Tag Archives: ds

FGC #545 Bangai-O Spirits

Gogglebob.com officially started in 2015, and it also contains articles written months or even years before the official launch of the site. I don’t personally consider myself someone who puts forth a “brand”, but, after something like 700 articles about videogames (total reached by including all auxiliary Kingdom Hearts and Let’s Play materials), I feel like my general opinions and “tone” have been well established. It’s been over five years of Gogglebob.com… and for most of that time, I was single. And, now, considering my bride-to-be isn’t much of a videogame fan (past some obvious luminaries), gaming is still generally a solitary hobby for myself. What am I getting at? Well, I worry, because, as of publication of this article, I am about two weeks away from getting married. Is that going to change me? Is that going to change the articles you find on Gogglebob.com? Am I going to become a “wife guy”? I’m worried about my identity! Even when I’m writing about something as esoteric as Brain Dead 13, this website is my autobiography, and I’m worried about who I am (and the site!) mutating in the face of such a drastic life change.

But, no, that’s silly. I am Goggle Bob, and, no matter what happens, no matter who becomes a permanent part of my life, a permanent part of me, I am always going to be myself. This is gogglebob.com, I am Goggle Bob, and that is never going to change.

So today I (Goggle Bob!) am going to talk about tampons.

I, being of the biological male persuasion, do not understand tampons. I am unfamiliar with their exact usage, and, while it has been explained to me a few times over the years, all I could really grok from those lessons is that they look really uncomfortable. They kind of resemble future-tech Molotov cocktails? And they’re supposed to go where? Yeah, that’s not for me. And, while I’ve had a general grip of the purpose of tampon usage for years, they had yet to live in my home until my fiancée officially moved in a little while back. Now, in the same room where I read my all-important leftover 1999 strategy guides, there is a box of tampons. And, because I occasionally get bored of reading how important it is I visit Playonline for more information, sometimes I dare make eye contact with one of those tampon boxes. And what did I find in perusing this box? Tampons come in different levels! Apparently here is the ranking for one brand:

POW

  • Light
  • Regular
  • Super
  • Super Plus
  • Ultra

And, to be clear, that is from lightest (light) to heaviest (ultra). And, while I may not be blessed with body parts that ever have to interact with a tampon, I do have an opinion on this situation from an engineering perspective: This is stupid.

Seriously, ladies (or the men that are apparently in charge of ranking women’s menstrual flow), there are some serious issues here. Light makes sense, but regular? You are claiming there is some sort of national average for periods, and it is apparently only level 2? And then super to super plus? Okay, there’s at least an escalation, but, unless you’re Kara Zor-El, I don’t think anyone has ever described anything to do with that time of the month as “super”. And the final level is ultra? Were tampons invented as a tie-in to the N64? Because that is the only explanation for a final level being “Ultra”. Ultimate is right there! It starts with a U, too!

So, in the interest of making the lives of people who menstruate better (they already have to deal with so much! Like the entire population of people who don’t!), I propose a new ranking system for tampons. In the future, all tampons should be ranked according to Bangai-O titles.

LEVEL1
Level: Light Hover Attack

The Bangai-O franchise theoretically started in the late 90’s. However, there was a game that was the main inspiration for Bangai-O: Hover Attack. Hover Attack features a robot (maybe a human?) who has a limited missile gauge and a hover gauge, but, other than those limitations, the world is their oyster. They can fly! In a game from 1984! And they’ve got a cool hoverboard, too! The people of the 80’s loved those things! Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a real Bangai-O experience, the technology of the time could not cut the muster on rendering more than a few misssiles, so it doesn’t feature what would be the defining staple of the series. It’s like Bangai-O, but if Bangai-O was much… lighter.

LEVEL2
Level: Regular Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaioh

WeeeeeeOkay, there’s no question here: we’re dealing with a tried and true Explosive, Invincible Bangai-O here. There is flying. There are enemies. There are missiles upon missiles upon missiles. You can blast your opponents out of the sky, and then collect enough fruit to live like a king. It’s here, and there’s no question it’s here. Or… actually, that’s kind of the problem: it’s not here. It’s Bangai-O, but it’s also limited to a Japanese release, and barely surviving there at that. So, in short, this is Bangai-O that exists, is definitely a Bangai-O experience, but is still on the slight side of things.

LEVEL3
Level: Super Bangai-O!

Oh blastNow we’re talking. If there are going to be five levels of something, here’s the exact, recognizable middle. That’s how numbers work! Bangai-O is the game we all know and love (and occasionally inspires hallucinations). This is Bangai-O… nay… BANGAI-O! and its accomplishments are legion. This is the game that taught us all to love shoot ‘em ups again in the age of ubiquitous polygons and JRPGs. This is the game that satisfied all our ids with explosions of a Bay-ian caliber. Bangai-O was a revelation… and the only downside is that many people don’t even know it had any sequels. It is the baseline of Bangai-O, so it stands in the middle of all other levels, presumably inviting an errant Goldilocks.

LEVEL4
Level: Super Plus Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury

May as well just call this game “Bangai-O: Super Plus”. It’s Bangai-O taken to the next level. Stage creation? Check. Online options? Check. Big honkin’ missiles that defy all laws of conservation of mass? Double check. Depending on your thinking, though, it is not exactly the straight-up action game that Bangai-O pioneered for the franchise. In short, thinking of this as “simply” a shoot ‘em up will get you killed pretty fast, but treating it as something closer to a puzzle title will see your ship surviving well into a fruit coma. It’s just a puzzle game where, you know, the solution involves a healthy number of explosives. Some people can’t handle it, though, so this is a fine signifier of a “heavy” Bangai-O.

LEVEL5
Level: Ultra Bangai-O Spirits

PEW PEWBut this is as hefty as Bangai-O gets. In a similar manner to its descendant, Bangai-O HD, Bangai-O Spirits is a puzzle game masquerading as an action title. But where Missile Fury sticks to a more straightforward loadout for its challenges, Spirits drowns its audience in a multiple choice quiz before every battle. Do you want to focus on shooting, or melee attacks? Bringing in the rebounding laser, or the baseball bat? Going to focus on reflecting opponent’s shots, or simply blasting them out of the sky? You’ve got options! Options upon options! And these options are absolute murder, because it is often difficult to say if you failed because you didn’t identify what you were supposed to be doing, or because you didn’t drag in whatever weapon you were supposed to have. There’s a reason this title has such a comprehensive tutorial structure (which includes the game’s seemingly contractually obligated plot), because if you’re not prepared, the “real” levels of Bangai-O Spirits are going to drown you in a deluge of pure, unfettered Bangai-O.

But if you’re aware of the weight of Bangai-O Spirits, you’ll be prepared. And that’s why tampon companies and Bangai-O should get together to revamp their level grading, and get everybody on the same page. You need to know what kind of tampon you’re purchasing in the exact same way you need to know what kind of Bangai-O you’ll be experiencing. Tampax, give me a call, I’m certain we can work out a level grading system that is a little more explosive/invincible.

FGC #545 Bangai-O Spirits

  • POWSystem: Nintendo DS, and this is another sad tale of a game being locked into a system that time has now forgotten.
  • Number of players: It’s technically multiplayer with the whole level sharing thing, but it’s really a one-player experience.
  • Are there skeletons? Yes.
  • Is there a Pac-Man pastiche? Certainly.
  • Is this the best game ever? Very much a contender.
  • What’s with that tutorial? Yes, there are a lot of tutorials involved. Yes, you should consider them completely mandatory, because there is no way you are going to remotely survive the “real game” if you don’t learn about the myriad of new ways to blow stuff up in Spirits. Also, it’s the only part of the game that has a “plot”… if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • How’s the plot? Funny, but forgettable. I’m pretty sure there are at least three characters involved. Maybe four? They probably have names.
  • Favorite weapon: It hurts my soul to not choose the baseball bat, but I’m more into the missiles that tear through enemy bullets like tissue paper. I’m sure they have a distinct designation, but that’s inconsequential: if I can survive the level with ‘em, they’re my first choice.
  • POWDid you know? You can share created levels with other players by playing tones out of the DS that other Bangai-O Spirits games can interpret and decode. This is what gaming looked like before the internet was widely available, and I am here for it.
  • Would I play again: There is a heavy, overflowing chance that that is a solid yes. Doubly so if someone could port this to a modern system. Switch? Please? This is an ideal portable experience, and I could use a new reason to wreck a joycon.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Jet Set Radio! Yo yo yo, DJ Professor K is gonna tell you the righteous tale of the GGs, son. Please look forward to it!

No Pow

FGC #535 Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland

So RosySome games are lauded for messages they can’t even properly convey. Take Monopoly, for instance. Monopoly is based on The Landlord’s Game, a board game patented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904. While many have called the game dedicatedly anti-capitalist, this gives the impression that The Landlord’s Game is somehow against our beloved, inescapable world of landlords squeezing tenants for their every last dime. But that’s not true! The Landlord’s Game was meant to promote the single tax theory of Henry George, and presented two sets of rules: one with heavy taxation, and another that was significantly more forgiving of players that happened to own everything. This meant the game mutated into two forms: one that was anti-monopolist, and the other that was referred to as monopolist. The goal of the anti-monopolist version was to be the first to double your starting wealth (which wasn’t that difficult in a game where you weren’t constantly facing bankruptcy due to a bad roll), while the monopolist version valued forcing every other player out until you were the last man with a monocle standing. Guess which version became Monopoly thirty years later…

But whether you’re playing The Landlord’s Game or Monopoly, all versions have one thing in common: money is good. Money is god. Gather up every last dollar and cent, and, regardless of whether or not the game takes a half hour or entire nights of your life, you’ll be the winner if you have the most dough. Monopoly is not long and aggravating in an effort to deter capitalism, it is a game that revels in its greed. Earning dollars, purchasing property, it all feels good. And it might be awful when you’re not the Look away from the clownone holding the deed to Boardwalk, but you’re still going to be elated when you’ve got a railroad or four, and some unsuspecting rube lands on your assets. If Monopoly (or its ancestor) was supposed to ever be educational regarding taxation or economic theory; that apparently fell by the wayside almost immediately, and proceeded to only ever teach one lesson: making more and more money feels good.

You want a game where capitalism is unashamedly a pain in the ass, you’re going to have to play Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland.

If you’ve lived a blessed life, you do not know the sad tale of Tingle. Tingle was originally introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask as one of the completely new models populating Alternate-Hyrule, Termina. He is a boy wearing a “fairy costume” that floats on a balloon and distributes maps in various areas. Wait, my bad, Tingle is no boy, he’s 35. And his father is very ashamed of him. Tingle is… not right. And, while the wannabe fairy is fairly helpful in Majora’s Mask and Oracle of Ages, Tingle’s appearance in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is simultaneously memorable and horrible. If you wanted to find the invaluable pieces of the Triforce of Courage, you needed a map interpreter, and Tingle was (literally) the only man for the job. And he’s perfectly willing to help… for a fee. A significant fee. Over and over again. In truth, this was clearly just an excuse for the directors of Wind Waker to encourage the player to explore some of the more interesting and “optional” areas of WW in pursuit of rupee caches, but Tingle still wound up inextricably tied to a situation where he was charging piles and piles of cash. From that point on, Tingle was associated with greed, featuring in games like Four Swords Adventures where he’d steal any unclaimed Force Gems, or Twilight Princess where his fashion buddy, Purlo, is always trying to squeeze an extra buck out of Link. So, by about 2005, Tingle was known for two things: he is a giant weirdo, and he’s gluttonous as hell.

So, naturally, Nintendo gave him his own spinoff game.

Hey! It worked for Wario!

This seems familiarOn the surface, Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is little more than a truncated Legend of Zelda adventure. There’s a large “overworld”, monsters stalk the landscape, and a village is filled with friendly NPCs that may or may not distribute minor sidequests. There are five big dungeons, a handful of “lesser” dungeons, and attendant bosses that alternate between physical challenges and “puzzle fights”. The land is vast and huge, and you better believe there is a lost wood of wise trees, a volcanic mountain, and a smattering of ruins dotting the landscape. There is Lon Lon Ranch. There are bomb flowers. There are empty bottles. And, through it all, there are rupees. Like any good Zelda game, there are prizes abound, so you can search out those treasure chests lurking in the nooks and crannies of Tingle’s world. Everybody loves finding rupees! Everyone loves a bonus!

Except… Rupees are no bonus in Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. This game starts with “you”, a 35 year old do-nothing that lives in a shack outside of town, forsaking his name for becoming a/the Tingle, one who is going to collect rupees for Uncle Rupee, who will grant Tingle (that’s you now, forever) entry to Rupeeland. Rupeeland is a glorious place where you never have to work and lavish women will always hang out in your palatial pool, so get going, Tingle, and acquire enough rupees to earn your admission fee. As such, your rupee count literally becomes your life: Tingle has no heart containers, just a wallet. Every trap or monster depletes your rupee count, and, if it hits zero, it’s game over. But you’re never going to hit zero, are you? You need as many rupees as possible!

And that… gets difficult.

Rock itRupees are not just a prize you might find for shoving your shovel into the right place in Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. Rupees are everything. It is never a matter of simply providing coin for wares, you need to pay up if you want to enter a dungeon. Or engage in combat. Or even just talk to some people. Yes, the most basic task in an adventure game, talking to an NPC, often requires a fee in FPTRR. Every task that you could possibly name in your typical Zelda game, every “verb” you’ve ever seen Link do, has an attached fee in Tingle’s adventure. Want to blow up a crack in a wall, Tingle? Well, I hope you managed your resources well enough to have a bomb jar on hand. You didn’t think that secret area would be free, did you?

And, what’s more, if you’re playing the game without savestates or soft resetting, there’s very little indication on how to play the game “right”. Yes, there is a fee for Tingle’s every action, but these fees are also negotiable. You have to pay something to enter town, but what? Pay too little, and your rupees are gone, but you won’t even get a taste of what you were trying to buy. Pay too much, and you might have earned your prize, but you’ll never know that you blew an extra thousand rupees that could have been spent elsewhere. And is there ever any indication on what you’re supposed to be paying? Some mini-game or alternate NPC that offers suggestions on “the going rate”? Bad guardNope! It’s just guess work, and you could be trading Tingle’s literal and figurative lifeblood away for nothing. Yes, extra rupees are going to make your next toll-taker happy, but when Tingle dies penniless in a dungeon thanks to an errant spike-trap, you’ll be regretting giving away even one extra cent. By the time you reach the end of Tingle’s quest, you’ll have had to make so many aggravating decisions based on perceived values, you’ll never want to see another rupee again.

And, considering the finale of Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, that is entirely deliberate.

Tingle is fighting for those rupees at the behest of Uncle Rupee. However, when Tingle restores the life essence (or something ) of the local Grand Fairy, he learns a terrible secret: Uncle Rupee is a demon. What’s more, he is a demon that feeds on rupees, and his goal is to trap every last man, woman, and dog in an endless loop of acquiring more and more rupees. There is no “rosy” Rupeeland, there is only a Rupeeland where mindless slaves trade rupees all day in an effort to please a malevolent, all-powerful Uncle Rupee. This is creepyYour ultimate goal shifts from earning enough rupees to placate Uncle Rupee to earning enough rupees to murder Uncle Rupee, because, of course, the only way to win is to challenge Uncle Rupee through a shoot ‘em up on the moon fueled entirely by rupee bullets (where have I seen that before?). If you win, you will be rewarded with one of two endings. In one, Uncle Rupee is obliterated, and his rupee-remains rain down on the world. Adults, including Tingle, go literally crazy trying to secure this bounty from the heavens, and the local children lament the voracity of their parents. But a better ending is possible! If you go the extra mile and find every last collectible in the world, Tingle will be able to free Pinkle, his scantily-clad assistant. Pinkle is actually the daughter of the Grand Fairy, and had been imprisoned by Uncle Rupee. Who knew? Regardless, her freedom will grant you the best ending wherein… Tingle takes over Uncle Rupee’s position. The “good ending” sees Tingle in Rupeeland, now the new boss that demands people accrue rupees, and The-Fairy-Previously-Known-As-Pinkle literally states that Tingle is no better than Uncle Rupee. This is the best Tingle is going to get! The only reward for a life dedicated to rupee acquisition is unconstrained, unquenchable greed.

Thanks for playing!

This is also creepyFreshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is not shy about its moral: greed is bad, and “money” just makes everything worse. When people won’t talk without being paid, it is annoying to have so much as a conversation. When citizens won’t help each other without a clear reward, everyone gets unnecessarily hurt. When you spend your life in pursuit of mammon, you will not have a happy ending. The best anyone can hope for is Tingle incidentally doing some good along the way… even if the ultimate reason he’s doing anything at all is he just really wants to go for a ride in that limo. Doing anything in FPTRR is bothersome, and it’s all rupees’ fault. It’s all greed’s fault. If everyone simply lived in a happy little Hyrule that wasn’t so materialistic, Tingle’s life would be so much easier. This adventure could be so much better. This game could be so much more fun.

But it isn’t.

Because of rupees.

Because of capitalism.

Eat it, Monopoly, Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is the best game out there deriding an economic system.

FGC #535 Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland

  • System: Nintendo DS exclusive. It also wasn’t released in America, but you can pick up a European version if you need to hear the Queen’s English.
  • Number of players: Tingle is alone (you can’t even control Barkle the Dog!).
  • So, do you own it? Yep!
    Look at that box

    Gotta import that Tingle, baby.
  • Is it all bad? To be clear, there are some very fun moments in FPTRR. The boss fights in particular are varied and interesting, complete with a pastiche of Punch-Out involving a skeleton pirate. Practically every word in that sentence makes me happy. So, yes, there is a lot of fun in FPTRR, just every time you have to stop and consider exactly how many rupees some jungle adventurer should be paid for his services, you’re reminded that the world sucks. Uh… I’m talking about Tingle’s world… I think…
  • Favorite Bodyguard: Tingle isn’t much of a fighter, so he has to hire a series of bodyguards across the adventure. And I think we can all agree that Steroido…
    Look at them muscles

    Is just My Hero Academia’s All Might slumming it for a few rupees. Poor dude really needed the cash…
  • Mystery Solved: This Tingle adventure may not be absolute Zelda canon, but it does reveal the scientific genius behind the invention of Link’s favorite tool: the empty jar:
    Look at that bottle

    Presumably, Dr. Bean isn’t alive by the time of Breath of the Wild, and that’s why that game felt so incomplete.
  • What’s in a name: The Zelda Wiki posits that Uncle Rupee should be more properly translated as “Old Man Rupee” from the original ルピじい. However, localization is important, and drawing a line between Uncle Rupee and Rich Uncle Pennybags (or even Uncle Scrooge) is worthwhile.
  • For the Sequel: There’s a sequel to this game, Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love, and it’s basically Tingle in The Wizard of Oz. Or it’s a game about Tingle getting his groove back. Regardless, it never made it out of Japan. I hear tell there is a translation poking around some corners of the internet, though…
  • Fight!Did you know? Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was developed by Vanpool, the company responsible for Dillon’s Rolling Western and the minigames of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. And, not coincidentally, Vanpool involves a few employees formally of Love-de-Lic, the minds behind Moon: Remix RPG Adventure (currently available on Switch). If I wanted to be popular, I’d be reviewing that game, but, man, I can’t just ignore Tingle.
  • Would I play again: Nope. This game is amazingly clever, and the character design is superb… but I’d rather just play a Zelda game. And that might be the point! But that doesn’t mean I’m any more likely to grind ingredients for Tingle anytime soon. You can have Rupee Land, dude.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario Bros. 35! I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been playing the game continuously for the last few days. And now you can share in the fun! Please look forward to it!

Uh-oh
This just cannot be good

FGC #517 Retro Game Challenge

What we are looking at here is exactly what modern gaming has been chasing for the last decade.

Died right at the end

And you don’t even notice it.

Retro Game Challenge is an odd duck swimming in a flock of odd geese (they’re over at Lake Eerie). It is a game technically based on a Japanese game/variety show (and we use that already ambiguous definition loosely) named GameCenter CX / Retro Game Master, which has been running for 17 years as of this writing. It’s apparently out-surviving Survivor! And that seems appropriate, as the main focus of the show is its host, Shinya Arino, attempting to complete classic games with legendarily great difficulty levels. This isn’t just some random stream, though; between the commentary and jumpsuit, this works out to something closer to Mystery Science Theater 3000 for videogames. And how does that translate to an actual videogame? Weirdly! “Put upon, sarcastically titled Retro Game Master-Arino” becomes a vaguely malevolent, virtual “Actual Retro Master of Games-Arino” who curses the player to be a child flung back in time to play videogames with Arino’s younger self. Master the games, beat Arino’s challenges, and you’ll return to your present… And one would hope that reward is better than a childhood where you’re cursed to play videogames all day…

VrooomBut that’s just the story of Retro Game Challenge, what’s really important is the actual game that’s involved. Scratch that, the game involved is games. Retro Game Challenge does its best to create modern facsimiles of retro games of the past. Rather than turn this into a simple retro compilation hosted by a celebrity (and, to be clear, this humble blogger would not object to such a thing), Retro Game Challenge goes the extra mile and crafts loving homages to the games of yesterday. There’s Cosmic Gate, a (slightly) advanced reimaging of Galaga, and Star Prince, a slightly more advanced shoot ‘em up in the vein of Gradius or R-Type. Then there’s the Haggleman series, which starts off as a simple arcade action title ala Mappy Land or alike, but graduates to a full, cinematic action-explorer like Ninja Gaiden with a touch of Metroidvania underpinnings. Rally King evokes the bygone days of racing games before the advent of Mode 7, and Guadia Quest is Dragon Warrior mixed with a little Final Fantasy and Pokémon. In fact, Guadia Quest seems to stand as the mission statement of the Retro Game Challenge titles: it’s very much a classic JRPG, but it’s also concise and user-friendly, and does not suffer from any of the jank that might detract from someone enjoying a classic JRPG in modern times. It looks retro. It feels retro. But its sensibilities are decidedly modern, so you’re not going to eject it from your DS after the eighteenth time you had to search for the STAIRS command.

And this is one way in which Retro Game Challenge was prescient. RGC was revitalizing in 2007/2009 (took a lil’ bit to localize that one) because it had been so long since we saw these “retro” titles. The concept of 2-D platforming had been demoted to the occasional portable title, and, outside of a Castlevania or two, that kind of “retro” gameplay had been constrained to the shadows. Similarly, JRPGs were, at the time, wholly grand affairs that featured 80-hour long plots and battle systems that required a master’s in exp point management (reminder: RGC was on the same system that featured a Xenosaga title). The “simple” Retro Game Challenge titles were a breath of fresh air in that thick fog of Assassin’s Creeds and Batmans that looked like Assassin’s Creeds.

CheekyAnd history has proven that people liked that fresh air. Retro Game Challenge was released just before the online stores of consoles found that people actually wanted retro titles… they just maybe didn’t need to spend $60 on a disc to get ‘em. Make it clear that these retro titles were not trying to compete with whatever defined AAA that week (remember when everyone was obsessed with Left 4 Dead? That feels like a distant dream…), and suddenly people were all about Mega Man 9 or (console) Cave Story or whatever came down the pike. Retro Game Challenge seemed to herald the start of the age of retro games being available on online stores, and, soon enough, you wouldn’t have to wrap these games up in a faux-compilation, people would just be willing to drop a Hamilton on Haggle Man to play for the afternoon. Retro Game Challenge saw our shores just as online storefronts offered more and more retro game challenges.

But there was one aspect of Retro Game Challenge that was visionary and wholly unique. Need me to draw you a picture?

Who's that pokemon

You have a built-in audience.

Game Master Arino has sent you back in time to play videogames with Child Arino. Technically, throughout the whole of Retro Game Challenge, you are effectively living with Child Arino, playing on his console, reading his magazines, and occasionally consuming snacks provided by his mom. You are playing games that he owns, but does he ever ask for the controller? Does he ever demand you boot up two player mode? Does he ever even take a break to the Little Arino’s Room when you’re approaching hour seven of going for the high score in Space Prince? Nope! Arino is always there. He flinches when you lose a life, and he cheers when you find a secret. He is the perfect host, but, more importantly, he is the perfect spectator. He is never bored with your gaming. He never tires of seeing your latest accomplishments. He is enrapt in your gaming, and only asks that you occasionally answer a random, inane question or two. So, yes, not only is he the perfect audience, but he wants to hear your opinion on matters. Ask me anything, Arino!

LOOK AT ME DO THIS!And isn’t that what every youtuber and streamer is chasing? Hell, isn’t that even the secret point of most MMORPGs? Any game with an online social feature lives and dies by the ways it allows the player to “brag” about their accomplishments. Nintendo avoided “achievements” and “trophies” for this very reason? Well, why do I seem to keep seeing raids in Pokémon Sword/Shield featuring ‘mons that are completely useless, but abundantly shiny. Stop showing off, trainers! I see you! I get it! People have a natural, understandable urge to boast in almost every setting, and much of modern gaming has been constructed around showing off your latest “legendary pull” or “raid loot”. From Pokémon Go to Fortnite to Final Fantasy 14 to whatever that one shooter is that I always forget the name of (Destiny? I want to say Destiny), there are a richness of ways to crow about your achievements, and build a potentially rapt audience around your accomplishments. Modern gaming and entire websites are literally built around this concept, because if you’ve got spectators, you’re never going to stop playing. Of course you need to buy that new DLC, you’ve got to stay at the top of your game for the fans. You wouldn’t want to see that subscriber count go down, would you?

And it all boils down to trying to impress a friendly kid sprawled out on the carpet. It’s all chasing an audience as attentive as Young Arino.

One title predicted the next decade of gaming through a background element that most saw as an afterthought. Retro Game Challenge was secretly Prophetic Game Challenge.

FGC #517 Retro Game Challenge

  • System: A Nintendo DS game posing as a series of Nintendo Entertainment System games.
  • Number of Players: It kind of looks like there should be two players, but you’re actually going it alone on this one.
  • Favorite Retro Game: It says something that, back when this game was released, I was most interested in Gaudia Quest, the faux JRPG. Nowadays, I barely have time for real level grinding, left alone mini level grinding, so I’m going with Haggleman 3, the Ninja Gaiden/Metroid-alike. Haggleman 1 also gets bonus points for being exactly what it wants to be. Rally King can be hurled into the sun.
  • Poor kidLet’s Read: This is one of the few videogames… uh… ever that praises the gaming magazines of the retro era. Retro gaming histories at large seem to ignore the tremendous impact a simple preview for Super Mario Bros 3 or Final Fantasy could have on the curve of gaming’s history, and this is at least one game that acknowledges how “Classified Information” likely sold more titles than Toys R Us. Come on, whatever Mega Man Legacy Collection comes next, you can license a few Nintendo Power pages for the gallery.
  • And now a word from our Sponsor: Retro Game Challenge also promotes something we rarely saw in the United States: games with corporate sponsorship. There are a number of Famicom titles that tie in to various products and services, but it seems like the best we could ever get in the West was a Ninja Turtle or two. Of course, RGC would only be appropriate for the US if its Cup o Noodle version of Rally King was converted into Super HaggleMan 2
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Five years ago (damn!), back when I was still trying to figure out exactly what I was even going to call this site, I originally considered naming this whole “random games to play and write” project “The Retro Gaming Challenge”. Then I was reminded that that was taken by this very game, so I switched over to “Fustian Gaming Challenge”… primarily because I like the word “fustian”. And then, approximately seventy entries later, I realized I should have just gone with “Random Select”. It would explain all the featured fighting games!
  • Don't haggle meDid you know? At the absolute end of the ending, Cyber Arino will remind you that there isn’t anything more to the ending by stating plainly, “Even if you wait, there won’t be anything”. You can then wait for a full thirty minutes (not easy to do on a handheld!), and finally be greeting with Arino’s concluding statement of… “See ya”. He’s an honest guy.
  • Would I play again: Everything about this game is a delight. Not only will I likely play it again, but maybe I can dig up a fan translation of its sequel. Man, I hope that localization is half as good and thoughtful as the original…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Cannon Spike for the Sega Dreamcast! … Isn’t that just a special move from Street Fighter? Huh. Street Fighter is pretty good, though… Well, uh, please look forward to it.

Keep on kickin'

FGC #514 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

LET'S QUESTToday we’re going to talk about videogames and how you engage with videogames. Actually, screw that, we’re going to talk about how I engage with videogames.

This odyssey into madness was prompted by Random ROB choosing Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. You may recall that ROB is now picking games from a truncated version of my master inventory of videogames, so, ultimately, DQ9 was no accident. Today’s game was always going to be picked eventually, as it is fondly remembered as one of my favorite games. In fact, I could toss out a few basic, personal facts about DQ9 immediately:

  1. It is one of my most favorite videogames
  2. It is absolutely my most favorite DS game, which is significant, as this is the system that hosted Flammole the Moleroid
  3. It is absolutely my most favorite Dragon Quest game, and the title that got me to enjoy the franchise after years of issues.
  4. I played Dragon Quest 9 for 197 hours, apparently. Given my general ADD and the wealth of alternative games I have available at any given moment, this is significant.
    That's a lot of time
  5. I never want to play Dragon Quest 9 ever again.

Considering the hours involved, that last point seems… peculiar.

To be clear, this is not a matter of burnout. For an easy example of that, consider Secret of Mana, a game that I played and replayed approximately every other day back in 1994. That was a game that, after I was wholly “done” with the experience (likely because Chrono Trigger was finally obtained), I was in no rush to repeat all over again. I had beaten the Mana Beast so many times with so many different sword techniques that I felt I was good and done with the title. But did I ever play the game again? Of course! Secret of Mana doesn’t hog my entertainment center as often as Mega Man 3 (which sees a replay at least annually), but I’ve undoubtedly returned to Randi a few times over the years. I may have “played out” Secret of Mana in its heyday, but I still feel like lapping up that nostalgia from time to time.

Dragon Quest 9? Not so much. That’s my original save file up there, and, short of a battery disaster, it’s never going anywhere. And why? Because even if I wipe that file, I’m never going to be able to play Dragon Quest 9 ever again.

BOOMIn a way, Dragon Quest 9 is a traditional Dragon Quest game from toe to tip. The basic plot, that you are a guardian angel that is torn from Heaven when a fallen angel decides to go all Morning Star on his celestial home, is little more than a framing excuse for venturing across the planet. There’s an evil empire to quash and apocalyptic demons to slay, but that’s all secondary to whatever you can do to help the next town over. They have a disease raging through their populace? Great, maybe you can kill it with a sword (and you can!). Dragon Quest 9 is a game about heroes tromping across the land, making the land slightly better, buying all of the medical herbs until the land has a shortage, and then saving the land from some manner of jerk that probably has a secret form or two. Start out saving a local inn business, finish up by rescuing God. Tale as old as time.

And, frankly, the most overt change to the Dragon Quest 9 formula here is simply a cosmetic upgrade of the good old days of the franchise, too. After years of well-defined protagonists and their distinct, sometimes dog-riding companions, DQ9 returned to the “generic” party of Dragon Quest/Warrior 3. You can create your own custom hero, and then choose three companions with their own distinct complexions and professions. Want a balanced party of the typical Knight, Monk, White Mage, and Black Mage? That’s fine! Want a party that is four re-headed thieves all named “Mona” for some reason? That’s also fine! Do what you want! There are plenty of memorable characters hanging around the fringes of DQ9, so you can create your own, wholly-silent party at your leisure. And speaking of customization, much of the equipment system and its attendant alchemy system in DQ9 seems tailor fit to encourage the player to experiment and adapt their party in new and exciting ways. Sure, you could make a beeline for all that metal slime armor, but wouldn’t it be more fun to have a character or two in a surprisingly resistant bikini? Or a celestial robe? Or just wholesale steal Alena’s outfit? There are options upon options here, and you could spend an entire day gathering the right materials (“ingredients”) to build the perfect superstar’s suit for your luminary. Assembling the perfect party, in more ways than just maxing out stats, is half the fun of DQ9, and it’s the kind of fun you don’t always see in a game where you’re ostensibly trying to “role play”.

CRAFTING!And, while these “new” features certainly account for why I played DQ9 for a “normal” number of hours, it was DQ9’s other big innovation that accounts for not only the excess hours spent playing, but also why I can never play the game again.

God help me, I loved the social aspects of Dragon Quest 9.

Looking at Dragon Quest 9 from a strictly pragmatic perspective, it was clearly a trial run for the MMORPG that was the eventual Dragon Quest 10. DQ9 eschews the typical DQ experience by allowing other players to join your party as you cooperate and quest across the land. Thus, DQ9 was designed first and foremost as a traditional JRPG, but allowed for a significant amount of wiggle room to squeeze in a guest participant or two. Or, put another way, you didn’t need a raid party to conquer that impossible boss, but it sure would be easier if your level 100 buddy stopped by. And there were more passive concessions made to the concept of making DQ massively multiplayer, too. There were quests that were released on a timed basis (causing players that had “finished” the game to return), timed online shop sales (a great reason to log in routinely), and spot-pass shared treasure maps that allowed you to share randomly generated dungeons with friends… or anyone that happened to be within wi-fi range. Since not all maps were created equal, the most massive multi-playing involved in DQ9 wound up being map swapping with as many people as possible. And regardless of whether or not map swaps were meant to be the most popular DQ9 pastime, these were all baby steps to seeing what people would want (and what the franchise could support) in DQ10. But if you were some manner of DQ purist, you could technically ignore all these add-ons and still have an enjoyable experience.

I did not ignore those MMORPG-lite features. Lacking friends that were interested in Dragon Quest (Smash Bros? Yes. 100 hour JRPGs for handhelds? No.), I drove an hour away to visit a Best Buy promotion where I was told there would be other nerds sharing maps. I got maps. I got stickers. I was a happy Goggle Bob.

Tag!

And it would be impossible to replicate that experience.

I’m not going to claim I’ve never done anything vaguely ridiculous for a videogame. I’m not even going to claim that “driving an hour for a virtual trinket” is really all that crazy. But for me, it was a singular experience. It was something none of my friends were doing, so I was forced to make a solitary trip in search of some cave full metal slimes. It was the logical endpoint of logging into DQ9 every day for sales, and checking frequently to see if a fun sidequest had become available yet. It was a time when I downloaded material maps off Gamefaqs message boards, and skulked around forums looking for alchemy recipes. There was this whole “meta game” that was a significant chunk of my life for approximately six months wherein I absorbed as much Dragon Quest 9 information from as many sources as possible. From that perspective, spending a day driving to a silly Nintendo promotion seems almost… necessary. Be glad I didn’t fly to another country or join a gang or something, Mom!

Not you againBut, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone that understands the passage of time, any kind of Dragon Quest 9 fervor eventually burned out to a mere handful of embers. All the quests were released, network services were discontinued, and, in a few short years, the idea of someone using a Nintendo DS to spotpass became as esoteric as someone using AOL to change their away message. The meat of Dragon Quest 9, the main quest and its many tangential vignettes, is always going to be there and available, but those early, tentative steps into the world of hybrid online/local multiplayer are gone forever. Sure, you can finagle a wireless modem into broadcasting the old DQ network for fun and profit, but it’s not the same. You’re never going to randomly obtain a treasure map by walking around the mall ever again (and not just because the mall closed, too). There’s never going to be another Dragon Quest 9 event at Best Buy.

So, after devoting nearly 200 hours to a videogame, I never want to play it again. Why? Because I can’t. What’s real and true and memorable about that game is gone forever, and it isn’t coming back. May as well save that file full of foreign treasure maps for future generations, and move on to something else.

Dragon Quest 9, you were an exceptional and singular Nintendo DS experience. Rest in peace, and be a beautiful, blue ghost creature forever haunting your graveyard.

FGC #514 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

  • System: Nintendo DS. One would suppose a modern remake could rectify these issues, but then I wouldn’t be replaying the exact same game, now would I? Dragon Quest of Theseus.
  • Number of players: A whole cosmos of people… but I think only four at a time.
  • It's an innnyHey, some of these screen shots are clearly from a new playthrough: Well, yes, I did give it a try for this article. I preserved my precious save file on its cart, and attempted an emulated run of DQ9, but it only proved my hypothesis: you can’t go home again. And maybe you can’t play DQ9 after DQ11, either.
  • Speaking of Maps: The whole map system leading to unlimited, random dungeons after a game full of carefully created caves is an amazing swerve that obviously accounted for a significant amount of my playtime. That said, I was downright surprised to boot up my old cartridge and find there were a number of maps I never completed.

    Kind of redundant

    I’m sure it was just because I was too busy farming every other map in the game, but those Copper Ruins of Ruin are calling to me…

  • If you liked the MMORPG-lite features in DQ9, why don’t you play more MMORPGs? Every once in a great while, I downright enjoy getting drunk with my friends. However, that does not mean I want to become a heroin addict. I know my limits and addictions.
  • Explain your OG party member names: Robyn is my usual “female” nom de guerre, and appears often in other games. Rydia the green-haired mage requires absolutely no explanation. Felicia was initially a thief class, so she was named after a familiar Spider-Man character. And Misfit was a redhead named for another comic book character, this time a star from Gail Simone’s then-current run of Birds of Prey. I’m not certain if Misfit is still bungling around the DC Universe at this point, but someone should at least give her a try at appearing in one of the CW shows. She’d fit right in!
  • Choo chooFavorite Class: I had to work the hardest for Luminary, so that’s going to win. Also, in a game that somehow enticed me into caring about JRPG fashion, I’m always going to choose the most fashionable class.
  • Retro Challenge: There are a number of maps that feature the final bosses from previous Dragon Quest adventures. Considering I don’t think I had finished a single Dragon Quest game before DQ9’s release (does Rocket Slime count?), all of these bosses were new to me, and generally about as “nostalgic” as any other random monster. And that’s cool! It wound up encouraging me to play previous DQ titles, and now I can identify a Dhoulmagus from fifty paces.
  • Getting Around: The best airship available is a choo-choo. That is the best.
  • Did you know? As of this writing, DQ9 is the only mainline title to not see a revision/upgrade version of some kind. This is a crime.
  • Would I play again: …. Seriously?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Rondo of Blood! That’s the good one! Yay! Please look forward to it!

Achoo