Tag Archives: these are the peters I know

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

I can fly!The problem with pets is that there is a lack of communication. Yes, your average dog is confident in his good boyhood, and your average cat is well aware that you are a willing slave to the feline oligarchy, but relaying more precise concepts is very difficult. Yes, you, human, are yelling… but… why? Is it because food is late? Is it because good boy did not sniff enough telephone poles? Or is it somehow related to how that pillow had to be dismantled, piece by piece, because it might contain angry ghosts? And, of course, all of the other pillows had to be destroyed, because, come on, you can’t leave a job unfinished. Is that why yelling is happening? No, it’s probably that sniffing thing. That seems like the most important item of the day.

Unfortunately, videogames are much in the same boat. Mass Effect Andromeda was a failure. But why? Was it the graphics? The sound effects? An uninteresting and unsightly plot? Not enough homosexual scenarios available? An odd subliminal message that pops up every thirty seconds that reads “Trump for President” despite the fact that the game was released like six months after the election? It’s literally impossible to point to one distinct reason a particular videogame failed, and you average gamer isn’t much help in that regard, either. “It sucked,” is not constructive criticism! Not that the marketing department is ever going to listen anyway, they’re still too busy insulting review aggregator sites to notice why their game might not be scoring a passing grade. Once again, there is a lack of communication between the people that want something and the folks that can actually do something about it.

This is why the playtesting phase of any given videogame production is so important. There were maybe two games produced in the last three decades that significantly changed after a demo/release thanks to “player feedback”, so it seems obvious to the layman that programmers and other creators behind our favorite medium won’t change much once it’s “out in the wild”. But in-house playtesting can reveal much that a programmer too close to a project may have missed. Like, ya know, when an entire level doesn’t work. Yes, it’s very easy for us to note glitches and flaws well after the fact, but who knows how many problems have been preemptively fixed by diligent playtesters (and the design teams that actually PIRATES!listen to said test dummies). And, come on, videogames are meant to be played. Nobody wants to play a game of conceptual dodge ball; when you’ve got a game in front of you, you want to know someone played and enjoyed it before you. Tried and true and tested, that’s the sure route to fun.

And it’s very clear that THQ didn’t hire a single playtester back in the 90’s.

THQ, one way or another, is responsible for publishing a number of games for the original Nintendo console. We’ve got such luminaries as Home Alone, Swamp Thing, and (the only videogame I know of based on a friggen’ series of art books) Where’s Waldo. THQ itself came from the world of toy manufacturing (Toy Headquarters, Toy HQ, THQ), so it seems only natural that their plan for the NES, the “hot toy” of the 80s, would be to adapt every available children’s property into a digital format. You make your action figures for James Bond Jr., then you make a corresponding game, and then you have pillow fights with supermodels in your money bin. Licensing has always been the same, and a Home Alone tie-in novel or board game can’t be that different from an accompanying videogame. All works out identical in the end.

STAB!And, while it’s easy to say THQ had no vested interest in advancing the medium or making videogames a household name or whatever lofty goals you could likely attribute to the likes of Nintendo or Konami, you must admit that THQ did want to be successful. After all, why make videogames if not to sell videogames? In every medium going back to cave drawings, there has been a clear line connecting “success” and “quality”. Okay, wait, that might be a lie. But even artists not appreciated in their time were able to sell the occasional bit of scribbling, and they didn’t need the Wayne’s World license to do it. You can make a licensed game and a good game at the same time! Capcom did it often! And they were rewarded for it! You can do it, too, THQ!

Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates, THQ’s first ever release, seems to prove that THQ was never interested in creating a game that was capable of being enjoyed.

Peter Pan could be an interesting character for a 2-D platformer. In fact, Kirby with a sword basically is Peter Pan. Fly, slide, slash, and maybe make some manner of rooster sound. Battle through woods, coves, and pirate brigades, and avoid a crocodile along the way. Faeries are already an established powerup, and heck, if you want to really go nuts, you could include some kind of “duel” mini-mode like certain other releases. Peter Pan is all about an action-loving teenager with unparalleled movement capabilities and an established antagonist that just happens to have his own infinite army of mooks. Every videogame title should just be Peter Pan!

Very wetBut Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates manages to squander everything fun about Peter Pan within its opening level. Peter Pan has a sword! Or dagger! Something pointy! Unfortunately, it’s about the same length as a twinkie, so we’re stuck with the raw damage potential of a 2-D Hylian that managed to leave all of his magic skills at home. But Peter Pan isn’t about stabbing! He’s about flying! And… that is difficult to control. And hitting any one of the bizarre, poorly-defined hitboxes of enemy or platform alike will cause Pete to drop like a dead fairy. Oh, and all flight is limited by a fairy dust counter, because I guess Peter Pan only has so much happiness in his cold, black heart. Wendy appears once to say watch out for snakes, Tinker Bell is nothing more than a health fill-up, and there are warp mushrooms that will randomly toss you somewhere in the stage. It’s all extremely underwhelming, and a complete waste of a decent license.

And then it somehow gets worse.

FPPatP is an old school NES game, so that means three lives and no continues. Considering the length of the first stage and the sheer number of deadly pterodactyls contained therein, it would not be a stretch to claim that many kids never made it past the first stage. Oh, and the game requires you kill every rando pirate in every level, so if you did manage to get to the end, it was likely you were sent back to start because you didn’t nail a Smee. Anyone lucky enough to find stage 2 would then discover a level that is primarily pits and traps, so, uh, good luck with that and Peter Pan’s overly finicky flight skills. I would estimate that, just spitballing, of all the poor children that got stuck with this abomination, probably only about 3% ever saw the third level. Beyond that? That’s just impossibility.

And, while I’m applying this thinking to the poor saps that wound up with this lesser Barrie adaptation under the Christmas tree, it’s pretty clear that the playtesters didn’t get very far either. The controls are already terrible, but something is seriously wrong when the fourth stage is simply a recolor of the first. Though, it was the NES age, one might expect that echelon of cost cutting. What’s the next level?

AHHH

Oh God! What horrible Virtual Boy preview hath THQ wrought!? There is no way a single human being saw that color scheme (red on red on red on… maybe brown?) and thought, “Yes, this is something that should be unleashed upon children.” Hell, had a parent’s organization even been in the same zip code as that stage, we’d see a complete ban of all videogames as early as 1991. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that this hunk of trash was a contemptuous contemporary of Mega Man 4, Metal Storm, and Battletoads? This was seven years after Urban Champion, and someone thought it was okay.

And then the final level is the same stupid level repeated three times in a row, followed by a final boss fight that is simultaneously impossible, difficult, and as boring as counting rice grains. Your reward for completing the game is one lousy bitmap of Peter Pan and the message that “It is so much fun being Peter Pan”.

No.

No it is not.

Was Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates a success for THQ? Signs point to no. It probably sold a decent enough number of copies (currently available at around $30 for complete in box, so there is likely a lot of this trash out in the world), but no one ever lists this 2 star (out of a possible million) title on their “best of” or “fond childhood memories” list. This game was crap, and it bombed because it was crap. Was there any way to relay this information to THQ, though? Of course not. Whaddya gonna do, write a blog post about it?

So, anyway, if anyone from early 90’s THQ can read this… Uh, your game sucked. Just a head’s up.

Bad, THQ. Bad.

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. Please do not look for virtual console releases, as Disney has stomped this version of the franchise out of the universe.
  • Number of players: The other Lost Boys are completely absent. Seriously. Don’t think they even get a mention. I guess they’re…. lost.
  • Mushroom KingdomFoxy: “Fox’s” Peter Pan and the Pirates was a Saturday morning television show on Fox. Okay, you probably guessed that. Fox managed to outbid Disney for the license just this once, and made a surprisingly trippy cartoon series out of the whole deal. The Peter Pan nonsense was pretty tiresome, but there was a surprising amount of attention paid to (actually competent) Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Oh, and one time Wendy’s daughter from the future showed up, and Sailor Moon has taught me that that trope is always cool.
  • Say something nice: Unusual for a platformer, your health is a number in this adventure. And even more unusual, your health doesn’t seem to have an upper limit. So, assuming you stay out of the jaws of a crocodile, you should have practically unlimited health by the final boss. Or you’ll have practically nothing because of a random instant death trap. One or the other.
  • Did you know? Fox’s Peter Pan made Tinker Bell a redhead and the smartest of the Lost Boys. Disney’s Tinker Bell is a jackass.
  • Would I play again: And be the first person in history to play this game twice? Never.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project! Cowabunga! Please look forward to it, dudes!

TOO REAL

FGC #107 Fable 3

Shiny!Fable 3 may be the most realistic game I’ve ever played.

The Fable series, practically from day one, has been mired in the kind of controversy that can occur through overzealous hyperbole enhanced by only more fervid exaggeration. When Fable was announced back in the days of the Xbox (1… no… the first one, not Xbox One. God damn you, Microsoft), Peter Molyneux promised us a beauteous world where your every choice had global consequences. What we got was a land no larger than Hyrule where you had a choice between petting a kitten, or lighting the poor creature on fire and hurling it through the window of an orphanage. I want to say the “petting” choice was the “good route”, but some of those orphans were dicks, so it could go either way. This created a significant backlash from everyone that hadn’t already been tricked by Black and White (I built a whole new computer for that game! And it was just The Sims with a random Godzilla hanging out! And somehow that was boring!), so what was generally an above-average adventure/RPG became a sacrificial log on the bonfire that was every developer’s inevitably inflated promises for upcoming game x. I understand that gamers feel betrayed when their fifty dollar entertainment purchases don’t turn out to redefine storytelling for the millennium, but, come on guys, can we start to see the pattern, or do we need another Watch_Dogs to remind us?

Whatever the case, Fable wound up being pretty successful despite its increasingly horrid reputation, and Fable 2 was the inevitable sequel for the Xbox 360. This was where I met the franchise, and, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I enjoyed the game quite a bit. Heck, it might be my favorite “only on 360” game for the generation. I understand that some people still want Molyneux’s promised gigantic world of hopes and dreams and love, but for my money, I really enjoy the more scaled-back adventure we received. There are places to explore and find, but it’s not nearly as daunting as your average Bethesda adventure. I enjoy the likes of Fallout and Skyrim, but I have to be in the exact right mood to play such games, Damn not werewolveselse I am immediately hit with an intense feeling of agoraphobia, and lock up at the myriad of choices available. If I hit location x, I might miss out on location y, and location z will be locked away forever! Argh! Fable 2 is more gentle, and, look, there’s a happy glowing path telling you exactly where to go. Yes, I know some people can’t stand such handholding, but for someone who has been crippled by too many choices far too many times (What do you mean I only get to pick four? I want to try Thief and Red Mage, too!), it was juuuust right. Sure, the morality was still molotov kitten thin, but it was a fun game with precise goals and challenges, and I happily devoured the entire quest and DLC just to dink around with my digital avatar a little more. Heck, I even played through the game more than once, which is an extreme rarity with me and any modern game (that can’t be completed inside of two hours). Come on, I know I’m just going to buy the inevitable next-gen remake and play it again later anyway!

All that said, I was hungry for more Fable 2 when Fable 3 was ready to launch, and… well, that’s exactly what we got. Fable 3 promised a bold new premise (you are king of the world!), but, from a practical standpoint, Fable 3 was little more than an ambitious expansion of Fable 2. Exact same kingdom, maybe a new town or two, and primarily the same weapons, spells, and items that populated its predecessor. And the “you are a monarch” feature? It’s cool in theory, but in practice, it’s one extra kitten choice a day, and then you’re off to whack around goblins (hobbes) like every other Fable/adventure game. Fable 3, ultimately, was a disappointing game, mainly because it was barely Fable 2.5.

But that disappointment is not what I remember most about Fable 3.

I suppose the most “realistic” thing most people remember about Fable 3 is the time spent fundraising as royalty. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the game, at about the halfway point, your character reclaims the throne from a seemingly malevolent usurper, but learns that Also, I might be a wizard“the tyrant” was simply attempting to amass an army and wealth to ward off an even greater threat to the kingdom. Your job becomes, basically, to raise the necessary scratch to save the kingdom, and do so while not pissing off every single one of your subjects. Like in real life politics, it is a careful balancing act as you attempt to rule the kingdom and keep the soldiers’ paychecks coming, but still elevate a populace’s happiness so they don’t start asking to see your birth certificate. In an effort to heap further stress upon the player, there’s a clear timer ticking down until the invaders show up… except the provided timeline is a lie. You’re told you have a “year”, but, in truth, time flies, and you’ll go from more than a hundred days remaining to a big fat zero in the span of a night’s sleep. It’s the game betraying the player and everything gauges stand for, but it does feel realistic, and an appropriate punishment for anyone that has ever thought they could procrastinate writing a report or building an army to repel shadow monsters.

But, to be honest, I never much cared for my digital kingdom, as my subjects seemed like a bunch of fussy whiners. Sure, I turned your community into a toxic waste dump, but do you have to keep giving me the stink eye? I was trying to get my own fun out of the game, and it caused… issues.

This goes back to my time with Fable 2. See, as I said before, I played through Fable 2 multiple times, but I realized early in my first run that Fable 2 was not at all a LUTE HEROdifficult game. Despite playing video games for years, I don’t claim to be “naturally” good at any kind of game that doesn’t involve mustachioed plumbers, so I usually see my share of game overs until I “master” the controls du jour. For Fable 2, I never came close to “dying”, and discovered (online) that even if you do lose all your HP, all you get is a teeny tiny scar. Lame.

In an effort to create a sort of “personal challenge” for Fable 2, I decided to turn to pie. See, there’s a weight mechanic in Fable 2, and it makes gaining weight easy, while losing weight is difficult. So, new Fable 2 challenge: I’ll buy all the pies (all the pies!) and only use those to restore health. Only in safe areas (like towns) will I attempt to reduce my character’s weight (through leafy greens! Yum!), and, basically, my “score” will rely on how skinny I can keep my digital avatar. The winner is the thinner, or, basically, Abercrombie and Fitch rules. Since the game “logs” your avatar’s appearance at distinct points in the game, it would be a great way to look back and see the difficulty of a particular segment of the game. If the game didn’t present a risk of death, at least there would be the risk of a fat ass.

Incidentally, just to be clear, no, I don’t see being heavy in real life as a failing. Metabolisms gonna metabolize. This was just a (ridiculous) way to track progress in this particular game. If it was harder to stay fat in the game (which would probably be more epoch accurate), that would have been the challenge. It’s just how the game was designed. And, apparently, that can change…

So, with this prior experience in mind, I played through the opening area of Fable 3. I found, for better or worse, practically nothing had changed, so I decided to partake in the same pie challenge. At the first town, I loaded my inventory with desserts, and went about exploring a dungeon. A large contingent of the undead got the drop on my poor princess, and she devoured her share of pastry on her way to the goal. After getting back to town, I decided to check out the stats screen, and see what this had wrought on her girlish figure.

Red?I found that her “weight” gauge was all the way in the red. I assumed, naturally, that this was a Western RPG, the bias is that fat is unequivocally bad, and red equals bad, so my character must be as fat as possible after all those pies. Huh. She didn’t look bulky, but I figured the more obvious “your character has gained weight” graphics had been dropped for whatever reason from the previous version (if memory serves, that exact thing happened between Monster Rancher and Monster Rancher 2: just make “weight” a gauge and call it a day, why modify graphics?). So, okay, this is what maximum fat looks like. I’ll keep that in mind.

Except Fable 3 had changed the weight mechanics between games. In Fable 2, it was nearly impossible to lose weight, and actually impossible to lose weight through anything but “trying” (i.e. noshing on items deliberately built to help shed pounds). In Fable 3, however, you lose weight naturally through any activity, like, say, running through a dungeon and remurdering undead hordes. And, yes, because I was used to the old system, I was completely misinterpreting the gauge. Red is skinny, green is fat. Fable 3 had the same “your model will look fatter” mechanic as Fable 2, I just never got into a situation where the pie outpaced the natural weight loss. My character was thin, but I thought she was fat. I thought that was what fat looked like. I decided to lay off the pies, because we were already at the maximum red point on the slider. I didn’t want to let that plump princess bust any more belts.

But I was wrong.

I… I gave my player avatar an eating disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia, specifically.

Fable 3 is the most realistic game I’ve ever played.

Just… probably not for the reasons intended.

FGC #107 Fable 3

  • System: Only on Xbox 360. Is that the first time that’s happened on the FGC? Oh, no, wait, we had that Banjo game. But, wait, that’s on Xbox One, too…
  • Who's a good boy?Number of players: Most likely one, but you can bop over into someone else’s world through Xbox Live, so yay for online co-op. Or wreck up the place. Whatever is considered cooperative.
  • Secret of Evermore: I no longer remember why my dog is now a robot.
  • I like words: One other big change in Fable 3 was dropping practically all of the menus of Fable 2 in favor of an animated hub area that is narrated by John Cleese. It was a terribly implemented, if noble, idea. But it wasn’t a complete failure, particularly for a game with so many hair/clothing/etc. options. On the other hand, it made all the “lore” books of the game an absolute bear to actually “read”. Stop attacking me, bandits, I’m listening to funny narration!
  • Bookends: For all the issues I have with this game, I do appreciate the symmetry of having the first fight in the storyline so perfectly mirror the final fight. Tutorial to final boss… not bad!
  • Downloadable Content: In addition to DLC that would be eventually released, there were a number of DLC items that could be purchased prior to Fable 3’s release through Collector’s Editions, controllers, and probably a breakfast cereal or something. There was even a Fable 3 tie-in novel that contained DLC for a rare sword, and I scoffed at that height of marketing gone wild. Then I found out the book was written by Peter David… so there it is on my bookshelf.
  • Did you know? You can import your save data from Fable 2 and… it will remember your gender from the previous game. Since the hero of Fable 3 is the child of Fable 2’s hero, this will determine the pronoun most used during the six times the “previous ruler” is referenced during the game. And that’s about it. Man, importing save data is useless outside of Mass Effect.
  • Would I play again? I’m betting we’ll see some Fable 2 & 3 rerelease at some point in the future, so I’m sure I’ll replay it again then. In the meanwhile, it’s unlikely I’ll be hitting it again on its original hardware, but it’s at least a possibility!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy 2 for the Super Nintendo. Dammit. I’m not even going to pretend to be excited about that. Please look forward to it, I guess.

Saaaaaaaaaail Away