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FGC #611 The Misadventures of Tron Bonne

nice airplaneThis was Mega Man’s last chance to be a contender, but now Mega Man will always only be Mega Man.

For those of you that do not follow the career of our favorite super fighting robot, Mega Man has gone through several permutations throughout the years. He started as the simple Mega Man, but already graduated to being the “spirit” of (separate) Mega Man X six years later. From there, Mega Man has gone through many different versions and spin off franchises. Some of these franchises were further explorations of “original” Mega Man gameplay (Mega Man Zero somersaults to mind as an example), while other offshoots used familiar iconography in conjunction with wholly unique situations (Mega Man Battle Network… oddly enough, often releasing simultaneously with Mega Man Zero). But whatever the situation, you could count on Mega Man running, jumping, and shooting his way to victory.

… Except when he was hosting a board game. Or racing a go kart. Or that one time he wound up in a bad SEGA CD-esque anime “super” adventure…

There was a hot minute in Capcom’s history when the likes of Super Joe or Captain Commando were intended to be the Mario of the brand. But, somewhere in there, Mega Man became the de facto face of a business that was almost immediately synonymous with gaming. Mega Man! The little robot that blinks! And it was not just a matter of Capcom promoting its blue bomber; Mega Man appeared as a regular on Captain N: The Game Master, too! Complete with a Nintendo Power covers, Mega Man was extraordinarily popular in his salad days.

Oh blast itAnd, as one would expect, this meant Mega Man became involved in several experimental titles. Mega Man could always be relied on to show up every Christmas with a handful of Robot Masters to rob and/or obliterate, but did you know that Japan saw Rock Board, featuring Mega Man’s two feuding daddies playing boardgames? Or that time Mega Man had to rely on soccer to defeat Dr. Wily? And once we got past the Super Nintendo, the Playstation proved to be the console generation that saw Mega Man experimenting the most. Mega Man: Battle & Chase was Mega’s chance at a kart racer, and Super Adventure Rockman saw Rock starring in his own FMV/anime challenge. We also saw two Mega Man quasi-fighting games in the arcades during this era (finally! You can play as Duo!), and, as the Playstation gave way to the Playstation 2, the obscure Rock Strategy appeared on Asian PCs. Mega Man got around at the turn of the millennium, all while his “traditional” action gameplay had three different flavors immediately available. How should Capcom fill your cup? Mega Man Classic, dark and frothy Mega Man X, or the newest hotness, the legendary Mega Man Dash?

Back in its prime, we had no idea Mega Man Dash/Legends would only ever see three entries. Two of these titles were the straightforward Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Legends 2, which both featured running, jumping, and exploring a world that would be very comfortable including a Duff McWhalen or Doc Robot. But the second title released in this quasi-trilogy, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, included running, jumping, and… a robot management simulator? And a puzzle game? And some light gambling? Wait, did I just see a rogue-like sneak into the background? What is going on here!?

STAY OUTIn more ways than one, it is clear that The Misadventures of Tron Bonne was intended to be the experimental offshoot of the already fairly experimental Mega Man Legends. While Mega Man Legends went out of its way to confirm that this was the next generation for our blue hero, his “sister” Roll, and quasi-father Beard Guy, TMoTB barely made the most token of efforts to confirm it existed within the Mega Man universe. 8-Bit Mega Man appears in a random easter egg cameo, and… that’s it. No Dr. Wily boat rental here, and the concept of “Mega Man Legends” is barely even acknowledged on anything but the box copy. Beyond that, this is a story starring Tron Bonne and her family (characters introduced exclusively for Mega Man Legends) before they encountered our third favorite Mega Man. All characters outside the family, whether they be allies, villains, or frenemy police officers, are wholly new and were created exclusively for this adventure. And, give or take visual connection between Glyde and Glide.exe, none of these characters ever received so much as an echo in other Mega Man materials. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is an island onto itself that was never truly revisited again in a franchise that has lasted to this day.

And that’s a damn shame, as once The Misadventures of Tron Bonne gets going, it fires on absolutely every cylinder available. Entire sections are given over to block puzzles, and said puzzles are careful, fun, and thoughtful. Meanwhile, “let’s rob a bank” or “let’s steal all the cows” are exaggerated bits of buffoonery where the action immediately feeds into the exact level of chaos you need when you can chuck whole trees at houses. The weakest segments are the “RPG dungeon” levels, which drag as you wait for your lil’ servbots to stop being squished, flaming casualties long enough to hit a switch or open a treasure chest. But even there, the NPCs of these caves are entertaining and memorable, and, give or take a quiz champ that should be left to die in a forgotten grotto, every “person” in these events could stand to survive to see the Battle Network franchise. Maybe they could control TediousMan.exe? Of course, even those RPG bits remind you that the “action segments” are king here, as every RPG boss is a matter of properly strafing around an arena and targeting servbots at the right weak point. Additionally, the opening and final segments of the whole game are both 100% examples of “action bits”, so, sorry if you really excelled at block shuffling, you need more active abilities to see Ms. Tron save the day.

GET ME OUT OF HEREOr… maybe that isn’t completely accurate. The final battle is a fight like practically any other standard Mega Man title with patterns to recognize and weapons to utilize; but there is one significant difference: levels. Your final matchup is fought not by Tron, but her favorite servbot. And said servbot can be a complete weakling or a daring master of bazookas. What makes the difference? You are responsible for “raising” the servbots between other events, and their levels are wholly dependent on the amount of love, care, and torture you shower on your minifigs. This means that, if you ever want to succeed in this world of airpirates battling other airpirates, you must engage in some light Tamagotchi gameplay to keep your army growing apace with your pocketbook. It’s an action game! It’s a simulation! And if you overlook either side of the equation, you’ll be no more successful than a JRPG player that ignores every town’s equipment shop. You have to remember to upgrade your g(G)ear(s)! (Not that that problem ever occurred on the stream…)

In short, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne was wildly experimental, and required the player to manage all sorts of skills to maintain a proper Tron Bonne capable of triumphing over her (relatively more) evil foes.

And then we never saw another Mega Man game try that again.

Asked and answeredThe Mega Man Zero franchise was the obvious continuation of Mega Man 2-D gameplay, but from Mega Zero 1 to Mega Man ZX Advent, we never saw so much as a cyber elf farming simulator. Similarly, Mega Man X made one attempt at its own JRPG with action elements and some very confusing warring factions… but probably the number one thing anyone remembers from that adventure is that it could unlock Cut Man in Mega Man X8. It seems the only future Mega Man franchise that tried to branch out from its “we’re doing the same thing every year like clockwork” gameplay was the Mega Man Battle Network series. Though, even in that case, its side games were either attempts to emulate other Mega Man games (Mega Man Network Transmission), or diversions that could barely come together as complete titles (Rockman.EXE Battle Chip Stadium, Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge). And by the time that franchise graduated to Mega Man Star Force on the next generation of hardware, the best anyone could hope for was an enhanced rerelease in the form of Rockman.EXE Operate Shooting Star. Bit of an inglorious end for an entire Mega Man Universe…

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne was a wildly experimental, incredibly entertaining diversion from traditional Mega Man gameplay that somehow still included wholly recognizable experiences. And not only was it never attempted again, but it apparently was the end of any experimentation in the Mega Man franchise. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 sure ain’t what my grandfather would recognize as a Pac-Man game, and Zelda Warriors is not your traditional Link jaunt. But Mega Man? Mega Man 11 is very much “the next Mega Man game”, and apparently a tie-in game for Mega Man: Fully Charged is too much to hope for. Mega Man is no longer allowed deviation, and that mandate has apparently been the norm since Tron retired from questing in 1999.

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is a great game that apparently had horrible consequences. Sorry, Mega Man, but looks like Miss Tron is the reason you’ll never see a tennis court. Maybe Mario could let you guest sometime…

FGC #611 The Misadventures of Tron Bonne

  • All cops are wrestlersSystem: Playstation 1, because that is the system that could include a demo disc for Mega Man Legends 2 (coming soon!). A Playstation 3 PSN release is also available.
  • Number of players: For a game with forty servbots, you only get one player. Kind of amazing some multiplayer minigames didn’t sneak in there.
  • For the Future: You can see the first rumbling of much of the Mega Man Battle Network franchise in the Mega Man Legends series, and it is hard not to notice how the various “characters” of the RPG segments in TMOTB map easily to personalities that would be revisited by the time Lan was playing with his NetNavi. Tuttle, the dork exploring a cave in a top hat and suit, is just begging for something like FancyLad.exe.
  • Risk it All: There is also a casino level available. I am sure there is some ridiculous method for exploiting this mission and earning all the zenny you would ever need inside of the third mission or something. But, as someone that finds gambling inevitably stacked against my favor in most games (and most of reality), I only ever see my poor favorite servbot losing cash while his mistress rests. Sorry, Miss Tron!
  • Favorite Weapon: Give me a bazooka, or give me death. Or give me death, too, when my rate of fire is too low to beat back some ruins-based monster mech. That happened on the stream!
  • Watch it, Buddy: Speaking of which, here is the archival footage of my misadventures with Tron Bonne.



    There is a bit of an audio issue at the top of video 1, but the rest is just vibes. Oh! And I’m not super terrible at this one like the last Mega Man Legends game!

  • Did you know? Tron’s voice actress sings the theme songs in the Japanese version. Under normal circumstances, “the main character sings” usually strikes me as out of character for nearly every videogame heroine I can name. I can do thisHowever, the concept that Tron is trying to earn a few extra bucks through releasing her own album is 100% congruous with a woman that would spend her day shuffling apple boxes for a meager payout. Karaoke is Plan R or so on the list.
  • Would I play again: Yes. I had forgotten how much fun this game can be. Mind you, I am not going to play it again for a while, but when I do? Oh boy! Fun times to be had!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D! Possibly because I accidentally vacuumed up some automaton’s favorite gyro, this robot is trying to visit misery upon me! Please grab your 3-D glasses, and look forward to Jim Power!

ANOTHER LOSER

FGC #610 Samurai Shodown (Franchise)

So badassI have learned that I am here for the weirdos.

Samurai Shodown is not my franchise. I am a fighting game fan, and have been since I first saw a furry Soviet dude power slam some guy with too many skulls. But, by the time Samurai Shodown was appearing in my local arcade, there was already a myriad of options that more easily drew my attention. If I wanted a basic 2-D fighting game, I’d play Street Fighter 2. If I wanted to see a little super violence, I’d play Mortal Kombat. If I wanted to see a weapons-based fighter, I’d play Soul Edge/Soulcalibur. If I wanted to plug some quarters into a Neo Geo machine, I’d go with something along the lines of King of Fighters (Fatal Fury also qualifies there). Hell, even vaguely recognizable, possibly historical figures fighting was available in World Heroes, and that game had a mecha-Hitler you could pummel into the pavement. In short, Samurai Shodown held the unfortunate position of being a fighting game that looked pretty good, but was also popular at the exact same time some of the best fighting games of the era were receiving routine updates/players. Or, put another way, not only is Cammy going to grab my attention faster than Neinhalt Sieger, there are also a few more potential opponents crowded around her cabinet. Sorry, SamSho, I’ll get to you in another thirty years.

And… uh… here we are.

On my grand list of games I want to cover before this FGC project ends (I currently claim I am stopping at FGC #655… a full hundred articles past the last point I said I would stop…), I have a meager handful of fighting games remaining. Every title from that first paragraph has been examined and reexamined (sometimes ad nauseum), so now we are down to fighting games that are… let’s say… exploratory? Games wherein I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of ridiculous plots or muscle memory that will allow me to toss out down-downforward-forward-punch fireballs until three years after I’m dead. Some of these “unexplored” games on the list are amusing misfires, but I will admit I was expecting a lot of the Samurai Shodown franchise. After all, I had at least played this in the past, and, though these play sessions may have been tremendously shorter than any time I spent with Guilty Gear, they were enjoyable. And I always appreciated the Samurai Shodown characters that appeared in other games. That bird with the hawk? She seems nice! It should be fun and enlightening to play through the Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection and see what this glorious franchise has in store.

And I found it… underwhelming.

Get 'em lil dudeTo be clear, “underwhelming” is the exact word for this situation. None of the Samurai Shodown titles appear to be outright bad. The gameplay primarily seems to be focused more on defense than offense, but, make no mistake, you can attain a victory by going in with swords blazin’. Or maybe no swords! Characters in most of the games seem to have two distinct playstyles: with or without weapon. Be disarmed as the result of a button mashing contest, and you have to rely on your fists for a moment or two, which makes for a fun change in tactics. It’s like you’re playing as two characters at once! I am always down for that! And, while the “Engrish” and general story is simultaneously noteworthy and forgettable, there is definitely something happening here. Bushido and all that riot is great, but I am going to stand at attention when some nerd cuts down a pair of trees without even trying. Oh, and who doesn’t like some random dude running around in the background of battles tossing off powerups? There is good stuff here in Samurai Shodown!

But it all felt very… slippery. Not talking about the controls, mind you, those are perfect and responsive. Just, somehow, the whole experience felt forgettable. Like whether my chosen samurai won was going to be quickly forgotten. Or, perhaps, how my fighter won was what would be forgettable. I understand that, once again, this is not my game, so it is entirely possible I was missing something, but the general reason I won any given match seemed nebulous. And, in a fighting game, that makes everything feel unusually light. Across the multiple Samurai Shodown games, there are multiple ways to win a match… Or… More accurately, there are multiple ways to practically instantly drain a life bar. And, while slicing off the limb of an opponent feels like it should be remarkable, when you stumble on “I guess that special move just does that sometimes” it feels… wrong. Did I really win? Or was that more of an accident than my usual victories? Whatever the root cause of the issue, this made the various SS titles feel insubstantial in their gameplay.

MAGIC!But that does not have to be the be all and end all of a fighting game. A fun cast can completely rescue confusing gameplay. The previously mentioned World Heroes was not a great game by any means, but it did include a football player fighting Jack the Ripper, so it more than qualifies for gold status. Samurai Shodown’s cast meanwhile… Well, it is hard to judge some of these characters in 2021, as, like Samurai Shodown itself, there are clear examples of “this was done better elsewhere” through the decades. Like World Heroes already had a pretty good Joan de Arc analogue, so Charlotte is lacking. Haohmaru, the games’ marquee hero, feels like a lesser Mitsurugi of Soulcalibur. Hanzo the ninja could not be any more generically “this is our ninja” if he tried, and I’d rather pick up Red Earth if that is all that is available. Weller the American “I wanna be Japanese” character is so much more distinctive as Bang of BlazBlue, and I’m pretty sure Kyoshiro Senryo was one of the final bosses in that Simpsons beat ‘em up. It is no wonder that Nakoruru wound up as the persistent Samurai Showdown rep, as “has a bird” separates her from much of her fighting game sorority (though her general “fighting shrine maiden” thing causes her to blend into the anime trope ether).

But there was one character that seemed tremendously less forgettable than his contemporaries: Genan Shiranui, aka the little green guy with a claw.

Get 'emArguably, this is another example of “done elsewhere”, as Genan and his obvious spiritual brother, Earthquake, both resemble SNK/King of Fighters characters Choi Bounge and Chang Koehan. And if you wanted to claim that it was a coincidence that there was a King of Fighters influence, please note that Genan’s surname is Shiranui, the same as Mai Shiranui, heroine of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. And, oh yeah, Mai (or at least her identical, historically appropriate ancestor) outright appears in Genan’s Samurai Shodown (1) ending. So, ya know, wearing influences on their sleeve there.

But Genan is memorable all on his own. He is green. He is wearing torn clothing that tells more of a story with visuals than Jubei can hope to muster with an entire story mode. He is constantly licking a metal claw, which is probably unsanitary. His background involves implied cannibalism. He apparently has a pair of kids that hide in his sack-clothes. This is the exact kind of eccentricity I want from a fighting game character, and it was clear right from the first Samurai Shodown that Genan was gonna be my guy.

And then the franchise dropped him like a rotten potato as of Samurai Shodown 3. Dammit! Only two games for my green meanie!

While I tried to soldier on with some pale dork with blue hair… it just wasn’t the same. I have to assume that Genan was nixed in an effort to make Samurai Shodown slightly more realistic (in a universe where people routinely, graphically die before being revived by a quarter), or to pad out the roster with slightly more distinctively “Samurai Shodown” characters (there was that brief period in the 90’s when crossovers and/or homages were considered bad). Whatever the cause, Genan was gone before we truly knew ye, and, in his absence, everything about Samurai Shodown became slippery again. Oh, build up a rage meter to do super moves? Ho-hum. I don’t want red skin. I want it green, dammit! And, given how the franchise seemed to drift into generally more serious settings over time, I was convinced Samurai Shodown was never going to have an entry that was “for Goggle Bob”. Not the end of the world, there are plenty of fighting game franchises that I can enjoy; but it would be a hard confirmation that this wasn’t “for me”.

Then I got to Samuri Shodown 6. Then I got to this nonsense…

What is even happening here?

That appears to be some manner of ancient puppet automaton, and it is fighting… a dog. Just a dog.

I am here for that.

Samurai Shodown 6 is a “dream match” title that includes a playable version of practically every character that had appeared in Samurai Shodown up to that point. Genan is back. Earthquake is back. That big red guy that was a mix of Genan and Earthquake is back. The flag dude hidden character is back. And speaking of “hidden” characters, every pet and animal is playable, too. Are they effective? Not remotely. But sometimes you just want to play as a monkey. It worked for Eternal Champions (no it didn’t). And the new characters of Samurai Shodown 6, like a swan-turned-maid and a chubby guy who really likes fireworks, all exude a noticeable air of levity. Ocha-Maro Karakuri, that mobile puppet up there, seems positively mundane in a roster that includes an anime pretty boy that is based on historical jackass/president Andrew Jackson.

DO NOT LIKEAnd it wasn’t until I hit Samurai Shodown 6 that I realized that this kind of nonsense is exactly what I want. Who have I always gravitated towards in other fighting games? Blanka. Tung Fu Rue. Cyrax. The misfits. The absolute last fighter I ever pick is your typical Ryu or Bruce Lee clone du jour. My favorite fighting game is a title wherein you can have a multi-tentacled god team up with a teeny tiny robot servant working alongside a member of S.T.A.R.S. This is why the other Samurai Shodown titles seemed boring to me! I simply cannot enjoy a videogame unless the character select screen includes a healthy number of people that have absolutely no business being in any sort of polite society, left alone a videogame (sorry, Dr. Faust, you know it is true). Apparently I do not care if there is an amazing combo system, intuitive gameplay, or the best netcode in the universe. All I want is some dork cosplaying as Freddy Krueger (and, no, actual Freddy doesn’t count).

Is Samurai Shodown ever going to be “my” fighting game franchise? No. But does it remind me what I actually want in a fighting game? Absolutely. Give me a little green weirdo any day of the week, and I’ll give your game a fair shake.

And if you want to have a brand new, modern edition of your franchise, and you choose to drop said weirdo? Well, don’t expect me to buy a season pass anytime soon…

FGC #610 Samurai Shodown (Franchise)

  • OuchSystem: Samurai Shodown is supposedly the fighting game that put the Neo Geo on the map. But I don’t see no King of Samurai ’99 on my Playstation! Whatever! The franchise has been on practically every system from a certain epoch (take a look at that Gameboy version sometime), but the collection is currently available on (mostly) modern consoles like Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Most of what you see here is via Switch and PS4.
  • Number of players: This isn’t Super Samurai Bros, so two players.
  • Who let the dogs out? Perhaps, once you get past the violence, rage, and weapon-combat, the defining characteristic of Samurai Shodown is how many fighters have pets and other auxiliary sprites as “backup”. It would certainly explain why bird-lady is so heavily featured in crossovers…
  • Favorite Character (not the green guy): It’s the red guy. Youkai Kusaregedo is a gigantic monster that first appeared in Samurai Shodown 5. He is described as an undead devil that was a “very kind man” in life, but was also a cannibal. That… is certainly a type of kind. Regardless, now he is a hulking beast, and I am only mildly disturbed by the fact that his canon story is that, in a fit of hunger, he devoured his pregnant daughter. I like playing as him, but I’m not inviting him to Christmas dinner anytime soon.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: I am required by law to note my favorite bit of Engrish from Samurai Shodown 2.

    Funster!

    As a noted funster, this had to be logged.

  • Lost in Translation: Maybe Samurai Shodown is supposed to be funny, but got lost in translation? Like, there are some goofy, tropey fighters skulking around, and maybe their intrinsic humor doesn’t come through in a different culture. Nicotine Caffeine has to have something going on here.
  • Let's go nutsThe Black Swan: Iroha is a scantily clad maid premiering in Samurai Shodown 6. She was previously a swan, but transformed into a woman wielding guillotines so as to get closer to her master. And that master? They are supposed to be the player. So, yes, this character is a walking fetish in more ways than one. Is it any wonder she got her own spin off game, and was some of the earliest DLC for the latest Samurai Shodown?
  • Favorite Samurai Shodown Title: As if it was not obvious, Samurai Shodown 6 wins here. The recently released Samurai Shodown 5 Gold is very close to 6’s complete nonsense, but, to my knowledge, you cannot play as a dog in Gold. You can do that in 6. Twice.
  • Did you know? The one character that had been previously playable but is not in Samurai Shodown 6 is Hikyaku, the delivery man that runs through the background in other Shodown titles. He was playable in the Gameboy port of Samurai Shodown as a bonus for anyone that deigned to play a Neo Geo fighting game on the friggen’ Gameboy, but was never available on a big boy system. If you are unfamiliar with the Samurai Shodown franchise, Here we go againjust imagine a playable version of the postman from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. This is also a likely explanation for why he was never seen again.
  • Would I play again: There are so many good fighting games out there! Maybe I’ll hit the modern SamSho when all the DLC is on sale/includes my boy.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Misadventures of Tron Bonne! We’re going to go on a misadventure, Miss Tron! Please look forward to it!

FGC #606 Mega Man Legends

Go, Mega!I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so bad at Mega Man Legends, and I’ve settled on a culprit: it’s-a Mario.

As True Gogglebob.com Believers may already be aware, I recently streamed the entirety of Mega Man Legends as part of our now-been-happening-for-a-year-holy-cow Tuesday night streams. Mega Man Legends was chosen because we had been talking about it randomly across other streams, I was kind of anxious to replay the title, and (the most important factor) I just plain remembered liking the game. And I still like it! I just happened to discover that, apparently, I am no longer any good at Mega Man Legends. I died to that dang bulldozer boss like sixty times! It was nebulously embarrassing!

So, in an effort to make sure that every stream is not a gauntlet of Goggle Bob death, I went back to my original save, and loaded up the “final” save I had on my ancient Playstation 1 Memory Card. I beat the game from that file, and, since Wee Goggle Bob had satisfied the necessary conditions, I was able to play a New Game Plus/Easy Mode that all but guaranteed my success on stream. Nothing can stop MegaMan equipped with the Easy Mode Buster! And how do you earn that ultimate weapon? Well, you beat the game on Hard Mode. And wondering how you unlock Hard Mode? Simply beat the game on Normal Mode! So, to be clear, at some point in my not-too-distant past, I not only completed Mega Man Legends, but beat it twice with escalating exertion. I was once super good at Mega Man Legends! Data, can you tell me what happened!?

I hate this guyI will admit that I did not particularly like Mega Man Legends when it was released. I beat it. I played it a lot. But I did not like the trajectory of Mega Man and his fellow “8-bit mascots”. Castlevania had its 64-bit, 3-D adventure. The Legend of Zelda dropped its top-down perspective for 3-D fluting. 2-D fighting games had to make way for 3-D ballerina fights. Contra was doing… something. And, while we certainly had Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4-6 on the Playstation, Mega Man Legends seemed to imply that 3-D was the next big frontier for our Blue Bomber. Did I identify Mega Man Legends as a good game? Of course! It is a good game! But it represented a trend I did not endorse, so I felt my time was better spent banishing Jet Stringray over in the 2-D Mega Man X universe. In fact, while I played nearly every “3-D reimagining” of a beloved franchise that came down the pike, I want to say there was only one 3-D title that I replayed repeatedly during the N64/Playstation 1 era. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to look at Super Mario 64.

And, fun fact, I have no idea if I even like Super Mario 64.

Here are the objective facts: I have collected all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. I accomplished this feat “back in the day”, and without the assistance of a strategy guide or FAQ. I explored every inch of Princess Peach’s Castle, unearthed every last portal-world (it took me forever to discover that Rainbow Ride even existed), and saw Mario nab any and all “secret stars”. Despite 100% completing the game in 1996 or so (I wonder if I finished it in “just” three months…) Over the years, I have returned to Super Mario 64 again and again, playing through its many ports (Wii! WiiU! Switch for a limited time for some reason!) and incarnations A nice sip(Release the DS version again, you cowards!). Whenever I play the game, I always go for all the stars, because it is a Mario game, and tricking yourself into playing less Mario in pursuit of a “speed run” is folly. There is a whole portrait world over there that you can skip, but don’t you want more game out of your game?

Except… I am not certain I like any of those portrait worlds.

Here, I made this chart of courses in Super Mario 64, and my opinion of them:

Bob-omb Battlefield Fun, but a little too “baby’s first world”
Whomp’s Fortress One “fight the boss” course stretched to six remarkably similar challenges
Jolly Roger Bay Swimming world that is absolutely zero fun. Eat my ass, collecting 100 coins
Cool, Cool Mountain Princess’ Secret Slide is a better version of the one fun part of this course
Big Boo’s Haunt What’s the trick to this stage? Random “invisible” panels? Pass
Hazy Maze Cave Should probably be six separate secret areas, and not one big, boring dungeon
Lethal Lava Land If you are not surfing a shell through lava, you are not having a fun time
Shifting Sand Land Absolutely the worst. Every star is just… ugh
Dire Dire Docks Should have just been one secret star, extremely thin on other “challenges”
Snowman’s Land We reskinned the lava stage. Hope you don’t notice
Wet-Dry World One interesting gimmick on a level no one ever wants to play
Tall, Tall Mountain Pretty fun, assuming you do not have to worry about 100 coins
Tiny-Huge Island You like bottomless pits? Sure you do!
Tick Tock Clock No. Just no.
Rainbow Ride Oh we heard you like losing all your progress to bottomless pits from Tiny-Huge Island. Guess what?

And then the game ends!

WeeeeeAnd before Mario 64 defenders flood my inbox (yes, I still operate under the delusion that I am capable of upsetting the internet at large), I realize I am being hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single SM64 stage that does not include a justifiably redeemable star (well, except Shifting Sand Land. Screw that stage). And, yes, my own Mario enjoyment does seem to lend itself to Super Mario Galaxy-esque experiences where stages are over quickly, and you move rapidly from new setting to new setting. It seems only natural that I would swiftly tire of “now do the same thing again in a slightly different way” gameplay (looking at you, Cool, Cool Mountain). But if I am being honest, there are stars that I fear like nothing else in the Mario pantheon. I would chase a thousand Liquid Marios in Super Mario Sunshine before I ever wanted to collect a hundred coins across Tick Tock Clock again. And I would rather jump rope forever than follow around an eel in Jolly Roger Bay. I understand that it is the nature of the completionist itch that I do not have to do any of these things to fully enjoy Mario 64, but what is even the point in being alive if I play Mario 64 and don’t earn 120 stars!?

But I am alive, and I did earn 120 stars in Super Mario 64. Before I moved on from SM64, my cartridge had four different save files with a total of 480 stars. What was the point of that? Perhaps to showcase that I had done it. Or maybe to remind myself that I played SM64 more than practically any Mario title before or since. I may have hated individual levels, but I explored the living hell out of that castle. I spent hours and days of my life on Super Mario 64 to the point that it is now part of my bones. If I “had to” replay the game right now, gun to my head, you have to find Yoshi or you die, I could do it. I do not think I could do that with Mega Man Legends, and the stream of my failures all but confirms this. Why is that?

Because the Nintendo 64 didn’t have any other games, dammit.

BZZZZZZTI scrimped and saved my allowance to afford a Nintendo 64 at launch. I was the happiest boy in the world, and I was going to be damned if I did not use that system to its utmost… Even if the only other game available was Cruis’n USA. I may not have liked the general format of Mario 64, or even a number of its individual challenges, but I was going to play it as much as possible, dagnabbit. I would rescue the princess over and over again. I would toss Bowser into the sun as many times as it took. I did all of this because there were no other options. And, naturally, I got better at it. Naturally, I interpreted this endless playtime as some kind of affection. Naturally, I played the game when it was rereleased, because didn’t I play that game a lot back in the 90s? Yeah, that sounds right. Let’s try it again. I played and continue to play Super Mario 64 out of a sort of eternal attrition, because, for a time, it was my only videogame. Or, at least, it was the only next gen videogame worth playing.

Super Mario 64 kidnapped my attention, and gave me Stockholm syndrome for life.

WeeeeAnd Mega Man Legends? I am willing to say that is a better game than Mario 64. If it is not better, it definitely offers a different, wholly unique experience that is a parallel, but just as good, game as Mario 64. It is more of a “run and shoot” game than Mario’s punch ‘n hop times. It features a huge, interconnected dungeon world, and encourages finding connections between areas that would be eternally separate in Peach’s Castle. The characters and their attendant voice acting/animated acting are marvelous, and a far cry from Mario’s “let them eat cake” morsels of a plot. Mega Man Legends may not have anything as sublime as recklessly gliding over a bob-omb battlefield, but it does have jet boots to spare. Mega Man Legends is an amazing game, and, playing it in 2021 reminds me that this has always been one of the best Playstation games out there.

But it was just one of an amazing crop of Playstation games that were released in 1997. It was not the only decent N64 game release in 1996. As a result, one game got played over and over for years, and the other was left to rot thanks to the likes of Final Fantasy 7, Symphony of the Night, and maybe even Alundra.

And that’s why Mario is responsible for my lack of Mega Man Legends skills. It is all that pesky plumber’s fault…

FGC #606 Mega Man Legends

  • System: Playstation (1) is host to the original and most beloved release. The Nintendo 64 version came along in friggen’ 2001, and was way too late to make an impact on gorram anything. And it was a compromised port on top of it! The PSP version came out four years later (but exclusively in Japan), and a Playstation 3 port scuttled out a decade after that. This is arguably the saddest release schedule gogglebob.com has ever recognized.
  • Number of players: Would have been cool to see another digger get into the act, but we are sticking to one Mega Man here.
  • What's so funny?Favorite Sub Weapon: It is a shame that the signature “variable weapons system” of Mega Man is relegated to refining treasures here, and not gaining, like, the Bonne Blaster after a boss fight. That said, the tactical laser weapon on my original save file is the bee’s knees… and not something I felt like earning on the stream. I guess I am going to say the drill arm this time, because I very much appreciate drill appendages.
  • Story Time: I very much appreciate how 90% of Mega Man Legends is just “have fun running around a neat island”, and then the last 10% is some hoary old tale of apocalypses, fallen civilizations, and allusions to MegaMan Volnutt being the secret chosen one that will change the world. This is an extremely JRPG-esque twist, and I have to wonder if this kind of plot just automatically bubbles to the surface the minute your otherwise carefree games includes treasure chests. See also Hearts, Kingdom.
  • Come to think of it: Complete with the myriad of sidequests and an ending that pretty closely apes the beats of the original Dragon Quest, was this all an early attempt to make the ultimate Mega Man: The RPG? And, if that is accurate, why did it take two Mega Man Battle Network games to get there? And why did they even bother with Mega Man X: Command Mission? So many unanswered questions.
  • Tron Resurrection: Tron and her family are easily the best part of Mega Man Legends, and it is pretty clear this was noticed practically from the beginning. You see a Servbot before you meet about 90% of the cast! Not even counting the title screen! The biggest loss in not seeing the Mega Man Legends franchise flourish was having to only see Tron in random spin-off titles.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Want to see the previously mentioned stream? Well here you go.





    It gets good around Part 3. … Or I just get good…

  • Did you know: Motion capture was distinctly used to create the iconic cinema scenes of Mega Man Legends. This makes Mega Man Legends one of the first games to use motion capture in a videogame for something other than ruthless decapitations.
  • Would I play again: I will play Super Mario 64 again. I will not play Mega Man Legends again. What?! I would rather play Mega Man 3! That’s how it goes!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Metroid! The first one! With the space lady! Please look forward to it!

Roll your eyes
“Why you gotta make this about Mario, Goggle Bob?”

FGC #602 Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness

SCARYI know you would destroy the world if you thought it would be a little fun.

There are two kinds of videogame worlds:

  1. Our world (but in a videogame).
  2. Something like our world, albeit possibly at a different point in time. The allowed epochs are “medieval” or “future”. If a director is feeling saucy, “ninja” is also acceptable.

And that’s that. Think about nearly any videogame setting long enough, and you will see that it boils down to one of those two options. And even when you have things like robots fighting or ponies attempting to magic their problems away, it still winds up being a world that is generally recognizable as our own. Is your world full of electric rats and haunted keychains? Well, it’s still got department stores selling bicycles, so it is practically home. And we are all forced to identify with Middle Earth/Camelot environments repeatedly, so if a princess needs saving, we can and will handle it (even if she is a princess of a kingdom of mushrooms).

Of course, this makes perfect sense. A game will always have a win condition. Many videogames will attach a familiar plot to that win condition so as to encourage/enrapture the player. Rescue the princess. Defend the kingdom. Save the world. And why would you do that? Because you’re a good person? Phht, no! Because you recognize this world as something familiar, something like your own. Something worth saving. Even the greatest misanthrope believes we live in a world that is worth protecting against a giant space laser, so why not do the same in a digital world? Even with a slight change in time, location, or planet, videogames tend to include extremely human characters. And you like humans, right? 99% of people that play videogames are humans, so it is generally assumed you are on board with saving humans, even when they’re a little less humany. Close enough, right?

But how about some zombies? Or a kingdom of demons? How do you feel about saving the forces of Hell from… another Hell?

Today’s game is Gargoyle’s Quest II. It is the Nintendo Entertainment System-based (mostly) sequel to Gargoyle’s Quest, an exclusively Gameboy jaunt. The original, monochrome adventure portrayed our titular gargoyle, Firebrand, in his home dimension of the Ghoul Realm in glorious pea green and/or gray. The NES version got a full-color upgrade, and the Ghoul Realm is… well…

Real estate values are low here

Look, I do not want to judge, but if you have seas the color of blood, you are either living on an Earth that has had a few too many Impacts, or you are distinctly somewhere you don’t want to be. And who does want to live there? Why, all the enemies from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, of course! You have a significant undead population, several demons apparently wearing clothes, and a substantial number of kings and queens who have additional heads on their abdomens. This is the Ghoul Realm, after all, it would be weird if there were not any ghouls running around. Hell, the plot even begins with a quick note that this is all taking place before “Man” even became much of a thing…

But lest you think this gargoyle’s quest is steering toward a twist that involves the rise of a number of boxer shorts-clad knights assaulting Firebrand’s kingdom, do not worry, this is a strictly demon-on-demon violence affair. The “dark light” is sweeping through the realm, and, in its wake are crippled kings, double-deceased zombies, and at least one group of scientists that are reduced to gibbering idiocy. The ultimate source of this destructive wave is Breager, a demon lord that was summoned to the realm by Evil King Goza (granted, we are just assuming Goza is a king because he owns a castle. He could just be ludicrously wealthy). Breager is a four-armed giant (double Firebrand’s height!) that can summon a bevy of fireballs without so much as leaving his throne.

Breager is also indistinguishable from the rest of the “good” demon cast of Gargoyle’s Quest.

Terrible bugsLet us examine Firebrand’s allies. Samuel of Sidon is a cross between a dwarf and some manner of furry bug. Hecate the fallen angel is a minotaur/lizard hybrid. Queen Verona is a gigantic chunk of ice-monster. Morock is the infamous Astaroth that rules Ghosts ‘n Goblins as the capital-d Devil. Lethe is that second version of Astaroth from Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Barr is a boss from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and is mostly notable for his detachable head. And Rushifell/Loki/Lucifer is the final monarch of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. In short, every one of Firebrand’s named supporters is not remotely human at best, and a noted antagonist of humanity at worst. His opponents are not any better, as we’ve got a “head in the abdomen dude” right out of the starting gate, but with a serpent tail in place of legs. Then there’s a Death Balloon (no further explanation necessary), Sand Frog (ditto), and Twin Guardians that could be Firebrand’s evil twins (before you literally fight Firebrand’s evil twin). Then we’ve got the final boss fights, which are back to “more heads equal more evils” thinking.

So, yes, if you, the fleshy human reading this article, ever encountered one of Firebrand’s friends or foes, you would run away screaming. Yet you, the player controlling the Red Blaze, are saving these unknowable horrors from slightly different unknowable horrors. Why would you do such a thing? You are saving a world of “people” that are only going to live on to make Arthur’s life that much harder! Why are you even entertaining this nonsense?

The answer is simple: because you can.

Fine, stay in your chairLet’s not pretend you have to play videogames. “But thou must” may be how Dragon Quest starts, but you absolutely have the choice of turning off the NES and grabbing a whole different game off the shelf. No one is making you play Gargoyle’s Quest anymore than anyone is forcing you to play Super Mario Bros. one world at a time. There are warp zones for a reason! But you can beat every last Bowser if you want, just the same as you can maneuver Firebrand into banishing all those demon-demons. It is not about the story, it is about the challenge. It is about taking this unique hero, be they pink puff or bat-winged monster, and seeing if you can succeed. Are you saving a kingdom of fungi or fun guys (that eat people)? Immaterial! Videogames offer the only story telling medium wherein you can actively and continually loathe the protagonist, but enjoy exploring the world that they inhabit. Or, to put a point on it, hate the player, love the game. Particularly if the player hates you.

So, yeah, you’re gonna save the Ghoul Realm. You are going to save every last monster that will one day define the concept of monsters. You do not have to. No one is saying you must. But you will. It is fun, and you like fun things, right?

The world is going to burn, and you lit the match. All because you liked flying with the silly little red dude…

FGC #602 Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness

  • Let us reflectSystem: Nintendo Entertainment System, and an enhanced, region-locked Gameboy version.
  • Number of Players: Firebrand simply cannot work with others.
  • Port-o-Call: If you can stomach the lack of color, the Gameboy edition does seem to be the definitive version. That desert that is completely devoid of landmarks in the NES edition has a whole dungeon now! And you can earn a homing-fireball! Tell me that wouldn’t make a few fights about 200% easier.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Like Kirby’s Adventure, this is one of those great, late NES titles that wholly justifies platforming games by granting some limited flight options. That was just what everyone needed after experiencing the glories of raccoon-travel. Other than that, it is basically a Mega Man game, and who can say no to that?
  • RPG Elements: The world map is entirely perfunctory, and adds pretty much nothing to the gameplay experience other than an easy way to backtrack. However, it does go a long way toward making the Ghoul Realm feel like a big, wide open area. The Ghouls ‘n Ghosts version of it is, like, three lil’ levels.
  • For the sequel: Demon’s Crest is the sequel, an unfortunate end to any and all gargoyle quests. Now, that plot learned a thing or two from its prequels, and you are now actively avenging Firebrand against a world/Phalanx that has wronged him. See? It is not about saving demons, it is about making demons feel bad. Totally different universe of storytelling there.
  • This is not a clawStory time: Gargoyle’s Quest 2 is actually the prequel to Gargoyle’s Quest (1), and is another one of those situations wherein almost the exact thing happened to an ancestor/descendant pair. However, it is worth noting that the Firebrand of Gargoyle’s Quest (1) is almost certainly the same protagonist of Demon’s Quest, and probably the jerk that directly deals with Arthur on a regular basis. Of course, I am no authority on the subject. All these red, winged demons look the same to me.
  • An End: The penultimate boss is the hardest boss in the game. There, I said it. You unlock unlimited flight, high jumps, and dragon-fire breath before the real final boss, and then that donk doesn’t even get out of his chair. Meet the Red Blaze, dumbass, and burn until my grandson kicks your ass all over again.
  • What’s in a name? The Twin Guardians are clearly a pair of malevolent gargoyles. This is Gargoyle’s Quest. Is there a reason they can’t just, ya know, be called gargoyles? Did Disney copyright that, too?
  • Favorite Boss: I appreciate the Maze of Mirror’s Doppelganger boss, and how attacking your own reflection will only hurt you. And it utilizes Firebrand’s “enemy” attacks of shooting fire and randomly swooping around! Hey, wait a minute, why can’t my Firebrand swoop like that?
  • Did you know? The original, Japanese version of the title screen is kickin’ ass with a cool, animated frame of flames. The American/European title screen is so, so boring by comparison.
  • Would I play again: This game gets breezier every time I play it. I would be down for a new gargoyle-based quest, but, until that surfaces, I will happily give the old one a go.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dante’s Inferno for the Playstation 3! Folks, it looks like ROB wants me to go to Hell. Please look forward to it!

Every single one of us, devil inside