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FGC #596 Mega Man X7

Mega times!I think Batman should die.

And speaking of the dead, today’s game is Mega Man X7. Mega Man X7 is a bit of an odd duck, as the Mega Man X franchise came to a logical conclusion with Mega Man X5, which then transitioned into the sequel series, Mega Man Zero. But there was also a Mega Man X6, which released nigh concurrently with Mega Man Zero. And, because of some foolish adherence to front-facing continuity (look, no one would mind a Mega Man X “interquel”), X6 continued the story of X5, forced Mega Man Zero to retcon its practically brand new continuity (now queen elves had to be involved!), and brought the whole cast back (from a death coma) for an adventure where the headliners were somehow simultaneously robots of the future and too-old-for-this-shit zombies. And then, while the Mega Man Zero franchise continued and eventually gained its own sequel franchise stretching the world even further into the future, there was Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8 (and, to a lesser, more parallel degree, Mega Man Command Mission). Both of these titles attempted to leave the undead nature of Mega Man X6 behind and start brand new X stories with a continuity that was not even attempting to tie to past or future titles. No more overtures of Dr. Wily. Barely any references to a future where Mega Man X becomes Dictator X. Just the good ol’ Reploids hanging out and busting Mavericks with X and Zero.

And Axl. Axl’s the new kid.

Here we go!Axl is, arguably, the lynchpin of both Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8. In X7, Axl is the former protégé of the wannabe villain of the story, and his defection to the good guys’ team is the inciting incident for the whole struggle. In Mega Man X8, it is revealed that Axl has always been the prototype of a new kind of Reploid, and a new conflict arises when Axl’s virtual children/brothers inevitably decide to take over the world. X8 even ends with the implication that Axl has been possessed or somehow infected with his brood’s big bad, and a theoretical Mega Man X9 likely would have addressed this dangling plot tentacle. In short, after Mega Man X6, the Mega Man X franchise basically became the Axl show, with special guests X and Zero.

And… that was not the worst thing in the world.

There are a lot of reasons to not like Axl. For one thing, he pioneered “Silver the Hedgehog” character design before that ‘hog telekinetically hurled his first crate. This is a situation where the original hero was already an “edgy” take on an adorable mascot, his partner/rival was already the marginally edgier version, and now we needed someone that was the edgiest. Axl is literally introduced as an amoral assassin, and, despite living in a world where people have guns for arms, he makes a big deal about being a gangster that always has a piece (and often holds it sideways, just for an added cool factor). Axl joins the noble Maverick Hunters, and he slightly slots into the traditional rookie-working-with-veterans role, but he also never completely drops his general bloodlust. He might be the “kid” of the group, but he is the kid that is going to dual-wield pistols and earn his hunter rank through an abundance of “retired” Mavericks. And, lest you check out for any and all Mega Man X plot details (cannot blame you), Axl’s design exudes a sort of… posturing personality. Prominent weapons, spiky all over, and “robo hair” that looks like a flaming porcupine (or hedgehog?). His color scheme even darkens between games! In short, Axl could easily be seen as an X replacement that is trying too hard.

It just sits thereAnd, make no mistake, Axl was intended as an X replacement. Despite being the eternal cover boy of Mega Man X7, X operates much like a “hidden character” for Axl’s maiden voyage. You can only unlock Mega Man X through playing a lot of Mega Man X7 (either beat all 8 of the Maverick Masters, or rescue 64 generic Reploids [with a possible max of 15 per stage if they don’t die]), and once you have X under your control, you’ll find… he’s just a better Axl. Sure, he does not have Axl’s unique copy ability or hover, but he has all of Axl’s subweapons, and X’s default shot allows for a charge that blows Axl’s offensive capabilities out of the water. It is pretty clear that X ‘n Axl are both 100% based on the same gameplay style, and Zero is the only exceptional butterfly (Morph Moth?) in X7. And why would that be the case? Well, you really cannot convince me that Mega Man X7 was conceived as anything other than a chance for Mega Man X to finally retire.

Axl is the star of the Mega Man X franchise going forward. So why is Mega Man X even here?

In a way, Mega Man X has been on his way out since his virgin voyage. The amazing Mega Man X was originally conceived with a character closer in design to Zero in its title role, but Zero was demoted to unplayable sidekick for a more prominent Mega Man descendant. This was probably a wise move, as an entirely new robot character (with a laser sword!) clearly would have blown the minds of 90s kids, and Capcom did not want to soil its collective conscience with overhyping an entire generation of children to an early grave. But Zero gradually took focus from X: his body was all over X2, he became temporarily playable in X3, and X4 allowed for the player to use Zero to the point that X could potentially not appear at all. Further games began to reinforce a sort of partnership between X and Zero (when they weren’t killing each other), but Zero did eventually get his own franchise (with a version of X as the villain!) when Mega Man Zero rolled out. Couple Zero’s rise to stardom with X’s very vocal desire to retire and raise robotic raccoons (conjecture on my part, but what else is X going to do with his free time?), and you can see how it would be very easy to let another Reploid take over the X franchise. As long as there is a game with running, dashing, and shooting, who cares who is headlining? Mega Man aXl is good to go!

Speeding alongAnd Axl taking over for X would be a good thing! Continuity-snarling holographic doctors that may or may not be sentient lurking around airports in century-old capsules making zero sense multiple games in? Not a problem for Axl! In fact, the omnipresent problem of our hero kinda sorta being responsible for every Maverick War ever is not remotely an issue with new protagonist Axl. He can just have hover-based fun in his world, and maybe occasionally be sad about his Red dead friend. And, from a gameplay perspective, it works perfectly. Axl is not beholden to the “controls” one would expect of a Mega Man, but he also benefits from being a clear Mega-descendant. If the technology was there from the start, Mega Man could have always “transformed” into Robot Masters rather than merely change colors to match their weapons. X was gifted an adaptive, chargeable buster, but was similarly constrained by SNES-based abilities. Axl, though? Playstation 2 hero Axl? He could do his own thing! He did not have to be obligated to continue 8-bit traditions; he could do something new! And if he wanted to wholesale steal a robot’s body, he could do it!

And, dammit, we could use more heroes that are totally divorced from their original constraints and requirements.

Look, we have all been through the reboots. A wiki would probably provide the correct answer, but, by my estimates, we are currently working on Batman #6,381. But he is still Batman. He is still Bruce Wayne. He is still going to have a bad night in an alley. He is still going to watch his pal Harvey Dent endure some haphazard facial reconstruction. He is still going to pick up a young ward after the worst time a circus could ever offer. As long as Batman is Batman, he is going to be towing around nearly a century’s worth of “necessary” continuity. Same for Superman. Same for Spider-Man. Same for Goku. Same for Mega Man X. Same for so many protagonists we have been recycling and repurposing for years and years. And, while everyone is always going to recognize the likes of Batman or Black Widow, every comic, movie, or television show is going to have to pay the corresponding price of telling the same stories and being beholden to a reality that may be horribly outdated. “Wealthy Playboy Bruce Wayne” had a very different meaning in 1939, but we are still stuck with it in 2021, when the idea of a billionaire that actually helps people seems less likely than a flying white man from space. But can Bruce Wayne be anything else? Maybe for an issue or two, but he will be back to “iconic” by the next movie premiere. What is even happeningThe audience demands that a Mega Man always works like a Mega Man, and the same demands are made of every new Batman. You can deviate in a story a little, but you better believe you need to be back on track by the time Martha Wayne is putting on her pearls.

So why not let Axl have his day in the sun? Why not let X retire? Why not let Batman die? The old stories will still be there for future generations, no one is suggesting we burn down the Marvel Library of Alexandria. But maybe we don’t need another retelling of Steve Rogers doing magical drugs until he got to punch Hitler. Maybe we can lay off the characters with decades of “stability”, and start something new. New people are born every day, so why not allow new heroes to headline breakfast cereals? Let X retire, and let Axl take up the torch. It will be new, different, and good for everyone.

… Though, come to think of it, if we are going to kill and replace Batman forever, maybe Abatmanl could get a better premiere experience than Axl….

FGC #596 Mega Man X7

  • System: Playstation 2 initially, and now available on any systems that host the second Mega Man X Legacy Collection. Switch? Playstation 4? Xbox One? Whatever works for you.
  • Number of players: You can switch between two Maverick Hunters, but only one person can control them at a time.
  • See it throughMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: I might like the concept of the plot, but this is the worst Mega Man X game ever. Mega Man X6 is terrible, but at least it is recognizable as a Mega Man X title. Mega Man X7 attempts to shoehorn 3-D movement into the franchise, and it fails miserably. X should not have to aim! And everyone is so… weak! Every opponent soaks about a thousand more hits than necessary, and Maverick bosses have lifebars that border on the infinite. And robots can fall down for some reason! Just a miserable game to play.
  • Worst Change of All Time: Zero’s jumping slash is now not a screw attack-esque spinning blade, but a simple forward slash. This makes Zero about as useful offensively as damp cheese.
  • Favorite Maverick: Flame Hyenard’s battle is ridiculous in all the wrong ways (terrible voice clips, a giant horse mech, some kind of duplication power), and could be number one just for the novelty alone. That said, my money is on Vanishing Gungaroo, as we apparently have a Maverick that finally figured out how to use Ride Armor for nefarious purposes. See, Flame, you only need one gimmick, not seventeen.
  • An end: Who cares about the ending when the final battle against Red is a 3-D recreation of the terrible final Dracula fight of Castlevania X? Teleportation and small platforms do not mix on a good day, but please do not also combine that with an X7-trademark unwieldly health meter. Oh, and it is the middle of a gigantic final stage also featuring every Maverick fight all over again? Awful.
  • Watch it, buddy: Thanks to a weird “off-week”, this game was technically “chosen” by our Tuesday Night Streams. Missed watching it the first time? Well, here, give it a go:


    Marvel as I find my sea legs via dying in that stupid Bamboo stage over and over again.

  • Did you know? The back of the box shows Mega Man X in the intro stage. This is impossible, as, even if you have X unlocked through New Game Plus, you cannot choose your character(s) for that opening stage. So maybe this is evidence X was always intended to be more included…
  • Would I play again: Man, if it wasn’t for the stream, this would have been the one game on the Mega Man X Legacy Collection I didn’t play ever. I am okay with never playing Mega Man X7 again, though.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! for the Nintendo Switch. It’s going to be a boxy good time! Please look forward to it!

Time to die
Just don’t respawn this time

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #13.9: Live! On Ice!

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

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

Notes! With Time Annotations!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

WeeeeeA couple of weeks ago, Random ROB rolled up with Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360. DD had been a game I purchased some time ago, as it was being sold as a special edition that came with a “free” duck call, bandana, and “bonus” trivia game. And the whole package was ten bucks. However, I had never played the game, and was at a loss as to how to approach the duckest of dynasties. Finally, it occurred to me that, like a fine wine, I should share that uncorking with friends, and, thus it was time to savor the screams of the innocent.

Please enjoy this stream of BEAT, Fanboy Master, Morning Song, muteki, and myself… surviving Duck Dynasty for the Xbox 360.

Notes! With Time Annotations!

0:00 – As all things must, we begin with a dramatic reading of Ozymandias.

4:35 – Our guests for the evening discover, for the first time, what we will be playing for the next two hours. I have never heard so much groaning.

10:00 – Morning Song correctly identifies the fact that Oldest Duck Dynasty has apparently been glued to a cup. Random Blue Cup quickly becomes our favorite character.

16:00 – BEAT shall be credited for coining “Duck Duck Revolution”, as every duck call appears to be a quick time event. So far, it is simply our job to summon ducks, and watch helplessly as they are gunned down en masse.

21:00 – muteki joins the stream as I battle some surprisingly agile bottles. Aiming in Duck Dynasty is as easy as pressing a button, so we basically have a superhero on our hands.

22:30 – BEAT offers a reading of The Ballad of Malone Duck, a story from my childhood. Because Twitter is a capricious beast, here is a transcribed version of the story:

So my dad used to have a neighbor named Malone. Malone was a widow by the time he was living next to my dad, and Malone was also batshit crazy. He once got drunk and lit his lawn ablaze, claiming that it was the best way to maintain the grass. So it goes without saying that Malone was also just an angry, angry man. He was pretty much every stereotype of “stay off my lawn” you’ve ever imagined. So one day, when my dad encountered a duck that was similarly angry, he named the duck, “Malone Duck”.

WeeeeeWe live in an area where ducks are seasonal, and also very territorial. The spot across from my grandmother’s home used to be marshland, and a flock of ducks returned every year. Among those ducks, every year, was Malone Duck. Malone Duck would be a dick to everybody. The rest of the ducks would just be chilling, and Malone Duck would swagger up, and start yelling at everybody. Humans? Cars? Dogs? Malone Duck was not having any of this. So, my dad, clearly a very sane individual, would occasionally yell back at Malone Duck, and, naturally, call him by name. The neighbors must have gotten a kick out of it, because it wasn’t too long before literally everyone in the area was talking about/to Malone Duck.

This was around when my dad was in his 30s, and, also, generally, around when I was born. Part of the reason my dad was yelling at Malone Duck was because he had a kid randomly sleeping at his grandma’s, and, come on, duck, that baby wants to get some sleep.

A few years later, I was maybe 4? 5? How old do you have to be to be playing in front of your grandma’s house fairly unattended? Somewhere in there. I’m a pretty young kid, and naturally, fascinated by these ducks across the street. So my grandmother, who was a very nice old lady who generally ignored everyone around her, decided to accompany me across the street to feed the ducks. This could have been something from a Rockwell painting. … Could have been… But, also given the vibe of this story, this could be the explanation of why I have only nine fingers. No, it wasn’t that bad, because some neighbors noticed the old lady and small child across the street, and dashed out shouting, “No! Don’t go over there! Malone is out!” My grandmother had completely missed my father’s long running feud with a duck, and assumed the crazy neighbor from years ago was out there, maybe burning the lawn again, and her panic response kicked in, so she decided to “calmly” escort her grandson back home. Unfortunately, this enraged Malone Duck, who decided it was time to clean house. If you can picture a grandmother who hadn’t run in thirty years and her very confused So much camograndson attempting to outpace a deranged duck, you have the right of the situation. But, thank God, Malone Duck did not understand doors, and he waddled back to his home.

Later, my parents came to pick me up from gramma’s, and my grandmother relayed the basics of our afternoon adventure. My father’s response was simple: “Oh. You met Malone? That duck is a jerk.”

So that’s why I don’t trust waterfowl.

33:15 – We all take a moment to acknowledge the terrible, terrible models on display in this game.

42:00 – The virtues of Morning Song’s dad’s abacus are discussed while I am forced to repel squirrels. Also, Fanboy Master makes mention of the official explanation for Final Fantasy 8’s SeeD acronym. It’s exactly as crazy as he describes.

ELEGANT MAN

49:30 – And here’s about where I’m forced to commit beaver genocide. I have no idea what the Duck Dynasties have against beavers, but shooting a swarm of good boys leads to the most tension this game could ever produce. Also, Morning Song speaks bird, which is pretty cool.

55:40 – I can walk on water. That seems pretty handy!

1:00:00 – Who doesn’t like fishing minigames? Aside from everyone ever? Commentator extraordinaire, Metal Man Master, mentions that apparently our player avatar is a real person in the Duck Dynasty canon. Who knew?

1:10:00 – Other terrible games are discussed, and I start shoving the Ducky Dynasties around with a car. I am downright amazed the programmers didn’t account for the player attempting to flatten these guys, as it is literally all I could think about an hour into this adventure.

Weeeee1:17:00 – And it took this long to get back to duck hunting, ostensibly the point of Duck Dynasty. Or maybe it isn’t? I’m not going to do any research on this. However, FBM does mention Duck Amuck for Nintendo DS by Wayforward, and I want to investigate that further.

1:27:00 – The return of the King (Cup)!

1:38:00 – If we hadn’t been completely ignoring the “story” of Duck Dynasty story mode, we might know more, but, lost on Duck Dynasty Property, the goals of our poor, beardless hero are discussed. Maybe he’s an Eagle Scout? Who hates beavers?

1:47:00 – This video would be longer, but we’re all pretty much dead already. Guess we’ll never know if more squirrels need to be assassinated.

1:49:00 – As we near the finale (which is just me turning it off), we discuss Cromartie High School, one of the best, funniest animes available. The joke I was trying desperately to remember was, “Milk is the main ingredient in yogurt, true or false?”

And that’s a Duck Dynasty, folks! Thanks again to everything that participated, and to viewers like you! Or something!

FGC #405 Duck Dynasty

  • System: Xbox 360 for the stream, but it was also apparently available for Xbox One, PC, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4. There’s also a 3DS version, and I really want to see more of that.
  • Number of players: The box says it is two players, but I saw no real evidence of that. Story mode certainly isn’t two players! And I’m not subjecting another friend to such a thing!
  • More gameplay: Since I’m looking at the box anyway, apparently we squandered another avenue of adventure. “Sneak around the warehouse to trick Willie” is a bullet point that was apparently meant to sell this game, so sorry I missed that.
  • Hate youUncensored: It was mentioned on the stream that the rivers could not run red with the blood of fallen beavers because that would warrant a more intense ESRB rating, but the game is apparently rated T for Teen. This sounds like a duck conspiracy.
  • Favorite Duck Dynasty: It’s the cup. Duck Cup o’ Skittles.
  • Did you know? Apparently the whole “we hate beavers” thing is a running gag on the actual Duck Dynasty show. In one hilarious episode, one Ducky Dynasty leaves a dead beaver in the sink of another Duck Dynasty. I can’t imagine why I never watched this show!
  • Would I play again: Honestly, this game wasn’t as terrible as I had expected. It was still pretty bad, and I don’t want to play it ever again. But at least it was an interesting and playable kind of terrible. One star out of five, but that isn’t zero!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Beyond the Beyond for the Playstation.

Fuck.

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

Everything is painThis game is cursed.

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

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

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

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

This is a supremely glitchy and ugly game

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

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

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

Your HP or your GP

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

(Do you understand the tears now?)

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

Combat is optional and/or obligatory

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

Except for the boss monsters.

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

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

The best part of the game is also the worst

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

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

There’s a hateful inventory system, too

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

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

This dragon is stupid

Look at this daffy thing.

Three heads are better than one?

The Bad Ending sucks

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

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

The Good Ending sucks

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh
I still have nightmares…