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FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

Everything is painThis game is cursed.

I’ve told this story elsewhere, but I own this game because I made a very poor decision as a child. I saved up my allowance for weeks, finally scraped together a little over ten bucks, and decided I would purchase a “used” videogame from the local rental hut. Mega Man 4 was available, but I decided that, since I had already played and beaten that game, I would pick up Wizards and Warriors 3, a game that promised three different “classes” for Kuros. Maybe, like my beloved Final Fantasy, I would have a fun time with these JRPG elements. I didn’t. I got the game home, played it for maybe a half hour, and returned to my mother sobbing, begging that we return the wretched game that literally made me cry. My mother did no such thing, and I learned a very valuable lesson about never trusting Rare Ltd. ever again.

Of course, since I had a whole twelve (or so) NES games when I was a kid, I played W&W3 continuously (bad blood is still allowed to be fresh blood), and did eventually beat the game. Now, some decades later, I decided I would share my W&W3 skills live on a stream, and showcase the misery for all to see (and to find out how much of a game I hadn’t played in years was still stuck in my head). And I did play through the game on a stream last Friday night with some very special guest stars (or the usual guest stars), and a good time was had by all.

But this game is still cursed, so, naturally, the audio got messed up, and the recording is pretty much just my microphone. It’s the whole of Wizards and Warriors 3, with me occasionally agreeing to comments that can no longer be heard. In one particularly surreal bit, I ask BEAT for a rundown on the indie rap scene, and then, a few moments of silence later, I agree that that sounds very interesting. It’s almost as terrible as Wizards and Warriors 3.

So, in lieu of having a video of my complete playthrough, we’re going to claim that that was a “live exclusive experience”, and here’s a consolation list of reasons Wizards and Warriors 3 is terrible.

This is a supremely glitchy and ugly game

That's not how you treat a ladyRight off the bat, practically everything is wrong with Wizards and Warriors 3. Animations for characters don’t seem to make any anatomical or kinetic sense. It’s impossible to visually distinguish between antagonistic and helpful NPCs (protip: they’re all appalling). Kuros (our hero) occasionally takes a moment to flash some leg at the audience. No part of this game is coherent, and it’s immediately apparent to even the most casual viewer.

What’s worse is that this game is swarming with glitches and things that may or may not be glitches. There are “gatekeeper” invincible monsters that can stretch the length of the screen, and… are they supposed to do that? It… doesn’t look like it. Similarly, it’s easy to push any NPC off the edge of the world, and giggle as they fall into oblivion. In fact, if you shove an opponent off any platform, and said foe isn’t already using their “jump” action, they will fall forever, presumably eventually perishing somewhere near the Earth’s mantle. I saw that happen on an episode of Batman once, and it looked… unpleasant.

Everything, practically from the moment you press Start, seems to be fragmentary, and the punch line is that, apparently, the game is unfinished. According to some sources, Zippo Games completely sold out to Rare Manchester during development, and most of the staff wound up quitting thanks to an overwhelming feeling of “you used to be cool, man.” Wizards and Warriors 3 was thus rushed out the door, and slowly made its way to the hands of poor, uninformed children. Thanks, Pickford Brothers (the original folks behind Wizards and Warriors), you’re on the list!

Your HP or your GP

We don't serve your kindWizards and Warriors 3 is a game not unlike Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest or The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. You have a large area to explore, and you can access newer, more interesting (lie) areas through acquiring intriguing (also a lie) upgraded abilities. It’s a Metroidvania! And an insult to that entire genre! But what really separates W&W3 from the Metroidvanias of today and yesterday is that there is no way to save. There are also no passwords. There’s no level select code. There’s nothing. You have three lives, you cannot acquire more lives, and there are no continues. Even if you Game Genie your way into additional lives, the game isn’t even programmed to display a life counter value greater than three. And once you’ve spent those three lives, you’re right back to the beginning, even if you spent the last four hours of your life attempting to make progress.

(Do you understand the tears now?)

Your only options are the limited meat items scattered across the map, or spending every last cent you find on food from various shops so you can keep Kuros’s health topped off. But you also need keys, because treasure chests and (mandatory) doors always seem to be locked. So you’re forced to either budget for an indefinite amount of damage that could leave you stuck back at the title screen, or blow your cash on those keys that you’re probably going to need to progress anywhere. How does a first time player make the decision between forward progress keys or saving progress with a pile of meat? I know what I did, which is demand that this game be traded for Mega Man 4 this instant. It didn’t work out.

Combat is optional and/or obligatory

DorkThere are three main areas to Wizards and Warriors 3 (huh, wonder if that was deliberate): the castle, the town, and the underground. Kuros also has three corresponding forms: knight, thief, and wizard. If you remember to always wear the appropriate disguise in the right area, you won’t have to fight a single random “monster”. Okay, that isn’t exactly true, as there are these floaty green dudes in the underground that will kill just about anybody, and there are a few birds that are absolute dicks, but other than that, the game pretty much plays by the rules. This means that, despite Knight Kuros’s kickass flying axe, you pretty much never need to use any combat skills in W&W3.

Except for the boss monsters.

The bosses are mandatory, and, aside from a really simple knight and worm, all of them follow the same pattern of “stand on top of Kuros at all times”. Assuming you’re not ready for these bosses (and why would you be? You literally don’t have to fight any other thing like these creatures in the entire game), you’re likely to lose some of those precious lives the very minute you open their boss doors. Oh, and never mind that you get stuck with the supremely underpowered thief class for a couple of those battles, because you apparently can’t change forms while inside a room. You’ve got limited resources, and very aggressive bosses. That is not a good combination for anyone that actually wants to enjoy this game.

Oh, and the “upgraded” form of the worm boss is… two worm bosses. That’s just lazy.

The best part of the game is also the worst

Comin' atcha!The very reason I bought this game at all is the advertised “guild” factor. Kuros can adopt different personas, and wield magic as a wizard, or swing around a giant key like a Sora thief. This is good and right, and adds some much needed diversity to the Wizards and Warriors formula (which previously only saw a hero that could jump, swing a sword poorly, and occasionally become invisible). And, since this game is a metroidvania, the acquisition of new “ranks” in these guilds/costumes means access to new areas. Also, acquiring a flight ability, no matter how dreadfully slow, is always a good time.

Unfortunately, to earn any of these skills, you have to complete guild challenges. This always involves fighting a random boss somewhere in the world, collecting a statue, returning to the guild with said statue, running through an obstacle course of dubious graphical fidelity, and then fighting another boss. Each of these challenges is exactly the same, though with increasing difficulty through the ranks. And when I say “difficulty”, I apparently mean “we just made the platforms smaller, and threw in a couple of practically unavoidable traps.” Since these obstacle courses reset from the start every time you fail, this means the average player will spend something like 70,000,000 hours attempting to jump between moving platforms over either poorly rendered spikes (thief challenge) or absolutely nothing (wizard challenge). After clearing all of these challenges, actually being impaled is more fun than dealing with the magical doors-directly-to-spikes again.

There’s a hateful inventory system, too

Way to go, prezThere are key items in Wizards and Warriors 3, and you may only carry four at a time. Under normal circumstances, this would just be annoying, but could actually lead to some decent gameplay moments. You must stay on target with one task or another, and attempting to collect everything on the map in one go is discouraged. That can be okay. Regrettably, in this case, the game is still a glitchy mess, so it’s entirely possible to get four random key items, and thus be unable to pick up a fifth item that you actually need to progress to unload said four random items. For an easy example, it’s very easy to get guild statues out of order, but it’s impossible to challenge the guilds with said statues out of sequence. Got the golden thief statue before silver, and need that (golden) key to get rid of the rest of your crap? Sorry, you’re screwed. May as well reset. Back to the beginning, again.

What’s more, a number of key items exist exclusively for the benefit of wise men that provide such useful information as “kill the dragon” or “you need to go in the giant, imposing door to reach the final boss”. Thanks, guy, I really didn’t need to run all over Piedup with this stupid rosary pendant to learn that valuable nugget of information.

This dragon is stupid

Look at this daffy thing.

Three heads are better than one?

The Bad Ending sucks

This ends poorlySo after earning all of the guild ranks, rescuing and lying to three princesses, conquering the dragon, and maybe bribing some old men into taking arbitrary trash off your hands, it’s time for the final boss. Malkil, Kuros’s eternal rival, has conquered the strangely vertical town of Piedup, and sits on the throne in disguise as the king. Before the final battle, Malkil offers Kuros a choice: fight to the death, or join together, and rule this hamlet in tandem. Should Kuros choose to join his antagonist… he is vaporized immediately. Game over.

In any other game (Dragon Quest comes to mind), this would simply be annoying. Oh well, that was the wrong choice, time to reload from the most recent save. However, W&W3 still only provides exactly zero continues and/or opportunities to save your progress. So it’s possible to battle through the whole game, reach the finale, and lose everything to one poor selection. This should be treated as a war crime, and, if more people had actually played W&W3, most of the Rare staff would be in jail by now.

The Good Ending sucks

Just bad all aroundAnd should you actually have enough health and lives to finish off Malkil the Happy Evil King, the ending isn’t exactly a reward. Kuros is sucked into a time warp (apparently a magical portal that Malkil can now summon at will?), and, while you’re assured that Piedup saw the return of its true and just King James, Kuros is never seen again. The obvious sequel hook is some manner of reverse Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the concept of Knight Kuros becoming Laser Knight Kuros is a promising one. But we never saw another Wizards and Warriors, and the franchise seems to be all but forgotten.

Actually, wait. That is a happy ending. Rot in hell, Wizards and Warriors 3. You ruin everything.

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was even ignored for the recent Rare Replay collection on Xbone. How bad do you have to be to be forgotten in favor of Digger T. Rock?
  • Number of players: I don’t even want to imagine a world where a two player experience was shoehorned into this nonsense.
  • Favorite Costume: Thief, with the crowbar, in the castle.
  • Regarding the stream: I am disappointed that the audio from that adventure is lost forever. I appreciate everyone that participated, and I had a really fun time recording it while playing one of the most loathsome games in my library. All that said, if you missed it, we spent most of the night recounting unrelated favorite tweets, so no big loss.
  • Say something nice: It is kind of fun to see how many NPCs you can “ride” and/or push off the world into oblivion.
  • smexyDid you know? Oh God, I just realized where I recognized the Pickford Brothers name from! These are the people responsible for Plok, too! And they worked on the worst Marvel/LJN games. It’s weird how these two are tangentially involved in a number of games that influenced my childhood… for better or worse (mostly worse).
  • Would I play again: I was amazed during my live playthrough at how much of this game is still second nature (I only really needed a FAQ to remind myself where that dragon was hiding). That said… God, I never want to see this thing again. The pain still feels fresh…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rolling Thunder 2 for the Sega Genesis. I believe that is some manner of weather pattern? Is this a Weather Channel simulator? That might be fun. Please look forward to it!

Ugh
I still have nightmares…

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Live!)

Let's get ready to go!Well, this went just about as well as expected.

In honor of FGC Entry #300, I decided to do a “live pick” with BEAT and FanboyMaster. In the end, the game wound up being Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, and… I’m not very good at it. Please enjoy watching Claire Redfield die a whole lot below.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

4:00 – Our first pick is… not allowed. It turns out that if you ask BEAT to choose a number between one and ten, he will choose twelve billion. Eventually, Adventure Island 3 is chosen… and then dropped due to not actually being emulator-ly available. I am not going to fight my NES for a half hour.

6:47 – The Sega Saturn Bootleg Sampler is mentioned. Despite the name, this was an official demo disc that came with new Sega Saturns. It had a playable demo for Sega Rally Championship, and a video preview of Daytona USA. Bless the short-lived reign of the racing game. Oh, and Etrian Mystery Dungeon is also picked… but man do I not want to stream that. There are no objections.

9:50 – Okay, now we’ve settled on our actual pick. Third time’s a charm! Now I just have to wander across the room to actually find the game.

14:05 – Now we’re actually playing a videogame! Sorta! I’m having difficulty even navigating the menus… and that’s a fine preview for the rest of the evening.

21:28 – FanboyMaster proves to be the Resident Evil guru around here, while BEAT learns for the first time that Claire on the game case is not the eponymous “Veronica”. Come on, BEAT, I’m terrible at this game, and I knew that.

27:13 – Let’s talk about Sonic the Hedgehog cameras while Claire is nibbled to death by the absolute earliest zombies available. What happened to the super agile Claire of the opening cinema?

Weeeeeee37:00 – FanboyMaster continues to provide excellent coaching, but I am just terrible at this game. I’ve said it before, but I cannot in good conscience complain about the overabundance of tutorials in modern games, because I do not miss nonsense like this. I’ll echo exactly what I said in the stream: I cannot tell you how many times I opened a menu or the map screen in an attempt to shoot a zombie, and, immersion or no, I’d kind of like to have an explanation of how to defend myself before I’m chewed to pieces by the walking dead. There, that’s my big takeaway from replaying a tanky Resident Evil about two decades after its release. Now we can go back to watching me die.

42:00 – There is a brief discussion regarding third party controllers. I looked it up afterwards, and, yes, the Super Advantage was a third party controller, but the original NES Advantage was first party. I’m glad I got that fact right while showcasing my embarrassing Resident Evil skills.

49:50 –

Albert Whiskers

58:00 – Please enjoy a brief discussion of Umbrella Co. bureaucracy while my brain breaks over the first puzzle in the game. I cannot imagine why I didn’t get into the Resident Evil series until 4…

1:06:00 – I am not a cool nerd: my greatest memory of StarCraft is getting a friend to eat dog food. And then we talk about projectile vomiting.

1:09:00 – FanboyMaster leaves for parts unknown, so BEAT ‘n Goggle Bob are doomed. Let’s talk about Let’s Play styles while Claire creeps closer to her inevitable death.

1:12:00 – FanboyMaster returns to discuss Phoenix Wright, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil 4. These are all games I would rather be playing.

1:17:00 – I finally throw in the towel, as FanboyMaster reveals I’ve been trying to extinguish the wrong fire at the wrong truck. Let’s look at some VMU saves instead.

1:20:00 – Now for random excerpts of BEAT and I chatting over Sonic Adventure 2, a Dreamcast game that I actually know how to play.

REEMAIL1:30:00 – It all comes back to Kingdom Hearts as we close out the evening around 1 AM. Thanks to everyone that watched the stream live, and extra special thanks to FanboyMaster and BEAT for guesting. Obviously, a certain non-skeleton someone was slightly more useful on this stream, but a fun time was had by all. Here’s to another 300 FGCs! Note: there will not be another 300 FGCs.

FGC #300 Resident Evil – Code: Veronica

  • System: Dreamcast tonight, but it eventually returned on Playstation 2, Gamecube, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. What? It’s not on any modern compilations?
  • Number of players: The Redfield siblings are available, but only one at a time.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Haven’t I talked about it enough!? The long short of it is that I am no good at tanky Resident Evil games, and absolutely never have been. This is another Goldeneye situation where my friends were all super enthused about this series, but I just couldn’t get into it until Resident Evil 4. As a result, what little skills I had in this franchise have atrophied over time, and, again, I’m not even sure I ever actually played this game in the first place. I remember watching friends play it, as I recall many of the plot points from the game, but the actually nitty gritty of where demon dogs lie is completely absent from my brain.
  • BURN!Aw, I wanted a real Resident Evil- Code: Veronica article, and not just Goggle Bob flailing about: Don’t worry, I’m sure ROB will choose one of the remakes eventually.
  • Favorite Button: Whichever one brings up the completely useless map, evidently.
  • I’m Consistent: Come to think of it, one of my first deaths in Bioshock was ducking into a bathroom stall that I thought was an exit, and, nope, dead-end. This seems to be a problem I have.
  • Did you know? If you’re as bad at this game as myself, you’ll be interested to know that there is a novelization of the game available. It’s fairly accurate to the source material, but (of course) does not include references to story bits added for the Playstation 2 version. Also, it adds one new shadowy badguy that is an original character, do not steal.
  • Would I play again? Now I almost feel like I have to… but I’m not going to. There are so many other things I could be doing, and most of them don’t involve steering hapless women into zombie outbreaks. Sorry!

What’s next? I’m taking the rest of the week off. There may be an article or two if I get bored, but the next official post will be on Monday 7/17, and it’ll be #301 Adventure Island 3. Please look forward to it!

FGC #263.2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Everyone settle down! Dr. Professor Goggle Bob is talking!

And that’s where little Breath of the Wilds come from.

FGC #263.2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

  • AckSystem: In a few years, will anyone even remember this was that last gasp of the WiiU? I don’t think I know a soul that associates Twilight Princess with the Gamecube.
  • Number of players: This ain’t Triforce Heroes.
  • Phantom Hourglass isn’t that bad: Okay, it isn’t… I just really don’t enjoy playing it. I blame my left-handedness. Holding a stylus for the length of a Zelda dungeon… well… I might suffer Uprising boneitis flashbacks.
  • Come to think of it, isn’t Link supposed to be left-handed, too? Well, Breath of the Wild can’t be perfect.
  • 2nd Favorite NPC: We already covered Goggle Rob, so how about we honor the guy that built Link’s house…. Or at least fixed it up a bit.
    Damn right
  • Did you know? There are twelve billion The Legend of Zelda easter eggs in this game. That said, somehow I missed that that the gigantic, cyclopean Hinoxes are supposed to be the same dudes that kept tossing around bombs in the Dark World of A Link to the Past. I guess forsaking bombs for trees really changes a dude.
  • Would I play again? Let’s see if I’ve stopped playing by the time the DLC drops…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fighter’s Megamix for the Sega Saturn! The crossover fighting game from before there were crossover fighting games! Please look forward to it!

I apologize

WW #7 Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

Here comes funI fear for the children.

So here was my plan: get some friends together, get a live stream of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed going, and close out the week publicly mocking another lame example of “anime tiddy games”. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty… But it was not to be.

Akiba’s Trip is powerfully boring. Despite teasing animated titillation in all promotional materials, Akiba’s Trip… goes nowhere. I played this nonsense for an hour and a half, and was thwarted by an attempt to buy a book for a random NPC. I think Digital Goggle Bob stripped like six people. For reference, an hour and a half into Senran Kagura, I’m pretty sure I had seen the entire cast naked. In Custer’s Revenge, everybody starts naked. If Akiba’s Trip is the future of “thirsty” anime games, there is no future in the genre at all.

But, then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

If you’d like to judge for yourself, feel free to watch a recording of the stream below. Please enjoy the commentary of BEAT, FanboyMaster, Morningstar, Kaptain Kibosh, Wicket, and myself. And, as always, I want to excessively thank everyone that participated, commentators and viewers.

Time Annotated Notes!