Things I like about Metal Slug 3:
The word “Slug” repeated over and over again!
Cool Vehicles (slugs)!
Shoot ‘em Up levels!
Things I like about Metal Slug 3:
The word “Slug” repeated over and over again!
Cool Vehicles (slugs)!
Shoot ‘em Up levels!
There are plenty of reasons to deride the current “AAA gaming” philosophy. Micro transactions, incomplete games requiring patches, incomplete games requiring DLC, face melting, too many games where you can play with random puppers… it all gets a bit overwhelming after a while. And gone are the days when you could just “buy a videogame”, as this AAA environment has created a scary world wherein a “launch copy” might not even work without downloading a 40 GB patch, or the latest version of a beloved franchise now includes enough clothes ripping to legally consider it a porno. In short, the AAA environment has created a whole host of new and exciting problems.
But my main problem with the domination of AAA game development? It’s weeded out the weird!
Videogames used to be weird! They used to be weird as hell! Nowadays, even once you make it past the brown shooters, you’ve only ever got market tested, board of directors approved nonsense. I don’t blame companies for wanting to make money, but, come on, this is an industry founded on a chubby dude eating enough mushrooms to beat a lava turtle! Nowadays, the best we can hope for is a Yoko Taro release, and, even then, it’s pretty clear the marketing department got initial approval. I mean, come on, it must not have been that hard to sell Square-Enix on “sexy lady commits wanton violence” and “sexy lady commits wanton violence, but now with a cuter butt”. “Weird” is relegated to sidequests, and, even when you’ve got a talking cat, you still spend more time planning your daily schedule than fighting freaky monsters from the depths of the human soul.
But, according to Taito Legends, there was once a time not so long ago when weird ruled the roost.
Let’s take a look at the arcades according to Taito. Want to do this in chronologically released order? We can do that.
On its own, Jungle Hunt isn’t all that weird. It’s the story of some random explorer dude saving his woman (Wife? Girlfriend? …. Mom?) from cannibals, as one does. However, what’s worth noting here is that Jungle Hunt itself was originally intended to be a Tarzan game, but someone noticed that that dude in a loincloth swinging along vines miiiiiiight just infringe on a couple of copyrights. So the noble Tarzan became Sir Dudley, and maybe a vine was transformed into a rope. And that’s it! Tooootally different, tooootally lawful.
But it didn’t end there! Because it was assumed that the children of 1982 were complete morons, Jungle Hunt became Pirate Pete in short order. It was the exact same game, just now with a pirate theme. Swinging from rope to rope became…. Swinging from rope to rope. Huh. Basically, with as little effort as possible, this title somehow became three “different” games. It’s an auspicious start.
Again, we start with a pretty basic premise: Zeke is a zookeeper, and it’s your job to help Zeke keep all the animals penned up. However, someone decided to get some proto-Super Mario Galaxy action going, and Zeke…. orbits his zoo. And, somehow, as long as Zeke has his feet planted on the ground, the mere act of running will generate bricks (fences?) to trap rampaging lions. One would suppose this is some manner of “compensation” for the good old days of 80’s graphics, and the whole thing would be in 3-D if it were released today, but… It’s peculiar. Zeke’s zookeeper gravity is just plain weird, and gives the impression that Zeke’s Zoo is the literal center of his world. I… kind of feel bad for the poor guy. He’s not very good at his job, and it’s all he has.
Oh, and his girlfriend gets kidnapped by a monkey every three levels. But, hey, that kind of thing happened back then.
Nothing is more exciting than elevators!
We’ve spoken of this title at length before, but, since bubble dinosaurs have become normalized in society, I just want to note that, again, we’re talking about a pair of boys that were cursed to become dinosaurs that blow bubbles and hunt monsters in a 100-floor dungeon. Also, their girlfriends have been kidnapped by a giant wizard monster, and he must be defeated with lightning bubbles. There is not a single bit of this plot that has ever appeared elsewhere in human fiction.
It’s the sequel to Bubble Bobble, but this time, instead of a dinosaur that shoots bubbles, you’re a human that farts rainbows. And your ultimate opponent is Dinosaur Death, the death that comes for all dinosaurs. It’s disappointing that the third Bubble Bobble title did not feature mutant giraffes that belch tiny suns at cosmic horrors.
You would think that someone learned from the whole Jungle Hunt thing, but experience is for quitters. Here’s Conan the Barbarian except… nope. It’s just Conan the Barbarian. Did Conan ever fight endless hordes of lizard people? Well, Rastan totally does. Maybe that’s new? I don’t know. I’m not a barbarianologist because, apparently, that’s not a real thing. Thanks a lot, Obama.
No game could ever live up to that title. I’m not even going to… aw… It’s a submarine shooter? That is totally lame.
New Zealand Story
Another tale as old as time: Tiki and Phee Phee are young kiwis in love, but tragedy strikes when Phee Phee and her phriends are kidnapped by a blue leopard seal (which is totally not a walrus). And, rather than go ahead and eat said kiwis like some manner of toothy mammalian horror, Phee Phee and the gang are stuffed into cages across various mazes filled with an oddly high number of ballooning monsters (that is to say the monsters are using balloons to travel, I don’t mean to imply the monsters are getting fat). Tiki is ready for battle, though, as he’s equipped with deadly arrows, and has the ability to steal weapons from the corpses of his defeated foes. Oh, and he can steal a flying swan balloon, too. Because it’s adorable, that’s why.
While this might all sound like basement level insanity (this isn’t even the only old school game to be based entirely on the deliciousness of kiwi birds), what really pushes this one over the top is the “New Zealand Story” angle. Yes, kiwis are indigenous to New Zealand. And, yes, after every stage, you get a real life map of New Zealand. And, as you progress, you will learn the geography of New Zealand, and which areas potentially include enormous, kiwi-eating whale bosses. Was this title made with a grant by the New Zealand tourism board? Or, more likely, did some random dudes in Japan just spin a globe, point randomly at the Pacific Ocean, and base a game on the first country that happened to appear? Which option is more sane?
By 1990, you couldn’t cut it with bubble-based dinosaurs anymore, so it was time to give in to the times and release a beat ‘em up. Except… nobody at Taito had any idea how to make a beat ‘em up, so they made something that’s a little more Mega Man than Streets of Rage. You take damage for simply touching an opponent, ranged attacks are king, and most enemies go down in one or two hits. Despite the fact that the beat ‘em up genre was well established at this point, it almost feels like the long lost missing link between 2-D action games and Mike Haggar’s Big Day. It’s an amusing proto-beat ‘em up from way back when! Nothing weird about that!
Oh, except the fact that you’re fighting against a literally satanic cult.
And your main characters are puppets.
And every attack slices your opponents in half.
And it’s the source of this image
And it’s kind of racist.
And… man, it’s just weird.
Games used to be really weird, guys!
FGC #346 Taito Legends
What’s next? We’re not quite done with Taito Legends yet, as there’s one game on this compilation I want to give a closer look. Which game am I talking about? Well, please look forward to finding out!
A lot of people ask me why I bother with collecting videogames. It used to just be concerned adults/parents/mentors that claimed I had some kind of hording brain issue, but I learned to ignore those squares pretty damn quickly. Then, as time has gone by, I have learned that this question has come from the most unlikely of sources: other gamers. “Why, Goggle Bob, do you buy all these physical releases of games when digital is so much easier? You don’t even have to leave the couch! You’ve filled an entire room with these mountains and mountains of cheap plastic. Why are you doing this to yourself? We’re worried about…” etc. I’ve heard it all before, and, for anyone willing to wait for an answer, I have one response: Burger King’s Sneak King.
Okay, that might not be my only response, but it’s definitely one of ‘em!
I am hopelessly addicted to buying videogames. I know this. I have this pathological need to own any given piece of videogame history entirely because… what? I think discs are somehow going to outlive my Playstation account? In fact, I want to say the first game that ever really got me out of my “no digital” shell was Mega Man 9, but I was downright excited for the recent physical release of Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 because it meant I could finally possess a physical version of the exact same game. Never mind that I still have my “original” Mega Man 9 download transferred to my WiiU, and never mind that I bought the game again on sale on Playstation 3 because I had nothing better to do with five bucks; no, ignore all of that, because I have a disc in a case that, let’s face it, is more likely to be destroyed than an entire videogame console. But it still somehow grants me this all important illusion of permanence. So I still debate on the merits of purchasing a digital version of the latest fighting game (you know the “whole game” isn’t on the disc! They release new DLC every other week!) and lament the lack of physical media for any digital game I love (hi, Sonic Mania). I need my totems of power, and if I don’t have a physical version, what’s the point? Playing a game for fun? Please.
But, while that is obviously a prominent psychological disease the likes of which medical science has not yet fully explained, I am aware of that problem, and I can overcome it. I have loosened my grip over the years, and I am capable of buying digital releases. Given the choice, I would prefer a physical release, but I can deal with purchasing, say, every Naruto game ever for fifteen bucks during a Playstation flash sale. I’m okay with that, because I know it isn’t a game (or franchise, whatever) that is “important” to me, so I can buy in bulk, stuff it all in the fridge, and… watch it rot.
And that’s my latest problem.
Like every other videogame hoarder (particularly those with Steam accounts), I now own about 200 downloaded titles that I have barely acknowledged (left alone actually played and beaten). This drives me absolutely insane, as sorting through these games is… not pleasant. I try to put them in appropriate folders! I try to organize my collection… but then there’s another flash sale, and I haven’t even played these games yet, so is this latest purchase a beat ‘em up or a “generic” action game? Dear God, maybe it’s an action-adventure with JRPG elements. I don’t even know what to do with that! Bah, just put it in the Dark Souls pile. And this all sounds innocuous, but when I finally feel like playing X-Men Arcade again, I have to search through not only multiple “what is that” games, but also numerous systems in an attempt to even remember where I downloaded that game in the first place. And don’t even get me started on those downloaded “collections”, as I don’t want to be reminded that I own every 20th Century Capcom release seventeen times over.
But the real losers here are the games. I can safely say that there is not a single game in my digital collection that I bought “just because”. In all honesty, from the Narutos to the experimental shoot ‘em ups to the occasional “is like Dark Souls, but” title, every game I have ever purchased, I have purchased because something about the game appealed to me, and that’s worth a Lincoln. “Sure, I don’t have time to play this game right now, but I’ll get to it when I have a chance,” I foolishly told myself. And then it went into the pile, lost forever under a mountain of Vita titles that I’m going to transfer to the system real soon, I swear, just give me another day to clean off that memory card. I’ll get to it!
But physical games! Physical games I’ll never lose! Because they take up so much space! And my failures and impulse buys are all right there on a shelf (many, many shelves, in fact). They all stare back at me, not lost to some cavernous hard drive, but teetering on the edge, ready to collapse and inevitably crush my fragile skull beneath a deluge of SNES cartridges. I can see (right now!) every physical videogame I’ve ever purchased, including those that came with a BK Value Meal.
Sneak King is a game wherein you, as the Burger Nightmare King, sneak around teeny tiny arenas, and attempt to deliver random BK menu items without being seen. It gets old after approximately twelve seconds. Big Bumpin’ is a party game that pumped all of its resources into making really interesting and ornate bumper car arenas, but forgot to design anything approaching fun gameplay. There’s a kind of air hockey mode available that ain’t bad, but everything else is sub-Monkey Ball. Well, the air hockey is sub-Monkey Ball, too, but you don’t notice its badness quite as much as the one where the best way to play is to hide in the corner forever. Come to think of it, that technique works in a bunch of Sneak King levels, too. Maybe these games don’t actually want you to play them?
But play them I shall! Because I have the memory of a goldfish, and actually seeing a game makes me about 1000% more likely to play the game than stowing it in the digital fridge. And, like eating some rotten Whopper from the fridge of your choice, I will barf at the sheer rancidness of this selection. It’s crap! I should know it’s crap! These are videogames that literally came with a side of fries! But I’ll play them again, because I bought a pair of plastic disc coffins, and, by God, I’m gonna play some Burger King nonsense this week!
So, in conclusion, I collect videogames because I’m a masochist. Glad we settled that.
FGC #323 Sneak King & Big Bumpin’
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tiny Toon Adventures Buster’s Hidden Treasure for the Sega Genesis! I would expect the next article to be tiny, toony, and just a little loony. Please look forward to it!
It’s the things that you don’t even notice that make a genre.
Let’s look at Street Fighter. And, yes, in this case I am talking about Street Fighter 1, arguably the granddaddy of the fighting genre. Look at this hard-hitting arcade action.
Did you see what happened there? Did you see what Ryu and Retsu did? No, I’m not talking about their janky movements or their complete lack of hyper moves, I’m talking about turning around. It’s a simple, automatic pivot to guarantee combatants are always facing each other, and it’s the most important innovation in the fighting game genre.
Think about, well, just about every videogame ever. “Where are you facing” is important in any experience where you have to aim. Mario? I suppose it doesn’t matter if he’s facing the wrong direction while he dashes through the Mushroom Kingdom, but he better aim straight and true when it’s time to start chucking fireballs at Bowser. Contra? Sure would be nice to be able to back up and shoot forward when facing down some of those bosses. And Mega Man, from the company that would bring you Street Fighter, ends every stage with a 1-on-1 Robot Master battle for supremacy… but the Blue Bomber could technically spend the whole match firing in the wrong direction. It’s up to you, player, to make sure your lil’ dude or dudette is pointing forward, otherwise Samus might keep launching not-so-magic missiles into the darkness, and not a pulsating brain.
But it is key that the protagonist be able to aim in any direction, or at least left and right. While it might be interesting if Mega Man boss battles functioned differently than the typical stage gameplay, in order for it to be consistent, Mega must be able to turn around at will, because you never know when a telly might be sneaking up from behind. Mario doesn’t even have the ability to scroll the screen left in his first adventure, but he can still turn around, because goombas are a wily and mischievous kind of chestnut. Bowser is always going to be on the right side of the screen, but that doesn’t hold true for his damn Hammer Bros. emissary. While your main opponent is bolted to the right, even Contra features a final boss that requires shooting up, down, and back to survive a friggen inanimate organ. Manual turning is important in a lot of genres.
But not in fighting games. In fighting games, turning is always a liability.
Guilty Gear Isuka should have been a thing of beauty. The previous Guilty Gears were great, enjoyable 2-D fighting games in an era when the 2-D fighter seemed to be all but dead. Capcom was resting, Mortal Kombat was dead or totally 3-D (or both), and, sadly, no one took up the torch of Eternal Champions. But Sammy did their best to keep the fires of 2-D combat going, and, over approximately 60 incremental releases, Guilty Gear had become an excellent source of 2-D fighting fun. And there was a pretty large roster of 20 or so playable characters, so let’s do something new and innovative with the 2-D genre. People like Smash Bros. and Marvel vs. Capcom’s four player mode, right? Let’s take the preexisting Guilty Gear architecture, and make a 1-v-1 into a four player free-for-all! All the characters and moves you love, but now featured in a brand new, completely hectic battle royale. Chaos is the new normal!
And, seriously, I want to say this was an excellent idea. On a personal note, I have a hard time getting my less fighting game inclined friends to play any true fighting games other than Street Fighter. The 1-v-1 format naturally seems to lead to more “focused” matches, and, if you don’t already have a good base of fighting game knowledge, of course you’re going to lose to the guy that already started playing the game last week. Meanwhile, in Smash, or Wii Sports, or even a “board game” like situation, the social aspect of four or more players leads to a lot less pressure to perform, so even those filthy casuals can have fun. In that way, a four player “evolved” 2-D fighting game should lead to more enjoyment with friends, and people won’t immediately notice how brutally I’m kicking all of their asses. I mean, uh, fun for the whole family?
Unfortunately, concessions had to be made to account for four simultaneous fighters. For the first time in Guilty Gear history, the game would like to know which direction you want to face. You’re between two different opponents: do you face right or left? You’ve got a choice, and it’s as simple as pressing a button.
And it’s absolutely horrible.
Manual turning in a 2-D fighting game is… abhorrent. Considering that mix-ups, jump attacks, and footsies are all random phrases I just googled and hope actually have something to do with what I’m saying, there are a lot of ways to “confuse” your opponent about where you’re going to be next. Then there are special moves that carry your fighter (or opponent) clear across the screen at the press of a button. And, finally, you’ve got teleporting moves, the yoga-derived bane of everyone’s existence. In short, there is a pile of ways to switch sides in a fighting game at any given second in a match, and when your character doesn’t immediately and automatically pivot, get ready to start chucking fireballs into an empty void. Oh, and never mind the fact that the damn computer has no problem turning on a dime and kicking your ass accordingly.
But it’s that coveted “casual market” where Isuka really flounders. Want to try to get that four player action going? Well, good luck, because “move left” is not the same input as “turn left”, so expect some really frustrated newbies standing right next to an opponent, but slashing air on the other side. What? There’s a turn button? Which one is that? Oh… okay… wait… Now I’m facing the other way again… which… that one? Uh… can we play something else now?
It’s not that it’s completely impossible to understand, it’s just that it’s transparently unintuitive, and there are no shortage of party games out there that don’t share the same handicap.
And that’s what it all comes down to: pivoting, simple turning around, should be 100% intuitive. In a platformer, it’s a matter of flicking the right direction. In a fighting game, it’s an automatic turn. Nobody thinks about it, it’s just that simple, and you can get back to attempting to master a dragon punch motion.
The automatic turn is the most important thing to ever happen to fighting games, and when it’s missing, it is sorely missed.
FGC #236 Guilty Gear Isuka
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS! Agents are (gonna) go! Please look forward to it!