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FGC #538 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

ZOOMI don’t know about your experience, but, back in the 90’s, the local arcades had more than a few beat ‘em up mainstays. There was always Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles and/or Turtles in Time. The Simpsons was a staple, and so was X-Men. But once you got past those, there could be anything and everything. Did this arcade have Final Fight? Or a Neo-Geo? Or… what? There were so many beat ‘em ups back in the day, and it’s a damn shame so many have been lost from the annals of time. So, on the occasion of ROB choosing Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (making a choice leftover from our “games preservation is important” featured series), let’s take a look at the 90’s beat ‘em ups that time forgot. After all, in this modern age, these are games that are as classic as cadillacs, but as extinct as dinosaurs.

Ninja Combat

Go ninja goRelease Year: 1990

Length: 0:35

What is it? Good ol’ fashioned ninja violence erupts as a pair of ninja have to fight evil ninja in a ninja fortress that has appeared in Ninja York City. Joe and Hayabusa (no relation to other, better-known ninja) are against the world, and all they have to help them is infinity shurikens and the occasional ninja scroll (no relation to other, better-known ninja scrolls).

What’s the hook? Actually, they’re not completely alone. The duo are joined by three other allies that start as enemies, and, as the stages progress, you can select different characters with different abilities. So you actually earn skills as you progress in a beat ‘em up! That’s neat! Other than that, it’s a pretty traditional beat ‘em up featuring terrible walk animations and a main attack that has slightly better range than Cody’s fists.

How is the cast? The original dummies are useless, and should be banished to World Heroes. Then you get a dude that dual-wields swords, and you never have to deal with those nitwits again. You also eventually have the choice of an overly muscled bruiser that punches swords for fun, and a woman that is just straight-up a rejected 80’s She-Ra character. She can summon butterflies, apparently. I’m pretty sure her name is Butter-Beater or something.

Best Boss? A mecha dinosaur-man starts a fight by tackling an entire train, and the battle ends when you decapitate the sucker. That’s 30% more radical than anything that happens in most beat ‘em ups.

What’s that on the ground? You’re in New York City, so American food abounds. Grab a burger or two if you need some health.

Anything else? There are a number of opponents that look like klansmen. Punch them extra hard.

Is it worth a quarter? This is an extremely janky game, but it’s not without its merits. As a title that came out in… 1990? What? I thought this was, like, something from 1986. What the hell? Dude, SNK/Alpha Denshi should have known better by this point. I take it back, play anything other than Ninja Combat. You can summon a fire dragon better in other games.

Growl / Runark

GROWL!Release Year: 1991

Length: 0:35

What is it? Nefarious poachers are capturing local animals, so it’s your job to get out there and rescue ‘em all! Save elephants, birds, and at least two guerillas by punching every ever-loving thing you can see. And if you happen to find a weapon, you can whip ‘em, and whip ‘em good.

What’s the hook? This is pulpy as hell, so if you like Indiana Jones or Doc Savage, you’ll be right at home. Additionally, some animals wind up helping during the battle, so it’s nice to play at least one old school game where birds aren’t your mortal enemy. But if Growl does one thing well, it’s mobs. There are so many opponents on the screen at one time that you’ll have to invite three buddies to come along for some poachin’ punchin’. And Growl is equal opportunity! There are women in business suits with grenades, so don’t feel bad about inviting some gals to the party.

How is the cast? There are four possible characters, but, visually, it’s two sets of twins. Though they do all have different stats! … Which also kind of sucks, as “health” is a stat, and why are you going to take a gamble on dying faster in a game that literally charges you more the more you die? That’s just not cool, Growl!

Best Boss? About halfway through the game, you must fight an army of classy, chubby dudes in fezzes. Now, I’m not saying that this finally simulates what it would be like to face an army consisting entirely of evil clones of Sallah, John Rhys-Davies’s character from Indiana Jones, but it is certainly similar to that situation straight from our wildest dreams.

What’s that on the ground? The Sega Genesis port provided health powerups (apples, incidentally), but the original arcade version only offers weapons. Grenades, guns, and daggers are all available for your fighting pleasure. Oh, and be careful with that dynamite, opponents literally explode in this universe, and you don’t want to get too many human remains on your unbuttoned shirt.

Anything else? There is exactly one, seemingly random platforming section inside of a volcano. Other than that and one bonus stage that involves punching boxes, this is all violence against your fellow man.

Is it worth a quarter? Oh, I completely forgot to mention the dude with lit dynamite strapped to his chest that throws tanks around. He seemed kind of important. Whatever! This is a fun beat ‘em up, and offers no lack of people to beat up. Give or take how easily your character can be hit-stunned (which is why you bring a buddy!), this is a great time for all, and particularly enjoyable if you’re interested in finding out the greatest secret behind poaching (spoilers: all poachers are led by an evil butler that is being mind-controlled by an alien worm. Now you know!).

Eight Man

Eat it, SevenRelease Year: 1991

Length: 0:30

What is it? Eight Man, Kazumasa Hirai’s 1963 manga, is widely regarded as the origin of super cyborg heroics in Japanese culture. In much the same way that Superman got a weird, quasi-beat ‘em up in the arcades in 1988, Eight Man earned his time to shine in 1991. It was exactly as weird as Superman’s adventure.

What’s the hook? This is another beat ‘em up that tows the line between outright beatin’ and 2-D platforming. There are bottomless pits abound, and you’re constrained to the one dimension. That said, for being that weird kind of in-between experience, it’s pretty good. There may be an overreliance on stages that take place while running, though. They’re all the exact same stage! And they happen way too often!

How is the cast? Eight and Nine are just color swaps, so nothing interesting there. I suppose it should be noted that Nine is his own distinct person in the manga, but here he’s just Super Mario Bros. 3 Luigi. Let the second player have his own personality!

Best Boss? Just like R-Type, there is one stage that is entirely given to some giant floating fortress thingy. Unlike R-Type, you’re just a little dude, so it’s a little more difficult to punch a plane into submission. But you can do it! If you try!

What’s that on the ground? No food for Eight Man, but you can grab some capsules out of the sky for additional energy. It’s very Contra. And if you score enough Eight Energy, you’ll be an explosive ball of invincible energy. Nothing like mowing down every evil robot in town.

Anything else? Apparently everyone in this world subsists on a steady diet of gasoline, so absolutely everything is about as volatile as a hummingbird sipping on nitrous. Sometimes sharks explode.

Is it worth a quarter? Everybody should fight an angry, biologically engineered dog at least once, right? It’s not the best beat ‘em up out there (or maybe even a beat ‘em up at all, depending on your criteria), but it does continually convey a feeling of “action”, so it should get your adrenaline pumping. If you feel like being a super-powered cyborg man, you could do much worse.

Pu•Li•Ru•La

Release Year: 1991

Length: 0:25

What is it? It’s a beat ‘em up of a different color. This whole game looks like a Ghibli film (albeit one possible on 90’s arcade hardware), and the plot is a little unusual for the genre. A boy and a girl are given magic wands to rescue the concept of time from a time-guard that has accidentally transformed into a malevolent clown. This ain’t Metro City! The majority of your opponents are also animals that have been transformed, so whacking them into submission also leads to a surprising amount of platypuses running around the screen.

What’s the hook? Look at this nonsense! There’s an entire stage that exists in a living dream, and it’s crowded with photo-realistic giant people. All of Radishland is a fever dream of colors and animations, and you’d be hard pressed to find another beat ‘em up with such a creative look. Bart Simpson never had to deal with being licked to death.

How is the cast? Unfortunately, for all the creativity on display, the actual playable characters are rather dull. You’ve got boy, who is occasionally surly in dialogue, and girl, who seems to be the responsible “big sister” type. Apparently their names are Zac and Mel? It doesn’t matter, though, as they’re just Mario & Luigi and little more than combat delivery devices.

Best Boss? Disappointingly, the ridiculous dream stage ends with a Kabuki Quantum Fighter boss, and not some manner of photo-realistic cow or whatever. However, the previous level involves some kind of Tengu-Face-Woman monster with an incredibly phallic nose, so that’s going to be my pick. Incidentally, there’s another boss with what seems to be a bladed-codpiece, so I don’t think that nose flopping around is an accident.

What’s that on the ground? There aren’t traditional food pickups in PLRL, but there are bikinis scattered about that, when whacked with a magical wand, summon faeries. They may restore health or magic. Oh yeah. Did I mention the magic yet? These are essentially Golden Axe-style magic spells, but instead of summoning a blazing dragon, you wind up with a stampede of dogs, or a giant microwave. That is a good trade-off for never finding floor meat.

Anything else? The American/International version is censored. The original involves an area featuring giant lady legs, and a door between them that releases pink elephants. This may or may not be a metaphor.

Is it worth a quarter? You could get a lot out of Pu•Li•Ru•La just by watching its attract screen, but it is worth a play to “see what happens next” at least once. And you get to save woodland creatures! That’s always worked for Sonic the Hedgehog.

Metamorphic Force

BEAST MODERelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:40

What is it? This is practically a license-less version of Konami’s own X-Men arcade game, but, since those mighty mutants set the standard for super powers, somebody had to figure out an alternative. How about the same gameplay, but now you’re a werewolf? Does that work for everybody?

What’s the hook? Obviously, we’re pulling a page from Altered Beast, and each of the fighters can transform into anthropomorphic animals on the regular. Naturally, this means you have to fight an army of lizard creatures (and the occasional oni), and the final boss is going to be Trogdor the Dragon Man. It’s a furry convention. That’s the hook.

How is the cast? In what may or may not be an allusion to Captain Planet, four generally fit dudes have been chosen from across the globe to channel the spirits of ancient animal warriors. The French Claude attacks with a rapier and can become a wolfman. Ban is a Japanese martial artist that may be a bull. Max appears to be the American boxer that can transform into a panther. And the best is Ivan, who is supposed to be Russian, but is clearly Canadian. He’s wearing flannel and attacking with a recently cut log! … Or maybe I imagined the flannel. He’s still got the log, though! And he can transform into a bear, which, given the beard, seems redundant.

Best Boss? An entire stage is given over to the She-Devil that is decked out in some manner of 90’s swimsuit, but the more worthy boss is the Optimus Prime-looking robot man that lives in the Moai ruins. Granted, he’s probably just a rejected design for Nimrod from the X-Men game, but it’s nice to have something metal to punch in a game full of scaly dudes.

What’s that on the ground? There is one hidden prime rib in this game, but otherwise, you’re stuck with chalices that reward health and/or animal energy. And when these powerups don’t explode out of defeated bosses, they’re generally found by pummeling Golden Axe-esque gnomes… or at least some dude running around with a giant bag. That is marginally more interesting than an army of barrels (also available).

Anything else? You’ve got Gauntlet-style health, so it’s a numeral, and it’s constantly decreasing, regardless of your own skill level. This is a quarter killer down to the bone.

Is it worth a quarter? It turns out X-Men might not be that fun without the X-Men! Metamorphic Force has an interesting style, but the fact that you can’t always be in beast mode really detracts from the experience. Whenever you’ve been beaten down into human form, everything takes far too long to die, and you’re mostly just idling, waiting for that powerup gnome to waddle on over. And nobody likes to kill time in a beat ‘em up! That said, the graphics are memorable, the vaguely Grecian setting is distinct, and you’d be hard pressed to find another game that offers more lizard punching.

Ninja Baseball Bat Man

Further go ninjaRelease Year: 1993

Length: 1:00

What is it? The Baseball Hall of Fame has been ransacked, and you control one of four sentai/robot baseball people. They vaguely resemble what would happen if Mega Man had to fight a series of Robot Masters all based on Strike Man. But the nonsensical plot is nothing next to the bright, colorful visuals and general sense of humor throughout this universe.

What’s the hook? It’s a beat ‘em up from Irem, so this doesn’t come from the Capcom/Konami pedigree. But is it any good? Oh my yes. This game deserves to steal X-Men’s spot in the arcade! If the game wasn’t impregnably Japanese, this would have probably been a gigantic hit stateside. In a world that didn’t need another overly dour beat ‘em up, Ninja Baseball Bat Man goes all in on being “fun”, and it wholly succeeds.

How is the cast? Another “everybody gets a specific skill” situation. Captain Jose (Red) is balanced, Twinbats Ryno (Green) dualwields (baseball bats) with incredible speed, Beanball Roger (Yellow) is heavy and powerful, and Stick Straw (Blue) has significant reach. Also, unlike a certain group of turtles, these brothers all have distinct body types and sizes. Straw (“Daaaaarryl”) is the best, not because of his long range, but because he has the classiest walking animation.

Best Boss? The finale is the evil baseball commissioner wearing a golden statue of Babe Ruth that has been partially transformed into a giant robot. Coincidentally enough, that antagonist also appears during the finale of The Grapes of Wrath.

What’s that on the ground? Pizza and various baseball foods are available. You can also summon a troop of cheerleaders that may damage your opponents, or leave additional food. No matter what happens, they will make you feel better about your quest to stamp out a bunch of murderous baseball robots.

Anything else? This was apparently an attempt by Irem to appeal to Americans. We like baseball, right? And sentai heroes fighting tanookis? That sounds American!

Is it worth a quarter? Do I need to repeat the bit about the Babe Ruth statue again? Because I will if I have to.

Monster Maulers

MonstrousRelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:30

What is it? Choose one of three sentai-esque heroes, and repel a monster invasion across the globe. There are special moves, a malevolent/medium-sexy centaur, and ultimate villains that are basically the
Doronbo Gang. Haven’t you always wanted to punch them? Now you can!

What’s the hook? Truth be told, this is mostly an asymmetrical fighting game. The various monsters across the globe could be interpreted as a series of “bosses” that are missing their usual mooks, but this still controls like a fighting game, complete with fireball motions. That said, the last levels finally offer some generic guys in the form of regular-sized robots, so Monster Maulers is going on this list. Consider this the lost bridge between the gameplay of Final Fight and Street Fighter 2, as remixed by Konami (and maybe Yatterman).

How is the cast? Your sentai heroes du jour are generic guy, generic girl, and super wrestler prime. Eagle, the man with the muscles, offers the opportunity to piledrive a floating brain, so he’s clearly the best pick. But Kotetsu and Anne are both very distinctive, and you can probably have fun with them while pummeling intermittently gross collections of sentient organs. After all, somebody has to choose Ryu every once in a while.

Best Boss? Fungus/Slime is a… slime. It morphs through a variety of forms, though, so it’s a little more interesting than your typical Dragon Quest opponent. Just try not to get absorbed into its membrane. It is going to take, like, seventeen bottles of shampoo to cure that condition.

What’s that on the ground? Monster Maulers is unfortunately too close to a fighting game to include powerups. Sorry!

Anything else? The best way to beat the multi-headed Dragon is to get up on the hydra’s back.

Is it worth a quarter? This is a very unique game (for the 90’s), so it’s worth giving it a go at least once. The bosses are interesting, the graphic design is eclectic, and the ending involves a surprising amount of man butt. And it’s a Konami game, so you know you’ll get to pummel a Moai head. What’s not to like?

Violent Storm

Too violentRelease Year: 1993

Length: 0:45

What is it? In a post-apocalyptic future, three buds must battle through a street gang of mutants and cyborgs in an effort to rescue their friend that is also a girl. It’s basically Double Dragon… which itself was biting hard on Fight of the North Star, but there is an important difference here…

What’s the hook? Violent Storm is arguably a parody of Double Dragon, as it certainly leans hard into its own madcap humor. What’s funnier than physical violence? More beat ‘em ups should be this amusing! Regardless, “Dabel” busting through a wall is clearly not Abobo, so stop trying to claim this game is plagiarism. Parody is fair use!

How is the cast? Wade, Boris, and Kyle are all very distinct with their own special moves and preferences for radio stations. They absolutely do not have any idea how to dress, but they’re excellent martial artists, and Kyle even went the extra mile and stole Chun-Li’s lightning kick. He’s the winner, but all of the boys “feel” fun to use, so you can’t go wrong with this trio.

Best Boss? It’s hard to choose! Perusing the final stage’s museum for portraits of the bosses, you’re reminded of the likes of Drigger the wrestler that looks like he was beamed out of Conan the Barbarian, or Sledge, who may or may not be trying (and failing) to cosplay as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. But I’m going to go with Doyle, the boss of the factory stage, who apparently attempted to load himself into Power Loader, but only got halfway through, so he’s merely equipped with fork arms and a jetpack. He tried!

What’s that on the ground? There is food all over the place. There’s even a woman in the background of one stage eating what is clearly a pizza powerup, but she won’t share. Hand that over, lady, I’m trying to rescue people here.

Anything else? The music is Splatoon-y as hell. Not coincidentally, this might be the one game on this list that really makes me want to find the soundtrack.

Is it worth a quarter? Yes. God yes. Maybe this is just because I play a lot of beat ‘em ups, but it is a breath of fresh air to play one that doesn’t take itself absurdly seriously. This is a genre about punching the same dudes over and over again in remotely different configurations. You need to be able to have fun with that, every other beat ‘em up producer of the 90’s! Are you listening to me?!

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs!Release Year: 1993

Length: 1:00

What is it? Based on the animated series of the same name (itself based on a comic), this is a Capcom beat ‘em up very much in the vein of Final Fight. In fact, the general gameplay feels exactly the same, the graphics for the map are very similar, and some of the generic mooks are all but exact copies of their Metro City cousins. But Final Fight didn’t feature any dinosaurs, now did it? Also, Blanka of Street Fighter is a guest opponent (under the alias “Bludge”), and he’s always a good time.

What’s the hook? Aside from dinosaurs that must be “protected” lest they become rampaging monsters, the hook here is that you get to drive a Cadillac and mow down baddies for exactly one level. Other than that, the best you can hope for is the occasional lizard man to break up the monotony.

How is the cast? This one takes a page from Alien vs. Predator and makes the characters distinct through their proficiencies. Jack is balanced, Hannah uses items (re: guns) effectively, Mustapha is quick, and Mess is the bruiser. Mess completely wrecks house, and his only downside is an impossibly stupid name.

Best Boss? One stage features a parasite monster that leaps from generic guy to generic guy creating new dinosaur-mutants. This bug creates an unusual amount of tension, as it’s hard to tell when and if it will ever be defeated, as it continually finds new and bigger hosts. That’s a pretty good trick for a game in a genre that traditionally betrays pressure with life bars.

What’s that on the ground? This is a Capcom beat ‘em up, so a whole variety of different food items are available. There are also guns and rocket launchers that will literally blast your opponents into meaty pieces. Please do not eat the chunks.

Anything else? The final boss is a two headed tyrannosaurus man with a scientist stuck in his chest. That leaves an impression.

Is it worth a quarter? It might be a Final Fight clone with guns, but Final Fight is one of the best, so it’s pretty damn fun. Like every beat ‘em up on this list, it’s easy to enjoy your time with Cadillacs and dinosaurs.

FGC #538 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

  • The living endSystem: Arcade only, guys. Maybe one day we’ll see some kind of home version. Maybe something that inexplicably also includes every other game on this list? You can use my name if you want, developers!
  • Number of players: The rare three-player option. It would be four, but somebody has to drive the caddy.
  • Favorite Weapon: You get a free rocket launcher every time you have to continue. This allows you to absolutely obliterate your opponents, and I see no problem with that. Rockets are surely worth a quarter.
  • It Stinks: The official, canon explanation for how cars run in the future of CaD is that all vehicles have been modified to be fueled by dinosaur dung. Crapillacs from Dinosaurs.
  • For the Sequel: Cadillacs and Dinosaurs: The Second Cataclysm for the Sega CD is more of a shoot ‘em up than a beat ‘em up. It also bombed miserably, which is probably why we never saw a home port of the arcade game. Elon Musk was also a credited programmer on that project, which cannot be good for anybody.
  • Did you know? Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is based on the comic Xenozoic Tales. XT was published from 1987 to 1996 by Kitchen Sink Press, and offers… 14 issues. Man, Spider-Man stars in that many comic books in like a week! Whatever, at least it was popular enough to spawn a videogame and a candy bar.
  • Would I play again: Why not? It’s a fun little beat ‘em up, and those can be an excellent way to relax. The fact that dinosaurs are involved in this title is just gravy.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors 2! Wizards are moderately scary, so that’s an allowed pick for October. … Even if I hate the damn game. Please look forward to it!

FGC #522 R-Type (Dimensions)

Gonna be a R-Type TonightWhen Pokemon Go first launched in 2016, it had very limited functionality. There were no raids, trades, or PVP battles. The legendary Pokémon had to wait a year or so to arrive, ditto was MIA, and not even a single shiny would ever appear. Much of what is considered part and parcel with P-Go was nonexistent in those early days, and players would have to wait months to years to see what would eventually become the game we now all know and love (or gave up playing after Pokémon Going to the Polls). One of the first of these “new” features introduced was the buddy system. While the uses and benefits of the buddy system have also evolved over the years, the basic premise is still the same: you’re going to walk all around town, may as well do it with a Pokémon buddy. In exchange for walking with a companion, you earn candy that can power up that pocket monster… and that’s about it. There’s no rock-paper-scissors triangle for optimum buddy selection, nor is the right buddy going to save a player hours of grinding. It is, ultimately, a very simple system, and its impact on Pokémon Go gameplay is limited. It is little more than an excuse to have your digital avatar stand next to an imaginary creature.

Big buds

But look at that impressive buddy! She’s all “roar!” and I’m like “yeah!” I pet her every day, and I make sure her scales are clean, and of course I always make sure she has enough berries. I get kind of concerned sometimes because some tasks ask you to feed your buddy more, and I don’t want her to get fat or anything, but I think she’s going to be okay. She gets a lot of exercise walking with me, because we walk everywhere, and sometimes…

Er-hem.

My apologies. It seems that, while the Pokémon Go buddy system is little more than “click on a Pokémon you like for candy” from a gameplay perspective, it can make an impact on a player’s psyche. Your buddy is your buddy, and after you’ve walked literal miles with your companion, how can you do anything but like your buddy. Sure, it is technically nothing more than a collection of pixels that you occasionally use to fight other imaginary licensed Pokémon Company products, but… she’s your buddy! You’ve been through thick and thin together, and, when your Pokémon storage space is running low, you’d never damn your buddy to be transferred off to the professor at the candy factory. Your buddy is important to you!

And here’s our other big buddy for the day: let’s talk about a Force.

PEW PEWR-Type is a shoot ‘em up arcade title from the distant past of 1987. The same year that Mega Man first pew pewed Guts Man, the R-9 blasted off to save the universe from the Bydo invaders. The “shooting stuff in space” genre had existed since Asteroids first pitted triangles against circles, but R-Type seemed more similar to the gameplay of Gradius, released two years prior. R-Type once again presented a continually horizontally scrolling universe that was filled with obstacles and opponents. You could risk it all to blast certain enemies to nab progressively more powerful powerups before facing a big boss at the end of every stage (usually). It’s all very familiar, and, in some ways, R-Type comes off as an obvious clone of Gradius.

But R-Type does do its level best to set itself apart from the pack. For one thing, much of R-Type’s bestiary is based on the works of H.R. Giger (the genius behind the xenomorphs), which means every other boss looks like a penis. But even if the boss of level 2 causes you to question/confirm your own sexuality, it is at least much more distinctive than your average laser-spewing ship. And speaking of lasers and bosses, R-Type offers another significant change over the Gradius formula: a charge beam. You’ve got your traditional rapid-fire cannon, but you also have the option to stop, smell the roses, and charge up a cannon to a significantly more powerful “charged” attack. This makes R-Type one of the earliest shoot ‘em ups to acknowledge that a turbo button shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of offensive options. There are times when you’ll want to lay down some suppressing fire, and there are times when you’ll want to launch a charged shot against some alien weiner. You’ve got a choice, and that’s important when you want the game to be something more than a test to see who can break those arcade buttons the fastest.

And R-Type had one other important difference that set it apart from the pack. R-Type granted the player a Force.

PrawnA Force is, apparently, a spaceship-sized orange. But rather than dispense delicious juice, this orange deals only death. Once the R-9 acquires a Force through grabbing an available powerup, you’ve got a modular weapon that offers a number of benefits. Want some extra fire power? Well, affix that Force to the front of the ship, and you’ll be blasting everything in your path. Worried about your rear? Attach the Force to your exhaust port, and you’ll be able to cover your six with the Force shooting backwards. And R-Type doesn’t offer a catch-all, depleting shield like Gradius, but a Force is apparently built out of the fiercest materials known to orange-kind, and will absorb any number of shots and artillery. The Force is offense and defense, and you can even toss it around the stage to smack some hard to reach places (including the final boss). Is there anything a Force can’t do?

So is it any wonder that, while playing R-Type, I started regarding my Force as a loyal companion?

Look, of possibly all the videogame genres out there, the shoot ‘em up is often the most consistently lonely. JRPGs have entire parties of allies, and beat ‘em ups often offer many characters that will at least show up for the ending. You might be Haggar’ing alone, but you know Cody is supposed to be somewhere around here. Fighting games may be you against the world, but there are often canonical alliances, so you’ll always have a Ken for a Ryu. And even your average platformer is filled with a collection of friendly NPCs so you’re at least dimly aware that the princess is in another castle. Shoot ‘em ups, though? It’s just you against the world. 2-player modes are often alternating, and the rare 2-P cooperative mode is a wash, because where are you ever going to find a buddy on the same skill level? Aside from those minor concessions, shoot ‘em ups are simply a ship on one side, and 2,000,000,000,000 objects that can only be described as “enemy” on the other. Space is a very lonely place, and there’s a significant reason why some of the most fondly remembered shoot ‘em ups decided to bring along a team.

Go, buddy!But the R-9 doesn’t get a team. The R-9 just gets a Force. And maybe it’s the constant threat of death, the onslaught of shlong beasts, or even the space madness speaking, but my R-9 bonded with that Force immediately. They’re a little dude! Off shooting down the enemy where R-9 deigns not to go. So helpful! And brave! Who wants a little treat, huh? Does Force want a treat? You’re gonna get a treat, because I couldn’t beat that last boss without you. You want to bounce all over the stage? That’s okay! Just be back in time for the next deluge of sausage creatures, and we’re cool. We’re in this together, Force, and we’re going to get through this together, too.

Is the Force as expressive as any of Cloud’s allies? No. Is the Force going to get oodles of Edelgard / Force erotic fanfiction? Also no. Is the Force copyrighted by Disney? Probably yes. But none of that matters, because the Force is there when you need them. The Force might not be a living, breathing character, but they are reliable. They are my friend. The Force is my buddy.

The Force might be little more than a simple game mechanic, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a buddy.

FGC #522 R-Type (Dimensions)

  • System: R-Type started in the arcades, saw an excellent port on the Turbo-Grafix 16, and bounced around a lot of other systems from there. Like, a lot. From Gameboy to the WiiU. R-Type Dimensions is currently available on the Switch, Xbox 360, Playstations 3 & 4, and Steam. Odds are decent you can play it somewhere.
  • Number of players: 2 Player alternating to start, but you can do some co-op in Dimensions. Space isn’t so lonely after all!
  • This fight is trashWait, is this a review of R-Type or R-Type Dimensions? R-Type Dimensions is the modern “remake” of R-Type and R-Type II that, incidentally, allows you to use a button to switch to the original graphics and features. I… uh… presume that “features” part, because I can barely make any headway in the original R-Type. R-Type Dimensions offers an infinite lives mode, though, so I can survive slightly longer. Look! I’m a Gradius guy! I don’t have time to learn a whole new shoot ‘em up!
  • Any other advantages to R-Type Infinite (Lives) Mode? Your Force is with you from level 1 to the finale, and just chills on the screen waiting for you to return when you inevitably explode. Force is so dedicated to their job!
  • Favorite Weapon: Bouncy lasers are the only beams you will ever need. I’m almost certain light/lasers could never work like that, but I’m going to go the Gemini Laser route any time it is available.
  • Favorite Boss: Can I just pick the giant warship of Level 3? Hey, it’s my website, so I can! This monster takes up the whole stage, and is one of the most iconic battles in the R-Type franchise (according to how often it is wholesale copied for other games). And it’s fun! It really drives home the difference between R-Type and many other shooters (R-Type is good. That’s the difference).
  • I'm all wetDid you know? The boss of the first stage in R-Type is the Dobkeratops, a big ol’ orange mess of a monster. Dobkeratops is also the boss of the first stage in R-Type II, but you can only see its familiar face (?) if you decide to blast a healthy chunk of armor off its outer shell. Considering this is entirely optional, I’m pretty sure I assumed this was some kind of different creature for years.
  • Would I play again: R-Type is an amazing classic that I am only going to play again with infinite lives and instant respawns because I do not have time to blow all my progress on some sneaky monster lurking around Level 4. So, yes, I’m going to pet my Force again at some point.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Blues Brothers 2000 for the Nintendo 64! The other 1,999 Blues Brothers videogames were rather lackluster, but I’m sure this one will be good. Please look forward to it!

What am I even looking at?

FGC #314 Kung Fu

HIYAHKung-Fu is the NES port of Kung-Fu Master, an arcade game originally intended to be based on Jackie Chan’s 1984 film, Wheels on Meals. By all accounts, such a dubious origin should not be the foundation for every fighting game that has ever been produced, but, hey, here we are.

Kung-Fu originates from the early “arcade” era of videogames, a time when “fun” had to be carefully balanced with “player will never ever succeed”. Kung-Fu appeased these twin masters with a fun, interesting gauntlet of unlimited, faceless mooks that want nothing more than to see your immediate death. Everyone remembers the bizarre “man train” of random dudes, but those that actually had the quarters to finish Kung-Fu also encountered dragons, moths, and a unusually high number of acrobatic dwarves. Each stage finished with a unique boss, and the final level of the pagoda hosted none other than Chuck Norris. Or maybe that guy from Karate Kid? Look, it doesn’t matter, the point is that that guy is capable of some punishing kicks, so trouncing him and reclaiming the captured Sylvia felt like a real accomplishment. And then the whole thing looped back to the beginning (complete with a bit of text that seems to imply that Sylvia is a professional kidnapping victim), because an arcade is not happy until you leave the place a penniless (quarterless) hobo.

Now, to be honest, that account could describe a number of games. Who is Mario but an average dude that deals with generic/murderous monsters on his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a big boss? And this game is based on a movie… a movie that didn’t have that much of an original plot to begin with. Come on, if battling up a pagoda was at all original, it wouldn’t be a lame sidequest in Final Fantasy 7. No, there isn’t much of a plot and story for Kung-Fu to latch onto. And if we’re going to claim this is the origin of fighting games, welp, it ain’t because this was the secret origin of Ryu.

Growl!But in the same way that Space Invaders tells you everything you need to know within its title, and Pac-Man never need be anything more than a puck-shaped man, Kung-Fu’s fighting origins come from the simplest of sources: the joypad. Ever seen a Kung-Fu Master arcade cabinet? There is a completely centered joystick, punch and kick buttons on either side (seemingly to, for once, placate our left handed community), and a complete lack of a jump button. Where did jump go? It’s the up key, and that’s all it ever needed to be.

And that changes everything.

Remember Donkey Kong? Why did Mario need separate “up” and “jump” buttons? Because ladders, that’s why. Mario had to distinctly climb his way to rescuing Pauline, and, while Jump Man may have been on a 2-D plane, he needed the faux 3-D motion of “going up” to properly ascend. In some stages there were elevators or moving platforms, but “up” was a necessary way of scaling the heights. “Jump” was there not to soar, but to avoid obstacles in Mario’s path. And when Mario became Super (after the release of Kung-Fu Master, incidentally), “jump” became Mario’s offense, defense, and a way to properly climb over blocks and up towards clouds. Mario’s jump was versatile to a ridiculous degree, and time has shown the many, many ways a jump can be applied to both terrible platformers and more interesting jump-a-thons.

But the jump of Kung-Fu is a very different animal. When you jump in Kung-Fu, you are doing one of two things:

  1. Avoiding a low attack
  2. Delivering a hella rad jump kick

HIYAHThat’s it! That’s all a Kung-Fu jump does. There are no ladders to climb. There are no doors to enter. Even vaulting over an enemy is less satisfying than simply kicking that creeping snake right in the asp. The jump of Kung-Fu is there for one reason and one reason only: it is another avenue of attack. The best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid a million encroaching dudes is to distribute a million deadly punches. If that doesn’t work, leap over the incoming attack, and, hi-yah, jump kick to the face. Who needs “environmental hazards” when you’ve got dudes tossing friggin’ knives!?

And that right there is the origin of the fighting game. I’ve said it before, but fighting games are pure expressions of basic concepts. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self (mirror match). Man vs. Metal Slug. When Chun-Li experiences a particularly bad Tuesday and needs to avenge her father, she doesn’t need to jump over seventeen barrels and then successfully bop sixty turtles before finally moving onto the main boss; no, all she need do is beat ten dudes to a pulp, prove her worth in a simple 2-D plane, and advance to the tournament organizer/Magic Hitler. And, yes, Chun-Li jumps by simply tapping up, because her jump exists exclusively to necessitate various kinds of sweet kicks. In fact, upgrade for better graphics, buttons, and the occasional fireball, and Chun-Li controls exactly like Thomas the Kung-Fu Dude. And the boss of the third stage of Kung-Fu? You can’t tell me that ain’t Mike Bison Balrog.

So many little peopleKung-Fu might not be a true fighting game, but all the elements are starting to coalesce here in this 1984 game. Play Street Fighter, Blazblue, or even Tekken, then return to Kung-Fu, and things will seem… very familiar. It all starts with a simple jump interface, and it ends with Ryu tossing dragon punches.

And the poor folks behind Kung Fu Master never get any credit…

Oh, wait, apparently Kung-Fu Master was created by Takashi Nishiyama, the man responsible for Street Fighter who then went on to SNK to start Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown. Huh. I guess that guy knew what he was doing.

Well, nobody ever claims Moon Patrol was the start of all fighting games…

FGC #314 Kung Fu

  • System: NES for the review (and certainly the version I played the most), but Kung-Fu also appeared in the arcades (duh), Apple devices, a couple of Ataris, and the Commodore 64.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. This is not the game where two guys fight in front of a judge with weird hair. That’s Karate Champ.
  • HIYAHFavorite Boss: The magician at the end of the fourth stage will literally lose his head if you knock it off with a kick. He… gets better.
  • Did you know? Koji Kondo, the composer for Street Fighter 2 (and thus, Guile’s theme) composed the soundtrack for the NES version. Another fighting game connection!
  • Would I play again: This is an important piece of history that is hard as steel. I might play it again for thirty seconds, but I’m totally quitting after my first death.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Generations! Dammit, ROB! Sonic Mania just came out! Can’t I write about that game? Or could you have picked Sonic Generations last week, and we could have made a theme out of it? No? Damn you, robot. Fine, Sonic Generations it is. Please look forward to it!

HIYAH

FGC #270 Kickle Cubicle

Here comes some kicking!I’m starting to worry that this website is doing something to my brain.

Today’s we’re exploring Kickle Cubicle… Kinda. Unfortunately for everyone reading this blog and expecting me to stay on topic, I’ve got bad news, Kickle Cubicle has forced me to reevaluate everything about Gogglebob.com, and, whoops, now you’re going to read an article about my random meanderings. Sorry! Blame Irem! They already destroyed the world once.

Er-hem… Kickle Cubicle is one of those weird NES action/puzzle hybrids that you don’t seem to see much anymore. Basically, you’ve got Kickle, a snowman looking fellow, and he’s in an overhead-viewed ice world with a few magical bags lying around. Kickle must collect these bags, but, horror of horrors, white ice people can’t jump, so he has to make his own frozen bridges. This is accomplished by using Kickle’s two skills: ice breath that can freeze (most) enemies into shovable ice cubes, and ice pillar summoning magic that… summons an ice pillar. There’s… probably a better name for that, but I can’t seem to find the manual anywhere around here. Regardless, Kickle can then kick these ice blocks around, and, using his pillars to guarantee the blocks aren’t pushed right off the world, these icy enemies can be made to fill in the gaps in Kickle’s world. The road to Heaven is paved with frozen monsters. Grab all the bags, move on to the next Swiss cheese stage, and repeat for four full worlds of fun.

More kicking!My first thought on reviewing KC was basically to compare it to other FGC entries. Kickle is rescuing vegetables in a frozen environment… just like a certain pair of Eskimos we all know and love. And Kickle’s ice-breath-to-freeze-monsters is very similar to Lolo’s eggifying beam, and with much the same purpose. In fact, my first inclination for this article was to make some kind of post about “missed opportunities” or something, and elucidate how Kickle Cubicle, a game released after both of the previously mentioned games, seems to take concepts from both and create an actually good game. Lolo would be better with unlimited “ice breath”, and Ice Climbers would be better as any other game on the planet. Kickle Cubicle strangely draws from those old games (couldn’t just copy Mario like everybody else, hm?), but creates its own, unique experience. A lesson is learned, and malevolent clowns are frozen in ice. Win-win.

And then something snapped in my brain. I realized my first impulse to contextualize this game was to compare it to two games I had played recently. And then I realized that “recently” in reference to The Adventures of Lolo 2 was almost a year and one hundred articles ago, and Ice Climber was friggen FGC #10, nearly a full year before that eggplant nonsense. And then I realized that that means I’ve been maintaining this site and the “Fustian Gaming Challenge” for nearly a full two years. And then I needed to sit down.

And, since I apparently can only work through my problems through writing, here we are.

My first impulse was, basically, fear. I play videogames, I like videogames, and I own approximately twelve billion little discs and plastic boxes that play videogames. However, I don’t consider myself a gamer. I am a well-rounded, special human being with wants and desires, and, incidentally, I play videogames. Never mind that I’ve been playing videogames constantly since I was five. Never mind that I consider “selling off” bits of my collection to be some manner of heresy (and have thought as much since I was six). Never mind that I bought a house based almost entirely on how I could picture my “future” gaming room (“The NES games will look perfect stacked on these shelves” “Sir, that’s supposed to be for kitchenware”). No, I’m not addicted, I can stop anytime I want. Haha, this relationship with my ex-girlfriend is just like my relationship with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, that’s not weird at all, right?

More clowning!But outright denial about my own lot in life aside, my second thought was the fear that this site is eating itself, ouroboros style. Some additional context for that one: I used to be in a rock band. We’ve covered this before. We played original music, and released two albums that were purchased by… let’s see here, how many members of the band had parents?… probably ten people. The first album had lyrics that were about all sorts of stuff, from love songs to rebellion to watching anime (to be clear, the song was a metaphor for feeling like an outcast for enjoying something different than other people, it wasn’t The Ballad of Shinji… wait… maybe it was). The second album, meanwhile, was released after a solid two years of touring, playing podunk venues, cooperating with other bands “in the scene” that you could barely trust to not steal your guitar picks, and absolutely not selling any albums (but maybe a t-shirt?). Suffice it to say, we may have been a little bitter about all that, and, when I listen to that album now, I can identify that a healthy 75% of the lyrics are either coded or overt references to experiences within the band, some musical complaints even aimed at other members of the band. A year after that album was released, the band was a hobbled, broken mess that eventually went out with a whimper at some carnival thing. Anybody want to hear a pretty okay cover song? We used to do original music, but it became so filled with venom, even we didn’t want to hear it anymore…

And, honestly, I fear seeing that happen to the site. No, I don’t dislike writing these articles, and, no, I don’t have some kind of weird feud with the comments section or something (Metal Man Master, please keep posting!), but I fear the site becoming about itself, rather than, ya know, the whole of human existence. I’ve been writing about three different videogames every week for the last two years, and I’m worried that will impact my ability to think about anything else. The third article on this site was kind of about Mega Man V, but more about the death of my grandfather. And then the next article was about a ghost ninja skeleton. This site has always been eclectic, but I genuinely fear the idea that my brain is only thinking about videogames now, and, thus, I can only compare games to games to games to games until the end of time.

But then… I got over it.

More kicking!I want to say there’s some secret, good ending here. I want to say that the next game I’m covering is, I don’t know, Mother Issues II: The Revenge, and I’ll turn in a fine essay about the human condition and compare it to the struggle of the common man. Unfortunately, I know that’s not going to happen. Next on the hit list is probably a fighting game, and I’ll probably just fixate on the fact that there’s a dinosaur involved or something. I know how my mind works, and I know I can’t arbitrarily force a sincere, humanistic article any more than I can indiscriminately create a historical look at the Hero of Time.

But it all boils down to one stupid, narcissistic thing: I like reading my old articles. I like watching my old videos. It took ages to put together that silly Bohemian Rhapsody thing, and, by all accounts, I should be God damn sick of that thing by now (I pretty much reviewed that project’s progress, listening to the whole six minute song, every night for a month), but… I still like it. And it’s not just about staring into the mirror and giving my sexy bod a thumbs up, it’s that I genuinely like what I’m producing here, and that means I sometimes enjoy it as creator and audience. From moment one of this blog, my mission statement was to produce the kind of content that I’d like to see, and, somehow, after nearly two years, I’m still doing that.

Even got a crosspadSo if I’m in a videogame rut right now, that’s okay. I still like what I’m producing, and, whether I’m talking about a bear in bear armor or lecturing on Zelda, I’m proud of this site. Yes, some articles might wind up dependent on other articles, but that’s natural now that this blog has become a part of my life like, ya know, the rest of my life. I didn’t quit the Xenosaga LP when I realized I spent most of Easter Sunrise Service thinking about magical space robots, and I’m not quitting this blog because a videogame blog has a tendency to talk about videogames.

Yes, Gogglebob.com and the FGC have done something to my brain, but, hey, I can live with that.

FGC #270 Kickle Cubicle

  • System: NES… and that’s it. This would be good as a mobile release, but… Oh? There was an arcade version? That had to be weird.
  • Number of players: I suppose at least Ice Climber can tout its two player mode, while Kickle Cubicle is a strictly one-player affair.
  • You know, you could have saved this navel-gazing article for the actual two year anniversary of the site: I yam what I yam.
  • Veggie Tales: Was there some kind of eggplant shortage during the 80’s in Japan? Why are they everywhere on the NES? This is really bothering me…
  • More kicking!Favorite Enemy: Hey, I found the instruction manual, and apparently the bird-in-a-hat looking enemy is named Mr. Hoople, and his description reads: “Tries to get in the way”. He might be the least threatening “menace” on the NES, and that’s from the same system that premiered the slime.
  • Did you know? There are two malevolent clown enemies in this game, Bonkers and Piro. That should not be allowed.
  • Would I play again: Maybe! Seriously! It seems like there’s a lot of promise in this action/puzzle game. Give me a Switch port, and I’m there.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Shinobi for the Playstation 2! I guess three months between ninja entries is allowed. Shinobi grabs his shuriken yet again! Please look forward to it!

More kicking!