Tag Archives: glitch

FGC #601 Psychonauts 2

This article contains spoilers for Psychonauts 2, primarily in regard to a lore twist that is learned approximately halfway through the game. If you have had long conversations with Ford Cruller, you know what I am talking about. Anyway, you have been warned…

THE PSYCHONAUTS!My grandfather was the eldest of seven brothers. As confirmed by those granduncles and practically our entire extended family, my grandfather was always known as a generally kind man who was also very quick to anger. And everyone thought this was wholly justified! He had to “keep in line” his younger, male siblings with very little help from a father growing up, and then he was a navy man just in time for World War II. He spent all day on a boat with a metaphorical collection “brothers” that all had to be disciplined and controlled, and… well… I don’t know if you have ever dealt with a man before, but they can get kind of rowdy. So is it any wonder that his experiences from childhood to young adulthood stayed with him his entire life? You cannot just “turn off” the person you have been for twenty years, and if that means you occasionally must throw your drunken brother-in-law off a balcony to make a point about being civil at dinner parties, so be it (also, in my grandfather’s [legal] defense, it was not a particularly high balcony). My grandfather lived to be older than most, and, even through to the age when he was frequently napping in the living room lounger, his whole family continued to have explanations for any temperamental shouting matches. He’s always been like that. That’s just who he is.

Until it wasn’t who he was.

Today’s game is the venerable/mythical Psychonauts 2. Psychonauts 2 is here! It was released! After 16 years of absolutely no Psychonauts (Gogglebob.com does not recognize the existence of virtual reality), here is Psychonauts all back again. And it is no exaggeration to say that Psychonauts is “back”, either. If your number one complaint about Psychonauts is that it never should have ended, Psychonauts 2 has got you covered with everything from the original, and a host of quality-of-life improvements to round out an “and then some”. Psychonauts 2 starts with a Raz that already knows the essential skills from Psychonauts 1 (sorry, invisibility, I said essential), and escalates from there with confidence that the audience does not need an entire level to understand PSI blasts again. All new abilities are then introduced, challenges are expanded, and, by the end, Raz will be thought-grappling while bossing a clone around with the best of ‘em. It is remarkable all on its own that Psychonauts 2 is simultaneously exactly more of the same, and something wholly new and different. This is the game Super Mario Bros. 2 could have been! If that wasn’t awful!

Connect the thoughtsAnd I would be remiss if I did not note that they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Psychonauts was one in a seemingly endless parade of collectathons that had been going strong for ten years when it was released back in 2005. But now it seems like the idea of searching environments for hard-to-find collectibles has fallen by the wayside, and Psychonauts 2 is an example of a lamented evolutionary dead-end that that did not survive to see 2021. Chasing figments or hooking hidden keys to hidden chests feels simultaneously antiquated and refreshing when the best other titles of this era can manage is a sidequest or two where you must rescue three cats. Three cats!? You lifestream-addled morons! This friggen’ foyer has 17 tickets to find, and five more scavenger hunt items just to add a little flavor. Is this the kind of gameplay that is sustainable for title after title demanding you achieve 101% to see a marginally satisfactory ending? No. Of course not. That’s why so many people in Liberty City had mental breakdowns when photographing graffiti and seeing a “1/5,000 found” notification. But now, as likely the one game this year that is going to ask you to achieve “Rank 102”, it is a much easier pill to swallow.

But a collectathon can only work if there are interesting worlds in which to do your collecting. Mario 64 had portraits that doubled as portals, Banjo Kazooie had entire realms inside its haunted castle (wait… that was just the same as Mario…), and Psychonauts has always been about exploring the mind. And abstract psychological concepts are fertile ground for a dungeon or ten! Psychonauts 1 featured bipolar disorders transformed into theatres and Napoleon complexes transferred to gigantic boardgames. Psychonauts 2 ups the ante (literally) with hospital-casinos, gameshows, and germ-riddled bowling alleys (uh… that is better than it sounds). It is a joy to explore these abstract worlds with concrete platforming abilities, and slingshotting over a gap to find some emotional baggage or sneaking under a bridge to find a bright idea is consistently pleasant. These “mindscapes” are beautifully realized from a conceptual and level-design standpoint, and every opportunity to enter a new level feels like a gift. Look, Ma, now I can jump in this crazy bee lady’s brain! Wonder what I’m gonna find there!

But there is one important difference between Psychonauts 1 and Psychonauts 2…

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

Everything is painThis game is cursed.

I’ve told this story elsewhere, but I own this game because I made a very poor decision as a child. I saved up my allowance for weeks, finally scraped together a little over ten bucks, and decided I would purchase a “used” videogame from the local rental hut. Mega Man 4 was available, but I decided that, since I had already played and beaten that game, I would pick up Wizards and Warriors 3, a game that promised three different “classes” for Kuros. Maybe, like my beloved Final Fantasy, I would have a fun time with these JRPG elements. I didn’t. I got the game home, played it for maybe a half hour, and returned to my mother sobbing, begging that we return the wretched game that literally made me cry. My mother did no such thing, and I learned a very valuable lesson about never trusting Rare Ltd. ever again.

Of course, since I had a whole twelve (or so) NES games when I was a kid, I played W&W3 continuously (bad blood is still allowed to be fresh blood), and did eventually beat the game. Now, some decades later, I decided I would share my W&W3 skills live on a stream, and showcase the misery for all to see (and to find out how much of a game I hadn’t played in years was still stuck in my head). And I did play through the game on a stream last Friday night with some very special guest stars (or the usual guest stars), and a good time was had by all.

But this game is still cursed, so, naturally, the audio got messed up, and the recording is pretty much just my microphone. It’s the whole of Wizards and Warriors 3, with me occasionally agreeing to comments that can no longer be heard. In one particularly surreal bit, I ask BEAT for a rundown on the indie rap scene, and then, a few moments of silence later, I agree that that sounds very interesting. It’s almost as terrible as Wizards and Warriors 3.

So, in lieu of having a video of my complete playthrough, we’re going to claim that that was a “live exclusive experience”, and here’s a consolation list of reasons Wizards and Warriors 3 is terrible.

This is a supremely glitchy and ugly game

That's not how you treat a ladyRight off the bat, practically everything is wrong with Wizards and Warriors 3. Animations for characters don’t seem to make any anatomical or kinetic sense. It’s impossible to visually distinguish between antagonistic and helpful NPCs (protip: they’re all appalling). Kuros (our hero) occasionally takes a moment to flash some leg at the audience. No part of this game is coherent, and it’s immediately apparent to even the most casual viewer.

What’s worse is that this game is swarming with glitches and things that may or may not be glitches. There are “gatekeeper” invincible monsters that can stretch the length of the screen, and… are they supposed to do that? It… doesn’t look like it. Similarly, it’s easy to push any NPC off the edge of the world, and giggle as they fall into oblivion. In fact, if you shove an opponent off any platform, and said foe isn’t already using their “jump” action, they will fall forever, presumably eventually perishing somewhere near the Earth’s mantle. I saw that happen on an episode of Batman once, and it looked… unpleasant.

Everything, practically from the moment you press Start, seems to be fragmentary, and the punch line is that, apparently, the game is unfinished. According to some sources, Zippo Games completely sold out to Rare Manchester during development, and most of the staff wound up quitting thanks to an overwhelming feeling of “you used to be cool, man.” Wizards and Warriors 3 was thus rushed out the door, and slowly made its way to the hands of poor, uninformed children. Thanks, Pickford Brothers (the original folks behind Wizards and Warriors), you’re on the list!

Your HP or your GP

We don't serve your kindWizards and Warriors 3 is a game not unlike Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest or The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. You have a large area to explore, and you can access newer, more interesting (lie) areas through acquiring intriguing (also a lie) upgraded abilities. It’s a Metroidvania! And an insult to that entire genre! But what really separates W&W3 from the Metroidvanias of today and yesterday is that there is no way to save. There are also no passwords. There’s no level select code. There’s nothing. You have three lives, you cannot acquire more lives, and there are no continues. Even if you Game Genie your way into additional lives, the game isn’t even programmed to display a life counter value greater than three. And once you’ve spent those three lives, you’re right back to the beginning, even if you spent the last four hours of your life attempting to make progress.

(Do you understand the tears now?)

Your only options are the limited meat items scattered across the map, or spending every last cent you find on food from various shops so you can keep Kuros’s health topped off. But you also need keys, because treasure chests and (mandatory) doors always seem to be locked. So you’re forced to either budget for an indefinite amount of damage that could leave you stuck back at the title screen, or blow your cash on those keys that you’re probably going to need to progress anywhere. How does a first time player make the decision between forward progress keys or saving progress with a pile of meat? I know what I did, which is demand that this game be traded for Mega Man 4 this instant. It didn’t work out.

Combat is optional and/or obligatory

DorkThere are three main areas to Wizards and Warriors 3 (huh, wonder if that was deliberate): the castle, the town, and the underground. Kuros also has three corresponding forms: knight, thief, and wizard. If you remember to always wear the appropriate disguise in the right area, you won’t have to fight a single random “monster”. Okay, that isn’t exactly true, as there are these floaty green dudes in the underground that will kill just about anybody, and there are a few birds that are absolute dicks, but other than that, the game pretty much plays by the rules. This means that, despite Knight Kuros’s kickass flying axe, you pretty much never need to use any combat skills in W&W3.

Except for the boss monsters.

The bosses are mandatory, and, aside from a really simple knight and worm, all of them follow the same pattern of “stand on top of Kuros at all times”. Assuming you’re not ready for these bosses (and why would you be? You literally don’t have to fight any other thing like these creatures in the entire game), you’re likely to lose some of those precious lives the very minute you open their boss doors. Oh, and never mind that you get stuck with the supremely underpowered thief class for a couple of those battles, because you apparently can’t change forms while inside a room. You’ve got limited resources, and very aggressive bosses. That is not a good combination for anyone that actually wants to enjoy this game.

Oh, and the “upgraded” form of the worm boss is… two worm bosses. That’s just lazy.

The best part of the game is also the worst

Comin' atcha!The very reason I bought this game at all is the advertised “guild” factor. Kuros can adopt different personas, and wield magic as a wizard, or swing around a giant key like a Sora thief. This is good and right, and adds some much needed diversity to the Wizards and Warriors formula (which previously only saw a hero that could jump, swing a sword poorly, and occasionally become invisible). And, since this game is a metroidvania, the acquisition of new “ranks” in these guilds/costumes means access to new areas. Also, acquiring a flight ability, no matter how dreadfully slow, is always a good time.

Unfortunately, to earn any of these skills, you have to complete guild challenges. This always involves fighting a random boss somewhere in the world, collecting a statue, returning to the guild with said statue, running through an obstacle course of dubious graphical fidelity, and then fighting another boss. Each of these challenges is exactly the same, though with increasing difficulty through the ranks. And when I say “difficulty”, I apparently mean “we just made the platforms smaller, and threw in a couple of practically unavoidable traps.” Since these obstacle courses reset from the start every time you fail, this means the average player will spend something like 70,000,000 hours attempting to jump between moving platforms over either poorly rendered spikes (thief challenge) or absolutely nothing (wizard challenge). After clearing all of these challenges, actually being impaled is more fun than dealing with the magical doors-directly-to-spikes again.

There’s a hateful inventory system, too

Way to go, prezThere are key items in Wizards and Warriors 3, and you may only carry four at a time. Under normal circumstances, this would just be annoying, but could actually lead to some decent gameplay moments. You must stay on target with one task or another, and attempting to collect everything on the map in one go is discouraged. That can be okay. Regrettably, in this case, the game is still a glitchy mess, so it’s entirely possible to get four random key items, and thus be unable to pick up a fifth item that you actually need to progress to unload said four random items. For an easy example, it’s very easy to get guild statues out of order, but it’s impossible to challenge the guilds with said statues out of sequence. Got the golden thief statue before silver, and need that (golden) key to get rid of the rest of your crap? Sorry, you’re screwed. May as well reset. Back to the beginning, again.

What’s more, a number of key items exist exclusively for the benefit of wise men that provide such useful information as “kill the dragon” or “you need to go in the giant, imposing door to reach the final boss”. Thanks, guy, I really didn’t need to run all over Piedup with this stupid rosary pendant to learn that valuable nugget of information.

This dragon is stupid

Look at this daffy thing.

Three heads are better than one?

The Bad Ending sucks

This ends poorlySo after earning all of the guild ranks, rescuing and lying to three princesses, conquering the dragon, and maybe bribing some old men into taking arbitrary trash off your hands, it’s time for the final boss. Malkil, Kuros’s eternal rival, has conquered the strangely vertical town of Piedup, and sits on the throne in disguise as the king. Before the final battle, Malkil offers Kuros a choice: fight to the death, or join together, and rule this hamlet in tandem. Should Kuros choose to join his antagonist… he is vaporized immediately. Game over.

In any other game (Dragon Quest comes to mind), this would simply be annoying. Oh well, that was the wrong choice, time to reload from the most recent save. However, W&W3 still only provides exactly zero continues and/or opportunities to save your progress. So it’s possible to battle through the whole game, reach the finale, and lose everything to one poor selection. This should be treated as a war crime, and, if more people had actually played W&W3, most of the Rare staff would be in jail by now.

The Good Ending sucks

Just bad all aroundAnd should you actually have enough health and lives to finish off Malkil the Happy Evil King, the ending isn’t exactly a reward. Kuros is sucked into a time warp (apparently a magical portal that Malkil can now summon at will?), and, while you’re assured that Piedup saw the return of its true and just King James, Kuros is never seen again. The obvious sequel hook is some manner of reverse Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the concept of Knight Kuros becoming Laser Knight Kuros is a promising one. But we never saw another Wizards and Warriors, and the franchise seems to be all but forgotten.

Actually, wait. That is a happy ending. Rot in hell, Wizards and Warriors 3. You ruin everything.

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was even ignored for the recent Rare Replay collection on Xbone. How bad do you have to be to be forgotten in favor of Digger T. Rock?
  • Number of players: I don’t even want to imagine a world where a two player experience was shoehorned into this nonsense.
  • Favorite Costume: Thief, with the crowbar, in the castle.
  • Regarding the stream: I am disappointed that the audio from that adventure is lost forever. I appreciate everyone that participated, and I had a really fun time recording it while playing one of the most loathsome games in my library. All that said, if you missed it, we spent most of the night recounting unrelated favorite tweets, so no big loss.
  • Say something nice: It is kind of fun to see how many NPCs you can “ride” and/or push off the world into oblivion.
  • smexyDid you know? Oh God, I just realized where I recognized the Pickford Brothers name from! These are the people responsible for Plok, too! And they worked on the worst Marvel/LJN games. It’s weird how these two are tangentially involved in a number of games that influenced my childhood… for better or worse (mostly worse).
  • Would I play again: I was amazed during my live playthrough at how much of this game is still second nature (I only really needed a FAQ to remind myself where that dragon was hiding). That said… God, I never want to see this thing again. The pain still feels fresh…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rolling Thunder 2 for the Sega Genesis. I believe that is some manner of weather pattern? Is this a Weather Channel simulator? That might be fun. Please look forward to it!

I still have nightmares…

FGC #082 Tekken 4

Iron fists and whatnotThe time has come to tell the tale of my Playstation 2.

I would like to say that I have had generally good luck with video game hardware over the years. My first hardware failure was a SNES Advantage that somehow got stuck in “slow mo” mode (aka automatic turbo start button) that I eventually disassembled and… thought I could put back together? Every once in a while, I’ll sort through old toys, and find an ancient, forgotten giant Y button. I played my first Dreamcast hard with Soul Calibur, and it eventually shut down and never properly booted again. Remember the Dreamcast boot sequence, with a little ball bouncing along the Dreamcast letters? Well, that little ball would get up to the “E” and, before hitting “A”, just infinitely wobble back and forth while the sound of a jackhammer trumpeted through the speakers. Luckily, Dreamcasts were valued at around thirty bucks six months later, so I didn’t go without for too long. And, like pretty much everybody, my Xbox 360 “red ringed” on two separate occasions, and just recently completely gave up properly outputting a video signal. Eh, I needed to upgrade the hard drive anyway…

But I still recall the most strange hardware issue of all.

Travel with me now back to the time when the Playstation 2 was new, and not nearly 16 years old. This was the birth of what I’d consider “current” graphics, that is to say, no more weird looking polygons comprising every surface, object, and person, no more pre-rendered, completely static backgrounds, no more tinny midis in place of full orchestral scores. Alright, yes, all of those things could still appear, but look at the difference between Final Fantasy 8 and The Bouncer (which, let’s face it, both starred basically the same characters), and you’ll see the insane improvement between generations. This was a whole new world of advanced graphics, and the Pixar-level graphics that had previously been relegated to ending sequences were now fully functional and an absolute blast to play.

But you have to remember that someone enjoying these graphics firsthand may also have survived practically every other video game generation. Get it!?Comparing Playstation to Playstation 2 graphics is one thing, but when you compare it back to the Donkey Kong days of the NES, it was hard to believe this kind of thing was even possible. Once you leapt over that mental hurdle, though, you began to realize that the people making these games were likely the same or related to the people that actually were involved with Donkey Kong back in the day, so, while the graphics may be upgraded, there’s no reason to believe the “allowable” glitches wouldn’t still exist. Nobody puts their million dollar game on hold just because a character’s hair doesn’t look right for exactly one scene, so let’s just collectively ignore the fact that Vincent’s cape is clipping into another dimension while we’re supposed to be mourning Aeris. Accidents happen, and I can safely say, for now and then, that some games are better off just shipped as glitchy messes. Yes, I’d rather play a game without glitches, but given the choice between a glitchy Skyrim and no Skyrim, I’ll take the glitched version.

So, when it appeared I broke Hwoarang’s spine during a bout in Tekken 4, I thought nothing of it. “It’s just a glitch,” I told myself, and I moved on (or fought on, as the case may be). I should have known better.

Look at this, probably just a silly capture of one frame, right?

That looks like it hurts

Well, we could look at this in motion…

Really hurts

Maybe I’m just seeing things?

Months earlier, I had played through Final Fantasy 10, and while it was primarily glitch-free, there were occasions when a character would stretch and distort to the full size of the screen before awkwardly snapping back to regular size. The experience would always be quick, and, given this was from the same company that produced Vincent’s cape, I thought nothing of it. I mocked the random events with a friend whom I knew was also playing Final Fantasy 10, and he seemed completely unaware of such a thing ever happening. “Oh well,” I thought, “dude just doesn’t even notice that kind of thing.” I should have known better.

And then came Kingdom Hearts. To be clear, I had already played through Final Fantasy 10 at this point, and Tekken 4 I had borrowed from a friend and played for a solid week or so (In retrospect, I think we had a parasitic relationship where he had money, and I had the drive and skills to unlock all characters in a new game. Here’s your Tekken back, and I copied the data to your memory card just like you asked.), so I had already written off this issue in two games previously. In Kingdom Hearts, however, it was hard to ignore…

Now that's what I call goofy

Huh. That’s weird. Is that only in menus? Maybe if we look at just one character?

Think happy thoughts!

Whoa, Wendy, what happened to your leg? Maybe if we hit someone without legs?

You shouldn't be part of this world

Jesus Christ.

What you’re seeing there is a capture from my ol’ original Playstation 2. What’s happening there? Who the hell knows, but it happens to nearly every model in Kingdom Hearts 1. It only effected the gameplay in one location, where Sora glitched “behind” a gigantic Ursula, and thus had a really easy time of it just plinking the back of her neck to death. But while the whole experience may not have made the game unplayable, it was certainly… more than a little distracting.

So I want to say that my Playstation 2 has some kind of issue with polygons staying where they should. I’ve never heard of anyone else with this issue, but I haven’t looked very hard, so maybe it’s a known glitch? Maybe my Emotion Engine is sad? I don’t know. What I do know is that the stupid thing makes some games completely unplayable.

Just so I don’t keep picking on Squaresoft, I’ll mention Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which, by and large, was free of this glitch. However! During one of the stalking missions (the one where you purchase a gimp suit… it’s a weird game), every time I would reach a certain spot on the road in my tracking, my car would glitch out, fall through the planet, and rematerialize right on top of my prey. Mission failed. Every. Single. Time. In a desperate attempt to complete the mission, I used cheat codes to pile up cars and tanks over the “soft spot”, but, no, every single vehicle just popped through the wormhole and onto my poor mission objective. That poor woman exploded so many times, under so much rubble…

And, yes, it was just a result of my Playstation 2, and not some weak Rockstar coding. I took the game and my memory card over to a friend’s house/Playstation 2, completed the mission successfully, and then returned home and didn’t experience anything like that again.

But back to mocking Squaresoft, here’s the most insidious application in Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. The whole game was pretty easy on the glitches on my run through, and I rather enjoyed the game (mainly because I like the franchise/pulling weapons out of nowhere), so I nearly completed the game. I made it to the final chamber before the final boss, and hopped on the elevator that would transport Edward Elric to the final challenge. What happened was… heartbreaking…


Yes, Edward glitches up to where the elevator eventually stops, but, without proper footing, falls back down the shaft. The elevator, now devoid of a passenger, returns back down to terra firma. Edward lands back on the elevator, it slightly ascends, and the whole thing starts again.

Thus, on my Playstation 2, completing the game is completely impossible.

Yes, I certainly pursued the same “just do it on another Playstation 2” solution I found for my GTA issue, but, given this was the absolute end of the game, it was an aggravating experience. Way to go, crazy Playstation 2.

So, yeah, if I’m going to remember Tekken 4 for anything, it’s those first notions of, “wait, I didn’t see this happen at my buddy’s place, what gives?” The glitched PS2 would obviously go on to more radically affect other games, but Tekken 4, over everything else I could recall about the experience, well always be that game where Jin suddenly has a floppy skull for some reason.

Tekken 4 reminds me that I’m special.

FGC #82 Tekken 4

  • System: Playstation 2. That’s kind of important. Arcade, too. That’s less important.
  • Number of players: 2, as, ya know, fighting game.
  • NooooMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: I like Tekken 4, but it’s one of those fighting games that, after an edition that was wall-to-wall crazy and featured every character so the bear and the dinosaur could fight the sumo and the schoolgirl, “rebooted” the franchise and limited the roster to the more serious characters with more technical moves. I mean, at least the bear and the zombie got to stay, and we picked up a robot that would go on to hangout in Xenosaga, but I still miss the kangaroo, and Paul just isn’t the same after his hair fell down.
  • Favorite Character: Hwoarang is my main man when I just want to kick someone in the head hard and often, and Yoshimitsu is the reason I play Tekken games at all (that’s a story for another article), but, of the Tekken 4 lineup, Bryan (the zombie) is my favorite. He is just so… completely insane. I mean, I would be too if I routinely had to fight a bear, but he’s the only one in the cast that actually shows it.
  • Cosplay Corner: If I could dress as Violet every day, I would. I’d dye my hair and everything.
  • So, still use that Playstation 2? Nah, I replaced it eons ago, tired of getting mission-blocked by random glitching. I say “replaced”, but I couldn’t get rid of the ol’ girl, so she’s sitting in my attic, trotted out only on occasions when I want to capture the insanity for a global audience. Most of my Playstation 2 gaming gets done on a “launch” Playstation 3 nowadays, anyway.
  • Did you know? Kuma, the bear, has appeared in every Tekken game (also Street Fighter X Tekken and Playstation All-Stars), but he hasn’t been the same Kuma in every game. From Tekken 3 onward, Kuma is Kuma Jr., Da Bearsthe son of the original Kuma. Kuma Jr. is a very smart bear, and has won controlling shares in a worldwide conglomerate on at least two occasions. Fighting game plots are awesome.
  • Would I play again: Even including the original, I want to say that Tekken 4 is my least favorite Tekken. This isn’t because it’s a bad game, but, as previously mentioned with that “reboot” comment, this is the least interesting Tekken, and, really, that’s why I play Tekken. Tekken 4 is, at best, the Vassal of the Iron Fist.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast (though I reserve the right to play it on the Gamecube). Are you ready for some high speed fishing action? ARE YOU!?! Please look forward to it!