Tag Archives: pinball

WW #11 Peach Ball: Senran Kagura

Due to the subject matter today, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…

NOW LOADINGWelcome back to Wankery Week!

It’s been since the Fall of 2018 when I last tagged a game for Wankery Week, and the last official Wankery Week entry was in the bygone era of that previous February, so let’s restate what Wankery Week is all about. Wankery Week is not just about looking at games that are overtly horny. Wankery Week is about looking at horny games, and seeing what they bring to the horny discourse (or, as it is colloquially known, the hornyverse). All too often, horny videogames are written off as “it’s just a horny game”, or “it’s offensive to over half of the population”, or even “titty soft, haha, moving on”. And, while such statements are useful for distinguishing between games that are “horny” or “just incidentally skeevy”, it’s not informative to people that are interested in playing a horny games. There are literally thousands of games on Steam that are all based on “you might see a boob”, so maybe we should take a deeper look at whether or not a game with such a premise is actually any good.

Or, put another way, we continually judge JRPGs by their overarching stories, fighting games by how complicated they made their inputs, and platformers by how well their specific jumping physics handle. Why do we just right off every horny game as “it’s horny”? That’s not helping anybody!

And there’s also this whole thing about sexuality, fetishes, and how we all interpret desire differently. But the important thing is whether or not you should play a certain videogame, right?

o, with that in mind, today’s game is Peach Ball: Senran Kagura…

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

Questin' Time!It takes a lot to get my attention. I’ve slain dragons. I’ve cast magical spells that would cross a wizard’s eyes. I’ve helped lesbians turn into a crystal pillar that holds up an entire world. There is very little in the world of gaming that gets my attention anymore. I have flown through the skies as the majestic hummingbird, danced with the deities, and one time I got a kangaroo to punch a monkey. And, through it all, it’s all been pretty much the same genres and “game styles” over and over again. Sure, I might be slaying the entire Greek Pantheon this week, but it’s still pretty much “just a beat ‘em up”. Is there nothing new under the sun?

And then there’s Pinball Quest. Pinball Quest is one of the most oddly original games I’ve ever played, and, what’s more, it was released over a quarter of a century ago.

Pinball Quest, as you might be able to guess, involves some pinball. If you’re just interested in pinball, here you go, three pinball boards of varying skill and complexity. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before or since, and, yeah, the boards are pretty alright. Nothing special, nothing El Dorado, but it’s a fun pinball time from the era that still held some affection for “pinball… on your TV!” That part is pretty basic.

Then there’s RPG mode. RPG mode is exactly what it says on the tin: pinball in a RPG setting. It’s bonkers.

In a way, RPGs and Pinball games should work well together. RPGs are all about how you suck. Wait, no, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that the combat in RPGs, the basic meat and potatoes of the genre, is entirely based on the fact that you will take damage. Pew Pew?This isn’t a Mario or Mega Man game where you could conceivably never take a hit; no, you’re getting smacked around by the first slime you see, and it’s your responsibility to make sure the party stays healed and healthy. In a way, this is an expression of the basic chaos of battle. You’re going to get a few scrapes and bruises, Gilbard is going to faint, but, in the end, (hopefully) you win. Pinball is very similar, in that you have the randomness of “where’s the ball going to go?” Sure, you try your best to hit those bumpers or whatever silly gimmick exists on the board, but, inevitably, that ball isn’t going to go exactly where you want it, and, sometimes, it’s going straight down the middle. Flick the flippers all you want, there’s nothing you can do, Gilball’s gotta die. Do your damndest, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. The pinball and RPG motto.

Pinball Quest’s RPG mode, meanwhile… well… in some ways, it’s much more an Adventure-style game, like Zelda. Each level is a different board arranged something like your typical double-decker pinball machine. Usually there’s some obstacle or gimmick on the lower portion that will grant access to the upper portion (like breaking the right gravestone [bumper] in the graveyard area, or pestering an ogre that will usher your ball into a minecart in the mine area), and then the second portion features a boss and flunkies of some kind. Ram the boss with the ball enough times, and you’ll be granted access to the next level. Repeat six times or so, and you will have defeated the evil king and rescued the princess. Actually, yeah, this is a lot like the original Legend of Zelda. There are even angry skeletons!

Get 'em!And, really, this would be a “Zelda type” if you had absolutely perfect pinball skills (or save states). After all, the gameplay isn’t Fight/Magic/Flipper, it’s much more of an overhead “dodge and stab” affair, with bosses that attack your flippers and a constant need to pelt the monster du jour with your weapon (which just happens to be “you”). This is much more “includes RPG-like elements” than “RPG”.

Except…

You’re gonna lose.

Actually, technically, you kind of can’t lose this game. It’s only possible to get a “game over” on the first (and, technically, “lowest” board), and, even then, you’re given an immediate chance to continue with very few repercussions. You lost, you suck, but the save point is right here, get back in there, soldier! On every other board, you’ll simply be returned to the next previous board, and, if you can nail the “exit” location on your first flip, you’ll be right back in the battle again. Even if your skills aren’t that great, though, you can re-defeat the boss du jour, and move on in that style. Sure, it’ll waste some time, but you’ll make it back… eventually.

But let’s say you’re a human being that actually doesn’t like having his or her time wasted. Well then, we’ve got some items for you! DON'T STEALBetween each stage is a shop, and, since you (naturally) accrue gold from every defeated monster, you can spend that cash on one of two types of items. You may purchase more powerful flippers, which will kill bosses faster, or you may purchase extra balls, which will cause you to immediately “return” to your highest level when you’d otherwise tumble down the gutter. Pick your poison! Are you the confident type that blows it all on a stronger sword, or do you stock up on phoenix downs in anticipation of a costly blood bath? Play the role of the ball, and plan for your game.

And, after a fashion, Pinball Quest proves to be a “real” RPG. The gameplay might be bopping around the adventure board all afternoon, and fighting wizards, demons, and succubae might show up in a few other genres; but what’s important here is that you, player, are planning ahead and determining how resources are spent… in a pinball environment. You’re going to need that potion, and it doesn’t matter if you’re using the fight command or flicking a ball at a perfect angle, it all winds up being an RPG in the end.

And we haven’t seen anything like it in 25 years. More’s the pity.

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, though, admittedly, kind of late in its lifespan (that would be defined as “anything after Castlevania 3”).
  • VIVA!Number of players: Thanks to controller passing, the “standard” pinball boards all allow for up to four players. RPG mode is, as ever, a solitary affair.
  • Favorite Standard Board: Viva Golf is pretty fun, as it includes more moles than Caddyshack, and the anime figures seem to fit into the course rather well. What? I have a peculiar fondness for the late 80’s Japanese aesthetic.
  • Favorite RPG Mode Boss: The boss of the fifth stage initially appears to be your kidnapped princess, but transforms into a deadly succubus after a few (maybe accidental) hits. I realize that this has become something of a standard trope in recent years (decades), but it seemed fairly original in 1990.
  • Speaking of Princesses: Ya know, there’s nothing that codifies the heroic Ball as male or female. Feel free to claim this is one of the few gender progressive NES games… even if you are rescuing a princess (yet again).
  • An End: Oh, and the finale sees the hero and princess trounce a gigantic (compared to a pinball), apparently sentient magnet.
    What?

    And here I thought gravity was the ultimate enemy.
  • Did you know? The box art for Pinball Quest shows a reflected skeleton warrior. Given the skeletons only exist for the first level, I’m going to assume the box artist did not get very far in this game.
  • Would I play again? Hey, sure. If I’m in the mood for pinball, I may as well knock over some turtles while doing it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Scope 6 for the Super Nintendo! Oh boy! Bazooka action? Wow! Please look forward to it! Not at all sarcastically!

FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

I'm hearing the theme song in my headHave you looked at the roster for Super Smash Bros. recently? No, not the latest iteration, just plain ol’ N64 Super Smash Bros. And, in this case, I’m talking about the exclusive, “members only” original eight selectable characters (sorry, Ness, I love you, but you were obviously a dark-horse choice). You’ve got Mario, who, before and since, has appeared in more videogames than any other videogame mascot[citation needed]. Donkey Kong is on a similar echelon, and he arguably started the trend of Nintendo “mascots”. Pikachu was a newcomer at the time, but that little fuzzball has practically conquered a generation or two. Kirby and Yoshi (the original Pokémon) might not be quite as prolific, but they’ve both headlined everything from puzzle games to lightgun shooters. And Link? Link needs no introduction, and might be considered the “coolest” character in gaming despite (or because of) being rather silent.

Consider that every character I’ve named thus far has starred in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Then you have the Nintendo space heroes, like “Star” Fox McCloud. Fox always seemed made to appeal to the kiddies (daring, cartoon animal ace pilot), but has yet to garner enough popularity points to net those lucrative licensing deals and pay off the Great Fox. Come on, guys, they gave him an entire planet of friendly dinosaurs and a deviantart-bait magical princess girlfriend, and he still couldn’t score so much as a spin-off until 2016’s Six Nights at Slippy’s. It’s good that Star Fox is still getting games at all, but it seems a little unusual that this pillar of the Nintendo universe hasn’t been ported into something a little more modern. Sure, shooters are dead, but this fox has legs (apparently), give him something new to do.

And, finally, we have the lone (confirmed) female of the game, Samus Aran, space bounty hunter. Metroid is currently a reputedly dead franchise (note to Nintendo: I will be perfectly happy to have this article look completely Icydated in exchange for a glut of new Metroid games), and, even when it was still on life support, it was considered, at best, to be mishandled. Super Metroid redefined the genre, but its 2-D descendants were improperly managed or far too derivative (or both). Metroid Prime was a revelation, but Metroid Prime 2 seemed like a typical FPS disguised in powersuit trappings, and Metroid Prime 3 was madly uneven. And Metroid Prime Hunters? Ugh, please don’t remind me that existed.

But… Metroid Prime Hunters is important, because there was a brief, shining moment in Nintendo’s history when Samus Aran was used to sell systems.

Alright, yes, that might be an exaggeration, but the Nintendo DS, eventually one of Nintendo’s most popular and experimental systems (ah, the heady days before the touch screen became standard) initially shipped with a game… or at least a demo for a game. Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt…. wasn’t much of a demo. The single player portion was practically nonexistent, but the multiplayer portion of MPH:FH was an eye-opener. Now, for the first time, you could compete with your friends in a “networked FPS” style death match, but you didn’t need a single wire or powerful PC, just a DS and a buddy within shouting distance. The DS might not have offered many options at launch, but Metroid-Doom dominated any place you might find a bunch of congregating nerds (like, I dunno, a college, for instance?) and probably sold more DS systems than Tetris DS ever would.

So, when Nintendo decided to produce a new upgrade for the little dual screen that could, they looked again to their favorite daughter, Samus Aran. The DS was to receive a new rumble pack accessory, and what better way to sell rumble in a videogame than with pinball?

Pew Pew… It’s really the thought that counts.

Metroid Prime Pinball is a very weird game. As the story goes, MPP was first conceived when someone at Nintendo noticed that A. Nintendo randomly makes mascot-based pinball games, and B. Samus, super serious space bounty hunter, often turns herself into a ball. It’s like peanut butter and applesauce! So, while most Nintendo franchises feature characters that just kinda bounce around like pinballs anyway, pinball was hoisted on Metroid, a franchise best known for measured exploration and deliberately paced powerups. Because, ya know, Samus Aran can turn into a ball. What’s more, rather than make this a “simple” collection of Metroid-themed pinball machines, Metroid Prime Pinball has a plot and level progression, with bosses/challenges that bar progress until they’re slain/completed. Pinball doesn’t work like that! There’s a reason we never saw Pinball Quest 2, dammit!

But, against all odds, it somehow does work. Metroid Prime Pinball isn’t exactly the best game on the DS, it’s not even my favorite pinball game starring a Nintendo character that can inexplicably become a ball; but, hey, it ain’t bad. While pinball purists would likely have an issue with my favorite parts, I’ve found that this game holds my interest over many pinball games by virtue of randomly inserting more traditional Metroid gameplay. Okay, really, it’s not Metroid gameplay at all, but it’s all inspired by Metroid gameplay, and that’s close enough for a pinball game. For instance, In order to attain that coveted high-score, you must collect bounties, and, while some of these bounties involve simply steering ball-Samus at enemies, many times a bounty will cause Samus to come out of her shell and start shooting that beam cannon. Or there’s an artifact at the top of a cliff, so you’re to alternate L & R to pull off a proper wall jump. Still got itOr there’s a boss to slay, so it’s time to whip out the missiles. I like pinball, but I like pinball a lot more when I’m given something else to do every other minute. Oh, bless you, Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. You’ll always be there for me until I see something shiny.

Unfortunately, given most people don’t seem to remember this game exists at all seems to be proof that Metroid Prime Pinball wasn’t much of a success. Metroid: Other M or Metroid Prime Hunters may be reviled, but at least people don’t think you’re talking about some kind of Club Nintendo promotion when they’re mentioned. Metroid Prime Pinball happened, guys! It was a full game! It was pretty alright!

It’s a shame that this game is so forgotten. Metroid Prime Pinball proved that, like Mario, Yoshi, or even Pikachu, Samus Aran could break out of her typical gameplay bonds and do something else. Yes, Metroid defined a genre so permanently it has literally become synonymous with 2-D exploration games, but Mario defined platforming, and he’s doing just fine on the go-kart circuit, too. Samus Aran could be a perennial Nintendo star like Link, and MPP proves it.

And don’t pretend that doesn’t matter. The current gaming landscape is choked with dudes that look just like me (maybe they’re a little less handsome), and, while I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more lady bounty hunters in the mix. Nintendo is better with diversity than most (by virtue of promoting electric rats and pink eldritch horrors equally), but its big two are still a pair of white guys. You don’t see an hours long demo featuring Linkle on the E3 floor, nope, it’s grade-A, grandma-approved, straight white male elf all the way. He’s even right handed now, because left-handedness is only for freaks and presidents.

It’s nonsense like Metroid Prime Pinball that makes kings and queens out of characters. Link has been fighting Ganon for ages, but he was spouting catchphrases at princesses well before he was the Hero of Time. Mario was ubiquitous on the NES, saving the Mushroom Kingdom, refereeing Mike Tyson, and then playing golf all in the same week. I might not expect Samus to sell the next big Nintendo console, but upping the profile of Nintendo’s only starring fantasy female (that is in no way a princess) could only be a good thing. Yes, I pretty much just want more Metroid games, but I’ll gladly buy another Metroid Prime Pinball to see Samus as the salesgirl for the latest Nintendo thingy. Samus Aran should have her own pair of bongos, dammit! Wait… that might have come out wrong.

So thank you, Metroid Prime Pinball, for proving that Samus can do more than explore musty old planets. You might not have been the best game, but you helped a struggling space bounty hunter, and that’s enough.

FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

  • System: Nintendo DS, with rumble pack accessory!
  • Number of players: Oh yeah, there is a two player head-to-head mode that even features its own unique stage. It’s just as exciting as 2-player pinball is meant to be!
  • He’s too big: Ridley manages to fit into a board that is almost entirely his own. It’s also the most frustrating stage, because if Ridley knocks you out, you have to go and retrieve an artifact from an earlier stage. Pinball doesn’t usually require savestates, but here we are.
  • Favorite stage: You wind up playing the first two tables very often thanks to how the game is “shaped”. That said, the Tallon Overworld area is pretty fun, and makes seeing “the same ol’ stage” again and again entertaining with its multiple ways to score. Oddly, its sister level, Pirate Frigate, comes off as boring, and should be escaped immediately.
  • Did you know? Metroid Prime Pinball is the spiritual successor to the Gameboy Advance’s Mario Pinball Land. That would be the pinball game that nobody liked.
  • Would I play again? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed replaying this game, so, yes, but only on the condition that it’s a downloadable, portable title. I’d fire this thing up for a few rounds here and there when around town, but I doubt I’ll ever put the actual cart back in my 3DS’s slot ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… to be quiet. I’m going to make #148 into #9 here, and deal with a different kind of robot for the next update. Please look forward to it!

Winner!

FGC #021 Galactic Pinball

Desperate SaveLet us consider the enigma that is Galactic Pinball.

To start at the beginning, Galactic Pinball is a game for the Nintendo Virtual Boy, aka Nintendo’s least portable portable, aka Nintendo’s biggest failure, aka The Death Bringer. The Virtual Boy is, putting it mildly, infamous in gaming circles as maybe the single most ill-advised game console since that late edition Atari that was built into the mouth of an alligator. No, the Virtual Boy did not lead to any (known) accidental amputations, but it may have made a few eyeballs bleed with its red and black display smooshed right up against player’s skulls. Fun fact: my mother didn’t allow me to have a Virtual Boy when it was first released, as she was afraid of not only retinal damage, but also the potential brain cancer caused by strapping an electronic device to one’s head. Months later, when the Virtual Boy had the same MSRP as a can of cat food, my mother mysteriously rescinded her fears. Much the same thing would happen with cell phones a few years later.

The Virtual Boy didn’t even last a full year on this side of the pond, so its library of games is smaller than a malnourished pikmin. There are a grand total of 22 Virtual Boy games globally, with only fourteen total in North America (assuming I’m counting right, no promises). The VB release list includes some interesting anomalies, like a Bomberman puzzle game, a bowling game starring Nintendo of America star Nester, and the west’s first introduction to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. There was also a licensed Water World game, which created a sort of flop singularity that closed in on itself and accidentally erased genuine unicorns from all of history. Yes, the Virtual Boy was such a terrible system that it damaged all of space and time.

Desperate SaveBut a weird thing happens when a system is a failure and you actually own said failing system: you get really attached to the games that you have. Many of you are familiar with this concept as “Dreamcast syndrome”, but for me, I will always remember my hours devoted to the Virtual Boy, both because of the games and my own rose-tinted outlook that optometrists tell me is going to clear up any day now.

Virtual Boy’s lineup, as I will always remember it:

  • Mario Tennis was the pack-in Virtual Boy game, which is noteworthy because this is likely the least popular Mario and Sports title of all time, and the next time Nintendo would include a game with a system at launch, it would produce the most popular video game sports title of all time. Trivia aside, Mario Tennis was lame and half-baked: there was no competitive mode available for beating your imaginary friends on their imaginary Virtual Boys, and the single player mode was just playing Tennis with a CPU over and over again. At least it was the first time Princess Peach wore a skirt. Perhaps not coincidentally, I think that’s also the last anyone ever saw of Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Mario Clash was a simultaneous attempt to feature different “plains” of vision in a 3-D environment and a return to Mario’s Mario Bros. plumbing/turtle extermination roots. This was absolutely not something anyone actually wanted. The Mario of Mario Bros is long dead, he got Super and never looked back, and this game guaranteed that Mario would stay entombed for a good long time. You don’t see Mario fighting irate crabs in Mario Maker, now do you?
  • Teleroboxer was like Punch-Out, but, like, in the future, man. In the future, though, robots just beat you to death without a second thought. I actually took the time to git good at this game (see also: Bloodborne, Stockholm syndrome), but Punch-Out without the overwhelming charm of Super Macho Man and alike is just cold and sad. Like a robot.
  • Red Alarm was an endurance simulator to see how long the player could last without throwing up. I was never any good at this game, as it made me vomit constantly. The final boss is just a guy (a guy shape) attempting to jab a sharp stick in your eye. Despite being a confusing mess of garbage, this game did actually feel like a game as opposed to just a tech demo.
  • Virtual Boy Wario Land is actually a worthwhile game in every way. This makes it, for my money, the only game on the system that feels like it was actually well considered and thoughtfully constructed as a real video game to rival console releases. This game deserves a 3DS remake or similar, just as Kal-el was rocketed away from his dying world to bring hope to a new one.

Such varietyAnd then there is Galactic Pinball. Galactic Pinball was a launch title, and I do mean day-of-the-system launch, as opposed to all the other Virtual Boy games that came out within the “launch window” by necessity. Galactic Pinball was, Wario Land aside, likely my most played Virtual Boy game.

Galactic Pinball was developed by Intelligent Systems. Immediately after Galactic Pinball, IS would go on to create Panel de Pon, repackaged in the west as Tetris Attack, and Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, which I believe was some kind of historical husbandry simulator. And before Galactic Pinball, IS worked with Nintendo R&D1 on a little known title called Super Metroid. So I think these Intelligent Systems guys might have had a clue about making a video game.

And Galactic Pinball really does show a loving attention to design. Four boards (levels?) all feature wildly varied goals and bonuses, and even some pleasant (for the Virtual Boy) graphics to boot. Heck, one board, Cosmic, seems to deliberately evoke Nintendo Pinball, which was a lovely surprise for those of us that were already sinking into the quicksand of Nintendo nostalgia. There may even may a sort of “plot” to the various pinball boards, as the Alien and UFO tables feature “boss fights” against a series of aliens and the evil… Skeleton. Really? All of space, and we decide to hit an enemy out of Castlevania? Alright, guess you can’t be creative all the time. Just saying? Could have been Ridley.

SpookyIn the end, though, it’s a pinball game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against pinball games, but they’re intended for arcades and distractions, not really the kind of thing to which you devote your entire attention. Yes, I know there are pinball wizards, I’ve heard their praises in song, but the average person sees a pinball game as a diversion, like solitaire or Tetris. The problem here is that it’s a pinball game on the Virtual Boy, which requires you to stick your entire melon in there and enter a virtual sensory deprivation chamber devoted to the game you’re playing. The Virtual Boy would be ideal for a long form experience, like Wario Land, that demanded the player’s attention… except it might wind up frying the player’s eyeballs. Okay, maybe it would be best for pinball games and alike that could be played for short stints during a car trip or something… except the Virtual Boy is about as portable as a refrigerator.

Okay, maybe the Virtual Boy wasn’t really intended for video games. Those magic eye books were popular at the time, right? Maybe it’d be good for those.

But, imaginary intended audience aside, I played Galactic Pinball quite a bit, veritable hours over the course of about six months. Virtual Boy Wario Land and Galactic Pinball will always be the Virtual Boy games to me, even as the system and its library fade into the forgotten sands of time. Ozymandias excellent. Maybe it was an obligation to love a system Nintendo Power told me was so great, maybe it was a lack of other games toward the end of the SNES’s life, maybe it was just a peculiar fondness for the color red; but whatever the case, whatever the reason, Galactic Pinball was a great game, horrible platform or no.

FGC #21 Galactic Pinball

  • System: Virtual Boy. Did you get that?
  • Number of Players: I can’t even imagine how this could be anything other than one player.
  • So, was your mother right about the Virtual Boy scarring you for life? I can’t see how it has had an impact on me in any way. I would say those fears… No!
    Yes, this is my living room

    ROB! Get away from that! It’ll give you poor interior decorating skills!
  • Favorite Table: Just looking at the Cosmic board makes me happy, though I do enjoy attacking the alien of Alien.
  • Is the entire name a lie? Actually, at no point is a pinball involved in these games. It’s a puck, like air hockey. Also, I think the title should be expanded, so I suggest Intergalactic Puck.
  • Best score? I have no idea, because some idiot decided to skimp on a save battery and all scores are lost the minute you power down. Bad form, guys.
  • Did you know? Every table has a story, there are “bosses” to defeat, and many boards include real celestial bodies. For whatever reason, the designers really went out of their way to put you in the mind of being a real, I don’t know, “space puck” accomplishing things as opposed to just a pinball table being played in an arcade… Except you can “shake” the table at the push of a button, and cause a TILT state. Odd choice.
  • Would I play again? I was actually fascinated by the fact that I picked this game up to play for like ten minutes to refresh my memory, and then wound up playing for over an hour, even scoring what I assume to be a personal best on the Colony table. It’s a really good game, guys! So, yeah, on the rare occasions I feel like wiring up ol’ Virtual Boy, this is the first game in the slot.

Wooo

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen…. WAIT! In honor of Rare Replay being released next week, I’m limiting ROB to Rare games featured on the collection. Get Ready for Rare Week! So, from that limited pool, Random ROB has chosen… Solar Jetman. Woo, let’s get our thrusters on. Please look forward to it!