Tag Archives: skeletons

You Can (Not) Watch Inuyasha

Now, thanks to some dedicated viewing, no one can say I haven’t watched every single episode of Inuyasha. And, as a result, I’ve determined I’ve wasted my life.

I think 200 episodes of an anime does that to you.

Let’s start at the beginning: Inuyasha is an anime that first premiered in the US on Adult Swim in August of 2002. At the time, I was a college student, not quite drinking age, and, oh yeah, a gigantic nerd. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block had started a year earlier, and with it came Cowboy Bebop, not only one of the best animes ever made, but possibly one of the greatest series ever released in any format (the absolute greatest being, obviously, Fish Police). On the buzz of Cowboy Bebop alone, I’m pretty sure I dutifully watched all Adult Swim anime through the next five years, expecting that, logically, another series must come down the pike that is at least half as good as Cowboy Bebop. That…. Never happened. But back in 2002 I didn’t know that, and Inuyasha looked like a contender. It’s got time travel! And demons! And it’s from the Ranma ½ author! This is gonna be great!

Inuyasha wasn’t great. Inuyasha was for babies.

I also ate it up with a spoon.

Actually, let’s go back to Ranma ½ for a moment. Ranma ½ was author Rumiko Takahashi’s previous manga that was adapted into an anime. It was an often hilarious story about a boy and a girl and the boy occasionally becomes a girl when splashed with water. It was a great little series, but it was nearly impossible to watch in America, because it wasn’t premiering on any television networks, and the age of the VHS was not kind to any bit of media longer than two hours. If you were lucky, one of your friends (the one with an unkempt beard, obviously) had some bootleg VHS tapes of the sub that he totally scored at one of those “con” things (or maybe on IRC). Otherwise, you were never going to see poor Ranma, and the best you could hope for would be a confusing SNES game or maybe some online discussion about what clearly must be the best anime ever.

BARFAnd this was the bizarre world of the late 20th Century. Anime wasn’t kept overseas because companies (likely correctly) believed that there was no profit to be had in importing “Japanimation”, anime was unattainable because it was too adult for our stupid American minds. We got Sailor Moon, but did you know that the original Japanese version was gay as hell? Zoisite is a woman, and those “cousins” are a little bit closer than you’d expect. And Dragon Ball Z! I heard from a friend of a friend that Vegeta and Nappa totally kill people in the original! And Goku gets all bloody, too! And… and… and can you just imagine what those shows we didn’t get look like? Ranma ½ is totally about trans culture! We stupid, prudish gaijin wouldn’t understand!

But, having watched Ranma ½ as an adult years after the fact, I’m forced to admit that the series is merely “good”. It’s hilarious, fun, and occasionally really pretty, but it’s nothing revolutionary. The whole “transformation” thing is treated like a burden by absolutely everyone afflicted (whether they transform into a woman or a piggy) and the majority of the action is focused on the madcap hijinks and how every third man and woman on the planet is inexplicably attracted to Ranma. Aside from some vaguely homosexual notions (is it “gay” if a boy is attracted to a boy that happens to currently be a girl?) there is absolutely nothing earth shattering about Ranma ½, and it’s just… good. Ranma wants to be the best martial artist he can be, and Akane is his obvious match that just happens to have the ability to embarrass him at a moment’s notice with a splash. Story as old as time.

BARKInuyasha is basically the same setup: you’ve got the powerful man (half demon) who can kill anyone in the world with his magically powerful sword, and you’ve got the woman that he obviously loves, who incidentally has the power to bring him to heel instantly (“sit, boy”). And then it takes Ranma ½’s knack for creating a strong supporting cast, and transforms it into a JRPG. We’ve got a big bad that literally craps out clones with random and interesting-to-fight powers, and a party of support staff that is useful for monster identification, exorcisms, and the occasional gigantic spinning top. Throw in a saber tooth kitten that doubles as an airship, and you’ve got Final Inuyasha VII in a nutshell. It’s pretty typical shonen stuff, and the fact that it stars a girl just starting junior high should give you a tipoff to the intended audience.

But Inuyasha did not headline a children’s channel here in America, it was the latest from the very mature Adult Swim. You know, the network with that guy from Fiddler on the Roof complaining about his nipples? Totally mature. And this coupled wonderfully with Inuyasha’s completely insane pacing issues. Inuyasha is definitely an ensemble piece, but its first consistent supporting cast member is not introduced until episode 9. After the tiniest bit of teasing, the villain of the piece eventually arrives during episode 16. For a show that is airing an episode a week, that means approximately four months before the main conflict of the series appears. Four months! In that same amount of time, I’m pretty sure our esteemed president started seventeen nuclear wars! And you could easily make the argument that Inuyasha’s cast isn’t complete until the introduction of the Robin to Sesshōmaru’s Batman, Rin, who appears somewhere around episode 35. By that time, the series had already repeated about six trillion times, and we desperate viewers were convinced those Saiyans were never going to get off Namek! It was infuriating!

And, for some reason, I thought that was the most adult thing of all.

MrowWhen I was growing up, soap operas were derided as lowbrow claptrap. Granted, no one exactly talked about “daytime soaps” in the same way modern man derides anything involving the Kardashians, but it seemed to be constant undercurrent in our other media. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the gag of someone stays home from work or school for a few days, they get dependent on some fictional soap opera, and then everyone has a good laugh about this character’s new, fresh failure of an addiction. Liking soaps is so lame! And, around this same time, serialization was just starting to creep into “normal” media. Star Trek The Next Generation generally forgot its definition of gods, universes, and time travel from week to week, but Star Trek Deep Space Nine was lauded for carrying a cast of characters forward with deliberate callbacks and gradually accumulating motivations. HBO made a killing with The Sopranos, and it was based on intricate storytelling and some poor intern who had to remember which characters were dead at any given moment. And, from my own limited recall of the past, I feel like the first series I ever watched that really cared about continuity was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the very mature story of a teenage girl jumpkicking vampires until everyone had feelings about everything. Mature storytelling isn’t just ongoing soap opera mush, it’s the elaborate weaving of a million threads that explain why Xander just made a fart joke (it’s because of daddy issues).

Naturally, this lead me to believe Inuyasha’s glacial pace was some apex of sophistication and art. Despite the fact that basically everything you would ever need to know about the series happens in the first two episodes (Inuyasha and Kogome secretly love each other, the cast will be happy forever after we kill every last monster in feudal Japan), I kept watching Inuyasha for… something? I guess I thought they’d eventually reassemble the sacred jewel and then… I don’t know… go to the beach? Or start a new, more interesting plot that wasn’t just Adventure Story #1 (collect all the shiny things)? I don’t even know what I wanted from Inuyasha, I just wanted to see that story move forward and… end. Hey, maybe I didn’t enjoy the show at all! Maybe I just wanted to check off another box on the ol’ “list of shows I done watched”. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Inuyasha consists of 167 initial episodes, and an additional 26 that were produced three years later. With weekly viewings, that all adds up to too damn long to spend on any one piece of media. I moved on. … Or I just let my cable subscription lapse.

What?But, because I am a completionist at heart, I decided to take another stab at it. I decided that I’d watch Inuyasha from start to finish, and see how it all really ends. For anyone curious, here are the bullet points for how Inuyasha’s overarching plot:

  • Kagome travels back in time, and encounters Inuyasha, a half-demon dog that was formerly smitten by Kikyō, who was reincarnated as Kagome.
  • They fall in love and form a kinky dom/sub relationship immediately.
  • Inuyasha picks up a magical sword, which is coveted by his brother, Sesshōmaru, who incidentally has his own magical sword that can freaking raise the dead (but is only used, like, once).
  • Kagome and Inuyasha gain three allies: Sango the demon huntress, Miroku the lecherous monk, and Shippō the walking stuffed animal. They are additionally joined by an unevolved litten, and the occasional fleaman.
  • Kikyō is revived, and, drama bomb, Inuyasha has an undead ex wandering around.
  • Naraku eventually shows up. He’s basically Kikyō’s jealous “nice guy” ex, except he possesses the ability to absolutely never die.
  • Nothing happens for 130 episodes.
  • Inuyasha’s sword turns into a dragon (?) that can puke Hell (?).
  • Naraku, the villain who will not die, dies.
  • Kagome gets a new school uniform.

MROWAnd that’s a ball game, folks. About 20 episodes of actual content, rising action, and consequences, followed by roughly 150 episodes of everyone standing around saying, “I really want to kill that one guy, but hoooow?” I’m going to lie and claim that I don’t mind “filler” episodes, but only when they’re actually entertaining. Your average filler Inuyasha slots into three categories:

  1. A random demon/furry is causing trouble, time to kill it
  2. A random demon is causing trouble, but it is disguised as someone that needs help. It takes a couple episodes for the gang to notice Team Rocket at it again.
  3. The We Hate Naraku Support Group sits around and shares stories about why they hates that varmint so much.

And that’s it! I’m pretty sure Naruto at least had ninja in its filler episodes, here you’re lucky if you go a whole three episodes without exploring an eight year old’s love life. Against all odds, the most interesting episodes wind up being the ones where Kagome visits her home time period and Inuyasha has to fight a bicycle. It’s absurd, it’s ridiculous, and it forsakes the entire premise of the series, but it’s actually entertaining. This might be the one anime in history that makes “the school festival” remotely interesting (step it up, Persona). It might not actually involve a single demon, but Kagome’s beleaguered friends attempting to interpret her ludicrous love life (which involves a dog man and a wolf man) is always a good time. And it only happens about ten times over 200 episodes. Inuyasha is … let me get out that calculator… crunch a few numbers… 0% good!

SpookyBut I’m not writing this article because I want to attack Inuyasha (lie), I’m writing this because I want to warn others. Let me be your canary, and listen to my last gasps of air. Don’t watch anime! Wait… no, that isn’t right, let me try again… Don’t watch anime that is hundreds of episodes long! It’s not worth it! Stories do not work like that! You’re just going to start logging every damn time Miroku can’t use his wind tunnel because of “Naraku’s poisonous insects” (91 times), and you’ll wish for death by the third season. Don’t confuse length for maturity! Don’t watch something just to say you watched it! Whatever ending you imagined, it’s better! I guarantee it! Don’t waste your life like me!

Anyway, article over, I gotta get started on Yu-Gi-Oh now.

FGC #350 Super Mario Odyssey

It's a-me!  Cappy!The reason it’s so difficult to convince the general public that climate change is real is that weather is continually simultaneously reliable and anomalous. It is cold in the winter. It is warm in the summer. There is never a year where this is not the case. But, if you stand downwind of anyone that has been in the same area for longer than about five years, get ready to hear the stories about when it was scorching on Christmas, or that time it snowed in May. These stories aren’t lies, because, yes, sometimes you get an “Indian Summer” or a “Kinda Racist Winter”, and, inevitably, this just leads to the thinking that everything is absolutely fine. So you have to wear your shorts in November? Phhht. It’s happened before! The record set in 1999 is for 76°! This doesn’t mean anything!

Mario has the same problem.

Now, before we go any further, I want to plainly state that I love Mario games. I love this Mario game. It is amazing! There are dinosaurs and mariachi bands and Mario made frogs cool again for the second time in my lifetime. Not only is Mario Odyssey good, it’s damn near flawless. As of this writing, I have collected a good couple six hundred or so power moons, and I have rescued Princess Peach from nefarious nuptials, so I’m pretty confident that, while jumping rope might be a bear, the actual minute-to-minute of this Mario adventure is top notch. In a year packed with absolutely stellar titles, this little plumber is staring in one of the best.

So why is my general feeling something like…. Underwhelming? Yes, that’s it. I am underwhelmed by Mario Odyssey.

WeeeeLet’s look at those other “games of the year”. Persona 5 was probably the most traditional game on the list, but it was still the first time we saw the series on a modern console (or two), and you can’t say it wasn’t stylish as hell. Do you understand how much of the Persona 5 soundtrack has been playing in my head since April? NieR: Automata also wound up on that mental playlist, and those phat beats were somehow attached to a game that was not only fun to play, but also managed to question the very nature of humanity. Even “lesser” games, like Sonic Mania or Cuphead, managed to distill exactly what makes their respective genres excellent into a mouthwatering fruit, smoosh that conceptual fruit into a jam, and spread out those picture-perfect ideas into some of the best experiences available for modern consoles. And then there’s The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild.

It feels almost gauche to discuss this game again, but here we are. Some eight months ago, Nintendo released what might have been the most important game in a franchise that has been important for three decades. In short, in one sweeping motion, Nintendo threw out everything that made Zelda Zelda, yet, against all odds, created an experience that is Zelda in every conceivable way. I already put on my lab coat in an attempt to explain this phenomenon, but Breath of the Wild is unmistakably the end result of every Zelda that has ever been. It is also not Zelda at all, and a completely new experience from the absolute moment you realize Link has a dedicated and permanent jump button. Breath of the Wild doesn’t just stop at revolutionizing Zelda, though, as it rapidly becomes the best open world title this world has ever seen. See that hill over there? You can climb it. You can glide to it. You can buy a big fluffy sweater so you’re not cold when you get there. You can kill every errant fox between here and there with your enormous death horse (named Ganonhoof). Breath of the Wild is an amazing experience, and an experience that is completely unprecedented in all of gaming.

Mario Odyssey? Mario Odyssey is merely amazing.

ShiversAnd, let’s be clear, I’m not saying that carelessly. I started this article just after finishing the game, and, somehow, since then, I’ve collected about 400 more power moons, completed the darkest side of the moon, and happily followed a weird little skeleman in his taxi trips across the globe. I did this all with an enormous smile on my face, and never once complained about every time I had to possess a toad instead of a tyrannosaur. Mario Odyssey is fun from the depths of the ocean to all the way up to the top of the moon, and, give or take a few finicky flicking controls, it is an unequivocally perfect experience.

But, it’s a Mario game, so that’s expected.

This might be a controversial statement, but I’m willing to state that there has never been a bad Mario game. Ever. Mind you, that’s with the caveat that I’m exclusively talking about Mario-platformer games, as I’m pretty sure that one Mario baseball game was absolute garbage, and anything involving hotels is obviously not to be trusted. But when you look at the clear line from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Odyssey, you see a lot of phenomenal platformers along the way. And I know it’s dope and hip to claim that Mario Sunshine or Mario That One 3DS Game were not really good Mario games, but, come on. I’m not saying every Mario game has been perfect, but if you claim you could never have fun blasting a water gun around Delfino Plaza, well, congratulations on learning to read, you soulless demon from the depths of Hell. Has there ever been a flawed Mario game? Certainly. But have they all been fun, well-crafted adventures involving some of the most joyous movement options available? Double yes. When Mario is Mario, he is always good.

Right in the kisserAnd I literally can’t think of another franchise that has ever done that so well and for so long. Zelda? Phantom Hourglass had some neat ideas, but its centerpiece dungeon was hateful. Metroid? Let’s be real, there has been one really amazing game starring Samus, and everything else has just been… Echoes. Every fighting game ever has at least one entry that could be best described as disappointing, and every new entry in a modern JRPG or shoot ‘em up franchise runs the risk of being really interesting and immersive or a lolicon underwear simulator. And that’s really what it comes down to: with so many franchises, you have no idea what you’re going to get. Sonic the Hedgehog is somehow simultaneously responsible for one of the best games I’ve played all year, and a title where the only plus is presenting offline access to Deviantart. Mario doesn’t ever run that risk. A new Mario platformer is always good, whether it be our first Gameboy outing or something with a few more dimensions.

And all those amazing Mario games? They’re all here in Mario Odyssey. Would we have the frequent 2-D sections without Mario Maker? Probably not. Would we have the “themed world” and personable companion without Sunshine? Seems like the clear source there. Would we have a Mario in a sombrero without Qix? Well, maybe… but still! From Galaxy’s amazing controls to 3-D Land’s musical notes to even something as established as Yoshi’s Island’s butt stomp, all of Mario has been wrapped up and stuck beneath an adorable top hat.

And that’s the problem.

(No, not the top hat.)

Take a look at this challenge stage:

Weeeee

And tell me it couldn’t be any other Mario game released in the last fifteen years. It could be a “FLUDD-less” area from Mario Sunshine. It could be a random planet from Mario Galaxy. It could easily be any given stage from 3D Land or 3D World. It’s great! It’s fun! But it’s also very, very familiar. This is not a case of redefining the very landscape of gaming like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros 3, or Super Mario 64. Heck, even “lesser” entries did everything they could to explain why waggle could actually be fun (Galaxy) or 3-D is a perfectly good reason to make a new portable system (3D Land). Mario Odyssey is just kind of…. Really amazing.

And that’s why, while I absolutely adore this game, I still feel underwhelmed. This is Mario at its best… but the best is exactly what I expected. This is snow in the winter: it’s anticipated, and, what, you wanted a beach trip on Valentine’s Day? Those have happened before, right? I remember that one really warm February back in the Winter of ’17… Can’t we have that again? Can’t it not only be flawless, but also revolutionary? Is that asking too much?

Mario Odyssey: One of the best games I’ve played this year… but I expected more.

FGC #350 Super Mario Odyssey

  • System: Nintendo Switch. I believe this is the first game that I’ve reviewed for the site that is exclusively for the Switch. Yes, Breath of the Wild was for WiiU, too! Never forget!
  • Number of players: Technically two, but only because that’s the only way to beat volleyball.
  • Favorite Kingdom: Sand Kingdom, bar none. I’m not certain if it’s been mentioned before (I really need to reread some of these articles sometime), but I am a sucker for Dia de los Muertos aesthetics. While I generally hate deserts, I love mariachi skeletons. And when one skeleman decides to take a cab ride around the world? I think he’s my new hero.
  • AHHHHFavorite Capture: Actually, I think the capture mechanic summarizes this game perfectly: it’s always fun, but it’s exactly what you expect. T-Rex wrecks up the place, glider dino glides, and a piranha plant just hurls the contents of its non-existent stomach. That said, the humble goomba is my favorite capture, as it offers a clear powerup (better traction), but the additional fun of goomba stacking to satisfy a horny girl-goomba. I just want Mario to go that extra mile (to please goombas).
  • Switch it up: Okay, it’s subtle, but Mario Odyssey does its best to sell the features of the Switch… exclusively to me. I’ve spoken before about how my ideal game is one that is “widescreen” for the big dramatic moments, but then I can futz around in the postgame while watching TV or something. Mario Odyssey’s huge postgame is built for this, and, it seems like introductions to the kingdoms are meant to be docked, while postgame “100 random moons” are intended for less laborious portable play. The Switch was made for that kind of dichotomy! Just… doesn’t exactly come off as revolutionary.
  • Gooey: Oh, can we please get an option to disable the on-screen tutorial for every power and climbing pole? Look, I’ve been playing the absolute final level for the last hour, I don’t need a reminder to press B to jump every time I possess a lava ball and stand still for two seconds.
  • I’m just disappointed: The Rabbit Wedding Planners are a wonderful concept, but I’m dissatisfied with their work. I don’t mind that they stole every valuable item from every kingdom they could find, but they arranged for Bowser’s chapel to be like two blocks down from their home. For professionals, that’s just egotistical and lazy.
  • Just play the gig man: I do not understand why this game has ambient effects for some areas, and bombastic, amazing big band music for others. It makes perfect sense for some of the “set piece” areas (like New Donk City in the rain), but why the pastoral post-game kingdom is completely silent is anybody’s guess. Hey, at least you can cue up Jump Up Superstar at any time from the pause menu.
  • ClassicDid you know? Assuming you disregard the opening “prologue” kingdom, our first world is grass land, the second is desert, the potential third is under the sea, number five is a brief visit to the sky, and you’ve got the ice and lava stages shortly thereafter. Mario is a man of tradition.
  • Would I play again: I technically haven’t stopped playing this one yet. It might not be revolutionary, but it is a damn lot of fun, and it’s unlikely to leave my Switch for a good, long while.

What’s next? I’m taking a break. I’ve got a couple of random projects I’ve been ignoring because “oh I have to get the next FGC article done”, and I need a week to not have that excuse. Doesn’t mean there won’t be some content next week (there certainly will), but at least I don’t have to beat a Mario game to get it up. … Probably could have phrased that better. So FGC officially resumes on 11/20, and, in the meanwhile… well, I’ll try to find something to post during the week. Oh, and when we get back, we’ve got Kirby and the Crystal Shards on deck. Please look forward to it!

I like stickers

FGC #345 Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

SLASHAs the proprietor of GoggleBob.com, I feel that, on occasion, I must take a break from talking about mutant ninjas, fighting games, and whether or not Sonic is good, and talk about the real issues of the day. I have an obligation, nay, a responsibility to tackle the tough stuff, and get some real answers for my loyal followers.

Today, we shall answer one simple question: is gross scary?

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the pick of the day, so let’s start our research with that apparently forgotten franchise (“Didn’t you just play a game featuring Arthur, like, yesterday?” “Yes. Shut-up.”). Ghosts ‘n Goblins was technically an arcade cabinet that started the franchise, but most people remember that title from its NES port (and also the Commodore 64, assuming you spent a lot of time in your school library, nerd). Despite the fact that no one made it past the second level, most people remember GnG fondly. And it was spooky! There were ghosts and goblins! So the franchise flourished, and we eventually had Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and its follow-up, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Lot of little n’s, and a lot of ghouls later, we never saw the franchise again, and it was probably for the best. For the best.

But for only containing three entries, GnG had a surprising amount of variety. No… wait, that’s wrong. GnG had almost zero variety between entries, and that’s what makes it all so very confusing. All of the GnG titles start in a graveyard with infinitely respawning undead creatures. Every GnG game must be completed twice, and you have to find some lousy weapon to access the final boss. The final boss is always a huge pile of suck. Possibly every boss is a huge pile of suck. Oh, and, give or take the fidelity of your chosen system, you might be fighting the same monsters as last time, but… uh… are they supposed to be the same? That’s Firebrand again, right? Was he always supposed to be wearing armor? Why is he naked again in the next one? Wait… is this supposed to be a prequel or sequel?

Going up?And it’s that all important bestiary that can confuse the layman. Look, let’s face it, while you or I know that there is some nuance there, is there really that much of a difference between a large monster man with a head in his chest and a large monster man in armor with a head on his arm? We’re still dealing with the same basic concept (head in unusual place) and the same basic boss pattern (head in unusual place can shoot fireballs). Infinite zombies may as well be infinite grim reapers, and an annoying bird is always an annoying bird regardless of genus. Firebrand is the marquee monster of GnG, and he does set the scene for a number of generic monsters across the series. This isn’t Castlevania, you’re not going to encounter Frankenstein(‘s monster) or a werewolf: GnG is all about the demons of the Demon Realm, so we’re basically looking at an army of wings and teeth and maybe a monster plant. Obviously, Capcom created monsters that are better than the modern 3-D standards of “some wolves” and “some wolves, but a different color”, but even the most ardent GnG fan has to admit that it’s difficult to recall which title had the blue guy with an axe (not to be confused with the blue guy with a scythe).

But Ghouls ‘n Ghosts does have something that separates it from its peers: it’s gross.

The original Ghosts ‘n Goblins had endless hordes of Hell, but they were polite hordes of Hell. When Arthur encountered a tattooed ogre, that monster would purely punch a ball (or something?) at his rival. Zombies merely meandered, and multi-headed creatures had the good sense to spit fire, not icky spit. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts took it all a step further. Now there are pig-demon orcs, and their main method of attack is… barfing. And, no, there is no question here. This isn’t lava or… pig juices? Is that a thing? No, this is definitely brown/green puke, and it’s delivered in a disgusting, nonstop stream. And it doesn’t break with the pigs! There are wriggly demon tongue platforms, realistic bugs bigger than buildings, and the infamous Boss of Level 4. Its name is Ohme, and it is an immobile slug with five beating, exposed hearts and a plethora of parasites of multiple shapes and sizes. It’s disgusting, and the way its flesh (scales?) opens to release more and more… bugs is like something out of Dante’s Inferno.

BLECHActually, let’s talk about Le Inferno for a moment. Aside from being Facebook for an era that barely had moveable type (Pope Boniface VIII doesn’t like this post) it also had its share of… fart jokes. Or… something like that. Yes, we’ve all heard of Satan eternally devouring the betrayers while stuck in the coldest of ice blocks, but your English teacher may have skipped over the part where flatterers are cursed to endlessly muck about in a pile of crap. That’s it! Eternity wading through poop. It’s not Shakespeare (note: also full of shit), but it doesn’t exactly sound like a fun time. And Dante knew that! Dante knew that something we’re intimately familiar with on a daily basis (again, to be clear, I am talking about pooping. Everybody got that? Poop) is still considered inordinately gross. It’s a perfectly natural thing! That has created entire industries! Look, there is no other reason in the universe that air freshener exists other than for yo’ stinky ass (and, yes, I am just talking about you. Eat more fiber).

And it is simultaneously ridiculous and completely justified. Poop is gross. Pee is gross. I want to have a man (or pig man) puke on me about as much as I want to jab out my own eyeballs with a rusty pipe. I’m sorry, did that simile disturb you? Yes, blood and guts are gross too, even though many of us eat fresh animal flesh on a daily basis. All of these “natural” secretions are sickening because they’re familiar. Everyone reading this article knows the appearance, texture, and odor of crap, so the idea of splashing through it is wildly unpleasant. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a lot more relatable than the average afterlife punishment of eternal fire. You’d get used to the heat after a while, right? But poop? Not so much.

DIEAnd maybe that’s why gross is scary. A demon is abstract, worms slinking over your flesh are not. Try as I might, I do not believe there is any circumstance in my life that could ever lead to me facing a fire breathing monster. But having someone puke on me? That could happen. It’s a lot less likely past my college days, but the very thought of such a thing, to feel the chunky, sticky slop of someone’s digestive track on my own skin? I might have to shower for a solid week at just the thought of such an encounter. And, while it’s a little unusual that such puke would melt Sir Arthur’s flesh to the bone, I’m not quite sure it’s a fun experience for Ghouls ‘n Ghosts’ protagonist, either. Can you imagine picking pig vomit out of your beard? Ugh.

So I suppose Ghouls ‘n Ghosts did separate itself from its GnG brethren. Low-fi ghosts and goblins haunted the first adventure, and, while Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts seems like the better game, it did return to the sterility of the first adventure. Give or take a bloody conveyer belt and monster belly in SGnG, the series forsook gross for the multi-headed dragons and fire breathing wolf-bears of traditional fantasy. And, while we don’t exactly need Firebrand literally pissing all over Arthur (we have Deviantart for that), it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the franchise to return to its “gross” experimental phase. We’ve got the mature rating for a reason, after all, and maybe we can have it applied to a game for something other than blood and tits. Gross is scary. Now maybe we can see some frights beyond jump scares.

Poop scares.

FGC #345 Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

  • System: Sega Genesis for the review, but also available in arcade cabinets and Amiga… did that thing have discs? Cartridges? I have no idea. And before you say it, let’s suppose that “gross” had nothing to do with not appearing on a Nintendo console…
  • Number of players: Two player alternating, which is basically one player for people that can’t share.
  • Favorite Weapon: I love the sword. I love the idea of having a powerful, short range weapon in a game that is meant for projectile weapons. I love Zero. Though I don’t love that the sword makes one of the bosses literally impossible. That’s not so great.
  • So, did you beat it: Yes! And, because this game seems more manageable than the other GnG games, it might have been the first I actually “for real” beat (as in, didn’t use a stage select code). Oh, also, the ending is completely incomprehensible.
    ... What?

    I’m pretty sure the actual writers never beat the game. Or at least the proofers.
  • The Devil Made Me Do It: Firebrand first appears in this title above a pile of skulls. Like, a giant pile of skulls. A pyramid of skulls. I assume this is meant to represent every death-by-Firebrand that happened in the previous title.
  • Did you know? Color palettes for monsters are determined by area. Watch the reaper.
    ... What?

    Adorable.
  • Would I play again: Maybe, when the moon is full and the witching hour is upon us, I might give it another go. I prefer Super (mainly for laser daggers), but this ain’t bad. And it’s a bit more manageable than its less gross predecessor, so that’s a point in its favor.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Taito Legends for the Playstation 2! Hey, remember when you used to be able to buy like sixty “retro games” for twenty bucks? Taito does! Please look forward to it!

QUACK!

FGC #341 Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

It says Super Mario World right thereI would enjoy Yoshi’s Island a lot more if I were at all capable of enjoying Yoshi’s Island.

Back when I was Wee Goggle Bob, Christmas was pretty much the only time I ever saw a new videogame (save birthdays, of course, but my birthday is way the hell over in April). I had no disposable income (or… income), but I did have well-meaning parents and grandparents, so every holiday would see at least one game. And, by about 1995, my family had determined that videogames were the only hunks of plastic capable of bringing me joy, so I basically became the boy who got everything he ever wanted. In one Christmas haul (combining gifts from all relatives, I want to be clear that no one member of my family was Scrooge McDuck) I received Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, Earthworm Jim 2, Secret of Evermore, Tetris Attack (I was excited about this… for some reason), and today’s featured title, Yoshi’s Island. It was an embarrassment of riches… only slightly offset by the fact that I had pneumonia and thought I would die at any given moment. Oh, hey, my family took pity on me, just got that. Errm… anyway… once I felt better, I had what was probably the best continuous run of gaming in my life, as playing the best games of 1995 one after another was some manner of nerdvana. Even now, I’m kind of jealous of my past self: can you imagine completing Chrono Trigger, and then immediately moving on to a fresh, new Donkey Kong Country 2? Ah, to imagine there was once such unmitigated joy in my life.

And, to be absolutely clear, all of the Christmas ’95 games I played over and over again. I rescued Princess Whatshername (aka cow). I tossed every hero coin at Cranky Kong. I practically memorized every stupid movie reference in Secret of Evermore. This also means that I scored 100 on every stage in Yoshi’s Island, played through each extra level, and I think I even managed to memorize some of the match card setups for the bonus games. I mean, I didn’t get a Yoshi’s Island tattoo (only Chrono Trigger gained that honor) but I did play the game often enough that the main themes are permanently etched into my mental jukebox. I played Yoshi’s Island a lot, and, even with other great games available, I was inordinately pleased with the insane amount of “stuff to do” on Yoshi’s lil’ island.

But now… Now I look at this…

It's a secret to everybody

And all I see is a threat.

Yoshi’s Island is the first “collectathon” Mario game. Despite what Advance remakes may tell you (wait… do people even remember the Advance versions anymore?), Mario was previously all about the running and jumping, and did not give the tiniest flip about hidden Yoshi eggs or eight red coins. And this was right and good! Mario started his rescuing career in the arcades, and “arcade experiences” aren’t about exploring vast virtual worlds, they’re about getting to the end of the stage as quickly as possible so you can impress that one kid with the greasy hair who probably comes from circumstances but gets really excited whenever you make it to the flagpole. That kid isn’t going to wait around and watch for you to score some damn hidden flower thingy!

Squishy!Actually, perhaps that’s The Illusion of Mario (perfect name for Super Mario RPG 2). There have always been secrets in Mario games. There have always been warp zones, negative zones (hey, an accidental secret is still a secret), hidden mushroom houses, alternate exits, and whatever the hell you had to do to turn a hammer bros into a magical ship o’ coins. The very first stage of Super Mario Bros. hid an invisible 1-up mushroom, and the next level dared you to break the boundaries of the world itself. Mario has always had plenty of bonus skeletons in his closet, from Super Mario Land to Super Mario World.

But Super Mario World 2 changed one important thing: it made the secrets mandatory. Yes, you can complete any given stage in Yoshi’s Island without touching a single red coin or flower, but, whether your explore every nook and cranny or dash like a mad dinosaur, you’re going to be judged at the end of the level. You can beat the game as an unaware lizard, but it also means being scored at a sad, sad 34 on every other stage. That’s not a passing grade! That’s barely even a valid number!

But let’s assume you decide to play along with Yoshi’s Island’s little scoring scheme. Let’s say you realize that Yoshi has the most robust movement scheme ever in a 2-D Mario game (egg tossing, butt stomping, repeated flutter jumping, and that’s all before you get into the vehicle morphs and Super Baby), and that it’s only natural the good people at Nintendo would fill SQUISH!every stage to the brim with stuff for our favorite steed to do. So you want to be the best you can be, and you try in every level. You go for the gold, do your best, but still miss a coin or star here and there. A 97? 99? That’s a pretty great score! Don’t forget to stomp every last piece of dirt! You’re doing swell!

And it doesn’t mean shit.

Yoshi’s Island demands perfection. If you score a flawless 100 on a stage, that’s great! If you “achieve” anything else, sorry, you may as well have not tried at all. And, don’t worry, this isn’t just a matter of looking at a strategy guide and mapping out the best route to red coins, you’ve got a few “random” factors, like…

  • Flying shyguys (Flyguys?) with red coins that will scroll off the stage forever
  • Flashing Eggs that may be lost before they’re ever used
  • The slightest tap from any enemy near a goal post will reduce your star count
  • Ditto on giant bosses that live to ruin your stars
  • Invisible Red Switch hidden areas
  • Auto scrolling stages
  • Auto scrolling stages and Flyguys
  • Those goddamn Bandit enemies

GET IT!?Fall victim to any one of these pitfalls, and, sorry, the only solution is suicide (in the game! Don’t do anything rash!) or restarting the level from scratch. And Yoshi’s Island does not feature short levels, oh no, these things are easily three times the length of any given SMB stage. And if you manage to surmount your previous trials and tribulations, but miss somewhere that didn’t trip you up the first time, don’t worry, you still have to repeat the stage, because perfection is mandatory for that all-important 100.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to get a 100. You don’t have to get a 100 at all. All imperfection means is that you’ll play less game, have less fun, and leave portions of Yoshi’s Island completely unfinished. You’re okay with that, right?

Well, I’m not. Shocking but true: I absolutely can’t deal with anything less than perfection in Yoshi’s Island. I know I’ve found these red coins before. I know I’ve beaten Tap Tap without taking a hit. I know I can discover that Poochy ain’t stupid on my own, so why the hell haven’t I gotten a hundred on this damn fuzzy stage yet!? Oh, there was a jump plate hidden in the sky? That makes perfect sense.

Get Biz-aySo, unlike practically every other Mario game (give or take a few stressful blue coins), I find myself incapable of enjoying Yoshi’s Island. I know, conceptually, that I can avoid the coins. I know I can just boot up that beloved SNES cartridge and play all the levels I want. I know there’s probably a 100% unlocked ROM floating out there somewhere that would alleviate all my woes. I know, somewhere deep down, there’s that enjoyable experience from twenty years ago lurking somewhere around Yoshi’s Island. But now, in my mind, it’s buried beneath a pathological need to acquire flowers and avoid the unshaven. Thus, Yoshi’s Island becomes less “a way to unwind” and more “work”. Work isn’t fun. Work is stressful, and that’s Yoshi’s Island to me.

Yoshi’s Island, the best, most fun game that I absolutely cannot enjoy.

FGC #341 Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

  • System: Super Nintendo. Do we count the Gameboy Advance version, too? No. No Super FX Chip, no sale.
  • What about the SNES Classic? Oh, that too. Yes, I did use the SNES Classic as the perfect excuse to test Yoshi’s Island. Or the other way around? Something like that.
  • Number of players: This was the first Super Mario Bros. title to be only one player. Now a Super Mario Bros. game that is multiplayer is a friggen event, and nobody is expecting Mario and Luigi co-op in New Donk City. I blame Yoshi. Again.
  • ZOOOMFavorite Level: World 2-Special is a rollercoaster ride of red switches that can, incidentally, be completed in all of a minute. It also still manages to contain all the mandatory Yoshi’s Island doodads. This is the game I want to play.
  • Unsolved Mysteries: Who is Huffin Puffin, the chubby bird in party pants, and what is his deal? Why is it okay to steal his (her?) children? Why are said children natural boomerangs? What is the origin of those pants? Now I’m stressed out all over again!
  • Just play the gig, man: I already said that this music was burned into my brain, but I’d like to note that, when I’m in “creepy” situations, I naturally whistle the intro to the final Bowser battle. Bum bum bum buuuum bah bump. Bum bum bum buuuuum bah duuu~uump.
  • Did you know? There are some extremely minor and seemingly superfluous changes to the various icons (oh yeah, I miss having a real map screen, too!) across international versions, but you have to appreciate that they properly colored the SNES buttons purple (as opposed to Super Famicom rainbow) for the US controls button.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. I acknowledge this game is good. I also acknowledge that I hate playing this good game. Sorry.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Taiko Drum Master for the Playstation 2! It’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m going to beat this game. Ha ha ha. Mercy. Please look forward to it!

OH MY!