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FGC #481 Mega Man ZX Advent

Have a mega timeI’m working on a theory here, and it’s that, despite the fact that Mega Man 9 is one of my favorite games and possibly one of the best Mega Man games ever, it also completely destroyed the Mega Man franchise.

And it all roots back to the history and evolution of Mega Man.

In 1987, there was Mega Man. The premiere of the Blue Bomber saw a robot that walks, jumps, and shoots. When he defeats a Robot Master, he gains that robot’s weapon, and can use it a limited number of times as an offensive option. This playstyle continued through the “Nintendo Years”, and saw six NES games and five Gameboy games. There were many pretenders to the Mega throne, but, by and large, Mega Man changed very little on the NES. A slide here, a mega buster there, but it all still went back to the same gameplay that was established in ’87.

In 1993, we were introduced to Mega Man X. X was, figuratively and literally, the newest model of Mega Man, and came with more than a few upgrades. He could dash. He could cling to walls. He felt more mobile than his stiff ancestor. And, on a very important but oft-ignored note, X could charge his robot master (now “Maverick”) weapons, and possessed an even greater ability mimic his opponents. Simple Mega Man would have never gained the invisibility of Sting Chameleon (Invisible Man?) from a fight, but X had the option to go incognito and fire off triple shots. Finally, “Mega Man” had an avenue to enjoy the more complicated Robot Masters that had been appearing since Wood Man first rained wicked leaves down on the battlefield.

Generations!1997’s Mega Man Legends was, unfortunately, an evolutionary dead-end for the franchise, but Mega Man X4 (released the same year) allowed a complete Zero to costar with X (he was technically playable in X3, but he was more prototype than man). The Mega Man franchise always put a particular emphasis on distance and how easily ol’ Mega could be defeated by simply bumping into an enemy, so it seemed only natural when the franchise went all in on a character that had more of an emphasis on close-range combat. And it was a change for Zero as much as anyone else! Zero used to be able to slash opponents from a distance with an armbuster and flying cut, but now he was limited to a sword’s length for combat. And it worked! Many preferred playing as the up close and personal Zero in X4 and future X titles, so it was little surprise when it was time for…

Mega Man Zero hit the scene in 2002. Once again, we had two evolutionary paths, with Mega Man Battle Network’s action/JRPG hybrid gameplay first emerging to great acclaim in 2001, and then Mega Man Zero curating the 2-D action a year later. MMZ could potentially be seen as a step back for the franchise, as singular Zero was technically more limited than X in his modular attacks, but, as the MMZ franchise evolved, Zero gained an arsenal that would put any other Mega Man to shame. And right from the beginning, it was clear that the point was never to give Zero another seventeen variations on Metal Blades, but create a smaller, tighter gameplay environment for an audience that had literally learned to walk alongside the little metal boy. Mega Man Zero’s Zero did not feel like the same upgrade we saw between Mega Man and Mega Man X, but it did offer a new, more intricate experience for the veteran Mega fan.

Seems familiar2006, four years (and ten games!) later, we received another two “sequel” franchises. Mega Man Star Force was our upgrade for Mega Man Battle Network, refining the basic gameplay and adding very important plot points about dinosaurs being killed by a lack of friendship. And, on the other side of the aisle, we got Mega Man ZX, the continuation of the Mega Man Zero franchise. In this world, the wars of Mega Man Zero eventually ended, and the heroes of that time were skinned alive and could now be worn like suits. Don’t worry! They’re still sentient “biometals”, so at least X, Zero, and all their frenemies can experience the joy/horror of being a fashion accessory for centuries! And the protagonist of Mega Man ZX watches their own personal Obi Wan die, which unlocks the ability to mega-merge the biometals of X of Z(ero). Thus, the titular Mega Man ZX is born, and they’ve got all the powers of Mega Man X and Zero. Finally! The lovers are united!

And, while the whole conceit of Mega Man ZX could have just been an excuse to give Zero a decent buster, the game really does feel like the conclusion of years of Mega Man and Zero games. Zero’s greatest strength was always its focused gameplay… but this left the hero feeling rather limited compared to his ancestors. Meanwhile, Mega Man had a thousand options for combat (or at least nine), but many of his adventures seemed overstuffed and… Sorry, the English language doesn’t yet have a phrase that translates to “too top spin-y”. But Mega Man ZX struck an excellent balance: the dedicated gameplay of the Zero franchise was here, but the options available to X were also fully integrated into every level. Mega Man ZX could “be”, essentially, Zero, or transform into a more mobile air-dasher. Or a water witch. Fireball bro. Cyber ninja. The hero’s got options! And each different form wasn’t just a matter of a slightly modified buster, they all offered unique mobility options, too. In a way, this is what was promised back in the ancient days of Rockman and his ability to mimic his opponents after a battle. Or maybe that’s just what was promised by Ruby Spears Mega Man…. Still! Whatever works!

And it must have worked well for somebody, because Mega Man ZX gained a sequel, Mega Man ZX Advent, the following year. And it advanced the Mega Man formula by being completely bonkers.

Kiss from a roseMega Man ZX Advent eschews the typical mega-sequel plan by ejecting its previous protagonist right out of the gate. What’s more, this isn’t even a situation wherein the “ZX biometal” is immediately passed to the next generation or some other similar narrative trick to explain sprite reuse. No, the hero/heroine of Mega Man ZX Advent initially acquires the A Biometal, granting them the ability to wholly copy any given biometal or pseudoroid. What does this mean? It means you can play as the bosses! No more “got a weapon” or “can play as ZX-H” or whatever, you can just straight up emulate any given boss in the game! And it doesn’t matter if the boss “is too big for most areas” or “doesn’t have legs”, you can just turn into that fish monster on land if you really want to! Worst comes to worst, you just lose a life, so don’t worry about it. You’ll figure out that being a gigantic alligator monster all the time isn’t the best choice eventually.

And, while it demolishes the tightness of Zero to make some sections of ZX Advent unerringly silly (“Quick! Turn into the twin cat-bears!”), what’s truly remarkable here is how much the player is trusted with these unwieldy toys. Mega Man Powered Up had been released the previous year, and it did its level best to make sure all of the playable Robot Masters were balanced and similar so Guts Man could (technically) conquer any challenge originally designed for Mega Man. There is no such equilibrium here: it’s a known fact that half the playable “party” cannot complete the game from beginning to end. Hell, a fraction of that group can barely even jump! But that doesn’t matter, because you can switch between forms at any time, and who needs to worry about whether Queenbee the Hymenopteroid can fit through a particular hallway? Just switch! The X button is right there! The ring menu means pausing the action isn’t too big of a deal, and you’ll be switching over to the appropriate pseudoroid with a few button presses.

And being able to cycle through a complete set of “Robot Masters” really felt like what Mega Man was always meant to be. Mega Man ZX Advent was the culmination of a full twenty years of Mega Man games.

And it turns out it really was the zenith of the franchise. There was nowhere to go but back.

The secret bonus of Mega Man ZX was the ability to play as Omega, the super-powered version of Zero that was supposed to be his original, unstoppable body (long story). The secret bonus of Mega Man ZX Advent was the ability to control Modal a (case sensitive), which…

Pew pew

Looks a little familiar.

Model a was clearly a deliberate move, as the next Mega Man title to come down the pike was Mega Man 9, a retro title released in 2008. After years of Mega Man upgrading to match the graphics of the day, this was the first Mega Man title to fully embrace the NES aesthetic, and return to (faux) 8-bits. This was the first Mega Man to not try to upgrade old titles to modern sensibilities (like Mega Man X Maverick Hunter or Mega Man Powered Up) but take gameplay back to older standards while offering new and interesting experiences. But, retro or not, Mega Man 9 was an excellent game, and, while it may not have featured a “modern” Mega Man, it was the type of experience that could only be produced by people with decades of experience in the genre.

Which is great, because Mega Man 9 was apparently the end of any experimentation in the franchise.

CHOMPSince the release of Mega Man 9, we’ve seen Mega Man 10 (another retro title) and Mega Man 11 (something a little more modern). Aside from that? Nothing. No Mega Man X, Mega Man ZX, or Mega Man Battle Network. No Mega Man: Ultra Plus or whatever could have been next for the franchise. Mega Man 9’s success seemed to cement the concept that gamers just want classic, unchanged Mega Man, and that’s what Capcom is going to keep cranking out. We’ve seen about seventeen different rereleases of Mega Man 3, but nary a peep about Mega Man Legends 3.

(And, yes, we could blame this all on Keiji Inafune, the godfather of Mega Man, leaving Capcom, but that ignores the fact that we have Mega Man 11, and it’s probable there is a reason Inafuking isn’t at Capcom anymore…)

Was Mega Man 9 a good game? Yes. Hell, it was amazing. By comparison, is Mega Man ZX Advent a bad game? Well, it’s not bad, but it is very sloppy compared to Mega Man 9 (or even Mega Man Zero 4). But it’s a lot of fun, and its experimental side is arguably what Mega Man fans have wanted all along. But since even more fans simply wanted good ol’ Mega Man, Mega Man 9 was the end of the franchise’s 20 years of experimentation. Mega Man 12 may be allowed to have a gimmick or two, but it better be the OG Mega Man, or it ain’t getting greenlit.

Mega Man 9 is my favorite game that murdered its own franchise’s creativity.

And Mega Man ZX Advent is my favorite game where you can play as Bifrost the Crocoroid.

FGC #481 Mega Man ZX Advent

  • System: Nintendo DS initially, and now available for PS4/Switch via the Mega Man Zero/ZX Collection. This game was actually chosen by Random ROB a while ago, but I decided to hold off for the modern collection. And it’s good!
  • Rock out!So you spent an entire article bitching how Capcom ignores the experimental Mega Man titles, and they just released one of the experimental Mega Man titles? Yes. Shut-up.
  • Number of players: Grey or Ashe, but only one at a time.
  • Favorite Pseudoroid: Vulturon the Condoroid is a heavy metal vulture that summons robot zombies and flies through the air strumming his murderous electric guitar. Just… just how are you supposed to compete with that? Block Man can’t touch that with a ten foot block.
  • Second Runner-Up: But all of the pseudoroids are amazing in this game. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to just phone in a number of Robot Masters that are all basic variations on a theme (like the Guardian Quartet), but we’ve got giant bees dragging around enormous hives and twin dog monsters and Metal Sonic and… Well, the list goes on for a while.
  • Say something mean: The empty rooms that can be uncovered but won’t activate until you speak to the right random Ranger to initiate a sidequest are the absolute worst. The fact that there are like 50 “golden skulltula”-style monsters to hunt down, and the quest giver is tucked away in one of the final levels is somehow even beyond the absolute worst. Some kind of… Mega Worst.
  • An end: Complete with the secret ending, the finale of Mega Man ZX Advent sets up a sequel featuring evil biometals, a turncoat leader, and an uncertain future that we know will culminate with Tron Bonne running around a sunken world. But what happens next? Who knows! Like Mega Man Legends, this branch of the Mega Man franchise never made it to a full trilogy, so here we sit waiting for more.
  • BUZZ!Did you know? Chronoforce the Xiphosuroid, the horseshoe crab-looking pseudoroid that can control time, is named for the Xiphosura order, which includes the Tachypleus tridentatus aka kabutogani. And that’s where we get the name for the Pokémon, kabuto.
  • Would I play again: Did I mention I like playing as the giant crocodile monster? Because I very much enjoy playing as the giant crocodile monster.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Gradius V for the Playstation 2! Keep your options open, Vic! Please look forward to it!

MKK: Liu Kang & Raiden

Mortal Kombat 11 seems to kill the Mortal Kombat Universe (uh, spoilers), so, let us wake the Mortal Kombat Universe.

To kick things off, we will start with the twin protagonists of the franchise…

Look out!

Liu Kang: Liu Kang is the generic, lovable karate man that won the first four Mortal Kombat “tournaments”. He defeated Shang Tsung. He slayed Shao Kahn. Twice. And, finally, he defeated the rogue Elder God, Shinnok. And then Shang Tsung and Quan Chi broke his neck.

That’s when things started to get weird.

(Sidenote: how much does it suck that the most prominent, canon “fatality” was a random neck snap? I would have been all in on MK: Deadly Alliance if it started with a cinema scene of Quan Chi tearing off Liu Kang’s leg and beating him with it while Shang Tsung turned someone into a baby or something.)

Lookin' good, Looey

Liu Kang spent one whole title dead. Then, just in time for the Dragon King to kill all of his buddies, Liu Kang was revived as an extremely surly zombie. Unlike Scorpion or other “revenant” characters in the franchise, undead Liu Kang was simply a slack-jawed, shackled, shambling corpse of his former self. And you know what? People seemed to like that!

So when the universe got rebooted, Liu Kang was killed almost immediately. Okay, technically he was killed in an alternate version of Mortal Kombat 3, but it was still within the same game (Mortal Kombat 9) that revived him, so it seemed like it happened pretty quick. Anyway, Raiden BBQed Liu Kang to extra crispy, and then Liu Kang spent a solid game and a half being a corrupted evil ghost that wound up conquering Hell through a liberal use of bicycle kicks. And it all worked out anyway, because Evil Hell Lord Liu Kang absorbed Time-Displaced Young & Saintly Liu Kang, and they became Liu Kang+ who did a few things, and then blah blah blah, he’s the creation god of the entire Mortal Kombat universe.

Actually, maybe we should cover exactly how that all went down…

Zappy!

Raiden: Screw Liu Kang, here’s the real protagonist of the franchise. Raiden is a god. What’s more, Raiden is not one of those “Watcher” gods that is always doing his best to explain why he can’t use his godly powers to just make someone a goddamned decent taco. No, Raiden is a real “get down in the muck” kind of god, and if he has to electrocute a few guys while he’s wearing mortal skin, so be it, just means he can work on his sweet roundhouses while he’s hanging on Earth. The earlier Mortal Kombat titles went to great lengths to explain why Raiden wasn’t using his divine abilities to snap his fingers and instantly end all of his battles, but more recent titles completely forsake that kind of thinking, and, uh, I guess he’s just pulling his punches a bit when fighting Stryker, and that’s why no one’s head explodes at the starting bell.

Now, as far as what Raiden was doing during the Mortal Kombat tournaments… That’s where you can see the basic shape of the series.

Mortal Kombat 1 was your typical anime tournament for the fate of the world. As such, Raiden was just there to fly around and shout like an idiot every couple of minutes. His greatest contribution was giving Christopher Lambert something to do.

Mortal Kombat 2 was your typical anime tournament for the fate of the world, again, but this time they had a change of venue. Again, Raiden is basically just there to be everyone’s Big Tournament Thunder Daddy. Hm… I should probably check to see if that terminology could be applied to anything else…

Mortal Kombat 3 featured Shao Kahn invading Earth(realm) in a last ditch effort to conquer the whole of existence. As such, Raiden, a god of Earth, was not allowed to participate until Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Super Mortal Kombat 3 Turbo Edition). This was theoretically to show just how desperate everything had gotten for our heroes… but it just came off as the Thunder God got replaced by the Thunder Native American Dude.

It's electric

Mortal Kombat 4 saw Shinnok threaten the universe. Shinnok was a deposed Elder God, so Raiden got to take center stage, and rep the God Squad with Fujin, the God of Silent Farts. Liu Kang was the ultimate savior of the universe, but at least Raiden got promoted from “god” to “elder god”, which is really going to look great on his resume.

… Or not! Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance was the story of how Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, professional second bananas, decided to kill Liu Kang and conquer the universe. The Elder Gods decreed that Billy Soulboy and Quan White weren’t the same kind of cosmic threat that had appeared in previous Mortal Kombat events, so they were going to sit this one out. But! Raiden disagreed, forsook his Elder God status, demoted himself to mere Regular God, and, for the first time “in game”, was the impetuous for the forces of good gathering under his wing (as opposed to just getting a paragraph of plot on an attract screen). Likely because Liu Kang was sick with a case of the deads, Raiden came off as the official protagonist leader for the first time. Unfortunately, this did ultimately end in everyone dying, but good hustle!

Mortal Kombat Deception started at the exact end of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. Old Man and Bald Man accidently revived Onaga, The Dragon King, and then literally everyone (important) died in an attempt to subdue Onaga. This included Raiden, who kamikazed into a gigantic bolt of electricity that, at best, gave Onaga frizzy hair for a week. Raiden reconstituted, though, and came back… more than a little pissed off. Raiden descended into being, essentially, “Dark Raiden”, and spent the entirety of the title looking like he was ten seconds away from telling all his “friends” on LiveJournal how he really feels. The next day…

Mortal Kombat Armageddon was little more than an excuse for every Mortal Kombat fighter to come together and clobber the hell out of each other. Technically, it was during this time that Raiden revived Liu Kang as his zombie enforcer, but, canonically, by the time the “tournament” was over, Raiden had wound up “good” again. Which is good! Because the final two fighters were Raiden and weren’t-you-already-dead-twice Shao Kahn. And guess who won! That’s right, it was Shao Kahn! Whoops! Time for a do-over!

He's a god!

Mortal Kombat 9 starts with Armageddon Raiden contacting Mortal Kombat 1 Raiden. In order to prevent the creation of Mortal Kombat games not helmed by Netherrealm Studios, Armageddon Raiden relays the desperate message “He must win”. Unfortunately, Future Raiden forgets that all versions of Raiden are (is?) kind of an idiot(s), so Mortal Kombat 1 Raiden decides to screw up the timeline but good. Like, he thinks, “Maybe Kung Lao is supposed to win, I should send him in to fight.” And then Kung Lao dies. Or “maybe literally anyone else is supposed to win”, and then literally everyone else dies. Basically, Raiden winds up creating a timeline where all your beloved characters are dead… which is just like the end result of Deadly Alliance… but… uh… this time it happened way too early. Anyway, eventually Raiden kills Liu Kang because he was getting uppity, and saves the whole stupid universe himself by letting Shao Kahn win Mortal Kombat 3, thus invoking some esoteric rule that the boss character can’t get his own ending or something. The Elder Gods vaporize Shao Kahn, and the whole of the universe is saved thanks to fine print.

Mortal Kombat X starts with the events of Mortal Kombat 4, but, in this new timeline, only Johnny Cage is alive enough to save us all from Shinnok. Cage can only pull off a temporary victory (you know Liu Kang would have put that god in the ground if he wasn’t currently a zombie in his unholy thrall), and Shinnok resurfaces decades later, just in time for everyone’s kids to be main characters. Raiden tries to take a hands-off approach to this whole “renegade god attempting to destroy humanity” thing, and, like most Raiden decisions, that ends poorly. Shinnok nearly destroys all of creation (again), Raiden is captured, and winds up having to be saved by a magical teenager. But Raiden does help out, as he absorbs the radiant energy of Shinnok (or something), which only has the minor side-effect of making Raiden all dark and rude (again). Mortal Kombat X ends with Dark Raiden threatening Dark Liu Kang with the ultimatum that there’s only room enough for one fallen protagonist in this universe. And that proves to be true! Because…

Mortal Kombat 11 sees Dark Raiden and Lord of Hell Liu Kang in direct conflict. But then Kronika, Goddess of Time and mother of Shinnok, shows up and further muddies everything. Current Dark Raiden is unceremoniously wiped from existence, and never returns. However, time-displaced Mortal Kombat 2 Raiden appears in his place. Wait, to be clear, that’s Raiden from the Mortal Kombat 2 that took place during the rebooted timeline of Mortal Kombat 9. So it’s Mortal Kombat 2* Raiden. Got it? Anywho, MK2* Raiden winds up nearly killing MK2* Liu Kang (again), but then receives a flash of insight that apparently Kronika was always manipulating Raidens across time into murdering Liu Kangs across time, because the combination of Raiden and Liu Kang is too OP for MK. Raiden takes this revelation incredibly literally, and fuses his essence with Liu Kang (which, incidentally, winds up being a version of Liu Kang that is already the fusion of MK11 Liu Kang and MK2* Liu Kang). This creates Fire God Liu Kang, and Raiden kind of fades into nonexistence as Fire God Liu Kang reboots the universe as he sees fit. So the twin protagonists of the franchise become one as the story closes. Hooray! Symmetry! I think!

He's a god!

So, yeah, in short, it’s Raiden’s world (and timelines!), and everyone else is just living there.

Next Time: The movie star and the military star!

FGC #438 Fire Emblem Awakening

This is the current roster in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:

Smash it!

Of the fighters featured, I have played games featuring all characters highlighted in black:

I see a pattern

Who did I miss? Well, it looks like the entire Fire Emblem cast. Whoops! Guess I’ll just have to go on not giving a damn about all those stupid sword animes running around.

It's the shieldBut when ROB recently chose Fire Emblem Awakening (reminder: I follow the rule of ROB, but not necessarily in order picked. It takes slightly longer to play Final Fantasy Mystic Quest than Super Contra), I decided it might be time. After all, I have declared repeatedly on this blog that I would follow Nintendo straight into the depths of Hell almost entirely because they have continually created games that are always amazing to play (even if they’re not always the absolute best in the universe). This is the company that is responsible for hidden, super insane Mario stages and the super guide block. Surely I can trust Nintendo to make an enjoyable experience out of a genre I traditionally despise.

And, besides, my Twitter feed at any given moment is about 80% Lucina fanart, so I was kind of curious about her deal.

So, how did baby’s first Fire Emblem experience go? Well…

Casual Mode is my new God

Going into Fire Emblem, I knew exactly three things:

  1. It’s a tactical RPG, meaning it’s mostly about moving your little dudes around a map
  2. “It’s like chess, but sometimes you make the pieces kiss”
  3. Perma-Death

Here comes some plotAnd, above anything else, that perma-death factor scared me the hell away from the franchise. I can deal with a TRPG, I can deal with anime sword people kissing, but I absolutely cannot deal with perma-death in a videogame. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: above all else, I play videogames to relax. I play videogames to fool around in a consequence-free digital playground. I do not want to play a videogame where I can kill people. … Okay, I play videogames where I kill people all the time. I don’t want to play a videogame where I get people killed. I can deal with fainting. I am okay with “Chrom will remember this” in a pre-written, novel-esque setting. But I do not want to relax by watching a daring and debonair archer fall in battle to some stupid zombie with an axe. And then playing the rest of the game without that character? Knowing there is always a… a hole in my party? And what if that warrior was married? Or had kids? Oh God! My only options would be savescumming or never playing the game ever again.

But Fire Emblem Awakening includes a casual mode where not only is perma-death completely ignored, but saving in the middle of a battle is completely allowed. Hooray! I can actually play the game, and screw up by sending my Valkyrie into enemy territory as recklessly as I want!

Looking into this detail after completing the game, I discovered that there was some controversy over the inclusion of this (filthy) casual mode. And my response to that? Hey, nerds, this is my first Fire Emblem game. Let me learn the ropes and still make progress with my training wheels on. I don’t want to feel bad for the rest of the day just because I forgot axe beats lance. Casual mode is unequivocally a good thing for starting players and people who want to play videogames to unwind while waiting in an immobile airplane due to “engine troubles”. I know it’s more complicated than that, Judy, we’ve been sitting on the tarmac for two and a half hours, I’m not buying this “we’re just waiting for the paperwork” excuse! … Where was I? Oh yeah, you eliminate perma-death, and Fire Emblem is suddenly about a million times less stressful.

And, yes, I can confirm that I probably didn’t get through a single battle without at least one unit “fainting” due to a lucky critical or a mistaken bit of movement. If every “retreat” was a permanent death, my final army would have contained about four characters and absolutely zero flying ponies.

But even without the punishment factor, Fire Emblem Awakening is still a TRPG, my most hated genre. How did that work out?

Fire Emblem Awakening is Surprisingly Zippy

Our hero!I have literally never played another Fire Emblem title (give or take attempting OG Famicom Fire Emblem for about thirty seconds around the time of Super Smash Bros Brawl’s release), so I have no idea how the actual gameplay of Awakening compares to other titles in the franchise. However, I can tell you one thing for certain: Fire Emblem Awakening is unexpectedly fast. I’ve long said that I dislike TRPGs because it takes for freakin’ ever to do the simplest thing (like, ya know, kill an entire army full of people), and comparing a TRPG to other genres is always going to make a TRPG look like a literal waste of time. If this were Fire Emblem Warriors (which, wow, I guess is a thing now), I’d have about 600 enemy units dead before I finished my first turn in Fire Emblem 4 Realsies. And who has time for that? I have a bunch of really fast, really fun videogames right here. They’re all around me! They will likely one day consume me! I’m gonna go play Mega Man, let me know when this eternal combat turn ends.

But Fire Emblem Awakening moves astoundingly quickly. Combat animations are actually interesting and dynamic, movement placement is as easy as dragging a mouse around the screen, and, if all else fails, you can rely on the AI to round out a turn (and hopefully not get everyone killed). Enemy turns move at an excellent pace, and, even when some random dude has four attacks versus two counters, a turn is over in less time than it takes to grab a shower burrito. Despite my own general prejudice toward TRPG slowness, Fire Emblem Awakening doesn’t feel like a waste of my precious time (that could be spent playing Mario Bros.).

roar!And, interestingly enough, this extends to time spent outside of the battle, too. “Equipment” as it is traditionally defined in a JRPG is limited to simply weapons, and most characters (save our tactician player avatar) are limited to one or two weapon types, max. So you grab your best sword, give it to your best gal, and call it a day. The end. Other stats, like defense, are controlled by consumable “powerup” items that either last for one battle or are permanent. So determine who is the most useful, feed ‘em a few extra magic shields, and we’re good to go. There is no juggling equipment to make sure everyone has ice armor for the fire cave, or investigating every single shop to determine if every female character has their proper Minerva dress. It’s just grab some gear and go. And going is good!

And that lack of extra equipment makes managing item bags a breeze. Everybody got their emergency elixir and a weapon or two? Fast gals got their keys in case of treasure emergencies? Great! Let’s mosey!

And speaking of moseying…

The Grid Ain’t so Bad

I have said before that I hate grids. But I can live with Fire Emblem Awakening’s general movement grid. Why?

I have no idea. Huh.

So many squaresI generally dislike grid movement because it feels completely limiting compared to “real” movement. People do not move in grids. People are loosey-goosey! We left behind the crosspad before we even got out of the 20th Century, so who wants to deal with an entire army that can’t even move diagonally? But, somehow, Fire Emblem Awakening just feels like… it works? It’s probably a side effect of the whole speed thing, but “playing chess” with these characters feels oddly natural. I’m going to chalk this one up to one of those “Nintendo Magic” experiences. Somebody knows how to make a land-bound elf and a tubby, surprisingly acrobatic plumber’s movement feel equally valid, so it makes sense that sword dudes would somehow feel natural being tied to invisible squares. Or maybe I just didn’t notice the grids because I was actually enjoying myself. Hm.

And speaking of enjoying myself…

The Plot is Actually Enjoyable (And Anime)

Full disclosure: I am a sucker for time travel. Lucina is Chrom’s child from an alternate future where a dragon decided to munch on all of humanity? And that dragon is the evil twin of one of your own party members, so there’s a future child and a future alternate bad guy? And there could be an entire literal army of other future children? Hook that to my veins! This hole was made for me! Something about time travel being my waifu!… Actually, yeah, “waifus” are kind of an issue here…

It's sad, reallyFire Emblem Awakening is a TRPG, but you’re also encouraged to… uh… breed your warriors. Practically your entire army can have relationships, and these relationships have a basis in dialogue (general between battle hangout sessions) and actually war gameplay (units teaming up and defending/assisting each other). In a way, this is a transparent attempt to further elaborate on characters that are inevitably not going to be involved in the legitimate plot (since standard mode allows for perma-death, technically every character except the leads could be dead within their introductory battle, so we can’t very well hang plot twists on their potentially limited existences), but it also offers a better way to “get to know” warriors that might be interesting in battle (that one turns into a giant ferret! What’s up with that!?), but are otherwise superfluous to the greater narrative. And it also scratches that visual novel itch that seems to have wormed its way into a number of titles (presumably thanks to one biggie). But one significant side effect of these interactions is that certain soldiers can fall for certain other (heteronormative) soldiers. And then they get married. And have babies. And babies inherit skills, return from the future, and become soldiers. And, oh man, Chrom started a forever war without even trying!

And, yes, I had heard of this aspect of FEA before playing the title. And, frankly, I was downright terrified of having to properly manage my relationships and “breeding” for perfectly tweaked future children that have all the best skills and advantages and hair colors. But you know what? It didn’t matter. I didn’t have to micromanage the relationships of these characters, and, give or take a bad ending for one of my luminaries that apparently became a sad drunk without a woman to keep him in line, there were no real consequences to this anti-waifu decision. Like “real”, non-casual mode, there was this entire facet of Fire Emblem Awakening that I could focus on if I wanted to, and it would always be there, but I could ignore it and still have a fun time. A few of my chess pieces hooked up, most of them didn’t, and that was just fine by me.

And you know what else is fine?

Class Changes are Always Cool

Look at this:

POWER UP

Damn, that’s cool.

Okay, I like this franchise now. I can finally say that I officially, uncompromisingly like a TRPG. Way to go, Fire Emblem Awakening.

FGC #438 Fire Emblem Awakening

  • System: Nintendo 3DS, though, given this was apparently the Fire Emblem that revitalized and popularized the entire franchise, I’d expect a rerelease of some kind in the future.
  • Number of players: Can we please, please get a 2 player TRPG battling game? Has this happened in other Fire Emblem titles? Were they any good? I want to know!
  • Yay!  Marth!Anime gonna anime: Of course there is a character that looks like a 12-year old girl but is actually a millennia old dragon person. Other than that, the “anime” of Fire Emblem Awakening isn’t really all that bad, and, with a more Western paintjob, the majority of this title could actually be closer to Tolstoy than Sword Art Online. Okay, that might be pushing it a bit, but this is a surprisingly brutal (re: high body count) story for what I was expecting to be a lot more bubblegum.
  • Mistakes were made: Apparently I wholesale murdered that one dark magician girl everybody is always talking about. I regret nothing.
  • Favorite Soldier: It’s weird, but I wound up gravitating to Lissa. She’s just involved enough in the plot to be present for notable events, and her general personality is an excellent counter to many of the more dour or incidentally blood-thirsty characters. And she can become a pretty competent red mage sage, which is always helpful. Oh, and she has an inferiority complex thanks to a magical tattoo, so that’s also fun.
  • Favorite Future Child: Chrom wound up with Sumia in my playthrough (remember: I do not care), so we wound up with Cynthia, Lucia’s little sister that apparently wants to become a hero… without any real idea of how to do that. And that works surprisingly well! Lucina is all doing the mysterious knight routine and cutting a swath across her own past… and Cynthia can barely figure out how to properly wear pants. They seem like siblings to me.
  • So now do you better understand why these characters are in Smash Bros? Not really. Okay, Robin is pretty damn cool, and surprisingly friendly for her “cool tactician” role… but she’s otherwise fairly unremarkable. Chrom is a generic hero that fights for his friends, so there’s not much there. And I'm so tiredLucina is a goddamn bad ass that bends the laws of time and space to get exactly what she wants and incidentally save the world… but she winds up being the lamest clone character in Smash? Dammit! The coolest one got the worst treatment! I suppose the camaraderie between Robin and Chrom is commendable/memorable, but, having just finished Awakening, I’d rather just see Lucina kicking ass and taking names in a role wholly her own.
  • Did you know? There are a lot of DLC and Spotpass scenarios available, and that appears to be what is intended as the “post-game” of Awakening. But did you know this was the first Nintendo title to feature DLC in any significant form? And the first Nintendo game to feature a DLC swimsuit scenario, because J/TRPG fans are horny as hell? The more you know!
  • Would I play again: I would be curious to see how a more “informed” playthrough of Fire Emblem Awakening would shake out, as I now know many things I did not know before (like who to avoid murdering). But I don’t think I will be doing that for a while, as, now that I have a Fire Emblem “base”, I can try a few other titles that have been recommended over the years. Awakening appears to be a great jumping-on point for the series, and I’m curious to see if this cast/gameplay holds up elsewhere…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trials of Mana! Yeah! I’m sure that was a random choice! Time for the grand trial of the Goddess of Mana! Please look forward to it!

I admit it

FGC #430 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

GRAPHICS!When I am a wistful old man (estimated arrival date: twelve minutes from now) I will tell my children and grandchildren and whatever poor ragamuffin is forced to mow my lawn about my younger days. I will speak of the birth of the internet as we know it (or knew it). I will speak of LiveJournal. I will speak of Mario and Link and Sonic and Bubsy. I will speak of all things that remind me of my youth, my better days, the days when I thought anything was possible. The days when I was not hardened to this uncaring world, and I believed, yes, truly believed that we were heading toward a future that accommodated my generation and me, and that, finally, people who grew up saving princesses and reassembling triforces were coming into the sort of power I had only seen possessed by my parents and their parents before them. I was young, young man, and I believed the world would soon be my oyster.

And what fueled that misguided belief? Scott Pilgrim, and the world of merchandise that accompanied its brief stay at the top.

This paragraph is really going to make me wish I learned how to properly distinguish a character and a title… Okay, for anybody here that is just hearing about Scott Pilgrim for the first time (hi, lawn ragamuffin), Scott Pilgrim was a series of six graphic novels drawn and written by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It chronicled the story of the titular Scott Pilgrim, a dude who is aimlessly frittering away his 20s, but meets the literal woman of his dreams at a party. Said woman, Ramona, unfortunately has a history containing seven evil exes, and now Scott Pilgrim must win his lady love’s heart by defeating her entire dating history. In the end, the story becomes one about growing up and learning that maybe you’re kind of a dingus, and the journey of defeating seven evil exes was really the friends we made along the way.

Vs the ZombiesAnd that is super important to the following statement: I love Scott Pilgrim. I love the books, I love the concept, I even love the amiable loser himself, Scott Pilgrim. At the time the story was being released, I completely identified with Scott Pilgrim. And that’s kind of horrifying! Scott Pilgrim is an affable young lad, but, as the story all but outright states on a number of occasions, he’s also a self-centered dick. He enjoys videogames, he reads comics, he plays in a rock band: just like me! He also has predatory, selfish dating habits, and thinks nothing of ditching literally everyone he knows if he thinks it serves some greater purpose of advancing one of his own relationships. Just like me! Shit. That can’t be good. But since one moral of the story is that Scott Pilgrim can learn to grow out of being Scott Pilgrim, it is likely safe to even compare yourself to Scott. Sure, I’m a straight, white male that is kind of a mess, but eventually I’m going to have my hero moment, and mature out of it. Sure! That makes sense. The alternative is, what, to be a juvenile, self-serving nitwit until you eventually become a 70 year old man that is incidentally President of the United States. That’s crazy! Scott is Canadian!

Okay, so maybe the Scott Pilgrim series is, pretty much by design, selfish. In creating a character that is the perfect encapsulation of a 20-something from my generation, BAM created a monster attached to a moral that only exists at the end of six books that took six years to be released. It is very easy in such a situation to never see that all-important character denouement, and simply focus on how Scott is cool and plays videogames and apparently hot women with fantastical weapons literally throw themselves at the guy. It is very easy to be white, male, and straight (editor’s note: that should be the entire sentence) and see Scott as less a directionless gremlin that unintentionally hurts everyone in his immediate vicinity, and much more of a champion that is involved in a simple hero’s journey that involves seven obvious evil bosses. And, yes, even if you acknowledge Scott Pilgrim to be selfish, it is rather dangerous to hang your ego on the Scott Pilgrim media empire.

But, for the summer of 2010, I did just that.

Roar!Make no mistake; I never wanted to be Scott Pilgrim. However, I already loved the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, and the news that Scott Pilgrim would be receiving its final volume, a movie directed by Edgar Wright, and a videogame all in the same year left me fairly elated. Everything was coming up Bob!

And it’s worth noting just how amazing the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was to anyone that happened to be exactly me. To quote the IMDB trivia page for the movie:

“Edgar Wright obtained permission to use the famous theme song from the SNES game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991), by writing a letter to Nintendo, saying that it is considered to be ‘the nursery rhyme of this generation’.”

And that about sums it up. Scott Pilgrim is a movie based on a graphic novel about a guy that plays videogames, and the film itself soaks in videogame references. And, while such a thing could be incredibly shallow in the hands of another director, Edgar Wright knew that videogames weren’t just a “thing” for a certain group of people, it was a language. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was more fluent in that language than any other cunning linguist could ever hope to be. In fact, it is nearly impossible to properly convey the level of focus involved in SPvTW. The film may have starred a crappy protagonist propelled by the most self-serving of white male fantasy plots (fight boys to win the girl!), but it may as well have been designed in a universe where only I exist.

It was stimulating, to say the least.

BAAAAAASS BAAAATTLEAnd, of course, there was the tie-in game (which, if I remember correctly, is actually what this article is about). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a beat ‘em up in the style of River City Ransom. And that makes perfect sense! The graphic novel distinctly references River City Ransom on numerous occasions, and, at the time, there wasn’t a River City Ransom spin-off title released every other week (anyone play that medieval themed one? No, not Dragon’s Crown). And it’s a beat ‘em up! Those are easy! Sailor Moon could do that! Couple that with gorgeous pixel art by Paul Robertson, and a criminally underrated soundtrack, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was certainly a worthy tie-in title for a movie/graphic novel. It was by no means a perfect game (SPvTW seemed to be the modern start of the “home beat ‘em up” trend… and didn’t quite know what to do with leveling and such), but, in a world where at least one movie tie-in videogame once doomed the entire genre for a generation (Atari 2600 phone home), it was an amazingly fun way to enjoy the wave of Scott Pilgrim merchandise flowing from the all-encompassing media ocean.

But now, like the ebb and flow of that media sea, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 has gone out with the tide, never to be seen again.

Scoot over to Amazon right now, and you can search for Scott Pilgrim merchandise. You may download Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Movie, and watch it immediately. You may also order it with two-day shipping. Of course, you can also order the books in black and white and color formats, either as a set, or as individual graphic novels. The original movie soundtrack is available on vinyl. That same soundtrack is available as a CD, or a collection of MP3 downloads. Additionally, there is another soundtrack available for just the “score” of the film. On top of that, and most painfully, the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is available as a series of MP3 downloads. Then there are the usual assortments of random clothing options, and, finally, a number of Funko Pops. Available for a little over $25 is the Funko Pop! SDCC 2017 Summer Convention Exclusive Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Nega Scott Vinyl Figure. It is a Funko Pop based on a character that appears for approximately two minutes of screen time in the film. It is available for purchase. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is not.

ORBSSPvTW was delisted from Xbox and Playstation storefronts as of January 1, 2015. The game was available for about four years, and, when Ubisoft’s license expired, it was determined it was not profitable for anyone to continue to support even the sale of the title. The game was tied to a movie that was no substantial hit, so it was simply dropped. As the game had received no physical release prior to its delisting, it then ceased to exist. The only way to play the game was to have purchased and downloaded the game sometime around 2010-2014, and then prayed for the rest of days that that hard drive never failed. For anyone else that doesn’t want to lurk around the seedier corners of the net, it’s simply gone forever, unlikely to ever return.

And, maybe, that’s about what we should expect. The summer of 2010, complete with its deluge of Scott Pilgrim merchandise, is nearly a decade gone now. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may have been a movie specifically made only for me… but that didn’t exactly translate to substantial ticket sales (I only went twice, and I’m sorry). SPvTW may have been speaking my language… but it was an evolutionary dead-end in 2010. Avengers, Star Wars, and other “nerd” properties might be at the top of the heap right now, but their general detachment from sincerity gives this audience of one an entirely different feeling. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an entirely singular experience. It seems only right that its accompanying game is now lost forever.

But this old man doesn’t think that’s right at all. Now get off my lawn.

FGC #430 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

  • System: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Well… Once upon a time…
  • Number of players: Four! That’s the best number of players!
  • ERRORA Videogame’s Videogame: SPvTW integrates a number of references to other famous games, both great and small. Everyone likely recognizes the red dripping of Mega Man 2 in the final stage, but did you notice the wolverine beasts use Wolverine’s berserker barrage from Marvel vs. Capcom? And that dude from Clash at Demonhead is hanging out in the background. Neat!
  • A Legend with Problems: Okay, my own nostalgia for this game may have created some hyperbole that ignores a few of the issues with the title. Whoever thought that throwing items should involve the risk of being knocked down by a rebound should be ejected directly into the sun. Come to think of it, there is far too much falling down in this game. Waiting for your character to get back up is not interesting! Particularly when you’re being stun locked by the final boss! This game has some deep-rooted issues… Hey! Kind of like Scott!
  • Secret Truth of all Scott Pilgrim adaptations: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness is the peak of literally every version of the story. I cannot understand disagreeing with this statement.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: It is appreciated that the graphic novels, the movie, and the videogame more or less have different endings that are appropriate to their mediums. The graphic novel has much more room to breathe, so its more meditative conclusion is proper. The movie is much more manic (and takes place over a much shorter amount of time), so something more traditional is suitable. And the videogame… that’s just a videogame. Nobody wants a long ending in a videogame!
  • Speaking of the Movie: Did IMDB watch the same movie I did?
    ...panties?

    Because those plot keywords might be describing the porn parody, Scott Pildick vs. The Oral.
  • Did you know? The first Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie script was drafted before the third graphic novel was even released. That’s planning ahead!
  • Would I play again: This is the kind of game that is great to play through for an hour or two every other year… and that’s it. I can’t bring myself to play it as often as a Mega Man title, but it is fun while doing my laundry every once in a while. Glowing laundry endorsement right there.

What’s next? Our final “forgotten” title is one that isn’t forgotten at all, but should be gutted and useless inside of a couple months. Please look forward to it! … The article! Not the gutting!

Dawwww