Tag Archives: dolphins

Xenogears 17: Better Living Through Death(s)

The good bookFei Fong Wong discovered late in his journey that his “true” personality had been fractured into separate pieces, and he only obtained Xenogears when he reckoned with all of the parts of himself. While such an ordeal would be confusing for anyone, this was particularly crazy for Fei, as he had also lived multiple lives through the centuries. And now he had memories of all of those lives. So can Fei (and us) learn from his multiple lifetimes of adventures?

Abel was Fei’s first incarnation. At the dawn of humanity, there was Cain and the Gazel Ministry. This gang advocated for the resurrection of Deus, and the majority of the freshly hatched population was into that nonsense. Abel opposed it, because he believed man should be more independent… which makes a certain amount of sense, as Abel was literally the only “real” human in this solar system. Of course, this led to some conflict with Cain and friends, and Abel was murdered. But an incarnation of Elehayym attempted to save Abel… before taking a fatal energy blast to the chest. So Abel and Elly died more or less together, though Elly likely bled out on the prehistoric floor first.

About 6,000 years later, “Abel” was reborn as Kim Kasim. Kim was an accomplished scientist and horrible date. Despite being a brilliant man who invented nanotechnology and could literally create life from nothing, he was one of the most cantankerous people in the Zeboim civilization, and spent an entire Deusmas dinner talking about how everyone on the planet was a jackass (except him, of course). Luckily, that era’s Elly was a nurse, and she fell hard for the misanthropic Kim. Together, they went on to birth/build an immortal nanotech woman named Emeralda. Unfortunately, this process was fraught with political danger, and, when Kim attempted to hide his new lifeform with a terrorist organization, that era’s government showed up, and murdered the heck out of everybody. Oh! And Elly died horribly in a hallway attempting to defend Kim that time, too. Presumably, Kim died slightly later than her, as he sealed himself in a room with Emeralda, and likely just mundanely starved to death inches away from where his baby mama’s blood painted the walls.

Don't make eye contactBut do not worry, as the wicked society that led to Kim and Elly’s horrible deaths was wiped out by nuclear annihilation anyway. The survivors went on to establish the nations that were more familiar to modern Fei and Elly, and, about 3,500 years later, Sophia was born. Sophia was the latest incarnation of Elly, and, with her metaphysical connection to Deus, she possessed high etheric abilities. Unfortunately, she was also sickly, and… Well, we covered this before. She met Lacan, the reincarnated Abel/Kim. She met Krellian, the man who would go on to try to create god. She met Roni & Rene Fatima, who were just a pair of good dudes. But, in the end, this Holy Mother decided she had to sacrifice herself to save everyone (Lacan particularly included), and she died in the fiery, suicidal crash of the Excalibur. But this time her “Fei” lived much longer… which led to him killing 98% of the population in pursuit of -the power-, and then trying to kill everybody left a few centuries later. So, in this case, Sophia/Elly sacrificed herself for her friends… but most of her friends turned out to be murderous dicks, and the world she loved mostly got obliterated by those same friends. Kind of a downer for a generational martyr.

About five hundred years later, we reach the final incarnation of these star-crossed (usually) lovers. Fei and Elly now lived in a world that was generally obliterated by the previous generation (though, now, a whole new obliteration was on the table. There were zombies!), featuring the final remnants of humanity shambling around and maintaining a giant robot battle arena for some reason. The most interesting place on the planet is a desert containing a dead dragon (that really should have been mentioned somewhere in history), and the most prominent remaining human is a centuries-old Elvis impersonator with amnesia. But Fei and Elly have a chance for a happy ending this time, as at least they are both still alive as Fei enters the belly of the beast in an attempt to rescue his millennia-old damsel. Have they finally learned that martyrdom has only ever made things worse? Will there be a happy ending for these two? Well, the scripture tells us about the tale in the next chapter…

Even Worse Streams presents Xenogears
Night 17

Original Stream Night: June 8, 2021
Night of the Schools’ Rivalry

Random Notes on the Stream:

  • Fanboymaster brings us the best introduction in this whole Xenogears project with Kishi and BEAT also immediately available.
  • Caliscrub arrives shortly thereafter with a welcome to the open/destroyed world of Xenogears.
  • And then Abby Denton! And Ample Vigour!
  • Let’s talk about our favorite Lou Bega moments!
  • “This is Big League Chu.”
  • Duuuuh?Jeanie joins as we visit the completely wrecked world of tomorrow.
  • Welcome to an underground city that Hammer apparently mentioned once! Let’s see Rico and Emerelda’s Gears in use for maybe the first time.
  • Fanboymaster mentions that he is surprised the Golgo 13 author, Takao Saito, is still around. He died three months after we recorded this stream…
  • “Please tell me the full story of Big Joe.”
  • “Who the hell is Kim?” “Fei’s Kim!” “Fei’s Kim!” “Fei’s Kim!” “Fei’s Kim!”
  • We’re heading to the desert triangle island. And maybe Gogo is Adlai Stevenson. It really cannot be disproven.
  • “They’re trying to steal our precious sand!”
  • Ample Vigour discovered that Breath of the Wild is good once he started running around and doing nothing. We’re also doing nothing while exploring this desert, so it’s surprisingly relevant.
  • It momentarily appears that I managed to get the glitch where I parked my airship on the Duneman Isle, but we overcome.
  • We get a history of BEAT being blocked on twitter as we revisit the fighting arena to see all the Gear weirdos.
  • The last man of the sea“Nobody would try to make Xenogears nowadays. Because game development costs money!”
  • When did we rescue Ramsus!? I have been paying attention! And I don’t remember it happening! Don’t lie to me, Xenogears.
  • Is Violent Ken more violent than regular Ken? Who knows. Let’s talk to Dan.
  • Did I mention Bongo Bill has been here for most of the night? I can’t remember when he showed up.
  • At least he sticks around for dolphin family relations. It… is hard to explain.
  • Oh, hey, there’s that sword forge/unequip thing just like we would eventually see in Xenosaga.
  • And then we close with a entering the final dungeon. Get ready for a big ol’ finale!

Next time on Xenogears: The end! Part 18/20

That's gonna happen

FGC #594 Aero Fighters 2

Are we fighting the air?Chrono Trigger is one of the greatest videogames ever created… but it is hard to convey that in an advertisement in the pages of Gamepro. So Square USA Advertising had to focus on some less hyperbolic bullet points. Chrono Trigger: It is about time travel! It has character designs from the Dragon Ball Z guy! It was produced by the people behind Final Fantasy! And, most of all, Chrono Trigger has multiple endings! More than ten! That is an amazing number of endings!

And, in the year 2021, it is difficult to understand why “so many endings” was, like, the best thing to ever happen to us 90’s kids.

For a look at why “endings” had a very different meaning back in the day, let us examine Aero Fighters 2.

At first blush, there is not much about Aero Fighters 2 that distinguishes itself from anything else in the shoot ‘em up field of 1994. This is a basic vertical scrolling affair for two players. There are some whimsical enemies, so this is a little better than a mundane 1942, but there are still a lot of tanks, aircraft carriers, and “missile bases” to demolish. Aero Fighters 2 also tries to be “real” by including legitimate locations (Mexico is a real place!) and featuring their attendant national landmarks. Or, put another way, yes, you can get powerups by shooting the Eiffel Tower. Other than that, it is just a two button shooter where powerups just advance your weaponry in a linear fashion, and you can hit that bomb button if things get dicey. Nothing worth writing home about, and certainly not a reason to switch the ol’ Neo Geo over from World Heroes.

Oh, wait, there is the character select screen…

Love that dolphin

And a friggen flying dolphin. That should raise a few eyebrows.

To be clear about the gameplay of Aero Fighters 2: yes there is a difference between the individual pilots during (aero) fighting. The different attacks and “bombs” of each aero fighter do have distinct effects on the world at large, so there is certainly an incentive to switch after every quarter and see which character better suits your playstyle. But, by the same token, this is not a fighting game. The different flyers have different (mostly real) ships, but they do not have drastically different hitboxes or movements. In other words, you do not have to master a different “flying technique” to compensate for whether or not your chosen hero is a head in a jar. We are working off the same concept we see over and over again in racing games, TRPGs, and even modern mobile slot machines: you can have multiple-limbed aliens battling alongside actual Welsh Corgis, but they are all effectively “the same”, because they all exist in the same car/ship/playing card. Blanka and Ryu are drastically different fighters. Mao Mao and Robo Keaton are, in essence, remarkably similar planes.

But Spanky the Dolphin is an actual goddamned dolphin. That demands an explanation!

And Aero Fighters 2 is ready to fill in the blanks. … Kind of. Right from hitting the start button, any given pilot relays their thoughts, and that segues into a light running narrative through the whole of the game. Every level begins with a sort of “check-in”, and our pilots often communicate deep thoughts like “It’s time to save Mexico!” or “Man, I could use a water.” If you are playing in two player mode, though, these monologues become dialogues, and the different characters bounce off each other in different ways. How does the combined force of Ellen & Cindy deal with Captain Silver? How does that change when a cyborg is involved? Find out! You can learn all sorts of things from seeing how people interact when they are between missions and/or a dolphin.

Like... to eat?

But it is not enough. Aero Fighters 2 is always a flurry of activity. Even between missions, your pilots only have a sentence or two of narration, because, dammit, there are more aliens to blast! This may be a transcontinental flight, but it is over inside of twenty minutes. There is barely a second to admire the Statue of Liberty as you zoom by with your bullets blasting. The only respite for our heroes lies at the end of this aero fight. And that is also when you will finally get to see an explanation for Spanky’s existence.

… Or you’ll just find out that a dolphin likes swimming.

Try to stay amusedBut wait! There’s more! Spanky has multiple endings! Every duo in Aero Fighters 2 has an ending that is specific to the two characters in question. And this is not a simple “fit the same pieces together with slight variations” deal like Cannon Spike, either. If Spanky and Bobby win the day, you learn that Spanky can “always count on whales”. Hi-En learns to surf on Spanky, and Spanky obliterates Steve when the rockstar suggests that the dolphin join a circus. Spanky, Cindy & Ellen all get to party on a private island, and Robo Keaton only reveals that he is a Transformer when Spanky is present. And when Mao-Mao conscripts Spanky into a variety show (or… something?), Spanky groans that he can do better than being a featured oddity. Oh, and everybody dies in Silver’s ending. There… may be a parrot involved. It is weird. Let’s not dwell on it.

And what do we learn about Spanky through all of this? Well, it is not exactly a full treatise on a character that clearly deserves his own franchise, but it is something. Spanky is prideful. Spanky is a friend to all sea life. Spanky can have fun with his comrades. Spanky can swim (you probably guessed that one). None of these facts are revelations, but they are information. It is data, and, what’s more, it is entertaining data. It is enjoyable to see the dolphin you have guided through a warzone eventually laze about his own paradise. An ending in Aero Fighters 2 is fun for the player and the characters involved (unless they explode. Then it is just entertaining for the player).

And this brings us to a basic fact about gaming in the 90’s: an “ending” was the only part of a videogame that got to be purely entertaining.

Videogames are (supposed to be) fun. That is irrefutable. But they are also the kind of fun where your chosen hero dies repeatedly. Or maybe they simply suffer. Whatever we have as a “lose condition”, one thing is certain: you are going to see it a lot. You choose Spanky the Dolphin at the arcade, and you know you are going to have to either be a perfect player, or you are going to have to keep feeding that Dolphin quarters to keep him alive and flying. And when you finally see that ending? That is the only time Spanky gets to rest. That is the only occasion that you can bask in the glow of completion, socialize with your favorite marine mammal, and mutually toast a job well done.

And that is exactly why endings were so important in the 90’s, and through much of gaming.

Gradius timeGames have gotten better at this! In much the same way that videogames identified that they do not have to be all bullet hells all the time, many gaming narratives have grown and matured to the point that there is time for the characters to have fun within their own games. Final Fantasy 1’s Fighter never gets a break to enjoy Corneria, but Noctis of Final Fantasy 15 is chilling and cruising through the best time of his life through about 80% of his adventure. And years before that, Cloud got to hash out some of his backstory and enjoy himself around the Golden Saucer. Lest you think this is JRPG exclusive, though, just look at how a testosterone-fueled maniac like Kratos of God of War gets breaks between boss fights to sleep with sexy ladies or push boxes full of dudes around. Whether you are venturing across the world or simply killing ninja in your living room, your modern videogame involves a protagonist that can do more than be an action hero at all times. They can have deep internal monologues about being sad over their daughters for days!

But back in the arcade days? Impossible. Back when 16 bits were all you had to flesh out a creature? Nope. You must save that for the ending. So an “ending” for gamers in the 90’s meant one thing: happiness. Joy. And maybe a side of character development. All this and more in your average ending. And a game like Chrono Trigger or Aero Fighters 2 that boasted multiple endings? Well, damn, that’s some more bang for your buck. Mega Man X might be an amazing game, but that Reploid only gets an ending once. That’s crap! Gimme some nonsense with Reptites ruling the world right now.

Back in the 90’s, so many endings meant a game was so, so good.

FGC #594 Aero Fighters 2

  • Pew pewSystem: Nintendo Switch or Playstation 4 now, Neo Geo back in the day. This also makes it an arcade game by default.
  • Number of players: Definitely two. No way you would get those extra endings without a buddy.
  • Favorite Pilot: It cannot be anyone but Spanky the Dolphin, proud representative of the nation of United Nations. With Spanky out of the way, though, Robo Keaton must be appreciated, as he was the hero of Aero Fighters (1) that finished his headlining game by exploding. But he’s okay! Mostly! I mean… being a face in a jar doesn’t seem so bad, and he is still headlining.
  • An end: Another reason to “see all the endings” is that there are multiple final bosses, and they seem to be chosen completely randomly. A black eyeball that recalls the finale of Link’s Awakening is your most common opponent, but some manner of ghost doll and a fish from Kirby is also a possible opponent. Mind you, that eyeball appears an awful lot, so it is unlikely anyone even believed those alternate bosses actually existed before the advent of cheap cameras and/or the internet.
  • What’s in a name? The Aero Fighters franchise is known as Sonic Wings in Japan. Both titles are frustratingly generic, so it is hard to say why a title change was necessary at all. Are Americans just not that into wings? Make America aero again? Too many unanswered questions…
  • I know that towerDid you know? “Steve” is “Angela” in the original, Japanese version of Sonic Wings 2. However, Steve/Angela notably appears naked with male characteristics in at least one of their endings. And damn near every other ending involving “Steve” comes off as queer-bashing, and… and I don’t even know how to describe it when “Angela” is involved. Steve/Angela is apparently based on a Rose of Versailles character that was a woman raised as a man, so there is definitely a trans origin to the character, and… Ugh. Let’s just say it is probably offensive by any standard, and call it a day.
  • Would I play again: Yes. I like aero fighting alien armies, and this is a game that does not wear out its welcome for a play session. And I have to see all those endings…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… New Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo Switch! Let’s get out there and take some pretty pictures of pretty pikachus! Please look forward to it!


FGC #100 Spectacular!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the historic 100th Fustian Game Challenge Entry.

For no greater reason than I’m enjoying this, I do plan on continuing the FGC for the foreseeable future, but, considering how numbers work, there will never be a 100th Entry ever again. Try as I might, I do doubt that I will ever hit 1,000, so this momentous occasion is likely the last time an entire column will be added to the FGC count.

I am excited and proud of this occasion, so, obviously, we must celebrate with a special “change in the rules”.

As mentioned in the previous entry’s preview, I have lifted all restrictions on Random ROB, and now, for the first time ever in the FGC, ROB can truly pick any game from my collection. Downloadable titles? Allowed. “Already have plans for that one”? Allowed. Games I’m downright embarrassed to admit I’ve ever touched? Allowed. Even titles I feel are completely played out in games journalism are permitted. Whatever game ROB picks, I’m going with it, because random is actually random for once.

And now, without any further ado…

Drum roll, please?

Random ROB has chosen…

FGC #018 Ecco the Dolphin

Way to swim, tiny orca“Let’s hear your idea.”
“Okay… okay… alright… here’s the deal, the game is called Ecco the Dolphin, and it stars… a dolphin named Ecco. Straightforward, right? That’s all we need.”
“Ecco the Dolphin, eh? I can dig it. So, this, Ecco was it? Ecco is like Sonic? All edgy and maybe we can get a couple of animated shows out of it if it’s popular?”
“Well… no… I was thinking Ecco would just be, like… a regular dolphin.”
“Yeah, like, he’s just a dolphin.”
“What? Not anthropomorphic? No legs?”
“So he just stays in the water… and swims around?”
“No attitude? No getting in the player’s face?”
“Would… would he even talk?”
“Well, I guess he could talk…”
“… To other dolphins and sea animals and stuff.”
“What? Ugh. Wait! Oh! Can he, like summon sharks and octopi like Aquaman?”
“No… that would be… No. Just no.”
“Damn. Okay, yeah, maybe that was a stupid idea. So what, he’s going to be an underwater dolphin that jumps on sharks to rescue his princess?”
“What? Whoa, no. No jumping. Ecco is a dolphin. He just, you know, swims.”
“Swims? Ugh, okay, I guess we can work with that. He can at least run?”
“Run? Underwater? No, but I guess he could… dash? Like a really fast swim?”
“Now we’re getting somewhere! Gotta show off that blast processing somewhere in there.”
“I don’t think that’s a real…”
“So Ecco the Dolphin dashes all over the ocean to save his… what? Princess? Girlfriend?”
This is how the level starts!“Woof… can he just be a dolphin? Swimming? Like the point is just to survive in the ocean? Breathing and eating fish and stuff?”
“He has to have goals! Video games are about goals!”
“Alright, he got separated from his pod. Is that cool? It’s like he’s trying to get back to his family.”
“Nobody would pay any attention to the story of a fish trying to get back to his family!”
“Dolphins aren’t really fish. You see…”
“Don’t care! Which is what everyone is going to be saying about this game! Alright, let’s make it simple, his ‘pod’ has to be rescued by Ecco.”
“Isn’t that what I just…”
“Because they were kidnapped by aliens! Get it! Aliens vs. dolphins! It practically writes itself!”
“What? That’s crazy, why would…”
“They want to eat him. Duh. Ever seen the Twilight Zone? Now all we need is how Ecco fights the aliens. Maybe he could collect three magical weapons…”
“No! No weapons! He’s just a dolphin. He could use that dash to beat the aliens. Isn’t that just what the hedgehog does? He’s fast?”
“No. Do you even play our games? Sonic jumps, and somebody already said that Ecco can’t jump.”
“Because he’s in water…”
“Whatever. What other powers do dolphins have?”
“Powers? Dolphins just swim and making dolphin noises… that’s pretty much it.”
“Noises, eh? Alright, how about this: Ecco has a magical scream that can hurt the aliens.”
“A scream? How about just, like, echolocation? You know, what dolphins use to navigate underwater?”
“Ecco uses echoes? Oh that is gold. I’ll have the boys start making this game immediately. Ecco the Dolphin fights the Vortex?”
“The Vortex?”
“That’s the name of the aliens, dummy! Try to keep up!”

· · ·

“Alright, sorry to bring you back here, but we have a problem with Ecco the Dolphin.”
“What’s wrong? Is it being cancelled? It’s not… it’s not because of Zool, is it?”
“What? No. Zool is going to be its own big hit, but that’s beside the point. Look, the problem is that we’re having trouble coming up with levels for Ecco.”
“That’s crazy. Ecco has the entire ocean available.”
“Yes, he’s stuck in the ocean. You see the problem.”
Like a penguin!“How is that a problem? The ocean takes up three quarters of the Earth! You literally have 75% more options than every other game that takes place on Earth.”
“You’re not thinking like a video game designer. Look, there are some tried and true levels out there: grass stage, fire stage, ice stage, water stage, sewer stage, city stage, cave stage, and then techno stage. The final level is always the techno stage. And we can’t do a fire stage because of all the water everywhere.”
“So?! So!?! SO, Mr. Dolphin Guy, we’re stuck with water stage, over and over again. That’s good for the beginning of this little fishy adventure, but once you get past a shark and an octopus, it gets old. People barely care about water stages to begin with; nobody is going to want to play a game that is all water stages.”
“Can’t all the water stages be different?”
“An entire game about exploring the same boring ocean? Never going to happen. Make with the ideas.”
“I don’t see why this is… Fine. You said something about an ice stage? Ecco has to go the South Pole to meet with… a whale? An old, wise whale. So there’s your ice stage.”
“Oh, I like this idea, like there are old sea animals that know the aliens’ weaknesses. This could work… Yes… Yes, what is the name of that Scottish dinosaur sea creature?”
“What? That’s… That’s not a real thing. Are you talking about Nessie?”
“Yeah, that’s the ticket! Nessie! Ecco could go meet Nessie, who was around the last time the aliens invaded!”
“What? No, absolutely not! Nessie. Isn’t. Real.”
“Neither are aliens! Okay, maybe not Nessie, though, that stupid name would probably remind people of the competition… But Ecco goes to meet a really old, like, dinosaur fish.”
“I don’t see how this helps…”
“And then goes back in time! Dinosaur level! Dinosaurs are hot right now!”
“What? Ecco can’t travel through…”
This makes perfect sense!“Yeah, Ecco goes back in time to get help with fighting the aliens, and then comes back to the present. Oh! Ecco gets the power to travel through time in Atlantis! City level!”
“Argh… and the last level is against the aliens, so that has to be the techno level, doesn’t it?”
“You’re right, and when you’re right, you’re right. That’s perfect. Now we’ll just put a sewer…”
“Please don’t make Ecco swim through a sewer. I just… Just promise me there won’t be a sewer level.”
“Fine. Suppose we have to save something for the sequel. Hell, we could probably make an entire game out of sewers and sea predators.”
“A dolphin isn’t really a predator.”
“Doesn’t matter. Any other requests, your highness?”
“I really don’t think asking… You know what? Sure. Special request: could you make the game hard? I want people to remember Ecco exploring and having fun in the ocean, not… whatever these other levels are turning into.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. This whole ‘video game rental’ thing is destroying our industry, and we were already going to make it hard as titanium. Can’t let the little rugrats beat the game in a night, you know?”
“Yeah… that sounds like a great idea. Game of the year, right here.”
“Glad we see eye to eye.”
“Oh, one last thing. Think you could sneak some Pink Floyd in there?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”

FGC #18 Ecco the Dolphin

  • System: Sega Genesis, and then a whole heck of a lot of systems since about 2006 or so. The 3D Classics version on the 3DS is the bee’s knees.
  • Number of players: They never got around to shoehorning in that orca with two mouths named “Choppers”, so just one player.
  • Goggle Bob Historical Fact: This is the first and only game my dad ever made me stop playing, as I was getting so frustrated with the instant death floating ice blocks that I was literally swearing at the television. This never happened again, as I learned to bottle up my rage and unleash it on unsuspecting random strangers.
  • Favorite Level: As much as it makes no sense, going back in time is always fun. Man, you could sell me practically any game with the premise “there’s eventually time travel”. The more time travel, the better the game. I have a Chrono Trigger tattoo that basically proves this to be true.
  • I hate everything about thisEver actually beat this game? Yeah, either with cheat codes or save states. The final boss is completely impossible, requiring some precision “shooting” and dodging, and then literally flinging Ecco right into the maw of death repeatedly, and any mistake means starting over a stage back. I have a hard time thinking of an action game with a more difficult, unfair finale.
  • Did you know? There’s a peculiar “humans are bad for the environment” message that is relayed by a good number of sea creatures in this game. It’s noble that they tried to stick a decent environmental message in the game where a dolphin travels through time to gain magical powers to defeat an alien race that returns to eat dolphins every five hundred years.
  • Would I play again? Ecco the Dolphin is one of those weird games that, every once in a while, I pick up, play, and then get to the exact moment it becomes too difficult to bother (about four levels in), and give up and play something else. OH MY GOD THIS IS A SONIC GAME!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Battle Arena Toshinden 3. Actually, I can already see that becoming a “triple”, so let’s say Battle Arena Toshinden: The Trilogy. Three games for the price of one! Aren’t you excited? Please look forward to it!