Tag Archives: duck hunt

FGC #448 Mega Man X4 & Mega Man X5

MEGA!Let us consider a simple truth: Mega Man X4 was the culmination of three iterations on the Mega Man X formula. And Mega Man X itself was the culmination of the many adventures of baby, regular Mega Man. With this in mind, it is appropriate to recognize Mega Man X4 the pinnacle of the Mega Man X franchise, and, by association, an all-time high point for the thirty year old franchise as a whole. In short, Mega Man X4 is the peak of the Mega Man X formula.

And then there was Mega Man X5. Mega Man X5 was originally intended as the final Mega Man X chapter, so it would have been appropriate for that title to be the crowning achievement. It wasn’t. It had… issues. What were they? Well, they were all simple variations on the typical Mega Man formula, and every single one of them turned out for the worse. They may have seemed like good ideas at the time, but to get this pity party started, Mega Man never needed…

Ducking is boring

I'll be right hereFor years (decades!) people complained about dear Rock Man’s inability to duck. Every other platforming hero could do it! What’s wrong with the Blue Bomber!? No, that silly slide doesn’t count! Sure, that cuts a few inches off the vertical real estate, but it’s not a substitute for good ol’ ducking and sitting. We want to see those bullets sail right over Mega’s helmet, not ping right into the metal chump’s face!

And Mega Man X5 finally introduced ducking for our dear X (and any robotic heterosexual life mates that may be around, too). And, while a great many of us rejoiced at this news, it did not work as well in practice as we had expected. It turns out the gameplay that was never built for ducking just plain wasn’t built for ducking. Whether by a fault of the current designers, or as in an effort to maintain the action of the previously established titles, the Mavericks of Mega Man X5 did not find fun ways to accommodate ducking. By and large, the number one place you’d find ducking in Mega Man X5 is against bosses that require crouching to avoid a certain attack… and then all you’re doing is… ducking. Ducking is boring! It’s just sitting there! It’s much more dynamic when Mega has to dash or slide to avoid an oncoming barrage, and ducking simply encourages doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. It doesn’t have a place in giant robot fighting! We were wrong to ask for ducking!

And you know what else we were wrong for asking for?

Switching characters doesn’t work

Buds!Mega Man X4 was the first Mega Man X game to allow the player to choose Mega Man X or Zero for venturing through the entire adventure (X3 made Zero a playable character, but he was limited to about three total rooms before inevitably exploding). This was a godsend… but it came with the unfortunate caveat that you were tied to your chosen hero for the entire adventure. Within the opening seconds of Mega Man X4, you chose your fate, and if you made the “wrong” choice, you’d have to start everything over all over again. Granted, Mega Man X4 wasn’t the longest game in the world (even by Playstation 1 standards), but it was still rather annoying that wanting to use the X-Buster against Cyber Peacock would mean you’d never even see Zero.

Mega Man X5 rectified this mistake, and X and Zero were freely selectable at any time. You want to switch between the two super buds every other level? Feel free! …. Actually, maybe you should do exactly that, because if you don’t, you’re going to be screwed come the final areas…

Not all Replopids are created equal, and, unfortunately, X & Zero live in a meritocracy. As per Mega Man X tradition, permanent powerups can be collected across levels. Regrettably, the majority of these powerups do not apply to both Maverick Hunters. And, given a number of those powerups can only be accessed by individual heroes wearing specific armor or using specific abilities, it is very easy to “unbalance” the hunter duo. In the end, you might wind up with an X that possesses 7 health upgrades, and a Zero that can barely survive a stiff breeze. And, while this might be thematically relevant for the series, it is something else entirely for being able to “freely” switch between characters. If X is going to have five times the health of Zero, then why ever choose Zero? There’s no choice at all when one choice is a walk in the park, and the other is attempting to survive instant death.

And this pairs horribly with…

Bosses have levels (and that’s awful)

This is gonna be a whileIt seems there was an attempt to mitigate the “separate powerups” issue… but it went horribly wrong.

Each and every Maverick “boss” has the potential to impart additional items upon defeat. Depending on the level of the boss, you could receive absolutely nothing, or something amazing, like a weapon powerup coupled with a health increase. But how do boss levels work? Apparently they are tied to defeating other Mavericks and your own hunter’s rank, so the longer you take before tackling a stage, the stronger its boss will become. This all seems well and good until you get to the sad, sad way that levels are implemented with bosses: it only increases their health. It does not change their attack patterns, add extra attacks, nor increase the damage dealt. It simply turns average Mega Man bosses into damage sponges of Yiazmattian proportions.

And you better believe that makes the final boss rematch area an absolute waste of a Maverick Hunter’s time and energy.

This would be passable if the Mavericks gained new moves at different health levels, or switched “stances”, or… something! But, no, it’s just the same fight, but much longer. What’s more, we’re looking at a Mega Man 7/X situation where the best weapon for the job often activates some kind of special animation or reaction, so things take even longer. Nobody wants to stand around and wait for Dark Dizzy to get flying again! There’s a T-Rex I have to deal with in the next room!

Then again, there’s a strong chance I won’t get to the next room, because…

Modular Armor is unpleasant

It's a kind of armor...In Mega Man X4, you had the choice of obtaining one of two weapon powerups. Much like X3’s “choose your golden powerup” system, this gave the player a marginal choice in steering X’s development. It may have been a teeny tiny choice, but it was a choice all the same, and I’m sure there are some people that swear by one arm powerup over the other. After all, there are always going to be people that pick something other than plasma/are wrong.

X5 decided to run with that concept, and presented not one, not two, but three completely different armors for X. X could utilize the “fourth” armor from X4 (complete with plasma attack, natch), the highly mobile Falcon Armor, or the… well… whatever was happening with the Gaea Armor. The Gaea Armor seems like it was intended to be the “strong” armor to Falcon’s “fast” armor, but its abilities are all over the place. You can stick to the walls like Spider-Man! You can push blocks with a dash! You’re invulnerable to spikes!(!!!) The only drawback is that you can’t use special weapons, and you can’t air dash. That’s fine, right? No big deal! It’s not like entire levels are based around possessing either the air dash, double jump, or special weapons to make it through areas. It’s not like equipping the Gaea Armor will make certain areas almost completely unwinnable.

Oh? It does do that? And you can’t unequip an armor if it isn’t working out for a level? Oh. Well, that’s not very well-thought-out.

And that’s Mega Man X5 in a nutshell. Mega Man X4 was an excellent culmination of everything in the franchise, and Mega Man X5 decided to toss a lot of failed experiments into the mix. Later games would go on to perfect some of these decisions (Mega Man X8 is particularly good for character switching, and Mega Man Zero offered variety in boss fights), but, as a game that was intended as the finale of the X series, X5 falls far behind its predecessor.

Mega Man X4 might be the best in the franchise. Mega Man X5 veered too far off that path to be the best.

FGC #448 Mega Man X4 & Mega Man X5

  • GET IT!?System: Playstation initially, and then ported to everything that could support it through various compilations and digital releases. Including, but not limited to: every Sony platform, Gamecube, Xbox, Switch, and probably the N-Gage at some point.
  • Number of players: X and Zero may only be controlled by one player.
  • Other issues: Oh yeah, Mega Man X5 introduced Alia, who constantly interrupts the gameplay to provide important information like “shoot things” or “duck under boiling lava”. She’s largely a pest in this adventure, but I can’t fault the game too much for trying to be more inclusive for the kiddies that might need a little extra help. It was only the fifth game in the series, it’s not like there was any precedent for how to play the thing…
  • Further Issues: My bad, Mega Man X4 can’t be the best in the series, as it, like its descendants, has an annoying vehicle stage. But Mega Man X5 did introduce the concept of having to collect a bunch of stupid doodads on an instant death track, so it is still somehow worse.
  • Favorite Maverick (X4): Storm Owl. Say it with me now: Storm Owwwwwl.
  • Pew pewFavorite Maverick (X5): I appreciate that Mattrex is a weapons dealer before the virus drives him mad. When you’re an enormous, flaming dinosaur living in a volcano, there are only so many vocations open to you.
  • Did you know? I am required by law to note that the original names for the Mavericks of Mega Man X5 were all Guns ‘n Roses references, and they were suggested by the localizer’s wife. I should also note that all these names were dropped for the most recent X compilations, so Axel the Red is forever lost to time. More’s the pity.
  • Would I play again: Both of ‘em are a solid yes. Mega Man X5 may have made some poor choices, but it’s still a mega game. And X4 is exactly the kind of thing we’re all fighting for.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Cave Story! Oh boy! Caves! Please look forward to it!

Stupid devil

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

WeeeeeA couple of weeks ago, Random ROB rolled up with Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360. DD had been a game I purchased some time ago, as it was being sold as a special edition that came with a “free” duck call, bandana, and “bonus” trivia game. And the whole package was ten bucks. However, I had never played the game, and was at a loss as to how to approach the duckest of dynasties. Finally, it occurred to me that, like a fine wine, I should share that uncorking with friends, and, thus it was time to savor the screams of the innocent.

Please enjoy this stream of BEAT, Fanboy Master, Morning Song, muteki, and myself… surviving Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

0:00 – As all things must, we begin with a dramatic reading of Ozymandias.

4:35 – Our guests for the evening discover, for the first time, what we will be playing for the next two hours. I have never heard so much groaning.

10:00 – Morning Song correctly identifies the fact that Oldest Duck Dynasty has apparently been glued to a cup. Random Blue Cup quickly becomes our favorite character.

16:00 – BEAT shall be credited for coining “Duck Duck Revolution”, as every duck call appears to be a quick time event. So far, it is simply our job to summon ducks, and watch helplessly as they are gunned down en masse.

21:00 – muteki joins the stream as I battle some surprisingly agile bottles. Aiming in Duck Dynasty is as easy as pressing a button, so we basically have a superhero on our hands.

22:30 – BEAT offers a reading of The Ballad of Malone Duck, a story from my childhood. Because Twitter is a capricious beast, here is a transcribed version of the story:

So my dad used to have a neighbor named Malone. Malone was a widow by the time he was living next to my dad, and Malone was also batshit crazy. He once got drunk and lit his lawn ablaze, claiming that it was the best way to maintain the grass. So it goes without saying that Malone was also just an angry, angry man. He was pretty much every stereotype of “stay off my lawn” you’ve ever imagined. So one day, when my dad encountered a duck that was similarly angry, he named the duck, “Malone Duck”.

WeeeeeWe live in an area where ducks are seasonal, and also very territorial. The spot across from my grandmother’s home used to be marshland, and a flock of ducks returned every year. Among those ducks, every year, was Malone Duck. Malone Duck would be a dick to everybody. The rest of the ducks would just be chilling, and Malone Duck would swagger up, and start yelling at everybody. Humans? Cars? Dogs? Malone Duck was not having any of this. So, my dad, clearly a very sane individual, would occasionally yell back at Malone Duck, and, naturally, call him by name. The neighbors must have gotten a kick out of it, because it wasn’t too long before literally everyone in the area was talking about/to Malone Duck.

This was around when my dad was in his 30s, and, also, generally, around when I was born. Part of the reason my dad was yelling at Malone Duck was because he had a kid randomly sleeping at his grandma’s, and, come on, duck, that baby wants to get some sleep.

A few years later, I was maybe 4? 5? How old do you have to be to be playing in front of your grandma’s house fairly unattended? Somewhere in there. I’m a pretty young kid, and naturally, fascinated by these ducks across the street. So my grandmother, who was a very nice old lady who generally ignored everyone around her, decided to accompany me across the street to feed the ducks. This could have been something from a Rockwell painting. … Could have been… But, also given the vibe of this story, this could be the explanation of why I have only nine fingers. No, it wasn’t that bad, because some neighbors noticed the old lady and small child across the street, and dashed out shouting, “No! Don’t go over there! Malone is out!” My grandmother had completely missed my father’s long running feud with a duck, and assumed the crazy neighbor from years ago was out there, maybe burning the lawn again, and her panic response kicked in, so she decided to “calmly” escort her grandson back home. Unfortunately, this enraged Malone Duck, who decided it was time to clean house. If you can picture a grandmother who hadn’t run in thirty years and her very confused So much camograndson attempting to outpace a deranged duck, you have the right of the situation. But, thank God, Malone Duck did not understand doors, and he waddled back to his home.

Later, my parents came to pick me up from gramma’s, and my grandmother relayed the basics of our afternoon adventure. My father’s response was simple: “Oh. You met Malone? That duck is a jerk.”

So that’s why I don’t trust waterfowl.

33:15 – We all take a moment to acknowledge the terrible, terrible models on display in this game.

42:00 – The virtues of Morning Song’s dad’s abacus are discussed while I am forced to repel squirrels. Also, Fanboy Master makes mention of the official explanation for Final Fantasy 8’s SeeD acronym. It’s exactly as crazy as he describes.

ELEGANT MAN

49:30 – And here’s about where I’m forced to commit beaver genocide. I have no idea what the Duck Dynasties have against beavers, but shooting a swarm of good boys leads to the most tension this game could ever produce. Also, Morning Song speaks bird, which is pretty cool.

55:40 – I can walk on water. That seems pretty handy!

1:00:00 – Who doesn’t like fishing minigames? Aside from everyone ever? Commentator extraordinaire, Metal Man Master, mentions that apparently our player avatar is a real person in the Duck Dynasty canon. Who knew?

1:10:00 – Other terrible games are discussed, and I start shoving the Ducky Dynasties around with a car. I am downright amazed the programmers didn’t account for the player attempting to flatten these guys, as it is literally all I could think about an hour into this adventure.

Weeeee1:17:00 – And it took this long to get back to duck hunting, ostensibly the point of Duck Dynasty. Or maybe it isn’t? I’m not going to do any research on this. However, FBM does mention Duck Amuck for Nintendo DS by Wayforward, and I want to investigate that further.

1:27:00 – The return of the King (Cup)!

1:38:00 – If we hadn’t been completely ignoring the “story” of Duck Dynasty story mode, we might know more, but, lost on Duck Dynasty Property, the goals of our poor, beardless hero are discussed. Maybe he’s an Eagle Scout? Who hates beavers?

1:47:00 – This video would be longer, but we’re all pretty much dead already. Guess we’ll never know if more squirrels need to be assassinated.

1:49:00 – As we near the finale (which is just me turning it off), we discuss Cromartie High School, one of the best, funniest animes available. The joke I was trying desperately to remember was, “Milk is the main ingredient in yogurt, true or false?”

And that’s a Duck Dynasty, folks! Thanks again to everything that participated, and to viewers like you! Or something!

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

  • System: Xbox 360 for the stream, but it was also apparently available for Xbox One, PC, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4. There’s also a 3DS version, and I really want to see more of that.
  • Number of players: The box says it is two players, but I saw no real evidence of that. Story mode certainly isn’t two players! And I’m not subjecting another friend to such a thing!
  • More gameplay: Since I’m looking at the box anyway, apparently we squandered another avenue of adventure. “Sneak around the warehouse to trick Willie” is a bullet point that was apparently meant to sell this game, so sorry I missed that.
  • Hate youUncensored: It was mentioned on the stream that the rivers could not run red with the blood of fallen beavers because that would warrant a more intense ESRB rating, but the game is apparently rated T for Teen. This sounds like a duck conspiracy.
  • Favorite Duck Dynasty: It’s the cup. Duck Cup o’ Skittles.
  • Did you know? Apparently the whole “we hate beavers” thing is a running gag on the actual Duck Dynasty show. In one hilarious episode, one Ducky Dynasty leaves a dead beaver in the sink of another Duck Dynasty. I can’t imagine why I never watched this show!
  • Would I play again: Honestly, this game wasn’t as terrible as I had expected. It was still pretty bad, and I don’t want to play it ever again. But at least it was an interesting and playable kind of terrible. One star out of five, but that isn’t zero!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Beyond the Beyond for the Playstation.

Fuck.

FGC #119 Link’s Crossbow Training & Duck Hunt

chortleGather round and hear the tale of two Zappers and their sister games.

Duck Hunt is a game of humble origins. Most known for being packaged with the original Nintendo Entrainment System, Duck Hunt was regarded by many as “the other game on the Super Mario Bros. cartridge”. This was not an unfair assessment. Duck Hunt is very limited: you can shoot one duck, two ducks, or two clay pigeons. You have three bullets available for every round, and every level includes ten targets. And… that’s it. That’s the entire game. There is no “final boss”, no unlockable expert mode, nor even any more than two backgrounds. Duck Hunt is just Duck Hunt, and you can experience pretty much the entire game inside of thirty seconds.

It also seems to be one of the most highly regarded shooting videogames of all time. And if it isn’t number one universally, it’s certainly the most popular Nintendo ever had to offer.

Then there’s Link’s Crossbow Training. Putting aside the worst name conceivable (“training” is kind of a watch word with most gamers), LCT is pretty robust. Every one of Link’s nine levels consists of three separate stages with three unique challenges. While all the events feature shooting of some kind (that is rather the point), these challenges can vary wildly, from simple target practice to more diverse “Link defense” style sessions. The most interesting stages are likely the run ‘n gun stages that, basically, attempt to turn The Legend of Zelda into a First Person Shooter.

In fact, according to developer interviews, Link’s Crossbow Training started with the concept of making the FPS genre (then pretty much dominating the West with the likes of Halo) more palpable to Asian markets. Night of the whateverI’m not certain why anyone thought Link treading the same ground as Samus Aran Prime would make that much of a difference, but I suppose the elf is a system seller. Whatever the reason, it appears that Link’s Crossbow Training started its development as a much more complicated creature, but eventually shed much of its content before becoming, essentially, a hardware demo.

Link’s Crossbow Training was packaged with the Wii Zapper, a controller peripheral that, unlike some other odd Nintendo peripherals, should have been a slam dunk. The Wii was the most popular video game system in history, and it gained much of that popularity thanks to a reliance on “real” gameplay. You know how to bowl, right? Just swing your arm like this, release about there, and, see? You use this WiiMote just like you would with a real bowling ball, and that’s the game! Grandpa loves it! Similarly, the “Wii Gun” should have sold like gangbusters, because it would work on the exact same principle. Guns are “easy” because they’re just point and shoot, which is perfect for the Wii. Except… the Wii Zapper was about as popular as the Virtual Boy, and Link’s Crossbow Training went down with it.

Now, the most immediately obvious culprit for the Neo Zapper’s failure would likely be its design. Take a look at this thing…

ZAP

It doesn’t exactly scream “gun”. It has a trigger, yes, but its attempt to incorporate the Wii Nunchuk into the design absolutely destroys the typical weapon silhouette. And speaking of the ‘chuck, the Wii Zapper may have been packaged with a game, but it didn’t come with an “actual” controller, so you were dropping a Jackson on an oddly shaped hunk of plastic. The Wii Zapper was never required for anything, and, complete with the Wiimote’s natural “trigger”, you could easily make the argument that the Zapper was never necessary. I always say that people don’t buy new gaming consoles because they want something new, they buy new systems because they’re required to play new games. The same could be said of peripherals, because who wants to buy (and learn!) a new device just for the hell of it? People hate new things!

But if you really want to understand why Link’s Crossbow Training and the Wii Zapper failed, go back and play old school Duck Hunt, and see why that’s still the gold standard.

BANGIncidentally, when I say “play old school Duck Hunt”, I mean you should trash your 70” flat screen, forsake the virtual console, and break out the old, fat cathode ray tube television of a bygone era. Assuming your spine isn’t crushed lugging out the ol’ cube, you will find a very different Duck Hunt from what is available on the WiiU. For the unaware, the NES Zapper requires an ancient television because its “light gun” technology is based entirely on that familiar screen flash seen during Zapper games, so, when there’s modern TV lag involved, the ducks become more invincible than a chain chomp. But without lag, there’s instant feedback on your duck murdering abilities, and you know how well you’re shooting practically as soon as you pull the trigger. There’s that feeling of delayed satisfaction on the WiiU, and there’s no “flash” on that version, either. Couple that with a squishy Wiimote trigger (as opposed to the NES Zapper’s resistant plastic), and you’ve got a dramatically less visceral experience.

You’re shooting a “gun” in both versions, but only the NES boasts the feeling of a gun.

And it’s a situation where the subconscious notices something is different (whether it be right or wrong), and you innately react accordingly. Take a look at the difference here…

ZAP

There are ducks bearing down on you, threatening your family and eating up your bread like they own the place. Choose your weapon. The winner? It’s inevitably the pistols, and not whatever that white thing is supposed to be. And what the hell is that wannabe bazooka?

Taken on its own, Link’s Crossbow Training is a subjectively better game than Duck Hunt. It’s a video game in every sense of the word, while Duck Hunt comes off as more of a toy. Link’s Crossbow Training is a game of football, Duck Hunt is a cup tied to a ball on a string. But Duck Hunt is always going to be more remembered and revered, because it was right on target with its peripheral and gameplay. Duck Hunt may be limited, but what it does, it does absolutely flawlessly.

Link’s Crossbow Training is a flawed game. Duck Hunt is a perfect experience.

FGC #119 Link’s Crossbow Training & Duck Hunt

  • Shoot their rocks offSystem: Duck Hunt is for the NES, though it’s now been rereleased for the WiiU. Link’s Crossbow Training is exclusively for the Wii, though it would make perfect sense for it to resurface on the WiiU… if anyone liked it.
  • Number of Players: Duck Hunt is obviously at its best when you’re competing against fellow hunters (and not just that stupid dog). Link’s Crossbow Training supports multiple players… but oddly, not one single human being has ever suggested doing such a thing.
  • Retrocade: Partial credit for this article goes to my buddy Sean, who hosted a… what’s the proper noun here… Duck Hunt Orgy at local event Beerfest last weekend or so. He was very quick to identify why Duck Hunt still draws a crowd, even after three decades. Sean is also my (video game) dealer, so you might be able to credit him for much more of this blog.
  • Speaking of Zappers: Did anyone ever try Konami’s LaserScope? You know, their NES Zapper alternative headset that required shouting to fire? That thing sounded absolutely insane, even to Kiddy Goggle Bob.
  • Duck Hunt Memories: My childhood neighbors had a NES before I did, and Duck Hunt was frequently the game of choice. Due to… disagreements… there was a pillow on the floor a very measured length away from the TV, and, if you were paying Duck Hunt, you had to stay within the bounds of the pillow. Moving the pillow for any reason (even vacuuming) was grounds for expulsion from the continent.
  • Number of times we tried to shoot the dog: ∞. Where’s Duck Hunt Vs. when you need it?
  • Flappy DeathFavorite Link’s Crossbow Training Stage: There’s a level where you can shoot Ooccas… but you’re penalized for shooting them. This is the secret reason LCT is a failure.
  • Did you know? Supposedly Miyamoto himself suggested that, in order to justify the “gun” mechanic in a Zelda game, the game that would be Link’s Crossbow Training could feature a Link that accidently time traveled to a future epoch. This idea was, sadly, rejected immediately.
  • Would I play again? Duck Hunt is a yes; Link’s Crossbow Training is a no. I probably could have said that before even playing either game, but replaying Link’s Crossbow Training really drove home how… forgettable the entire experience can be. All the parts are there, it just never… clicks. The NES Zapper, however, clicks spectacularly and often.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Lego Star Wars the Video Game! Featuring adorable minifig Darth Maul! Please look forward to it!