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FGC #568 Wild Guns (Reloaded)

Now reloadingLet’s talk about cowboys, challenges, and save states.

Today’s game is Wild Guns, which has been on the ol’ ROB list for a while. Why? Wild Guns Reloaded, the remake of Wild Guns, was released a few years back, so I have a physical copy of that floating around the collection. And then, just about a year ago, Wild Guns, the original SNES version, was added to the Nintendo Switch’s online library. This is a rare opportunity for the FGC! This is a game that I did not play during its heyday, but now I can play its original and upgraded versions side by side on legitimate hardware! I can compare and contrast versions! I love comparing and contrasting! I’ve been doing it since grade school!

Unfortunately, I hit a pretty familiar wall in Wild Guns almost immediately: this game is hard as (Cement Man’s) balls.

Wild Guns is, at its core, a graduated shooting gallery. On a basic level, there is very little difference between the gameplay of Wild Guns and your average shooting gallery you might find at an amusement park (that’s where all the arcades went, right? They’re still safe and happy at Six Flags?). You play as one of two (or four) cowboys/cowgirls/cowdogs who stand in the “foreground”, a series of targets pop up on another plane, and they require a whole lotta shootin’. Unlike in your traditional shooting gallery, though, these targets shoot back, so you have to not only manually aim, but also shuffle, jump, and roll around the screen to avoid a hail of bullets. And, just for the fun of it, this ain’t just a Western, it’s a Western in Space (or, at least, some nebulous future), so half of your opponents are tanks, giant brain pods, and a whole murder of Terminators. And if you are at all on the fence about shooting robots with shotguns, let me assure you that the inclusion of all sorts of Contra-esque opponents is unequivocally a good thing, as they allow for a lot more varied attacks than your traditional six-shooter. It is simply more fun to dodge the claws of a giant, mechanical crab than your 700th stampeding horse.

Blow it up goodAnd, while this is a fun game, I am inclined to blame the abuser (the game) and not the victim (my poor gaming skills). Despite being remarkably straightforward, the controls and “details” of Wild Guns can often be confusing to a neophyte. I have an attack button, but what am I supposed to do when one random bad hombre wanders into the foreground? Use my special attack? That works, but apparently Up+Attack whips out a hitherto unmentioned melee weapon. Would have been good to know that three deaths ago! Oh, and everything is a one-hit kill. Probably should have mentioned that immediately, as one stray (yellow, tennis ball-sized) bullet is just as deadly as having a car thrown in your face. Granted, this kind of weakness-to-firearms is true to mundane existence, too, but I think we are all used to heroes that are slightly more resistant. And, give or take the occasional laser lasso, absolutely everything in Wild Guns is instantly deadly, which pairs poorly with depth perception involving a little more wiggle room than should be allowed. With the faux 3-D layout of these stages, it can be difficult in the heat of battle to determine whether a bullet is going to safely sail to the side, or straight into poor Annie’s heart. It takes some significant practice to survive Wild Guns, and it feels like not every death is actually the fault of the player.

Though one could argue that this is the entire point of Wild Guns. I played “upgraded version” Wild Guns Reloaded initially, and foolishly assumed it had modern trappings and an appropriate “easy mode”. I was wrong. While Wild Gun Reloaded contains an easy mode, that easy mode did not transform WGR into a cakewalk where I could just soak in some giant robot fights. When I lost my last life on easy mode, I chose “Continue”… and then had to start at the beginning of the game all over again. Wild Guns Reloaded is just like the original Wild Guns: you are expected to clear three entire stages on your limited count of lives, and if you do not survive, it is right back to start for you. Despite the fact that you could lose nearly all of your life within the first seconds of the first stage, you have to survive straight through two stages, two minibosses, and the final big boss capper for the level to see the next continue point. And, yes, in all stages, if you whiff it during the final boss, you are returned back to the start of that level, and have to survive every other onslaught all over again just for a chance to maybe learn the pattern that led to your death the first time. Wild Guns demands a lot of practice to reach the final battle, and, while the challenges are not insurmountable, they will lead to a player being much more conservative with their playstyle. You can pick up that lit stick of dynamite and toss it back at an opponent, but do you want to? Do you really want to take the chance that that explosion will be fatal, and then you won’t have enough stamina to outlast the monster at the end of the level? CRAB!Can you afford to stop dodging for even a second, lest you have to repeat everything ad nauseum? No one likes losing progress, so are you willing to risk your valuable time on a jump that may or may not land you right on top of a knife’s edge? You are constantly stuck making life or death decisions in Wild Guns Reloaded, and you know the punishment for a wrong decision is having to do it all over again.

And then I played Wild Guns on the Nintendo Switch Online “Snesflix” service. That emulator contains a rewind feature. And, shock of shocks, I completed Wild Guns inside of an hour without a single (logged) death.

Gee, wonder what changed?

Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I support cheating in videogames. What’s more, I’m one of those nerds that can and will wax philosophic on the nature of if you even can cheat in a videogame. Is a “game” defined as a competition between two entities? Is it man versus (the people who programmed the) machine? In that case, is it cheating that I have way more experience with videogames than should be expected of a player? Or, put another way, do you figure the AI in Wily’s latest Robot Master is capable of understanding that it is fighting a Mega Man that has obliterated thirty years’ worth of its robotic brethren? I hack in huge experience gains in JRPGs because I don’t want to waste my time grinding. I hack in gigantic funbucks accounts in fighting games because I don’t want to spend the rest of the day beating Very Hard with Worst Character™ just to see a gallery image. And, yes, I use save states and rewind features in action games, because my time is valuable, and I don’t need to repeat an entire level (or, in some NES examples, an entire game) because the boss scored a lucky hit. Mistakes happen, and you should not have to waste your time because you hit the jump button without the all-important directional pad input that would transform that deadly hop into an invincible roll.

But, yes, it would be foolish to claim that using save states does not drastically change the game being played. Wild Guns is not a game that involves much resource management or having to think “three steps ahead”. Wild Guns is a pure action game, so if you have the ability to “rewind” as little as two seconds, you can dodge that bullet. You can throw that dynamite faster. You can duck left, when you now know dodging right would have been fatal. And thus do all those “life or death” decisions fall by the wayside. What’s left? A competent shooting game with some whacky enemies that are color swapped repeatedly, a handful of memorable bosses, and that one guy who does a hula dance on the side of a train. Wild Guns transforms from a white-knuckle ride to a pleasant-but-forgettable game with the addition of one minor gameplay option. And it is not just about save states! If Wild Guns included an “instant continue” feature or infinite lives, it would similarly become easy to live sloppily in this New Old West, and we would be talking about a different experience. Wild Guns is, for better or worse, defined by the existence of its omnipresent challenge, and changing that changes everything.

GET IT!?So what’s the moral here? Well, it seems that even if you have the ability and will to cheat, maybe hold off on cheating for a solid half hour before diving into the cheaters’ pool. Even if a videogame was made by three people, it was made to be played a certain way, and denying yourself that experience is denying everyone that made that game. Save states, rewind, or even your traditional Game Genie will change that base experience, and you are missing out on what might be the entire point of any given game. Don’t cheat, kids, because you’re only cheating yourself.

And next week, Random ROB has chosen… Battletoads? Goddammit! Forget I said anything. Cheat to your heart’s content, everyone!

FGC #568 Wild Guns (Reloaded)

  • System: Super Nintendo, then “Reloaded” on Playstation 4, Windows, and Switch, and then the SNES version popped up again on the Switch. It was also on the Wii and WiiU, but those systems feel like some kind of fleeting dream now.
  • Number of players: 2 player simultaneous! And 4 in Reloaded! That looks like fun, and I will give it a shot the absolute minute I find someone that can play this game and doesn’t die in seven seconds!
  • Go doggy goWhy Reloaded: I apologize if I made Wild Guns Reloaded sound impossible with its lack of contemporary conveniences. The widescreen format of this modern version really does feel like how the game is meant to be played, even if such a thing were not possible back in 1994. And the new characters (and possibility of four players!) are just aces. … And I’ll never beat it, because who has the time?
  • Favorite Character: Every character except Clint. Annie is the original cowgirl that can conquer an army of robots while wearing a frilly dress. Doris is the rarely seen videogame “big girl” with even bigger grenades (not a euphemism). Bullet is a Dachshund. This leaves us with Clint, who is only a generic Western protagonist. See you never, Space Cowboy.
  • Favorite Gun: Just to piss you off, sometimes a gun powerup will transform your deadly weaponry into something more appropriate to Splatoon, and you won’t be able to do a lick of damage for fifty bullets or so. This is evil, and I hate it. Or, when I’m playing with save states, I am capable of finding it funny. Weird how that works out.
  • Did you know? I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned “a videogame (that) was made by three people”, Wild Guns was put together over the course of five months with three core designers and two support staff members. In that context, Wild Guns is an accomplishment on par with the Parthenon.
  • Would I play again: This is a great “arcade style” game that could be fun to play for a half hour some random afternoon. Of course, if I don’t want that to be a frustrating time, I’m going to have to remember how to actually survive the game. Hm. That might make this a “no”…

What’s next? Random ROB actually has chosen Battletoads, but it’s not regular ol’ Battletoads, it’s Battletoads 2020! The future is now! Or at least Monday! Please look forward to it!

BIG OL BRAIN
So is it biting Metroid or Contra?

FGC #316 Injustice 2

This is a bit of a mismatchInjustice: Gods Among Us was a pretty rad fighting game for a couple of reasons. First, obviously, it was a fun game that allowed the player to live out the ultimate DC Comics dream matches, and finally answer the question of who would win a fight: Lobo or Killer Frost? But that’s to be expected of a fighting game. What was completely unprecedented was that Injustice included a story mode that was both fighting game good and comic book good. Using common tropes from both genres, Injustice wove a story that was not only interesting (what happens when Superman stops being polite and starts getting real) but also very appropriate for the medium. Mirror matches have been a staple of fighting games since the early days of Mortal Kombat, and most fighting games go in some very bizarre directions to justify “oh, Ryu has to fight Ryu now because… uh… raisins”. So why not just have a bad guy universe and a good guy universe? Green Lantern can fight himself all he wants, and it makes perfect sense! Want to make the final boss Superman versus Superman? Sure! It works really well here!

So it’s kind of a shame Injustice 2 forsook all of that for a generic alien invasion plot. We’ve still got a good game here, and the roster/gameplay satisfies, but the plot and story mode are… fairly boring. It’s the next day (or whatever), alien(s) invasion, and former rivals have to work together to stop a threat bigger than both of ‘em. That… has been done. Granted, “alternate universe doppelgangers” has been done, too, but that plot fit the format, whereas this is indistinguishable from a CW crossover of the same year. This is the biggest “sequel where uneasy superheroes fight a super smart robot dude” disappointment since Avengers 2.

But I suppose it’s to be expected, because “let’s punch Brainiac” stories are always boring. He’s super smart! He’s got a robot army! He’s built a body that is just stronger than everybody, oh my gosh, how are we ever going to punch him harder than ever before? And then somebody, I don’t know, does that, and we move on to the next threat. Maybe Superman’s dad dies? It’s been done, who cares?

Let’s move on. Let’s look to the future, and in the interest of Injustice 3 being actually fun, here are a few suggestions for the next adventure:

Injustice 3: Blackest Night

Orange you glad I didn't say green?This one has the greatest odds of actually happening, so may as well tackle this first. For those that haven’t been reading comics for the last decade, the Blackest Night event was a time in the DC Universe when basically every dead hero and villain came back as a murderous zombie powered by a black ring provided by Necron, a death god. So right off the bat, you’ve got an opportunity for dead characters to return (Lex Luthor, Joker) and even some superpowered “normals” (Black Ring Powered Lois Lane, please) to join the cast. Then there’s the other side of Blackest Night: everybody gets a power ring for no reason. Big Angry Dictator Superman powered by a red ring of rage? Go for it. Scarecrow manipulating the fear spectrum? Slam dunk. And we have to throw one random dude in there… Roy G Bivolo aka The Rainbow Rider? I’d buy that DLC. Heck, you could get an entire subsystem going on all the characters using different special moves to “fuel” their magical wishing rings. In brightest day, in blackest night, let’s all get ready for a fight!

The Good: Ring Zombies allow for basically any character, living or dead. Evil Zombie Lincoln wouldn’t be out of place. Also, the promise of power rings for every character spices up the move sets of everyone from Flash to Harley Quinn. And we might even see the sensational character find of 2008, Larfleeze!

The Bad: The Blackest Night plot is pretty boring once you get past the cameos. Hey, here are a bunch of zombies and their zombie boss, how are we ever going to work together to defeat this threat? I know it’s the plot of most comic books anyway, but this one relies almost exclusively on characters reacting poorly to revived loved ones, and that won’t translate well to a fighting game.

And The Batman: Batman is the DC headliner, so he has to be featured in every possible Injustice story. While Batman was dead for the comics Blackest Night event (yet somehow still became a focal point), he could certainly be alive here, and equipped with any number of Lantern rings. Batman loves justice so much, he’s a Star Stapphire? I’d be down with that.

Injustice 3: Clash of the Titans: The Sidekick Showdown

Boo-ya!DC Comics has never held the same grip on the teen market/characters as Marvel and its X-Men, but there has always been a proud group of sidekicks in the DC Universe. And, for whatever reason, the animated divisions have been trying to exploit this superhero subset for decades, so we’ve seen everything from Teen Titans to Young Justice to Teen Titans Go. We’ve got a pretty healthy stable of super powered teens as a result, so why not let them all fight for superiority? Claim there’s an opening in the Justice League or something, and there’s a fighting tournament to determine the latest member. Inevitably, it turns out one of the entrants is a spy or replicant or whatever, and the final boss is somebody completely outside of the teen weight class. Let’s say Darkseid? It’s always Darkseid.

The Good: Who doesn’t want to see every single Robin fight? And the whole “good teens” thing would allow for a story where best friends are fighting thanks to a friendly rivalry and not mind control or whatever excuse pops up every time Black Canary and Aquaman have to fight. And the Teen Titans Go models could be unlockable joke characters! There’s room for humor in the DC Universe, I swear!

The Bad: I suppose it is kind of hard to go back to the sidekicks when you’ve already played with the main events. Supergirl is only more interesting than Superman on the CW, and there’s no way anyone would pick Speedy over Green Arrow. Though I do think Static beats Black Lightning. Also, while I may get excited at such a prospect, no one is going to wig out at a trailer for Greta “Secret” Hayes.

And The Batman: Time travel is always an option, and a “mysterious newcomer” who turns out to be a young Bruce Wayne would be an interesting twist. Oh! He could be disguised as a Robin, and there is some sort of Sins of Youth age swap, and…. Oh nevermind. It’s never going to happen.

Injustice 3: Legion of Superheroes

All together nowSpeaking of teenagers and time traveling, where is the Legion of Superheroes fighting game? The Legion of Superheroes have two rules: you must be a teenager, and you must have at least one superpower. That’s basically the entry rules for every anime fighter ever! You’re guaranteed an interesting moveset when you’ve got a girl that can manipulate gravity, or a boy that can bounce better than a tigger. And don’t worry about dropping the entire Injustice roster: there are enough overlapping superpowers that Polar Boy can adopt Captain Cold moves while Lightning Lass pulls a Black Adam. And, if you’re worried about the Legion being too nice for the Injustice universe, that means you just have to call Geoff Johns. His ideas for the Legion are… disarming.

The Good: Matter-Eater Lad.

The Bad: Matter-Eater Lad.

And The Batman: Hey, if Superman can travel to the future to hang out with his old buds, Batman can follow along, too. Actually, that can be the hook: Bad Superman flees to the future for reinforcements, and Batman trails him through time. Cue Batman having to fight everybody.

Injustice 3: World War 3

I bet they're saying something coolIn this case, we’re not going to focus on the multiple World War 3s of the DC Universe, but instead toward the opposite end of the sidekick spectrum: the old men. DC Comics has a number of characters that fought in World War 2, and, depending on the continuity du jour, sometimes those heroes got caught in a never ending Ragnarök version of World War 2. So, why not let the Injustice cast dip their feet in those waters and fight alongside the old guard against a never-ending siege of Nazis? Throw in a few Nazi supermen, and you’ve got excuses for Star Man, Doc Midnight, and Jay Garrick to punch Nazis all day long. There is nothing videogames should endorse more than punching Nazis.

The Good: An interesting excuse to have “shiny happy” 1940’s DC heroes be a little annoyed and Injustice-y. And a fine excuse for Sgt. Rock to yell at Superman for being a whiny, namby pamby dictator while we’re at it. Also, another game where the finale can be exploding Hitler’s head.

The Bad: If a fighting game includes Nazis, there are good odds you can play as Nazis… and I can’t see that ending well. There are enough Hitler420LOL Miis in the universe to have another online platform where even subtle Nazi overtones can sneak into posts. Then again, if we could all focus on how Nazis are completely terrible, it might all work out.

And The Batman: Batman fucking hates Nazis.

Damn Nazis

Injustice 3: Multiversity

NerdGo nuts, Injustice! Two parallel worlds are fine, but how about every damn parallel world ever. Superman vs. Captain Carrot. Joker vs. The Jokester. Zatanna vs. That One Version of Fate That Just Kicks People in the Balls (Hey, Presto!). Squeeze Pharmaduke in there! And don’t just give me an endless selection of lame variants, make some actually varied movesets for the inevitable Batman vs. Vampire Batman vs. Dark Knight Batman. This would also be a fine excuse to get some people of color in the cast, as we need that one version of Superman that was based on Obama yesterday. And, in this case, the plot really doesn’t matter. The universe is crumbling, everyone has to fight and then work together, and the final boss is Darkseid The Gentry. That sounds scary, right? Bah, it’ll just be the Anti-Monitor anyway.

The Good: An unlimited variety of fighters available from the near-century’s worth of DC characters. Even the most hokiest of characters would work with a serious character’s disgruntled reaction (“I’ve gotta stop drinking before fights”). And there’s even the opportunity for trite characters like Catwoman to use new and fun abilities thanks to multiversal variants.

The Bad: With an unlimited roster, everyone is inevitably going to be disappointed. Sure, this includes every variant of Superman ever committed to paper, but why can’t I fight as a Jimmy Olsen as The Giant Turtle Man? The message board debates would rage for years.

And The Batman: Considering how many times he’s starred in Elseworld tales, Batman could fill up an entire roster just by his lonesome. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a storyline that’s happening at DC comics as I write this. And that gives me an idea…

Injustice 3: The Brave and the Bold

He is the nightScrew it. Batman is the headliner, right? He’s the focus of every story, and the reason DC Comics still has a few dimes to rub together, correct? Let’s just make a 2v2 fighting game ala Marvel vs. Capcom, but the partner character is always Batman. Think of the possibilities! Batman & Superman vs. Batman & Green Lantern. Batman & Robin vs. Batman & Joker. Batman & Gorilla Grodd vs. Batman & General Zod. And you’ve got to have Batman & Batman vs. Batman & Knuckles. This is the fighting game we’ve all been waiting for!

The Good: The most batmaningest game to ever batman would batman over to your batman, with even batmanner graphics than you ever thought batman. Oh, and it would be a fine excuse to revive the Batusi.

The Bad: I suppose it would be disappointing to see Batman team up with villains and then fight just as hard. Maybe that’s an alternate universe Batman? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

And The Batman: There is no way fighting Batman over and over again is any less boring than fighting Brainiac.

FGC #316 Injustice 2

  • System: Playstation 4 and Xbone. … There isn’t a PC version? Huh.
  • Number of players: However many people it takes to fight. Two? That sounds right.
  • Favorite Character: Conceptually, I love that Swamp Thing made the cut at all… but I kind of hate playing as the guy. Same for orange-variant Green Lantern. But I actually enjoy playing as Blue Beetle, so that’s another time Jaime Reyes made a videogame great. It probably helps that he’s basically Mega Man, though.
  • That's gotta hurtRandom Select: The big new “feature” of Injustice 2 is the acquisition of equipment that will allow you to “kit out” your preferred hero or villain. Unfortunately, in practice, this system is basically a slot machine, and, while all you want is that staff that lets Robin play as Nightwing, no, you’re going to get a thousand new masks for Bane instead. This is the opposite of fun.
  • Future Proof: ROB chose this game before all the DLC was released, so if you’re reading this in the future, and we already got Captain Carrot as DLC, please use the nearest available time machine to send an email back to August 2017 Goggle Bob and blow his mind.
  • New Law: Jeffrey Combs should be responsible for voicing all super-smart villains from this point on. Thank you.
  • It’s the little things: Sub-Zero is now in a superhero universe, so naturally he’s acquired a cape. It was meant to be.
  • Did you know? There’s a tie-in comic for the Injustice universe, and its continuity is… dubious. For instance, during various character intros in Injustice 2, characters make distinct references to events from the comics (like the last time a character got stomped into paste). However, the comics have also noticeably killed characters that reappeared in Injustice 2, so… your multiverse may vary?
  • Would I play again: This is a fun game! I have to ignore the fact that it has a built-in casino, but just fighting around with DC characters is always going to be fun (unless it’s that one Genesis game). So, yes, I might get Batman to fight Batman again sometime in the near future.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Press Your Luck 2010 Edition for the Nintendo Wii! That’s a game I certainly own, apparently! Please look forward to it!

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