This will be the final FGC entry.
… And, while I would love to have put together some grand retrospective of the 656 videogames covered on this blog project, I am going to forgo that. I’m just going to talk about an album I listened to five minutes before writing this.
Hey, it’s my blog, you get what you get. Why should that change now?
So I was just listening to the latest album from Ben Folds, What Matters Most. This is the first album I have bought in… God… probably a decade. Back in 1997 (or so), I purchased Ben Folds Five’s Whatever and Ever Amen as one of my first CDs (as opposed to cassette tapes, as was the style at the time), and loved it. From there, I purchased their stellar debut album (which was still available on Best Buy shelves after two years), and purchased every release thereafter. As a result, I strongly associate various Ben Folds albums with different epochs in my life: I remember listening to that Jackson Canary equally while playing Ocarina of Time or sitting on a marching band bus; and I remember 1999’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner being purchased simultaneously with Smash Bros and then somehow being integral to flirting with a cute brunette who also enjoyed Ben Folds. Rockin’ the Suburbs became synonymous with studying and walking around my college campus. Ben Folds Live was released when I was as poor as I have ever been in my life, so it was enjoyed through the crappy speakers of an equally crappy laptop. And by the time Way to Normal or the A Cappella albums were released, I was much more “established” and content in my own skin and lifestyle, and remember happily singing along in a car that was not likely to explode. I was even thrilled when there was a version of Lonely Avenue that came with a book! It was 2010! I could read it in my recently assembled library!
Point is that I have grown up with Ben Folds albums. I have gone from a gangly teen to a 40-year-old whateverthehellIam, and now I have a new album in my hands.
And I am shocked and dismayed at the fact that Ben Folds has also gotten older!
What Matters Most is Ben Folds’s first album of new content in eight years. Going even further than that, it may be his first “normal” album released as a solo artist since 2008. 2012 saw a Ben Folds Five album, 2010 was a collaboration with Nick Hornby, and 2015’s So There was so experimental, it involved a friggen’ concerto. By comparison, this is a simple ten track affair with one collaborative track and a complete lack of anything attempting to bite on Gershwin. And it’s good! It is a great album, and a return to the good ol’ days of sitting down with a Ben Folds album and absorbing the excellent compositions and clever lyrics.
And it is also 100% written by a rockstar that is getting up there in years.
The sixth track, Back to Anonymous, is the most obvious culprit here. While Folds claims that this is all about wearing masks during COVD, this is a song that sounds a lot more like something lamenting and lampooning the concept of going back to being a “normal person” after being a celebrity for some time. Mind you, it is difficult to take this completely seriously, as most regular folk that I know have not had guest spots on FX sitcoms, but c’est la vie. From there, we also have the title track, What Matters Most, which, if the melancholy of nostalgia was looking for a theme song, this would be a frontrunner. Clouds with Ellipses holds a similar tone, and the first cut, But Wait There’s More, certainly presents itself with the unusual statement of “I am back, and just as relevant as remembering Rudy Giuliani”. Kristine from the 7th Grade is an entire song bemoaning unhinged email forwards from former friends, which is maybe the most middle-aged thing you can bemoan. And we have Winslow Gardens, too, which does the adorable elder thing of creating a palindrome where the narrating young couple is observed by old people in the beginning, but the “young couple” is now old and talking about watching a younger couple by the end. Old people love reminding young people they will be old people soon!
And none of these songs are bad, as they are all remarkable. But they are not what I think of when I think of a Ben Folds song. This was the guy who sold me that first album with the one-two punch of Brick and Song for the Dumped, two songs that both are filled with an indescribable amount of young adult angst, but from two wildly different sources. I have always come to Ben Folds songs for the “stories” involved, and those sharp lyrics that weave tales of (young) lovers and situations that have been familiar to me. And, while “my old friend from junior high is now an anti-vax zealot” is definitely familiar to my modern mind, I much prefer the two most poppy songs from this album: Exhausting Lover and Paddleboat Breakup. Both contain the kind of ironic pep that could trace back to Ben Folds Five’s Underground, and both tell universal stories of struggling lovers and dashes past Cracker Barrel. A scant 20% of this album is what I think a Ben Folds album should be, and it is hard to feel anything but disappointed when the rest of the album seems to have been written by dude pushing toward 60. I want to hear about Zak & Sara having a wild love affair! Not Zak & Sara discussing their 401K options!
I want the artist who has always been older than me to now be younger than me! I was a teenager, and listened to your music! I want you to still be the same artist creating the same art as when I was 14! I have changed tremendously in that time, but I want you to be eternally in your 20s! Get back to that! I can sweeten the pot and give you another twenty bucks…
And then I think about how much I have changed in a mere eight years…
As has been said elsewhere on the site, I started this blog almost by accident. A long time ago on a forum now dead (though technically revived in a new for[u]m), I made some funny posts about Kingdom Hearts. Since I have been on the internet practically as long as it has existed (well, at least since AOL existed), I have a healthy fear of my “content” being wiped out by capricious website owners. As a result, I decided to put my Kingdom Hearts ramblings on my own site. Given the majority of those posts were already completed when I put together the site, I started the Fustian Gaming Challenge as an excuse to write new content about random videogames. On June 15, 2015, I posted my first article about Double Dragon. It was written literally the night before, and I had absolutely zero “backlog” waiting for future articles. I planned to write each of these articles basically as quickly as I played the games, and I figured I would be bored with it before I hit eighty articles. Now, 654 FGC articles, a handful of Let’s Plays, a weekly streaming series, and a weirdly in-depth look at Mortal Kombat later, I am writing about Double Dragon 2 for the final FGC article.
And, dang, I do not even recognize the person that wrote that Double Dragon article eight years ago…
I look at it, I read it, and… it’s not even 1,000 words? That seems short for me. And it carefully adheres to focusing on the Sega Master System version, which is a kind of aim that I dropped almost immediately. And while I forgive myself for still finding my footing with properly producing images and GIFs, I wince at that ending. I sound like a goddamned host for a cancelled G4 show. I wrote this whole thing. I proofed it, diced up the individual screenshots, and proofed it again when I posted it for all the world to see. But if you were to ask me what I was thinking when I wrote all that, I would tell you honestly that I now have no idea. The Goggle Bob that started the FGC is just as gone as the beat, old couch where I first typed out that screed.
And that should be a big duh. My life has changed in significant ways since 2015, and some changes I literally never would have imagined when I first started this humble blog. Full disclosure? After the upheaval that was every goddamned thing that happened in 2016, I am downright ashamed of some of the articles written during the tail end of the halcyon Obama years. That one about Star Wars being a cultural touchstone? Madness in the face of a world that would one day see a president actively calling for people to drink bleach. And my own “relationship status” has gone through significant mutations since I first joked about Alyssa Milano getting her start with the Double Dragon movie; and, suffice to say, that can change a man’s opinions on various parts of this world. And speaking of “the world”, the shape of the web has changed radically in the last eight years. Some of my earliest bits are gags about Buzzfeed lists or Cracked articles, and, at the time I organized those “lists”, it seemed like I had been reading articles like those for years. Now I cannot remember the last time I even visited Cracked…
And I guess remembering officially brings us to today’s game.
Unlike Double Dragon (1), Double Dragon 2: The Revenge was one of my first and only early NES games. Presumably because my parents loved violence in all forms, I was granted Double Dragon 2 for some holiday occasion (probably Memorial Day), and, as one of my few games, I played it for seventy continuous years (estimate). And not only did I play it alone, but I played it with my best friend and neighbor, Jimmy. He was a year younger than me, and we spent many an afternoon playing Double Dragon 2, getting our collective asses kicked, and then going outside to reenact scenes from the game by punching air-ninja as hard as we could. And, while we were never any good at the game (the jumping puzzles and gears of Level 7 often ended our journey prematurely), we had worked out a few tricks for situations like spin kicking rooftop opponents or shoving dudes out of a helicopter. But that didn’t matter! We enjoyed those afternoons playing the same opening levels over and over again, beating the same three dudes into a pulp, and aimlessly swinging chains around.
Playing Double Dragon 2 now inevitably reminds me of those ancient days. And the weird thing? Playing this game with an eight-year-old feels about as far away in my memory as starting a blog eight years ago. I am not nine anymore, and I am not 32 anymore. I had it somewhere in my head that I started Gogglebob.com “a short time ago”, but now it all feels so… distant.
So this is officially the last FGC article.
Gogglebob.com isn’t going anywhere. Let’s Plays and Even Worse streaming will continue. Hell, I’ll even write about any Kingdom Hearts nonsense that comes down the pike. But the FGC as a recurring project is done. I will likely revisit the format for some releases (I do enjoy seeing numbers go up), but I am done with the endeavor as it technically existed. I have written 655(+) articles on the subject of “random” games, and I have grown past that. Or, at least, it feels wrong to claim the same moniker on something I started so long ago. I am not the same person as I was in 2015, and my ongoing preoccupations should reflect that.
Random ROB is officially going to retire.
So tune in next week for the brand new project!
… Which is going to be remarkably similar to the old project.
FGC #656 Double Dragon 2: The Revenge
- System: We are exclusively talking about the Nintendo Entertainment System version today. The arcade version is a different animal that adheres closer to the standards of the original Double Dragon. This is the version with 800% more jumping puzzles.
- Number of players: Two! Simultaneous! I wonder if my parents picked this up so I would have more friends.
- Favorite Boss: The battle tank is not actually “fought”, but you must jump around it to fight people on it, so that kinda sorta feels like a boss fight. It is at least at the end of the level, and vaguely reminiscent of the Technodrome. Absolute worst boss fight goes to those two ninja that attack in 2-D at the end of Level 2, and then appear in 3-D as part of the final level (that is not just a final boss). Those monsters were never meant to be able to move diagonally.
- Start All Over: You must enter a secret code on the Game Over screen if you wish to continue. What’s more, there are three different codes for the three different chunks of level. What’s even more than that: the third and final code must be entered on the second player controller regardless of whether it is a single player game or not. Someone really didn’t want a Young Goggle Bob to beat this game…
- Pick your poison: There are three difficulty levels, and it seems like the different options only impact enemy health and offense. However, more importantly, the three difficulty levels gate later levels in the game, so easy only allows playing up through Level 3, and hard is the only way to see the final stage. This only existed in the American version of Double Dragon II, so this is one of the era’s anti-rental measures. Or maybe someone just noticed it only takes a half hour to beat the game…
- Story Time: Noted Lee girlfriend Marian is dead at the start of this game, and apparently your quest for revenge initiates some manner of soul swap that causes her to be revived. Sure! Whatever! This makes the plot slightly more interesting than your average rescue mission, but it also means 95% of the game is just punching dudes because you’re angry. So at least Double Dragon II: The Revenge has an appropriate title…
- A sign of the times: Weapons disappear when their associated enemies are defeated, even if you are going to continue to stand in the same area for even more fights. This is likely some limited memory issue, and, combined with Mondo the Yellow Surfer Dude, you can really feel the 1988 of it all.
- The strayest of observations: This is an extremely blue/purple game.
- Did you know: If you beat your brother in Type B mode, you absorb his lives. Thus, every time I played this game solo, I started with two players in Type B mode, and walloped Jimmy Lee until I had double the lives. This seems wrong somehow, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Goggle Bob Fact: Coincidentally, including every dang thing on this site, this is Published Article #999. The new project premiere will be #1,001. I really could have coordinated it to be #1,000, but I have compulsions about updating the Let’s Play.
- Would I play again: Only for the excuse of nostalgia. This is not a particularly good or interesting game, and its many beat ‘em up quirks are better in other games that have been released in the last (nearly) 40 years. Double Dragon Neon did everything here better, and it is more immediately available on my Switch, too.
What’s next for Gogglebob.com? The FGC is now over. Come back next week for its extremely comparable replacement that will feature a certain musical Final Fantasy game. Now and forever, please look forward to it!