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FGC #504 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

CORRUPTION MOST FOULChildren of the future! This article is for you, those with covid-resistant immune systems and glorious vestigial pinky fingers. This humble 21st century boy is considering why Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the only Metroid Prime game he ever unequivocally enjoyed, and whether or not such an outcome is even possible for the eternally forthcoming Metroid Prime 4. Future people! You have Metroid Prime 4. It may be glorious! But please enable your Ancient English translators, and enjoy the musings of this prehistoric gamer.

Before we approach an even remote present, we have to look at the distant past. Super Metroid was (and continues to be) one of the most amazing games that was ever released by Nintendo. And to follow this epic adventure, there was… nothing. I was barely in elementary school when Super Metroid hit the shelves, and we wouldn’t hear an official peep about its follow-up until I was well into high school. And that’s forever when you’re not old enough to purchase renters’ insurance! And when we did finally get word about this long awaited sequel, it was not what anyone expected. A first person shooter! Like Doom! That’s not Metroid! That’s barely even a Nintendo genre! Many japes were made about the Metroid franchise being “reborn” as something similarly nonsensical, like a puzzle or pinball game, because, seriously, could you imagine something more absurd? Super Metroid defined an entire subset of 2-D action titles, and moving its heroine into another dimension would be tantamount to having Robert Downey Jr. fight Jeff Bridges in a realistic superhero movie. Such a thing could never work! And Nintendo even seemed to have its own doubts, as the eventual Metroid Prime launched right alongside a 2-D Metroid adventure. We’re going to try this, guys, but if anyone gets scared, there’s a blue Samus right there if you need her…

This is ballsLuckily, Metroid Prime was a pretty great experience (he wrote, implying that great videogames are somehow a matter of luck and not hours and years worth of hard work). In fact, it could be argued that Metroid Prime was a success because it was the perfect inverse of its 2-D twin, Metroid Fusion (maybe an evil twin, but certainly fraternal). Metroid Fusion superficially retained the exact same gameplay as Super Metroid, but was a very separate animal from its ancestor, as it adopted much more of a “level by level” structure with a dash of overly talkative robot. Meanwhile, Metroid Prime changed seemingly everything by entering the third dimension and putting a much larger emphasis on things like “beam switching” or “log scanning”, but the world of Metroid Prime was very much Super Metroid. Give or take an icy area, practically every environment on Tallon IV could be matched to a location in Super Metroid, and this was clearly by (brilliant) design. Controlling Samus in Metroid Prime may have been new and scary, but, altered names or no, this was a very familiar environment with very familiar opponents for our players. That missile tank is hidden in that same wall, your x-ray scope is just a little different now.

And, if pressed, I would tell you that is exactly why I finished Metroid Prime. It’s also a significant factor in why I didn’t finish Metroid Prime 2.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was a more confident version of Metroid Prime. No longer aping Super Metroid out of a (probably well-placed) fear of offending the Metroid fanbase, MP2 utilized a number of new ideas that further separated this adventure from the traditional Metroid experience (which had only cemented itself in, what, four games?). Required beams had carefully rationed ammo counts. Many caverns were designed around the concept of “cover” (what else do you call ducking behind a wall because the air is trying to kill you?). And the light/dark world of Aether was a completely new environment for our cosmic star heroine (though not new for another Nintendo hero). In short, MP2 did advance the Metroid Prime series on its own, separate track, and that repelled some fans.

… Or it was just me. And maybe I just don’t like ammo managing. Whatever! I didn’t like Echoes. Get over it. I have.

But Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Now there is a game I could play all day (and did!).

BLUE BLUEIn many ways, MP3:C continues the innovative spirit of MP2. A large, continuous “world” has been ditched for multiple planets (and the occasional spacecraft) that all have separate, disparate maps. The concept of “beam ammo” has been dropped, but a new hyper mode fueled by energy tanks seems to organically fill that resource-based hole. And, for the first time in this franchise, the story seems to be genuinely and progressively character-driven. The Metroid Prime series has always had oodles of log entries and amazing environmental storytelling, but this is the first time a trio of frenemy bounty hunters was introduced so they could eventually be corrupted and become exciting boss battles. Samus Aran is the ruthless hunter of legend, but this is the first time in her franchise she felt moderately sad about missiling an opponent to oblivion (there had been deaths that made Samus sad in previous games, but those were mostly induced by Mother Brain, and not Samus’s own blaster). All new gameplay and all new feelings seem like a terrible fit for a new Metroid title, and, by all accounts, your cranky-about-any-and-all-change Goggle Bob should have bounced off Metroid Prime 3 just as quickly as Metroid Prime 2. But there’s a 100% save game file here that says that bad end never happened…

What did happen? Simple answer: for the first time, a FPS felt natural.

Shoot 'em upI’ve mentioned before (possibly even in this current screed) that I can barely deal with first person shooter titles. I bounce off the general “feel” of FPSs like a wave beam plinking off an Alpha Metroid’s carapace. For reasons I’ve never been able to completely understand, I deal poorly with the first person perspective (it might have something to do with my real-life terrible depth perception), and have never wholly enjoyed a FPS title. Until Metroid Prime 3. MP3:C I played and played, and, give or take times when those AAs drained down to nothing and had to be recharged, I kept my wiimote at the ready nigh-constantly for this experience. And that wiimote was likely the entire reason for such an unprecedented event. The sharp motion controls of Metroid Prime 3 made the entire experience, from Samus first exiting her ship to her final showdown with not-Mother Brain, one that felt natural for the first time in the franchise. Samus is wearing a magical technological suit of armor, and any FPS worth its salt is going to do its best to make that situation feel normal. But traditional controller-based FPS titles make it feel like you’re inhabiting a mascot costume that incidentally shoots laser beams. MP3:C grants you the feeling of being a person that has a screw attack, but, more importantly, also has peripheral vision. Moving that wiimote around will allow Samus (and the player) to quickly survey an area, and, when you’re exploring multiple worlds that contain roughly 90% deadly fauna by volume, it makes all the difference. No more drained energy because a pirate drone was hiding in the corner of the room, Samus now has a full, reflexive range of vision, and it makes Metroid Prime 3 a wholly unique experience.

… And it’s going to continue to be a unique experience, because the Nintendo Wii was apparently an evolutionary dead-end. Star Fox Zero seemed to prove the same “motion controls and views working in concert” effect wasn’t possible with the WiiU, and the Nintendo Switch is more concerned with portability than a control scheme that is wholly motion-based. And that’s a good thing! Watch any Nintendo fan immediately wince at the mention of “waggle”, and you’ll understand why motion controls have fallen by the wayside. But they worked amazingly well in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and it will feel like a loss when they don’t return for Metroid Prime 4.

Pew PewSo, readers of the future, please use your time-jumping cellular phones to email Gogglebob.com and let this humble author know how Metroid Prime 4 has finally turned out. The Metroid Prime franchise went from red-headed stepchild to interesting diversion to ignorable variation to one of the best franchises on the Nintendo Wii, and I’m inordinately interested in how its descendant will fair in our unknown future. Maybe it will “only” be another fun FPS. Maybe it will revolutionize the franchise and videogame controls again. Maybe it will be a complete dud that fails to distract humanity from their daily struggles against hordes of invading metal bugs. Whatever the case, the franchise has been so many things across three simple games, it is a complete unknown as to how the fourth will impact the gaming landscape.

Will Metroid Prime 4 merely be worthy of a few hours of grapple hooking around, or another 100% complete mission? Only time will tell…

FGC #504 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

  • System: Nintendo Wii, and then also available for the Nintendo Wii U while emulating the Nintendo Wii. …. Does that even count?
  • Number of players: This bounty hunter works alone.
  • Wasn’t there also a Metroid Prime title for the Nintendo DS? Nope.
  • But there was a big demo that launched with the Nintendo DS and everything! Really have no idea what you’re talking about. This is the only Metroid game where Samus must fight against other, rogue bounty hunters. Any other such game clearly doesn’t exist. Got Metroid Prime Trilogy right here. Trilogy. Three.
  • Ah, screw itAnd don’t the other games in Metroid Prime Trilogy have retrofitted motion controls? Yes, but they were added after the fact, and it just doesn’t feel the same as a game that was designed for them from the start. Very subtle differences in there that make Metroid Prime 1 & 2’s controls feel different from 3.
  • Is that just an excuse to continue to not play Metroid Prime 2: Echoes? Nope. Moving on!
  • Regarding the Metroid Prime: It will never not be interesting to me that the main antagonist for all of the Metroid Prime titles is a mutated creature that was originally called “Metroid Prime”. It was initially just a metroid, then it got phazoned to all hell, then got beat by Samus, and then became Samus thanks primarily to some random suit hijinks. But Dark Samus is still, at its core, the Metroid Prime, and, considering this is a franchise already named for its murder amoebas, this trilogy might have the cleverest title in gaming.
  • How about that final boss: It was Mother Brain, but not Mother Brain, because Mother Brain is a separate entity, and… You know what, it doesn’t matter. The directors of Metroid Prime finally found a way to wedge the OG Metroid final boss in there, and we should just be happy for the fanservice instead of chastising yet another strafe-based final boss that turned one of the most unique final encounters in a NES game into a pretty typical final fight. Just let me blow up a floating brain in peace, Retro!
  • Love that guyRidley is Too Big: After taking a game off, Ridley returns for a number of battles. Meta Ridley is pretty similar to his OG prime form, but Omega Ridley is a big, bad, phazon-powered machine. And I am here for anything that makes big ol’ Ridley even bigger. And, hey, Proteus Ridley of Samus Returns seems to confirm that Omega Ridley “outgrowing” his cybernetics is what eventually leads to “regular” Ridley in Super Metroid. … I may spend way too much time considering the biological timeline of your average Ridley. Just so long as he isn’t some dumb bird this time…
  • Favorite Bounty Hunter: Ghor, Rundas, and Gandrayda were three bounty hunters brought in to assist the Galactic Federation on this whole “Dark Samus threatening the universe thing”, and, naturally, they all become corrupted and must be laid low by Samus. Ghor is portrayed as some kind of mecha-Ghandi (he gives his bounties to the poor? Really?) before corruption, and Rundas was just kind of cool (get it!?) and generally helpful, but Gandrayda, the sassy shape-shifter, makes the best impression. Though she does lose a few points for mimicking Samus with her abilities, as we’re already dealing with a game that has one “Bad Samus” running around, and an entire army of parasite Samus creatures over in Fusion. Just be yourself, Gandrayda! We don’t need any more Samuses!
  • Did you know: Gandrayda and Samus Aran are the only two female bounty hunters so far to appear in the Metroid franchise. Considering these games started with exactly one woman, it’s rather concerning that number has only grown to two after thirty years.
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only with proper Wii controls. I can’t imagine a Metroid Prime Trilogy existing outside of the Nintendo Wii… and I’m pretty sure that’s the only Wii title that makes me say that. Maybe Wii Sports? Whatever the case, Metroid Prime 3 will be played again, just only ever with its original hardware.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for the Sega Genesis. That’s not going to be awkward! Please look forward to dancing around that one!

So pointy

FGC #497.2 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Please note that this article contains distinct spoilers regarding Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. You have been warned!

Go Goku!There’s this moment in Dragon Ball Z at the end of the first significant story arc when Goku uses the Spirit Bomb. At this point, Goku has died, ventured through the afterlife, and returned from the grave when needed most to utilize a technique he could only learn from a nigh-god in another dimension. This attack, the Spirit Bomb, drains a tiny portion of power (“power” being vaguely nebulous in this case) from every living being on the planet, and combines all that strength into one focused “bomb” that he can hurl at his opponent, a giant monkey that is threatening everyone on Goku’s adopted planet (which is also Earth. You live there). In the grand scheme of narrative conceits, this is meant to be an important moment for Goku: he is the undisputed lead, the hero of this tale, but he cannot solve this problem with his own power. There is no solution here where Goku alone wins, so he must use this sacred technique, and, with the assistance of everyone on Earth, he can snatch victory from the hairy jaws of defeat. He can save the world thanks to the world. If this overarching metaphor isn’t obvious enough, Goku even whiffs his chance at pegging his opponent with this spirit ball, and requires another assist from another two fighters (one of which is best known for his propensity toward dying). Goku’s (currently) hated enemy is ultimately defeated by this spirit bomb, proving that it was not the super powerful Goku that was required to save the planet, but the strength of every person. Don’t put all of your faith in one “savior”, believe in the power of not one, but everyone.

And then Goku goes on to defeat every other opponent through hours and hours of one-on-one grunting ‘n punching. Goku is our Superman. Goku is our Jesus. All hail Goku, the guy that singlehandedly saved the world over and over again!

This happens often in fiction: the hero is the hero, and while there might be some moment or technique that uses “everyone’s power”, it all seems to come back to the one and only luminary. This is even more prevalent in videogames, as they are single-person experiences. Everyone in the party is working together to defeat the evil god du jour, but it all comes back to you, the exceptional player, making decisions, so the moral is muddied. And when you have RPGs that all but require the player to be the center of the universe, it gets even worse. That town lives or dies according to what sidequests you choose to complete, so it’s pretty obvious the world revolves around only you. Give me a moral about teamwork or whatever, fine, but in the end you intrinsically know that you are the only person that matters.

So you can imagine my surprise when Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE actually pulled off a “spirit bomb” finale without making its main character the center of the universe….

FGC #497.1 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Let's go to TokyoTokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE contains possibly the best idea in all of crossover games, and it is a complete waste.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a crossover game involving the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises. However, while both franchises are unmistakably involved, TMS♯FE has much more in common with Shin Megami Tensei’s own spinoff: Persona. And, to be clear, that would the almost spinoff of a spinoff, the post-Persona 3 editions of Persona. Like those games, this is a story predominantly featuring quirky teenagers banding together to fight unknowable, wicked forces while also occasionally hanging out and buying maid costumes at the mall. In this case, the twist is that there is less of a focus on school and “mundane” daily life, as the heroes of the tale are also performers of varying disciplines. Singing! Acting! Whatever it’s called when you’re secretly a Power Ranger! The whole gang is entertaining fans by day, but clearing out monsters by night. … Or… also during the day… I don’t remember if there actually is a “night” in this game…

Regardless! While it’s always interesting to know whether or not your favorite is getting enough hits on Youtube or whatever, the meat and potatoes of TMS♯FE is based on beating back the malevolent mirages in dangerous dungeons. Mirages are essentially demons from another world that prey on the raw fan-power of citizens of our planet, and if these creatures are not defeated, then the whole of the population might not be able to enjoy the finer points of the latest Hatsune Miku release. And, somehow, it is revealed that the whole enterprise of this soul-sucking was supposed to revive an enormous black dragon that could theoretically obliterate the planet, so there are some stakes that go beyond whether some models are inconvenienced by a possessed pervert (it’s… a weird game).

Let's rockBut how do your mundane teenagers save their humdrum lives from this wholly fantastic threat? Simple! They team up with their own, benevolent mirages. These “good” mirages transform into weapons and armor (or at least costumes) for our heroes, and now our leading lady is hurling supernatural blasts from a flying, mechanical pegasus (is noting a pegasus as flying redundant? I suppose it could be a lazy pegasus…). And for anyone familiar with the Persona series, yes, these mirages essentially function like the titular persona “spirits” of that franchise. Everyone gets their own unique mirage, and it is technically this spirit that levels up and learns new skills. Itsuki Aoi can’t really handle himself in a fight against eldritch horrors, but his mirage, Chrom, has got the situation well in hand.

Yes, I said Chrom. Yes, that’s the star of Fire Emblem: Awakening and incidental opponent in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He’s a luminary of the Fire Emblem franchise, and he’s the prime mirage of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. He is the main character’s mirage, so he’s the headliner of the Fire Emblem characters.

And that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a brilliant thing! The number one obstacle to anyone starting a JRPG is that it is inevitably going to be “new”. The Final Fantasy franchise is amazing, but right from its first sequel, it has changed dramatically from edition to edition. There are always new characters, new systems, and new menus to navigate with every version. And it seems like the JRPG genre as a whole has followed suit, as we can nary get through a new Dragon Quest or Breath of Fire without a significant shuffling of the deck. Mario might get a graphical upgrade, but he’s always going to be able to jump on goombas, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a water gun strapped to his back this time. Meanwhile, the latest Final Fantasy might introduce its hottest protagonist as Sticky Wicket the Gibbering Thicket, and he may or may not even have a basic “fight” command. Final Fantasy 16 features the ARQ battle system, and you may only attack when the global price of oil has reached a high point. You’ll get used to it!

We're all real!But the benefit of the crossover integral to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE allows the user to skip that horrid “getting to know you” phase. Most obviously, the battle system of TMS♯FE combines the basic flow of Persona encounters with the nomenclature of both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, so if you’re familiar with either franchise, you’re going to recognize the myriad of arrows you’re supposed to rain down on this mounted opponent. And the mirages serve much the same purpose, but to grease the plot in the same way as the battle system. Itsuki Aoi is a completely new character created exclusively for this adventure, and, out of the box, he could be anything. Is he aloof and distant like Squall? Is a he a debonair playboy like Zidane? What kind of protagonist is he? Well, his mirage, his “persona”, is Chrom. And that tells us a lot! This isn’t just a nebulous mythological creature like what we’re used to seeing in Persona: this is a particular, defined hero that has appeared in another game. Chrom is the star of Fire Emblem of Awakening, and there’s an entire game’s worth of story and plotting that will tell us exactly how Chrom would react to a situation. This isn’t to say that Itsuki Aoi is Chrom, but given these characters are inextricably tied together practically from their respective introductions, we do have a general idea how Itsuki and Chrom are similar. We don’t need to wonder what kind of protagonist Itsuki is supposed to be, because we’re quickly given a definitive answer: he’s like Chrom.

And this is an amazing way to handle a crossover. You can have your cake and eat it, too! You get to introduce all-new characters with unique motivations and designs, but their immediate association with established characters from another established franchise allows the player to instantaneously identify and, more importantly, identify with the new class. It’s the reason there is always a Link in every Legend of Zelda (he is always strong, but kind), and even the reason Chrom exists in the first place. Back in Fire Emblem Awakening, you were supposed to see “this guy looks like Marth” and immediately assume he is the next heroic lord of the franchise. New character, old archetypes. And using this immediate familiarity in conjunction with a crossover grants players an opportunity to see disparate franchises come together and immediately understand their apparent links.

It’s just kind of a shame that this idea was wasted by relying on the Fire Emblem franchise.

Away we goLook, I know I’m biased. As I pointed out back when I first reviewed Fire Emblem: Awakening, I am not someone that has ever been a big fan of the FE franchise. I’m not generally a fan of strategy/tactics based RPGs, and, frankly, the way the franchise introduces a new cast of fifty randos with every sequel is daunting. I don’t have the time or inclination to go down the gargantuan rabbit hole that is the complete 30 year history of Fire Emblem.

But, that said, it would be nice if I even could.

Let’s see here… The first Fire Emblem game released in America was in 2004, far from the Japanese 1990 debut. From there, we saw the games featuring Ike on the Gamecube and Wii, but that was likely just because Nintendo was still smarting from the N64 years, and looking for a “Final Fantasy” killer… or at least one or two RPGs it could promote on its latest systems. Despite the Wii’s popularity exceeding certain kinds of bread (screw you, rye), Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn wasn’t a shining new dawn for the franchise. However, Fire Emblem Awakening, Fates, and Three Houses have been revelations across the board. If my twitter feed is any indication, Lady Edlegard is now the official Queen of Earth. However, that kind of popularity did not apply to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a Nintendo DS release from 2009. It was a remake of a game that was not released in America, and this remake was released in America with about the same level of hype as Blue Dragon Plus. Remember Blue Dragon Plus? Me neither. But it’s not like half the cast of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is based on characters from Blue Dragon Plus…

It’s my own fault for not playing a random DS title from a decade prior, right? If I wanted to see Marth in action, I should have taken the chance back when I could. And I did play Fire Emblem: Awakening, and that game is featured as much as (if not more than!) Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. I should recognize everybody from that game!

Except…

Here she isThe second good mirage from Fire Emblem: Awakening that is introduced is Tharja. Tharja is a sorceress that is one of the most popular characters to come out of Awakening (apparently #3 in a Japanese poll that I have to assume is part of the national Japanese democratic process). She is a mage that is very shy, but very willing to use her magic and curses to damn anyone that gets in the way of her goals. She is also canonically bisexual, as she will fall in love with the main character regardless of gender. And her outfit is about 90% transparent nylon, so there’s probably a not insignificant portion of her fandom that simply wants to see her use her dark magic in more gratifying ways. In short, Tharja is a popular and unique character in FE: Awakening, so it makes sense she would be revisited for a crossover title.

And I’d love to tell you more about her, but when I played FE: Awakening, I kinda killed her on our first encounter. Look! I was trying to rescue a queen, and…. It was a bit of a whoopsie, okay? My bad!

Which brings us to the other issue with this Fire Emblem crossover: Fire Emblem is a very variable franchise. You saw it back in the day with permanent death options meaning some support buddies might not live to see the plot past the first chapter, and you see it today with Three Houses and three entirely separate stories dividing everyone’s experiences. Did you choose the Golden Deer route? Well, sorry about that reference to Edlegard being beloved earlier. You probably think she’s a bitch! And even within Fire Emblem: Awakening, you not only have the option of popular party members being killed, but about a third of the cast might not even exist if you don’t get the other 66% to breed like bunnies. Is Morgan your favorite character? Well I missed that dude or dudette, because my Robin knew how to keep it in her pants. There is a war happening, people!

Bye, friends!So this is Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE’s greatest strength and most glaring weakness: it relies on a complete familiarity with Fire Emblem. Rather than going the “easy” crossover route of only featuring the most obvious titans of its parent franchise, it features random dudes and ladies from across a few specific titles, and thus requires the player to be unerringly knowledgeable about everything in those games. It takes days to complete a Fire Emblem: Awakening playthrough, and you better have found everything if you want to truly understand the nuances involved in another hours-long JRPG experience. What could have been an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem world is instead hampered by its own requirement that you already be an expert. It’s a crossover by fans, for fans, and it squanders its supreme strength as a result.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a great crossover title, but it would be even better if I knew what the hell a “Draug” is supposed to be…

FGC #497.1 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

  • System: Nintendo WiiU, and now (finally) on the Nintendo Switch. No excuses! Go play it!
  • Number of players: Three man party, one man player.
  • Just play the gig man: The music is great. I mean, this is a game that is based on half the cast being in the music industry, so the music better be good, but… yeah. It’s good. It’s very easy to see how this game is the secret Persona game before Persona 5’s crazy soundtrack.
  • I assure you!Favorite Character: Ironically enough, it’s Kiria Kurono, the songstress associated with Tharja. While I’m always going to be annoyed when a character is built up as some incredible badass, and then the gameplay reveals she’s just kind of a middling mage (see also Persona 3’s Mitsuru), she also appears to be the only member of the team that actually knows what she’s doing at any given moment. And, yes, her whole “senpai” role seems to be literally designed to be appealing to the average Persona/SMT/FE player (again, see Mitsuru), and her “cool, but secretly cute” personality is obviously engineered to be endearing. But I still fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and I’m not going to over think it. Maybe I’m just happy she could hit that black dragon’s weak points.
  • Is there any other reason you like this game: Oh, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    ITS NUTS

    None at all.

  • Did you know? Draug is apparently a knight from Shadow Dragon, so that explains why I’ve never heard of the dork. According to the FE wiki, he is shown to have a comradery with two other characters, but this “link” only appeared in official art, and not actual gameplay, in his original games. So, yeah, that sounds like par for the course for the Fire Emblem franchise.
  • Would I play again: I’ll answer that shortly, as…

What’s next? We’re sticking to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE for the moment, as I still want to talk about this game in a non-crossover context. So please tune in next Monday as crossover week is finished, but talking about the same stupid game in a slightly different way is back. Please look forward to it!

Achoo

FGC #496 Puyo Puyo Tetris

BLOCKS!My fiancée will tell you quite loudly and clearly that she does not play videogames. My fiancée is also a liar. She plays videogames. She just doesn’t play “videogames” as she thinks the world defines them. She plays Candy Crush. She plays some other game that looks exactly the same, but involves farm animals. I think there’s another one with soda. She plays these games constantly, whether we’re sitting watching a movie or traveling to the wilds of Canada. And Pokémon Go! When it’s raining, she will get in the car, and drive around the neighborhood for hours looking to find a shiny or conquer a local gym. If this were a MMORPG, she’d be sitting at a computer for hours, but since her chosen raids are partially based in the real world, she’s not really playing a videogame, you understand. I proposed to her with a friggen’ Pokéball, for crying out loud!

Sparkles

But, no, she doesn’t play videogames. Yes, I completely understand that compared to my gaming habits, she doesn’t “play videogames” (she doesn’t even have a videogame blog! Can you imagine?), but to claim that she doesn’t play videogames at all seems… disingenuous. She doesn’t play the same kind of videogames that are traditionally covered on this blog, but she absolutely plays videogames. And, what’s more, these are not simple, even-your-grandma-can-play games. She routinely plays games that involve experience points, rationed continues, and complex resource management. There’s no judgment against supposed “casuals” here, videogames are videogames, and whether or not a Pikachu or some manner of sentient fruit is involved is inconsequential.

Blocks!One videogame my fiancée plays is Tetris. According to her own words, it is her favorite videogame (which, reminder, is something she doesn’t play). She’s been playing it for years, and notes that during some of the less hectic times in her life, she played quite a lot of it. She’s good at it. I can say with firsthand knowledge that she kicks ass at Tetris, and I have the recorded play sessions from Tetris Effect to prove it.

And, given I believe this is the first I’ve ever mentioned my fiancée on this blog, I feel I should note something else: she’s a bit of a… let’s say… completionist. She pathologically cannot deal with leaving tasks unfinished, and her Type A personality compels her to complete goals to the best of her ability, earn an A on that math test, and then win the big football game because she spiked the final 3-pointer (she tells me she also understands sports better than I do). She deals poorly with losing for any reason in any way, and, officer, I assure you this black eye of mine is from walking into a doorknob, and certainly not because the dear love of my life threw a chair at me when I caught a rare Pokémon before her. As a result of this personality quirk that she honestly and wholly admits is an issue, we don’t often play competitive games together. Even if I win, I lose, so let’s play some games where we either cooperate or work in parallel. It’s better for our collective mental health.

So I really should have known better than to suggest we play Puyo Puyo Tetris for crossover week (“week”). I should have used my good eye to foresee the inevitable.

WeeeeeFor those of you unfamiliar with the title, Puyo Puyo Tetris is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a puzzle game that combines Puyo Puyo and Tetris. For those of you unfamiliar with Puyo Puyo, it’s a color-block matching game that has visited America in various disguises over the years. For those of you unfamiliar with Tetris, welcome to Earth, and I hope you enjoy your stay on our humble planet. In both cases, we’re dealing with games where objects fall infinitely from the sky, and you must carefully manage these bits and pieces so they “clear” and your play area is not filled with so much useless junk. And this version of these respective games is predominantly based on the concept of multiplayer, so you also have to deal with offensive “junk blocks” that are generated by your opponent doing well. It’s not enough to play the game with skill, you also have to be wary of your rival playing the game with that same skill, but faster.

But just because both games are involved, don’t think they don’t completely interact. Back in the Super Nintendo days, we had Tetris & Dr. Mario, but that title was little more than an excuse to tape two Gameboy games together and sell the package for $70. Tetris and Dr. Mario intermingled about as much as Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 in Super Mario All-Stars. Puyo Puyo Tetris is another story. You can play head-to-head Puyo Puyo or head-to-head Tetris, but you can also play Puyo Puyo while your opponent picks up a game of Tetris. And it’s not simply “parallel play”, a properly completed Tetris can send junk sailing over to your Puyopponent. And it doesn’t stop there! There are other “versus” modes available that involve both games, like a puzzle speed run mode (called Big Bang Mode because “puzzle mode” sounds like a punishment), or another option where the game rapidly alternates between Puyo Puyo and Tetris boards. There’s even a mode that combines Tetris and Puyo Puyo into one focused game that adopts blocks and puyos from both franchises.

I think it was that mode in particular that caused my fiancée to start shouting expletives I cannot repeat on this blog.

I have no ideaLook, Tetris and Puyo Puyo being played in a sort of parallel is one thing, but outright combining the gameplay of both into one complete board is borderline crazy. The benefit of both of these games is that, individually, there isn’t much that has to be learned or understood to get going. Yes, there are complicated techniques involving starting combos or focused spinning or whatever in both games, but they’re both superficially very straightforward. Match the colors, line up the blocks. Empty spaces bad, alternating colors bad. The end. The best puzzle games are instantly understandable, and both Tetris and Puyo Puyo fit that bill. This is literally the reason your grandpa wanted a Gameboy. But Tetris + Puyo Puyo is confusing. Clearing a line requires using Tetris blocks, while popping puyos require puyo bubbles, and you don’t always have access to either kind of block. What’s worse, there are some moves that don’t seem to have obvious consequences, like how squishing some puyo bubbles with tetris blocks looks like you’re clearing out the clutter, but the bubbles will respawn and fall shortly thereafter. It’s something that happens every time, but it’s not immediate or often enough for a player to quickly distinguish whether these “junk blocks” are the result of something done by the player or their opponent. It creates a sort of “stress” that is not the traditional “things are getting heated because the board is filling up” stress, but more of an “I have no idea why things are happening or how I can make it better” stress. And it occurred to me that this stress could be very traumatic for some people right around when I won a match and my dear fiancée hit me with a folding chair. She is normally so respectful of the furniture!

And this might just be the pain meds talking, but there’s a certain… beauty in this crossover chaos.

What?Tetris x Puyo Puyo loses something. It loses its simplicity, and, with that, it loses its immediate and obvious accessibility. It loses an “easiness” that has been comfortable for decades. But it gains something in exchange. It is more complicated, but that complication adds nuance and techniques that would otherwise be completely absent from the experience. It adds a whole new dimension that was never there before, and would be completely impossible to so much as touch in the normal, base games. I have played a lot of Tetris games over the years, but they’ve always been constrained by being… Tetris. Adding Puyo Puyo to Tetris creates a whole new world of possibilities, and, while it does take some time to learn, it is an actual new experience. Tetris Effect, you’re great, but this is a genuinely, wholly fresh experience, and it’s satisfying to shift over to such a change once in a lifetime.

Tetris loses a little bit of itself. Puyo Puyo loses a little bit of itself. But what is gained, the final gestalt of the merging of these two things, that is greater than the two original items. Sometimes it’s hard to learn the ins and outs of this new…. thing, but it’s worth it. Both games are better for having crossed over.

Oh, anyway, did I mention I’m engaged?

She sparkles

I did? Yeah, there might be a metaphor here.

I love you, honey, and I’m looking forward to our crossover continuing.

Now… uh… could you put down that tire iron? I promise I was only kidding about playing Mario Kart…

FGC #496 Puyo Puyo Tetris

  • System: My understanding is that this is available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Steam. However, there are also versions available in Japan (from 2014!) for Xbox One, 3DS, Wii U, Playstation Vita, and Playstation 3. This game is more traveled than I thought!
  • Number of players: Four player split screen action! Online modes available, too! It’s all very crazy and/or fun!
  • Favorite Mode: It’s the Puyo Puyo x Tetris mode. Did you get that from the article? I like new things right now. That may change in the near future.
  • But seriously folks: My dear fiancée is not physically violent. If you are in a relationship with someone that abuses you, physically or mentally, and you don’t have any options, please seek help. There are many highly trained counselors and nonprofit organizations out there that can help you, even in our current, nebulous existence. And I am not saying this because someone is holding a frying pan to my head.
  • Let's go!How about that Story Mode: Is this what it’s like for other people playing Kingdom Hearts? There are just all these weird anime characters with silly hair running around and shouting at each other for level after level, and, eventually, it is revealed this is all because “god” is angry and lonely and might need a hug. Or to play Tetris. And then the universe is saved thanks to a robot that sounds like a Pokémon.
  • Did you know? This is the first American release of a straight Puyo Puyo title since Puyo Pop Fever in 2004. Everybody counts the years between Metroid releases as some sign as to whether or not the franchise is dead, but nobody gives a damn about when Puyos haven’t been seen for a decade….
  • Would I play again: Just as soon as the swelling goes down, I think we could try playing this one again. I am going to have to find some manner of anchor to confirm the Switch isn’t tossed across the room, though.

What’s next? Enough with the mushy stuff! Our final crossover title is going to be the best crossover game released in the last decade. Please look forward to it!

WINNER