Tag Archives: wiiu

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

MajesticWithout whipping out the chart, there’s a clear geek hierarchy out there. Sure, I play a lot of videogames, but at least I’m not one of those nerds playing MMORPGs and letting their lives be dictated by party raids and random character nerfs. Ha ha! Those nerds! They’d never have time to write about three separate videogames a week and then do a yearlong Let’s Play of a decade old videogame franchise nobody likes! Losers! Everybody hold up, I have to go put the finishing touches on my Allen Ridgley cosplay.

Things get even weirder when you examine the nerd hierarchy in the comic book world, though (or, maybe, as a videogame nerd, I just think it’s weirder because it’s not my specific fandom). Batman, for instance, is always going to be popular. Superman, too, for that matter. Then you get into some of the lesser heroes, but, good news, many of them have movies coming up. Get ready for Aquaman aquaing around Aqua Town! … But real nerds don’t like those movies, because they’re too serious, or not serious enough, or Oedipal complexes are too complex, or whatever. No, the real place you want to see your heroes is… on the CW? No, that can’t be right… though I did once encounter a perfectly normal woman at the DMV excitedly telling her friend, “Oh my gosh, Flash is a new episode tonight! That’s awesome!” Yes, I suppose there are literally thousands more (popular) people that could identify Felicity Smoak than Oracle. But then you get into the animated nerds, that learned everything they need to know about Batman from Batman The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, or maybe Teen Titans Go. Hey, Dr. Light appeared in 66% of those productions, so they’re all valid ways to learn about superheroes and superteens randomly yelling. But then, there at the bottom, the nerdiest of the nerdy, are the geeks that actually, ya know, read comic books. Can you imagine? You have to use your hands! Like a baby!

Also… obviously… I’m one of those nerds.

WhoopsBut I know it’s crazy! I’ve discussed it before, but following “comics continuity” is basically a never ending trap. Here’s how it goes down: You’ve got A-Man, champion of the letter A. A decent writer and artist combine in some mystical fashion, and write one good comic series for A-Man. Everyone, yourself included, is talking about A-Man, and check out this great run, and A-Man is doing what A-Man has never done before; and it all gets bolstered by the fact that A-Man comics drop once a month, so this “one story” gets magnified by half a year of speculation and discussion. By the time the inevitably disappointing A-Man #6 hits the stands and finally ends the arc, everyone is disappointed, but that anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next” lingers, so, naturally, you pick up A-Man #7 with a brand new creative team. Here’s your Goggle Bob sports metaphor for the year: If a soccer team wins the World Series, and then everyone involved quits or gets reassigned to other teams, do you expect the “new creative team” to score enough touchdowns to win that Stanley Cup again? No, that would be silly, but comic book fans follow that “same” A-Man over and over again, until, finally, A-Man’s reputation is so terrible, “he” is selling about two issues a year. So then it’s time for a reboot! Toss out everything that doesn’t work (which is usually something like a decade’s worth of stories), start all over again, and maybe get someone half decent on the writing staff. Hire Alex Ross for a cover, and we’re back in business. A-Man is reborn (in an issue likely literally called “A-Man Reborn”), and we’re right back at the start of the cycle.

This is fun and all, but it can create some… hiccups. For instance, with the exception of the titans of the industry (not the Teen Titans, to be clear), it’s very difficult for a superhero to hold on to a supporting cast. Let’s use CW’s comics shows as an example here: can you imagine The Flash without Cisco? How about Legends of Tomorrow without Gideon? That disembodied voice is an integral part of the cast! Meanwhile, most comic books identify this “we need a supporting cast” problem, fill the hole, make some of the supporting characters I am the nightmore interesting than the boring hero who has to save the day every week, and then… well, sorry, there was a reboot, so that character doesn’t exist anymore. Oh, she was your favorite? Sorry, time to move on. Heck, Powergirl can barely hold on to her cat (and people love cats!), so I wouldn’t get too attached to her superhero understudy with the rock powers that gal palled around with her for like ten issues.

And this kind of “hiccup” can really annoy fans. And, to be clear (and I hate that I have to be clear about this), I’m not talking about “fans doxxing every women in the tri-state area”, I’m leaning more toward “unlikely to ever read a new issue pertaining to a previously beloved character ever again”. If you’re reading Blue Beetle because you really like his close family ties and friends that remind you of real friends you have in your life, and then, next month, those friends don’t exist anymore… that gets kind of annoying. And, again, it’s not like a fan is putting their foot down and demanding a boycott (which, of course, does happen), simply that when you enjoy something for a particular trait or cast member, and then that thing you loved is completely dropped, then why read it anymore at all? Reboots are feared by comic nerds because they have taken so much from us!

WetThis winds up being an exclusively comics problem, too, because, unlike other entertainment mediums, comics aren’t allowed to end. Somehow, some way, there must always be the Batman. He’s the hero we deserve. And there’s going to be a Joker, a Robin, and maybe purple gloves somewhere in there. Batman is always going to be “Batman” in the comic book universe. There is no “NuBatman” or “80sBatman” to differentiate, no, Batman is just Batman, because if he’s being identified as a “Batman variant” then that means this story isn’t important, and if the story isn’t important, then why the hell are you reading it? To enjoy it? Bah!

And then something like Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure comes along, and it’s salt in the wound.

Scribblenauts Unmasked contains an incredible DC Comics glossary. You want John Constantine to fight Swamp Thing? Cool, we got that. You want the NU52 Agents of S.H.A.D.E. (featuring Frankenstein and an immortal Asian schoolgirl)? We’ve got that, too. Want every damn Green Lantern concept that Alan Moore sneezed into existence? There’s Green Lantern Groot right there. All of your old friends are here: Wonder Woman (with or without pants), Batman, Superman, and Doctor Midnight. If you can name a DC comics character, they’re likely in here, and possibly with variants.

And it’s a damn shame, because it reminds the player of all the toys available to DC Comics that just aren’t being used. Depending on the week, the entire Justice Society, the heroes that fought in World War 2 and are the “grandpas” to the heroes of today, may or may not exist. And the Justice Society is a great concept! And they’ve got kids! And I like those kids! Mostly just Jade! But, nope, those toys are stuck in the closet, because DC determined it would be more interesting this week if Superman was the first superhero ever, and he’s macking on Wonder Woman for some reason. Oh, wait, no, he’s dead, now there’s the old Superman who loves Lois, and he’s got a kid of his own. Wait… does he remember the Justice Society? Can he bring them back? Please? Oh well, at least I can still pit Alan Scott against Larfleeze in Scribblenauts, a game that has no impact on anything.

ORANGEAnd that’s what really gets my goat about Scribblenauts Unmasked: I want to see these toys be free. Maybe I’m at the bottom of the nerd ladder for this, but I believe that, when you’ve got the potential for unlimited interesting stories, you take that potential and grab it. Don’t limit yourself to one universe, don’t limit yourself to one fandom, and be more like Scribblenauts, and include everything available. You’ve got nearly a century worth of interesting toys to play with, so play with ‘em all.

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

  • System: WiiU, 3DS, and Steam. Really? That’s it? I’d expect a greater range here, but I guess the stylus/keyboard part is kind of necessary.
  • Number of players: Just the one. Which is also surprising, as the whole “plot” is basically about dueling scribblenauts, so you’d think they’d find a way to make that more playable.
  • Favorite Adjective: Moist. Moist for days. Mooooooist.
  • Favorite DC Hero: Matter Eater Lad popped out without so much as a suggestion. I mean, ya know, Mon-El had a problem, so I had to summon the luminaries of the Legion of Superheroes, right? Bouncing Boy was my second choice.
  • Con man... get it?Did you know? John Constantine once got a drug-addicted ex-girlfriend hooked on hallucinogenic magical sand that nearly destroyed the entire universe. And here he is in a Nintendo WiiU game about randomly summoning Tomorrow Gal. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I prefer the less story-driven Scribblenauts games. As much as I love a toy chest containing the entire DC universe, I still like solving problems exclusively through T-Rexes more.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy for the Atari Jaguar! That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it.

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Monkey NoisesVideogames can do a few things better than any other medium, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze does one of those things perfectly.

DKC:TF is a pretty straightforward platforming adventure. Donkey Kong was just donkeying around, enjoying his birthday with the members of his family that he remembered exist this week (sorry, Lanky Kong), when a group of malevolent penguins invaded his home. With the helpful flippers of some Viking walruses, Donkey and pals were escorted far from Donkey Kong Country, and banished to an even five islands away from home base. Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, and even Cranky now must fight their way back to their tropical island, and there’s only an army of owls, deadly pits, and other assorted nonsense to repel the apes. At least there are a few frozen bananas to nab along the way.

And, so I can pretend I maintain a proper gaming review blog, I’ll note the experience does play like a dream. The DKC series may handle like Super Mario Bros. on a fundamental level, but the big guy always feels completely different than his plumbing rival. Recent Donkey Kong Country games dial that “heavy inertia” feeling from the original Rare games up to eleven, and, If you’re doing your best hedgehog impression and always moving as fast as possible, it’s very easy to experience a “rollercoaster” feeling. Yes, you have full control of everyone’s favorite gorilla, but there’s that unmistakable feeling that you can’t slow down, that you’ve gotta go fast, and you’re just doing your best to steer this barreling freight train as best you can. Mind you, that metaphor becomes a bit more superliminal on the actually-a-rollercoaster minecart levels, but that feeling persists through the rest of the game. And, if you don’t like it, don’t worry, you can still take it slow, too. Well, on most stages. I wouldn’t slow down when you’re attempting to outrun a lava flow.

But that’s all auxiliary to the best event in the game (and possibly the franchise). After five “worlds” of random island hijinks, the final (well, final-not-secret) world is… Donkey Kong Country.

THIS IS EVERYTHING

You’re finally home! Hooray! … Except, yes, the Snowmads have conquered the tropical paradise, and turned it into a frozen stronghold. So DK and pals must fight from DK home up to the tippy top of Big Crazy Volcano… which is the premise of the previous game, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The final world of Donkey Kong Country Tropical freeze is Donkey Kong Country Returns.

And I love seeing this kind of thing in a videogame.

Other noisesEven if nobody noticed, this got its start back in The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. If you hang out on the south-western “Death Mountain” region of the map, you’ll note the bottom section of the peninsula is actually the entirety of the overworld from The Legend of Zelda (1). In one instant, that simple plot of 8-bit pixels completely recontextualizes Link’s entire adventure, and, wow, did you see that? This new game is, like, 800 times larger than the old one! Oh man, how is Link going to survive his biggest adventure ever!?

(And, for the record, I feel like every Zelda after Ocarina of Time has failed for using the same basic layout as OoT [and arguably A Link to the Past]. It’s not exciting to find Death Mountain in the North or Gerudo Desert in the West, I want to see what’s past those landmarks. C’est la vie.)

But this same trick has been used in a variety of games for a variety of reasons. In Metroid Prime, a frigate is explored early in the adventure, and then, after it crashes to the planet below, it becomes a sunken “ghost ship” that is an entirely new “level”, but is still recognizable from its earlier appearance. Speaking of Metroid, you see this often in “prequel” games, where an important location from the “next” game is revisited by a different group that has no idea about the significance of the latest locale. See Lufia and Lufia 2 for a fun, fatal example of this concept. And while we’re on the subject of 16-bit JRPGs, time travel is great for video games for this exact reason. The Black Omen might be unchanging, but it’s fun to see how the simple villages and dungeons of 600 AD evolve in 400 years.

Hot stuffAnd why does this work? Why is this fun? It’s all because videogames have to be very mindful of “space”. While your average modern action movie doesn’t have to worry about the surrounding area for its epic battles at all (pop quiz: how many countries have been destroyed by random Transformer fights?), videogames are all about space, because the player must inhabit those locations for proper exploration and storytelling experiences. It doesn’t matter in every game (I admit, I might not be able to draw a map of Metro City), but so many games must keep an eye on distance and location, else, well, nobody likes to get lost forever. And, if everyone is doing their job right, the player learns the ins and outs of any given area almost subconsciously, and, before you know it, you’re able to recall the layout of Midgar a lot more easily than your home town. If you’re going to swing by my place, just take the third left after Wall Market.

I’ll save any further gushing about this concept for when ROB inevitably chooses Bioshock, but the flipside to memorizing a map or area is that, when that area is changed, your brain immediately notices. Even if it’s been fifteen years since you played the previous game, since you spotted the new, “different” area, some part of your head recognizes that something is wrong, and why is this wrong, and let’s explore a little further, and find out what happened here. And, on top of that, when something that was previously “the size of an entire game” is reduced to “now it’s smaller”, you I can't see what's happening!subconsciously feel awesome, because, wow, look at how much more I’ve accomplished than last time! Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is six times larger than Donkey Kong Country Returns! DK is huuuuuuge!

Oh, and it is pretty fun to replay through reimaginings of all the Donkey Kong Country Returns levels in a frozen wasteland, too.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an entertaining game all on its own, but the way it recontextualizes Donkey Kong Country Returns is amazing.

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

  • System: Nintendo WiiU. A months ago, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a 3DS port, but now I’m kind of expecting a Switch port. We’ll see if that pans out.
  • Number of players: Two! And I really want to try that sometime! Diddy and the other helpers apparently can assist with a second controller, but I’ve never thought to actually try that with any of my real-life buddies. There are so many other games we can play where we can have apes fight, ya know?
  • Favorite buddy: Cranky Kong has Scrooge’s pogo stick! That makes him tougher than the toughies. On the other hand, the pogo ability is just as finicky as it was back in the NES days, so I’d rather have Diddy in my corner. Can’t tell you how many times that jetpack saved my bacon.
  • Jerks!Favorite Boss: One baboon laughing at Kongs is bad enough, but a baboon that splits into three just to mock a monkey even more? That’s cruel.
  • Did you know? There’s a patch/update for this game, and it seems to exist entirely to fix a glitch in the third world that would prevent the next level from unlocking. “Beat stage, go to next stage” is pretty much videogame 101, so you have to wonder how that glitch got out into the wild.
  • Would I play again: If there is somehow never another Donkey Kong Country game “like this” again (you never know with Nintendo), then I’ll play this again in due time. If there is a DKCR3, then I’m all about leaving the past behind.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Streets of Rage 2! Good! I was getting tired of using the “Nintendo” tag continuously. It’s time to see some streets raging! Or maybe people raging at streets. I don’t know! Please look forward to it!

Huge hooters

FGC #246 Wii Sports

GOALYou always wonder if you’ll know gold when you see it…

I don’t consider myself a videogame critic. Heck, I barely consider myself a “videogame writer” (the purpose of this site is dubious and baffling). If forced to label my relationship with videogames, I consider myself simply an avid, lifetime hobbyist (though I likely take a small pause after rereading the phrase “my relationship with videogames”). I like videogames, I’ve played them all my life, and I probably will continue to do so; however, I don’t feel like that makes me an expert on the subject. This is a hobby, and if there were some sort of “Videogame SATs”, I feel like I would fail. I always screw up on the section about block puzzles…

However, as I’ve mentioned before, I have something of a social anxiety when it comes to my videogame opinions. I want to say it started sometime around the PSX/N64 era, and it has led to this bizarre, creeping fear that one day I’ll have to pugnaciously defend my general distaste for the Resident Evil series. Other franchises that I have never absolutely enjoyed: Animal Crossing, Doom, and Fire Emblem (though I did enjoy that time Fire Emblem was actually Persona). It’s not a matter of “these games are bad” for me, either, it’s just that none of those franchises ever really land for me, and I’m left saying things like, “Sure, it’s fun, but…” or “That’s cool, but I’m going to play some trashy anime shooter now”. And, all the while, those games sell millions of copies, top everyone’s “best of the year” lists, and are eventually sold at Target for $20 bucks with a complete “all DLC included” edition. Okay, that last thing shouldn’t be a measure of success, but I don’t see House of the Dead sticking to the shelves longer than about two months. Popularity is longevity, one way or another, and the world has all but forgotten Time Gal.

PLOPSo, while it impacts nothing, I have this general unease about not being able to see a good game when it arrives. I picture myself out in the cold, huddled around a Sega 32X playing Knuckles Chaotix while all the cool kids talk about their FPSs and racing simulators and whatever the heck is popular with those damn cool kids and their warm jackets and perfect hair and showering every day. Argh! I wouldn’t know the next big thing if it crushed me under its next big thinginess.

Then again, I might be in good company.

The Nintendo Wii Launch was… basically my one big console launch. Let’s see here… the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis were all released when I was way too young to expect anything but a birthday/Christmas present, and the Playstation (1) wound up being in the same boat. The N64 I dedicatedly saved my allowance for months to purchase at launch during the day at Toys R Us. My grandmother drove me, so it wasn’t exactly a high-octane affair. The Playstation 2 was another, much later (in my memory) Toys R Us reserve… and I ebayed that system almost immediately because of focused, teenage greed. The Gamecube, as previously mentioned, had its midnight launch opposite the premiere of the Justice League cartoon, so there were other things to do. The various Xboxes and Playstations of later generations always forced me to wait for a price drop and/or hardware revision, and the WiiU decided to be released well after my friends started having kids and jobs and reasons to actually wake up before 8 AM. But! In that tiny window of life when you and your friends have financial and physical freedom, but not all the lovely burdens of being a useful member of society, Nintendo decided to release the Wii. Hooray for one big system launch in my lifetime!

OWIEAnd “big” in this case simply means that my friends and I were all available to hang out at midnight and play the dang system immediately afterwards. Actually, come to think of it, one of my friends was working at the local videogame store at the time, so… hijinks may have ensued. A cardboard “our princess is in this castle” life-sized diorama may have been built. Liquor may have been passed around. And, not saying this did or did not happen, but, thanks to there being no “release minute” limitation on strategy guides, I may have threatened an entire line full of people with an oral reading of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Player’s Guide so as to properly inoculate a group of superfans against spoilers. What? I didn’t actually do it, it was just a warning to keep people well behaved. I swear.

But eventually the “launch event” ended (later than for most people, as we all dutifully waited for our friend that was working… and we may have also had to disassemble a castle), and we retired to my friend’s den to actually play this newfangled Wii system. While there weren’t any spare controllers available at retail (why are there limited peripherals opposite every Nintendo launch? I remember not being able to score a second N64 controller for weeks…), we were able to crack open our collected systems and gestalt together four active wiimotes. Now let’s get to playing these brand spanking new games!

Everyone was, naturally, excited about LoZ: Twilight Princess, but we were all experienced gamers, and no one has tried to make Zelda a spectator sport since that time Rich made us all watch him play Ocarina of Time and he wouldn’t even listen when we told him there’s a gold skulltula up that vine wall, we can hear it, geez when can we go back to playing Rampage. I’m a raging iconoclast, so I was most excited about the new Wii Metal Slug collection. That would have been ideal for a room full of guys anxious to try out a new system… but the damn thing got delayed. Boo. So we decided to give this Wii Sports thing a try. We were all used to the typical “game that comes with the system that is a damn useless demo” nonsense, but, hey may as well at least try this disc so insignificant that it didn’t even bother to ship in a proper DVD case.

Yay!And… it was fun. Boxing was probably the biggest hit, because it allowed all participants to spaz out like a flailing magikarp and claim that the sweet science was taking place, but bowling and tennis also saw quite a few rounds. Golf was right out. And baseball was tried, but that necessitated creating a full team of Miis (okay, it wasn’t completely necessary, but the impulse to make an entire team of Jesus Miis was there). It was enjoyable. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience, but it was a fun way to spend 3 AM on a Sunday.

And then, the next time we all got together, we played Wii Sports again. And again. When I played videogames with other groups of friends, we played Wii Sports. When I played videogames with my girlfriend, we played Wii Sports. When I had to awkwardly hang out with my girlfriend’s friends, we played Wii Sports. When my father asked, “What’s this Wii Sports thing everybody is talking about?” we played Wii Sports. The last time my dad touched a controller, he died to a goomba on World 1-1, and never looked back. And here we were, on my couch, bowling. When you throw in office parties and family outings, I want to say that, by 2008, I had played Wii Sports with literally every person I knew. Well, except my grandma. She never much cared for those ‘intendas.

Of course, by the time that happened, everyone knew Wii Sports was gold. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was long forgotten, and even the typical Nintendo party games of Mario Kart and Smash paled in popularity to the game where you can play tennis without getting up. Even the (vast army of) naysayers had to admit that Nintendo had “won” that console generation, and it was almost entirely thanks to one game. One game that didn’t feature Mario, Bowser, or even so much as a mushroom. It was a flimsy little pack-in game, and it wound up being the most important game of the 21st century.

Huh.And did I see it coming? No. Did anyone see it coming? Maybe yes, but I can safely say that, of the people in line at that Wii launch, not a single one was on the edge of their seat for that game where they might get to play a little golf. And playing Wii Sports for the first time, was that a world-shattering experience? Heck no. But it was fun, and maybe that’s all it ever needed to be.

Maybe I’m not the kind of person that will ever be able to identify gold, but at least I’ll be able to bowl 200 along the way.

FGC #246 Wii Sports

  • System: Nintendo Wii. Wasn’t there also a “HD” version of some kind for the WiiU? Does that count? Did that ever count?
  • Number of players: Four is the maximum number of tennis participants, so I’m going to claim that’s the max number of players.
  • Track and Field: There are so many stats and “tracking” graphs in this game, but they’re all completely inaccurate. Sure, you’ve saved all my bowling scores when I played as this Mii on this Wii, but what about all those perfect games I bowled on my friend’s Wiis? See? Did you think of that, Nintendo?
  • LOOK OUTHe’s a Character: Mario and Link may have sat this game out, but Wii Sports is the premiere game for the character find of 2006, Reckless Wiimote Guy. Look out, everybody! He’s coming this way!
  • Further Wii Memories: For better or worse, I purchased a Wii system four times in five years. There was the initial launch in 2006, a Christmas gift for my (then) girlfriend in 2007 (which was a generally selfish gift, as it was purchased mainly so I could escape having to bring my Wii over every time we stayed at her place), a Christmas gift for my (still) mother in 2008 (thanks Wii Fit!), and then a Christmas gift for a friend in 2010. This is compared to nearly every other system I’ve ever owned, which have generally only gotten a second purchase thanks to hardware failure. And one extra PS2 to replace that one I ebayed.
  • Did you know? You can still go back and read old Wii Sports reviews criticizing the graphics. In other news, some gaming journalists have criticized the ocean for not also offering free smoothies.
  • Would I play again: This is the most important videogame in recent memory… but I think I might be over it. I mean, it’s not like I play with my ol’ Bop It anymore, either…

What’s next? Random ROB is back to being truly random and has chosen… Gravity Rush! I suppose I can squeeze a Vita game into some wild Switch sessions. The sky’s the limit! Please look forward to it!

DAMMIT
DAMMIT!