Tag Archives: two players

FGC #268 Mario Bros. (Atari)

So many colorsSometimes even an ancient Atari game can surprise you.

Everybody knows Mario Bros. If you’re a certain age (old), you may have seen this primitive Mario experience in arcades. If you’re slightly younger (generally still old), you likely have fond memories of pseudo-Mario Bros. in the two player mode of Super Mario Bros. 3. And, if you’re one of six “lucky” people on this planet, you might even remember Mario Bros. for its spiritual sequel, Mario Clash, the Virtual Boy game that may have damaged your retinas. Mario Bros. might not be Donkey Kong or Super Mario Bros, but it’s still a beloved piece of Nintendo history, and most Nintendo fans have played the game at least once.

But… almost everyone that played Mario Bros. played it on actual Nintendo hardware, whether it be a Nintendo, Super Nintendo, or (INSERT NAME OF GAME SYSTEM THAT STARTS WITH “NINTENDO” HERE). Today’s game is Mario Bros, yes, but it’s Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600. It is, effectively, Mario Bros. before Mario. This ain’t Steamboat Willie, this is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Poor Papa. And, sorry to say, nobody has fond memories of that damn rabbit.

And, let’s face facts, there are a lot of reasons to assume Atari Mario Bros. would be terrible. Have you ever played Atari Pac-Man? It might be the worst port of a single videogame ever made. There is one ghost, the screen proportions are all wrong, and somehow even the “dots” aren’t properly distributed. Yes, someone somehow got a game that can be summarized as “a ball moves around a maze” completely wrong. And Pac-Man isn’t alone; at best, an Atari port would be something that reduced the cutting-edge arcade graphics of Joust or Kangaroo down to small-screen appropriate pixels, and, at worst, you’d wind up with something a few degrees better than E.T. (reminder: the game that destroyed the entire industry). And, while we’re at it, let’s note that Mario Bros. is a port of Mario Bros. not actually directed by Nintendo. I’m trying to remember how it turned out when some other Nintendo franchises were handled by studios other than Nintendo, but I’m distracted because I’m so hungry right now, I could eat an octorok.

Turtle turtle turtleSo, suffice it to say, I went into Mario Bros. Atari expecting pretty much nothing. The 2600 could barely render a protagonist that resembles a pizza pie, I couldn’t even imagine how overalls would be interpreted. And the iconic proto-koopa troopas and crabs of the arcade were known for their expressive, cartoony movements during an epoch where the best you could get out of most games was “beware the angry red square”, so their Atari interpretations were inevitably going to be a letdown. The graphics are primitive, blocks are all around, and you are likely to be eaten by a white hue. And, yes, as someone that has played NES Mario Bros and been unimpressed by the port quality there, I didn’t have much faith that Atari could succeed where Nintendidn’t.

But, surprises of surprises, Mario Bros. for Atari ain’t bad.

First of all, it’s definitely Mario Bros. All the familiar gameplay quirks are here, from flipping over turtles to the central POW Block. Even the between levels bonus stages are here for your failing pleasure (seriously, has anyone ever collected all those coins in the proper time limit?). ChillyI only have so much patience for playing early pre-Super Mario experiences, but I tromped through the first ten levels of this port, and it seemed like Mario Bros. all around. It was even as difficult as ever to flip over that final, hastened-by-the-demise-of-his-buddies crab. That’s some genuine Mario Bros. action right there.

But even more surprising than the fact that this game is actually playable is that there are a few items in this game that did not resurface in the “real” NES port. Mario Bros. NES does not feature our friend the turtle exiting his shell and kicking it while flipped over (an adorable bit of animation only seen in the arcade), but it is in the Atari version. Or, okay, the whole animation isn’t in there, but a turtle will stand up and face the player before obtaining a faster shell. It makes it… seem like something is happening. And icicles may fall from the ceiling in the arcade and Atari versions, but no such thing happens on the NES. Like Donkey Kong losing an entire stage, this was likely a concession to accommodate primitive NES programming, but it’s droll to see Atari attempt to stretch the limits of the hardware before Mario’s parent company.

Mind you, Mario Bros. Atari isn’t perfect. Apparently, no one on the Atari team could make the fireballs work “right”, so they’re just constantly respawning around the sides of the arena, and are more of an omnipresent threat than the leisurely fireballs that seem designed to merely keep a Mario from standing still too long in the arcade/NES. And, since the Atari had less onboard memory than an abacus, anytime a monster enters a pipe, it effectively respawns, so you have to double-flip those crabs during one stage tour. Oh, and the graphics, while passable, are still pretty “Atari crappy”. I have no idea why a moving “coin” is represented as a square, but here we are. Guess it was just too much trouble to shave off those four pixels and make something that kinda looks like a circle.

Lil' BuzzerBut, minor gripes aside, Mario Bros. Atari is actually Mario Bros, which is no small accomplishment. An arcade-to-Atari port not directed by Nintendo has every right to be absolutely horrible, but, nope, this is actually pretty fun. Maybe some games are good no matter the medium, maybe one team just happened to understand Mario Bros. and “get it right”, but whatever the case, Mario Bros. Atari is a pretty fun time.

Don’t judge a game by its system, I suppose.

FGC #268 Mario Bros. (Atari)

  • System: Come on, man, it’s right there in the title for today. I suppose I’ll note that we are talking about the 2600 here.
  • Number of players: I assume there’s a two player mode, but I literally don’t know where my second Atari control stick has landed. Just as well, I think I chewed on those things as a kid.
  • Favorite Enemy: The Fighter Fly has a very muted hop in this version, but he’s still my favorite. It’s like they’re trying to jump like our hero, Mario, but just not quiiiiiite making it.
  • ShinyDid you know: The turtles are known as Shellcreepers, and the crabs are Sidesteppers. Back in the Eighties, strange alien signals were beamed into children’s brains, so that’s how we knew the names of all the random, weird enemies in NES games. However, these names appear completely new to me, so Nintendo clearly only started subscribing to that service after the release of the NES.
  • Would I play again: This is a really impressive Atari game! Unfortunately, if it’s between playing an Atari game and cleaning my back porch, I’m unfortunately going for the broom. But if I’m stuck on a deserted island with only an Atari library to keep my company, this will be my first choice.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the PSP! Arthur is reborn and then quickly forgotten! Please look forward to it!

FGC #264 Fighters Megamix

Let's fight!Fighters Megamix didn’t create the crossover fighting game genre. Fighters Megamix didn’t create the 3-D fighter. No, what Fighter’s Megamix did was create the first fighting game where you could fight as a car.

In my book, that counts for a lot.

Fighters Megamix is one of many fighting games to grace the Sega Saturn. The intention of the advertising campaign surrounding Fighters Megamix is right there on the box: “The ultimate team-up – Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 2”… which, uh, is apparently a line from Game Informer. Wow, really low standard for pull quotes back then. Regardless, Fighters Megamix, despite the seemingly “unlimited” mega moniker, is, superficially, Virtua Fighter + Fighting Vipers. This, frankly, could have been enough to sell a game back in the day, because, hey, VF and FV are pretty fun games on their own. This isn’t even a Vs. game situation where the rosters are randomly trimmed in the name of balance and hitting release dates: this is straight up the complete cast of Virtua Fighter 2 battling every last fighter in Fighting Vipers 2. Fun times will be had by all!

The cast of Virtua Fighter 2 is not that exciting, though. Maybe Sega was trying to be more realistic, maybe the God of Fighting Games (Punchilicus) had a cold that day, but, somehow, in a post-Street Fighter 2 world, we got a cast of characters that are roughly as generic as America’s Best Cola Flavored Sugar Drink. Give or take a metal woman or two, we’ve got Karate Man, Chinese Lady, Gentle Wrestler, Woman, Ninja, Other Woman, and, my personal favorite, Kid in a Life Preserver. But, when those doofs are next to the cast of Fighting Vipers, their “seriousness” actually seems to work. Fighting Vipers has got a teenage girl in homemade, plastic armor, a radical glam rocker who attacks with his guitar, and not one, but two whole characters based on an executive asking, “well, aren’t rollerblades popular?”. This seems to make the Virtua Fighter cast appear as the valid, “mature” alternative to playing as a character dressed like Serpentor. Virtua Fighters are boring in their own games, but when a Megamix starts happening, they kind of work out.

And it appears someone noticed that, and decided to turn the contrasting weirdness up to eleven.

What just happened?Like many fighting games of the mid-to-late 90’s, there are a few unlockable characters to earn through repeated playthroughs. The first characters you’re likely to unlock are URA Bahn, a variant on Fighting Vipers’ Ryu, and Kids Akira, also a variant, but this time on Virtua Fighter’s main character. Except, while URA Bahn is just Bahn’s color (costume) swap, Kids Akira is Akira as a “chibi”, large-headed, and, frankly, adorable variation on Akira straight out of Virtua Fighter Kids. Right off the bat, we’ve got what seems to be a shot across the bow of Virtua Fighter’s steadfast seriousness. And then there’s Kumachan, a bear with zero points of articulation, so he basically “fights” like he’s being manipulated by an unseen toddler that is attempting to wring some fun out of an inanimate action figure. Oh, but Kumachan appears to be wearing armor, if you break his costume, then you will find that beneath the outer Kumachan shell of a bear, there’s… another bear. It’s bears all the way down!

And it’s weirdness all the way down, too. Siba seems like the most mundane hidden character, but his existence is owed to being deliberately cut content from the original Virtua Fighter, so he’s basically a playable piece of trivia. Then there’s Janet from Virtua Cop, and, even though she doesn’t get a “kick ‘em square in the bean machine” finisher from Dynamite Cop, she’s obviously a million times more interesting than the entire Virtua Fighter cast. That brings us to Rent-A-Hero, who hails from a franchise that has never made it out of Japan, mainly because it seems to be a humongous parody of sentai shows. So, basically, he’s a Power Ranger with the noticeable handicap of being battery-powered, so… uh… don’t take him into any matches that might take longer than a minute. And that luminary is our last human hidden character.

This is beary confusingBut don’t worry, we’ve still got Bean the Dynamite and Bark the Polar Bear. If those sound like lame Sonic the Hedgehogoriginal characters”, it’s because they are: Bean (who is apparently a duck?) and Bark both hail from Sonic The Fighters. Remember that Sonic the Hedgehog fighting game? No? Well, it was on one of the Sonic collections, and it was apparently from the same studio as Fighters Megamix, so here are a few refugees. Note that no one thought to go the obvious route and include, ya know, Sonic the friggen Hedgehog (on a Sega system lacking a definitive Sonic game to boot), but here’s Bark the Polar Bear, and he’s wearing a Santa costume! Oh boy!

And, finally, we have Deku, a green bean in a sombrero. Deku is not to be confused with Amingo, a cactus in a sombrero that would eventually appear in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. These are two totally separate characters, and “two fighting game crossovers featuring a bizarre Mexican stereotype” is just the kind of coincidence that happens when companies make fighting games for a decade or so. It was bound to happen.

Oh, wait, Deku isn’t our final hidden character after all. Technically, there’s also Mr. Meat (a piece of videogame meat with inexplicable [and unattached] hands and feet), Palm Tree (who is a palm tree), and, finally, Hornet. Hornet is a car that walks like a man. Hornet must suck the blood of the living, lest Hornet return to a lowly life as a race car. Also, Hornet is as tall as a human right now, for some reason. Hornet fights about as well as you’d expect a car with absolutely zero martial arts training to fight, but, hey, how many games can you fight as a car? (No, not fight as cars, that’s something else entirely.)

VROOM!

Let’s face facts: Fighting Vipers is long forgotten, and Virtua Fighter, try as it might, has never achieved the acclaim or fame of even lesser fighting games. But, for one shining moment, both franchises combined into the most memorable fighting game on the Sega Saturn. No, it didn’t change the face of the genre or invent a whole new playstyle like some of its contemporaries, but it was a fun time… mostly because most of its hidden cast is the result of a fever dream. Marvel vs. Capcom or King of the Fighters might be fun games, but they don’t allow the player to pit a car against a bean. That’s a matchup you’ll only find on the Saturn.

Head for Saturn, little polar bear. Head for Saturn.

FGC #264 Fighters Megamix

  • System: Sega Saturn. This is unlikely to see a rerelease, as it is impossible to sort out the rights to Deku,
  • Number of players: Two car-people enter, only one vrooms away.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: There’s a snake-themed character with brown coloring named B.M. … Someone had to know what was going on there. It’s not just me with my mind in the gutter… right?
  • What?Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: Fighters Megamix creates an interesting twist on the typical arcade mode, and includes a number of “brackets” with distinct characters, like Muscle (for the “Zangief-esque” characters”) or Smart Guys (for the more tactical characters). There’s even a “Girls” tier exclusively for the female characters. That’s good! There are enough women in a fighting game that they can flesh out an entire tower of girl power, and that’s rare! What’s not so great is that your reward for battling through this mode is a credits sequence that contains more cheesecake than my dad’s birthday party. And, side note, that man really enjoys his cheesecake.
  • Also gross: Honey/Candy is sexualized to a fairly insane degree, and she’s supposed to be sixteen. Thanks, Sega!
  • Favorite Character: Gonna say it again, “Car that walks like a man.”
  • Did you know? The Dirty Fighters tournament involves a lot of characters that crouch and punch. I’m almost certain this means that the “dirty fighters” are all trying to punch my chosen hero where Virtua Fighter Kids come from. That’s dirty.
  • Would I play again: This is like the one Sega Saturn game I enjoy replaying. Good thing, too, considering I have to start a new save file every time I boot up the damn thing…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Scribblenauts Unmasked for WiiU! Typing time with Batman! Please look forward to it!

BEAR OVER

FGC #260 Giga Wing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily, that didn’t matter.

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

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

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

FGC #260 Giga Wing

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

    So true

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

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

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

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