Tag Archives: playstation

FGC #360 Monster Rancher

You never know when some particular piece of media will strike you. Monster Rancher might be the most personal game I own.

Let’s start with the facts: I played Monster Rancher a lot. How much is a lot? Well there are these stats:

Double Winner!

720 Wins! And add that to the slight fact that that screencap was taken in the Monster Rancher year of 1062. The game starts in 1000. My player avatar has been a monster rancher for 62 years! Holly, the ever-present assistant monster rancher, should be in a retirement home! I can’t even remember my first monster!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics: Monster Rancher is a Playstation 1 game that was released in 1997. To be clear on the timeline here, that would put MR’s release a solid year before Pokémon Red/Blue hit the states in 1998. And the comparisons between Monster Rancher and Pokémon are appropriate. They’re both games about loving and raising unusual creatures, and then forcing them to fight for your amusement/money. The big difference here, though, is that Pokémon started with 151 fairly unique creatures (electrode and voltorb are objectively similar), while Monster Rancher mostly relied on less than a dozen “types”, and mixed and matched their attributes in a couple hundred different ways. Tiger plus Eyeball = Hairy Eyeball isn’t exactly as original as a Jigglypuff, but it still leads to a larger bestiary. And where do you find these fantastic beasts? In Pokémon, they’re hiding in tall grass, but Monster Rancher was a little bit different. Monster Rancher concealed all of its monsters in much more mundane locations…

Eye of the Tiger!Let’s rewind even further in this inevitably autobiographical article. I was a gigantic videogame nerd as a child, but music wasn’t really my thing. Or, to be more precise, I simply happily listened to my parents’ oldies stations, and I was fairly convinced The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys were the be-all end-all of harmony. This belief had a brief hiccup in about fifth grade, when I discovered “Weird” Al Yankovic and proceeded to demand his every last tape. So, while I wound up with Amish Paradise, I passed on every last Gangsta’s Paradise or practically anything else that was supposed to be interesting to my generation. Yes, this means I missed Nirvana. But I had Bomberman to keep me company, so I didn’t much mind. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I started to listen to my own music.

And then the floodgates were open.

Ignoring a few “comedy albums” (technically, my first CD ever was a Simpsons soundtrack… I regret nothing), I still remember buying my first three “real” CDs: Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot, Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen, and Jethro Tull – Greatest Hits. My tastes are very… eclectic. From there on, I started collecting albums like I collected videogames. In fact, since this was a time when Playstation titles were at an all-time low ($40 brand new across the board), buying a new CD of any kind, game or music, was roughly the same financial decision. And, given this was also the first time in my life I had a disposable income (welcome to teenage employment!), I quickly amassed a glut of CDs of all shapes and sizes (okay, they were all the same shape and size, but their covers were different!). Now who wants to listen to the Barenaked Ladies discography and play Mega Man X4?

Don't look directly at itSo enter Monster Rancher. At first, MR appeared to be another random monster raising game. Yes, we all knew about incoming Pokémon at this point. Yes, I’m pretty sure we were all at least dimly aware of Digimon, too. All the ‘mon games were on the cusp of global dominance, but before all of those, we had Tamagotchi, the insidious little “virtual pets” that were crying and (virtual) pooping “augmented reality” experiences before the term even existed. For anyone that missed that trend, we’re talking about electronic babies. You had to care for them at all times, react to their insistent beeping, and, if you were a good little monster parent, you wound up with a twenty pixel dragon or something. As if you can’t tell from my present level of disdain, I loathed the little (wannabe) monsters, and, as a result, even the likes of Pokémon sounded like some lame cash-in on the monster-raising fad. I eventually played Monster Rancher, not because I wanted some of that cool, monster ranching action, but because I wanted to rent a videogame, and literally nothing else available looked like any fun. Congrats, Monster Rancher, you were the absolute last choice.

But to say that “last choice” worked out well is something of an understatement. The main hook of Monster Rancher? Stick any CD in that Playstation slot, from Butthole Surfers to William Shatner Sings the Hits, and you’ll get a brand new monster. Your favorite album might create a winged dinosaur, or that demo that came with your CD wallet could produce a hulking golem. The CDs are seemingly randomized, but they’re consistent, so if you find a monster you like, keep that disc handy for breeding later. And some discs are decidedly less random, which would explain why I bought a Madonna album exclusively for its unique Pixie. Yes, in an age a solid decade before DLC, Monster Rancher found a way to get its dedicated fans to go out and buy Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits for some inexplicable reason.

When I first discovered the hook of Monster Rancher, I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually play the “game” for a week. I had collected my CDs in real life, and now here was a virtual world rewarding me for such hoarding. I was on cloud nine. What’s more, I was spending all my time on that cloud scanning every last disc I owned. When that ended, I went through my dad’s entire CD collection. By the time that had ended, I’d already bought the game (and a Van Halen album that contained another unique Pixie), and started monster ranching in earnest.

That’s about when the OCD really kicked in.

MURDERYou can summon monsters from real world CDs, but some CDs are “locked”. While you can acquire an absolutely rocking naga from any old disc, some of the more unique monsters, like dragons, magicians, and giant robots, may only be summoned if you’ve “earned” that species in the game proper. So, yes, Billy Joel can provide a unique ape, but you have to earn the right by careful monster rearing, battling, and some good ol’ fashioned luck on expeditions. This infuriated me. Here I was, entitled to some awesome monsters for deigning to own Tecmo’s Deception, but, no, I can’t have the little biters, because I haven’t played the game enough. I’ll show ‘em! I’ll show ‘em all! I’ll earn every last monster in this stupid game, and then I’ll finally have a completed personal bestiary. It’s not about catchin’ ‘em all, it’s about knowing that every last disc I own is equally accountable.

And then I played the game for 62 years.

Did I enjoy every minute of it? Of course not, this is a ranching sim, so a healthy amount of Monster Rancher is just navigating menus and killing time. Battles are long and tedious, and, while they’re not entirely unpleasant, they do involve a lot of time invested before potentially losing everything (you could easily win six matches, take an unlucky crit in the seventh, and literally watch your monster die as a result). Expeditions are a necessary part of unlocking any interesting monsters, but, even with perfect stats, they’re little more than reskinned slot machines. And, in general, the dialogue is perfunctory and randomly accusatory (I’m spoiling the monster? Really? He only gets fed once a month!”). Monster Rancher unquestionably has its good points, but the minute-to-minute of the experience is sorely lacking.

I was a teenagerBut that didn’t matter. To this day, Monster Rancher is still one of my favorite games, unmatched by even its sequels. It was, for all purposes, a particular moment in time, crystallized in a videogame. By just a few years (maybe even months) later, I’d be hording MP3s, and buying entire albums would become a part of grandpa’s generation. New Playstation titles would rise in price, and, for a little while (poor college days), I’d barely buy a new game at all. Had Monster Rancher dropped just a half year later, it would have been a random rental I’d forget about forever. But, no, Monster Rancher was there just when I needed to indulge my ridiculous collector tendencies, and it became as synonymous with my teenage years as my first girlfriend (who, incidentally, got a monster named after her in my save).

Monster Rancher might not have been the best game, but it is one of the best games to me.

FGC #360 Monster Rancher

  • System: Playstation 1. Given the central gimmick, I’d say this one is nigh impossible to emulate/port without bringing the rest of the late 90’s with it.
  • Number of Players: Two! And you can import a buddy’s monsters for battles, too! I… I never found another human being that owned this game.
  • Speaking of Discs: You can play this game on the Playstation 3, but I did not test if the central CD summoning mechanic still worked. I don’t want to push my poor backwards compatible Playstation 3 disc reader any further than I already have. I need that thing for LPs!
  • Favorite Breed: Pixies were always my favorite as a teenager, as I was a teenager, and a half naked lady monster is naturally going to seem appealing. As an adult (and when I actually wanted to beat the game), I usually went with the humble golem or magic. To be clear, there’s a monster that is just named “magic”. It kinda looks like Michael Jordan. This is a weird game.
  • It’s good to have fans: There’s a popularity gauge for your monster in this game, and filling it can lead to some excellent fan mail.

    Winner!

    I am great!

  • Did you know? For whatever reason, all monsters are assumed to be male, so male pronouns are used universally. This is very odd for the clearly female pixie breed. “It” should be allowed when you’re talking about a creature that eats raw meat off the ground.
  • Would I play again: I love this game. I love it more than I’ve loved some other particularly dear inanimate objects. But I’m probably never going to play it again, because it is very much a product of its time. We’ll always have the memories…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Psychic Force 2012! Journey to the marvelous future of 2012, and join the Psychic Force! Or fight them! Please look forward to it!

Don't you look at me
We do not talk about Doodle in polite company

FGC #357 Um Jammer Lammy

LaaaaaammyI believe in empathy. I believe empathy might be the most important thing in this world. Through empathy, we can understand each other, communicate, and build a better future. Without empathy, we are lost, and progress becomes impossible. I genuinely believe, more than anything, that if our government officials could muster enough empathy to understand people that haven’t had the safety of free healthcare or 401k retirement plans for their entire lives, we would be in a much better place. Empathy, whether it be for people with other religions, beliefs, or even just hair color, is imperative.

And, in a way, this is why I often recoil from fandoms. When I was a kid, it would feel like I was the only person in the universe that liked what I liked. Sailor Moon came on at 6 am on weekdays, and I want to say I was one of three kids in my town watching the show. And I really wanted to discuss this cool new Sailor Mars character with somebody! And even by high school, it wasn’t unusual to find another “nerd”, but it was difficult to find someone that had actually finished Final Fantasy 7. Actually, strike that, Final Fantasy 7 was popular enough, but I was probably the only kid in the county that had played Breath of Fire 3. When the internet finally got around to being the internet, it was a revelation that my younger self would never have imagined. Look at all these usegroups! Look at all these people that understand me! And look at the thousands of fights over Ranma ½! Everyone knows Shampoo is the best choice for Ranma, what is wrong with these people!?

I suppose it’s the death of Hiromi Tsuru that reawaked these feelings, but, for anyone that was blissfully unaware, Tsuru was well known for being the Japanese voice actress of not only Dragon Ball Z’s Bulma, but also Ukyo Kuonji of Ranma ½. Ucchan was one of the many suitors of Ranma in his/her titular series, and, of course, that meant a number of fan debates over which woman should win Ranma’s heart. And, full disclosure? Nearly twenty years after being wrapped up in that fandom, my kneejerk reaction to the death of Ukyo Kuonji’s VA’s death was, “good.” A real live person died tragically, and my immediate retort was joy, because it meant that my one true ship in a series from decades ago was closer to being a reality. This is absolutely insane. I wholeheartedly acknowledge this is crazy, and I regretted the thought almost as instantly as it crossed my mind, but it was still right there, first in line in the ol’ response queue. It’s further proof that I’m a horrible person, but I feel like there’s something to learn there.

Leave it to LammyTo circle back to my original statement, this is the exact reason fandoms tend to bother me. It’s great to have similar interests. It’s wonderful to share these interests with other people (Hi! Welcome to my videogame blog!). But it seems like the minute you get a sufficient number of nerds in the same (chat)room, things quickly devolve into debating minutia until the phrase “murder-suicide cult” starts becoming viable. Here’s a fun fact: George Lucas doesn’t care about your favorite Star Wars. He never made those films thinking, “Let’s make this movie 10% better than the last movie.” Sure, he was always trying to improve and change like any artist, but it was never a matter of invalidating any strides made in a previous work. But please ignore that, because someone brought up the trilogies again, and it’s time to rank every single film according to whatever crazy criteria you’ve got rattling around right now. And someone has the audacity to disagree with your carefully curated list that clearly defines why the prequel trilogy is good, actually? You cannot let such an injustice stand! Please compose a thousand word essay right now that elucidates why everyone you know is wrong. Be sure to use words like “elucidate”! That’ll show ‘em!

In short, I believe that empathy is important in fandoms, because we’re already a bunch of antisocial misfits, why not stop all the fussin’ an’ the fightin’, and just get along? Understand that people have different opinions, and don’t deliberately belittle people that happen to disagree with you. Let’s all come together, and share our mutual love, not start wars over inconsequential shipping or rankings.

Okay, that all out the way? Everybody got the warm fuzzies? Good. Now let’s move on to the main event.

Um Jammer Lammy is better than PaRappa the Rapper, and if you disagree, I will fucking fight you.

VrrrrrFor anyone that missed the late 90’s, PaRappa the Rapper made a splash on the Playstation 1 with an all-new, all exciting genre: the rhythm story game. In short, after years of gaming where the best we could hope for was one lousy voice sample or an entire FMV Hell, technology had finally reached the point where we could enjoy full voice acting and, essentially, “press X to rap”. This led to Masaya Matsuura and NanaOn-Sha producing PaRappa the Rapper in 1996 (appearing stateside in ’97). PaRappa was surprising popular for an early Playstation game, as, in a time when gaming was trying to distance itself from the “childish” likes of Mario and Kirby, PaRappa was a decidedly cartoonish hip-hop rappin’ gangsta dog that never failed to get biz-ay. Perhaps it was the rap that immediately bought PaRappa some street cred, but, one way or another, PaRappa had a lot more in common with Sonic the Hedgehog than Lara Croft. Regardless, PaRappa was very popular, and his fun and funky beats were a breath of fresh air in the early 32-bit days. In fact, even now, PaRappa is still firmly associated with the Playstation brand… or at least within that one game.

Um Jammer Lammy was a sequel in all but name, and better in every conceivable way. It featured similar gameplay, a familiar art style, and PaRappa himself even guested in a side story nearly as long as the main game. However, Um Jammer Lammy was objectively superior, as, instead of featuring a rappin’ dog trying to woo a talking flower, it starred a left-handed guitarist trying to gain enough confidence to repel burger-heisting bullies. And, frankly, the “press button to make sound” gameplay worked a lot better with a guitar than a rapper. PaRappa had a tendency to sound… odd… like an (in)human scratched record… when a button was pressed at an off moment or when attempting to “freestyle”. Lammy meanwhile sounded like someone playing a guitar no matter when you tapped triangleRock out!, so experimenting sounded a lot more natural to everyday human ears. And, while we’re at it, Lammy had a much more interesting cast, including a monochromatic evil twin, bargain basement midwife caterpillar, and a bipolar jet pilot. That beats wannabe Martha Stewart chicken any day of the week. Um Jammer Lammy advanced the rhythm genre in every way, and was clearly the Mega Man 2 to PaRappa’s Mega Man 1.

It also sold like eight copies.

I blame PaRappa.

PaRappa was popular, yes, but he was more popular for the spectacle, and not the actual game. Sad truth? PaRappa the Rapper (and its entire franchise) is harder than Battletoads. Your timing must be perfect, the GUI is rapid and imprecise, and the temptation to “freestyle” for additional points is as opaque as a fat guy wearing seventeen trench coats (I’m sorry, he might not be fat, it’s just hard to tell with all the coats). I have played every PaRappa/Lammy game multiple times, and, unlike other rhythm games, I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing to earn that high score. Go ahead and check Youtube for answers on that, and, trust me, you’ll only be even more confused. PaRappa might have been fun to look at, but it was a bear to play, and I’m pretty sure no one ever forgot that. Um Jammer Lammy and the eventual PaRappa The Rapper 2 both undersold by a petty wide margin, and, spoilers, that’s all she wrote. For all the glowing reviews and good vibes PaRappa earned, it was all for naught, and now his creator can’t even kickstart one lousy game about a feudal rapping frog (or… something). Um Jammer Lammy was doomed by the success and incomprehensibility of her predecessor, and we’re all worse for it.

It's all in your mindAnd, unfortunately, that means I hold a grudge. I loved Um Jammer Lammy, and history has forgotten the dear lamb, so I’ll be forever bitter towards PaRappa. And anytime someone mentions how much they liked that whacky dog and his onion pal, I’ll speak out against any and all such thinking. Yes, we should all just feel affection for each other, get along, and enjoy our mutual love of story-based rhythm games, but that’s impossible, because Lammy is my fandom, end of story. I have no empathy for PaRappa lovers, for they have hurt my Lammy too much.

So today’s moral is you should love each other, and treat everyone with respect. Except people that like PaRappa. Those people are not to be trusted.

FGC #357 Um Jammer Lammy

  • System: Playstation 1. There was also an arcade version that included a guitar controller well before Guitar Hero made the scene. But nobody ever mentions that.
  • Number of players: Two player rhythm action! Nobody ever mentions this advantage over PaRappa’s single player experience, either.
  • Favorite Stage: Stage 4, Fright Flight, is vaguely head-banging heavy metal. That’s not usually my genre, but it’s so damn catchy filtered through Um Jammer culture.
  • Rock itLegends of Localization: There was a period of about ten years when companies actually completely localized quirky Japanese games, voice acting and rhythm assignment and all… and then it ended. Now we’re stuck with Hatsune Miku making weird-ass noises, and we’re lucky if we get subtitles that marginally explain the lyrics. Oh well. At least we’ll always have PaRappa, Lammy, and Gitaroo-Man.
  • Required Statement: Stage 6 is a mysterious island in the American version, but is actually Hell in the Japanese and European versions. It is a strictly American belief that nobody likes to hear about their favorite heroine being sent to Hell after an incident with a banana peel, so it was changed for Western audiences. For whatever reason, this factoid must be stated every time Um Jammer Lammy is mentioned, so I’m just following the rules.
  • Did you know? Lose to Teriyaki Yoko, mistress of Hell/an island, and she’ll claim Lammy should be “banned from every game”. This is what we call foreshadowing.
  • Would I play again: This game is nearly impossible with Playstation 3 controller lag (there’s just enough to drive you nuts), and I don’t fire up my Playstation 2 nearly enough (cords, ugh). However, if I do get to playing the PS2, Um Jammer Lammy is definitely going to see some play.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Feel the Magic XX/XY! Wow, a launch Nintendo DS game about seducing women with various touch minigames. I’m sure that aged well! Please look forward to it!

Drummers are unreliable

FGC #355 Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo & Pocket Fighter

For a time, Street Fighter 2 dominated the arcades. Approximately seven seconds after Guile delivered his first sonic boom, the fighting genre took off like a hadouken, and every producer in the videogame industry cranked out an excuse for super muscular dudes to punch other super muscular dudes. But all good things must come to an end, and, in Japan, Street Fighter 3 wound up losing a number of quarters to… Puyo Puyo Tsu. Huh. Did anybody see that coming? Graduated Tetris beats Street Fighter? What’s next? Some manner of arcade dancing simulator?

The Capcom of the day, still firmly in the market of making videogames, was not going to take this sitting down. No, Capcom decided it would be best to produce a Fighting Puzzle game starring its most popular arcade heavies, and then steal innovate on the puzzle trend just as spectacularly as they had once innovated on the beat ‘em up craze. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo was born, and, for the first time ever, Ryu could beat down Hsien-Ko with magical gems.

And then everybody got bored with puzzle games, so Capcom went back to making fighting games. Or fighting game, as the case may be, as we soon received Pocket Fighter aka Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. On one hand, Pocket Fighter was a clear case of marrying sprites and assets from a puzzle game to the tried and true (and profitable) gameplay of Street Fighter. That’s pretty cheap! On the other hand, Pocket Fighter became a gorgeous and creative excuse for possibly the first grand Capcom fighting crossover. Sure, the roster was pretty much just the usual Street Fighters and Darkstalkers, but the Pocket Fighters had a tendency to don the costumes and moves of some of their more famous Capcom brethren. It sounds lame now, but years before Marvel vs. Capcom would make it all a glorious reality, Felicia morphing into Mega Man and Jill Valentine as a natural part of a combo was fabulous.

But we’re not here to talk about fanservice, we’re here to compare and contrast two different though thoroughly similar games. And what’s the best way to do that? Take a look at their rosters!

Team Street Fighter (both games)

Priestess?Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li are locks. They are never not going to appear in a Street Fighter or Street Fighter-adjacent game (“What about Vanilla Street Fighter 3?” “Shut-up.”). Ryu is the headliner, Ken is his sycophantic remora of a friend, and Chun-Li is the legally mandated girl. And speaking of girls, we’ve got Sakura, who was really popular at the time, because… I’m sorry, have you met Japan? That country has some… interests. Also hailing from a street full of fighters is Dan, who was included because he slept with the producer (uh, to be clear, it wasn’t a sexual thing, he’s just really good at cuddling). Oh, and we’ve got Akuma, too, because he needed to get some additional training in before his Tekken debut. Across both Puzzle and Pocket fighting, you’ve got to have your basic Street Fighters.

And, sidenote, Chun-Li is the only one of that bunch that doesn’t forward, down, down forward punch.

Team Darkstalkers (both games)

MEOWBack before Capcom had a pile of fighting game franchises (and well before Capcom forgot how to make videogames entirely), Darkstalkers was considered the “mate” to Street Fighter. They were both enjoyable fighting games with random dudes hurling fireballs, but Street Fighter was a very serious game about serious psychic Hitlers and their hockey mask wearing matador ninja, while Darkstalkers was a goofy game where a mummy might turn you into a frog. And it had amazing sprite work with “morphing” fighters that stretch and distort and absolutely preclude their inclusion in any future, polygon-based titles. But they work well for chibi sprite work! So please enjoy the presence of Morrigan, Hsien-Ko, and Felicia! That’s one Darkstalker for every Darkstalker game produced! And at least one of those characters isn’t just weaponized fanservice (though she is mostly weapons)! Yay!

Donovan (appears only in Puzzle Fighter)

Get out of here, nerdDonovan is such a damn weirdo.

Okay, so here’s Donovan’s deal: he’s basically the Angel (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) of the Darkstalkers world. He’s a tortured half-demon that has made it his goal to hunt the wild and wacky Darkstalkers cast (or at least Vampire Savior). And there’s a twist! He’s got a little girl sidekick that is silent, creepy, and likely destined to destroy the world. There’s your hook, ladies and germs! Who doesn’t want to watch the tortured adventures of sullen wolf and cub? All aboard the glowering train! Choo choo!

Except… that isn’t what anybody wants from Darkstalkers. Darkstalkers is a game where you can ram a yeti into a merman at high speeds. This is not a place you want to see brooding, it’s a place you want to see giant bee people, or maybe Little Red Riding Hood with an uzi. Tortured soul with a sword is maybe not the best fit, even if the sword can talk.

So, I guess, with Puzzle Fighter trying to be a “smart” take on fighting games (that’s what a puzzle game is, doncha know), Capcom included its most morose character. However, Donovan did not return for Pocket Fighter, because, geez, what a downer.

Devilotte (appears only in Puzzle Fighter)

Princess Devilotte de Death Satan IX, daughter of Satan, originally appeared in Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, a 2-D fighting game about giant robots. This title never made it to the west in any capacity, though, because we know what we did. More’s the pity, because we never got to experience Devilotte, a character that was apparently designed as an homage to Dragon Quest’s Princess “Going to Be Punching You Now” Alena. Do… do you need to know anything more about this character? She’s basically a mix between Alena, Team Rocket, that one pirate from Mark of the Wolves, and Alice Liddell. And she communicates primarily through explosions! She’s the perfect character! No wonder she cameos in every other Capcom game.

BWA HA HA HA

… But she kinda didn’t have a moveset outside of her mech, so no Pocket Fighter Devilotte for you.

Zangief (appears only in Pocket Fighter)

Zangief’s invitation to Puzzle Fighter must have been lost in the mail. It’s not like he wasn’t requested for the puzzle game because he still hasn’t been able to figure out pants or something. He could compete in a puzzle game anytime he wants! Gems are not more complicated than bears!

Ibuki (appears only in Pocket Fighter)

A breath of fresh airAh, the requisite “shape of things to come” character. Ibuki was introduced in Street Fighter 3, and one would suppose her inclusion in Pocket Fighter was an attempt to further bolster the popularity of the future/death of the Street Fighter franchise. At the time, she was likely just the Street Fighter 3 character most likely to fit in the Pocket Capcom Universe, and one could bet that the more interesting parts of the SF3 roster would go on to appear in later titles. I mean, ninja school girl is cool an’ all, but how can that compete with stretchy electric albino man? Or the hulking marquee character? Or the unforgettable Captain Banana Hammock? Look, Ibuki just snuck in on a technicality, and that’s all there is to it.

And then she returned in Street Fighter x Tekken.

And was one of the few SF3 characters to sneak into Street Fighter 4.

And then she returned for Street Fighter 5!

God, I just want to fight Q again, but, noooooo, we have to deal with Sakura: The Next Generation over and over again. Bah! Go be stealthy somewhere else, you damn ninja!

Tessa (appears only in Pocket Fighter… like, ever)

Another nerdRed Earth aka Totally Bitchin’ War-Zard: The Battle for the Side of Metal Steve’s Van (insert guitar solo here) was a fighting game contemporary of Street Fighter 3. It was also never ported to a single home console, because Capcom makes awful decisions. This is a game where a lion-man wearing a loincloth can fight a dinosaur. And, no, I don’t mean like some Soulcalibur Lizard Man, I mean a freaking t-rex. And there’s a snail man that is a lot more interesting than the description “snail man” could ever allow. And there was Tessa, too, a witch woman who is “researching magic” by walloping a chimera with a magic staff. As you do.

Tessa snuck into Pocket Fighter likely for the same reason as Ibuki (let’s promote some new games!), but, unlike her Street Fighter buddy, no one recognized her from her origin game. No one. The audience of 1998 was mostly convinced she was an original character made just for this title. And that’s fine! She just kind of fails as a promotion for Red Earth when no one has a damn clue that game even exists. So… good hustle, Tessa?

Then again, did anyone realize Pocket Fighter existed? Super Puzzle Fighter 2 HD and a complete lack of a matching Pocket Fighter HD seems to point to a resounding “no” on that one. Guess Donovan beats Tessa in the grand history of fighting/puzzle games.

Laaaaaame.

FGC #355 Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

  • System: Playstation and Saturn (really!) initially, and a HD rerelease on Playstation 3/Xbox 360. Also, there was a Dreamcast version in Japan, because Capcom loved that lil’ loser.
  • Number of players: Two, which is simultaneously very common for puzzle games, and very unusual. “Head to Head Puzzle Title”.
  • FINISHPort-o-Call: Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD is supposedly the superior version, but it cuts out a lot of the little endearing details of the original. Everybody only gets one win quote, for one thing, and the sprite work looks downright fuzzy against otherwise HD gameplay. All that said, I did mostly play the HD version for this review, as it was inevitably going to capture better, even if it did drop the essential musical tempo changes.
  • Favorite Character (SPF2T Exclusive): Devilotte is number one with a bullet (giant robot). On a slightly related note, where did that “anime laugh” thing originate? You know, with the holding your hand below your chin and laughing like Marie Antoinette? Just curious.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I stole this game from my buddy Sean. He hasn’t noticed yet. Wait, no, he’s noticed, but every time it comes up, I distract him by talking about the president. The system works!
  • Did you know? The console (though not HD) versions of the game include Mei-Ling and Anita as hidden characters… but they were already palling around with Hsien-Ko and Donovan, so they’re more or less just easter eggs. On the other hand, who didn’t enjoy seeing Orange Hulk and Red Venom in Marvel vs. Capcom?
  • Would I play again: Odds are good, as this is one of the few puzzle games that actually has some recognition among the locals. And it’s loaded on the Playstation 3 anyway…

FGC #355 Pocket Fighter

  • System: Playstation is my Pocket Fighter platform of choice, but Saturn, Arcade, and even Wonder Swan are also available. The Wonder Swan version doesn’t look that bad!… for a black and white title, anyway. Also, Pocket Fighter inexplicably popped up on the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology on Playstation 2, too.
  • Number of Players: It’s two. It’s always two.
  • What’s in a name: Wikipedia claims this game is known as Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix in North America, and is Pocket Fighter only in Japan. However, scroll up, see that American title screen, and tell me it says all that gem nonsense. I can still hear the silly “Pocket Fighter!” title announcement echoing in my head.
  • Get out of here, nerdSpeaking of Voice Acting: In Japan, apparently the narrated scenes for the opening and closing had full voice acting, and it just didn’t get translated for the trip across the sea. While this usually bothers me, I am almost certain I don’t need to hear Playstation-era voice acting for my favorite chibi street fighters.
  • Favorite Character (Pocket Fighter exclusive): Tessa seems to play the most like Blanka, and he was always my Street Fighter 2 main, so here we are. And now I can pretend I’m playing as Shining Chariot of Little Witch Academia, so that’s a plus, too.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: In two decades of Capcom fighting games, this is the only Capcom title where the women outnumber the men. Go ahead and figure out the reason for that.
  • Did you know? Dan’s official backstory is that, when he’s in a serious mood, he’s trying to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of Sagat (well, more like manslaughter, but still!). So, naturally, Dan’s default special attack in Pocket Fighter is attacking with the green, rotting corpse of his father like it’s (he’s?) a hammer. This makes Dan more well-adjusted than Batman.
  • Would I play again: I kinda love this game. Of all the Playstation fighting games (including the entire Alpha series and early Vs. titles) I think I’m most likely to play this one first. Strange but true! Then again, I’m also pretty strange…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen another Sonic game, and we’re going to race it up against a Mario game. You gotta go fast, after all. Please look forward to it!

Get out of here, nerd dad

FGC #340 Tekken 3

King of the Iron Fist, AgainVideogames always move forward, but is the past really the enemy?

As I’m writing this, Mario Odyssey is just around the corner, which makes it an unknown. Will the game be good? Bad? Previews have lied before, it could be anything! There is technically just as much of a chance as seeing the next Mario Galaxy as Mario is Missing. But one thing we do know is that it won’t look like this:

GLUB GLUB

In much the same way you don’t want to show your naked baby photos to a date, the old days of gaming are fairly embarrassing. Okay, yes, there is nostalgia for the “8-bit style”, and every once in a while we get a great “throwback” game like Shovel Knight or Mega Man 9/10, but those adventures are few and far between. The lamest of cell phone games do their best to have “high definition” graphics, and even something like Pokémon Go, a game that barely requires graphics at all, looks better than most of the Playstation 2 oeuvre. Videogames move forward because they must, and looking back (or releasing a product that is actively looking back as an artistic choice) should be about as successful as scoring your bald-headed granny a gig with Insane Clown Posse (this is not to say your grandmother could not be a thriving juggalo, I understand that is a very warm and welcoming community).

At first glance, Tekken 3, the third Tekken game released on the Playstation 1 (I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not like there were only three Final Fantasy games on the Playstation), seems to follow this same line of thinking. Tekken 3 was a very deliberate reboot for the series… or… perhaps that’s the wrong word? Tekken 3 is definitely a continuation of the Tekken universe (so this isn’t some alternate universe or a situation where Spock accidentally nuked the space-time continuum or anything), but from a gameplay perspective, this may as well be a reboot. Tekken 2 featured 25 characters (or thereabouts, depends on how you count model swaps), which was a fairly significant roster for 1995. Tekken 3 featured 23 (or so) characters, but only six of those characters were familiar faces from previous Tekken entries. Okay, again, that’s kind of an exaggeration, as characters like King and Kuma are just “the next generation” compared to some previous characters. Kuma II technically isn’t Kuma I, and Panda certainly has nothing to do with any of that.

WooooBut, as ever, a fighting game is defined by its roster, and this roster makes an obvious comment about the “old” roster. It’s old! Paul Phoenix has gone from the Ken of the series to a glory-seeking has-been (who, incidentally, got beat up by a bear), Lei looks like he’s getting too old for this shit, and Heihachi Mishima is your super powered grandpa. The only characters that stay youthful are the cryogenically frozen Nina and Anna, and that was only because videogames are lawfully forbidden from featuring women over 40 (that’s the explanation, right?).

The rest of the roster, meanwhile, is youth in spades. The new main character is Jin, the son of two former Tekken characters who behaves properly like a genetic mix of the duo. He comes with a love interest and new rival, and, yes, they’re all in high school. Then we’ve got Forest Law, son of Marshall Law (God I love that pun), King Jr., the protégé of King Sr., and Julia, adopted daughter of Michelle. The rest of the new characters seem to emphasize youth, with Eddy Gordo as a break-dancing hip hop gangsta octopus[citation needed], and Bryan as one of those topless zombies that all the kids seem to love. And the big boss is an “ancient evil” that has been resting for millennia, so, yes, the final battle is absolutely going to be a teenager beating up the oldest thing he can find.

But there’s very little to complain about with the youthfulness of Tekken 3, as it’s an improvement to the franchise in every way. Tekken and Tekken 2 seemed destined for the Virtua Fighter graveyard of games that are 3-D, technical, and not very fun at all for some reason. Tekken and Tekken 2 weren’t bad, and, in fact, they might have been some of the best 3-D fighters out there… but this was also during the era that “3-D fighter” was a completely new thing, and competing with the raw love some had for really creative games like Street Fighter Alpha or Darkstalkers was no simple task. Yes, Tekken 2 had a boxing dinosaur, but did it have an enchanted succubus battling a giant bee from hell? Tekken 3 turned the weird up to eleven, smoothed out the basic flow of a battle, improved the graphics, and tossed in a magical wooden man (and woman!) for good measure. YouthfulTekken 3 rode that youth wave to conquer the fighting world, and you’ll still find 30somethings wandering around local arcades talking about the wonders of that Yoshimitsu.

But Tekken 3 didn’t quite forget its past.

Tekken 3 was the final Tekken title on the Playstation 1. It might seem ridiculous now, but the original Playstation was kind of a big deal in its time, as it was Sony’s first foray into the videogame console market, and the first successful console to support CDs (sorry, Sega). And Tekken was right there at the start of the Playstation’s R U E adventures, complete with next gen, blocky as hell graphics and “a TV scorching 50 frames per second”. So it seemed only appropriate that Tekken 3 would find an apposite way to close out the generation (before kickstarting it again with Tekken Tag Tournament).

Tekken 3 included a pile of unlockables, as was the style at the time. Over half the roster is missing at the start, and then there is a Final Fight-esque beat ‘em up mode to be completed. And I’m pretty sure you had to do something ridiculous to score the one and only Tiger, too. But after earning the entire cast, you could beat the game with said cast, and gradually unlock all of their endings. And then, after all that was done, you finally earned a completed Theater Mode. And do you know what you could do with complete Theater Mode? You could pop in an old Tekken or Tekken 2 disc, and watch every ending in the entire franchise.

Never understood the shoe thingThis was unprecedented in videogames! This is still incredibly unusual! You, dedicated Tekken fan, are actually being rewarded for owning old games. In an industry that’s constantly pushing the new and… that’s it. Just the new. It doesn’t matter if the latest version is actually better than the previous game (or not), what’s important is that you buy the newest hotness, and trade in those old discs at Gamestop or some other wretched pawn shop. A game (and the people producing said game, obviously) actually remembering that older games even exist is amazing, and, simply a “theater mode” or not, it’s great to see a franchise remember its roots.

So, way to go, Tekken 3. In an industry obsessed with the latest thing, you managed to marry the new and old with aplomb. You truly are the King of the Iron Fist.

…. Whatever the hell that means.

FGC #340 Tekken 3

  • System: Playstation 1, though probably also available on every system produced by Sony. Vita? Sure, probably.
  • Number of players: Fight, fight, two players, always fight.
  • Yay Gon!Favorite Character: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Ending: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Game Mode: Tekken didn’t establish itself as Tekken until Tekken Ball, the only fighting match that requires a giant beach ball to win. Or… wait… did that happen in Dead or Alive?
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So, first of all, I managed to score my copy of Tekken 3 right before leaving on my freshman high school band trip to Myrtle Beach. Like, I literally bought it an hour before the bus left. So, since I naturally brought my Playstation along, our room was basically just all Tekken 3, all the time. Pretty sure the entire roster was unlocked before the second day. On the other hand, I distinctly recall my freshman crush looking over the instruction manual and noting, “Wow, that guy has a huge package”. “That guy” was Eddy Gordo, and I have been jealous of that digital beefcake ever since.
  • What is even happening here?Did you know? It sounds like a high school rumor, but Anna actually has two different endings. In America, Anna’s ending is a poolside bit of sibling rivalry where Nina has to watch her sister get the attention of all the boys. In Japan, the ending ends with Nina snapping Anna’s bikini, and we close on a triumphant Nina and a topless Anna. It’s true! It’s on youtube! My uncle told me!
  • Would I play again: There’s actually a Tekken 3 arcade cabinet in the retro section of my local arcade, and I’ve hit that a time or two. It’s a fun way to beat up a bear, so, yeah, I’ll play it again.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo! Good! I needed an excuse to try out that SNES Classic! Please look forward to it!