Tag Archives: hercules

FGC #641 God of War 3

Gonna war tonightHere is my idea for the perfect action game: just make 100% of a game based on 10% of God of War 3.

God of War 3 was released in 2010, so you will be forgiven for forgetting the current state of Kratos when this title first hit the Playstation 3. God of War (1) was a self-contained tale of a man that loses his family, blames the God of War, and then fights through hordes of mythical monsters to eventually grow to substantial size and murder/replace that other, equally vengeful god. But, despite this story ending on whatever is the opposite of a cliffhanger (sorry, too many Marvel movies have erased the concept of “finality” from my mind), there were multiple sequel hooks established in a host of unlockable endings. One such finale made the assertion that Kratos was aided on his quest by the almighty Zeus, and the thunder god was only so helpful because Kratos was one of his many bastard children (not going to judge here, Zeus was just not the kind of god that was fond of monogamy or protection). 2007’s God of War 2 decided to run with this thread, and the majority of that game was Kratos defying the Fates to earn an eventual confrontation with his deity daddy. But the deicide/parricide would have to wait, as Athena suffered the killing blow in place of Zeus, and the Z-Man escaped. But! Kratos was joined by the enormous and equally vengeful Titans, and GoW2 ended with the promise of a rock monster versus Mount Olympus battle that would justify the console generation upgrade. You can’t have those kinds of celestial fights on the piddling Playstation 2, mortal!

That's gotta stingSo three years later, the Playstation 3 granted us the conclusion to the Kratos(-is-super-angry) Trilogy. One thing was certain: Kratos was going to fight a lot of gods, and get all sorts of revenge on Zeus. But the in-between could be virtually anything! The God of War titles were never real time strategy games, so how would the multiple assaulting titans be handled? Would Kratos separate from them immediately? Would there be “titan-based gameplay” like what was seen in Shadow of the Colossus? Would Kratos be thrown to entirely new locales by the fury of war? Would you have the ability to summon titans to at least marginally aid in your dirty work? The possibilities were endless!

… And… well… God of War 3 was ultimately a typical God of War title. Kratos dies almost immediately, and once again must fight his way out of Hell/Hades. There are hordes of mythological monsters, and they all can be ultimately trounced by smacking the circle button until something or other is decapitated. Most of Kratos’s surrounding environments are either “magical (deadly) temple” or “generic (deadly) Grecian architecture”. There is the opportunity to participate in a sex-based mini game (this time with a goddess while also cucking a god you are about to murder). And the end of the story is exactly what everyone expected: Kratos formally overcomes his Oedipus complex by punching his father to death… even if that means the collapse of human society. Everybody, please, get over it. Kratos was working through some stuff. If half of Greece must be downed, destroyed, and exposed to a brand-new pandemic to get there, sorry, but Kratos really needed this release. If Zeus was your dad, you would be a lot more understanding.

But long before Kratos is within grappling range of Zeus, there is the start of God of War 3. And the absolute beginning of GoW3? That is one of the single best openings in gaming.

Ye GodsGod of War 3 does pick up exactly where God of War 2 left off. Kratos is literally standing on the shoulders of giants, and he is about to have a big, grand adventure assaulting all of Mount Olympus. And the trick of what happens next? It never stops. Kratos weaves his way in and out of the titans’ assault, and there is not a single moment when the screen is not shaking from a war that will ultimately shatter everything. This is still the beginning of a modern videogame, though, so there are plenty of tutorials, and the narration does seem to assume the player has never so much as pressed an X button before. But even if there are disembodied instructions for how to run following everywhere Kratos cares to go, Kratos is going places. An epic battle is raging, and Kratos is wiping the floor with the legions of heavenly warriors, monsters, and one entire god (on watery crab-horseback!). There is the prerequisite “learn how to push things” block puzzle in there, but it is snappy enough that Kratos can learn how to coddle cubes and get back to the battle in short order. And other than that? It is all battle, all the way, with Kratos utilizing all his end-game abilities from God of War 2 to cut a bloody swath across the area. And even though it feels like the war is never ending, there are still moments in there to introduce important items like save points, the Chains of Olympus, and a few glimpses of areas that will be visited much later in the game.

But whatever the details of the opening of God of War 3, the result is the same: the adrenaline is pumping, and flowing along at an amazing rate. When you are barely ever in the same spot for longer than thirty seconds without a massive flaming boulder destroying the place, you stay alert. When you are constantly fighting, using techniques that are both crushing and (visually) stunning, you are truly feeling the rage of Kratos. And you are already at maximum level from the finale of GoW2! You don’t have to so much as gaze upon a menu to power Kratos up any further. Your anti-hero is already as good as it gets, and all you need to focus on is the death of thousands by your bloody hands.

And then Kratos goes to Hell, and it all goes to hell.

Don't get stuckUpon defeating Poseidon and officially ending the prologue, Kratos falls from Olympus down to Hades. Once there, he accidentally bathes in the River Lethe, loses 90% of the acquired abilities of GoW2, and 100% of health and magic powerups. Oh, and since there is a river involved, Kratos has to swim, which is the most boring thing Kratos ever does in his opening trilogy (leaving some wiggle room here in case Dad of War ever makes swimming fun). From there, you are back to normal God of War “action”. Sure, there are epic battles again (sometimes against Titans, for a change), but it is all very… interruptible. Clear out some ghouls, and it is time to use your red orbs to power the weapon of your choice. Earn a new tool, and then you have to do a tutorial puzzle at the speed of snail to “learn” your new ability, and then perform another two puzzles just to prove you really know what you are doing with your new skill of “can run faster”. Beat a boss, and there is an inevitable refractory period where damn near nothing happens for like three screens (and maybe there is more swimming!).

Basically, once God of War 3 gets going, it frequently finds reasons to stop going. Do damn near anything, and you will be forced to pause to utilize any spoils of battle. Stop and smell the roses, Kratos. You’ll live longer.

And can you think of a worse way to spend an action game? I didn’t come here to pause! I came here to swiftly murder every mofo between here and the top of the mountain!

Even this is funSo here’s my ideal action game: just focus on that intro. Drop the leveling. Drop the pressing against every wall to find hidden health powerups. Drop any puzzle that cannot be solved outside of thirty seconds. Drop the tutorials for every new thing that comes along. Absolutely do not give a player time to “get used to” a new skill: just drop it in there, and if Kratos dies while trying to figure it out, let ‘em die. Keep the pace. Keep Kratos running, jumping, and swinging his chains around like a madman. Do not let the poor, undead godling breathe. Speed never had a twenty-minute intermission where Keanu Reeves had to navigate a skill tree, and Crank never had Jason Statham solve a crossword puzzle for a half hour. This is an action game, dammit, give me some action.

So what do I want from a new action game? The very beginning of God of War 3, and nothing. God of War 3 isn’t a bad experience, but its opening is sublime. And if we could get that, and only that, as an entire game? Well, that would make me as happy as a Kratos with a dead god-dad.

FGC #641 God of War 3

  • System: Playstation exclusive, though that may be Playstation 3 or Playstation 4. I think some of these screenshots are technically from a copy of the HD version being played on the Playstation 5. I can’t remember exactly which controller I was holding at the time…
  • Number of players: Kratos gives friends no quarter.
  • Other Offenders: On the subject of keeping the action going, while God of War 3 does not commit this particular sin, I can safely say that a “Mission Clear” grading results screen is a lack of action, too, Devil May Cry. While we’re at it, Sonic the Hedgehog is on notice.
  • I like green thingsFavorite Weapon: The Nemesis Whip is all sparkly and green, so why would you need anything more? Truth be told, I just like it because it feels like typical “Kratos whip blades” gameplay, but is just different enough to distinguish itself from the previous two games of swinging around the same stuff. Conversely, the Nemean Cestus feels appropriately bulky, but is too much of a departure from the reason I’m playing the game in the first place. You can punch out bad guys in any other game…
  • Favorite God: After lauding the opening, you might think I would choose Poseidon, the deity that caps off that section. But, truth be told, I prefer the “fight” against Hera, as she pretty much just keels over after drinking herself to death. This is an inglorious end, but I appreciate the fact that the designers did not attempt to create a three-part boss battle out of the stages of alcoholism.
  • Favorite Boss Battle: If we are going outside the gods, you have to respect the enormous fight against the gargantuan Cronos the Titan. This really feels like something that was intended to be in God of War 1, but was axed for hardware limitations. But now you can attack a giant’s thumbnail like it ain’t no thang! What more could you ask for?
  • This at least looks funStuff to do: There are a surprisingly high number of ridiculous minigames in this serious game about serious people. There is a “flying” section that seems like it would be more at home in a Sonic the Hedgehog game, some ridiculous puzzles in the labyrinth, and, of course, harp hero. I am not certain who on the design team wanted Kratos to participate in a rhythm game, but please find them, and commit Kratos upon them.
  • Did you know? Kevin Sorbo is the voice actor for a Hercules here that is very different from Sorbo’s role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This is being noted because any appearance by Kevin Sorbo in 2022 is tinged with a bit of… disgust.
  • Would I play again: Why not? This is the most God of War of the original God of War trilogy, so it will likely see a playthrough again before ever touching the PSP “side game”. And, hey, if I get bored, at least the best part of the game is all right there at the beginning…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Portal 2! It’s still alive! And coming next week! Please look forward to it!

They're best friends

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #13.9: Live! On Ice!

You could argue that this entire site exists because of Kingdom Hearts (see the FAQ’s FAQ for more details), so it seemed only appropriate to celebrate the release of Kingdom Hearts 3 with a live stream of its opening segments on February 1st. Want to watch that sucker? Well, here you go:

This video is primarily featuring myself, Captain Clueless, BEAT, and Fanboy Master. Additional promotional considering was provided by Trident, Bongo Bill, A Turtle Does Bite, and Mars Dragon. Thank you to everyone that joined in the stream! (And if I missed anyone, I’m very sorry.)

Notes! With Time Annotations!

9:00 – An explanation for this nonsense is provided. My original “plan” for the stream was that Countess Clueless, joining me live on the couch while I played this game, was going to be exposed to the Kingdom Hearts franchise for the first time, and we would all get to see what it’s like for a Disney fan to see this complete nonsense without the context of seven or so previous titles. However, the opening of the game is surprisingly bonkers-free, so Contessa Clueless wasn’t all that shocked. Hypothesis disproven!

19:00 – Hey, nineteen minutes into the stream, and we’ve got some gameplay. That’s not too bad for something JRPG adjacent.

28:00 – BEAT attempts to explain the plot and Fanboy Master explains exactly how a Goofy Movie World should work in Kingdom Hearts. And that should be canon. Also, apparently we’re only playing Kingdom Hearts 2.9.

Darkness!35:00 – BEAT starts the first of his anti-Disney screeds. This will be a recurring conversation across the stream, though please be aware that if you disagree with Disney, you will be devoured by Disney, and replaced with a more palatable version of yourself.

45:00 – “I’ve had two battles, and I think it’s been forty minutes.” Also, the first appearance of a woman with a speaking role (well, a woman that cannot turn into a dragon. Sorry, Maleficent.)

1:05:00 – This Air Herc mural really showcases how the worlds of Kingdom Hearts 3 are a lot more interesting than the themed hallways of previous Kingdom Hearts titles. It’s not like every previous Kingdom Hearts game was particularly terrible, they just weren’t this consistently… cool.

1:25:00 – As all streams must, discussion rapidly descends into the realm of Sonic the Hedgehog mechanics.

1:49:00 – I run directly into a stampede. Look, my Kingdom Hearts skills exist in a quantum state: I am either very good at keeping Sora alive, or very, very bad. In this case, I earn Nega-Sora pretty damn fast.

2:00:00 – Speaking of which, marvel as I don’t understand flowmotion for a solid few minutes.

2:15:00 – “We did it!” … No we didn’t! Hercules and Zeus did everything! Also, this wraps up some very interesting Nintendo discussion that I missed on account of actually playing the game.

2:25:00 – As Riku descends into The Darkness, Carmine Clueless comments that she doesn’t see the point. It’s all just running around hitting things with a giant key. She’s on level six billion of Candy Crush, but this she finds repetitive? Bah!

Heartless!2:35:00 – It is worth noting that Gasoline Alley is completely insane, and apparently features a wealth of immortals.

2:45:00 – Finally it is time to start Kingdom Hearts 3. We’re only nearly three hours in!

2:59:00 – Fanboy Master notes that the Heartless Tornado here only exists to satisfy that one trailer that was released a million years ago. He is also able to identify clothing from The Bouncer. FBM really is the MVP of this stream.

3:09:00 – And we close with a discussion on the joys of skateboarding in Kingdom Hearts 2. Thank you again to everyone that participated, and thanks for watching, everybody!

FGC #336 World Heroes Anthology

I love you, Willow ValleyHere’s another reason we’re stupid.

So there’s this anime I’m about to spoil, and it’s called Fate/Stay Night. I’m not going to be bothered to figure out the exact origins of this franchise, but I’m moderately certain it’s some kind of Japanese light porno that digivolved into a version of Pokémon. The “original” plot is that there is The Holy Grail War, and in order to reduce the body count of another Crusade, seven Pokémon Trainers each get one main warrior, and said warriors fight it out. In the anime (one of them, but I think I’m talking about the first one) this means a well-meaning, nondescript boy winds up with a female warrior at his beck and call, inadvertently gains a tsundere rival/ally in the war itself, and somehow eventually accumulates a few other walking fetishes for his harem. Did you guess one of his opponents-turned-allies would be a “younger sister” archetype? Good job, you’ve watched an anime before!

Fate/Stay Night’s obvious thighs fetish aside, it seems the most lasting item to come out of that series is its appropriation of historical and mythical characters. The concept for this Holy Grail War is that the warriors are drawn from across antiquity and fiction, and you can wind up with an epic battle where Hercules has to fight Ozymandias while Cu Chulainn eats a hotdog. And, of course, the big “mystery” of the initial Fate/Stay Night story is the identity of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman that is aiding our protagonist. Eventually, it is discovered that she is the one and only King Arthur (star of Monty Python and the Holy Grail), and all the myths got it wrong, “he” was a “she” all along, and just taped down her prodigious chest because medieval peasants weren’t so great about listening to ladies who studied the blade. This is meant to be a revelation, because it recontextualizes history (“history”), and adds a certain gravitas to this story about occasionally peeping on Queen Arthur bathing. Also, it allows the Once and Future Queen to have massive depression over the current state of Camelot (which I believe has become some manner of theme park), and a sad protagonist is always a sign of a for-real serious story for adults.

Is this Fate?For reasons that I can’t completely understand (are there a lot of people out there that just really want to boink King Arthur?) Fate/Stay Night has been a very successful series. It has amassed a huge number of spin-offs and auxiliary material, and I somehow bought two of the artbooks because it’s not yet illegal to be drunk and access Amazon.com. And, through all of the Fate/Stay material, there continues to be this delightful inclination toward harvesting history for a cheap bit of seriousness. That’s not just any dark knight, that’s Lancelot! Who’s that lion-headed muscle man? It’s Thomas Edison! And when we need a whole new version of our most popular heroine, we’ll say she’s Nero this time. We can always find another male leader to be reimagined as a busty blonde. We can keep this series going forever!

And it works every. Single. Time.

Now, I’m not saying that the Fate/Stay Night franchise is some kind of unrelenting cultural juggernaut the likes of Young Sheldon and its associated ancillary material; no, what I’m saying is that, if you pay the tiniest bit of attention to the Fate/Stay Night franchise (and maybe properly call it the “Type Moon Universe” or something), you will be tricked every single time they release a “new” character. It’s really simple: they marry a random anime trope (let’s say J-Pop idol) to a random mythical/historical character (gonna go with… Elizabeth Bathory) and then marvel as the audience says, “Hey! I know that name! Neat!” It’s not like it pushes systems, but every time it happens, there’s that twinge of recognition, that indescribable feeling of knowing what you’re looking at, and, inevitably, it somehow enhances the experience. This isn’t Original Character #4,371, this is freakin’ Marilith! I saw her in Final Fantasy! Kinda!

And, while I may be fairly immune to the charms of Fate/Stay Night, I was young once. And, for that reason, I can never find fault in World Heroes.

Axe me no questions, I'll cut you no liesActually, let me amend that statement: I can absolutely see how World Heroes was not a very good Street Fighter 2 clone. The inadequate attack options lead to very limited fights, the final boss is Shang Tsung without a Goro, and the “danger” levels are a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. World Heroes 2 added more characters to the roster, but was otherwise more of the same (give or take the “seesaw” battles that take absolutely forever). World Heroes 2 Jet was just the Turbo edition, and World Heroes Perfect was finally a rival for Street Fighter 2 when we had already moved on to Street Fighter Alpha. World Heroes was always a step behind, and never any better than the myriad of other wannabe fighters available at the time.

And I don’t think I’ve ever loved a fighting game franchise more.

I’ve always said that a fighting game lives or dies by its roster. Street Fighter knows the score on this one, and it’s also the flawless reason that Tekken keeps adding magical idols and hulking robots to its cast. On the other side of the coin you have the likes of Virtua Fighter, which is an excellent game fundamentally, but contains a roster so boring I’m struggling to stay awake to finish this sentence. World Heroes is firmly in the Street Fighter camp (up to and including Ken and Ryu “but ninjas!” as the main characters), and, while there are a few duds (hello, Bruce Lee Clone #261), this is a game that absolutely plumbs the depths of history to produce an interesting roster. Rasputin the mad (and loving) monk! Ganghis Kahn! And, yes, even a precursor to Fate/Stay Night’s blonde swordswoman, an expy of Joan of Arc named Jane. All the numbers have been filed off these “famous” fighters (which explains how Hulk Hogan snuck into the ring), but it’s pretty clear that the “C” in “C. Kidd” doesn’t stand for “Carl”.

NEO DIO!And damned if this “historical” roster didn’t work on me. Look! It’s Jack the Ripper! I know who that is! I saw that guy on Babylon 5! Let’s pump a few quarters into this one! And I couldn’t have been the only one, as the “weak” World Heroes gameplay did wind up producing a pile of sequels (and I swear I saw World Heroes on more Neo Geos than I ever saw Metal Slug). World Heroes might not have survived past the fighting game fad of the late 90’s, but it fared a lot better than Primal Rage. Eat it, Saturday Night Slam Masters!

But, like it or not, the fleeting success of World Heroes is another sign that we’re dumb. We’re suckers for recognition, and whether it’s a reality TV show host running for president or a medieval woman with a sword, we seem to gravitate toward the familiar. A significant variation on King Arthur or a slight variation on Joan of Arc, it doesn’t matter, just so long as that proverbial part of our monkey brain lights up in acknowledgment. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be familiar.

Though I suppose familiar can be good, too. You know, when it involves a dude in a tiki mask demolishing a Viking. That’s always going to be a fun time.

FGC #336 World Heroes Anthology

  • System: Playstation 2 for the anthology, but the original World Heroes games appeared on the Neo Geo. And it hopped over to Super Nintendo, like, once. Maybe there was a brief stop on Saturn, too.
  • Number of players: Two is the number of fighters, and the number of fighters shall be two.
  • Localization Fun: It’s SNK, so it’s time for your daily recommended engrish.

    PUNCH!

    So close!

  • Problematic Like: Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room: this game features a robotic Nazi. They don’t try to hide it! His bio says that he was built for World War 2, he’s wearing basically a Nazi uniform, and he’s from Germany, with a profession listed as “soldier”. However, despite there being a Nazi in the roster, there’s no reason you have to be the Nazi, and you’re welcome to punch the Nazi all you want. So, you know, that’s an option.
  • What’s in a name: The man who creates the time machine that fuels this tournament is… Doctor Brown. Doc Brown. Who built a time machine. Huh. Later games did revise his name to be the slightly less conspicuous Dr. Brown Sugar.
  • Other Plagiarism: Along with the mecha Nazi, we’ve got some holdovers from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure here, complete with a final boss named Dio (who is, incidentally, basically a stand). If this bullet point doesn’t makes sense to you, please see your nearest anime nerd.
  • Why can’t we be friends: Now we take a moment to acknowledge the rad dancing happening in the background of the World Heroes 2 America stage.

    Rock it!

    Keep on rockin’, guys!

  • Did you know? A World Heroes release was planned for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, but that system flopped so badly, it brought down every franchise with it. Oops!
  • Would I play again: I have incredible nostalgia for this title, so almost certainly. Can’t say no to some of my addictions.

What’s next? Random ROB is letting me play another recent game… Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil! Let’s get ready to smash some Made in America china! Please look forward to it!

DBZ fighter?

FGC #175 Herc’s Adventures

Get 'emWhat is a “smart” videogame?

“Smart” is inevitably a subjective, loaded term. People are often described as smart as a result of good grades or quick thinking, but, as with so many things that define who we are, it’s a moving goalpost constantly ferried about by the audience. Is Donald Trump smart? He is college educated and successful in his field. If you vote “no” on this one, he’s also likely to retort with a hoary old, “Then if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” Theoretical Trump might have a point, but just because someone is wealthier than Stephen Hawking doesn’t mean they’re smarter. It’s all relative, and if the smartest man on Earth can’t figure out how to consistently make fire, then he’d look pretty dumb stranded on a deserted island (or just an episode of Survivor).

Different pieces of media also get the “smart” label. Citizen Kane is never going to finish my math homework, but it’s often regarded as a very smart movie. Suicide Squad, meanwhile, is “dumb fun”, even if it’s potentially just as big a waste of time as any other movie. I suppose the theory here is that movies that can be described as smart “really make you think”, while dumb movies are based primarily on explosions and watching fat people fall down. For better or worse, I feel like the internet as it currently stands has widely disproven this theory as indicated by the sheer number of articles I’ve read regarding popcorn flicks of the 80’s and 90’s and their impact on society and the secret meta meanings of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In other words, you can get a lot of “smart” out of “dumb”, so either descriptor for a movie, book, or television show seems disingenuous.

And then we have my favorite entertainment medium: videogames. A few short years ago, it would have been impossible to convince the general public that a videogame could ever possibly be described as “smart”. Like G 'n GLuckily, thanks to either actually good videogames or just focused advertising campaigns, a number of recent games have cleared the “smart” bar and occasionally won the title of “The Citizen Kane of Videogames”. Obviously, that phrase has no more actual meaning than claiming “Super Mario Bros. is the Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed of Videogames,” but the sentiment is there. Videogames can now be high art, and, as art, they can be smart. Unfortunately, I feel like we’re still a ways off from “The Louvre of Videogames”, but gaming as an art form has gained a lot more ground in recent years, so hooray for recognizing that gaming might be able to be smarter than the smarties.

Herc’s Adventures was released in 1997, the same year Final Fantasy 7 revitalized storytelling in videogames and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night put the “vania” in Metroidvania. At this time (nearly two decades ago, yeesh), videogames were still considered silly toys for children by much of the public. However, the “adventure genre” over in the land of personal computers was considered much more adult than anything seen on the consoles. The King’s Quest series was likely the most popular of these games, but Lucasarts had also carved out a critically acclaimed niche in the genre with titles like The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. At a time when many console games could barely provide coherent English, the Lucasarts adventure games provided interesting plots, clever puzzles, and humor.

Now, it’s impossible to know what people of the 80’s and 90’s were thinking (see: parachute pants), but Lucasarts adventure games were consistently referred to as “smart”, and it’s difficult to know if this was because of the gameplay or the writing. Io?Adventure games could basically be described by the more unwieldy phrase “logic puzzle games” thanks to the challenge of these titles ultimately relying on how quickly the player can adapt to the internal logic of the game’s world. This, naturally, was considered “smarter” than the twitch gaming of Super Mario Bros. or a button-mashing fighting game. And Lucasarts titles were considered even smarter than their PC brethren, as, unlike Sierra adventure games, Lucasarts tended to rely dramatically less on “you are dead” and gotcha moments. Actually being inviting to a player is only ever going to be interpreted as smart.

And the humor is the other side of the smart coin (which is probably sitting somewhere in the Batcave). I’m not going to dissect the frog and explain why humor is interpreted as smart on many occasions, but the rapid-fire jokes of games like Sam & Max portray a very smart writing staff. Again, these games were on the market at a time when the most popular console mascots (Mario, Link, Super Alfred Chicken) were all silent, and the talkers we did get (Bubsy, B.O.B.) were generally created by Deflucucus, Lord of Despair. Basically, when most console games couldn’t get out of the orbit of fart jokes (Boogerman! That happened!), Lucasarts was writing on a level that might make Woody Allen guffaw.

Despite the name, Herc’s Adventures is not an adventure game (well, it’s what I define as an adventure game [which means it fits the criteria of “kinda like Zelda”], but it’s not what Lucasarts defines as an adventure game). Herc’s Adventures is a more action-y game, and plays much more like Lucasarts’ other excellent console experience, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The gameplay is much the same, but Herc’s Adventures eschews the schlock horror aesthetic of ZTMN for a tongue-in-cheek look at the myths of Ancient Greece. Hera, Goddess of Fertility and wife of Alpha God Zeus is still a goddess… but now also a stereotypical overweight What a lookerhousewife that eats cows like potato chips. Hercules is a narcissist, Cassandra predicts pizza rain, and Athena seems less Goddess of Wisdom and more Marvin the Martian. Also, actual Martians are involved, but I’ll try to avoid spoiling that particular plot point.

In a way, all of this is a “smart” interpretation of Greek Mythology. All the elements are already there (playboy Zeus pretty much would sleep with anything in the classical myths), this is just the more absurd (by modern standards) elements of the Greek Pantheon and its heroes dialed up to eleven. This isn’t just “let’s make Athena chubby and call it a day”, this is playing off myths that the creators of this game had to know pretty well in order to parody so effectively. Bacchus doesn’t get nearly enough exposure nowadays, but the folks at Lucasarts were quick to get that drunk on board. You have to be smart to lampoon your subject so well. I think there’s a magazine based on that.

But it’s a shame about the actual game portion of the videogame.

Herc’s Adventures isn’t a bad game, it’s just very banal. Unlike Zombies Ate My Neighbors, there are not levels, but a gigantic “overworld” that completely connects across the land… Except, each “area” is much more like a level than anything else, and backtracking rarely leads to shortcuts or additional powerups. Once you complete a not-level, there’s little reason to return, so it may as well be, ya know, a series of sequential levels. When you die (and you will die a lot), you do not simply respawn, but your character is banished to the underworld, and must fight out of an Croakedincreasingly more tortuous Tartarus. This sounds like a clever death mechanic… but you still only get five trips to the underworld before a Game Over, so why not give me some straight-up “lives” and save us the annoyance of this “extra” dungeon? And, honestly, it feels like the game makes a lot of rookie mistakes, like an unforgiving lack of invincible-after-hit frames, bottomless pits, and items that are limited, but offer no easy explanation for the what the hell you’ve got there. I was supposed to give this boar’s head to some dude back in the swamp? That’s great, but now that I missed that guy, it’s going to take up inventory space forever with no indication of its benefits? Great. Just great.

It’s disappointing that a game that is so clever and smart with its writing is boorish and dumb with its actual gameplay. Nobody ever claimed the (extremely limited) dialogue of Mega Man X or Super Metroid could rival Shakespeare; but, in the end, those are extremely smart games for how they use the conventions of gaming to not only craft impeccable experiences, but also tell memorable stories. DumbFinal Fantasy 7 might not have been the most original game in the JRPG field, but its story and gameplay were both amazing, and redefined a genre for generations as a result. Herc’s Adventures… well… it’s funny and has good writing, but its gameplay is so tedious, you’re unlikely to ever see the end. All this effort to make a perfect Poseidon, and most people are never going to bother completing the first quasi-level to see him.

A smart videogame knows how to be a videogame first, and the rest is secondary. Anything else is just… dumb.

FGC #175 Herc’s Adventures

  • System: Playstation and Sega Saturn. I’m not certain I’ve ever seen the Saturn version in the wild. It’s also on PSN, for the record.
  • Number of players: Two, and, like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, your second player is not going to survive long enough to enjoy anything.
  • Favorite Character: You’ve got your choice between Herc, a young Jason of Argonauts fame, and Atlanta, home of the Braves. I want to like Atlanta, because I normally enjoy ranged attacks, but she takes forever to reload, and she’s going to be eaten by a cyclops in that time. That leaves Jason, as he’s the speedy one, and, like in other games like this, speed is how you avoid the reaper (sometimes literally).
  • And yet again: I never get tired of how many fair-skinned blondes were running around Ancient Greece. I think this is where cheerleaders come from.
  • Get 'er!An End: Like some other Lucasarts adventures, the finale will see you encountering the designers of the game in their home office. This puts Herc’s Adventures on the same echelon as Chrono Trigger in exactly one category.
  • Did you know? Disney’s Hercules was released the same year as Herc’s Adventures, and I wonder if that was a calculated move. Think any grandmas mistook one game for the other?
  • Would I play again: Despite being rather hard on the thing, I do kind of enjoy this game, albeit only in a situation where I absolutely know what I’m doing. I might fire it up again at some point in the distant future, and shut it down the minute I die. I am not a patient man.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy 7! Actually, ROB didn’t choose anything this time, I’m just going with 1997’s other biggie on the 19th anniversary of its release (before everybody does the same thing next year). And I’m not just covering Final Fantasy 7, I’ll be looking at everything (almost everything) in the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 all week. So come back Monday, and you’ll see there’s even a reason to come back Tuesday, too. Please look forward to it!

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