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FGC #443 Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

NOTE: This article contains spoilers for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. I’ll be light on the spoilers for Bloodstained… but I will have to reveal the identity of the final boss/finale. You’ve been warned!

Here she comes!Now let us compare the feminist themes of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.

In so much as a videogame can have a central “visionary”, we’re going to blame Koji Igarashi for a number of games for which he was writer, director, producer, or all of the above. So let’s produce a list of games credited to IGA…

  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
  • Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
  • Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
  • Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth
  • Otomedius Excellent: For Some Reason
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

That’s a lot of Castlevania! And, of all those Castlevania games, exactly one game had a solo playable female character. Other than that? Yoko got to stretch her legs in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, but she was permanently tied to an amnesiac and a dhampir. Charlotte was half of the duo of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, but there was still no Charlotte (“Charlotte!”) without Jonathan (“Jonathan!”). And what of every other woman in IGA’s Castlevania universe? Well, they’re all either shopkeeps, damsels to be distressed, or literal monsters. The final boss is never a woman (okay, it’s always Dracula, but it’s always a man summoning Dracula), the rival character is never a woman, and a lot of Wallachian women don’t even have walking animations. And that’s pretty depressing, particularly given we were coming off Rondo of Blood, where Maria kicked unholy amounts of ass before being relegated to crushing on Alucard in its (IGA-penned) sequel.

So, suffice to say, one might be forgiven for not having much hope for Shanoa, star of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia or Miriam, lead of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. In fact, it’s entirely possible both of those games are rather disgusting from a feminist (or even just human) perspective, as… Can we take a minute to review how these characters gain new abilities? The stars of many Igavanias simply collected equipment (incidentally, all of these stars were male). Soma of the Sorrow duology gathered souls from defeated monsters, but these souls were happy little wisps that Soma “devoured” while light-headedly puttering around. And the anti-hero of Curse of Darkness forged his own monsters in a proactive manner. Meanwhile, our female leads have to stand around and absorb magical glyphs into their exposed backs (and there’s an odd emphasis in the dialogue on the word “flesh”), or, we’ve got Bloodstained’s…

That stings

And, just in case you though that little flourish was there for some “horror” graphical curlicue, Miriam elaborates on the feeling of absorbing a shard:

Owie

So, congratulations, player! Every time you gain a new skill to advance Miriam on her quest, you are literally torturing her.

That’s… not a great thing to see happen to your female protagonist. It’s an even worse thing when not a single male in the “horror” series suffered violent repercussions for, ya know, amassing powerups.

And, yes, we’re also dealing with worlds where literally every other woman involved in the plot is either a monster or… nonexistent. Shanoa has three other important people in her life: the guy fighting Dracula, the guy reviving Dracula, and Dracula. Miriam at least has one other (adult) woman in the plot, but the finale reveals that she was Dracula (at least She-Dracula) all along. In both cases, there are random female NPCs standing around and dispensing sidequests (so we’re at least on better footing than the first six Star Wars films), but it’s still pretty noticeable that there’s an unmistakable testosterone cloud floating around every character that is actually relevant.

But at least there are catgirl monsters skulking about! There are always catgirl monsters for some reason!

Add it all up, and you would likely expect Order of Ecclesia and Ritual of the Night to be equally abhorrent when it comes to portraying a healthy 51% of the population. But what if I told you that Ritual of the Night is a significant improvement over Order of Ecclesia? Koji Igarashi actually learned something in ten years!

This is offensiveOn the surface level, Shanoa of OoE and Miriam of RotN are remarkably similar…

FGC #441 Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II

Here comes some starsThe original StarTropics game was an action/RPG hybrid that saw young Mike Jones venture through some ill-defined “South Seas” Caribbean-esque tropical venues. Mike traversed caves, spoke to parrots, and eventually discovered the source of all of his woes were mysterious aliens. The aliens are well established as antagonists from early on, though (StarTropics), so they’re not completely out of left field in this otherwise mundane adventure about Mike exploring some deadly vacation destinations. In a time when NES titles were often incredibly bonkers, Mike’s quest was arguably simply a much more ordinary Legend of Zelda.

And then we got StarTropics 2. And it was insane-o cuckoo banana pants crazy.

So, in the interest of properly conveying the plot and further adventures of Mike Jones, please enjoy these 30 unmodified images from my playthrough of StarTropics 2. It’s pretty straightforward!







Let’s see what else happens to Mike…

FGC #432 Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

AND YOU HAVE MY AXEAnd now we’re going to talk about the slimy underbelly of the concept of games preservation: The Legends.

…. And why they suck.

Golden Axe is an interesting series. It started in 1989 as a medieval arcade beat ‘em up. Golden Axe was a pretty fun experience, but it also had the misfortune of being released the same year as the vastly more popular Final Fight. Golden Axe wasn’t exactly a bad game by comparison, but chicken riding and the occasional magic spell somehow didn’t catch the public’s interest in the face of a malevolent version of Animal from The Muppets. When Golden Axe hit the Genesis, it was just a year until we saw Streets of Rage, a vastly and obviously more popular title of the same genre. And then its sequel, Golden Axe 2, had the significant handicap of being released on the same system during the same year as Streets of Rage 2. Decades later, people are still talking about the tight design of Streets of Rage 2. No one is talking about Golden Axe 2.

But Golden Axe 2 wasn’t terrible. In fact, Golden Axe 2 holds a special place in my heart, as, back in the day, my beat ‘em up-addicted neighbor and myself (am I trying to imply that I don’t have a beat ‘em up addiction after writing about four of ‘em over the course of the last month or so?) played Golden Axe 2 solid for nearly an entire year (which is like twelve billion centuries in kid time). GA2 was a two player beat ‘em up that featured a dwarf and murder skeletons, so it obviously had something going on. And, while we barely ever made it to the finale (damn limited credits), we played that title over and over again, because it was just the right kind of mindless fun that is perfect when you’re a kid. You can ride a beast! You can run really fast and headbutt a soldier with a pointy hat! Murder skeletons! That’s some good stuff!

But my holy grail? That was a creature I only ever saw once, hiding in some smoky arcade while crossing the country on vacation. Once, lurking there in the darkness, I saw Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.

SKELETONS!Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder was released right around the same time as Golden Axe 2. Presumably, it was a divergent title that utilized the full capability of an arcade machine while leaving Golden Axe 2 to wallow in the muck of the Sega Genesis. GA:TRoDA featured branching paths for levels, vertically scrolling areas, and big, impressive sprites. It was a game that had infinitely branching possibilities, and four distinct playable characters that could halt the revenge of Death Adder simultaneously. It was the platonic ideal of Golden Axe. I might have only gotten to play the game for a credit before being pulled back to I-95, but I knew that Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder was the future of the amazing Golden Axe franchise.

But GA:TRoDA never made its way to home consoles. It was never released for the Sega Genesis, Sega CD, or even the Dreamcast. It was not emulated to any Sega collections. It was not released on any Virtual Consoles. It was simply lost to history, a shining relic of the Golden Axe franchise that would one day ask us all to become beast riders. GA:TRoDA fell between the cracks of time, and, in my mind, became a legend of a game that we would always pine for with an unrequited longing.

So I decided to give Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder a spin for this theme week of forgotten games. And you know what? It kind of sucks!

ROCK OUTThere was exactly one thing I remembered perfectly about Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder: there’s a centaur. She’s a horse-lady, she’s got an American Gladiator bopper, and she can switch to regular human legs when she needs to ride a fire-breathing mantis (… what?). However, my memory failed to remember that Dora the Centaur is also joined by Stern the Barbarian (who apparently did not star in any other Golden Axe games despite looking exactly like the other barbarians), Trix the Elf (who is clearly some weird amalgamation of breakfast cereal mascots), and Goah the Giant, who is at best Goah the Maybe Would be Good at Basketball, but is rode around by Gilius Thunderhead, dwarven hero of the previous Golden Axe titles. And that’s a pretty eclectic group! Too bad they all… just play like Golden Axe characters. There are apparently some two-player shenanigans that are available with pairing up, but that’s not going to do any good in single player or in an arcade where it is impossible to shout over the rolling noise of much more popular machines. And, whether your fighters have any interesting moves or not is rather secondary to the glut of absolutely boring opponents that are available. I played this game a whole hour before writing this article, and… I’m having trouble remember exactly what I fought. There were some malevolent trees, and an army of the mask guy from World Heroes… and… uh… I think there was an ogre or two in there? Certainly a number of useless soldiers, but they are available in practically any medieval brawler. Murder skeletons are a given, but they’re on the home consoles, too. And the final boss, the titular Death Adder wielding the Golden Axe atop a castle that appears to be a giant statue of himself, is pretty memorable. Everything else? Not so much.

You'll never get me lucky charmsYet, I spent decades thinking this title, never released on home consoles, was some kind of solid gold Golden Axe gold standard (of gold). It was the beat ‘em up to end all beat ‘em ups, and we were cruelly denied such a glittering jewel, forever stuck with the likes of Golden Axe III (originally only released in the West on the Sega Channel because it sucked so bad) or The Last Action Hero. These were games that were sorely lacking in centaurs! And, while I wondered about the joys an arcade cabinet of The Revenge of Death Adder could bring me, the beat ‘em up genre withered and died on the vine. I would never see such delight ever again.

And then, years later I played the damn game, and it was boring and rote.

And then I played Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, and, apparently, that was the game I was thinking of all along.

I thought there were shops in Golden Axe! Sorry!

Anyway, someone please make every videogame ever readily accessible, or this is going to keep happening. Please and thank you.

I really don’t want to take a chance on playing arcade Willow now…

FGC #432 Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

  • System: Arcade only, dammit.
  • Number of players: Four! I want to say that other Golden Axes had a maximum of three… but probably just two. Four is important! That’s how many turtles there are!
  • Get 'em!It’s a kind of magic: This is the only Golden Axe title where a magic spell can summon a helpful item, and not just universally attack the screen. Trix the Elf can summon a tree that grants life giving, magically delicious fruit for the party. This adds an interesting “magic equals life” wrinkle to the gameplay… but most of the time you just reflexively hit the magic button when you’re surrounded, and wind up with a lousy bush instead of a mighty dragon. Good effort, Trix.
  • Favorite Character: Did I mention there was a centaur? Dora has all the power of a woman and a horse. And she seems to have really useful magic, too. There is literally no competition among the men here.
  • An End: Gilius Thunderhead leaps from his giant mount and dies delivering the final blow to Death Adder. This is apparently canon for future sequels, and the fighting game, Golden Axe: The Duel, makes reference to this fact. So, see, all those Saturn owners needed a home port to understand the complicated plot of Golden Axe!
  • Did you know? The hero of Golden Axe: Beast Rider is Tyris Flare, the same Valkyrie that appeared in Golden Axe I and Golden Axe II. Even though she doesn’t appear in this game, I’m noting this now because I am absolutely never reviewing Golden Axe: Beast Riders.
  • Would I play again: There are different routes and characters, so every playthrough is different. But not different enough! I can only fight so many murder skeletons, so I’ll pass on another play of this forgotten title.

What’s next? One last non-random choice: Let’s talk about a “forgotten” game that recently came back to us in a marvelous little collection. Please look forward to it!

BANG

FGC #430 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

GRAPHICS!When I am a wistful old man (estimated arrival date: twelve minutes from now) I will tell my children and grandchildren and whatever poor ragamuffin is forced to mow my lawn about my younger days. I will speak of the birth of the internet as we know it (or knew it). I will speak of LiveJournal. I will speak of Mario and Link and Sonic and Bubsy. I will speak of all things that remind me of my youth, my better days, the days when I thought anything was possible. The days when I was not hardened to this uncaring world, and I believed, yes, truly believed that we were heading toward a future that accommodated my generation and me, and that, finally, people who grew up saving princesses and reassembling triforces were coming into the sort of power I had only seen possessed by my parents and their parents before them. I was young, young man, and I believed the world would soon be my oyster.

And what fueled that misguided belief? Scott Pilgrim, and the world of merchandise that accompanied its brief stay at the top.

This paragraph is really going to make me wish I learned how to properly distinguish a character and a title… Okay, for anybody here that is just hearing about Scott Pilgrim for the first time (hi, lawn ragamuffin), Scott Pilgrim was a series of six graphic novels drawn and written by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It chronicled the story of the titular Scott Pilgrim, a dude who is aimlessly frittering away his 20s, but meets the literal woman of his dreams at a party. Said woman, Ramona, unfortunately has a history containing seven evil exes, and now Scott Pilgrim must win his lady love’s heart by defeating her entire dating history. In the end, the story becomes one about growing up and learning that maybe you’re kind of a dingus, and the journey of defeating seven evil exes was really the friends we made along the way.

Vs the ZombiesAnd that is super important to the following statement: I love Scott Pilgrim. I love the books, I love the concept, I even love the amiable loser himself, Scott Pilgrim. At the time the story was being released, I completely identified with Scott Pilgrim. And that’s kind of horrifying! Scott Pilgrim is an affable young lad, but, as the story all but outright states on a number of occasions, he’s also a self-centered dick. He enjoys videogames, he reads comics, he plays in a rock band: just like me! He also has predatory, selfish dating habits, and thinks nothing of ditching literally everyone he knows if he thinks it serves some greater purpose of advancing one of his own relationships. Just like me! Shit. That can’t be good. But since one moral of the story is that Scott Pilgrim can learn to grow out of being Scott Pilgrim, it is likely safe to even compare yourself to Scott. Sure, I’m a straight, white male that is kind of a mess, but eventually I’m going to have my hero moment, and mature out of it. Sure! That makes sense. The alternative is, what, to be a juvenile, self-serving nitwit until you eventually become a 70 year old man that is incidentally President of the United States. That’s crazy! Scott is Canadian!

Okay, so maybe the Scott Pilgrim series is, pretty much by design, selfish. In creating a character that is the perfect encapsulation of a 20-something from my generation, BAM created a monster attached to a moral that only exists at the end of six books that took six years to be released. It is very easy in such a situation to never see that all-important character denouement, and simply focus on how Scott is cool and plays videogames and apparently hot women with fantastical weapons literally throw themselves at the guy. It is very easy to be white, male, and straight (editor’s note: that should be the entire sentence) and see Scott as less a directionless gremlin that unintentionally hurts everyone in his immediate vicinity, and much more of a champion that is involved in a simple hero’s journey that involves seven obvious evil bosses. And, yes, even if you acknowledge Scott Pilgrim to be selfish, it is rather dangerous to hang your ego on the Scott Pilgrim media empire.

But, for the summer of 2010, I did just that.

Roar!Make no mistake; I never wanted to be Scott Pilgrim. However, I already loved the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, and the news that Scott Pilgrim would be receiving its final volume, a movie directed by Edgar Wright, and a videogame all in the same year left me fairly elated. Everything was coming up Bob!

And it’s worth noting just how amazing the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was to anyone that happened to be exactly me. To quote the IMDB trivia page for the movie:

“Edgar Wright obtained permission to use the famous theme song from the SNES game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991), by writing a letter to Nintendo, saying that it is considered to be ‘the nursery rhyme of this generation’.”

And that about sums it up. Scott Pilgrim is a movie based on a graphic novel about a guy that plays videogames, and the film itself soaks in videogame references. And, while such a thing could be incredibly shallow in the hands of another director, Edgar Wright knew that videogames weren’t just a “thing” for a certain group of people, it was a language. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was more fluent in that language than any other cunning linguist could ever hope to be. In fact, it is nearly impossible to properly convey the level of focus involved in SPvTW. The film may have starred a crappy protagonist propelled by the most self-serving of white male fantasy plots (fight boys to win the girl!), but it may as well have been designed in a universe where only I exist.

It was stimulating, to say the least.

BAAAAAASS BAAAATTLEAnd, of course, there was the tie-in game (which, if I remember correctly, is actually what this article is about). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a beat ‘em up in the style of River City Ransom. And that makes perfect sense! The graphic novel distinctly references River City Ransom on numerous occasions, and, at the time, there wasn’t a River City Ransom spin-off title released every other week (anyone play that medieval themed one? No, not Dragon’s Crown). And it’s a beat ‘em up! Those are easy! Sailor Moon could do that! Couple that with gorgeous pixel art by Paul Robertson, and a criminally underrated soundtrack, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was certainly a worthy tie-in title for a movie/graphic novel. It was by no means a perfect game (SPvTW seemed to be the modern start of the “home beat ‘em up” trend… and didn’t quite know what to do with leveling and such), but, in a world where at least one movie tie-in videogame once doomed the entire genre for a generation (Atari 2600 phone home), it was an amazingly fun way to enjoy the wave of Scott Pilgrim merchandise flowing from the all-encompassing media ocean.

But now, like the ebb and flow of that media sea, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 has gone out with the tide, never to be seen again.

Scoot over to Amazon right now, and you can search for Scott Pilgrim merchandise. You may download Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Movie, and watch it immediately. You may also order it with two-day shipping. Of course, you can also order the books in black and white and color formats, either as a set, or as individual graphic novels. The original movie soundtrack is available on vinyl. That same soundtrack is available as a CD, or a collection of MP3 downloads. Additionally, there is another soundtrack available for just the “score” of the film. On top of that, and most painfully, the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is available as a series of MP3 downloads. Then there are the usual assortments of random clothing options, and, finally, a number of Funko Pops. Available for a little over $25 is the Funko Pop! SDCC 2017 Summer Convention Exclusive Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Nega Scott Vinyl Figure. It is a Funko Pop based on a character that appears for approximately two minutes of screen time in the film. It is available for purchase. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is not.

ORBSSPvTW was delisted from Xbox and Playstation storefronts as of January 1, 2015. The game was available for about four years, and, when Ubisoft’s license expired, it was determined it was not profitable for anyone to continue to support even the sale of the title. The game was tied to a movie that was no substantial hit, so it was simply dropped. As the game had received no physical release prior to its delisting, it then ceased to exist. The only way to play the game was to have purchased and downloaded the game sometime around 2010-2014, and then prayed for the rest of days that that hard drive never failed. For anyone else that doesn’t want to lurk around the seedier corners of the net, it’s simply gone forever, unlikely to ever return.

And, maybe, that’s about what we should expect. The summer of 2010, complete with its deluge of Scott Pilgrim merchandise, is nearly a decade gone now. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may have been a movie specifically made only for me… but that didn’t exactly translate to substantial ticket sales (I only went twice, and I’m sorry). SPvTW may have been speaking my language… but it was an evolutionary dead-end in 2010. Avengers, Star Wars, and other “nerd” properties might be at the top of the heap right now, but their general detachment from sincerity gives this audience of one an entirely different feeling. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an entirely singular experience. It seems only right that its accompanying game is now lost forever.

But this old man doesn’t think that’s right at all. Now get off my lawn.

FGC #430 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

  • System: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Well… Once upon a time…
  • Number of players: Four! That’s the best number of players!
  • ERRORA Videogame’s Videogame: SPvTW integrates a number of references to other famous games, both great and small. Everyone likely recognizes the red dripping of Mega Man 2 in the final stage, but did you notice the wolverine beasts use Wolverine’s berserker barrage from Marvel vs. Capcom? And that dude from Clash at Demonhead is hanging out in the background. Neat!
  • A Legend with Problems: Okay, my own nostalgia for this game may have created some hyperbole that ignores a few of the issues with the title. Whoever thought that throwing items should involve the risk of being knocked down by a rebound should be ejected directly into the sun. Come to think of it, there is far too much falling down in this game. Waiting for your character to get back up is not interesting! Particularly when you’re being stun locked by the final boss! This game has some deep-rooted issues… Hey! Kind of like Scott!
  • Secret Truth of all Scott Pilgrim adaptations: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness is the peak of literally every version of the story. I cannot understand disagreeing with this statement.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: It is appreciated that the graphic novels, the movie, and the videogame more or less have different endings that are appropriate to their mediums. The graphic novel has much more room to breathe, so its more meditative conclusion is proper. The movie is much more manic (and takes place over a much shorter amount of time), so something more traditional is suitable. And the videogame… that’s just a videogame. Nobody wants a long ending in a videogame!
  • Speaking of the Movie: Did IMDB watch the same movie I did?
    ...panties?

    Because those plot keywords might be describing the porn parody, Scott Pildick vs. The Oral.
  • Did you know? The first Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie script was drafted before the third graphic novel was even released. That’s planning ahead!
  • Would I play again: This is the kind of game that is great to play through for an hour or two every other year… and that’s it. I can’t bring myself to play it as often as a Mega Man title, but it is fun while doing my laundry every once in a while. Glowing laundry endorsement right there.

What’s next? Our final “forgotten” title is one that isn’t forgotten at all, but should be gutted and useless inside of a couple months. Please look forward to it! … The article! Not the gutting!

Dawwww