Tag Archives: weird al

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

Beat it!Going to say this upfront: I am barely going to be talking about videogames today. Random stuff is going on in Real Goggle Bob land, and I feel like using a little writing therapy to mentally work through it. So, advance warning, this one is going to be autobiographical to the max. Hell, I might delete this post out of sheer embarrassment within 24 hours. I don’t know. I just have to get these (ugh) feelings out of my head, so… I guess stick around if you feel like it.

So I’m 34 years old. I’m also a single heterosexual (mostly, I mean, I’m a little bit bi if we include Cillian Murphy and the entire cast of The Good Place [and that might just be because Kristen Bell and Ted Danson create a sort of “sex singularity” that throws off all my readings]) male. I understand people get more and more okay with such a thing every year, but there is a not insignificant portion of the population that believes being single and 34 is some sign of being a giant weirdo. And I am a giant weirdo! I once compared Sonic the Hedgehog to my first love! I have Vocaloid and Bioshock posters in my office! I’m moderately certain I once screamed out, “Play it loud!” during sex! I am not a normal guy, but that’s not why I’m single. I’m single because my parents are divorced.

Okay, I’m gonna let me finish, but I have to make a brief aside about that statement. My parents are divorced, but this isn’t some Uncle Ben-esque secret origin that explains all of my myriad quirks. No, the reason my parents’ divorce had such an impact on my psyche is that my parents got divorced for seven years. Never one to tear an adhesive strip off quickly (side note: I also spent most of my childhood wrapped up like a mummy), my parents had a “will they/won’t they” thing going on for most of my youth. On one hand, this kind of worked out for me from a parental-attendance perspective, as a combination of love and rivalry caused my parents to be separate, but practically omnipresent in my life. Unfortunately, the flipside of that equation was that every time things inevitably blew up, I got to hear both parents privately complain about the other parent ad nauseam. I’m pretty sure neither of my parents were/are good at having friends (my mother makes friends with everybody, but they seem to be shallow friendships; my father has one friend, and he sees him once a decade whether he needs to or not), so complaining to the local ten year old that just wants to go downstairs and play videogames must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh, and fun fact, both of my parents have told me that they “made every effort” to not insult the other parent while I was growing up, which proves they have the self-awareness of your average 45th President.

This is to distract you from realityAnd, while it’s not like I blame my parents for all my problems (lie), I do blame them for my singlehood. I grew up seeing the absolute worst of love. While others were listening to love songs and watching The Princess Bride, I was watching a pair of people that had loved each other for a solid couple of decades falling apart and tearing into each other like rabid wolverines at a dhampir bar mitzvah. My two best childhood friends had parents that were divorced or lived in a continual state of mutual self-loathing, so no role models there. Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t until my teenage years that I even met someone that I respected and was also in a long, loving relationship. To be concise, I basically learned from a young age that love didn’t lead to bliss, it led to calling a lawyer every other day so you could properly establish custody of a coatrack (this actually happened).

But, by the time I was in college, I kind of learned to live with my own biases. While I spent most of my teenage years claiming “love is stupid” like some manner of world-weary, wizened sage (that happened to shop at Hot Topic), I did eventually come to the conclusion that love, long-term commitment, and marriage were all possible. While I personally ended a few of my own relationships because of (if I’m being honest) that previously mentioned disdain for commitment, a number of my friends have been getting married since roughly our collective twenties, and I’ve been genuinely happy for them. I realize I would sound like a monster to say otherwise, but, come on, in many cases, I was around to see these people meet, see them happy together, and, ultimately, see a future where they could be together forever. Again, can’t stress this enough: not for me. I’m broken. I piss all over the seat, like, every time. But these people, these people have a future as one happy unit.

So, suffice it to say, I kind of took it personally when two of these “ideal” couples, two distinct sets of friends, announced things were headed toward divorce. And, since I was notified of these developments involving two different couples within two days of each other, I took it all… poorly.

(Because this is all about me, and, technically, you, gentle reader, only actually “know” and care about me, I want to be clear that “taking it poorly” did not involve any Hangover-esque shenanigans, photocopying my butt for Debra in accounting, or willingly eating Hot Pocket Bites or something. I’m not cool enough to have a nervous breakdown in any interesting ways, so I mostly just had a headache for a couple of days. Oh, and then I wrote a blog post about it.)

EVERYBODY DANCENow, to be clear, I’m not some gentle flower that has never known a friend to get divorced before. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know a couple of people that wound up divorced before senior prom, but all of those situations were… is “obvious failures” too precise a term? When D’avos the Molten Man of The Fire Pits of Crytuk married Cindi the Ice Elemental, we all had a pretty good idea of where that one was gonna go (to be clear: D’avos had a drinking problem). But the relationships that are currently causing me so much mental anguish are all couples that seemed content and joyful and I didn’t buy their wedding gift thinking “Wow, I better save the receipt on this one.” I know divorce is a modern day cliché, and I know I don’t believe in marriage as an institution (People change as they grow, to expect two people to change together in a complimentary manner is… Oh crap, I’m doing it again), but… I feel like I actually had some optimism in these relationships. Christ, I really thought these kids were going to be alright. I don’t believe in marriage, I’m not certain I could ever seriously consider marriage, but these are the people that gave me hope such a thing was possible. Now that hope is dashed against the rocks. The dream is dead.

And then there’s the Chumbawamba thing.

Another personal failing: I’m immune to nostalgia. I am a data hoarder. I am a hardcore data hoarder, and I have a fleet of USB hard drives to prove it. I have a hard drive backup buried in my backyard “just in case”. I recently saw Blade Runner 2049, and the scariest thing in this very human story about robots having sex with appliances was the suggestion that there was a universal EMP a few years back that wiped out all digital data. Such a thing would kill me. I have my entire life saved in JPGs, MP3s, and ROMs. I cherish terrible cell phone videos I took of my grandparents “just in case” (“just in case” they didn’t turn out to be immortals. Spoilers: good planning). Having my entire past just a double click away is always comforting, but it does reduce the odds of me ever feeling nostalgia. Earlier this year, I was excited to hear about the release of the SNES Classic. WeeeeeeAfter all, I thought, I haven’t played Super Metroid since… how long has it been… oh yes… I haven’t played that game since lunch.

This goes double for music. I’ve been listening to the same music since high school. Literally. The rise of the MP3 occurred concurrently with my high school years, so I have been listening to the same copy of a copy of a copy of Barenaked Ladies’ One Week since the advent of Napster. Since then, the delivery method may have gotten slightly more legal, but, if I liked an album, I ripped, itunes’ed, or just plain downloaded (thanks, Bandcamp!) the tracks immediately, and wedged it into my ever growing wad o’ music (evidently around 30 GB at the moment). My most recent acquisition was the Cuphead OST, and I know that, assuming current trends continue and we dodge nuclear war, I’ll likely be listening to Die House in a nursing home. So, one way or another, that means I don’t get a sudden rush of nostalgia when I hear Foo Fighters’ Monkey Wrench, it just means that my music player hit #2,146 on my playlist for the 2,146th time. And, since my playlist is so unwieldy immense, it’s a rarity that I listen to anything else for my musical pleasure. I have all my favorite songs right here, why should I downgrade to a radio that wants to sell me on the latest from Taylor Swift? Ain’t no commercials on this station!

And then I sat down to play Taiko Drum Master (oh snap, it’s the featured game!). Taiko Drum Master was a longshot of a title released by Namco back in 2004. It came with a drum and sticks… Uh… ROB… can we get that up on the site?

Beat along!

There we go. It was this big, silly drum peripheral that was meant to simulate the taiko (wadaiko?), a drum that is traditionally used in Japanese festivals. You know what you don’t see much in the United States, though? Japanese festivals. While playing Taiko Drum Master is fun in only the way that banging along on drums can ever be, it was a hard sell here in the states, as you’re just not going to get the same support for a plastic Japanese drum set as you are for a plastic guitar (or turntable?). Taiko Drum Master was always going to be a fun game, it’s just a fun game that had about as much Western appeal as Gundam vs. Sumo: Sports Festival in Osaka Rumble.

But there was a concession made to us filthy Americans and our gaijin drums. The track list for Taiko Drum Master is very Western. We’ve got the Jackson Five learning their ABCs. We’ve got Queen crooning about the imperceptible Killer Queen (got bad agility? What the hell?). The B-52s are taking a visit to the Love Shack. And we’ve got modern hits, too! Well, “modern” for 2004… and on a budget. Who could Namco afford? Well, my beloved, ska-era Mighty Mighty Bosstones are on there. Good Charlotte’s Girls and Boys made the cut. And here’s that one Counting Crows song that wound up in a Coke commercial. And let’s follow that all up with the smash hit of 1997, Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.

Tubthumping hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dance along!Tubthumping is difficult to explain to anyone that wasn’t around for 1997-1998. It was technically a UK-original protest song, but it quickly mutated into a sort of divisive party song. There’s a boy singing! And a girl! Something about Danny Boy? And a really sweet trumpet! And it played on the radio roughly continuously for a period of maybe ten million years. I loved that song, grew to hate it, and then, in due course, forgot all about it. When I first got into MP3 downloading roughly a year prior to Y2K, I had already forgotten about Chumbawamba. Give or take a Namco release or two, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world forgot about that band, too.

But, today (or last week), when I was in the middle of a seemingly interminable funk thanks to the collapse of the very institution of love, Tubthumping was there for me. To me, Tubthumping isn’t about love, or joy, or UK union rights, it’s about 1997. It’s about my early teen years, when everything seemed new and exciting and I hadn’t already had my heart broken repeatedly by the boneheaded decisions of myself and others. It was a simpler time, a time when, yes, I knew my parents were gradually poisoning me on the notion of a happy marriage, but also a time when I could still convince myself that love was not only possible, but probable. Even as a child of divorce, I did see myself at thirty (you have no idea how old that seemed at the time) with 2.5 children, a pair of cats, and maybe a white picket fence on where I might hang the corpses of my enemies (what? I always envied my Uncle Vlad and his exterior decorating skills). Tubthumping came from a simpler time for me, and, for the glorious couple of minutes I spent drumming along to whatever the hell is happening in that song, I didn’t have a care in the world.

And then we hit the original, American Shuki Levy version of the Dragon Ball Z theme, and I could barely stand up. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

DANCE!Look, I know I’m a jackass. I’m pretty sure I spent a solid three paragraphs up there claiming that my parents are the reason I’m not married, when, in fact, it might have more to do with how I have a tendency to give my lovers psychological disorders (“Baby, you know I love you, and I want to be with you, but I have to defeat seven more tonberries before I unlock this Guardian Force. You understand, right? We’ll get to your grandfather’s funeral, like, soon.”). And I know I’m making the divorce(s) of my friends all about me by claiming they were some ultimate expression of love that is all but impossible in this dying world of grime, suck, and republicans. Putting that kind of burden on people I consider friends is dreadful, and being less supportive by making it all about my own issues is an issue onto itself. I know that.

Actually, I only know that now, because sometimes it takes a piece of your past to remind you that it isn’t all bad, and maybe you should step out of your own head once in a while. Remember that things weren’t always bad. Remember that, despite how you’ve framed your past, one way or another, you weren’t always as jaded as you are now, and your current situation was never some “inevitability”. Remember that your friends aren’t concepts, but people, and they’re people that might need your love and support.

Basically, what I’m saying that Taiko Drum Master reminded me of one very important thing: I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never going to keep me down.

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

  • System: Playstation 2. Did this peripheral ever resurface for any other games? No? Well, I guess that seems obvious in retrospect.
  • Number of players: Two! … Did… did anyone ever purchase two Taiko drum peripherals? I envy your resolve.
  • Favorite Song: You mean one not already mentioned in the article? Oh! Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls! My first live concert was Goo Goo Dolls, so there’s some more nostalgia there. Actually, my first concert was Weird Al, but he doesn’t count. GGD was my first live concert of an artist that I wouldn’t love for the rest of my life.
  • Also a choice: Anything from Katamari Damacy. Damn, I love that soundtrack.
  • WooooA weird thing happened: So Taiko March unlocked as I was playing (decided to forgo fishing out a memory card for this one, so no previously saved data). I’m pretty sure Taiko March reappeared in Smash Bros, because I somehow knew this song in my bones, and scored a nearly impossible 98% on a song I wouldn’t be able name without its title flashing on the screen. It was weirdly exhilarating, and I’m pretty sure it’s the closest I’ve ever been to being possessed by an angry ghost (that knows songs that are unfamiliar to me).
  • Did you know? The Japanese version includes We Will Rock You. We got robbed!
  • Would I play again: No. Taiko Drum Master helped me at a time when I needed it (just now), but that damn Taiko peripheral got nothing on my bongos.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates for NES! I swear I’ll just talk about videogames next time! Probably! Please look forward to it!

What is happening here?

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

Hi, everybody!Today’s post is brought to you by the little voice in my head that doubts everything!

So what’s this game about?

Project X Zone 2 is a crossover title featuring characters from Capcom, Namco, Sega, and a few special guests from the Nintendo stable. This is ideal, as beloved characters like Mega Man X get to do something, hidden gems like Axel Stone get a little more exposure, and the Virtua Fighter cast gets to pretend they have personalities. A surprising amount of care went into balancing how these characters react to each other, so Erica Fontaine of Sakura Wars and Felicia of Darkstalkers have a lot to talk about, what with being randomly catty members of the clergy an’ all. Oh, and someone remembered that Resonance of Fate happened, and that’s always good.

So this is another crossover fighting game?

Well, no, this is a tactical RPG. Each “unit” is a pair of characters, usually from the same game (like Chris and Jill of Resident Evil), genre (like Chun-Li of Street Fighter and Xiaoyu of Tekken), or “theme” (Strider and Shinobi are ninja bros). Additionally, each unit may have a supporting “solo unit”, which is a lone character that may be randomly assigned. Want to have Captain Commando team up with Dante and Virgil? Go for it! Though he might be more at home with the .hack team…

Wait. I thought you hated TRPGs?

I do! I really do!

Look, I’ve got this theory about videogames, and it goes like this: I’m lazy. Wait, that isn’t a theory at all. Take two! My theory about videogames is that any game that takes too long to do something that would be really easy in another game is kind of crap. Easy example:

  • Super Mario Bros: walk forward, see goomba, jump, kill goomba, move on.
  • Super Mario RPG: walk forward, see goomba, jump, initiate battle, choose commands, defend against attack, attack, kill goomba, earn exp, move on.
  • Super Mario TRPG (nonexistent, thank God): prepare unit, map route, move forward, see goomba, goomba advances, initiate battle, watch combat, hopefully win, kill goomba, earn items, move on.

See how there’s a lot more involved in the (J)RPG and TRPG than the basic action game? It is draining to get the same result (dead goomba) out of so many more steps. And don’t get me started on the fact that it’s impossible to have a “no hits” JRPG run. It’s all about minimizing damage, not avoiding it. How does that make sense!?

You obviously enjoy JRPGs, so why single out TRPGs?

NOOOOOPE!Because they take forever! I can deal with the typical JRPG party of three to five dudes and dudettes fighting through a single battle, but a TRPG “army” of pieces traipsing around a map, waiting for enemy units to move, battling only when everyone involved is within proper ranges… it takes forever! Who has time for that!?

So it’s just a matter of time spent?

That’s a factor, yes, but the problem is tension. If a Super Mario Bros. level takes a maximum of 300 seconds, that means you can only, at absolute maximum, waste 300 seconds if you die inches from the goal. Meanwhile, in a JRPG, you’re limited by save points: you can lose all your progress thanks to a difficult monster mob, but every time you save, you’re “safe”, and that counter begins again. In a TRPG, you’re generally not allowed to save until the end of the battle, and, with every unit moving and fighting and whatever, some “battles” may take an entire hour. That means everything you do for a full hour could be for naught if you made some dumb moves during round one… and that gets pretty damn frustrating pretty damn fast.

So if you could save/undo every round, a TRPG would be fun?

No, because then there wouldn’t be any tension. Like calling a mulligan on every golf swing, the “sport” wouldn’t mean anything, and you’d be moving pieces around with all the anxiety of a game of The Sims. Frankly, I don’t enjoy TRPGs because I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. This isn’t to say I can’t identify good TRPGs (I pretty much have Ogre Battle Stockholm Syndrome), just that it’s the genre I’m pretty much least likely to get excited about.

So does Project X Zone 2 do something new with the TRPG genre to get your interest?

Also NopeNot… really? If anything, with its pre-configured units and the fact that the different characters barely have dissimilar attack attributes, PXZ2 is easily one of the dumbest TRPGs out there. Like, say what you will about Wild Arms XF, but its variety of classes and configurations allowed for at least an appealing selection of options for combat. Here, you’ve got nineteen different chess pieces, but they’re secretly all pawns. Some units may be a little stronger, and some may be able to move a few more squares, but it barely matters anyway, because each level seems to randomly toss the pieces onto the board. Got Team Yakuza up to a powerful level? Too bad, they’re not involved in this skirmish, better luck next time.

So you can’t customize your units at all?

Oh, you can, but it’s horrible. You may purchase two equippable items for each unit, and, between rounds, you may powerup the individual moves of each unit, but… it’s just a pain in the ass. While there are all sorts of stat parameters for each item and attack, all that ever matters is your attack power (to make sure battles go a little faster) and your HP/DEF (to make sure you don’t die). These are stats that level up with every, ya know, level up, so the extra “go to the shop now to buy crap” step doesn’t enhance anything. It’s just one more time wasting chore to perform between stages. And, yes, if you ignore this “step”, you will be stomped into oblivion during your next battle. Joy.

So the gameplay sucks. Playing it for the story?

That's gonna stingOh, God no. The story is so damn stupid. The entire story could be condensed to “bad guys are doing bad guy thing”. Why are they doing it? That’s mysterious. Where did they get the ability to nearly destroy the world(s)? Nobody knows. Why is one of the villains a bunny girl that speaks in broken English? Nobody wants to know.

And every level starts and ends with, “Oh no, bad guys are doing bad thing, we’ve got to stop them… but how!?” And then every stupid issue is solved by beating thirty or so enemy units and a boss or two. Like, okay, I’m not expecting Shakespeare here, but this is the most pointless plot since Seymour the Slug Sloshes Through Salt. We knew what was going to happen! There was a picture of melted slug on the cover!

So it’s just the crossover aspect that is appealing?

Man, even that is a giant disappointment. It’s kind of fun when there’s a new enemy or ally every level, but even then, it seems like every dumb action has to get a reaction from about half the cast. I counted four different occasions when the party had to make a “scary jump”, and about half the players had to contribute some inane drivel about heights being frightening or whatever. Newsflash, there’s no tension in a TRPG when combat units have to do something during a cutscene, and pressing A over and over again is only fun for so long.

Then, past about Level 20, the game doesn’t introduce any new characters, and just recycles the same old scenarios and characters. It’s not a bad thing that your party is done and “complete” by that point, but the designers seem to revel in reusing the same old bosses continuously, and, frankly, that bunny with a tank wasn’t threatening the first six times he was defeated.

It stops being interesting at Level 20? How many levels are there?

42.

Jesus Christ.

I know.

I assume you quit well before the end?

Nope, cleared the entire game.

WHY?!

And that's all!If I’m being honest? Because the game doesn’t try.

It’s a TRPG, but it’s on a portable system, so I can play it while watching TV. If I waste an hour on a failed mission, then at least I watched some Bojack Horseman while doing it. If I keep my equipment and abilities up to spec between battles, then I should have no trouble plowing over monsters during the campaign. If I keep an eye on my counter gauge and use items liberally, I should be able to stomp any rivals. Protect the areas that need protecting with my extra units, and send the big guns up against that big gun boss. Sure, I might not completely be paying attention to the scintillating dialogue, but I’ll keep an eye out for any time a favorite character it speaking. That X is the Abraham Lincoln of reploids.

And, in that fashion, I finish a 30 hour game I don’t even like. It… didn’t really bother me too much, so… hooray?

That’s kind of sad.

Hey, I’ve got a lot of videogames. They can’t all be winners.

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

  • System: 3DS. This would be unbearable on a television.
  • Number of players: Just one. You’d think there’d be more two player TRPGs. I mean, people have been playing chess for years, right? It’s not that different, and now that we have online play…
  • Favorite Unit: It might be the most boring choice, but having Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi of Tekken all working together feels oddly satisfying. Three generations of kicking ass! Woo!
  • Lucy on the battlefield with diamondsFashion Faux Pas: It seems like every other female character has an excuse to change into another costume during attacks. It’s to be expected with the cast of Sakura Wars, but it’s more than a little weird that Fire Emblem’s Lucina dons a bridal dress, or that KOS-MOS produces a sailor fuku. The men don’t seem to have the same problem, though a few dudes transform into demons because… why not?
  • Popular Culture: The localization team obviously had a blast wedging as many eclectic references into the script as possible. You know that when a reference to Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom drops into the script that things have gone well and truly insane.
  • Did you know? Star Gladiator is a game that happened, and Project X Zone 2 remembers that. Maybe that’s all I need to be entertained.
  • Would I play again: God, I hope not.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventures of Lolo 2 for the NES! Blocks must be pushed, and there’s only one little blue guy to do it! Please look forward to it!

So much fanfic

FGC #105 MTV Remote Control

Let's get ready to rockApparently, Remote Control was a game show on MTV based primarily on television trivia. It was MTV’s first non-music related programming (a harbinger of things to come), and the questions were phrased in the most irreverent manner possible, often insulting the subject or the contestants. It also relied on the same sad stereotypes that persist today: trivia nerds are just geeks living in their moms’ basements (ha, joke’s on you, I’m writing this from my legally purchased basement!), and the host was a wise-cracking poindexter. It was, in every conceivable way, distilled late 80’s, and a sign that the world would, one day soon, be ready for hammer pants.

Now, it would be easy to make this article a running mockery/condemnation of a time when neon was king and music videos were only occasionally interrupted by random game shows, but, no, that would be the easy way out. What’s important is not to mock the past, but to learn from it, and perhaps build a better future, confident in the knowledge that we have absorbed understanding from our mistakes. So, with that in mind, we will take a focused look at MTV Remote Control for the NES…