Tag Archives: shooter

FGC #337 Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil

Sing along!Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil is a videogame that was released last week (or so). It is, basically, a Contra/Gradius game with an extremely unique “old cartoons” art style. That’s it. That’s the game. Nothing revolutionary, nothing we haven’t seen before, just an old school, hard as heck game about the dangers of dealing with the devil (don’t do it).

And, somehow, I can’t toss a teacup without hitting another article about “what Cuphead means” or its greater sociological ramifications, or how difficult games are the gatekeepers of the industry, or whatever.

I’m sick of it. I just want to talk about how Cuphead is one of the best games, graphically and gameplay-wise, of 2017 (a year already chock full of amazing games). I want to say, “Dammit, look at this gorgeous nonsense. This is next gen. This is what I’ve wanted since I was five. This is all I need.”

So… uh… I may as well just say that.

Screw words, we’re just looking at GIFs today, because I’m going to bop back to this “article” every time I want to experience pure joy. Here are some random GIFs from Cuphead, boys and girls. Every single one is a delight.

Click here to download a bunch of Cuphead art directly into your brain…

FGC #266 Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy

Trevor!The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible game, and, should the Nintendo Switch crash and burn before we even get to see New Donk City, the Switch will be remembered fondly for its remarkable maiden voyage. Yes, there were other launch games, and, yes, Breath of the Wild is also available on the WiiU, but, for a healthy chunk of the gaming population, BoTW is always going to be the Switch, and you can’t buy that that kind of festering nostalgia. Like its ancestors, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and Wii Sports, BoTW is a game that is going to define gaming for a console generation. BoTW makes one thing clear: We’re here, we’re top tier, and we wanna ride some bears. While there are many, many reasons this is the case, it all boils down to the fact that, from the first moment and until Ganon is in the grave, BoTW is just plain impressive. And, when you’re the ambassador for a whole new videogame system, “impressive” might be more important than anything.

Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy is the least impressive console launch game in history.

The Atari Jaguar might be the worst videogame system ever released (and, as the owner of a Virtual Boy, I don’t use that phrase lightly). For those of you that missed the heady age of the Sega vs. Nintendo days, back during the 16-bit era, Atari attempted to reassert its console dominance with the release of the Jaguar, the first 64-bit gaming system. Unfortunately, that “64-bit” headline legally required asterisk after asterisk, and, spoilers, the system was “64-bit” in the same way that a “Diet Slim Jim” is healthy eating. Aside from the fact that most of the Atari Jaguar library was simply a collection of (marginally) upscaled 16-bit ports, the Jaguar also possessed what may have been the worst controller in gaming history. Look at this abomination:

What?

We’ve got three “action” buttons, a start/select, and a damned contemptible phone pad. What was the reasoning there? No one has ever enjoyed gaming on a phone pad (just ask anybody that tried those 1-900 “phone videogames” back in the 80s… not that I know anyone silly enough to try those things… on their parent’s credit cards… cough…), and it’s just few enough buttons to not work as a keyboard. I guess it could come in handy for a calculator-based videogame, but there is absolutely no part of that phrase that sounds fun at all. And heads up, holding that block of plastic is about as comfortable as attempting to beat Super Metroid with a particularly spiky rock. That is also on fire. And that fire burned off all your flesh and nerve endings long ago, so all you can do is sit and watch in horror as it consumes the last vestiges of your soul. And then your dog tells you she’s leaving you because you smell so horrible. Look, what I’m saying is that playing the Atari Jaguar is not in any way an enjoyable experience.

PEW PEWBut there were people that bought the Atari Jaguar. Not many, mind you, as the system was a flop the likes of which the world hadn’t seen since the last time Atari tried to make videogame consoles, but there was definitely a user base (and, to be clear, I was not an Atari Jaguar early adopter, because Nintendo Power didn’t tell me to buy this system I have excellent taste). This means that, technically, there had to be people that purchased their brand new 64-bit videogame system, and, in a desperate need to see all this new system had to offer, purchased Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, the only non-pack-in game available at the launch of the Atari Jaguar. This isn’t the demo game! This is the real McFur! The first real game for the first 64-bit system in gaming history. This is going to be marvelous!

And… it’s a lame Gradius clone.

But a shoot ‘em up could have worked! If you look at the Dreamcast (from a far-flung future where Sega crashed and burned as badly as Atari), it seemed to do well with showing off “next gen” graphics on vertical and missile-based shoot ‘em ups. Sure, we’re still talking about “primitive graphics” compared to the likes of Soulcalibur and… Sonic Adventure? Huh. Yeah, maybe a shoot ‘em up is the best way to go. After all, it started the Super Nintendo off well with Gradius 3. Do you remember that stage that was totally on fire? That was rad.

But Trevor McFur doesn’t even muster the raw graphical impressiveness of its 16-bit brethren. What we have here is a “space shooter” with levels that appear to be endless slogs in front of the most generic backgrounds available. There’s something distinctly… No need to dodgelow rent going on here, as if someone made one passable tile, and then copy and pasted it ad nauseam. All of the worlds start in space, which is penny-saver black, and then you’ve got the planets themselves, which are “generic sci-fi fantasy”, save the one level that is inexplicably just a child’s drawings. I guess it’s supposed to be a virtual world or something? Don’t know, don’t care. What I do know is that these stages all feature approximately three different enemies, and they’re repeated about as generously as their tiresome backgrounds. All told, it makes every level seem about five times longer than it really is, because you’ve literally seen everything a stage has to offer within its first few seconds. Except the bosses, which, legitimately, appear to be where the “64-bit graphics” of Trevor McFur went… except they have way too much life and the dumbest patterns, so even those showcase pieces crumble too dust (albeit, not nearly fast enough).

In short, there is nothing about Trevor McFur that encourages you to play the game.

And it’s funny how that complete blunder can sour you on an entire system. The Atari Jaguar has an awful controller, and its smattering of software was terrible. Trevor McFur was just the leader of the first vanguard, it’s not like (the other launch game) Cybermorph, Kasumi Ninja, Zool 2, or (ugh) Atari Karts ever did anything to rectify the situation. There was never any fun to be had on the Atari Jaguar, so it’s no surprise it crashed into the annals of Horrible Videogame History. And, yes, it all started with Trevor McFur, the least impressive launch game ever.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Trevor McFur was never a videogame. Perhaps Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy was nothing more than a warning to others in cartridge form. I suppose it’s a warning a number of people heeded.

FGC #266 Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy

  • System: Atari Jaguar. Just the Atari Jaguar.
  • Number of players: This kind of suffering can only be experienced by one person at a time.
  • What is even happening here?Favorite Powerup: Oh yeah, unless I’m missing a button here, there are a myriad of powerups available, but you have no control over which powerup is used at any given time. Maybe I’m supposed to touch that damn keypad? I’m not doing that. Regardless, one of the powerups summons a little ship dude to help out, and that’s a damn bit more useful than the magnet attack that drags monsters right into Trevor’s windshield.
  • Say something nice: I do like that there’s a full paragraph of “lore” for every planet and monster. They’re not really well thought out (there seems to be no distinguishing between a “planet” and a “moon”), but at least somebody tried the tiniest bit.
  • I just got that: Trevor McFur is a jaguar. Right. Duh.
  • Did you know? Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy was released the last day of November, 1993. Star Fox, a furry-based shoot ‘em up designed to showcase new videogame hardware, was released in North America on March 26, 1993.
  • Would I play again: Does anybody want a used Atari Jaguar?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Home Alone for the NES! Wow, ROB, really great picks here, champ. What’s next? Spice World 2? Bah, please look forward to even more fun!

Rawr

FGC #260 Giga Wing

So many wingsI remember the old days of entertainment. Back in that bygone age, the internet as we now know it didn’t exist, and “streaming” was a marvelous fantasy imagined only by those that had modems capable of downloading more than six JPEGs per day. While many of you younger readers are likely desperately attempting to imagine the full ramifications of that past (“where did centaur porn come from?”), consider that the older members of the audience know exactly the trials of those troubling times. And, should you speak to one of those elders, you might hear tales of days when the entire viewing guide for Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t available at all times on a device you keep in your coat pocket. This made television watching very hard! If you missed an episode, you just had to hope you caught it again in the ol’ rerun cycle (maybe TNT picked up the show for 24 hour syndication), or you were out of luck. Do you know how difficult it was to watch The X-Files? Every time you’d tune in, you’d hope to get some new information on that smoking dude, but, no, it was that damn episode about the guy with the tail. X-Files was never good! Everyone tuned in every week hoping against hope that this was a new episode, and by the time you realized it was a repeat, well, it was Friday night, not much else to do, anyway, may as well stick around. Ratings blockbuster!

Though I suppose one advantage of living through that unenlightened time is that it instilled in my generation an inescapable feeling of… hm, there’s probably a German word for this… solace in not knowing everything. For an easy, nerdy example, look no further than Sailor Moon. Here’s a series that premiered daily every morning before school. Unlike, say, Sonic the Hedgehog the Cartoon, Sailor Moon was a (mostly) serial story, with new characters appearing, old villains being defeated, and the occasional “arc” that would end and lead to some kids playing a flute for some reason. In modern “binge” thinking, it seems like skipping even one episode of a serial story is tantamount to forgetting your mother’s birthday, yet, back then, if it was revealed that Tuxedo Mask was actually that dude that occasionally dresses like Dracula and now he’s evil for some reason, and you missed it, meh, you got on with your life and watched the next episode. This dude that is named after a rock is actually a dudette in the Japanese version? Neat. Doesn’t matter, though, this episode is about a blue version of Garfield. To be clear, it’s not that we reveled in our ignorance (that is a luxury that can only be afforded to modern man), simply that we acknowledged there were things we’d never know, and we moved on. It could be confusing, but it worked.

pew pewGiga Wing is a colorful Capcom shooter for the Sega Dreamcast. It vaguely resembles another beloved Capcomian shoot ‘em up, 1942, and, considering the Dreamcast didn’t have that many games (ever), it was likely to sneak into your average DC owner’s collection. Giga Wing, technically, had no barrier to entry: it was not “the latest in the franchise”, it did not feature some abstruse control scheme or 3-D “upgrade” of old play styles. It was, simply, a new shoot ‘em up, which puts it in a genre that barely needs more than one button. Bundle in two player, simultaneous co-op mode, and this seems like a game that could be the easiest “pick up and play” game on the system since SoulCalibur.

Unfortunately, while America wasn’t looking, the shoot ‘em up genre changed a little bit.

You’re likely familiar with the phrase “bullet hell shooter”. For those of you that have avoided the genre, it basically describes any game where there are approximately infinity “bullets” on the screen at any given moment, and you must steer your lil’ space ship deftly through the hail of death to avoid a practically inevitable crash landing into flaming wreckage. In a way, this is the logical endpoint of the “dodge everything” areas of Gradius and alike, but, on the other hand, it’s nigh a genre onto itself. While shoot ‘em up skills are valuable in a bullet hell game, a true bullet hell experience effectively begs for its own very specific skill set. And really good eyes, too. Dem bullets are tiny.

Pewin'But it’s not difficult to spot the evolution of the bullet hell. Obviously, you needed to wait until systems could process 7,00,00,000 little glowing balls of death on the screen at a time, so the genre didn’t really get going until the 90s. Many point toward Batsugun as the start of the fire, but DonPachi is practically the Super Mario Bros. of the field. And then there’s Radiant Silvergun, probably best known as the predecessor to Ikaruga, one of the best bullet hells in all the cosmos. There are plenty of famous/infamous bullet hell games that preceded Giga Wing.

… Only problem is that they were all released exclusively in Japan. Whoops.

So, for anyone that scored a copy of Giga Wing back in the Summer of 2000, the experience was… kind of confusing. Giga Wing offers infinite and instant continues, which is ideal, but if you’re someone that doesn’t enjoy their own death, it can get pretty frustrating, pretty fast. The opening stages are manageable, but, for anyone expecting “1942: The Next Generation”, well, bad news, but I don’t think the Allies are winning this war. This is a bullet hell game through and through, and that means that it requires more practice than it takes to get to Carnegie Hall. And, for whatever reason, we’re following Metal Slug rules here, so every continue means a reset to your high score, and good bloody luck surviving long enough to climb to that top of that score table. Entering into a bullet hell without any advance warning is just as welcoming as walking into actual hell. Abandon all hope ye who load this disc.

Luckily, that didn’t matter.

BAMWhen you come from a background of… solace in obliviousness, it’s a lot easier to deal with the unexpected. This is what shoot ‘em ups look like now? Okay, cool, yeah, I guess that makes sense. Let’s see what this game is about. There’s barely any internet, so I can’t check online reviews or message boards to see what people are talking about, and I’m the only person in this town with a damn Dreamcast, so I can’t ask my friends. I guess I’ll just play it? Sure I’ve died a lot, but I also beat the game with that one character, so let’s see if it’s any easier with this one over here. Hey, maybe I’ll call Vinnie and we’ll try out the two player mode. Hey, this is pretty fun when you get used to it…

And so it goes. The ignorance of not having other’s opinions or any context for what the hell is actually going on here pushes you to move forward, and, the game’s already here on my system, may as well try it. Sure you missed a couple of episodes, and, yes, you might enjoy it more with more information, but you can muddle through all the same. And, in the end, you might find something you enjoy, even if you’ll never know anything more about it.

Buuuut you’ve got the internet now, so just go ahead and sit back and let me tell you about every game ever. What’s next, ROB?

FGC #260 Giga Wing

  • System: Sega Dreamcast. There’s also apparently an arcade version in some magical fairy land on the other side of the rainbow.
  • Number of players: Two! With infinite credits! Fun times are here again!
  • Odd problem I apparently have: I keep typing Wiga Ging. When did that start happening?
  • Favorite Flyer: I like the redhead. What’s her name? She’s a sky pirate? Ruby? No, that sounds too generic. Probably thinking of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Oh well, no matter. What matters is that she shoots straight and lights the entire screen ablaze. Now that’s a bullet inferno!
  • Engrish time: What in blazes is this supposed to mean?

    So true

    Is “the true meaning of ruins” going to be the subject of an afterschool special?

  • Did you know? There’s a Giga Wing 2 that was also released here, and a Giga Wing Generations that is effectively Giga Wing 3. It was only released in Japan and Europe, though. Does Europe have a larger fanbase for shooting games? That seems like a weird cultural divide.
  • Would I play again: I think I need to get a wife or roommate or something, because this is another game I want to couch co-op with somebody, but it’s not like I’m inviting anyone over to do that. Other than that, I probably won’t play this again, as there are modern, possibly fairy-based bullet hells available.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Spice World for the Sony Playstation! Ah ha ha… What!? I have got to stop hoarding videogames while drunk. That’s what I want. What I really, really want. Please look forward to it?

So true
I pretty much just like games where stuff explodes.

FGC #252 Kid Icarus: Uprising

I'm walking on airKid Icarus was a formative NES action game. Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was the portable sequel that continued with similar, improved mechanics. Twenty years later, Kid Icarus: Uprising was released.

And Kid Icarus: Uprising is bonkers.

Say what you will about things getting stale, but with Nintendo franchises, you generally know what you’re going to get. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros, two Mario releases separated by decades, might not seem terribly similar to some magical human being that has never seen a videogame before, but, once you start steering Mario around the Mushroom Kingdom/Universe, it’s clear that both games come from the same base run/jump/stomp concepts. This continues through basically the whole Smash Bros cast: The Legend of Zelda is for exploring/swordplay, Donkey Kong is for simple jumping and running, Captain Falcon and F-Zero are for racing, and Metroid is for metroiding. Yes, there are spin-offs and outliers, but Star Fox is always for shootin’, even when your arwing can fold up like origami.

So you’d be forgiven if you were expecting the first Kid Icarus game in ages to be at all similar to the prior two experiences. But it turns out this Pit doesn’t need a jump button. And speaking of which, the control scheme is optimized for this guy…

Gimme some sugar

If you have less than four hands, bad news, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Masahiro Sakurai, creator of Kid Icarus: Uprising, considers his creation to be a shooting game. That is… generally accurate? Half of every level takes place in the sky (or an approximation thereof), with heroic Pit blessed with flight by Goddess Palutena. During these sections, conceptually, you are basically playing Star Fox, and the 3DS adapts well to fight and flight mechanics. Heck, there’s a reason Star Fox 64 3D was one of the first 3DS games: the 3DS seems practically made for 3-D shooting galleries. Pit, with his wings and arrows, adapts well to the role, and you could easily make the argument that this is a “modern” version of Kid Icarus’s iconic final stage. And, let’s be real here, that section probably was the best part of Kid Icarus (or the only part where any kid ever accomplished anything…) . So, yes, okay, let’s make a Kid Icarus shooting game.

Except… eventually Pit lands. Palutena’s blessing can’t last forever, and Pit must explore the second half of most levels planted firmly on the ground. Maybe there’s a tower to scale, maybe there’s a dungeon to explore, but it must be done on foot, and jumping and flying is right out. It’s here that KI:U’s control scheme gets crazy, and… why can’t he just control like a normal Nintendo hero, again?

TANK!The on foot sections of KI:U are probably best described as “experimental”. If you’re breaking this down to its core components, you’re pretty much looking at an innovative way to control a FPS hero… but in a 3rd person perspective. It’s… cumbersome. And it takes a little getting used to. Actually, it takes a lot of getting used to, and I swear the level designers know it. Some of the more demanding sections include honest-to-God walking puzzles. For those that missed the fun, that’s a challenge, usually involving narrow ledges, where you can “fail” because you did not walk correctly. That’s not something that should ever be in a videogame, because walking should be as easy as… walking. If a toddler can master something (if Dirk the Daring can master something) it should not be a remote challenge in any kind of videogame. But it seems like Angel Land has a hero or two with some manner of vertigo, so constricted walkways might be a problem. Maybe Pit had eggplants for brains a few too many times.

And it’s not just the controls that might repel a new player. There is a weapon upgrade system that is… opaque seems a little too gentle. Completely insane? You can buy new weapons by offering hearts (currency) as tribute, but all the good weapons are available via a weapon combining system that… I have no idea what is going on. There are star ratings for various weapons, but there are different types of weapons, and Pit’s shooting style changes dramatically from one weapon to another. Yes, this sword is powerful, but it would mean giving up a pair of orbs that shoot homing missiles. And the sword doesn’t “shoot” at all? But it reflects shots? Well, is that going to be at all useful in the next level that I know nothing about? Can I try before I buy? No? Hey, it’s not like the average level lasts fifteen minutes or so…

WeeeeOh, and determining the “difficulty” for a level before you play it? And it’s a one to ten incremental system? I’m sorry, what’s the difference between this stage being level 4.5 difficult versus 4.7 difficult? I can understand the difference between “Normal” and “Hard”. I’ll even tolerate a “Very Hard” or “Professional” mode. But decimals? Just show me exactly where the bar is for “world is filled with invincible skull heads”, and I’ll choose the next level lower than that. ‘Kay? Thanks.

But all of this insanity is not why Kid Icarus: Uprising is bonkers. What’s bonkers is how much, despite everything in this game, you will want to play more.

Kid Icarus, more than any other Nintendo game, is a playable cartoon. And that’s not because of dialogue boxes or “the plot”; it’s about the simple, instant rapport between Pit and Goddess Palutena. From the first moment, they’re chatting over the action while “you” are playing the game. Occasionally, a villain breaks into the narrative to hurl insults. As episodes progress, various other characters join the fray, and, while you’re busy with a grim reaper or two, Pit ‘n Pally are going through their comedy routine. And then, as it inevitably must, Pit gets real in later stages, Palutena is absent, and “lesser” goddesses have to pick up the slack. It’s not the same, and that’s not a bug, but a feature. When, after fifteen stages of having Palutena in your corner, she’s suddenly missing, you notice. You notice, and you notice it sucks. Where’d my goddess go!?

VroomAnd it’s in this manner that Kid Icarus: Uprising worms its way into your heart. Its systems may be dense, its controls may be some manner of hand-torture, but it contains some of the most instantly approachable and sympathetic characters in gaming. Considering Pit didn’t have very much to say in his initial adventures past, “I’m finished!” it’s a rather significant accomplishment that KI:U makes a better case for Kid Icarus: The Animated Series than every other Nintendo mascot. And these are the best mascots gaming has to offer! Pit is standing in the heavens of the gaming hall of fame, and it’s all thanks to one game.

One game that is nothing like its forbearers and is attached to impossibly janky controls. It’s… kind of bonkers.

FGC #252 Kid Icarus: Uprising

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. Given the direction of Nintendo’s “handheld market”, this game might never see another release again. It really is 100% geared toward the 3DS, which is kind of an accomplishment in itself.
  • Number of players: There’s a multiplayer “fight” mode here (as is proper to Sakurai games), and some sort of co-op thing, but I’ve never met anyone else with a copy of KI:U handy, so I can’t really speak to how it all plays. All I know is that it was mysteriously implicated in a number of cases of boneitis back in 2012.
  • Think of the Centurions: Palutena’s army, the noble centurions, are just as fragile as ever. And Palutena notes that they are disposable… but you’ll feel bad if they die. And, dammit, she’s right. Poor lil winged dudes…
  • Metroidian: Despite the presence of space pirates and “metroids”, there is no relation between Kid Icarus and Metroid.
    NONE

    None.
  • Just play the gig man: It’s a good thing Super Smash Bros. 4 got to reuse a lot of this music, as it is phenomenal. Sakurai doesn’t seem to direct games with half-assed soundtracks.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: Male deities seem to come in all shapes and sizes, but I’ve noticed a peculiar trend with the goddesses of KI:U.

    Wankery Week never ends

    With the exception of Medusa, it seems like every heavenly being of the female variety could double as Pit’s “playful” older sister. Actually, to put a point on it, Palutena is the older sister, and the rest of the women are her cool friends that jokingly flirt and tease the dweeby Pit. Or maybe it’s just the spirit of fanfic coming upon me again. Could go either way.

  • Did you know? Viridi is the one recurring character that appears in “chat scenes” but is never directly fought. Dark Pit, Hades, Medusa, and even your own allies appear on the opposite side of Pit’s sword-bow at one time or another, but Viridi is always on the sidelines. Guess it helps to have your own army.

  • Would I play again: My hand is a little knotted right now… Maybe after a little healing…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze! Guess we’re on a Nintendo kick again, ROB? Or maybe you’re just looking for a banana smoothie? Whatever the case, it’s time to roll around with some Kongs. Please look forward to it!

DO IT!