Tag Archives: peripheral

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

Beat it!Going to say this upfront: I am barely going to be talking about videogames today. Random stuff is going on in Real Goggle Bob land, and I feel like using a little writing therapy to mentally work through it. So, advance warning, this one is going to be autobiographical to the max. Hell, I might delete this post out of sheer embarrassment within 24 hours. I don’t know. I just have to get these (ugh) feelings out of my head, so… I guess stick around if you feel like it.

So I’m 34 years old. I’m also a single heterosexual (mostly, I mean, I’m a little bit bi if we include Cillian Murphy and the entire cast of The Good Place [and that might just be because Kristen Bell and Ted Danson create a sort of “sex singularity” that throws off all my readings]) male. I understand people get more and more okay with such a thing every year, but there is a not insignificant portion of the population that believes being single and 34 is some sign of being a giant weirdo. And I am a giant weirdo! I once compared Sonic the Hedgehog to my first love! I have Vocaloid and Bioshock posters in my office! I’m moderately certain I once screamed out, “Play it loud!” during sex! I am not a normal guy, but that’s not why I’m single. I’m single because my parents are divorced.

Okay, I’m gonna let me finish, but I have to make a brief aside about that statement. My parents are divorced, but this isn’t some Uncle Ben-esque secret origin that explains all of my myriad quirks. No, the reason my parents’ divorce had such an impact on my psyche is that my parents got divorced for seven years. Never one to tear an adhesive strip off quickly (side note: I also spent most of my childhood wrapped up like a mummy), my parents had a “will they/won’t they” thing going on for most of my youth. On one hand, this kind of worked out for me from a parental-attendance perspective, as a combination of love and rivalry caused my parents to be separate, but practically omnipresent in my life. Unfortunately, the flipside of that equation was that every time things inevitably blew up, I got to hear both parents privately complain about the other parent ad nauseam. I’m pretty sure neither of my parents were/are good at having friends (my mother makes friends with everybody, but they seem to be shallow friendships; my father has one friend, and he sees him once a decade whether he needs to or not), so complaining to the local ten year old that just wants to go downstairs and play videogames must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh, and fun fact, both of my parents have told me that they “made every effort” to not insult the other parent while I was growing up, which proves they have the self-awareness of your average 45th President.

This is to distract you from realityAnd, while it’s not like I blame my parents for all my problems (lie), I do blame them for my singlehood. I grew up seeing the absolute worst of love. While others were listening to love songs and watching The Princess Bride, I was watching a pair of people that had loved each other for a solid couple of decades falling apart and tearing into each other like rabid wolverines at a dhampir bar mitzvah. My two best childhood friends had parents that were divorced or lived in a continual state of mutual self-loathing, so no role models there. Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t until my teenage years that I even met someone that I respected and was also in a long, loving relationship. To be concise, I basically learned from a young age that love didn’t lead to bliss, it led to calling a lawyer every other day so you could properly establish custody of a coatrack (this actually happened).

But, by the time I was in college, I kind of learned to live with my own biases. While I spent most of my teenage years claiming “love is stupid” like some manner of world-weary, wizened sage (that happened to shop at Hot Topic), I did eventually come to the conclusion that love, long-term commitment, and marriage were all possible. While I personally ended a few of my own relationships because of (if I’m being honest) that previously mentioned disdain for commitment, a number of my friends have been getting married since roughly our collective twenties, and I’ve been genuinely happy for them. I realize I would sound like a monster to say otherwise, but, come on, in many cases, I was around to see these people meet, see them happy together, and, ultimately, see a future where they could be together forever. Again, can’t stress this enough: not for me. I’m broken. I piss all over the seat, like, every time. But these people, these people have a future as one happy unit.

So, suffice it to say, I kind of took it personally when two of these “ideal” couples, two distinct sets of friends, announced things were headed toward divorce. And, since I was notified of these developments involving two different couples within two days of each other, I took it all… poorly.

(Because this is all about me, and, technically, you, gentle reader, only actually “know” and care about me, I want to be clear that “taking it poorly” did not involve any Hangover-esque shenanigans, photocopying my butt for Debra in accounting, or willingly eating Hot Pocket Bites or something. I’m not cool enough to have a nervous breakdown in any interesting ways, so I mostly just had a headache for a couple of days. Oh, and then I wrote a blog post about it.)

EVERYBODY DANCENow, to be clear, I’m not some gentle flower that has never known a friend to get divorced before. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know a couple of people that wound up divorced before senior prom, but all of those situations were… is “obvious failures” too precise a term? When D’avos the Molten Man of The Fire Pits of Crytuk married Cindi the Ice Elemental, we all had a pretty good idea of where that one was gonna go (to be clear: D’avos had a drinking problem). But the relationships that are currently causing me so much mental anguish are all couples that seemed content and joyful and I didn’t buy their wedding gift thinking “Wow, I better save the receipt on this one.” I know divorce is a modern day cliché, and I know I don’t believe in marriage as an institution (People change as they grow, to expect two people to change together in a complimentary manner is… Oh crap, I’m doing it again), but… I feel like I actually had some optimism in these relationships. Christ, I really thought these kids were going to be alright. I don’t believe in marriage, I’m not certain I could ever seriously consider marriage, but these are the people that gave me hope such a thing was possible. Now that hope is dashed against the rocks. The dream is dead.

And then there’s the Chumbawamba thing.

Another personal failing: I’m immune to nostalgia. I am a data hoarder. I am a hardcore data hoarder, and I have a fleet of USB hard drives to prove it. I have a hard drive backup buried in my backyard “just in case”. I recently saw Blade Runner 2049, and the scariest thing in this very human story about robots having sex with appliances was the suggestion that there was a universal EMP a few years back that wiped out all digital data. Such a thing would kill me. I have my entire life saved in JPGs, MP3s, and ROMs. I cherish terrible cell phone videos I took of my grandparents “just in case” (“just in case” they didn’t turn out to be immortals. Spoilers: good planning). Having my entire past just a double click away is always comforting, but it does reduce the odds of me ever feeling nostalgia. Earlier this year, I was excited to hear about the release of the SNES Classic. WeeeeeeAfter all, I thought, I haven’t played Super Metroid since… how long has it been… oh yes… I haven’t played that game since lunch.

This goes double for music. I’ve been listening to the same music since high school. Literally. The rise of the MP3 occurred concurrently with my high school years, so I have been listening to the same copy of a copy of a copy of Barenaked Ladies’ One Week since the advent of Napster. Since then, the delivery method may have gotten slightly more legal, but, if I liked an album, I ripped, itunes’ed, or just plain downloaded (thanks, Bandcamp!) the tracks immediately, and wedged it into my ever growing wad o’ music (evidently around 30 GB at the moment). My most recent acquisition was the Cuphead OST, and I know that, assuming current trends continue and we dodge nuclear war, I’ll likely be listening to Die House in a nursing home. So, one way or another, that means I don’t get a sudden rush of nostalgia when I hear Foo Fighters’ Monkey Wrench, it just means that my music player hit #2,146 on my playlist for the 2,146th time. And, since my playlist is so unwieldy immense, it’s a rarity that I listen to anything else for my musical pleasure. I have all my favorite songs right here, why should I downgrade to a radio that wants to sell me on the latest from Taylor Swift? Ain’t no commercials on this station!

And then I sat down to play Taiko Drum Master (oh snap, it’s the featured game!). Taiko Drum Master was a longshot of a title released by Namco back in 2004. It came with a drum and sticks… Uh… ROB… can we get that up on the site?

Beat along!

There we go. It was this big, silly drum peripheral that was meant to simulate the taiko (wadaiko?), a drum that is traditionally used in Japanese festivals. You know what you don’t see much in the United States, though? Japanese festivals. While playing Taiko Drum Master is fun in only the way that banging along on drums can ever be, it was a hard sell here in the states, as you’re just not going to get the same support for a plastic Japanese drum set as you are for a plastic guitar (or turntable?). Taiko Drum Master was always going to be a fun game, it’s just a fun game that had about as much Western appeal as Gundam vs. Sumo: Sports Festival in Osaka Rumble.

But there was a concession made to us filthy Americans and our gaijin drums. The track list for Taiko Drum Master is very Western. We’ve got the Jackson Five learning their ABCs. We’ve got Queen crooning about the imperceptible Killer Queen (got bad agility? What the hell?). The B-52s are taking a visit to the Love Shack. And we’ve got modern hits, too! Well, “modern” for 2004… and on a budget. Who could Namco afford? Well, my beloved, ska-era Mighty Mighty Bosstones are on there. Good Charlotte’s Girls and Boys made the cut. And here’s that one Counting Crows song that wound up in a Coke commercial. And let’s follow that all up with the smash hit of 1997, Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.

Tubthumping hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dance along!Tubthumping is difficult to explain to anyone that wasn’t around for 1997-1998. It was technically a UK-original protest song, but it quickly mutated into a sort of divisive party song. There’s a boy singing! And a girl! Something about Danny Boy? And a really sweet trumpet! And it played on the radio roughly continuously for a period of maybe ten million years. I loved that song, grew to hate it, and then, in due course, forgot all about it. When I first got into MP3 downloading roughly a year prior to Y2K, I had already forgotten about Chumbawamba. Give or take a Namco release or two, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world forgot about that band, too.

But, today (or last week), when I was in the middle of a seemingly interminable funk thanks to the collapse of the very institution of love, Tubthumping was there for me. To me, Tubthumping isn’t about love, or joy, or UK union rights, it’s about 1997. It’s about my early teen years, when everything seemed new and exciting and I hadn’t already had my heart broken repeatedly by the boneheaded decisions of myself and others. It was a simpler time, a time when, yes, I knew my parents were gradually poisoning me on the notion of a happy marriage, but also a time when I could still convince myself that love was not only possible, but probable. Even as a child of divorce, I did see myself at thirty (you have no idea how old that seemed at the time) with 2.5 children, a pair of cats, and maybe a white picket fence on where I might hang the corpses of my enemies (what? I always envied my Uncle Vlad and his exterior decorating skills). Tubthumping came from a simpler time for me, and, for the glorious couple of minutes I spent drumming along to whatever the hell is happening in that song, I didn’t have a care in the world.

And then we hit the original, American Shuki Levy version of the Dragon Ball Z theme, and I could barely stand up. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

DANCE!Look, I know I’m a jackass. I’m pretty sure I spent a solid three paragraphs up there claiming that my parents are the reason I’m not married, when, in fact, it might have more to do with how I have a tendency to give my lovers psychological disorders (“Baby, you know I love you, and I want to be with you, but I have to defeat seven more tonberries before I unlock this Guardian Force. You understand, right? We’ll get to your grandfather’s funeral, like, soon.”). And I know I’m making the divorce(s) of my friends all about me by claiming they were some ultimate expression of love that is all but impossible in this dying world of grime, suck, and republicans. Putting that kind of burden on people I consider friends is dreadful, and being less supportive by making it all about my own issues is an issue onto itself. I know that.

Actually, I only know that now, because sometimes it takes a piece of your past to remind you that it isn’t all bad, and maybe you should step out of your own head once in a while. Remember that things weren’t always bad. Remember that, despite how you’ve framed your past, one way or another, you weren’t always as jaded as you are now, and your current situation was never some “inevitability”. Remember that your friends aren’t concepts, but people, and they’re people that might need your love and support.

Basically, what I’m saying that Taiko Drum Master reminded me of one very important thing: I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never going to keep me down.

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

  • System: Playstation 2. Did this peripheral ever resurface for any other games? No? Well, I guess that seems obvious in retrospect.
  • Number of players: Two! … Did… did anyone ever purchase two Taiko drum peripherals? I envy your resolve.
  • Favorite Song: You mean one not already mentioned in the article? Oh! Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls! My first live concert was Goo Goo Dolls, so there’s some more nostalgia there. Actually, my first concert was Weird Al, but he doesn’t count. GGD was my first live concert of an artist that I wouldn’t love for the rest of my life.
  • Also a choice: Anything from Katamari Damacy. Damn, I love that soundtrack.
  • WooooA weird thing happened: So Taiko March unlocked as I was playing (decided to forgo fishing out a memory card for this one, so no previously saved data). I’m pretty sure Taiko March reappeared in Smash Bros, because I somehow knew this song in my bones, and scored a nearly impossible 98% on a song I wouldn’t be able name without its title flashing on the screen. It was weirdly exhilarating, and I’m pretty sure it’s the closest I’ve ever been to being possessed by an angry ghost (that knows songs that are unfamiliar to me).
  • Did you know? The Japanese version includes We Will Rock You. We got robbed!
  • Would I play again: No. Taiko Drum Master helped me at a time when I needed it (just now), but that damn Taiko peripheral got nothing on my bongos.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates for NES! I swear I’ll just talk about videogames next time! Probably! Please look forward to it!

What is happening here?

FGC #173 Super Scope 6

It's just superThe Super Scope is indisputably my absolutely most hated peripheral.

Nintendo, when you get right down to it, has released a lot of random crap over the years. We’ve already discussed the bongos and the Wii Zapper, but that’s just the tip of an iceberg made of pure, frozen piss. Anybody remember the e-reader? It was “we’re gonna sell you DLC before it’s cool” in trading card form. It probably would have been a good idea… if it didn’t need an entire extra Gameboy Advance to function in some games. And, speaking of which, there was the GBA/Gamecube link cable that led to some interesting proto-WiiU experiences… but was also another excuse to buy a big pile of GBAs in tribute to the latest Zelda. I’m pretty sure there was also that DDR/Mario crossover that used a dance pad for exactly one game. You better believe I’m blaming Nintendo for that one!

There are even the devices that everyone considers failures that I actually like. I admit that some of my affection for the system may come from not purchasing it until (well) after a price drop, but I always enjoyed the Virtual Boy and its neither-fish-nor-fowl portable wannabe console-esque experiences. Granted, this may have permanently damaged my retinas, but ya gotta break a few eggs for a good Wario game. I’ll always defend the potential of the WiiU and being able to play random grindy games while watching Netflix, and the ol’ Gameboy link cable was cumbersome but the only way to play the essential Pokémon. And ROB? ROB has his purposes.

The arguably most successful Nintendo whatsit of them all was the NES Zapper, a light gun so brilliant in its simplicity that it tricked the entire world into thinking light gun games would be fun over and over again. Oh, to be so young and naïve again…

While arcades are a different matter, I want to say the Playstation’s Guncon with Time Crisis and Point Blank was the only other time in history a home console got a decent shooting peripheral. Does The Typing of the Dead count? No, probably not. The Wii did a good job with its shooting games, but that was all based on its preexisting wiimote functionality, and not the zapper hunk of useless plastic. Other than those few standouts, all we ever seem to get are items like the Sega Genesis Menacer (what am I even looking at?) or generically produced third-party peripherals that look to be about the same quality as a quarter squirt gun.

And then there’s the damn Super Scope.

I HATE YOU

I hate everything about the Super Scope.

First of all, it’s a damn bazooka. While that kind of looks cool in the toy aisle (remember, this was the age of the Super Soaker Wars), to actually heap a Super Scope up onto your shoulder is no small task for a kid. A Zapper is a microphone, the Super Scope is a trombone, and the trombone has never been cool. But the gigantic form factor also leads to one other big problem: it makes the peripheral too personal. I don’t know about you, but my NES Zapper thrived on being “two player”. You just got a decent score on Duck Hunt, but come on, pass that back and I’ll show you what I can do. The Super Scope, complete with its titular scope that could be loaded for left or right handed use, seemed built to only be used by one person forever, and the idea of passing that enormous plastic tube back and forth seemed ridiculous. So, great, now I can either play with this thing alone, or have someone watch me play bazooka whack-a-mole while I get pestered about when we’re going back to Bomberman.

Then we’ve got the battery issue. The Super Scope requires six AA batteries. That’s two more batteries than the Gameboy’s required four. Fun fact: I’m pretty sure the Gameboy will last for about twelve billion hours with four AAs, but the Super Scope will survive a measly half hour. Alright, I’m sure it’s If only this worked for the batteriesnot that bad, but when you’re a kid and have to beg your parents for each new battery, it kinda seems like the Super Scope is draining power a lot faster than it should. It was like a gaming subscription service for a 1992 brat! You know what didn’t require any batteries? Every other SNES experience there ever was!

And, finally, there’s the required sensor bar/block. Dad won’t let me leave it up in front of the TV, so I have to fish it out of whatever drawer it migrated to every time I want to play with the stupid thing. That’s grody.

But what about the games? I mean, I can complain about the Super Scope all I want (and I will!), but who cares about the “controller” if the games are good? Well, bad news there, buddy, there are… let’s see here… a whole dozen games that support the Super Scope. That’s… not too bad? But the list seems to trim down when you really look at it: Battle Clash is unnecessary in light of Metal Combat, and Yoshi’s Safari barely qualifies as a Yoshi/Mario title. The Hunt for Red October, Lamborghini American Challenge, and Lemmings 2 (seriously?) all use it as a random, optional gimmick. Bazooka Blitzkrieg and X-Zone look kind of terrible, though I’ll admit I haven’t played either. And Operation Thunderbolt and T2: The Arcade Game are just hobbled together arcade ports. And one of those twelve is the glorified tech demo that came with the Super Scope, Super Scope 6.

So let’s talk about that nonsense.

Super Scope 6 claimed to be “six games in one!” back when that meant something. Well before the age of collections and compilations, the idea of six games for the price of one was always enticing. Unfortunately, during this era that always, always meant that you were going to get six games that all I hate thislasted maybe ten minutes. Super Scope 6 was no exception, and its meager offerings were about as limited as something you’d see on a Gameboy release. Heck, it was barely more gameplay than a Game & Watch title.

First we have Blastris, which was an attempt to marry Tetris and/or Dr. Mario to a shooting game. It doesn’t work. Type A is based on trying to line up blocks exactly like in Tetris, and Type B involves matching colors like in Dr. Mario or Columns. Unfortunately, with no “real” controller support, everything moves entirely too slowly, and the randomness of “what kind of block” and “where does block spawn” combines into something that is wildly frustrating. But that’s two “games” down! Mole Patrol is also part of the Blastris package for whatever reason, and it’s whack-a-mole with a gun. Man, even that description is more exciting than the tepid “can you look at the screen” adventure that is Mole Patrol. Blastris is a bust.

The other three games are part of the LazerBlazer package. Type A is basically a 2-D shooting affair, Type B is 3-D, and Type C is the boss fight. Whoops, I mean… no, that’s exactly what I mean. LazerBlazer was likely originally intended as a “real” game with different segments and perspectives, but it was diced up into three to satisfy the “6” gimmick. In fact, Ughsomeone could likely cobble together a complete game with the LazerBlazer levels (and stick Mole Patrol in as a “fun” bonus stage between battles) but, no, had to get this pile of dreck that never felt like anything but a tech demo. Seriously, I was a pretty easily duped kid, and even I recognized this was haphazardly slapped together.

But that’s the Super Scope for you. When even a dedicated “Nintendo Kid” recognizes something as a piece of crap, you know you’ve got a turd on your hands. The Super Scope is terrible, Super Scope 6 is terrible, and damn anyone that thought this wannabe bazooka was a good idea.

I hate the Super Scope.

FGC #173 Super Scope 6

  • System: Super Nintendo, and I doubt it’s going to spring up on the Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: One lonely child with a bazooka on his shoulder. Occasionally, one must wipe the tears from the plastic. … Okay, technically it’s 2-P, but good luck with that.
  • UghFavorite game: If I had to choose, it’d be Mole Patrol, as at least it features cute, sub-Pokémon alien moles. Come to think of it, remaking this title as a cell phone game with Digletts might be a best seller.
  • This guy are sic: I maintain that it is thanks to LazerBlazer that I misspelled the word “laser” for the following decade. I remembered there being a Z from somewhere!
  • Hey, you didn’t mention Tin Star: Eh, I kinda like Tin Star. I would rather see it with a better attached peripheral, but it’s passable. That’s better than most of the Super Scope library.
  • Did you know? Mario and/or Iggy Koopa occasionally cameo in the missile segments of LazerBlazer. I would have grabbed a capture of that, but that would require playing this game for longer than thirty seconds.
  • Would I play again: Not even if it was the only way to use the last AA batteries on Earth. I’d sooner chuck ‘em into a chasm, and doom the human race. This… is a very complicated way of saying, “No.”

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wolverine for the NES! Bah, I guess it’s been long enough since our last X-Men game, right? And Wolverine is his own dude, right? Eh, please look forward to it, bub.

MOLES!

FGC #114 Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

So majesticI’ve tried to make these article perennial, I really have, but not even a year has passed since my first FGC post, and already Mark Hamill has made me a liar, Hyrule has produced Linkle, and Super Metroid finally got off its mandibles and went portable. I shudder to think how prehistoric my poor blog will look in another year’s time, when we’re all playing Karnov 2017 and Ecco the Dolphin is the number one game on the Virtual Reality Virtual Console.

Though all that is just preamble for my focus of the moment: the Nintendo NX. As I write this, the Nintendo NX is the topic of much debate, as there are alternating theories on whether or not this new system will bankrupt or save Nintendo. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that particular debate will rage on until about twenty years after the release (seriously, have we determined how the 3DS fared yet?). But more particular to my interests, as of right now, is that we have no idea what the NX is even going to look like, left alone its features or capabilities. Some claim it will be a mere Super WiiU. Others believe it to be a 3DS/WiiU hybrid system. Still others trust that it will be a penguin taped to an excitable golden retriever (named Brandy). Point is that no one has a clue what to expect, and other than “it will probably have a Mario game”, we’re all in the dark.

Ultimately, this can all be traced back to the Wii. The Wii (appropriately originally nicknamed “The Revolution”) was a complete and total shift in console creation for Nintendo. The “whacky” wiimote utterly changed the landscape of Nintendo games for an entire generation (I want to say Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the only Nintendo game on the system without mandatory shaking/pointing of some sort), and when the WiiU was released with its screen-controller, no one batted an eye at Nintendo’s latest whatsit. Going up?While you can expect the Playstation 5 or Xbox Two to be the same ol’ “like last system, but better!”, everyone is anticipating another interface shakeup from Nintendo. So when the first shots of the NX are leaked, and it’s a perfectly round sphere with seven incongruous buttons, everyone will claim that that’s exactly what they expected.

But Nintendo has been doing this for a lot longer than we’ve been Wii Bowling. The Nintendo Gamecube was the last (and maybe only) time that the Nintendo system of the day was just another one of three choices. Think about it: the NES had practically no competition, and the N64 required wholly unique programming for its cartridges (in contrast with the joy of CDs on its competitors’ systems). The Super Nintendo was the closest to the “your choice of system” style we have today with Xbone/PS4/PC releases, but, even then, there wasn’t nearly the overlap between Sega Genesis/SNES libraries we see with modern multiplatform releases. The Gamecube, meanwhile, definitely filled the niche of “Nintendo games… and third party, multiplatform releases” that people today claim they want from the next Nintendo system. Gauntlet, Prince of Persia, Spider-Man, Soul Calibur, X-Men (Legends), and even random collections of classic hits from the likes of Midway made their way to the Gamecube just the same as the Playstation 2 or Xbox. Nowadays, we can’t even get a lousy (great!) Mega Man Legacy Collection to grace the WiiU. The Gamecube might have boasted a slightly unusual controller, but beyond some odd button sizes, to the average consumer, the Gamecube was just another video game system choice that happened to have Zelda.

But even at its most vanilla, Nintendo had to try something different.

Going back to the Super Nintendo, Nintendo always had a thing for connectivity between systems. The SNES had the Super Gameboy for playing Gameboy games on the big screen, the N64 had its own add-on for allowing N64 controllers to read Pokémon games, and the Gamecube touted the ability to connect your new GBA as a makeshift controller. Even the Gamecube’s Gameboy Advance Player had a “connection port” so you could potentially play two-player GBA games TV-to-GBA. We really should have seen the WiiU coming.

Similarly, here are the DK Bongos. Like, seriously, here they are:

Beat it

For those of you unfamiliar with ‘em, take a moment to get acquainted with the DK Bongos. There’s a left drum, a right drum, and a straight “button” in the middle. The bongos also have the ability to detect local “noise”, so you can clap and the device will understand that. If you’ve been counting, that makes for five total inputs (left and right drums can be drummed simultaneously). If you’re ignoring the duck option, that’s all the buttons you need to play Super Mario Bros. (left, right, jump, fireball, and start). This is important.

The first and most obvious application of the DK Bongos was its launch rhythm game, Donkey Konga. This was not unprecedented: we were coming off the DDR craze, Guitar Hero was just grabbing a foothold, and even drumming-based games were a thing with Taiko Drum Master. If you were a rhythm game enthusiast, buying some whacky new peripheral was just par for the course. Hell, Samba de Amigo got its own maracas back on the Dreamcast.

Right in the trunkBut no one ever made a Sonic game that could be controlled by maracas, or even Halo: Big Plastic Guitar Edition. So when Donkey Kong Jungle Beat hit the shelves… well, there was a little confusion.

First of all, DKJB is a 2-D platformer. Nintendo is great at those! And DKJB is a pretty good platformer all on its own, with hidden areas and innovative enemies and beautiful environments. Bosses are fun “find the pattern” affairs, and, assuming you know what you’re doing, they don’t take forever to complete. And, like practically every Donkey Kong game, there’s a score system that is heavily influenced by finding the previously mentioned secret areas (not like DKC secret areas, to be clear, more like “there’s a lot of bananas hiding in that alcove”), or playing the game well, like comboing multiple monster homicides. Ninja monkeys need to die, and you should be rewarded for doing your part.

But the significant difference between this platformer and everything released before it was that this game is entirely controlled by the bongo controller. DK runs right when you beat the right drum, and left for the left drum. Hitting both drums together equals a jump, and clapping will trigger DK doing… something, whether it’s stunning an opponent or grabbing a friendly chimp for a boost. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the first bongo-based platformer, and it’s better for it.

YummyI will admit that when the idea of a bongo-based platformer was first introduced, I was skeptical. But then I played the game, and, well, I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. It is an absolute blast to play this game, and it’s primarily because the game is so… physical. Your bongo playing turns DK into a barreling train, and it’s thrilling to build up BPM/speed and then slap both drums together to send the big guerilla flying. In a weird way, I feel that this gameplay is closest to what minecart stages throughout the ages have been trying to achieve, but failed every time. For practically the first time in gaming, there’s a significant feeling of momentum, that you’re not just pressing a direction on a joystick, you’re hammering that monkey to drum forward. It’s exhilarating, and DKJB offers an experience like none other. The “eat everything” finale of every stage is simply astounding.

And it’s exhausting. And that’s right about when I realized that this game was the Wii prototype.

I’ll be honest, while they were few and far between, I rarely bought the unique Wii version of a game when it was available on other systems. If I bought an Xbox 360 or PS3 game, I could expect a game where I’m thrashing the X/A button a bunch. If I bought that same game for the Wii, I was expected to flail about the room to do the tiniest thing, or break my usual flow and aim the wiimote at the screen, or any other of a number of stupid gimmicks. I know I’m not the first to say this, but so many companies (Nintendo included in a lot of cases) had no idea what to do with the wiimote and its motion sensors, so half the Wii library requires more shaking than a vortexer. Not only does this seem monotonous, but, more often than not, it adds absolutely nothing to the experience, So beautifulother than a wrist so spent your mother assumes you’re going to go blind.

But when you play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, you can see how the Wii could have been a thing of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the Wii, and enjoy a number of games for it (Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 might be the best two Mario games out there, which is high praise), but with so much cruft in the library (and believe me, I’ve played them all), the whole “wiimote” thing seems to average out to a failed experiment. But DKJB really shows how a more physical play experience can be fun, and its closest descendent, appropriately enough, seems to be the roll mechanic of Donkey Kong Country Returns. Yes, like many of you, I would rather have a button to slow that roll in the game (and thank you, 3DS version), but on more “straightaway” levels, I have to say, shaking the wiimote that your mama gave you like there ain’t no tomorrow is a thrilling way to bowl over banana bandits.

So, you know what? I’m ready for whatever Nintendo brings. It might be something simple, it might be something complicated, but I can safely say there’ll be at least one game that showcases the benefits of the system. Even if the Nintendo NX just winds up being a pair of bongos (or, dare I dream, some sort of… double bongos?), I trust that there will be a good experience somewhere in there, because Donkey Kong Jungle Beat already proved that even the weirdest ideas can be marvelous.

FGC #114 Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube, home of the bongos. There’s also the Wii rerelease that relies on the Wiimote, but it’s just not the same.
  • Number of Players: Just one, which is good, as it saves you having to find another pair of bongos.
  • Beat itA brief history of Bongos: There were three Donkey Konga rhythm games produced, though only two saw release stateside. With Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, that makes four games that support the DK Bongos peripheral. There was also supposed to be DK Barrel Blast, but that got ported to the Wii before it could gleam the ‘cube.
  • And I bet you still have four sets of bongos: Well, yeah. I had to have four-player Donkey Konga times.
  • Boss-Out: Oh yeah, while a number of DKJB bosses are typical “dodge and jump” style platforming bosses, there’s a collection of evil Kongs that challenge Donkey in a manner heavily reminiscent of Punch-Out. Dodge blows, then return fire with a left or right hook according to where there’s an opening. Is it any wonder the big ape later battled Little Mac?
  • Did you know? Speaking of Super Mario Galaxy, the Donkey Kong Jungle Beat team went on to design that stellar title, and apparently considered reusing the helpful chimps of DK world in Mario’s cosmos… as enemies. That seems like a jerk move, guys.
  • Would I play again: Probably, but no guarantees. I really like playing this game, but it’s also kind of exhausting, and requires pulling out a peripheral that, to say the least, doesn’t see much use otherwise. Though, oddly, playing this game makes me want to play Donkey Konga again, so… who knows?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kangaroo for the Atari 2600. Want to see a boxing kangaroo? Well, you know where to look. Please look forward to it!

Paddle