Tag Archives: fire emblem

FGC #637 Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees

TEKKENTekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees is disappointing for a few key reasons. First of all, the game sucks and playing it is the digital equivalent of having your ears fed to a particularly smelly lawnmower. But more importantly, the Tekken franchise has an amazingly huge cast of characters, and Nina Williams is about 70th from the top on rankings of exciting characters. She’s the woman! And she’s a spy! That’s it! Tekken has at least two Taekwondo-master street fighters, and neither of them would have to infiltrate a cruise ship to produce an engaging videogame.

So, with this in mind, we are going to look at all the potential Tekken spin-off titles that could have taken the place of Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees in 2005. Even as of the release of Tekken 5 (a year before Death by Degrees), Tekken had an extremely deep bench of fighters and potential genres.

Oh, and we’re going to ignore the Mishima family, too. They have had their time to shine, and we don’t need to see that family feud featured in Tekken spin-offs. Just consider anytime you play a game where “Tekken Force” exists to be their natural byproduct.

So with those rules set, maybe we could look at…

Tekken’s Bryan Fury in God of Rage

Friendly dudeWho are you: Bryan was introduced in Tekken 3 while the franchise was just growing out of its “rival roster” phase from Tekken 1 & 2. Replacing Bruce Irvin, Bryan was the obvious unrepentant criminal meant to contrast super cop Lei Wulong. But, right from the get go, the developers decided to emphasize that “unrepentant” aspect, and, as early as Tekken 3’s ending, he became an unstoppable vengeance zombie that would destroy everyone and every thing in his path. Pretty sure I saw the dude tear a tank in half… and wouldn’t that be a great concept for a game?

Elevator Pitch: It’s God of War, but with a regular dude. Fists are your main method of beating ‘em up, but you can grab anything from small firearms to tank turrets for additional carnage. If there is a single living thing left in the time zone after completing a level, you do not get A rank.

Other Cameos: We could throw Lei Wulong in there for a recognizable antagonist hero, but maybe make him stick to cutscenes. We can’t kill a big boy like him, and it goes against the spirit of a Bryan Fury game to leave any man standing. Depending on where we want to be in the timeline, either mad scientist Dr. Abel or good-mad scientist Dr. Bosconovitch can work in a support role. Or Bryan can be wrecking a robot army invented by either doctor if the producers want to be cowards. There are options!

Likelihood of success: High. You cannot go wrong with a HD game featuring a white dude on a rampage. And Bryan is as white as it gets!

Tekken’s Julia Chang in Aztec Tomb Raider

She's athleticWho are you: Julia was introduced in Tekken 3 as the “next generation” replacement for Michelle Chang. Both characters seemed to fill the slot of “one Native American per fighting game”, though they both separated themselves from the rest of the 90’s dudes by being dudettes with exactly zero thunder powers. Weird! The Changs were also unique for having an obvious intellectual inclination over their “spiritual” cousins. This all adds up to two important facts: Julia would be ideal for exploring centuries-old ruins across Mexico, and she would have the brains to solve ancient traps/puzzles contained therein.

Elevator Pitch: It’s Tomb Raider with historically-accurate tombs. Or… ruins? Is anyone actually buried at Chichén Itzá? No matter. Let Julia explore the place. If you want to put an emphasis on pummeling some thieving imperialists, you can also include Julia’s secret luchador identity as a powerup. Take ‘em down, Jaycee!

Other Cameos: Ogre was established as a Native American monster, so sealing and/or (accidentally) releasing him could be the entire point of the exercise. If nothing else, his True Ogre form would make for an interesting boss fight somewhere. Raven could also cameo as a “rival” tomb raider, as he is agile, adept, and willing to put in the work for some extra scratch.

Likelihood of success: Probably medium. Julia isn’t the same draw as a number of other Tekken characters, and “explore ruins, solve puzzles” as a genre just hasn’t been the same since someone went and invented escape rooms. Still, it is extremely videogame-y, so there is the possibility for a hit.

Tekken’s Tiger Jackson in Dancing All Night

Also Jimmy can come, tooWho are you: Tiger Jackson has never had much of a backstory in the Tekken universe proper. He usually shows up for cameos and “dream match” games, and he has existed as little more than a costume for years. That said, we do know one thing about Tiger Jackson: he loves to dance!

Elevator pitch: It’s a rhythm game with the fantastic Tekken soundtrack. The end. It worked for Persona, it will work for Tekken.

Other Cameos: Tiger Jackson’s body buddy, Eddy Gordo, is an obvious first choice for the second player. Similarly, Christie Monteiro has to be the lady of the party. Beyond that? Hell, just go ahead and include everybody. Who doesn’t want to see Wang Jinrei shake a leg to Eternal Paradise?

Likelihood of success: High with a very specific audience. The Tekken franchise isn’t known for its music, but I have never seen a fighting game fan disparage the various Tekken soundtracks. So an opportunity to interact with these banger ditties in a format that isn’t exclusively about punching people in the face? You know there is a huge percentage of the gaming population that would jump on a chance to go all Theatrhythm on this fighting franchise.

Tekken’s Kuma in Bear Rancher

Is bearWho are you: Okay, technically Kuma is involved in the Mishima “main story” of Tekken, but he does not have any Mishima blood, as he is a bear. And, more importantly, the “current” Kuma is not the original Kuma, but the son of the previous Kuma. What does this mean? It means Heihachi raised at least one bear from infancy to become an unstoppable fighting force. And if you do not want to play a game where you work on raising the stats of a bear until it can fight humans in a fighting tournament, then I don’t want to talk to you.

Elevator pitch: It’s Monster Rancher, but with the greatest monster of all: a bear. Do odd jobs with Kuma, work your way up through a few kiddy battle leagues, and eventually become the greatest bear/bear trainer that has ever been. Maybe you can even dress up your bear somewhere in there.

Other cameos: Tekken has quite the menagerie of animal fighters, so you have a lot of options for opponents and potential training partners. Panda would make the most obvious rival (complete with her own trainer, Xiaoyu), but Roger or Roger Jr. of the prestigious fighting kangaroo line are also available. If you want to get crazy, go ahead and include Alex the boxing raptor. It feels like a raptor would be too overpowered, but those boxing gloves should keep things under control.

Likelihood of success: 50/50. Videogame history has proven that any animal raising sim is a crap shoot. Which will it be: the next Pokémon, or the next Digimon? Princess Maker, or its army of imitators? It is hard to say how popular Kuma Rancher could be, but it does seem like the kind of release that would reward an audience for bearing with his foibles.

Tekken’s Jack in Jack Wars

Such musclesWho are you: Jack has been a mainstay of the Tekken franchise from the beginning. And, while there has been some canon finagling to confirm that every Jack since Tekken 2’s Jack-2 has had some variation on the same consciousness, Jack is most popularly known as a plural entity. There have been many, many Jacks built across the Tekken timeline, and he has proven to be an army all on his own on multiple occasions. So why not get something like a TRPG together where literal armies of Jacks fight? Seems like a good way to spend the afternoon.

Elevator pitch: It’s Advance Wars, but instead of tanks and soldiers, it is all Jacks. Or maybe we could include a few other Tekken bots…

Other cameos: The opening stages would inevitably be Jack-on-Jack combat (Jack, P-Jack, and Gun Jack have an evident progression), but how about later levels include other notable robots? Lee/Violet could be hatching a new plan with his Combot, so it seems Jack will have to deal with squares occupied by robots that can emulate anyone else in the franchise. And speaking of fighting mimics, enchanted training dummy Mokujin has a family of wooded buddies, so they would be an excellent rival army, too. And what’s that? There is also the metal Tetsujin, too? Be the true king of iron fists, Jack!

Likelihood of success: Low. Tactical RPGs have gotten popular in recent years, but only in franchises where all the army units can kiss. There is no smooching for Jack, so it is unlikely he will see any success outside of the battlefield. Then again, not like Tekken is completely alien to grid armies

Tekken’s Jun Kazama in Secret Origins

Sure looks familiarWho are you: Jun Kazama appeared in Tekken 2, fell in love with the game’s final boss, bore an heir, Jin Kazama, and then disappeared forever. Despite the fact that Ogre supposedly had a prodigious murder count in Tekken 3, every one of his “confirmed kills” has returned to service in the intervening games, and now Jun is the only one still in the grave. Or is she? The Tekken franchise could be trying to pull a fast one here, which could lead to a great…

Elevator Pitch: It’s the Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core of Tekken. Sometimes all a game needs is a decent story, and passable gameplay to keep things going. Jun was established as an excellent fighter and Wildlife Organization Officer, so there are plenty of ways to get her out and active before her featured time in Tekken 2. And then the story can follow a young, single, psychic mother as she performs the final missions that eventually led to her child being an orphan. Just make the game remotely engaging in the meanwhile, and it doesn’t matter if the whole thing has a downer ending.

Other cameos: Aside from including a Kazuya that could be showing a little more of his tender side (have to find some kind of excuse for why these crazy kids got together), Unknown is another obvious pick for Jun’s story. It is clear that creepy, goo-covered creature has always had some kind of connection to Jun, and there is no reason we can’t just bite the bullet and make her the Genesis to Jun’s Zack. Bonus points if Unknown is super talkative before some tragic/inevitable horrible accident.

Likelihood of success: Something like 70%. Like all fans, dedicated Tekken admirers will buy damn near anything if it includes the all-important lore. On the other hand, not including such in a fighting game in a fighting game franchise may be a bit of a miss. Can Tekken 8 just be all about the search for Jun through massive pummeling? It might be a nice direction for the Kazama kids.

Tekken’s Yoshimitsu in Weapon Fighter

I know this oneWho are you: Yoshimitsu is a warrior ninja that has arrived for every Tekken tournament in one form or another. His armor style may change between episodes, but one thing is always constant about Yoshimitsu: he has got a sword, and he isn’t afraid to use it. And wouldn’t it be nice if he were in a fighting game where it did not seem unsporting to whack an unarmed man with a katana?

Elevator pitch: A weapons-based fighting game starring…. Oh… Oh wait. I just invented Soulcalibur, didn’t I? Crap… uh…. Um…

Other cameos: Apparently even KOS-MOS could appear in this alternate franchise.

Likelihood of success: Proven to be infinity. I guess there is at least one way to make a successful Tekken spinoff…

FGC #637 Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death by Degrees

  • This sucksSystem: Playstation 2, and then never seen anywhere ever again. Do not expect this to appear on any Tekken collections or virtual consoles.
  • Number of players: A proper fighting game includes two players, and even good beat ‘em ups manage to pull off the same. Death by Degrees cannot be good in any conceivable way, so it is single player.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is so bad, you guys. It is hard to believe that the same franchise that has returned such a consistently good series of fighting games is responsible for something like the worst beat ‘em up/action title on the Playstation 2. Everything about this feels so… wrong. The simple act of punching is a chore, and punching is the number one thing you should be doing. Mix in Resident Evil-style “puzzles” that would never stump a kindergartener, and… It’s just so bad!
  • Favorite Weapon: I guess it is nice when you get to swing around a katana for no reason. I mean… the reason is you want dudes dead, but this seems like a weird game to include random swords.
  • Say something nice: The hacking mini games are at least inoffensive. There isn’t, like, a lose condition where your controller convulses and transforms to kick you square in the nuts. That’s nice.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I am sure it is mentioned on the stream somewhere, but this is the first game I purchased, played up to the tutorial, and then quit because the tutorial was too annoying. In fact, this may be the only game that holds that distinction. So I have not liked this game for a good, long while.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Yes, this game was played on the Even Worse stream on two separate occasions.


    Stream Date: June 15, 2021


    Stream Date: January 11, 2022

    No, I will not be streaming it again. Apparently I was less than a third of the way through the game, and there is no way I can deal with that anymore.

  • Did you know? Heihachi and Anna Williams are the only “guest” characters in the game beyond Nina, and Heihachi mostly only appears in phone calls. A possible collection of some of the most recognizable fighters in the genre here, and someone decided all we needed were a couple of people with bad hair.
  • Would I play again: I already answered that question, and I will not entertain it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man Legends 2! Speaking of games from streams, it is time to see the final adventure of Rock Man Dash! Please look forward to it!

THE MEAT FIGHT
Never before have I been so upset with a meat fight

World of Final Fantasy Part 08

Intervention Quests Part 1
Initial Stream: 11/10/20



3:00 – Everyone had two weeks to vote on whether or not they wanted to see additional story progress or the Final Fantasy character vignettes/side quests… and I didn’t see a single vote. Turnout is terrible this year. So we held a vote on the stream, and fanboymaster and BEAT both agreed it was time to hit the Final Fantasy Intervention Quests. As a reminder, these are all “out of time” moments provided by The Girl Who Forgot Her Name, and our heroes only pitch hit for the featured Final Fantasy character during battle, and the rest of these sections are simple “slice of life” stories (that often involve giant, malevolent sea monsters). First up are Tidus and Yuna aping some Final Fantasy X plot beats.

16:00 – The “bullet points” for the Intervention Quests are going to be mostly here to let you know when a new vignette starts. At approximately the sixteen minute mark, we are discussing “politics” and/or Quistis while Squall gets a featured story about future planning.

25:00 – Discussing Tidus while Faris and Edgar discuss something other than Tidus. And then it’s time to point out how Edgar is a pedophile.

33:00 – Terra encounters a certain unpleasant octopus while another bot invades the chat.

39:00 Bartz and Rikku is the crossover event you didn’t ever know you needed. It is mostly ignored in favor of Dragonball Z discussion.

46:23 –


What actually happened in the plot:

All Intervention Quests are canon in World of Final Fantasy, but are (almost) all considered “sidequests”, so this is all “optional” plot. That said, here’s what happened in this update:

• Yuna and Tidus, who met for the first time as part of the main plot, bond over repelling Bismarck (not the nazi ship) from Besaid.

• Squall, unlike his fellow Final Fantasy buddies, doesn’t have future plans, which worries his bulbous little head. Squall and Shelke go on a monster hunting mission, and Shelke tricks Squall into caring and planting a garden. This somehow makes Squall smile.

• Faris’s ship is attacked by Omega Bane, and she tracks it back to a potential dimensional gateway at the center of the desert. Edgar is familiar with the area, so he banishes Omega Bane with the help of Vivi.

• Terra teams up with, and then realizes she must destroy, Ultros, the least prime octopus.

• Bartz and Rikku try to rob Ifrit’s cave, but wind up inadvertently becoming friends with the fiery summons when they team up to repel some behemoths.


Intervention Quests Part 2
Initial Stream: 11/10/20


1:00 – Rikku is sailing the seven seas, and, hey, we’re actually discussing Rikku! It’s game related! It’s a game related, on-topic discussion! That hardly ever happens!

5:00 – Eiko makes a new wolf friend, so let’s talk about Justice League. The animated series, to be clear, as that is clearly the best iteration of the ol’ hero club.

10:00 – Tifa meets some zealots. How old would you be in the Final Fantasy universe? And would your hat stay on your head?

16:00 – Yuna and “The Sad Spiral” sounds like a good time. Final Fantasy characters need therapy, and so do we after discussing Fountains of Wayne.

26:00 – After some wedding discussion, here are Yuna and Rydia in a Volcano. Then BEAT gets hungry, and we fight Lady Ifrit.

32:00 – Cloud and Lightning are palling around while we discuss terrible streamers, teenage sins, and how we’re all attractive. Also, please remember the duck stream.

What actually happened in the plot:

• Rikku battles the Mimic Queen and discovers that literally all the treasures across the sea were a bunch of (now dead) mimics.

• Eiko investigates a “weird feeling” and discovers her ancestors’ “Fenrir” mirage, Elefenrir, who offers a cryptic warning.

• Tifa fights off a gigantic, robotic hand, and tells some religious fanatics that Enna Kros helps those that help themselves.

• Yuna helps Ami of Green Gables (thanks, Zef), a poor woman who wants to sacrifice herself for the good of her hometown. Valefor’s non-union equivalent, Nirvalefor, guides Yuna to help Ami by defeating Ultima Weapon. Thus, Ami no longer has to be a martyr, and she didn’t even have to lose her imaginary dream-boyfriend to do it.

• Yuna and Rydia enter a volcano to find Ifreeta, Ifrit’s cousin who has been possessing humans to be a general nuisance in the world. The two summoners banish the fire cat girl.

• Cloud and Lightning investigate a mirage (Iron Muscles) menacing a local village, but apparently Sephiroth has been in the area repelling the mirage. Cloud ventures off on his own to hunt his mortal enemy, but Terra convinces Cloud to go back and help Lightning. Cloud and Lightning destroy Iron Muscles, and Sephiroth is never seen.

Intervention Quests Part 3
Initial Stream: 11/10/20



0:30 – Vivi and Golems accompany a brief description of quests that have gone before. Long story short: when boiled down to their base archetypes, nearly every male Final Fantasy protagonist becomes Zidane. It’s weird!

5:00 –


13:30 – Discussing Fire Emblem/Lucina /Gachas while Quistis and Squall hang out in Garden.

16:00 – Ample Vigour arrives, and then leaves us wanting as Einhänder shows up again.

20:00 – Penguin time means we have to repeat a whole dungeon. There’s crying underwater from that stupid queen and yours truly, as this Intervention Quest contains an entire “level” that we already completed once. And it wasn’t that good the first time! Regardless, this appears to be the only Intervention Quest that is so intensive, so it’s at least noteworthy.

28:00 – “We’re going all in on this fried bread thing.”

41:00 – And the moral of the story is we’re never going to stop talking about that mysterious liquor lady.

What actually happened in the plot:

• Vivi stops a golem uprising and decides to live another day, confident he is not a mere golem (which makes sense, as golems in this game are basically just Pokémon).

• Celes tries to cheer up the still-recovering-from-vampirey folks of Tome Town by performing an opera, but Ultros arrives, and messes it all up. Ultros is repelled, but, sorry, Celes won’t be singing in this one.

• It is confirmed that Balamb Garden is apparently a mirage, Eden, even if stuff discovered there, like the Gunblade, could be Cogna related.

• Shantotto attempts to open a secret vault by killing the Quacho Queen, but Lann and Reynn convince the Quacho Queen to open the door without bloodshed. Unfortunately, there’s a monster in the vault that could potentially explode and crack the continent in half… but Shantotto uses a spell to disarm the volatile kraken. The day is saved, and our heroes loot the vault.

Intervention Quests Part 4
Initial Stream: 11/10/20

00:00 – There is some interesting discussion regarding the production of Marvel vs. Capcom/Howard the Duck opposite Bartz and Gigglemesh saving a town. Eventually, there is discussion of Spider-Man arcade, a game near and dear to my videogame preserving heart.

8:00 – Additional discussion of Marvel vs. Capcom and what could have happened to Street Fighter 3 while Snow and Celes do… nothing.

14:30 – Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur are not Edgar and Vivi, but they’re not Primal, either.

19:00 – There’s no battle in this vignette, just cutscenes. This is weird, and prompts a discussion regarding Mr. Bucket, and how he wants you to put your balls in his mouth.

21:00 – Faris, Ifrit, and we’re apparently not worshipping Satan.

25:00 – Refia and Sherlotta venture into the snow while we discuss children’s cartoons and fetishes and let’s not talk about Totally Spies.

30:00 – We are done talking about Goodfeathers and how much we hate aspects of Animaniacs just in time to watch the ongoing adventures of Undead Princess.

34:00 Goblin Princess and the immortal question: is high school worse than working in The Simpsons writing room?

What actually happened in the plot:

• Gigglemesh and Bartz are more or less tricked by Bahamutian Soldiers, but team up to recover a victory.

• Snow and Celes fight Gigglemesh over absolutely nothing. Typical crossover fight, I suppose.

• Edgar and Vivi win over the support of the Figaro guard ostensibly through Vivi being annoying.

• Faris sponsors “Underdog Day”, a day when her crew can challenge the captain for control of the ship. An overeager moogle accidently summons Ifrit, whom Faris has to knock off the plank.

• Refia and Sherlotta battle Undead Princess (another refugee from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time), and then hire her to promote the Inn. Then Sherlotta and Undead Princess work together to stop some Metalliskulls that are haunting the area.

• Princess Sarah was kidnapped by Princess Goblin, who apparently has a crush on Warrior of Light. Warrior of Light lets Princess Goblin down easy, and rescues Princess Sarah.

Additional note that seems to explain a lot: In game, there is a running encyclopedia for characters encountered in World of Final Fantasy. The entry for Undead Princess reads:

Hey, Wait a Second…
You may be wondering why so many characters from the CRYSTAL CHRONICLES series have been popping up in Grymoire. Well, take a look at the person doing character design, and you may have your answer.

So that solves at least one unsolved mystery of World of Final Fantasy.

Intervention Quests Part 5
Initial Stream: 11/10/20


00:00 – Refia tries to build a bridge while we discuss how to own people on the internet. Or maybe we’re just looking at Dril tweets again. Or Spider-Man?

6:00 – Time for (what I’m pretty sure is) the DLC event. It is not a Gundam.

9:30 – Kishi joins us. Kishi is not a Gundam.

22:00 – We finally win as Omega God bonks over.


“He” is now Ted Woo, author of Shadow Mad.

31:00 – Kishi requests a repeat performance, so we’re watching the Faris bit again. Let’s consider this an example of how you can repeat these quests unlimited times.

36:00 – In an effort to torture fanboymaster, we close this stream out by taking a look at the World of Final Fantasy pokédex.

What actually happened in the plot:

• Refia tries to build an ice bridge, so she recruits Sherlotta to additionally recruit Shiva. The bridge is built, but doesn’t last long.

• Enna Kros has a conversation with Alexander, the gigantic mirage currently serving as a motionless bridge. Apparently they fought “for the throne” at one point. Eden of Balamb Garden, Lute of Ragnarok in Cornera, and Midgardian Ormr (presumably) of Midgar are all mirages, too. Alexander had Omega God hanging out on it in a pocket dimension (or something), so Enna Kros summoned Lann and Reynn to fight him off. Omega God is defeated and captured, and now, having completed all available Intervention Quests, Lann and Reynn are free to journey on to the endgame.

Next time on World of Final Fantasy: This stream was the same week I got married, so BEAT is responsible for the Bad End.

FGC #562 Q*Bert

No colorLet’s look at the evolution of gaming/Q*Bert over the years.

In 1982, gaming was just taking its first, tentative steps towards Gaming as we know it. Pac-Man and Pong had blazed the trail with their joystick/wheely thing controls, but now we were seeing new and innovative ways to play. Kangaroo, for instance, was a game that was very similar to the likes of Donkey Kong, but added an all-important offensive action to its heroine’s repertoire. Kangaroo could punch out monkeys and apples alike, and one could argue this simple act was the start of “videogame violence” for years to come (sorry, dead monkeys, you gotta start somewhere). And speaking of offensive options, Dig Dug first started digging in ’82, and he had the ability to “pump up” his opponents until they popped. This had the dual purpose of inspiring a generation of bizarre fetishes and featuring a hero that always had the ability to turn the tables on his opponents. Unlike Pac-Man or Mario that had to rely on sporadically distributed powerups, Taizo the Digger was hunted and hunter all in one. This would become the norm for practically all of gaming to come.

But if one game presciently granted a glimpse of gaming of the future, it was Pitfall. Nearly four decades ago, Pitfall Harry explored a large world of tricks, traps, and treasure. Harry had much to do in his (certainly not Mayan) adventure, and, while his moveset was limited, it was contextually sensitive to all sorts of challenges. Harry didn’t simply jump over opponents, he leapt to swing across vines, or hopped over the heads of gators. Pitfall was a revelation for everything its protagonist (and by extension, the player) could do, even if this was still the era of extremely blocky dudes puttering around monochrome backgrounds.

Lookin' GoodAnd 1982 also saw the release of Q*Bert. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops.

Ten years later, in 1992, the face of gaming had irrevocably changed. The arcade gave way to the domination of the console, and now Sega and Nintendo were battling it out. But there was the Personal Computer, too! Wolfenstein 3D had just been released, and the whole of the FPS genre was just starting to congeal into Doom (to be released the next year). For some, the “3-D” nature of first person shooters promised to be what “the future of gaming” was always expected to be: fully immersive fighting (through the legions of Hell/nazis, apparently).

But away from the monitor and back at the television, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was pushing the boundaries of the genre that had become known as platforming. Sonic could run, jump, and dash; but he did it at speeds that could not have even been imagined ten years prior. And this latest Sonic allowed for two player simultaneous play! Just like in those competitive fighting games that had been making the scene! And Mortal Kombat was the most prominent “new fighter” of ’92. Now there was a radical shift in gaming! Kangaroo might have punched out a monkey, but, for better or worse, she never tore the head off of an opponent. And look at all those buttons! “Punch” is a thing of the past: Sub-Zero had a variety of punches, kicks, and fireballs (well, snowballs) at his disposal. You didn’t just need an instruction manual for your average fighting game, you needed a strategy guide (thanks, Nintendo Power!).

Good bless QBertBut while we’re considering strategy, let us also consider Super Mario Kart. Mario had cameoed in a sports title here or there over the years (he got really good at Golf, apparently), but he mostly just starred in his own adventures that involved running and jumping. Super Mario Kart was a great success as a fun racing game, but it also showcased how a videogame mascot could shift all their normal “verbs”, but still be unmistakably that familiar mascot. Mushrooms can make you super tall, or they can give you a speed boost. Turtle shells can become projectiles divorced from their turtles. And anyone that has ever played any Mario Kart knows the difference between a Starman that allows you to mow down goombas and one that allows you to speed to the finish line. Mario Kart showed that even the most rigidly defined mascot could be anything, and paved the way for the Sonic Racing or unprecedented crossovers of today.

And then there was Q*Bert for Gameboy, and Q*Bert 3 for Super Nintendo, both released in 1992. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, six punch buttons, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. Sometimes there are a variety of new colors and backgrounds, though. You know, at least on the system that has color.

Let’s hop forward seven years. By the time 1999 rolled around, the “mascot wars” of the previous console generation had concluded, and newcomer Sony was riding high with the Playstation and the serious, cinematic Final Fantasy franchise. This was the year we were finally going to see the sequel to Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy: Whatever, and it pushed the boundaries for what was expected of the JRPG genre. Have you ever heard of Triple Triad? Guardian Forces? Dog Missiles? If you haven’t, don’t worry about it, it was all only around for one game, but it did establish that you could have complicated battle systems that were only relevant for one title. Fight, magic, item wasn’t the only fish in the sea, anymore, let’s get ready to get some gambits up in here!

Go QBert!This was also a time when gaming was getting more serious… but “serious” as more of a teenager’s definition. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater allowed a “real human” avatar to perform intricate skateboarding tricks in a universe that apparently had unlimited and instant healthcare. Silent Hill allowed a player to explore the depths of the human psyche in a world that was going to be complete in a few years with the introduction of a certain pyramid headed fellow that really knew how to swing around half a pair of scissors. Or maybe you just wanted to be the Driver, and cruise around realistic (enough) cities? In a way, these games were just as big on the fantasy as Mario (no, you cannot drive a car into a building in reality and continue to have a good time), but they were a lot more “real” than anything Pitfall Harry ever did.

And if you wanted some fantasy, don’t worry, you still had the likes of Ape Escape or Donkey Kong 64 to hold you over. DK64 saw the collectathon at its most… collecty, and showcased all the different ways Kongs can run, jump, and shoot on their way to an ultimate goal of wringing out 12,000,000 (monotonous) hours of gameplay. And Ape Escape was no simple monkey game, it was a sneak and capture event closer to Metal Gear than Donkey Kong. Even visually “childish” games in 1999 weren’t so simple.

And then there was Q*Bert for Playstation. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. This time there was an adventure mode, but that was just an excuse to stick cinema scenes on either side of a world. Everything else was just Q*Bert hops.

BERT!The following five years allowed for a number of innovations in gaming. In 2004 we saw Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was the first Grand Theft Auto to feature extensive customization to its grand, open world. It also had planes, bazookas, and the opportunity for your C.J. to cosplay as The Notorious B.I.G. for the entire adventure. It is arguable that this Grand Theft Auto went too far into the whacky territory after its sequels eventually tried to rein everything back in with sad Russians in GTA4 and sad dads in GTA5, but the Saints Row franchise carried that whacky football straight to the end zone. Gaming had started goofy, become serious, and then migrated back to goofy all over again.

And speaking of marginally goofy, this was the year we saw Fable, which touted a rich morality system and a story that was different every time you played it. Did that actually happen? Well, not really, but it did seemingly start the trend of games that bet their whole asses on save baby/eat baby morality. It was no longer enough to run, jump, and punch; now you had to determine whether or not you were doing all those things while simultaneously becoming Mecha Hitler. Or Mecha Mother Theresa? You’ve got choices!

But on the simpler side of things, there was Katamari Damacy. This straightforward little game featured a protagonist that could only roll around a ball, but that ball could grow from the size of a paperclip to roughly the girth of a galaxy. And, more importantly than the gameplay, it was released for a whole $20, kickstarting the (now standard) belief that not every videogame had to be a AAA, 40 hour feature. Before internet connections fully graduated from 56K, Katamari Damacy showed us a glimpse of the future of downloadable titles.

Eat it!And speaking of downloadable, this year also saw an official Flash (RIP) version of Q*Bert. In a game that would be ported to “real” Windows a year later, Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. At least this Q*venture was free.

Now we fast-forward a decade to 2014. What innovations did this year hold for gaming? Well, we wound up skipping the exact year for a lot of big’uns from this epoch, so we’re left with staring straight at Dark Souls 2. Did you ever hear about Dark Souls? It’s the Dark Souls of Bloodborne games. Love it or hate it, Dark Souls impacted gaming in more ways than we will ever admit, arguably revitalizing the general gameplay of the rogue-like and encouraging increasing your own personal gaming skills while marginally leveling up your chosen hero. In a similar manner, this was the year we saw Bayonetta 2, a shining example of the likewise “hardcore” stylish action genre. Gaming could be slow and methodical or fast and elegant, but, in both cases, it was a little more complicated than guiding a puck through a maze.

And if you still wanted the mascots of yore, don’t worry, they were represented, too. If you wanted to see everybody fight everybody, Super Smash Bros 4 WiiU/3DS was released in 2014. Smash Bros was always a shining example of videogame protagonists leaving their usual genre and sailing into something completely different (Star Fox left his ship!), but Smash 4 would eventually grow and mutate to be a veritable yearbook of every character that had ever mattered in gaming (sorry, Geno, you don’t matter). And if you wanted something new from “cartoony” characters, this was also the year that Shovel Knight proved Kickstarting retro platformers was wholly viable, and could have amazing, enduring results. Come to think of it, Shovel Knight was partially inspired by Dark Souls, too…

CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTERBut there was one game released that year that was not inspired by Dark Souls. Q*Bert Rebooted, seemingly rebooted to promote an Adam Sandler vehicle, was a game where Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, shovel, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. He also hopped to nearly every platform available, so this one is still downloadable on modern consoles.

And Q*Bert returned for the most recent time in 2019 for iOS. Do we need to review the gaming breakthroughs of such a recent year? Fire Emblem: Three Houses and its perfect blend of chess and dating simulation? Super Mario Maker 2 and its ability to grant the player full creative control over familiar gameplay? Untitled Goose Game and its goose? Whatever the hell happens in Sekiro? (I gather it is a photography simulator.) 2019 was an amazing year for gaming where we not only had all this, but also Q*Bert. And what did Q*Bert do? He moved from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changed blocks colors. He baited a snake into a pit. Q*Bert only knows hops.

He was Q*Bert. He is Q*Bert. The face of gaming may irrevocably change, but Q*Bert is Q*Bert forever.

@!#?

FGC #562 Q*Bert

  • Go lil buddySystem: I’m pretty sure the lil’ Bert appeared on nearly every console system, give or take a few outliers. Playstation 2? Sega Genesis? And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t on Atari Lynx, either. Other than that, there’s probably some Q*Bert in some form on your preferred console.
  • Number of players: One Q*Bert, but two people can take turns if they are so inclined.
  • Don’t make a sound: Q*Bert’s claim to fame has always been the bizarre recordings that approximate the sound an orange monster man might make when brained with a purple marble. Unfortunately, playing Q*Bert in the year 2021 just reminds me that I never want to hear from a belligerent orange creature ever again.
  • Hey, what about Q*Bert’s Qubes: The only Q*Bert to truly mix up traditional Q*Bert gameplay was… not all that different. It basically just added the idea of “rotating” cubes according to the direction Q*Bert hops (as opposed to one simple, all-purpose tap), and added a handful of new enemies (there may have been a crab). Other than that, the way it “separated” the blocks made the game a lot more difficult to visually parse, and there’s probably a reason this Q*title is generally forgotten and ignored.
  • Did you know? Q*Bert for Playstation started with a cinema scene based in Q*Bert’s blocky little world. Weird thing? His weirdass universe looks a lot like modern Minecraft. Did Steve colonize Q*World? Is that the secret origin of the franchise?
  • Would I play again: Q*Bert is great for a whole five minutes before you remember it’s just goddamned Q*Bert. I will probably waste those five minutes again in the future.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wallachia Reign of Dracula! Or did ROB actually choose Bloodstained: Classic Mode? Actually, it’s both! We’re going to have a double header next! Please look forward to it!

GO FOR IT!

FGC #497.2 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Please note that this article contains distinct spoilers regarding Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. You have been warned!

Go Goku!There’s this moment in Dragon Ball Z at the end of the first significant story arc when Goku uses the Spirit Bomb. At this point, Goku has died, ventured through the afterlife, and returned from the grave when needed most to utilize a technique he could only learn from a nigh-god in another dimension. This attack, the Spirit Bomb, drains a tiny portion of power (“power” being vaguely nebulous in this case) from every living being on the planet, and combines all that strength into one focused “bomb” that he can hurl at his opponent, a giant monkey that is threatening everyone on Goku’s adopted planet (which is also Earth. You live there). In the grand scheme of narrative conceits, this is meant to be an important moment for Goku: he is the undisputed lead, the hero of this tale, but he cannot solve this problem with his own power. There is no solution here where Goku alone wins, so he must use this sacred technique, and, with the assistance of everyone on Earth, he can snatch victory from the hairy jaws of defeat. He can save the world thanks to the world. If this overarching metaphor isn’t obvious enough, Goku even whiffs his chance at pegging his opponent with this spirit ball, and requires another assist from another two fighters (one of which is best known for his propensity toward dying). Goku’s (currently) hated enemy is ultimately defeated by this spirit bomb, proving that it was not the super powerful Goku that was required to save the planet, but the strength of every person. Don’t put all of your faith in one “savior”, believe in the power of not one, but everyone.

And then Goku goes on to defeat every other opponent through hours and hours of one-on-one grunting ‘n punching. Goku is our Superman. Goku is our Jesus. All hail Goku, the guy that singlehandedly saved the world over and over again!

This happens often in fiction: the hero is the hero, and while there might be some moment or technique that uses “everyone’s power”, it all seems to come back to the one and only luminary. This is even more prevalent in videogames, as they are single-person experiences. Everyone in the party is working together to defeat the evil god du jour, but it all comes back to you, the exceptional player, making decisions, so the moral is muddied. And when you have RPGs that all but require the player to be the center of the universe, it gets even worse. That town lives or dies according to what sidequests you choose to complete, so it’s pretty obvious the world revolves around only you. Give me a moral about teamwork or whatever, fine, but in the end you intrinsically know that you are the only person that matters.

So you can imagine my surprise when Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE actually pulled off a “spirit bomb” finale without making its main character the center of the universe….