Tag Archives: hyperbole

FGC #646 Killer Instinct (2013)

RevolutionaryYou ever revolutionize a genre, and everybody forgets you did it?

The history of fighting games is long and complicated, but there are some milestones that may be used to keep things simple. Many people recognize Street Fighter 2 as the official start of the fighting game craze. However, by the time Street Fighter 3: Third Strike rolled around, the humble fighting genre (and its home, the arcade) was all but dead. For a time, all we had was Aksys and random crossovers to keep the embers burning, but Street Fighter 4 returned to revitalize the genre. Was 2008’s Street Fighter 4 the sole reason 2-D fighting games returned to prominence? No, but it did prove that the quarter munchers could move to the online space, and no more would we be forced to subsist exclusively on weird Mortal Kombat kart racers. Street Fighter 4 is arguably one of the least experimental Street Fighter titles in Capcom’s stable, but it was what the desert needed after an eleven-year draught.

And if you want the innovation that would define the fighting game genre for years to come, you need to look at Killer Instinct.

Everything has a season

This wolfPopular knowledge says the original Killer Instinct was little more than a Mortal Kombat clone (klone?). It was a naked attempt by Rare and Nintendo to capitalize on the violent fighting game craze without sullying Mario’s lilywhite gloves. And, when Killer Instinct returned years later to showcase the Xbox One, it seemed to be filling much the same space. While the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live had defined online gaming for a console generation, the Xbox One needed a new Halo to dominate a different genre. Killer Instinct was to be a killer app!

Except… it kind of looked like Double Helix didn’t believe in its own hype.

A fighting game lives and dies by its roster. Some games are legendary thanks to their fighters, and many fail because they cannot support a single memorable pugilist. Killer Instinct launched with… the cast of Killer Instinct. But without the good ones! Riptor the fighting dinosaur was nowhere to be seen, nor was the dual-headed dueler, Eyedol. Seemingly all traces of Killer Instinct 2/Gold were gone (our dear werewolf lost his cybernetic appendages! And he’s supposed to be a cyberwolf!), and we had a measly one fresh fighter to showcase a new generation. Oh, and thanks to this anemic roster, marquee robot Fulgore was positioned as the big bad, and Jago was supposed to be our Ryu (complete with “Evil” version as a super boss). And Jago… geez… You can’t spell “generic” without “Jago” (this is probably true in some language). Killer Instinct’s launch was positioned to properly piss off fans old and new. The newbies wondered why the best this game could give us is a basic Native American lightning guy (named Thunder!) in the year of our Lord 2013, and any veterans were left wondering when the hell we would finally get to play as the gargoyle or fire guy.

But there would be an answer: next season.

Killer Instinct wound up with three distinct seasons. Each season brought us an equal number of new characters, ultimately more than tripling the final roster of Killer Instinct. In time, all the old fighters would return. In time, we would be granted new, innovative characters. In time, we would see Thunder’s brother, Fulgore’s prototype, and bosses new and old. Season 2 and Season 3 were always just on the horizon, and eternally sending a clear message to the playerbase: this gets better. Play now, get good, and you’ll be ready when Gargos finally flies onto the stage.

There is more on the way. Get hype.

And speaking of hype…

Every character can be an event

Rip and tearLet’s revisit Riptor.

I don’t mind saying that that dang dinosaur was my favorite lady in any original Killer Instinct. She seemed to adapt well to my playstyle (which is likely best described as “Impatient Guile”), and when she was not available for Killer Instinct (2013), I was heartbroken. Was dinosaur technology too expensive in this modern age? Was Jurassic Park not the draw it was back in the 90’s? Did the design staff decide they didn’t want to wade into the feathers versus scales debate? Whatever the case, Riptor was gone, and there was no way of knowing if she was ever coming back.

And then, as part of Season 2, we received the Riptor trailer. It was an in-world advertisement for Ultra Tech’s latest cybernetic dinosaur technology, and positioned as a rival to the robotic Fulgore line. Machine-gun ‘bots can’t go everywhere, so here’s your own private raptor! The video seemed to delight in noting that this was not a historically accurate dinosaur, but a creature created by modern science to be something unique. She has a robot tail! What more could you ask for!?

Get Excited for this new dinosaur fighter! Coming December 17! And maybe there is a teaser for the next, wholly new character at the end there! Coming January 30!

And this “hype cycle” became the norm for Killer Instinct throughout its four years of support. If there was a new season on the horizon, you knew one of the big boys was coming back… and who could it be!? Tune in to the next announcement and find out! And when the character is released, enjoy playing Killer Instinct all over again! It is not just about a new one-player campaign, it is about that online community waking back up, and getting back into the groove, because everybody wants to see how the new car handles (or how to best punch said new car).

Give it a trailer and a proper hype cycle, and you could even care about a rash.

And since we’re getting a rash anyway…

Get hyped for guests

Get wreckedCrossovers are nothing new. Ever since Akuma invaded X-Men: Children of the Atom, seeing a guest fighter on the roster has been old hat. Mind you, the likes of Gon or Freddy have always been fun, but they always felt more like an afterthought than anything else. Link is fighting for the Soulcalibur? Well, that’s cool, but we are here for Nightmare, not the elf.

What made Killer Instinct’s guests any different? Simple: it’s all about timing.

Killer Instinct’s first two guest characters, Arbiter of Halo and Rash of Battletoads, were released at the start of Season 3. And that made all the difference, as crossover characters had previously been either part of a game from the start (in the days before DLC), or were the absolute final, “whatever works” additions of the end of a game’s lifecycle. Sticking the Sangheili and the amphibian there at the top of the season meant that the rest of the season was wide open for speculation. And rumors were abound! With two absurd choices establishing that anything was possible, a renewed interest in Killer Instinct was fueled by the possibility of seeing anyone from Solar Jetman to Banjo Kazooie to James Bond. And while we only ever saw a worthy follow-up in Gears of War’s General RAAM, the possibilities certainly did the job of putting Killer Instinct back on the map. And you could draw a pretty obvious line from Rash to the eventual bonus characters of Thunder’s brother and “that lady from the Ring, but she moves faster”. You could argue these guest characters were generic compared to a straight up “here’s Kazuya”, but even when you don’t have the likes of Sora or Sephiroth, you can generate practically infinite excitement.

But focusing exclusively on the roster isn’t the only thing that makes Killer Instinct great, the single player content also includes…

Train the player

It's nice hereKiller Instinct was initially released with a “freemium” version. Said version was 100% free, though included only one playable character. In a way, this makes it little more than a demo, and an easy way to see if Killer Instinct is right for you. But Killer Instinct: Free did include one very important mode that made all the difference: Dojo Mode.

Dojo Mode was like your traditional training mode of the time, but so much more. Yes, you could practice special moves and combos, but it also included lessons that would teach a player exactly how to use their selected character. What’s more, it allowed the player to toggle hit/hurtboxes, finally illustrating oblique terms that had previously only been the domain of fighting game aficionados. Killer Instinct was an in-depth game, as it included everything from instinct cancels to combo breakers, but this training mode took the time to break down absolutely everything, including items like spacing and meter management that could be applied to any fighting game. Killer Instinct wants you to “get gud”, and it does a lot more to get you there than whip your ass in a survival mode.

But even that likely pales behind…

Reward the player

The wind upAt its core, Killer Instinct is a basic fighting game, and fighting games have always been all about “rewards” in single player content. The Street Fighter franchise was always fond of claiming that unique endings were the greatest incentive anyone could ever imagine, and the Mortal Kombat franchise turned unlocking the roster into a quest onto itself. Killer Instinct Gold, Killer Instinct’s previously most prominent console release, seemed to primarily rely on codes for its unlocks, but special golden characters could only be acquired with skill and perseverance.

And now in Killer Instinct (2013)? The most perseverance you need is selecting a character.

By the time Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition rolled around, there were nearly an even 30 fighters available. And everyone came complete with three single-player achievements. You could earn a trophy for simple, everyday tasks like winning a match, winning a match (but in survival mode), and reaching character level three. Oh, what’s this about character levels? Every individual selectable character earns experience points every time you play as them, and, win or lose, you will accrue exp for your pugilists. And don’t even get me started on the rewards that are available once you wade into the world of online ranking…

And, while the “service” end of this has now ended, please remember a recent present where the simple matter of booting up Killer Instinct once a week could yield new and exciting incentives. Maybe there would be a new character available that was free-to-play for a limited time. Maybe your “main” was able to earn bonus experience this week, so ripping into Riptor would be the best use of your Tuesday. Maybe there was a special extra for the friggen’ roguelike that somehow became part of Killer Instinct Season 3. Even if you weren’t stopping back in Killer Instinct every month for a new character, KI went out of its way to find reasons to train a player into logging in at least once a week to haul in the extra loot available.

Stay backAnd, like all the items on this list, Killer Instinct did not invent rewarding the player, it simply made it a focus for the game. So, like its training modes, seasons, and hype cycles, it became just as important to Killer Instinct as the fireball motion was to Street Fighter 2. You cannot have Ryu without a dragon punch, and you will never see Eyedol again without a trailer and bonus achievements.

And as for whether or not this all made an impact on the fighting game ecosystem? Well, just go ahead and mail me a letter from the future, and confirm when Street Fighter 6 inevitably has literally everything mentioned across this article…

FGC #646 Killer Instinct (2013)

  • System: Initially it was the killer app exclusive to the Xbox One. Then it migrated over to Microsoft Windows about three years later.
  • Number of players: Two whole people, fighting each other from anywhere on the world wide web.
  • Just play the gig, man: The music in Killer Instinct is not only distinctly pretty damn good, it is also integrated into the gameplay to an absurd degree. Moving a cursor around the pause menu plays tones matching the current theme! And Ultra Combo incorporation! It is difficult to describe in words, but this is one feature that I would like to see integrated in every future fighting game… even if it would then add an extra six months to development…
  • Love those chucksStory Time: For a fighting game franchise, Killer Instinct’s mythos are surprisingly coherent. Mind you, this is likely because the franchise does not have to accommodate twenty years and two reboots like some franchises, but this is a pretty straightforward story of swords and sorcery demons being unearthed by a contemporary, uncaring conglomerate. And, hey, the UltraTech company is unabashedly as evil as an immortal gargoyle demon. We need more games with easy-to-understand morals like that.
  • Single Player: This is one of the few fighting games where I feel I do not need an “arcade mode”, and am happy just stopping into Vs. CPU mode with random select. I literally cannot tell you why this is the case, but firing up a random match in Killer Instinct feels a lot more natural than in Guilty Gear or Street Fighter. Maybe I am just a sucker for experience points…
  • Favorite Character: My allegiance to Riptor has already been plainly stated. Glacius was actually part of the original game, so he would be my pick if we have to go with someone that was there from the start. If I have to pick a new character, it is Mira the vampire. Fighting games need more vampires.
  • Did you know? You could easily make the argument that the original Killer Instinct roster was little more than a cross between gaming character clichés (ninja, femme fatale, fire elemental) and generic movie monsters (dinosaur, werewolf, skeleton, alien). So it is appropriate that KI Season 2 introduced characters such as mummy, big statue, GLaDOS, and that girl from the Ring. They’re not derivative! They’re following the template!
  • Would I play again: This is my favorite Xbox fighting game. Mind you, all my other fighting games on my Playstation… but still! Basically, if my Xbox X is on at all, there are really good odds this will get played for at least as long as it takes to download my latest game’s updates. I assure you, this is high praise.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy 10! Oh boy! I bet it will be a laugh riot! Please look forward to it!

A bit gusty?

FGC #140 ActRaiser

Here it comes!Let’s check the Gogglebob.com mail bag! MetManMas writes, saying…

Amagon has some great aesthetics for its age…which makes it all the more disappointing that it’s a game with such a cruel, hateful difficulty level made by people who just couldn’t get out of that quarter munching mindset.”

That’s a great point, MetManMas! And it gets me thinking…

The general crux of my Amagon article was that this game is bad (bad bad bad), and comparing it to games that are merely mediocre is a mistake. This, unfortunately, is not how many people examining retro games work, as hyperbole is the order of the day, and ranting and raving against the horrors of “terrible” games that “raped childhoods” is what gets the hits. Again, I want to be clear that I’m not saying that the angry video game nerds of the world are bad or wrong or anything, simply that that kind of thinking has a tendency to subconsciously place everything into either “holy” or “horrible” tiers, and the genuinely bad (or genuinely good) games are swept into the same all-encompassing echelon. In short, I don’t want to live in a world where Amagon and Mega Man are mentioned in the same breath.

But… that’s not me. No, I don’t mean the hyperbole isn’t me (though I am easily the least hyperbolic person in this or any other galaxy), I mean that simply ridiculing a position or thought for the sake of deriding it is something I try to avoid doing. Maybe Amagon just put me in a foul mood, but I try my best to understand why something is happening rather than merely saying, “No, don’t do that.” I’m not always right, and sometimes it leads to utter madness (I’ve been trying to understand Trump supporters all year, and I just keep waking up naked and covered in bubble bath), but I truly believe that we should do our best to understand each other. I believe that Slash slashpeople hyperbolically insulting (or praising) games indiscriminately are bad for the health of games journalism, but why do people do it?

Okay, yes, obviously the first answer is that it’s entertaining. It’s a lot easier to watch and enjoy someone shouting at a game’s imagined slights against a gamer’s mother than it is to sit through a lengthy lecture on jumping physics. Clicks are king, and, yes, screeching complaints are likely to gain some notoriety. Even in the world of words, some writers like Seanbaby (arguably the guy that started this trend) are practically deities of this craft. Unfortunately, a lot of people ignore the fact that what really works there is not the bile at the worst NES games in the world, it’s the perfectly smooth similes that are like… some… kind of bird… that is good at flying? A flying good bird? Something like that. Regardless, there are some great, inordinately entertaining hyperbolic gamers out there, but there are also a number of Bubsies out there, too, seemingly doing it for the money/fame/cons/attention/groupies. It’s niche trendy, and who doesn’t like to see that youtube hit counter tick up?

But let’s look deeper than that. Let’s consider why we get mad at video games. I talk about this phenomena like I’m completely immune, but look no further than these articles on Primal Rage and Fester’s Quest for full “Goggle Bob thinks this is the worst thing in the world” narratives. And with both of those games, I know the reason those articles are dripping with venom: those games suck! Wait, no, what I mean to say is: those are games that, when I played them as a child, were complete disappointments. I like fighting games! I like dinosaurs! I generally tolerate bald guys with blunderbusses! Yet these games sucked, and they Yeeshsucked so hard that, years later, all I can think about is how much I hate them. I HATE THEM WITH THE FURY OF AT LEAST TWO FURIES!

… Hm, I can see how it’s easy to slip into that…

And, yes, this all has something to do with game du jour. ActRaiser is a pretty interesting game all on its own, but it is particularly notable as (practically) a SNES launch game. ActRaiser is the story of “The Master”, who is basically a god, if not THE God. Master has been slacking off, though, and Tanzra took over the world, separated the land amongst his six lieutenants (as 16-bit villains do), and generally screwed with what few people remained over the course of a few centuries. But Master’s mandi/pedi is finally over, and he’s back to kick ass and take names. Seriously, he really wants the name of that wizard that is also a werewolf. Werewiz? Wolfzard? So many options.

Now, this may sound like the basic plot to about 7,000 8/16-bit action games. Sure, you’re a deity, but that has never meant anything, just ask Superman and his meager videogame hit points. But, no, there’s a lot more to this game than you’d expect from the initial description. For one thing, yes, there Don't look at meare action sequences where you’re running around with a sword slaying regular-sized manticores, but the most memorable bits of ActRaiser occur during the “Sim” portions that prove whether or not you have what it takes to be a god.

Every Actraiser level begins and ends with an action sequence, but between those, you’ll find ActRaiser’s time to shine (literally). You’re god, and people are weak and helpless, so it’s your job to navigate a chubby little angel helper in pursuit of making the world a better place. Monsters are attacking! Well, arrow down those monsters, and direct the people to monster lairs so that the threat may be permanently sealed. Rocks in the way? Call down the thunder and clear those fields. Entire place covered in snow? Here comes the sun! In short, it’s one part SimCity, one part Zelda, and one part, I don’t know, Pac-Man 2 (… okay, I may have earthquaked an entire settlement just to see what would happen). This is all the more impressive when you consider that this game was released in 1991 (1990 in Japan), well before many franchises mastered proper jumping physics. ActRaiser was brilliantly ahead of its time, and those Sim sections are still entertaining and novel today.

Except… when I played this game back during the dawn of the 16-bit age… I barely got past the first level.

ActRaiser’s action sections aren’t impossible (and, in fact, they were tuned down after the Japanese release), but they’re still pretty unforgiving. Bottomless pits and swiftly moving platforms may account for a number of lost lives. Monsters boasting attack patterns that seem 100% designed to hit you anywhere on the screen are going to drain your health pretty fast. And the greatest impediment to progress is Master’s own sword, which makes the length of Adventure of Link’s blade look positively dhalsimian by comparison. Until you obtain magic (which is very limited), Dang thingMaster is stuck with few offensive options, and, save a temporary sword powerup that I found once in the entire game, it seems like Master is insufficiently equipped for his missions.

And it makes me angry!

Actraiser is a delightful game when it isn’t slamming your face into the concrete. I’ve already recounted the joys of the Sim sections, but the action sections are interesting and varied on their own. The graphics are great, and they actually serve the purpose of making each area distinct. In an era (that persists) when every game was just grass, sewer, lava, ice, and finally techno world, ActRaiser made every stage feel like its own area. You’d never mistake the craggy volcano of Aitos for the tropical temple of Marahna. Yes, a number of these areas seem to fit those tired old tropes (oh, look, an ice stage), but they go in fascinating directions (an ice stage… where you’re climbing an ancient tree by riding bubbles to fight a crystalline dragon). There’s a lot of creativity on display here, and, once you’re 100% familiar with the controls and your own limitations, the levels are tough, but fair.

But you’ll never see even a tenth of it if you don’t finish the first boss. And, save function or no, you’re probably not going to see the end if it takes hours and hours to escape the second level.

And I want to say this is why so many gamers are angry. There’s a great game here, and, after only intending to give this experience an hour or so, I played through the whole game, start to finish, in Can gods catch the plague?one afternoon. I was riveted! I loved playing ActRaiser! I also cheated myself into infinite lives, and, for a few areas, infinite health. And, oh yeah, I have thirty years of action/platforming experience.

Back when I didn’t have that experience (or a Game Genie) I rented ActRaiser… and I never saw past Fillmore. There was an entire game here, an entire phenomenal game, and I didn’t get to play it, because I couldn’t conquer the initial challenges. I spent years thinking ActRaiser wasn’t any good, years I spent playing Final Fight over and over again, when there was another great game on that system… just locked away behind seemingly insurmountable challenges.

And when I think about that, well, I get a little angry.

FGC #140 ActRaiser

  • System: Super Nintendo. According to the data I have here, it somehow has not seen a Virtual Console rerelease, but it was available in a limited form for cell phones? That can’t be good.
  • Number of players: Monotheistic.
  • Absolute Power: You level up in the Sim portions according to how many villagers are alive and worshipping you. Technically, after you clear a level up stratum, you can’t be demoted for the population taking a hit… so that would be the appropriate time to test the relationship between thundershowers and followers. I'm sure it smells great, tooWhat’s that burning smell?
  • Homogenization: When the game begins, each “land” appears to be very distinct. By the time your quest is completed, you’ve melted all the ice, revitalized the dessert, and bulldozed all those pesky palm trees. You even drained the blood lake! And now every area looks exactly like every other area! Ugh, this neighborhood used to be so cool…
  • Favorite Boss: The Arctic Wyvern is just the coolest thing to look at. I seem to remember like every Nintendo Power preview/review of Actraiser included that dang dragon. Dagoba gets honorable mention for starting the trend of antlion bosses on the SNES.
  • An end: The ending posits that when the world is safe and the people are content, they don’t really need a god to worship. This is an excellent moral that is only contradicted by all of human history.
  • Did you know? The original Japanese version makes the subtext regular text: you are “God”, and the villain is Satan. While I normally disparage Nintendo of America censoring religious items in SNES games, I kind of support this one, as I could actually see some outrage spewing from a game that is predicated on the concept that “God” could be defeated for centuries, and then spends all his time battling minotaurs. God is supposed to be more… beard based!
  • Would I play again? Yeah, probably. Just, ya know, still going to cheat a little.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sqoon for the NES…? What? Uh, yeah, that’s not a word in any way. I think my robot is broken. I guess look forward to… Sqoon.

Why thank you

FGC #135 Amagon

This is specialIt’s no great secret that we’ve become a hyperbolic society. Actually, maybe that’s wrong, because if you look at the history of racism and bigotry in humanity, you’ll find that it basically all originates in some level of exaggeration. The scary Other isn’t just here to survive like everybody else, It is here to steal our spouses, jobs, and homes! And It has a weird haircut, too! If you ever want to feel like obliterating the planet, go ahead and look up some Western political cartoons from a mere century ago. Or, hell, just 1940 or so. Go ahead and tell me we’ve gotten more hyperbolic after seeing the typical, repellant caricature of a “Jap”.

So maybe it’s a good thing that the current victim of our collective embellishment is our media. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a movie that the national reaction was “it’s pretty alright”. No, it has to be “the best movie ever” or “a steaming pile of ass matter vomited out of a rancid zombie’s maw”. In fact, just before writing this article, I watched It Follows. I thought it was alright, a great thriller, but kind of light in the actually saying something department. In short, I thought it was a generally okay movie, pretty much the definition of what used to be called “a good rental”. All that said, I’m vaguely afraid to express such an opinion in mixed company, because omnipresent cultural caretakers will descend upon me for not getting how the movie is so deep and meaningful to the genre/planet, or I’ll be torn to shreds for supporting such obviously misogynistic/misanthropic/hydrophobic crap. I’m living in fear of those strawmen!

Video games are no different, and it’s a little alarming how nearly thirty years of games have been divided evenly into “super best essential” or “youtuber rants about terribleness for fifteen minutes”. Get it flowingWhat’s more, this seems to have been applied to games that are, at best, marginally different from each other. Mega Man 2 is the greatest creation of man, while Mega Man 5 is a reason to abolish the entire medium. Yes, I’ve seen people claim that Mega Man 5 is an objectively bad game, but, come on dudes, it’s not that different from Mega Man 2. They’re both good games, and one is allowed to be better than the other without one descending into crapsack territory.

And I can say all of this because I just played a game that is very, very bad.

Amagon is the story of Amagon (pay no mind to the fact that “Amagon” is a letter off from “Amazon” which, before a certain book store decided to conquer the internet, simply referred to a tropical forested area that is very similar to the setting of this game), a marine that crash lands on an island teeming with extremely violent fauna. With only his trusty rifle, Amagon must venture from one end of the island to the other, facing off with Lion Men, Skelton S. Skeleton, and Babar the Elephant. But Amagon has one extra chance for survival! If Amagon finds a Mega Key, he can digivolve from the spindly Amagon into the massive, muscular Megagon, and uppercut his enemies into the stratosphere. I have a great walkFuck you, Babar! Megagon is here to kill everybody and wax his pecs, and he’s all out of Flex Mentallo Approved Pec WaxTM.

Except… you’re not going to make it past the first level.

Amagon is woefully ill-equipped for this mission. Right from the start, monsters swoop, pounce, run, and spring out of every nook and cranny. In fact, the enemy distribution of this game has a lot more in common with Gradius or R-Type than Mega Man or Contra. All Amagon has to rely on is his simple little gun, which fires one to three bullets straight ahead. And that’s it. He can’t shoot up, he can’t shoot at an angle, and the ever popular duck ‘n shoot isn’t going to do a thing against the scads of flying monsters overhead. And this is going to end poorly for Amagon, because he’s living in an instant kill world, so merely tapping that murderous dragonfly is going to mean a restart. Luckily, the stages aren’t terrible about checkpoints. Unluckily, you’ve got three lives to beat this game, and that’s it. You might get lucky with a 1-up or two, but otherwise you’re stuck back at Level 1 after every three deaths, and good luck reaching the Death Hippo when you’re constantly defeated by frogs.

But what of Megagon? Surely that powerup is the Super Mario to Amagon’s tiny, vulnerable Regular Mario? Megagon does gain a health meter, thankfully, but it it’s going to You ever think you're going with girls just because you're supposed to?hit empty well before the end of the stage. See, Amagon features a lovely little quirk whereby Megagon’s health is determined by your cumulative score. While it’s nice to see the ol’ “NES mandatory score” affecting gameplay, it’s impossible to get the best score without completing a number of levels, so “early” Megagon is always going to be pretty weak, and you’re likely to perish at the hands of a ball spewing snake well before you even identify Megagon’s offensive capabilities. And Megagon isn’t that great in that department, either. Megagon has a powerful uppercut, but that’s a knife in this gunfight, and you’re probably already taking damage by the time the enemy is within fist range. But you do have a long range attack! Megagon can launch a blast from his mighty abdominals… except each blast drains a hit point. How would you like to lose your life today, self-infliction or gators?

All this adds up to a very poor play experience. Enemies are chaotic and random, reprisal options are severely limited, and relief is an illusion at the best of times. Objectively, Amagon simply isn’t equipped for the world he has to traverse, and the haphazard design of his obstacles guarantee you’re not going to have a good time.

Amagon is, in short, a bad game.

SkeltonsBut I feel like what lessons we could learn from Amagon are buried beneath a torrent of shrieking, hyperbole-prone gamers (he said while deploying hyperbole at will). It’s easy to say “omg worst game ever” about an experience like this, but it’s also easy to apply that same phrase to any number of mediocre, middle of the line NES games. Willow is an okay proto-adventure game, Abadox is an adequate shooter, and T & C Surf Designs is an interesting and flawed attempt to bring a few unconventional sports to the gaming medium. However, in the current climate, all those games are smashed into the same echelon as Amagon, and we’re poorer for it.

Amagon is a bad, bad game. It is an example of a video game that was designed arbitrarily, and doesn’t hold a candle to even the most middling of NES games. Don’t fall into the trap of seeing everything “not the best” as “terrible”. This game is terrible.

Amagon is a unique kind of awful.

FGC #135 Amagon

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. This is another for the pile of “never seeing a rerelease”.
  • Number of players: Sorry, that second player controller is going to be inert for this round.
  • Salt in the wound: Oh, and you can run out of bullets. At that point, Amagon must use his gun as a club, and he’s got the same complete lack of range as Megagon, but without all the strength to back it up. You may as well quit at that point.
  • Favorite Boss: I only ever rented this game back in the day, and it was entirely because of that Death Hippo on the back of the box. That said, I like the final boss the best. Always down for punching the Flatwoods Monster. (Though Skelton is right up there, too.)
  • Lost in Translation: In the Japanese version, the main character is named Jackson, and he’s a Jekyll/Hyde style scientist that invented the potion that turns him into the muscular Macho Man. When Jackson’s plane crashed, the local wildlife stole his recipe, thus all the crazy monsters haunting the place. I am ever impressed at how Japan tried to justify these insane NES plots, while the Western version almost always settled for “screw it, he’s a marine on a weird island.”
  • An End: And the Japanese version ends on something of a cliffhanger, with the implication that the wild creatures from Amagon Island are going to invade the “real world”. Obviously, no Amagon 2 was ever produced, because there are laws against that.
  • Did you know? Whether it’s because of low fidelity graphics or a paleontologist on the staff, the raptor creatures in the level with the other dinosaurs appear very bird like. See, even in a game that gets so much wrong, there might be something that turns out right.
  • Would I play again: Ugh, no. Not ever. This is a bad, bad game, and don’t forget it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy. Oh boy! All the heroes and villains are gonna get together and duke it out! Please look forward to it!

Get away!