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FGC #327 Metroid 2: Return of Samus

This is some terrible musicMetroids are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or exterminate in any way.

As a proud citizen of the Galactic Federation, you’ve likely heard the smear campaign launched against the humble metroid. The rhetoric is always the same: the hated space pirates scooped up a bunch of metroids from their home on SR388, telepathically controlled the creatures with a gigantic sentient AI, and then threatened the entire galaxy with their army of “monsters”. We were all saved by the benevolent Galactic Federation and their ability to properly outsource, and the galaxy is now at peace. But the Metroid “scourge” remains! As long as SR388 is still populated by metroids, then any Tom, Dick, or Ridley could return, rustle up another army, and lay siege to our poor universe. What’s a Federation to do?

Well, if you’ve been following the latest on GFBC, you know that the Federation is currently attempting to pass legislation to exterminate all metroids. That’s right! Just because a few bad apples decided to kidnap a peaceful species and use them for evil, the Galactic Federation is going to commit genocide. We cannot let this happen! The metroid is a naturally peaceful species, and anyone that says otherwise is woefully uninformed.

We at the Metroid Preservation Association recently sent an expedition down to SR388, and here are some of the metroid fun facts they sent back.

Larval Metroid

HUGS!This is the “creature” most featured in Federation propaganda, mainly because they were the first vanguard of the Space Pirate threat. And you want to know the kick of it? This is a metroid baby. That’s right! You’re looking at the equivalent of a human toddler, or perhaps a feline kitten. Can a metroid be destructive? Of course! But no one demanded that all dogs be euthanized just because one puppy tore up the couch. Larval metroids have no concept of right or wrong, and just because they could potentially absorb the life force of a nearby organism doesn’t mean they should be eradicated.

And, speaking of which, have you ever seen a metroid feed? They don’t use mouths or teeth like many animals; no, metroids subsist entirely on hugs. Since metroids are incapable of communicating, we don’t even know if a metroid’s most threatening trait is deliberate. So many sentient creatures live their lives with a need to embrace a loving “mother”, and it is entirely possible that the shy child metroid is no different. Sure, this inevitably leads to the death of the hug recipient, but these metroids don’t know their own strength! They’re babies!

Metroid Fact: In rare situations, a larval metroid is capable of copying abilities from his or her hug buddy. Does this mean a metroid might be able “steal” the ability to talk? We’d sure like to hear about that!

Alpha Metroid

Look away!Now this is why you always observe God’s creatures in their natural habitat. Kept in captivity, a larval metroid will forever stay larval, and, at best, may use its energy to grow to absurd sizes; but leave that same metroid on SR388, and something magical happens. Through a biological process that can only be described as wondrous, a larval metroid will shed its soft shell, and grow into an alpha metroid, a creature with tiny legs, adorable tusks, and a protective shell. But don’t worry, metroid lovers, the alpha metroid still maintains a “jelly belly”, and, while those miniature appendages might not be the best for the task, they’re still hugging machines. An alpha metroid will approach its mark relentlessly, begging for hugs all the while.

Free hugs aside, think of the implication of the alpha metroid. Without observing metroids on their home world, we would have never known such a delightful being ever existed. What else are metroids capable of? We don’t know, but we do know that we’ll never find out if the Galactic Federation has their way.

Metroid Fact: If a metroid were capable of returning its absorbed energy to others, it could use said stored energy to power an entire city! Think of the glorious future where metroids and people may live happily together, freely sharing their energy and experiences. Can you envision a more idyllic paradise?

Gamma Metroid

ZapA metroid doesn’t just stop at the alpha form. It turns out that a metroid can develop even further. A gamma metroid seems to be the natural evolution of the alpha, with longer legs, bigger tusks, and even a “head horn” that looks like a charming little dunce cap. Silly gamma metroid, you’re still just a kid, you’ll learn how to get out of the corner soon enough.

The gamma metroid even learned a new trick: it can generate and distribute electricity! This is amazing, as metroid physiology previously only allowed for the absorption of energy, and it seemed that all the excess power was spent on the metroid’s strange floating ability. But the gamma metroid has extra power, and he/she knows how to use it! Lightning bolts fly from the gamma’s fangs, igniting the dark caverns of SR388 with every burst. Could gamma metroids be deliberately illuminating these passages for the benefit of their fellow SR388 inhabitants? That seems like the most apparent answer.

Metroid Fact: Metroids do not compete. In the event that multiple metroids have targeted one person for hugs, the metroids will work together, and never damage each other in pursuit of the hugee. Metroids are so polite!

Zeta Metroid

Toasty!Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the zeta metroid will emerge from the carapace of a gamma metroid. And this change means big things for our friend the metroid! The alpha/gamma’s “limbs” become “fingers”, and zeta now has full-fledged legs and arms. And a tail! How could any creature with a tail be worthy of extinction? And those lightning powers have evolved, too, because the zeta has the ability to spew fire and acid-like substances. These abilities are clearly there for the betterment of his or her friends, as who doesn’t like to warm up with some spicy fire breath? Why, with a zeta metroid in your kitchen, you might never need an oven ever again! And don’t forget about that acid spit for opening those hard-to-open jars!

Metroid Fact: Metroids hate the cold, which is probably why their entire planet is filled with lava. As a result, it’s not the easiest place to explore, but with a few decent barrier suits, you might find it’s a pretty nice planet with all sorts of exciting indigenous wildlife.

Omega Metroid

Look at the widdle tailAnd thus must the zeta inevitably become the omega, the final form of the humble metroid (usually). The omega metroid is basically a miniature tyrannosaurus. And that’s good! Who among us hasn’t ever desired a pet dinosaur? The omega metroid, not unlike a mastiff or a great dane, would be the perfect oversized companion for any schoolchild. Aw, look at that omega, it even looks like it’s wearing an pleasant little backpack. Wouldn’t you be happy to see Lil’ Timmy walking down the street with Lil’ ‘Meggy Metroid? Just be sure to clean up the sidewalk before that acidic drool seeps into the water supply.

Metroid Fact: If a metroid does happen to absorb all the life energy of an opponent (who was clearly asking for it), it will leave behind a stone or sand sculpture of the aggressor. Wicked people are transformed into pillars of salt in the first book of the Bible… Could metroids have visited Earth in our distant past?

Queen Metroid

QUEEN OF HUGSDid you know that metroids have a matriarchal society, and they all love their mama? It’s true! Queen Metroid is apparently the mother of all metroids on SR388, and lays eggs at an astronomical rate. While there appear to only be about forty living metroids on SR388 currently, there are a number of eggs lying around the queen’s chambers, so it looks like we’ll be seeing a population boom any minute now. And that’s great, because this galaxy could use more metroids!

The metroids are a humble, huggable race. To eliminate them and their planet would be an affront to the very precepts on which our Federation was founded. After all, if metroids were so terrible, then why didn’t our expedition team ever return? They clearly chose to stay and continue their lives on SR388, living in peace and harmony with our friends, the metroids. May the whole galaxy be as welcoming and serene as SR388.

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FGC #327 Metroid 2: Return of Samus

  • System: Nintendo Gameboy, and 3DS if you’re nasty. No, I’m not talking about the remake.
  • Number of players: There is only one metroid hunter in this galaxy.
  • Awesome new powerMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is such a weird game. It feels at once complete and whole, but also entirely unfinished. Samus spends what seems like forever gradually upgrading and fighting alphas and gammas, and then finally encounters her first Zeta. Then, one area full of three or so Zetas later, the mighty Omega rears its ugly head. Then you fight a couple more… and the game is basically over. You’re at the queen’s “final level”, and then all that’s left is to leave the planet in the calmest “escape sequence” ever. We were just getting going! I want more!
  • Favorite metroid form: That would be the zeta metroid. Omega is too powerful, alpha is too boring, and gamma’s stupid lightning artificially prolongs the fight with its missile blocking properties. Zeta is just right. Actually, my real favorite is the tried and true larval metroid, but they’re all over the place at this point (in, like, a whole five games).
  • So, did you beat it? Of course I did. I beat this puppy back in the day, and I did it again just now. See my AM2R review for more details on why wet paint always makes me think of SR388.
  • He’s too big: No Ridley in Metroid 2. How does something like this happen!?
  • Did you know? Shooting zeta and omega metroids in the back causes more damage… but since the Metroid series is averse to HP gauges, the average player has no hope of knowing this. Omega’s lil’ tail does twitch a little more on a back hit, I suppose.
  • Would I play again: Hopefully I won’t have to, because…

What’s next? Obviously, I’m going to spend this weekend playing the latest Metroid game, because of course I am. Will I also be ready to write about it? We’ll find out! Please look forward to it!

WINNER

FGC #287 Pac-Man (Gameboy)

So I figure there are two ways we can go with this article. One, we could take a look at this:

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And laugh uproariously at this primitive attempt at a portable Pac-Man. It’s super tiny! They couldn’t fit the entire maze on the screen! There isn’t an attempt at “new” mazes, despite the fact that Ms. Pac-Man was released years before. There’s no color!

Or, second choice, we could address Pac-Man for Gameboy as the most important game that was ever released.

Let’s go with that second choice.

I did not purchase, new or used, Pac-Man for Gameboy. I did not have a legit Gameboy as a child, and the few games I purchased for my Super Gameboy were significant and precious. Pac-Man was never even in the running. Pac-Man, even by the release of the Super Gameboy, was fairly played out, and, if we’re being honest, primitive. OG Pac-Man had like one maze and four directions. There wasn’t even a jump button! I want to say that I didn’t consider purchasing a Pac-Man game until The Age of the Download, because, seriously why bother? Besides, ol’ Paccy seemed to pop up often enough in other, more complex games. So, ya know, screw it. If I want to get lost in a maze, I’ll just play god-damned Fester’s Quest again.

No, I did not ever think to purchase Pac-Man for Gameboy. This game was inherited. This game once belonged to my grandfather. And that’s kind of important.

According to Pokémon Go (this is how I do research), the local arcade was founded in 1976. Pac-Man, according to Wikipedia, was released in the spring of 1980. Given my grandfather notoriously enjoyed Space Invaders since its initial release two years earlier, I’m guessing the man first played Pac-Man in that arcade. Here, for reference, are the two “original” Pac machines still floating around that arcade, nearly forty years later:

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You’ll notice that OG Pac-Man is not pictured. That’s because the old man got tossed sometime around when The World’s Largest Pac-Man Cabinet showed up. Then again, it may have gone to the dumpster well before that, as Ms. Pac-Man has always, no questions, been better than her hubby. It’s a Pac eat Pac world, and even Junior can conquer the old man. Regardless, I’m going to ahead and assume Pac-Man was first played by my ancestor somewhere around that general area pictured above.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong. Pac-Man, despite being a boring old man compared to the rest of his family, was ubiquitous for nearly a decade. In my youth, I saw Pac-Man cabinets in every restaurant lobby, hotel, motel, and Holiday Inn in the country. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the sit-down Pac-cabinets in doctor’s offices. Pac-Man was everywhere for a while, and I could see my grandfather first playing the game at any of those locations. He was a dedicated husband and father, but my mother has always eaten about as slow as a particularly anemic snail, so I could easily imagine my grandfather sneaking off to a diner Pac-Man cabinet to munch pellets faster than his daughter could devour potatoes. … Or maybe I’m just confusing my own childhood with his adulthood…

Regardless, I can tell you one place my grandfather did not play Pac-Man for the first time: his living room. It’s hard to even imagine now, but gaming used to be exclusively an outside activity… or at least outside the home. You could not play videogames in your living room, you were stuck going to any of those (many) locations listed to get your gaming fix, because the technology just wasn’t there. Did you see those arcade cabinets? No way anything like that would fit in your bedroom.

But when you did get something home…

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It might not have been so hot. That’s Pac-Man for the Atari 2600. I know for a fact that my grandfather owned that game, because I played “his” Atari roughly 28,000,000,000 times as a kid. But I didn’t play Pac-Man that much (Combat, man, Combat), because, even as a toddler, I knew a compromised port when I saw it. And my grandfather agreed. In the same way one might have a cherished memory of an elder telling a tale of a bygone age/lemon tree, I can distinctly recall my grandfather sitting me on his lap, and saying, “Bobby, let’s save this game for the arcade.” And we did. And it was good.

Looking back, it’s obvious why Atari Pac-Man was so terrible. We didn’t know the numbers at the time, but the Atari literally had 32 times less memory than the Pac-Man arcade board, so trying to get ol’ Pac going “perfectly” on an Atari was about as likely as running Windows on the Sesame Street Cookie Counter. But back in the earliest of 80’s, the message seemed to be that, no matter what, we were never going to get “arcade realism” on the humble home console. I’ve spoken of this phenomenon before, and, yes, it even applied to games where the hero is a yellow circle and no participants even have recognizable appendages. Regardless, it seemed like that would be the status quo forever, and “home computers” would never be advanced enough for something so complex as a yellow pizza man.

The originalAnd then… they were. Whether you want to point to the Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, or even the later Atari 5200, we did eventually get an “arcade perfect” port of Pac-Man (or close enough to forget that that earlier Pepto-Man ever existed), and Pac-Man actually could be enjoyed at home. We made it! What could be better?

Well, Pac-Man anywhere you want, of course.

Pac-Man had a few portable iterations in his heyday. I’ve never seen one in person, but google the Tomy Tronic Pac-Man if you ever want to see the glorious old days of pac-portability. And the Coleco portable Pac-Man “cabinet” had a similar, early portable styling in that whole “light up blocks” a number of people remember from the Tiger Electronic portables. Oh! And those Pac-Man electronic watches! I hear people have died over those things. All of those whacky devices technically provided a portable pac-perience, but if Atari Pac-Man was a compromised port, this was an excuse that was somehow even less. I’m pretty sure you could get a more robust experience out of a damn wall mural than those stupid watches.

But then the Gameboy came, and Pac-Man was good.

And, sure, there wasn’t any color, and sure, you had a choice between teeny tiny graphics or actually, ya know, seeing the whole screen, but it was pretty damn Pac-Man. All the cinema scenes are here, and I’m pretty sure the ghost/power pellet times are arcade accurate. All the little intricacies of Pac-Man are available on the go, even if it’s kind of difficult to tell Blinky from Inky. And, while it seems obvious to say that people notice details, it’s those little things that separate atrocious Atari ports from the kind of games that can pry Tetris from that lone, precious Gameboy slot.

So, yes, today, Pac-Man for Gameboy seems primitive and, frankly, kind of sad. This is a version of Pac-Man that is meant to be played on a screen barely larger than an Amiibo base. But then again, that’s kind of the point: when Pac-Man was released, it could only be contained in an arcade cabinet that weighed hundreds of pounds and cost hundreds of dollars. But, in just a decade, Pac-Man could gobble down ghosts while being powered by a mere four batteries.

Yeah!And my grandfather always had those four batteries available. Essentially. He suffered from a stroke around 1999, so, being partially paralyzed, he didn’t really keep up with videogame advances. But one image I’ll never forget would be from about two years before he died (incidentally, roughly ten years after the stroke). He was sitting at his computer in his wildly disorganized “office” (a place my grandmother never visited), and he was chatting with his brother. My grandfather lived in New Jersey, and his brother of some eighty years lived in Florida. They were chatting via a messenger service (probably AOL), and my grandfather had somehow jury-rigged a modern webcam to a tripod from roughly 1956, and there was his brother on the screen, chatting away, and likely with some similar piece of makeshift webcammery on his side. They were talking, or, to be more particular, my grand uncle was talking, and my grandfather was listening. And, while my grandfather was listening, he was playing a game of Pac-Man in the other window. It’s not hard to play a videogame with four buttons with one hand. But I’ll always remember that scene: two men from the early 20th Century, talking across miles and miles as if they were in the same room, and one is still nursing a case of Pac-Fever.

Pac-Man came a long way, and technology came with him.

And that’s always going to be important.

FGC #287 Pac-Man (Gameboy)

  • System: I have got to find a better system than making the system part of the title and then denoting the system directly below the title. Also, I should say “system” less.
  • Number of players: Two! Via link cable! I have no idea how that works, because I never saw a second Gameboy with Pac-Man in my youth… but it’s probably lame. I mean, this ain’t Pac-Men.
  • Further Photographic Evidence: I wasn’t kidding about the Gameboy screen being the size of an Amiibo Base.

    Wakka wakka

    Also, for the record, that Gameboy is playing my copy of Pac-Man, you just absolutely cannot see it. Oh well.

  • Two in one stroke: I’m also going to claim that this article covers Atari Pac-Man, so that way I never have to touch that one again. Yes, I did also inherit that “beloved” childhood memory, too, because of course I did.
  • Did you know? Yes, I live in a town where I can still walk to an arcade. Multiples, depending on the season.
    Wakka wakka

    And, yes, at least one arcade has OG Pac-Man.
  • Would I play again: Pac-Man, yes, Gameboy, no. I have respect for the first decent portable system in history, but respect doesn’t do anything for eyestrain.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Persona 5! Or maybe he didn’t choose it at all, and I just feel like writing about a game I played for a hundred hours. Who could say? You get Persona 5 either way. Please look forward to it!

Wakka wakka

FGC #262 Final Fantasy Adventure / Adventures of Mana

Poor ol' manLet us take a moment to talk about pausing.

First, to be clear, I am an unashamed pause promoter. I believe all videogames should have a pause function. I believe most of reality should have a pause function. You never know when you might need a time out, and if that contractor that I’ve been trying to get to finish my damn deck rings the doorbell, you better believe making sure that silly carpenter doesn’t sheepishly shuffle away takes priority over Liu Kang’s safety. Oh, Earth Realm is now doomed to forever be a subsidiary of Outhouse World? Well, we could have avoided this fate if someone included a pause button. And don’t give me that garbage about tension, Dark Souls, because authorial intent doesn’t make a damn lick of difference when a piece of entertainment is attempting to interfere with my life. Joss Whedon didn’t produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a fan to watch all seven seasons within the span of three days, and HBO doesn’t produce Game of Thrones with the intention of me inserting a “break” every fifteen minutes because of the soul-crushing boredom of every plot that doesn’t involve Tyrion or Arya. Bloodborne, I will tackle these nameless abominations after I’ve finished this aggravating call from my mother, and not a moment before.

But, while pausing empowers the player to control the videogame universe like some kind of Nintendo Captain, there is also the dark side of pausing: pausing makes you stop.

Surprising, right? Who would have expected that?

MY MIND!Today’s game is Final Fantasy Adventure, a game that I tangentially discussed before. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: Final Fantasy Adventure is my favorite Gameboy game. I spent countless hours directing Big, the Hero of Mana, through a surprisingly diverse world, and, together, we saved the good people of wherever this place is supposed to be. And I think Big’s girlfriend turned into a tree? It was a weird day. Anyway, even if the story turned out to be a thinly veiled retelling of a Miyazaki flick or two, Final Fantasy Adventure engaged young Goggle Bob’s imagination and thumbs, and led to a lot of Super Gameboy abuse. Had I actually owned a Gameboy at the time, I might have just bolted the beeping thing to my face. It’s the only way that nefarious Julius will learn!

But, despite playing Final Fantasy Adventure for roughly the entire Clinton administration, there were still things I apparently did not know about the game. For instance, there are a number of monsters that are immune to traditional weapon attacks. Yes, you can generally utilize magic, but that uses up valuable charges for your Cure spell, and, man, don’t want to risk those when there are shadow creatures afoot. So, on my repeated playthroughs of FFA, I simply gazed at these invulnerable monsters, said, “Nope,” and moved on with the dungeon du jour. That turtle thing is invincible, nothing for it, let’s move right along. I’ll earn my EXP through dicing up skeletons, thank you.

Here's some pointed commentaryAnd I wallowed in the ignorance of “invincible monsters” for years. Sword of Mana was a remake, but it was a completely different remake, so, when I replayed Final Fantasy Adventure afterwards, now as an “informed” adult, I played it the same as ever. If I decided to fire up the ol’ Gameboy, it was to play Final Fantasy Adventure, and, right through to the age of the 3DS, I’d avoid those unbeatable enemies like the plague. “They’re dangerous!” a tiny voice in my head continued to shout. And I listened every single time. Why risk Big’s life on something that probably/hopefully won’t be in the next room? There are so many people counting on his holy sword!

And then, just last year, I played Adventures of Mana. Adventures of Mana is a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure that was initially designed for cell phones/mobile devices, and, thus, has a touch interface. While I did not play Adventures of Mana until it hit the Vita, the “upgrade” from mobile to a system with actual buttons did not drop any of the touch features. So, for the first time in Final Fantasy Adventure history, I was able to play through FFA’s dungeons with many of my items just a tap away. No longer did I have to access the pause menu, stop the game, and pull out a healing piece of candy or an essential mattock; no, now I had full, tappable control of my inventory, and, more importantly, my weapons stash. While “pause” was still there as an option, I no longer had to pause every time I wanted to switch from sword to spear to flail. For the first time ever, changing weapons according to rooms was not only viable, but fun.

And that’s when I learned that there are no “invincible” monsters in Final Fantasy Adventure, some beasts just require different weapons. That’s so obvious! So videogame! Why hadn’t I tried that before!?

Well, because pausing is a pain in the ass, duh.

MY MIND!  AGAIN!It’s no secret that I love Mega Man games, but, despite adoring MM2 and MM3, I usually replay the X series more (even the… less pleasant entries), because, quite simply, I hate having to pause and access the typical Mega Man weapon select menu. There are two different pages of weapons to leaf (shield) through? Lame! I’d rather just hit L & R to cycle over to my precious flamethrower. And, yes, while some Mega Man collections have dropped in a L/R cycle so you don’t have to bop over to a menu every ten seconds, it’s clear these games were never designed with this functionality in mind (like the X series), and, should you accidently cycle over to Time Stopper and slip on the B button… you’re gonna have a bad time. This kind of “pause every few minutes” game design has marred a number of excellent games, from Demon’s Crest to Castlevania (“Jonathan! Give me a second! I’m fishing out my owl spell!”). I have absolutely no evidence to support such a claim, but I feel like half the reason there are so many offensive options in Symphony of the Night is that someone noticed that pausing every other room is pain in the butt, so here’s a sword that will work for everybody. Missed that sword? Here are some cool knuckles. No, don’t worry about pausing, this should work for most of the castle. And, while this was generally a bigger problem back in the ol’ days, let’s be real here: does anyone enjoy pausing in the middle of a pitched battle to restore hearts in Breath of the Wild? And how many times has the climbing gear sat in Link’s backpack (actually… where is he keeping all this stuff? I’ve seen him [mostly] naked…), unused, while a cliff side has been scaled? Could have yanked out the right tool for the job, but I just don’t feel like finding it in my bag o’ moblin parts right now. … Or maybe I’d just be happier if there was a “quick menu” for Link’s fine cuisine and duds as opposed to just his weapons.

YAYBut I suppose that’s the crux of it all: pause menu menus are a pain in the ass that hamper gameplay. Pausing is great, but when you have to pause it’s inevitably going to detract from any game that features even a trifling amount of action. I missed, basically, an entire gameplay facet of Final Fantasy Adventure, a game I dearly enjoy, for years because of an aversion to forced pausing, and I can’t be the only one. Even the most limited peripherals and consoles have more buttons now than we’ll ever need, let’s find a way to never have to pause an action game again.

Don’t do it for me, game designers. Do it for Wee Goggle Bob who spent his childhood living in fear of turtles that are apparently weak to axes. Who would allow such a thing to happen to another juvenile?

FGC #262 Final Fantasy Adventure / Adventures of Mana

  • System: Gameboy for the OG FFA, and Vita for Adventures of Mana. I suppose I’ll count the mobile ports here, too.
  • Number of players: This is a Mana Adventure, not a Mana Secret, so only one player for you.
  • Favorite Weapon: The Morningstar is slow, powerful, and the only weapon I use for basically every cave. Stupid mattocks, you’re nothing compared to a pointy ball on a chain.
  • Favorite Ally: Watts the Blacksmith comes equipped with his own shop. Even though you’re desperately trying to survive together in a mine filled with monsters, he doesn’t offer any discounts. That’s some hardcore dwarfing.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: The translation team for Adventures of Mana got a little cheeky.
    Grrrr
  • Origins: Despite the claims by some that the Mana series was always intended as its own franchise, this adventure is Final Fantasy as hell. We’ve got random Final Fantasy Red Mage sprites running around, a chocobo that is your best buddy, and you don’t see moogles in Breath of Fire. This isn’t some Final Fantasy legend, it’s a straight up Final Fantasy adventure. … Gaiden?
  • Did you know? Big the Hero might accidentally get transformed into a moogle, but, don’t worry, there’s an item you can use to instantly return to normal status. Except… you can’t use items while you’re a moogle, so there is literally never an opportunity to use the Moogle Cure. So what snake oil salesman is pawning off these potions, kupo?
  • Would I play again: Favorite Gameboy game, period. Though I think I’ll be playing another, different Gameboy adventure in the near future…

What’s next? Random ROB is chilling while I explore The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the rest of the week. We’ll tackle the story on Wednesday, and then on Friday, we’ll look at the gameplay. … I should probably figure out a way to make a Zelda game a “sacred three” articles… but I’m capricious like that. Regardless, it’s Breath of the Wild time! Please look forward to it!

Because... oh never mind

FGC #199 Tetris Blast

Blasting offReason Goggle Bob Feels Ashamed #4,631 (not high school-related count): I like Tetris Blast more than Tetris.

It is literally impossible to measure the cultural impact of Tetris. While it’s entirely possible that Bill Clinton never played Super Mario Bros. or George Bush never touched a Final Fantasy in his life, I completely believe that every sitting president since the invention of the Gameboy has played Tetris in one form or another. It was a national phenomenon for what seemed like a decade, established and solidified Nintendo’s grip on the handheld market, and I’m pretty sure it single-handedly extended the USSR’s existence for a solid year or two. The dates match up, people!

On a personal level, Tetris was always the game that established that I might not be a complete weirdo. It was the adults of my extended family that first caught the Tetris bug, and, like settlers infecting indigenous peoples with well-meaning/diseased blankets, my mother and grandfather shortly thereafter succumbed to Tetris-mania. My father and grandmothers seemed oddly resistant to the strain, but, in no time at all, my grandfather had received a Gameboy as a Christmas gift, and my mother, shining bastion of restraint that she forever will be, would often sneak the device back home, only to be returned when the batteries ran dry. I wasn’t allowed to have a Gameboy of my own (as I’ve mentioned before, it was assumed that allowing me to have an “always available” system would lead to becoming some filthy videogame blogger or something), but the mere fact that the maternal side of my family was so dedicated to playing one single game seemed… empowering? I wasn’t alone in my “childish” hobby. Here are a World War II vet and a historian both playing with the same d-pad as yours truly. DOUBLE!Sure, they still didn’t know the secret hiding place of Dungeon 7, but it’s enough that they now understand why I get upset every time I’m asked to give up on a high score for dinnertime. I just got a long piece, I can’t quit now!

Of course, other than that, I didn’t really like Tetris.

To be clear, this is another case where I “like” Tetris, but I’d rather be playing Mega Man. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t play videogames (this is a lie, I remember the first time I saw Super Mario Bros like most people remember the first time they saw their spouse… er… hmm….), which means that, whether it was because of Nintendo Power ads that convinced me I “need” the latest game, or because I never beat Friday the 13th, I have pretty much always had a backlog. “Would I play again” has always been an important question in my mind, because there’s more out there in the wide world of gaming, and I’m never going to save all those princesses if I spend all day stacking blocks. Tetris is, at its core, a score-based game, and, like its cousins in the sportsball arena, I’d rather be playing something with a clear goal or “plot”. The plot might be completely bonkers, but I get so much more joy out of overanalyzing a vaguely religious space opera than praying for one less square block to fall. Everybody knows that everything about Tetris is random, right? It’s just a waste of time and effort! Soylent Green is made from tetrominoes!

And I say this all as someone who has somehow purchased a copy of Tetris for every system he’s ever owned. Hey, it holds my attention for ten minutes or so.

Dance!But Tetris Blast? Tetris Blast was somehow made for my unique psychological issues.

Tetris Blast came stateside as a (Super) Gameboy game, but it saw more systems and wider release in Japan as Bombliss. You will note that “Bombliss” does not include the title “Tetris”, but, hey, if you’ve got the license to use the name of one of the most well-known videogames in history, may as well slap that thing on everything from explosion simulators to Yoshi block puzzles. Tetris Blast is pretty damn Tetris, though. Your goal is to line up blocks, but, unlike in OG Tetris, lines do not naturally disappear when properly assembled. You must also include at least one “bomb block”, and, if that bomb is in a complete line, then it will explode the nearby blocks. A single line causes an explosion that is a single line’s height (though not necessarily width, so a bomb at the far edge might not eliminate an entire line), but if more than one line is amassed simultaneously, the blast will be larger. Line up four rows and then that single bomb block that would be piddling on a single line completion becomes celebratory fireworks. Couple this with the ability to combine four little bomb blocks into one giant bomb block, and you’ve suddenly gained the ability to blast the entire screen with one well-placed block. Granted, that takes a lot of planning (or luck), but it’s phenomenally satisfying when you pull it off.

WOOOOOTetris Blast shines brightest with its “modes”. There’s two player head-to-head, so, right off the bat, it has a leg up over NES Tetris. Then we have Training, your Mode A, and Contest, Mode B. Contest deserves some major kudos for designing a series of interesting, escalating “puzzles” that teach the basics on early levels (big bomb = good), and slowly ramps up to “this is a weird collection of blocks, but I think you can figure it out”. It’s also features breakdancing Pac-Man rejects every five stages, and I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

But what always seems to hold my attention is Fight. Fight is Tetris Blast, but a small “monster” is skulking around the stage. There are eight different creatures, and each has a different ability, like making your pieces fall faster, or eating your meticulously placed bombs. Your goal is to blast these critters with your bombs until their hit points are exhausted, or you clear the stage of every last block, which I suppose causes the monsters to commit seppuku in failure. These beings are completely “there”, too, which means you can squish them with properly placed blocks, or attempt to “box ‘em in” to curtail their dangerous habits. It’s not unlike playing Tetris, but having a lil’ Mario or koopa troopa scampering around on your growing tower. It’s simultaneously dumb and surprisingly endearing.

And I love it.

DAMMIT!It appears the secret to holding my attention is slapping a pair of googly eyes on a random shape and calling it my enemy. Squidly, Dug Grub, and Creepa are all rivals to my Tetris Blast happiness, and they must be stopped. I must defeat this charmingly named menace by any means necessary, else the previously blissful land of Bombliss will forever fester beneath the rule of B. Boy. God help me, the minute the Tetris world gained a rival faction, I was interested again, and wound up playing this nonsense for hours on end.

Hi, my name is Goggle Bob, and I prefer a cheap knock-off to a timeless classic because it features a monster named Gloop. Thanks for reading my blog.

FGC #199 Tetris Blast

  • System: Gameboy and Super Gameboy. The Super Gameboy factor is the only reason I owned this game when it was current.
  • Number of players: Usually one, but with that link cable? Oh boy, good times ahead!
  • Favorite Monster: Dug Grub seems to inspire the most strategy. He will eat our precious giant bombs, but he only does so from the top, and not that quickly, either. This means you often have the opportunity to squish him before he gobbles up your hard work… but then there will be an errant block on top of your giant bomb, possibly causing more issues down the line. In closing, Tetris Blast is a land of contrasts.
  • New Game Plus: There is a “second round” of even harder monsters after the first group. They can be unlocked by completing the game once, or entering a secret code you found in Nintendo Power. The most significant change for this challenge mode is that clearing all the blocks will not end the level, meaning some jerks, like Squidly, the beast that just chills and refills his own health, will take forever.
  • Number of times I resisted making an “explosive” pun during this article: 1,205.
  • Did you know? Tetris Blast seems to have inspired Super Puzzle Fighter and Lumines in various design decisions. It’s not like Tetris Blast invented the “puzzle game where things explode” genre, but there is certainly some shared DNA there.
  • Would I play again: Probably not, as the Gameboy and its library rarely sees replay in my home outside of an elf’s adventure to wake a fish. That said, if this thing gets a rerelease or redux, I am totally there.

What’s next? Random ROB… Listen to me, robot. This is entry #200 coming up, and I don’t want you to blow it like last time. So pick something good, ROB.

And the winner is… Wayne’s World for Super Nintendo!

Dammit, ROB!

How am I going to get something memorable out of that? Bah, I’m sure I’ll think of something. Please look forward to it!

That's that