completely demented, and it’s magnificent. If you’re going to have a plot where a group of rebel furries un-conquer a planet inside of four days, this is the way to do it.

So completely silent, gameplay-based storytelling versus senseless talky talk that spirals around exclusively for lunatics. Either one works

Knuckles Is

In one adventure, Knuckles is the noble leader of a resistance movement that is humanity’s last hope. … Or what passes for “humanity” in this world.

Who are those guys in the back?

In another world, Knuckles maybe has the pattern recognition of a goldfish.

He's knuckles!

…. Echidnas can be anything?

Tight Controls are Essential/Unnecessary

Weeee?Sonic Mania controls like a dream. It feels like the Sega Genesis titles never ended, and, after years of terrible approximations, “real” Sonic has returned. Sonic’s momentum is untouchable, and, whether you’re navigating between moving platforms or over an ocean of flaming oil, you’re completely in control. Sonic can spin dash up to mach speed at a moment’s notice, but he can also handle shifting blocks like a pro. Give or take a few accidentally deadly “squishing” spots, Sonic Mania provides perfect Sonic movement.

Sonic Forces, unfortunately, carries forward many of 3-D Sonic’s movement problems. During the 2-D areas in particular, it is nearly impossible to get Sonic to 100% follow your inputs, and not instantly break into some uncontrollable, inevitably deadly forward momentum. This Sonic is designed backwards from his constant need to barrel forward, and that leads to a number of terrible, unwanted deaths at the hands of bottomless pits or stationary spikes. Sonic the Hedgehog should never be defeated by an inanimate object!

But, then again, it doesn’t matter.

3-D Sonic is also built for his homing dash, and Orginal the Character has an inexplicable grappling hook. Both abilities allow Sonic/Original to instantly dash forward and onto a specific point, and the stage design is generally built for that essential ability. And, more often than not, it works wonderfully. Sure, you can steer a freight train into a parking space a lot easier than this Hedgehog, but why bother? Sonic is the King of Speed, so keeping your goin’ fast. There might be an accidental death or two, but you don’t have any lives to lose, so don’t worry about it. You want to put brakes on your bumper cars? Don’t be silly.

Just because you’ve got the same hedgehog in two different games doesn’t mean he has to control exactly the same.

Fanservice Can Go Both Ways

Sonic Mania is a love letter to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Not only are stages remastered and remixed, but there are an amazing number of “little touches” that recall Sonic’s decades-long history. There are traps originating from Game Gear titles. There are bosses that crept out of ill-advised arcade fighting games. There are loving homages to the Sonic fan community and its myriad of modders. You could spend a day reading the Wikipedia pages dedicated to each individual zone. Did you know that Sonic’s shake at the start of Chemical Plant Zone was a reference to Sonic Spinball? Of course you didn’t know that! Nobody played Sonic Spinball!

Sonic Forces primarily speeds off in the other direction. Rather than dwell on Sonic’s past, Sonic has made a brand new friend: you! You are Original the Character, an anthropomorphic animal of your own creation, and Sonic totally wants to be your best friend! But don’t worry, it’s not just because he loves your sparkling (and completely silent) personality, it’s also because you’ve got the skillz. In an effort to create the most beloved original character in history, the kindly creators of Sonic Forces combined your chance notebook sketches with the one and only Spider-Man! Grapple around the city like an avenging arachnid! Get ready to employ all sorts of amazing acrobatic techniques to save and stand by your favorite hedgehog. You love Sonic, and now Sonic loves you! You’re the best Sonic Fan ever!

Chemical Plant Zone is a Scourge

I HATE THIS LEVELBoth Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces contain remixed versions of Chemical Plant Zone. Sonic Mania adds bouncy chemicals, while Sonic Forces adds the occasional sprinkling of lasers. This proves that, even with a basic theme, you can have riotously different interpretations of the same level. Unfortunately, as good as these zones may be, they still come from the same base of the cruddy Chemical Plant Zone.

So, there, that’s it. All good Sonic games contain a Chemical Plant Zone.

Ugh. This universe is the worst.

FGC #354 Sonic Mania

  • System: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Only one of these systems is technically portable.
  • Number of players: There’s Sonic & Tails mode for multiple players, and some manner of race mode that I am never touching.
  • Favorite Zone: Oil Ocean becoming combustible thanks to the fire shield is the exact kind of “remix” the world needed.
  • Something special: The special stages are very reminiscent of Sonic & Knuckles as well, as they seem difficult initially, but are second nature in no time at all. This is a tremendous step up from the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 special stages, which are impossible.
  • Thanks, JimmyJust play the gig, man: Everything about this soundtrack is amazing, but the way each stage is remixed for various areas and events is amazing. Flying Battery might not be my favorite zone, but its second act gets the best tunes.
  • Did you know? Sonic Mania was one of the top selling Switch titles, outselling even Minecraft. Like, it didn’t outsell Minecraft on every system, but go ahead and tell your know-it-all nephew that Sonic is more popular than Minecraft.
  • Would I play again: In a heartbeat. Sonic Mania 2 is all I want from this sick and twisted world.

FGC #354 Sonic Forces

  • System: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Only one of these systems is technically portable.
  • Number of players: You can be all sorts of crazy characters, but only one at a time.
  • Favorite Zone: Null Space is a stage that takes place in “null space” for all of ten seconds before becoming another random city level. You would think this would bother me, but, come on, takes a special kind of game to trump up some alternate dimension and then utilize it for less time than it takes to blow a fart.
  • Head Canon Corner: In Sonic Generations, “old” Sonic is stated to be Sonic’s younger self. In Sonic Forces, “old” Sonic is recognized, but Tails claims he is from another dimension, not the past. My theory? This is not a retcon, and when Old Sonic the Hedgehog saw his 3-D future during Generations, he decided he wanted nothing of it, and caused a split timeline/dimension when he decided to never leave the joys of 2-D exclusives. And that’s where Sonic Mania originates.
  • EggyThe disease is inside me: Okay, full disclosure? I may have been mentally working out my Original the Character’s backstory while I was bored during zones. She’s purple, so I figure she’s the adopted sister of Fang the Sniper, and one day she decided…
  • Did you know? It sounds crazy, but the last time Shadow the Hedgehog was a playable character in a “main” Sonic game, it was 2006. Yes, that 2006. That game really killed the poor hedgehog’s street cred.
  • Would I play again: Not as quickly as Sonic Mania, but I am going to return to 100% this title at one point. It’s just too fun! And how often does that happen?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, and we’re going to pair it with Pocket Fighter aka Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix! It’s time for a whole pile of chibi street fighters! Please look forward to it!

THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE