Tag Archives: wii

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

It's a-him!So here’s why Mario games are good.

Today’s game is Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final part of the Super Mario Galaxy duology. While some endlessly debate whether Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the better game (and I will remind you that SMG2 contains Yoshi), it is perhaps better to look at Super Mario Galaxy as one solid piece, accidentally fragmented into two sections. Let’s face it, SMG was released on the cusp of Nintendo learning how to add expansions to games (see the eventual joys of Smash Bros, Hyrule Warriors, and Mario Kart), and, should SMG have initially been released on the WiiU, we likely would have seen new planets until the release of the Switch. But, for now, the two games are separate but equal, with slight differences between the two, and an aggravating need to switch discs when you have to choose between riding a dolphin or a vulture.

But the reason the difference between the two games is insignificant is because both titles are amazing. Super Mario Galaxy is easily the apex of the Mario franchise (note for future readers: this article was published before the release of Mario Odyssey, or any other inevitable future endeavors, like Mario… Omniverse?), and the sheer volume of creativity and care on display in these games is astronomical. Yes, there are a few misses bouncing around the title (mostly experiments involving motion controls), and it would be nice to be able to play this Mario game with a “real” controller, but, by and large Mario Galaxy & Mario Galaxy 2 are perfect Mario games.

But why are they perfect? What is it about blasting around Mario’s Galaxy that makes these games so much fun? Is it the gravity? The enemies? The Bowser fights? (No, it’s never that.)

I’ve got a theory for Mario games (and nearly all action/platforming games), and it’s called “The Joy of Movement”. What makes a great Mario game? It’s whether or not you actually enjoy moving around.

WeeeeeAt first blush, this seems abundantly obvious. After all, sloppy controls are often the death knell for poorly received games. Amagon probably would be a passable adventure if it were at all possible for the hero to actually deal with the encroaching threats of Everything-Kills-You Island. And while even games with terrible controls may occasionally succeed (looking at you, Grand Theft Auto), they usually nail at least one thing completely perfectly (like using rocket launchers on pedestrians). But for successful franchises, it’s obvious that enjoying actually moving your digital avatar is the most important thing. Sonic the Hedgehog is the poster child for this phenomenon (and the recent Sonic Mania being essentially Sonic & Knuckles 4 and being wildly successful cannot be a coincidence), but Mega Man also slots in perfectly here, too. Mega Man might not have 360° aiming or the ability to bend his robo-knees, but he’s perfectly suited to his world, and there’s joy to be had in flawlessly stomping over the corpse of a robot monkey on your way to barbecuing a wooden man. The joy of movement is real, and you’ve subconsciously experienced it practically every time you’ve played a worthwhile videogame.

And Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2? Here is the apex of joy of movement.

It’s initially very simple: Mario just plain controls well. You’ve got analogue walking/running, you’ve got the triple jump, and you can even hold a button to crawl along. Start combining some of these commands, and you’ve got the inimitable long jump and backflip. Go a little further, and you’ve got Mario exploring weird little planets with their weird little gravities, but still “moving” exactly the same. And intuitively, too! Leaping from one planetoid to another always “feels right”, and switching gravities is as natural as stomping on goombas. And speaking of feelings, the aggressive spin attack or the frantic spin jump both feel wonderful when you use the technique to survive an incoming chomp or avoid a crushing black hole.

Well, I like itBut the powerups… now that’s where things get crazy. Bee Mario buzzes along and crawls exactly how anyone who has ever been outside would expect (though, granted, not every Mario fan has been outside recently). Boo Mario’s spectral floating feels fittingly weightless. Rock ‘n roll Mario moves with all the heft of a boulder, and no one bats an eye when inertia causes that Mario to go meteor. Running around at full tilt with an invincibility star is always cool, and fire flowers exploit a player’s desire to shake that wiimote and vaporize everything on six planets. Cloud Mario is likely the best thing to ever happen to the franchise, as generating your own platform with a panicked spin is something Mario has needed since he first dropped into that hole in World 1-1. Spring Mario can be a blast… you just have to think like a kangaroo. Or maybe an injured bird? Frog? I think frogs hop a lot.

Even Yoshi gets into the act. Tongue twisting across platforms is an innate delight, and swallowing every troopa in a ten mile radius is literally the reason these Yoshis were born. And Yoshi gets his own powerups! Balloon fetishists delight at a round and floating Yoshi. And the dash pepper leads to new and exciting challenges of the Turbo Tunnel variety, but with the important caveat of not being terrible. And, whether you’re riding a dinosaur or literally skating around a frozen planet, it’s all completely instinctive and… fun.

WeeeeeAnd that’s the joy of movement, the joy of a good Mario adventure. Every trot, every jump, every powerup just feels good, and that’s what keeps the player running towards 242 stars. Every obstacle course is masterfully crafted with Mario’s skills in mind, and every powerup is utilized in unique and electrifying ways to surmount new challenges.

When it feels good to just move, that’s when you’re playing a wonderful videogame.

FGC #331 Super Mario Galaxy 2

  • System: Nintendo Wii. Also available on the WiiU download service… but that system plays Wii discs, anyway. So does that even count?
  • Number of players: I laud any game that involves a two player mode that is meant for casual accompaniment. Not enough people celebrate the humble person that wants to participate in a friend’s favorite past time, but has absolutely no skills suited to the task. I blindly tried to help my buddy, One Handed Joe, with his carpentry hobby a couple of years back, and it ended… poorly.
  • And where is the joy of movement in Fluzzard? The joy of Fluzzard is selecting another level that does not include Fluzzard.
  • Question for the Ages: What nimrod decided they should replace Princess Rosalina with Party Pants Starfy?

    GO ON A DIET

    Hey, Rosalina, get out of the shot! You’re ruining my bullet point.

  • Favorite Powerup: Cloud Mario has saved that plumber’s peperoni more times than I care to admit.
  • So, did you beat it? Of course. I got all the stars, and conquered the final daredevil challenge. I even tried that final stage again for this article… and I barely got past the first area. Look, I need to get back in practice, okay?
  • But you still beat the repeat of Luigi’s purple coins, right? Some things never leave you.
  • What’s in a name? The internal title for Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Super Mario Galaxy More. I agree.
  • Did you know? The Flying Star that barely appeared in Super Mario Galaxy is buried in the code of Super Mario Galaxy 2. But it’s not completely forgotten! It has an updated theme, and can be patched into being a wholly working powerup. This seems to suggest that the star was intended to be used in Super Mario Galaxy 2, but was left on the cutting room floor because it was too joyous for this fallen world.
  • Would I play again: I love this game. I love it so much. I’d like to be able to play it with a “real” controller, as the wiimote/chuck has never felt 100% natural to me, but, other than that, this is one game that I can practically guarantee I’ll play again.

What’s next? Random ROB… better shut his trap, because I feel like playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. That’s just the way it is, robot. Please look forward to it!

Yay Mario!

FGC #329 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3

Let's get ready to rumbleBehold the agony that is caring for something.

I’ve always loved Dragon Ball Z. It was “precious anime” in a time when the only alternative available on a weekly basis was Sailor Moon (which I also loved… but it was for girls… right?), and, even as Pokémon blew the doors off the import market, I always followed Dragon Ball Z. Why do I like it? Because… I have no idea why. I suppose it’s the same reason I follow comic books: I like the characters, and, even though I know in my heart that there is absolutely no tension (do you think Goku is going to power up just in time to stop this overwhelming force?), I just… I just want to see how Krillin is doing, you know? Akira Toriyama designs some interesting/shallow characters (and I’ve got the tattoo to prove it), and, yes, I feel like I would like to know exactly how that android became a park ranger. Even when the plots spiral completely out of control (did… did everyone on Earth just die? Again?) and four characters combine into two characters and then one guy eats the other one and… Oh, never mind, you’ve seen the show, right? It’s DBZ. It’s crazy. Maybe that’s all it needs to be.

And, given the sheer scope of Dragon Ball Z, it’s easy for the average fan to get… shall we say “caught up” in the fiction. Goku’s battles may be technically straightforward, but there are also 291 episodes involving the minutiae of power levels, multiple warring factions, varying galactic civilizations, and an ever-present need to account for the four star dragon ball at all times. You could teach an entire class on the various forms of the average saiyan, and follow it up with a lecture on the socio-politico ramifications of the universal rule of Frieza. And is Vegeta the greatest hero ever, or just a huge asshole? Does deliberately exploding in the name of good absolve you of your sins of committing galactic genocides? And that’s all before you even get into the auxiliary materials, like trying to wedge the movies into a proper timeline, or debating whether or not GT is at all canon until the heat death of the universe (which may be caused by Goku). And the kick of it is that, until the fairly recent release of Dragon Ball Super, the DBZ series was done by the time it hit our shores. Even GT was pretty much out the door by the time we were fooling around with the Playstation, so this wasn’t even a “living” franchise, it was just nerds debating the particulars of a series that seemed to already bore its very creator.

Ginyu forever!It was likely this “Dragon Ball is dead” problem that led to a complete lack of decent DBZ games on our shores. Goku made his way to a number of systems in Japan, but, over on this side of the Pacific, all we had up through the Playstation was one Dragon Ball GT game that was… confusing. Released before the Frieza Saga had completed over here, attempting to decipher why Vegeta was now a monkey, a different color, and also known as “Baby” was… a little confusing. And that was before you even got to that chirping pink dude named Buu. Likely due to said confusion, Dragonball GT for the Playstation 1 didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and became a rare “forgotten gem” of the system. Or maybe it was only a gem for anyone that didn’t actually play the game, because it kinda sucked.

But we finally got a “real” Dragon Ball Z game in 2002, Dragon Ball Z Budokai. And it was good! Well… that might be a stretch… It was passable! It was not bad! Or it was not bad enough that I particularly noticed how bad it was! Hooray! Look, it was exactly what we wanted for years: an opportunity to play through the story of Dragon Ball Z with all our favorite characters, and then, when that got boring, an opportunity to see Cell fight Frieza and then kill Yamcha. It was canon and dream match all in one, and, while the gameplay wasn’t all the exciting, it was what it needed to be. You could fight as any one of many Gokus, and then conquer the universe through the amazing power of blondeness. And there was a vaguely JRPG-esque equipment system, too, so you could pretend like numbers go up was the point. Something for everyone!

Yeah yeah!So, naturally, DBZB got a sequel… and then another sequel… and then a whole new “rebooted” franchise with a new developer… and that got a sequel… and then we made it all the way to Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3. This would be 2007, and, if you’re paying attention (and I’m making sense), that means we had six Dragon Ball Z games in five years. From famine to feast! And, unfortunately, while some could likely tell you the exact differences between each title, to an outsider, this was basically five years of releasing new revisions for Street Fighter 2. Just replace Dee Jay with Android 8, and you have the basic idea. Yes, there was that “reboot” in there, but this was still the same characters and same plots and same “just keep hitting punch” gameplay, and, let’s be honest, DBZ was never Ibsen. Throw in all the what-if stories you want, it’s still just dudes punching each other until Goku shows up to really punch everybody.

As one might expect, I was kind of burned out by the release of DBZBT3. If memory serves, I didn’t even buy this game when it was remotely new, and simply fished it out of a clearance aisle somewhere in my travels. After years of other shallow DBZ games, I’m pretty sure I gave it a precursory play, enjoyed a few versus matches with the AI, and gave it up forever. I’m almost certain I didn’t play the game with another human even once, which, for a DBZ fighting game, is fairly damning. Sure, this title has more characters than any fighting game ever, but they’re all the same. And when you’ve got “Unnamed Frieza Henchman” on the roster, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel (a barrel that, incidentally, once contained giant monkeys).

OuchSo when ROB rolled this game, I figured I’d just play a few rounds, write a few thousand words on silly DBZ facts, and go grab some ramen (DBZ has a tendency to make me hungry). And the plan was moving along swimmingly until I decided to check the Gamefaqs “cheats” page. May as well see if I’m missing anything, right? Well, considering I had unlocked nothing in this game previously, I stared at the list of the characters I could be using if I just put in a little more effort. General Blue of Dragon Ball! The Pilaf Machine! Evil King Piccolo! Vegeta’s dad from the planet Vegeta who is also named King Vegeta! Spike the Devil Man! All I have to do is put in a little effort, and I too could be playing as Spopovich (you know, that one muscular bald guy? Not Nappa)!

But… I know it’s a lie. I know that I’m not going to play this game again, and any “achievements” would retreat as soon as I removed that disc from my Playstation 3. I know there is inevitably going to be a better, more improved DBZ game in short order (note: I am not talking about any particular game at this moment, but they keep happening). And, most of all, I know that I’m not going to play this game with anyone else, so these unlocked characters are exclusively for my own masturbatory enjoyment. And it wouldn’t even be for that much satisfaction! All of these characters play practically the same, and, while I acknowledge there are differences and “unusual properties” involved in the creation of these fighters, I’m certainly not going to put in the time to learn the intricacies of 98 characters in 161 forms. I wasn’t going to do that when this was the latest n a deluge of DBZ games, and I’m not going to do it now that it’s a decade later and outdated as hfil.

But the drive is still there. There are fighters to unlock… and I want to unlock them. I need to unlock them. I’m a Dragon Ball Z fan! How could I turn down the chance to play as every stupid version of that stupid monkey man that won’t stop endangering all of his stupid offspring? How can I still call myself a man after ignoring the cast of OG Dragon Ball in favor of that spiky dragon from GT? What kind of monster have I become that I won’t unlock the Ox Princess!?

Who?Spoilers: I narrowly resisted wasting any more time with this franchise. And, in my heart of hearts, I know that’s only because there are some other games I want to play right now. Heck, I’d argue that the “three a week” format of the FGC is there entirely because… Well, because of this game. Sorry, Mercenary Tao in Cyborg Form, I’ve got places to be, no time to play with you now. Go save and/or destroy the planet on your own time.

So, anyway, if anyone knows a way to rewire my brain so I care about completing things that actually help people, please let me know.

FGC #329 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3

  • System: Playstation 2 and the Nintendo Wii. Ah, those halcyon, awkward years.
  • Number of players: I want to say two. There might be some four player team nonsense in there, but it’s ultimately a two player game.
  • Favorite DBZ character (premiering in this game edition): Arale is in this! You know, the purple haired android from Dr. Slump! Who I’m convinced is somehow related to Lucca of Chrono Trigger. Though I’m not sure she actually counts as a DBZ character… Um…. Let’s say King Cold. He’s ridiculous.
  • The manHow about that roster: I love the little ridiculous distinctions between some characters. It makes sense that Gohan or Goku get different versions for different ages, but it seems a little odd when you’ve got Piccolo hanging around at different points in his (immortal) lifespan. And Trunks gets different “forms” for sword or no-sword with or without spiky hair. However, for better or worse, there is still only one Krillin. He’s a pretty stable dude.
  • Did you know? Zangya, that girl from Bojack Horseman Unbound, has a win quote that repeats “Don’t ya wish your girlfriend was tough like me? Don’t ya?” That… almost makes the entire game worth it.
  • Would I play again: Never. I like this game, I like what is happening, and I like Dragon Ball… but I know a better DBZ game is always around the corner, and I still haven’t even gotten to Xenoverse 2 at all.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kirby & the Amazing Mirror for the Gameboy Advance! Eight angry eyes, all staring back at you! Please look forward to it!

That's gonna smart

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

Here is a complete list of passwords for normal mode of Rolling Thunder 2.

A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET

Let's get this rollingRolling Thunder 2, in an effort to not drive its audience completely insane, made all of its passwords actual words and phrases. This is in stark contrast to much of the NES and Genesis library, which used a password system that was, according to nine out of ten scientists, ferret chasing a ball wearing banana pants crazy. The mere concept of misplacing one semicolon and causing the entire program game to crash is a cruel thing to inflict upon a five year old that just wants to see Simon Belmont conquer the Castlevania countryside, and the idea that someone could memorize those random assortments of letters and numbers is laughable (ONBI UQAU Z12S SRYA). Rolling Thunder 2 instead presents a series of words for selection, and every password at least looks like a complete sentence. Awesome! This is even thematically appropriate, as the heroes of Rolling Thunder are (not very stealthy) spies, and these “passwords” could be seen in spy media as… well… passwords.

Of course, when you’ve got actual sentences going, it’s inevitable that you want to find meaning in said sentences. Our password to access Level 2 is “A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET”. This makes a certain amount of sense, as the heroes of this game are the titular Rolling Thunder Task Force, and I guess they learned a secret at some point. And they can soak more bullets than most people, so “magical” seems appropriate. So far, so good!

A NATURAL FIGHTER CREATED THE GENIUS

WHAT IS THE PASSWORDThis is not how these things work! I could see a genius creating a natural fighter (I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of at least two Tekken backstories), but a fighter creating a genius? Ha! The very idea is laughable… and immediately causes me to consider exactly how that would work. I’m assuming we’re dealing with one of those “negative intelligence stat” situations wherein someone was clobbered so soundly by a natural fighter, they suffered extreme brain damage. But there’s a happy ending! Said addled “genius” now is too dumb to realize that, say, inventing time travel is impossible and stupid, so it is done. How about them apples? Or maybe we’re just dealing with a specific kind of genius, like a fighting genius? That’s less interesting.

A ROLLING NUCLEUS SMASHED THE NEURON

I don’t know enough about science to say whether this is at all accurate or not (Gee, did the previous paragraph give that away?). But I want to say that this sounds just science-y enough to be legit. Look, I’m giving a TED Talk later this afternoon, and I’m going to see if the audience reacts at all when I stick this phrase in my introduction. I’m betting there will be no issues.

A CURIOUS PROGRAM PUNCHED THE POWDER

Oh hell yes. This is obviously the plot for the next summer blockbuster. In a world where science runs rampant, one professor decides to code his own sentient AI. But everything spirals out of control when this curious program decides to “punch the powder” and take control of all the nuclear weapons on Earth. Only natural fighter Hadoken Harrison (Shane Black) has what it takes to bring down this rogue AI. But when that AI inhabits the body of a generically sexy lady, will Hadoken still be able to jump kick his way to a better tomorrow? With Patton Oswalt as the nerd and whichever actress is currently 22 as the AI.

A LOGICAL LEOPARD BLASTED THE SECRET

ELEVATOR ACTION!There are logical leopards now? And they’re capable of blasting? Dr. Rob Liefeld wrote that most creatures are invincible while they’re blastin’, so we’re pretty much screwed. Let us all take a moment to bow to our new leopard masters, so they may evaluate our succulent necks at their leisure.

A PRIVATE ISOTOPE DESIRED THE TARGET

You know, while we’re on the subject of spy media, I think I want to compile a list of words and phrases that just sound like they’re something out of a technical manual. “Isotope” is the obvious science word here, but let’s not discount “target”. Adding “target” to any bluff increases the validity of your statement by about 200%. “We’re looking at hitting target projections shortly”. “The target demographic is very excited about this.” “Stay on target.” Every time you use the word “target” (and you’re not talking about darts), you sound more worldly by a target estimate of about 300%. And no isotope is ever going to take that away.

A NATURAL RAINBOW ELECTED THE FUTURE

Man, I wish that happened in 2016.

A MAGICAL MACHINE MUFFLED THE KILLER

The final boss of Rolling Thunder 2 is a robot man, so this might be some manner of foreshadowing. Or… wait… No, it’s the duty of Rolling Thunder to defeat that magical machine… which is a killer… um… Hm. Oh, no, I’ve got it! The killer is the final boss, and the muffling magical machine is your gun! Yes! That makes perfect sense. Apparently Rolling Thunder 2 is more pro-gun than the NRA, and believes your standard pistol to be a magical machine. Now we’re all on the same page.

A DIGITAL NUCLEUS PUNCHED THE DEVICE

For a game that only lets you use firearms (even when you run out of ammo, you still shoot the same gun, just slower), there sure is a lot of punching in these passwords. This one seems to be a “greatest hits” of the other passwords, and retreads a lot of well-worn ground. A digital nucleus? Are we back on another robot kick? And always with “the device”. I’m betting it’s just a common watch. A robot punched a watch? Huh. I guess that does sound more interesting when you bring a little ambiguity to the table.

A PRIVATE THUNDER CREATED THE POWDER

Did you think I was making this up?It’s only appropriate that we close these passwords with something that at least passingly acknowledges our heroes. While a “private” thunder is still the dream of planetariums everywhere, if we assume the “Thunder” in this case is actually referring to the heroes, then… they’re making drugs? Oh! Wait! They turned their enemies to powder! That’s it! “Private” aka stealthy Thunder-spies infiltrated eleven different strongholds, shot the living heck out of everybody, and turned their foes, human and robot alike, to powder. These passwords do make sense! Awesome! Next we’ll tackle the hard mode passwords, but let’s take a little break first. I need to go create a private thunder.

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

  • System: Sega Genesis and Arcade. Unlike the original Rolling Thunder, I’ve never seen the Rolling Thunder 2 arcade cabinet. I don’t particularly remember where I saw Rolling Thunder 1, mind you, I just know that it’s burned into my memory from somewhere. Oh, also available on the Wii Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: Two player simultaneous! Woo! And you can’t accidentally shoot each other, either! Even better!
  • Pew PewMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: What we have here is a basic “cover shooter” in the 2-D environment, a little slower than Sunset Riders, but a little faster than OG Elevator Action. This is the kind of game that does really well in the arcades, but gets kind of boring on the home consoles. Or, well, I suppose it doesn’t get too boring, as, if you ignore Hard Mode, the game doesn’t really overstay its welcome, but it has about as much replay value as your average beat ‘em up.
  • Favorite Character: There are only two available here, but I’ll take Leila, the hard boiled 80’s gal, over Albatross, a James Bond wannabe (with a heavy emphasis on “wannabe”) any day. Apparently, in the arcades, Leila was the default player one, which is unusual for the era always.
  • Did you know? The original Rolling Thunder featured presumably “real” human opponents, they were just cloaked into genericness by a bunch of hoods. In Rolling Thunder 2, the majority of your opponents (save a few evil dogs) are secretly androids of some kind. I’m pretty sure this means that the bad guys of the Rolling Thunder universe followed the same trajectory as The Foot Clan.
  • Would I play again: Rolling Thunder 2 is pretty fun with two players. As was tangentially mentioned earlier, it’s basically a beat ‘em up game with guns, so that makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I have other, better, real beat ‘em ups that I’d rather play with my friends, so, sorry, agents, you’re retired.

What’s next? Random ROB… is taking a backseat, as I play the game everyone has to play right now. Metroid 2! Samus is back, baby! Please look forward to it!

Huh?

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

Should I be shouting this?You ever try to trace down the exact origins of your own quirks?

I’m a big videogame nerd (thanks for reading entry #317 in a series about videogames I done played), but I’m also into other nerdy pursuits. Comic books? All over that. Anime? That’s a big duh. And that somehow translates into an unending love for animation in all its forms, too. “Anime” is its own genre with its own set of tropes, but I will gladly watch most anything that is even the slightest bit animated. Do we consider this “Western Animation”? Or just call it Looney Tunes? Doesn’t matter, as I’ll watch everything from God, the Devil and Bob to Son of Zorn before I watch a single episode of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve been watching The Simpsons for three decades, but I drop SNL the minute TV Funhouse doesn’t show up. I like cartoons.

And, since about five years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I like cartoons. Why did this quest start five years ago? Well, because there was a hurricane of some repute, and my mother decided to hole up at my place to weather the incoming storm. I don’t have cable, so when I asked my dear mother what she wanted to watch (as the likes of Netflix requires premeditated viewing habits), her response was a curt, “Just as long as it isn’t a cartoon.” Needless to say, I was offended. This woman comes into my house to watch my television, and she has the audacity to claim that I watch… what is the implication here?… that animation is somehow low brow? Not as good as “real” TV? Look, my-so-called-mother, I realize watching that marathon of Digimon Frontier may not have been your cup of tea, but no need to denigrate an entire medium because you were not entertained by Ranamon’s antics. I watched Bob’s Burgers, too! That’s for adults! I think!

LOSERBut, yes, after I managed to calm down and narrowly resist kicking my mother out of my house and into a deadly hurricane, I began to assess my media consumption. And it appears that mother is always right; I do watch a lot of cartoons! And, while we’re at it, let’s admit that the live action shows I do watch are pretty close to cartoons, too. Is there really that much separating CW’s The Flash from Cartoon Network’s Justice League? Is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s description as “a live action cartoon” that far off base? I’ll even admit that Riverdale is pretty much an anime, complete with a bland male protagonist that seems to have a harem of attractive and varied ladies (and they even found an excuse to get those ladies into swimsuits by the third episode!). Even when I’m not watching cartoons, I’m still watching cartoons, and I’d like a decent explanation for why.

And, sorry readers, I got nothing. Maybe it was an overexposure to Voltron, maybe I just really liked Ghostbusters as a kid, but I can’t tell you where this all started. I just… like cartoons. That’s it.

But, when I think about it, I can tell you my earliest “maybe I have a problem” memory.

My grandparents owned a guest house in a shore community, all of a block from the beach. I always lived one town over from said grandparents, and my parents, like many parents before them, often needed a break, so I wound up at the grandparents for the afternoon. This worked out well for all parties, as my parents could go do adult stuff (side note: I’m an only child, so they clearly never did anything interesting), I could maybe convince my grandfather to take me to a boardwalk arcade, and my grandmother had a fierce maternal instinct, so, for some reason, she liked babysitting. My mother was an only child, but she is still quick to recall tales from her childhood of my grandmother effectively adopting other young family members for months at a time while their parents “relaxed”. I guess my grandmother just had the “grandma gene” activated at a young age. Whatever the case, everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, and I wound up staying with my grandparents at least once a week (assuming it wasn’t winter, when they had a tendency to flee to Florida. Hey, everybody needs a break).

Excellent...But while this arrangement worked out rather well when I was all of three, things started to get more dicey when I hit the later years (like when I was old and mature enough to enter kindergarten). At a certain point in your life, you realize that you must be entertained at all times, and just sitting on the floor staring out the window is no longer going to cut it. And, when your current caretaker is also running an entire guest house business and attempting to keep you diverted… well, it’s time to turn on the TV. Which could have worked… if it wasn’t the mid-to-late 80’s, when the average person had all of twelve channels, and all of them were running reruns of Mr. Ed. Sweet, beautiful cartoons might be on in the morning, but this was a time before even The Disney Afternoon, so, unless Grandpa got the VCR working again, I was stuck with stupid, lame adult programming.

But there was one show my grandmother and I could watch together with no objections from either side: Press Your Luck.

Press Your Luck is basically a game show for stupid people. Uh, to be clear, I’m saying the contestants are dumb, not the people watching it. Those contestants, though? What a bunch of morons. Basically, whereas any other game show at the time (the 80’s) was generally skill based (even if that skill was just “know the price of beans”), the hook of Press Your Luck was that all your correctly answered questions earned you “spins” on the “board”… so basically you got another shiny quarter for the slot machine. About 10% of the game was proving your worth with ridiculous questions, and the other 90% was praying to CBS that you didn’t land on the square that would bankrupt you instantly, the Whammy.

But, oh man, that Whammy. That was why I watched.

WHAMMYI suppose in an effort to differentiate Press Your Luck from Wheel of Fortune, the Whammy was an animated, red “gremlin” that would appear and “destroy” the player’s earnings. And no two Whammies were alike! Okay, that’s a complete lie, but there were something like 50 different Whammies, and it was unlikely you’d see too many repeats in a week’s time. Some Whammies used giant cartoon bombs, some Whammies acted out little skits, and some Whammies imitated The Beatles for reasons that were never clear. They were basically five second Chuck Jones skits, and they were glorious. Well, to a five year old at least.

But that’s all it took to bridge the generational gap between my grandmother and I. On one side of the aisle, you’ve got a woman that literally grew up on a farm, a devoted Christian woman of many decades watching a show that is half trivia and half live gambling. On the other side, you’ve got a tiny child that just lives for every time that silly little red guy pops up on the screen. And, for a half hour, everyone is happy.

So maybe I have no idea where my love of cartoons originates. And maybe I’ll never know. But I do know that sometimes that love of cartoons allows for generations to be crossed, fun to be had, and for hearts to be as one… while watching Press Your Luck.

Look, this is my blog, not a Hallmark card. Screw it, I’m gonna go watch some more Adventure Time.

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

  • System: Nintendo Wii for this review that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Also available for the DS, PS3, and various idevices.
  • Number of Players: Three. Not coincidentally like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Look, it’s Press Your Luck. It’s 10% trivia and 90%… pressing your luck. Huh. Just got that. What’s important here is that some of the questions are written for the legally brain dead…

    THIS AM HARD

    And I’m not even sure this next one is accurate!

    MANTIS IS DEER!

    But I don’t know enough about moose to say for certain.

  • Climb the ladder: While the game seems to be built for multiplayer, there are apparently twenty different “levels” to this adventure. Each “game” takes way too long as is, though, so be glad I ever got up to Level 3.
  • Press Your Facts: In researching this article, I was shocked to find that Press Your Luck only filmed episodes from 1983-1986. That can’t be right! But, then again, they apparently recorded 758 episodes during those three seasons…. And that’s probably accurate.
  • Did you know? Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp animated the Whammies. Those two knuckleheads would go on to be responsible for a lot of animated nonsense in the 80s and 90s, and were the creators behind Eek! the Cat. And, additional fun fact, if you think Eek! The Cat is bad, I will fight you.
  • Would I play again: In memory of my dear, departed grandmother…. No. This is not a fun game. There are better experiences available on… every other system. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy Fractured Furry Tales for the Atari Jaguar! Seriously!? I have six Jaguar games, and four Bubsy games, and somehow ROB managed to choose three of each? I don’t like those odds. Oh well, what could go wrong? Please look forward to it!

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Yes, all according to plan…