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FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

We gonna MegaThe Mega Man franchise has become vaguely unwieldy. A simple game about running, jumping, and shooting at robots has quickly become a franchise juggernaut that now contains thirty years’ worth of titles spanning multiple genres, systems, and epochs. If you want the whole of the Mega Man experience, you need multiple consoles, hundreds of games, and maybe even some time to watch an anime or two.

Or you could just play 2003’s Mega Man Network Transmission. That game has got it all.

This is Mega Man Battle Network!

At the turn of the 21st century, a great many videogame franchises went through a bit of an identity crisis. Nintendo declared Bowser was dead, or a dad, or maybe some kind of skeleton monster. Zelda drowned all of Hyrule, and Kirby got into star racing. The pervading thought seemed to be that old franchises had to change and grow to compete with the new generation, and, while there were some standouts from this period of change (hello there, Metroid Prime), we mostly now look back and lament Mario being strapped to a water gun for an entire console. Don’t worry, 2002 Goggle Bob, we’d regain our somersault jumps in time…

However, one success from this time was the reimagining of Mega Man. Completely dropping the Mega Man storyline that had been inexplicably going since 1987 (a storyline that had, incidentally, wiped out humanity), Mega Man Battle Network told the tale of an alternate timeline wherein Dr. Light/Hikari ditched robotics and really got into his own cyber-sona. This led to universe where Mega Man was not a super fighting robot, but a super fighting digital assistant that was also Dr. Light’s grandson and was also controlled by Dr. Light’s other, human grandson. In this universe where apparently human babies can be converted into immortal digital slaves damned to watch as their fleshy twin grows, ages, and dies, there are also viruses and “evil” net navigators to be fought, so the official Mega Man of the digital generation has a lot more to handle than existential crises in any given adventure.

Mega Man Network Transmission is technically the fourth released Mega Man Battle Network title (fourth or so, there is a little wiggle room with some of the other games that year), but is firmly placed in the franchise’s story as Mega Man Battle Network 1.5. Shortly after Megaman.exe’s first adventure, a mysterious “Professor” pops into the picture, and releases a terrible virus across the net. Lan the Human and Megaman.exe the Undying scramble into action to save the day! But this adventure is a little different from their Gameboy Advance origins, as…

This is Classic Mega Man!

Book it!First and foremost, Mega Man Network Transmission was designed as a retro title that harkened back to the gameplay of the original Mega Man titles. This was the 15th Anniversary of the Mega Man franchise, and MMNT was intended as a throwback to that “old style” that had died with the Sega Saturn. So, whereas Mega Man Battle Network had always paid tribute with its cast of Fire Mans, Proto Mans, and Wilys, now it was going to include actual movement options that recalled those bygone days. Megaman.exe can run, jump, and even slide (slide, slide!). Continually charging while jogging through a maze is encouraged, and memorizing a boss pattern or two is the name of the game if you want to make some progress. There are even some imitations of classic stages involved, like everybody’s favorite Quick Man laser gauntlet. You love instant death? Of course you do! It’s classic gameplay/horrors all over again!

But it’s not all classic gameplay here. Some bits of Mega Man Network Transmission are downright prescient, like…

This is Mega Man Starforce!

Eat some chipsThe big draw of the Mega Man Battle Network franchise (aside from stupid, sexy Dr. Regal) has always been its unique battle gameplay. To quickly summarize what is ultimately a very complicated system, it’s basically a card game, but including action movement, and sometimes the cards have letters that allow you to use multiple cards at once, and I think there are “classes” involved, and sometimes they combine into an “advanced” version, but only if you have the right cards, and you can only get cards from fighting viruses, or maybe by playing a lottery, and if you don’t have any cards, then you can still attack with a basic laser, but that doesn’t have an element, except maybe if you used a class change to be a different color Mega Man, but you can’t switch that during battles, and wood beats electricity. See? It’s simple!

Mega Man Network Transmission streamlines the chip system by a fair amount, allowing you to equip multiple chips at once without fear of matching letters or elements or whatever. Ostensibly, this is because you are using the chips for a much longer time (it takes goddamn forever for that gauge to refill before upgrades) and in a much wider battlefield (in “normal” MMBN, you only ever have to handle a maximum of three viruses at a time), but it works out to a more simplified version of traditional MMBN battle chip challenging. And that’s great! MMNT was meant to bridge the gap between old, new, and people that had just watched the surprisingly popular anime for the franchise, so simple is good!

And you know what else utilized a simplified version of Mega Man Battle Network’s battle chip system? Mega Man Starforce, the “sequel franchise” to MMBN. Was this inspired by Mega Man Network Transmission? Probably not, but it was an acknowledgement that MMBN might have had a little too much cruft from the get-go, and that could only be jettisoned in a spin-off or sequel franchise.

So enjoy Mega Man Network Transmission’s battle system. It’s like living in the future!

And speaking of the future…

This is Mega Man X!

These things are dumbMega Man Network Transmission is supposed to harken back to the good ol’ days of Classic Mega Man, but there is a significant dosage of RNA here, too. For one thing, there’s the plot, and it features the Zero Virus. That sound familiar? Yes, our favorite Wily reploid is now a literal virus that is attempting to cause netnavis to go maverick. And, as one might expect, Zero starts off as the obvious antagonist, but transforms into a helpful dude over the course of the adventure. He might not have as much luxurious girl hair as in his other appearances, but it’s pretty clear that the guest star du jour is straight out of Mega Man X.

And that gorgeous robot-virus-thingy is not the only item borrowed from Mega Man X. There are a number of gameplay flourishes straight out of the Maverick Wars here, complete with the increased speed, the likelihood of using a double jump, and these weird wire things that no one ever remembers fondly (or, often, remembers at all). It was clear that even the classic series was adopting Mega Man X moves later in its life (hi, Mega Man & Bass), but there is more Mega Man X here than Mega Man, even if there aren’t as many stages that directly harken back to that franchise.

But while we’re on the subject of Mega Man’s pal, Zero…

This is Mega Man Zero!

He got a haircutThe number one complaint about Mega Man Network Transmission? It’s too hard. In some ways, this complaint was completely valid, as it was a huge pain to restart entire levels because you got wrecked by a bad boss matchup. Sure, that had always been the way a Mega Man game played anyway, but this was coming off a franchise that allowed for saving anywhere, and a population that had gotten used to Mega Man containing save states. A “back to basics” approach also invited a “back to difficult” style that a lot of 2003’s audience wasn’t expecting.

But this was exactly what Mega Man Battle Network’s 2-D brother on the Gameboy Advance had been reveling in all along. Mega Man Zero was “classic Mega Man” on the GBA before Mega Man Battle Network ever even thought of testing the boundaries of the genre, and, as many had noted, it was super-duper hard. Or, if it wasn’t hard, it at least expected a lot of the player. “Save points” (or 1-ups) were stretched few and far between, and health was always at a premium. In much the same way, MMNT requires your best offenses always be locked behind battle chips, and you are often left unprepared if you blow all your mighty cannons on some middling mouse opponent.

But that’s exactly where Mega Man Zero and Mega Man Network Transmission are so similar: they’re all about resource management. Unlike the original Mega Man games that only encouraged weapon energy rationing (and provided a pile of powerups to help with that), MMZ and MMNT both demanded much more administration from the player. Whether it is battle chips or cyber elves, an inexperienced player is practically required to figure out what works for getting through a level, and then utilize those assets only when absolutely necessary. Of course, that winds up having its own kind of learning curve (and Mega Man Zero’s persistent ranking system seems to punish the player for using any resources, so mixed messages there), so, yes, these games probably could be considered hard. But whereas you only had one Flash Stopper to skip through Quick Man’s gauntlet back in the day, newer takes on that challenge offer additional options to the observant player.

Unfortunately, the challenge of Mega Man Network Transmission really did work against it. While you could claim Mega Man Zero was made for “hardcore” fans, MMNT seemed to aim for a different audience. In fact, you could say…

This is a Mega Man Cartoon!

PointyMega Man has had a number of animated tie-ins through the years. There was that Ruby-Spears nonsense, the anime about saving Christmas, and (particularly relevant to this article) an entire anime based on the Mega Man Battle Network series. It was popular. It was so popular, it rivaled Yu-Gi-Oh for number of stupid card-based plastic wads that were released through tie-in merchandise. And, even better than Yu-Gi-Oh, you actually cared about the characters, so buying action figures was not off the table. Stick that Bass/Forte figure on your desk with pride, young one, as any digital personal assistant that wears a cloak has to be badass.

Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to be catering to the audience that watched that anime. This, the first MMBN to be played on console (and presumably a big screen television), was pretty as a princess riding an oddly attractive horse. It is cell-shaded, various viruses have twinkling auras, and Megaman.exe rarely looked so good (in 2003). It was a feast for the eyes, and the graphics style certainly seemed to be designed to appeal to anyone that was watching cartoons (as opposed to the more “realistic” graphics of its contemporaries).

What’s more, it had full voice acting (albeit, not in many languages), and an easy to follow plot that was more about making friends with your potential enemies than blasting robots into everlasting pieces. Whether it was difficult or not, the general presentation of Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to harken to the many times Mega Man had mega fun with his mega pals on the mega television screen.

Though if you really want to compare Mega Man Network Transmission to another Mega Man experience, you probably should consider…

This is Mega Man Legends!

ShinyMega Man Network Transmission, for one reason or another, was not received well. According to reviewers it was too difficult, too cartoony, and/or too different to survive. Or maybe it wasn’t different enough to be its own thing? Regardless of the reason, MMNT never saw a direct sequel to its distinct kind of gameplay, and the franchise moved on, never taking the time to look back at what might have been in the parallel universe where Mega Man Network Transmission was popular.

So, like Mega Man Legends never continuing again, Mega Man Network Transmission was a gaming dead end.

And nobody has gotten around to releasing it on modern consoles, either!

Mega Man Network Transmission is every Mega Man game all rolled into one. The good, the bad, and the heartache.

FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube, and then never anything again. And Capcom loves porting titles!
  • Number of players: The Mega Man Battle Network series is usually two player, but, sorry, only one netnavi at a time here. We can’t always have Mega Man 7.
  • MONEY!Cold Hard Cash: If you want to even stretch it a little further, the frequent zenny coins scattered around the levels are very similar to how screws were used to tempt players in the Gameboy classic Mega Man titles (Mega Man Land?). That said, “Mega Man collects money” is something that seemed to show up all across the franchises eventually, whether that be through screws, alloys, or zenny again. So you’re not getting a full section, Gameboy Mega Man, but you do at least earn a bullet point.
  • What about Mega Man ZX? I guess you can summon bosses? I don’t know. Ask me again at some point when I haven’t typed “Mega Man” 66 times.
  • Favorite Rival Navi: If we’re going with any navi, I choose Shadowman.exe, because I am secretly a twelve year old that loves ninja. If we have to choose one distinctly created for this adventure, though, I’d pick Gravityman.exe. That dude was never going to work in the constrained, “who cares about gravity anyway” world of MMBN, and he feels vaguely weighty (ha!) as a foe. He big. He round. He’s an absolute unit of an opponent.
  • Favorite Chip: For the second game in a row, I’m going to choose the humble sword. I like getting up close and personal with my opponents, and sword chips are so plentiful here, Megaman.exe practically becomes Protoman.exe. Runner-up is the life virus aura, but that does feel like cheating.
  • Did you know? Zero appears and becomes the first Mega Man X character to enter the canon of Mega Man Battle Network, but he would later be joined by Colonel and Iris. Unfortunately, none of the main Mavericks ever had a chance to shine in Battle Network or Star Force, so Wire Sponge got robbed.
  • It's too bright in hereWould I play again: If I was stuck on a desert island, and could only play one (non-compilation) Mega Man title, I would choose this one to get my Mega fix. That said, it is by no means the best Mega Man game, nor is it the most accessible, so the odds of me actually playing it again are slim. But maybe if Capcom deigns to release it again, it could happen…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Q*Bert! The little orange hopping whatsit rides again! Please look forward to it!

FGC #553 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Let's dash!Let’s talk about nerd love, acceptance, and solid gold cars.

I am a nerd. What’s more, I have pretty much always been a nerd. I’ve never been into pocket protectors, statistics, or even wore glasses all that often, but, to the average human being, I have long been a shining example of nerddom. And it’s not my fault! It’s just what I’m interested in! I like videogames. I like robots (and draw a distinction between “giant robots” “regular sized robots that fight” and “robots that occasionally transform into dinosaurs”). I was generally academically gifted in school. I won an award in junior high for “most likely to succeed with computers”. I never even planned to go into the computer field! I wanted to be a grade school teacher for some reason!

But, if we’re talking about junior high anyway, I may as well note that the first woman I ever “asked out” responded by dramatically feigning barfing and being out-and-out offended. That… leaves an impression.

Look, I want to be clear on one point: I am a handsome dude. For someone getting damn near forty, I have my hair, my figure, and a certain je ne sais quoi that brings all the boys to the yard. And, given I’ve had the same haircut since first grade, I pretty much have had the same basic thing going on since I was six. Issues arise, however, in the basic world of fashion. Despite Nintendo’s attempts to make me style savvy, I’ve never quite had an aptitude there, so I want to say I perhaps do no blame my potential suitor for reacting poorly when I was eleven. I mean, I had a goddamn ponytail, and I somehow thought that was a good thing. But, at the time, I didn’t quite understand that I shouldn’t wear sweatpants every damned day, so I thought there was something wrong with me. That thinking continued until… let’s see here… probably sometime last week? It was a while.

And my first real girlfriend didn’t help. A few short years after my first, disastrous attempt at romance, some lucky gal finally said yes, and we were off to the races (this is a desperate metaphor attempting to remotely tie-in today’s featured game earlier in the article. We’ll get there, folks!). Now, in this case, I was high on my own supply of raw ego. I was a high school freshman, she was a sophomore. I was dating an older woman. I was a goddamn stud. Go babies!And, even if the “relationship” only wound up lasting like two week and involved about as much physical interaction as an online game of Pong, it still set me over the moon that someone theoretically wanted me. Goggle Bob! Who did finally cut off that ponytail a year before! Probably a coincidence! But this is not to say all was well with the world. My dear girlfriend had aims to make me “more normal”, and she literally stated that she would go through my closet and get rid of “all those videogame t-shirts”.

First of all, Jesse, I didn’t have that many videogame t-shirts. Some were simply related to computers in general! And secondly, I got that Final Fantasy 7 shirt as part of a promotion for preordering, and it is limited edition and I am not ever going to see another one. I don’t think this relationship is going to work, Little Miss Trendy. There’s only room enough for one blonde in this relationship, and he carries a Buster Sword.

(Ha ha just kidding, she totally dumped my nerdy ass. But things definitely would have come to a head if she hadn’t!)

But this kind of thing continued practically through all of my teenage relationships. Even when I dated nerds! I had at least two girlfriends that were avowed Pokémon fans, but still reacted to my general hobby with tolerance at best, revulsion at worst. I often offered the second player controller in these games (whenever available, I mean, if I’m playing Ocarina of Time, you’re going to have to wait, babe), and I did my best to share my passions in socially acceptable ways (I very rarely publically embarrassed us in an effort to get the attention of an Electronics Boutique employee), but it always seemed for naught. It wasn’t about not liking a particular game, console, or genre; it seemed to be a simple “I don’t like videogames”. And this is an issue! I like videogames a lot!

We can do thisAnd it’s hard to explain to someone that doesn’t have an “unpopular” hobby how this works. Like, you, dear reader, you like music, right? Like listening to tunes? Maybe you listen to the radio when you’re in the car? And I’m not saying you like the same music as someone else, you’re obviously allowed to like pop music as much as jazz-techno fusion or whatever suits your fancy. But imagine, if you would, the moment you start dating someone, you’re cruising along in your finely crafted automobile (obviously a sweet 1960 classic Edsel Pacer), listening to the radio, and your significant other doesn’t simply say, “Oh, I don’t like this song, let’s change the station,” they say, “Oh, I don’t like music. Let’s sit in silence and never listen to music again.” And every time they hop in the car, and you’ve left the radio on from a previous, solo trip, they comment, “Oh, you were listening to that again. Why do you keep doing that?” And, tell me I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that, after dealing with that for a little while, you would, you know, go insane. And that’s not a great outcome for a relationship!

And that was the end result of 90% of my high school relationships.

What I’m saying here is that I completely understand people that think “girls don’t game”. It is wrong. It is wholly inaccurate. I even knew (or should have known) it was wrong when I was friggen’ eight years old, as the first person that showed me King’s Quest and the fabulous world of PC gaming was my (male) friend’s older sister. She played videogames! I just didn’t want to date her. None of the women I wanted to date played videogames, so, obviously, women didn’t play videogames (Yes, I was the Socrates of my high school marching band, thank you for noticing). The women that I wanted to date/actually dated acted like “gaming” was an activity roughly on par with drinking human blood (come to think of it, they were much cooler with vampires than gamers), so I internalized for a long time that women hated videogames. Could there be another explanation? Never! They sneered at Xenogears! The War & Peace of our generation! The only explanation for that must be gender-based universal loathing.

GLOMPAnd I assumed this was a wholly accurate assessment until I was in college. I dated another woman, and I assumed, like in many previous relationships, she barely tolerated my videogame addiction. She watched me play Metroid Fusion, Pokémon Ruby, and Mega Man Battle Network on the Gameboy Advance that was practically glued to my hands, and I simply assumed she was, at best, abiding my hobby. It never even crossed my weary mind that maybe playing a system that precluded a second player even existing was making an impact on whether or not we would play together. I just hunched over a Gameboy on the couch on a Saturday morning, poking at my beep bop machine, and assumed my beau was annoyed because her lady parts secreted some hormone that hated those darn games. There was no other explanation.

And then, on Valentine’s Day, she didn’t get me chocolate. She bought me Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (1,200 words to acknowledge the game of the day! New record!). And we had a game we could play together.

And damned if we didn’t play that game together for months.

Mario Kart Double Dash!! doesn’t get enough credit for being inordinately multiplayer. Yes, there are the Mario Kart-mandated two player versus racing and battle modes. And we’ve got versus four players out of the box, because the N64/Gamecube era of Nintendo absolutely loved four player options. And, even better, this Mario Kart included some kind of crazy Gamecube LAN option, so you could network together a bunch of systems, and get a tournament going with, like, a hajillion playerscitation needed. But all of those possibilities paled in comparison to the one mode that I saw continually from the moment I popped that little disc into my playbox: two player cooperative. For the first time in the franchise, two players could control one kart, and both could have input for one racer. The controls were simple: one player drove, the other was responsible for items, and the two could switch at any time. This created an incredibly balanced situation, as two players could alternate duties, or, if someone wasn’t as confident, take refuge in a “Tails mode” like situation where there is participation, but the responsibility of earning that trophy falls squarely on one player’s shoulders. So, in other words, it’s a two player mode that is truly perfect for experts and novices alike.

And it’s great for a boy that has been playing videogames continuously since toddlerhood, and a girl that is trying to understand said boy’s obsession.

STOMPNot to dash any dreams of a romantic ending here (that’s for Friday), but this is in no way the story of how I affirmed the love of my life over Mario Kart. Boy and Girl broke up with time to spare before the following Valentine’s Day (and it certainly wasn’t because Boy was a cheapskate and didn’t feel like buying another gift in a relationship that was already DOA, because Boy is clearly blameless in this situation). And, just in case you thought this whole tale was heading in that direction, this is not the story of how Boy thus realized his true love was videogames all along, and how he now sleeps in bed every night curled around his precious copy of Chrono Trigger. No, this is a story about acceptance. This is a story about how someone can accept you for who you are, even the parts of you they might not understand.

Look, I am pretty damn lucky. I like my birth gender. I am attracted to “the opposite” sex, and members of said sex that are traditionally, conventionally attractive. I’m white. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I show up to a family dinner with a date, I don’t have to spend the entire meal explaining how my choices are valid, and I’m not just “doing this” to make grandma cry. I know I’m lucky in that regard, and it’s simply a quirk of the universe that my dating habits are vanilla enough to be considered normal. But I’m also a giant nerd. I’m also a gamer, and, while it might not cause any concern for grandma, I can safely say I’ve never been in a relationship with a woman that didn’t have something to say about my general inclination to alternate between nights in bed and nights spent in Hyrule. And that’s valid! This is entry #553 on my blog that is almost exclusively about videogames! My name is Goggle Bob, and I have a problem! But issues have always arisen when I was with someone that refused to even tenuously understand that problem. Grandma was happy with my date, but my date wasn’t happy with something that brings me joy. For a long time, I genuinely believed I would never be with someone that would accept me for who I am, inexplicable obsession with Mega Man and all.

What even happened hereAnd then, one day, there was someone that accepted me. There was someone that tried to understand who I was, preoccupation with blue sparks and all. There was someone that wanted me. All of me.

And I never thought such a thing was even possible before.

So, ya know, thanks Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. Really making some positive changes in the trajectory of entire lives there. Blue shells are a major franchise foul, but I guess that can be forgiven for changing my entire outlook on existence.

FGC #553 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube. If you ask me which Nintendo game I would most want to see with a modern release/remix, this would be the one. Well, you know, now that Sunshine already got that treatment.
  • Number of players: Let’s just say four before getting into that whole “chaining Gamecubes together” thing.
  • So did you ever play on a series of linked Gamecubes? Nope. I mean, what, are you kidding? I have a hard enough time gathering four people together to agree on playing one videogame. I’m never going to see that many controllers in use outside of a convention, and I’m pretty sure those are illegal now.
  • I win!So, did you beat it? Wholly and completely, with Mirror Grand Tour and on two player cooperative. That solid gold car is mine, now and forever.
  • Best Team: Daisy and Birdo will always succeed. Wait…. This is supposed to be my “favorite” team? No, that doesn’t sound right. Daisy and Birdo are the best.
  • Favorite Track: I have to admire Baby Park for the raw simplicity of the track, and somehow making a circle (well, technically an oval) fun. It takes some significant level of chutzpah to make a track pretty much nothing, and rely on the basic gameplay of Mario Kart to carry the action. And it works like a charm, so good job all around.
  • Yes, this game was popular: Mario Kart: Double Dash was the second highest selling Gamecube game of all time. Super Smash Bros. Melee was number one. Then it’s Sunshine at numero tres. Sonic Mega Collection was number seventeen. Ya know, just throwing that out there.
  • Did you know? According to internal data, apparently the two “urban” stages, Mushroom Bridge and Mushroom City, were supposed to be dedicated to Koopa Troopa and Paratroopa (respectively). In the final release, those two nerds don’t get their own course, and we’re left assuming that Princess Peach purchased their unclaimed property. The monarchy has a habit of doing that.
  • Would I play again: In a heartbeat. Lord, I love me some Mario Kart: Double Dash. It even makes Garfield titles better! It’s scientifically proven!

What’s next? Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s) concludes with a look at Pokémon Go. You always knew there was going to be a Pokémon game in this group of articles, and I cannot disappoint! Please look forward to it!

Go go Daisy

FGC #532 Crazy Taxi

Gonna take you for a rideLet’s talk about advertising, brands, my life, and how culture as we identify it is a goddamn trash fire.

And maybe we’ll get to Crazy Taxi, too, if we have time.

I am told I am a Millennial. This means that I am of a certain generation that grew up alongside advertisements that were simultaneously unambiguously advertisements, but also entertainment. I cut my teeth on He-Man and Voltron, concurrently loving every moment of every show and then clamoring for every last attendant toy. Then, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were repackaged for childish audiences, I was right there demanding everything. It wasn’t just about action figures and vehicles, I had the videogames, too, and my grandmother reading TMNT storybooks to me at night. And that’s a cherished memory from my childhood! The TMNT were ostensibly created initially as a parody of comic books, but quickly grew into a franchise that existed exclusively to sell toys themed after Canadian moose. But those ridiculous figures are an inextricable part of my childhood, so I remember them all in the same way I fondly remember family members.

And I have to believe that I am not alone in viewing the growth of my own maturity through my interaction with “brands”. When I was a child, I loved all my toys and games and such unquestioningly, begging for more and purely enjoying everything I had. When I became a teenager, I grew resentful of the fact that I was “tricked” into liking things, and determined I would be anti-conformist… or at least a version of anti-conformist that doesn’t shell out his hard-earned cash for the latest version of Optimus Prime. As I grew out of that phase, I came to a sort of gentle understanding with trademarked material. Yes, something might exist exclusively to sell random crap to me (or the host of people just like me), but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it in my own way. I can acknowledge that this latest version of a transforming robot was likely produced by slave labor in a foreign country in an effort to get a whole five bucks out of my pocket through some general application of nostalgia, but, hey, if it brings me joy, it can’t be all bad. This has brought me to a sort of relaxed middle ground: I feel I am not a “consumer whore” that will purchase literally anything that is produced if it has the right name on it (eat it, Funko), though, by the same token, I will certainly purchase any number of useless trinkets if I think it will make me happier. There are so many things in this world that are actively trying to make us miserable, from political organizations to natural disasters, why not take a moment to relish playing with officially licensed totems of your childhood?

Up on a hillBut, while I seem to have come to a comfortable understanding with the companies that dominate the landscape, that does not mean I believe corporations are or should be our friends. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely a part of me that would volunteer to jump in front of a train if it meant Nintendo would keep pumping out videogames with the Nintendo Seal of Quality, but, if I were to make such a sacrifice, it would be for the good of humanity, and the next generation that deserves to grow up with their own Mario games (I’m so noble in these hypothetical, impossible situations). If Nintendo, or any “beloved” company, started begging for my dollar for nothing, I wouldn’t give them a dime, because what do I owe you? These companies do not care if my family, my friends, or even I live or die, so I cannot even pretend that my “support” means anything to them other than another possible zero on the bottom line. We live in a world that is practically wallpapered with advertising, and there’s no reason to feed that machine in the desperate hope that senpai will notice you if you’re a good little consumer. And making that choice matters! I can actively support people on social media that actually need that support, not a corporate account carefully managed to maximize clicks. I can shop at a local restaurant that needs my check to survive, and not a megachain that is literally in every other city on the planet. I’ll take a homegrown, local pizza place over Pizza Hut any day of the week.

But, then again, when someone takes Pizza Hut away, I’m not happy either.

Today’s game is Crazy Taxi (hey, I found a moment to actually talk about the real topic of the article! Yay!), a title that was initially released in the arcades in 1999, but is best known for its version on the Sega Dreamcast from January of 2000. In Crazy Taxi, you are a taxi driver in a large city, forever bound to ferry fares from one destination to another. As this game started as an arcade title, this is not a “story-based” experience, but more of a constant “score attack” situation. Pick up a passenger, take them to their destination, and then grab the next traveler as quickly as possible. In a way, this gameplay makes CT little more than a racing game. But, in another way, this foreshadowed the eventual creation of titles like Grand Theft Auto 3, as the intricate city, full of landmarks and interesting locales, would inevitably be aped by later games attempting to create “lived-in” environments. Crazy Taxi could be a simple title where you just drive from point A to point B and back again, but, thanks to its vast, sprawling city, it is much than another simple arcade “car game” (Sorry, Cruisin’, but it had to be said).

Oh, and another reason Crazy Taxi has such a memorable venue for its crazy taxiing? There’s a KFC!

Mmmm chicken

And other brand name stores! Crazy Taxi was something of a “real world” crossover event back in 2000. The soundtrack featured Way Down the Line, All I Want, and Change the World by The Offspring, and Ten in 2010, Them and Us, Hear It, and Inner Logic by Bad Religion. That was amazing! Instead of wee gaming beeps and boops, you’ve got that band that you know! Rachel is wearing a Bad Religion t-shirt right now! And she bought it at Tower Records, which is also a featured location in Crazy Taxi! Crazy Taxi had a crazy amount of product placement, and, at the time, many saw it as unequivocally a good thing. Videogames are getting more real!

Of course, as a wizened adult, it’s easy to see this same product placement as… uh… product placement. But in a bad way! After all, the entire point of the presence of these brands is that people are telling you they need to get to Kentucky Fried Chicken right the heck now. They need officially produced KFC brand mashed potatoes immediately, and, boy, player, wouldn’t it be nice if you had some of that finger-lickin’ good chicken right now? And the presence of The Offspring and Bad Religion simply exists to appeal to all those hep young teens and further slide videogames from “for babies” to “for the cool kids”. And it doesn’t hurt if you buy an Offspring album (at Tower Records!) as a result, either. When you consider that Crazy Taxi originated at the arcade, and many American arcades were situated within American malls, you can see how Crazy Taxi was a videogame that practically doubled as a flyer from the local Chamber of Commerce. Hungry for fun? Play Crazy Taxi! Hungry for pizza? Stop at Pizza Hut!

Mmmm pizza

Ah, yes, Pizza Hut…

Mmmm pizza

Pizza Hut is still a viable brand. While Tower Records has fallen since its Crazy Taxi appearance in 1999, Pizza Hut is still out there and stuffing cheese into various nooks and crannies. You can, in all likelihood, order a pizza from Pizza Hut right now, as you read this, and have a delicious, pizza-like substance in front of you by the time this article is over. Pizza Hut, in 2000 or 2020, is ubiquitous.

But it ain’t in Crazy Taxi anymore:

Mmmm pizza

When Crazy Taxi was released for Dreamcast, it featured a Pizza Hut. When Crazy Taxi was rereleased on contemporary systems with a little more longevity (Playstation 2, Gamecube), it still featured Pizza Hut. But when Crazy Taxi was rereleased in 2010 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Pizza Hut was dropped. All of the familiar, featured brands were dropped. The Offspring and Bad Religion were dropped. And, given this is the version that persists on Xbox One and PC platforms, the Crazy Taxi Sans Brands version is what is available today. If you buy Crazy Taxi today, you’re not going to see a single Pizza Hut.

You’ll just see something that kinda looks like a Pizza Hut.

Mmmm pizza

And that’s somehow even more depressing.

Look, I live in a town that used to have a Pizza Hut. We also used to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King. What happened? By and large, as much as I want this article to blatantly tie to the collapse of small towns and the inevitable end of Western Civilization thanks to megacorporations, it was pretty much simply because I live in an area that is already full-up on eating options. Without exaggeration, my hometown contains fourteen different choices for pizza delivery, and not a single one is a national chain (we ran Domino’s out of town, too). One town over isn’t any different, and it’s even got two different Italian restaurants named Mario’s and Luigi’s. That is a real thing that has happened! So, with local restaurants that are practically kings within their fiefdoms, it’s no wonder that chain restaurants have had issues getting a foothold. They try! And they seem marginally successful! But the word from the latest Checkers or Wendy’s attempt always seems to be the same: they’re doing good numbers, but they’re not doing corporate numbers. Pizza Hut’s money would be better spent in a town that doesn’t have literally twenty other options for immediate pizza delivery, so they’re leaving town. And, until some new restaurant goes in its place, you’re going to be looking at that familiar, abandoned roof for a few months.

And, at this point, I don’t even have that familiar roof staring back at me. Once again, I really want to make this article more melancholy, but the old Pizza Hut has been demolished, and it was replaced with a very prosperous local diner. It’s a success story all around: the big, bad brand was run out of town on a rail, and a local restaurant has taken its space and customers, and is improving the community. Pizza Hut has been vanquished, silence brand, the world is better without you. Go get Pizza Hut two towns over.

But… sometimes I miss cheesy crust pizza.

Rock outIn a weird way, brands are what bring us together. I live in a city without a Pizza Hut. If I have someone visit from out of town, and they’re in the mood for the $10 tastemaker, I can offer them none. There are alternatives, of course, but this particular item is not available. In fact, I could name the myriad of pizza places in town for you, gentle reader, and their names would mean nothing. I could tell you my favorite pizza place, a spot that locals have literally spoken of fighting in wars to preserve, and it would be as alien as if I named my favorite place as Bthnkor ah vulgtmnahog. Everyone knows Pizza Hut. Everyone has shared Pizza Hut, and, even if it isn’t your favorite, you at least know what I’m talking about. Pizza Hut is an impersonal brand, but it is local in the way that it is familiar. It is universal. It is an inextricable part of the culture. Pizza Hut is pizza.

So when a human-shaped collection of polygons in Crazy Taxi wants a pizza, they should, like their real-world counterparts, want a goddamn Pizza Hut. “Pizza Place” is a denial of reality! The Crazy Taxi of 2010, the only Crazy Taxi you can now legally purchase, is a lesser version of itself. What was once a game that simulated our world is now just as much a fantasy as Cloud’s latest jaunt. PaRappa may as well be working at Pizza Place!

WeeeeeBrands suck. The fact that we’re trapped in a world that is increasingly reliant on four or five corporations that own literally every other lesser, but-still-huge corporation is something out of a dystopian nightmare, and it looks like it is only going to get worse. But these companies are also an inseparable part of our shared culture, and, when one is erased, it makes an impact. The Offspring, Pizza Hut, and Tower Records were all a part of my life in 2000. They’re all fondly remembered, and, if you’re a certain age, you’re likely in the same boat. You could be humming an Offspring song, or imagining biting into a Pizza Hut pizza as we speak. And is that a bad thing? You may be reading this article on a different shore from this humble Goggle Bob, but we have a shared past. We have something that brings us together. We have Brand, and, in a world that is constantly trying to divide people, we have something that brings us closer, and makes us happy.

Corporations are bleeding us dry, but they’re also bringing us together. We don’t owe Brands anything, but sometimes they’re a part of who we are.

… Even if “who we are” is just “people who eat greasy pizza that was excised from an Xbox game.”

FGC #532 Crazy Taxi

  • System: Started in the arcade, graduated to the Dreamcast, floated over to the Playstation 2 and Gamecube, and then migrated to the PS3 and Xbox 360/Xbox One. There is also a Gameboy Advance version. The GBA version ain’t half bad!
  • Number of players: Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the sequels to battle a buddy.
  • WeeeeeArcade or Home Version: Crazy Taxi picked up an extra city between the arcade and home ports, so, if you’re playing CT outside of the mall, you have the option of choosing your venue. The “Original City” (which is “original” as in “original to the console versions” not “the original city”) has a lot more interesting bridges, lighthouses, subways, and such, but the original city (dammit) of the arcade version is just so much more iconic. And you’re less likely to wind up underwater, too!
  • Favorite Driver: B.D. Joe appeared in later titles, right? I think he wins. I also like his hat. Incidentally, I very much appreciate that Sega correctly identified that half of all taxi drivers can’t correctly wear a shirt. Button up, you jerks, we’re trying to run a business here!
  • Did you know? Michael Jackson apparently owned a Crazy Taxi arcade “cabinet” (it’s more like a little car than a cabinet). Do you suppose he still had a good relationship with Sega?
  • Would I play again: Crazy Taxi would be the ideal game for something like a cell phone version… assuming a cell phone could properly control a Crazy Taxi. I rarely boot up CT, because it’s ideally played for all of three minutes, but I always enjoy it when I do. So I guess my answer is yes, but only on the rare occasions when I remember it’s on my Xbox, and I’m waiting for something to download.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tekken Tag Tournament 2! Tag, you’re it, and you’re gonna get hit! Please look forward to it!

I hate this

FGC #472 Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee

GODZILLA!In 2002, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee was released. In 2020, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee has given me an incredibly dumb idea for a new videogame, and I would like it very much if one of my readers could get around to creating such a game.

Allow me to explain.

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee is a Nintendo Gamecube title that was released a solid eighteen years ago. At the time, it was very well received, as it allowed four players to sit down on a couch, grab a controller, and then destroy the entire city of London with atomic fire breath and the occasional assistance of Mothra. This was a game that was never going to be the next Super Smash Bros. Melee, but it was still a damn good party game. Hell, it was basically the bastard monster child of Rampage and any given Wrestling title, and how could that possibly go wrong? There’s even immediate accessibility, because, unlike most fighting games, you don’t need to “know” the fighters beyond “this one has drill arms” and “that dude has wings”. Ultimately, it’s not like this was ever going to be a game we were talking about twenty years later (wait a minute…), but it was certainly a fun way for a quartet of bored college students to whittle away the wee hours of the morning before finals (not that I have any extremely specific memories of this game or anything).

But, like so many games of the era, there was an immediate problem with Godzilla: DAMM: it required an unholy amount of unlocking. There are a total of three monsters initially selectable, and (if my math is right) that’s one shy of the total number of players. We need two Godzillas! … Which there actually are on this roster, but that’s not what I’m talking about! That second Godzilla requires playing through the entire game once, just like the other six unlockable fighters (“fighters”). And, yes, that only adds up to a roster of ten total monsters for meleein’, which feels very lacking when you’ve got four players palling around. DRILL!You can “see” the entire roster inside of three matches… but only if you’ve actually unlocked that monster roll call. And who wants to play through a game ten times (Mecha Godzilla requires three separate adventure mode clears) just to prepare for a Melee party? Yes, Super Smash Bros. Melee had similarly byzantine unlocking methods available, but that game was incredibly fun to play, and featured a whole host of interesting modes. God:DAMM was limited to one cruddy arcade mode.

… Which is probably why we just used cheat codes to unlock everybody every time we played. Man, we gotta go buy seventeen gallons of vodka, we don’t have time to unlock Ghidrah.

But if we had to manually unlock everyone in Godzilla: Destroy AMM, well, then there probably wouldn’t be any pleasant memories of this otherwise forgotten game. This is an amazing game when playing with three other humans that are all pretending to be monsters and occasionally attempting to simulate bad engrish dubbing across the couch. However, when it’s just you against the adventure mode, it’s an entirely different experience. The computer cheats! Or, more accurately, the AI seems to have complete awareness of the battleground beyond the view of the traditional monster cam, so they will often break off from the fight to pursue some previously unseen powerup. And let me tell you, an AI monster can book it when it wants to! Meanwhile, your own Godzilla (why would anyone play as Aguirus? Godzilla is right there!) moves like a slow, lumbering beast. This is right and proper for a King of the Monsters, but it does feel a bit like you’re being taken advantage of when a rival is pelting you with fireballs from across the screen. FLY!This is never an issue when you’re playing with friends, as you’re all equally slow and terrible thunder lizards, but when you have limited continues and an opponent that seems to have extrasensory awareness? It gets old fast. A fighter controlling like a mack truck isn’t great under normal circumstance, but it’s somehow even worse when the same rules don’t seem to apply to your opponent.

And that’s when I had my grand idea: why not make a videogame where everybody sucks?

Wait, no, let me try that again.

My thinking here is that G:DAMM is a game where you’re controlling classic movie monsters. And, let’s be real here, absolutely every movie monster from earlier than about 1990 was a dude in a dreadful rubber suit. If a head was allowed to peak out, there could also be a dreadful mask or dreadful prosthetics involved, but, by and large, we’re only talking about big, puffy, and inevitably sweaty rubber suits. And, while this certainly also applies to Western monsters (Abbott and Costello simply could not afford a CGI Frankenstein), we all know that Godzilla and his many opponents were all dudes (and ladies, presumably) in rubber suits. So, while this game sees your monsters maneuver about as well as a freight train being steered by FRA-licensed cow, that feels almost appropriate, as how well do you think you would be able to maneuver while being trapped in a miniature, mobile sauna? Godzilla controls terribly, but it always looked like “real” Godzilla would have the same kind of problems. Oh, a powerup appeared outside of your line of vision? Well, do you think it would be easy to see in that suit? Of course not! This is immersive gameplay!

Which is where my game idea originated: why not create a fighting game where all the fighters are stuck in big, cumbersome monster costumes?

POWER!Haruo Nakajima is the man behind the monster that played Godzilla in twelve separate films from 1954 to 1972. When you close your eyes and picture Godzilla destroying Tokyo (aka every time you close your eyes, obviously), you’re picturing Haruo Nakajima inside a Godzilla costume. And you know something else about Haruo Nakajima? He had a black belt in judo. This means one thing: Haruo Nakajima could kick your ass. And, considering he did his job masterfully for nearly twenty years, there are pretty good odds he could kick your ass while wearing a Godzilla costume. And wouldn’t that be kind of neat? – Well, to watch, not to get your ass kicked by Godzilla… or… Or would that be even more interesting… Wait, never mind, back to the original topic – Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how a martial artist adapts to fighting within a giant rubber suit? How moves are changed and adapted to accommodate for added bulk, extra exertion, and, inevitably, a little foam tail? And wouldn’t it be fun to control a fighter of black belt caliber trapped in such a suit?

Yes, I am suggesting someone create Rubber Movie Monster Fighter (Melee).

Look, I know we have the technology. And it doesn’t have to go full QWOP (though that would be kind of amazing), I’m just suggesting a fighting game where it feels “right” that your fighter is struggling to survive while locked inside a mascot costume. And, to be clear, we don’t need a Godzilla license. The Power Rangers franchise alone has to be responsible for a collection of rubber “movie” monsters greater than the actual population of Iowa. It’s wouldn’t be that difficult to work out some original monsters that may or may not be Tyrannosaurs-adjacent. ZAP!And nobody gets “fireballs” or “dragon punches” or alike, it’s just all mascot monsters throwing fists and stubby little kicks. Bonus points for posing after your opponent has been knocked over, and maybe a mini-game involved on just finding the effort to stand up again if you’re the one that toppled over in an enormous turtle costume. It would still be, at its core, a fighting game, but it would be a very different fighting game.

And if Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee proves anything, it’s that people will put up with cumbersome controls if it means enjoying a “different” fighting game. So, if you’ve got some coding experience and a graphics department laying around, have your people call my people, I’ve been anxious to add a “concept by” credit to my résumé. I mean… it could be a really fun game!

FGC #472 Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube initially, and then ported to the Xbox (one… but not that One). There was also a Gameboy Advance title that Wikipedia thinks is the same game (Godzilla: Domination), but that was a Wayforward joint that was completely different by virtue of containing an enormous Mecha Ghidrah.
  • Number of players: Four, as is appropriate to a melee.
  • Blazing!Further Issues: Maybe the reason the controls for this seem so wrong so often is that many of the monsters have non-standard body types. No, I’m not saying some of the monsters are shaped unusually, I’m saying many of the fighters don’t even have arms. That impacts the “one size fits all” controls pretty significantly. And don’t get me started on all the monsters that just happen to have the power of flight…
  • Favorite Kaiju: Technically it is hard to choose anyone but Godzilla. But Megalon does have drill arms and the ability to dig through the Earth for some rad flip attacks, so he’s certainly right up there.
  • Missed Opportunity: Jet Jaguar basically looks like a budget Ultra Man, and he’s completely missing from this adventure. Granted, he’s not technically a monster, but I wouldn’t mind having at least one vaguely menacing humanoid robot running around.
  • Did you know? Haruo Nakajima had an asteroid named in his memory in 2018. I really hope that asteroid stays the hell away from Earth, because, if we somehow survive such an apocalyptic impact, we’re going to spend the next century talking about the grand irony of Asteroid 110408 Nakajima destroying Tokyo.
  • Would I play again: Nope. I might have an idea for a game where characters control like bulky monsters, but it’s not all that fun on the Gamecube. I enjoyed this title in its time, but its time has passed.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Warrior 4! It’s time for Alena and a bunch of losers to save the world. Please look forward to it!