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FGC #566 Rockin’ Kats

Let's go catsHow much does the happiness of your protagonist impact your enjoyment of a videogame?

Today we are looking at Rockin’ Kats, a forgotten gem from the good folks at Atlus. Long before Atlus produced videogames about teenagers obsessed with the subconscious and/or time traveling, there was Rockin’ Kats, a game about a cat-man fighting a bunch of dog-men for his cat-lady friend. It seems that Willy, aka “The Rockin’ Kat”, has caught the attention of a local mob boss, Mugsy, and Will’s girlfriend, Jill, has been kidnapped. Willy thus must defeat four of Mugsy’s chief lieutenants across four different bases, and then make the final assault on Mugsy’s compound to save Jill once and for all. But don’t worry about Willy, gentle reader, he’s got a “punch gun” that can clobber bad guys, grab objects, and even double as a grappling hook. Combine this with Willy’s natural, NES-born ability to jump around like a maniac, and he should have Jill home and loving the Jazz Age by lunchtime.

And, likely as result of being a “late” Nintendo Entertainment System title, Rockin’ Kats is oozing personality. The entire adventure is presented as a series of television “episodes”, so there’s the distinct feeling that this whole story is less a “videogame”, and more of a syndicated cartoon akin to Tom & Jerry. Dog kidnaps cat, other cat fights dog, the day is saved, repeat in half hour intervals at 7 AM every weekday morning. What’s more, every sprite is impressive, so the individual mooks are distinctive, every mini boss is a unique challenge, and the bosses are memorable for more than their patterns. And Willy! That dude is just having a ball scampering through cities, mountains, and sewers! He bounds and punches and flips through the air with ease. I mean, take a look at this hep cat…

Just flipping away like it ain’t no thang, and then landing with a perfect little flourish that is sure to wow the judges. Willy might be in a life or death situation here, but that’s not the first thing on his kitty brain. Willy is not worried. Willy is enjoying it.

And that got this glorious blogger to thinking: how many other videogame heroes actually enjoy their jobs?

Let us start with the obvious: Simon Belmont does not enjoy being Simon Belmont. Poor ol’ barbarian does exactly what he is destined to do, and is literally cursed to carry around assorted organs for his job well done. Similarly, it is hard to imagine any other Belmont actually enjoying their sworn duty, as, best case scenario for all of them is the opportunity to probably not be run out of town on a cross. Maria might be the sole exception to this rule in Castlevania, as she openly and loudly volunteers for vampire-slaying duty, but she is all mopey about every godamned thing in time for Symphony of the Night, so it appears this job is destined to take a toll.

Super fun parkAnd speaking of generations taking a toll, there is Mega Man. The super fighting robot could have spent the rest of his days working as a maid, but he famously volunteered to pew down his former buddies. And then he did it 82 more times. Or more? Are we counting the teleporter fights? No matter! What’s important is that Mega Man 2 laid the groundwork for solemn Mega Men way back in 1988, which eventually led to The Melancholy of Mega Man X five years later. Now there’s a guy that hates his job! Mega Man X is literally the most powerful reploid on the planet, has a great support group of family and friends that are seemingly invincible/immortal, and he gets a new set of armor from his dad every holiday season; but he still spends most of his adventures sitting around moping about how the cannon on his arm only knows for sure when he’s finally going to stop crying. In short, if you are playing as Mega Man X, you are playing as a character that hates his life.

But it is not all bad for iconic heroes! Mario initially was wholly mute in his adventures, and it was up to the player to determine whether or not Mario was enjoying his switch in vocation from plumber to pouncer. But from Mario 64 on, Mario has been “wee”ing and “woohoo”ing across battlefields, and, give or take occasionally drowning in silent agony, Mario visibly enjoys his time rescuing princesses. Conversely, anytime Luigi is in a group, he hoots along with his bro, but when he is alone, he is an unmistakable mix of scared and annoyed (sca-nnoyed… no, wait, that’s just what happens when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones come on the playlist). Luigi does not like exploring a haunted house, houses, or a motel, and the only thing he is not afraid of is someone knowing he is afraid. But between the brothers, there is a beoveralled tie-breaker: Wario. Right from the first time he stole a whole damn castle, and then immediately afterward when he tried to steal another castle, Wario has squeezed enjoyment out of his job just as easily as squeezing a garlic bulb. You can tell from that omnipresent wicked grin that Wario is not going to let some malevolent genie or gang of pirates get him down, so he is enjoying every time he gets to be a protagonist.

That gorillaAnd, in the same way you can just know that Wario enjoys Warioing, having a happy protagonist can impact your feelings on a videogame. It is not a coincidence that Mega Man X(1), a game that just generally nods to X having some issues, is a more well received title than Mega Man X7, wherein X is so depressed, you have to fight just to get him to leave his lounger. Similarly, Super Metroid is a game wherein Samus experiences untold trauma (you ever accidentally wind up blowing up the planet you once called home? It isn’t great), but does not dwell on such. If you want Sad Samus, you have to hit Metroid: Other M, which you won’t, because there isn’t a person alive that would recommend that game. Sure, you could easily argue that these “sad” games have other factors that make them terrible, but there is a greater reason that people so vehemently defend why these games are bad. It is one thing to play a game that is bad, but it is another thing to play a game that makes your hero feel bad.

And if you need further proof of this, look no further than the Prince of Persia franchise from the early 21st century. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was an immensely popular game staring a hero that loved his job. Sure, this prince had screwed up the whole of his world to the point that he accidentally murdered his entire family and friends, but he also could rewind time and run up walls. And what could be more fun than that? The whole narrative conceit of Sands of Time is that Prince is practically bragging about his adventure, and any flubs or errant deaths are just “that didn’t really happen”. Prince likes being Prince. Meanwhile, the sequel, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within had the exact same gameplay, some improvements to the battle system, and a protagonist that would rather take an angry nap than fight a relentless sand monster. Guess what everyone focused on? Guess why IGN dropped Sands of Time’s 9/10 score to Warrior Within’s meager 8.5/10? (Look, that 0.5 meant a lot at the time.) The main reason was inevitably that this new, surly Prince was dramatically less fun to play as and with.

Hey, it's a fun sewerWe play videogames for fun, dammit. Unless the whole point of the game is oppressive horror (yes, my Bloodborne create-a-saddy might be scowling right now), your protagonist should be happy. What is the point otherwise? Do you get off on making shirtless, Persian men do whatever you say, despite their persistent objections? Because, uh… if you’re into that… maybe shoot me a private message. There are some titles on Steam…

Bah! Never mind that! Just remember that it is important that a game’s protagonist actually enjoys being the game’s protagonist. Luigi might get a title game every console generation or so, but he’s sure not the dude hosting endless kart championships. By the same token, Willy’s exuberance has undoubtedly made him the most popular hero ever produced by Atlus, and we’re all awaiting this Rockin’ Kat’s next adventure.

Keep on rockin’ a complete lack of angst, Willy.

FGC #566 Rockin’ Kats

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System for its first and only release. You could technically count its presence on a PlayChoice-10 as an arcade release if you really wanted.
  • Number of players: Just the one kat. A sequel would have probably introduced Milly Kat.
  • The haunted dobermanMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is a great NES action-platformer with a fun character and expressive sprites. It is also one of those gauntlets that somehow makes the final, fifth level as long as the other four stages combined. Complete with including every boss and mini boss! It is… an odd choice. But regardless of a final stage that may as well be the entire game, it is very entertaining, and a fine way to spend a couple of hours having fun with a grapplin’ cat.
  • An end: The final boss is defeated by punching Mugsy so hard, he is launched onto the moon. Very good, very dragon ball. But after the credits roll, you are presented with an even harder “second quest” that drops all your weapons and items, and will end after an extremely limited three lives. This is Rockin’ Kats: Super Hard Mode, and if you feel like finishing that, you are a better cat than me.
  • Favorite Weapon: The… what are they called?… Two Balls? Double Shot? Whatever, those two thingys extend your weapon’s reach just enough so as to make practically every boss a cakewalk. I enjoy cake, so that’s my weapon of choice, even if the mace really looks cool.
  • Favorite Boss: You cannot go wrong with a four-handed robot that eventually transforms into some bastardized version of Cut Man. Dr. Wily would be proud.
  • Eat your heart out, CastlevaniaDid you know? There are a few codes hidden in Rockin’ Kats. If you pause the game and press Down+A+B, you will have six lives and full health. If you pause the game and press Up+A+B, you will lose all of your lives, and only have one sliver of health remaining. Please remember to use the proper code for the proper situation.
  • Would I play again: This is a great NES game! I would really like to see what could have been done with Super Rockin’ Kats, but we do not live in such a glorious world. I suppose I will be content with what we have for now…

What’s next? The season of love is upon us, so it’s time for Wankery Week yet again! Come back Monday for some mildly NSFW hijinks as we take a look at whether or not some Smash Sisters should be allowed into a boys’ club!

Gotta fly fast
Another blue dude that very much enjoys his job.

FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

We gonna MegaThe Mega Man franchise has become vaguely unwieldy. A simple game about running, jumping, and shooting at robots has quickly become a franchise juggernaut that now contains thirty years’ worth of titles spanning multiple genres, systems, and epochs. If you want the whole of the Mega Man experience, you need multiple consoles, hundreds of games, and maybe even some time to watch an anime or two.

Or you could just play 2003’s Mega Man Network Transmission. That game has got it all.

This is Mega Man Battle Network!

At the turn of the 21st century, a great many videogame franchises went through a bit of an identity crisis. Nintendo declared Bowser was dead, or a dad, or maybe some kind of skeleton monster. Zelda drowned all of Hyrule, and Kirby got into star racing. The pervading thought seemed to be that old franchises had to change and grow to compete with the new generation, and, while there were some standouts from this period of change (hello there, Metroid Prime), we mostly now look back and lament Mario being strapped to a water gun for an entire console. Don’t worry, 2002 Goggle Bob, we’d regain our somersault jumps in time…

However, one success from this time was the reimagining of Mega Man. Completely dropping the Mega Man storyline that had been inexplicably going since 1987 (a storyline that had, incidentally, wiped out humanity), Mega Man Battle Network told the tale of an alternate timeline wherein Dr. Light/Hikari ditched robotics and really got into his own cyber-sona. This led to universe where Mega Man was not a super fighting robot, but a super fighting digital assistant that was also Dr. Light’s grandson and was also controlled by Dr. Light’s other, human grandson. In this universe where apparently human babies can be converted into immortal digital slaves damned to watch as their fleshy twin grows, ages, and dies, there are also viruses and “evil” net navigators to be fought, so the official Mega Man of the digital generation has a lot more to handle than existential crises in any given adventure.

Mega Man Network Transmission is technically the fourth released Mega Man Battle Network title (fourth or so, there is a little wiggle room with some of the other games that year), but is firmly placed in the franchise’s story as Mega Man Battle Network 1.5. Shortly after Megaman.exe’s first adventure, a mysterious “Professor” pops into the picture, and releases a terrible virus across the net. Lan the Human and Megaman.exe the Undying scramble into action to save the day! But this adventure is a little different from their Gameboy Advance origins, as…

This is Classic Mega Man!

Book it!First and foremost, Mega Man Network Transmission was designed as a retro title that harkened back to the gameplay of the original Mega Man titles. This was the 15th Anniversary of the Mega Man franchise, and MMNT was intended as a throwback to that “old style” that had died with the Sega Saturn. So, whereas Mega Man Battle Network had always paid tribute with its cast of Fire Mans, Proto Mans, and Wilys, now it was going to include actual movement options that recalled those bygone days. Megaman.exe can run, jump, and even slide (slide, slide!). Continually charging while jogging through a maze is encouraged, and memorizing a boss pattern or two is the name of the game if you want to make some progress. There are even some imitations of classic stages involved, like everybody’s favorite Quick Man laser gauntlet. You love instant death? Of course you do! It’s classic gameplay/horrors all over again!

But it’s not all classic gameplay here. Some bits of Mega Man Network Transmission are downright prescient, like…

This is Mega Man Starforce!

Eat some chipsThe big draw of the Mega Man Battle Network franchise (aside from stupid, sexy Dr. Regal) has always been its unique battle gameplay. To quickly summarize what is ultimately a very complicated system, it’s basically a card game, but including action movement, and sometimes the cards have letters that allow you to use multiple cards at once, and I think there are “classes” involved, and sometimes they combine into an “advanced” version, but only if you have the right cards, and you can only get cards from fighting viruses, or maybe by playing a lottery, and if you don’t have any cards, then you can still attack with a basic laser, but that doesn’t have an element, except maybe if you used a class change to be a different color Mega Man, but you can’t switch that during battles, and wood beats electricity. See? It’s simple!

Mega Man Network Transmission streamlines the chip system by a fair amount, allowing you to equip multiple chips at once without fear of matching letters or elements or whatever. Ostensibly, this is because you are using the chips for a much longer time (it takes goddamn forever for that gauge to refill before upgrades) and in a much wider battlefield (in “normal” MMBN, you only ever have to handle a maximum of three viruses at a time), but it works out to a more simplified version of traditional MMBN battle chip challenging. And that’s great! MMNT was meant to bridge the gap between old, new, and people that had just watched the surprisingly popular anime for the franchise, so simple is good!

And you know what else utilized a simplified version of Mega Man Battle Network’s battle chip system? Mega Man Starforce, the “sequel franchise” to MMBN. Was this inspired by Mega Man Network Transmission? Probably not, but it was an acknowledgement that MMBN might have had a little too much cruft from the get-go, and that could only be jettisoned in a spin-off or sequel franchise.

So enjoy Mega Man Network Transmission’s battle system. It’s like living in the future!

And speaking of the future…

This is Mega Man X!

These things are dumbMega Man Network Transmission is supposed to harken back to the good ol’ days of Classic Mega Man, but there is a significant dosage of RNA here, too. For one thing, there’s the plot, and it features the Zero Virus. That sound familiar? Yes, our favorite Wily reploid is now a literal virus that is attempting to cause netnavis to go maverick. And, as one might expect, Zero starts off as the obvious antagonist, but transforms into a helpful dude over the course of the adventure. He might not have as much luxurious girl hair as in his other appearances, but it’s pretty clear that the guest star du jour is straight out of Mega Man X.

And that gorgeous robot-virus-thingy is not the only item borrowed from Mega Man X. There are a number of gameplay flourishes straight out of the Maverick Wars here, complete with the increased speed, the likelihood of using a double jump, and these weird wire things that no one ever remembers fondly (or, often, remembers at all). It was clear that even the classic series was adopting Mega Man X moves later in its life (hi, Mega Man & Bass), but there is more Mega Man X here than Mega Man, even if there aren’t as many stages that directly harken back to that franchise.

But while we’re on the subject of Mega Man’s pal, Zero…

This is Mega Man Zero!

He got a haircutThe number one complaint about Mega Man Network Transmission? It’s too hard. In some ways, this complaint was completely valid, as it was a huge pain to restart entire levels because you got wrecked by a bad boss matchup. Sure, that had always been the way a Mega Man game played anyway, but this was coming off a franchise that allowed for saving anywhere, and a population that had gotten used to Mega Man containing save states. A “back to basics” approach also invited a “back to difficult” style that a lot of 2003’s audience wasn’t expecting.

But this was exactly what Mega Man Battle Network’s 2-D brother on the Gameboy Advance had been reveling in all along. Mega Man Zero was “classic Mega Man” on the GBA before Mega Man Battle Network ever even thought of testing the boundaries of the genre, and, as many had noted, it was super-duper hard. Or, if it wasn’t hard, it at least expected a lot of the player. “Save points” (or 1-ups) were stretched few and far between, and health was always at a premium. In much the same way, MMNT requires your best offenses always be locked behind battle chips, and you are often left unprepared if you blow all your mighty cannons on some middling mouse opponent.

But that’s exactly where Mega Man Zero and Mega Man Network Transmission are so similar: they’re all about resource management. Unlike the original Mega Man games that only encouraged weapon energy rationing (and provided a pile of powerups to help with that), MMZ and MMNT both demanded much more administration from the player. Whether it is battle chips or cyber elves, an inexperienced player is practically required to figure out what works for getting through a level, and then utilize those assets only when absolutely necessary. Of course, that winds up having its own kind of learning curve (and Mega Man Zero’s persistent ranking system seems to punish the player for using any resources, so mixed messages there), so, yes, these games probably could be considered hard. But whereas you only had one Flash Stopper to skip through Quick Man’s gauntlet back in the day, newer takes on that challenge offer additional options to the observant player.

Unfortunately, the challenge of Mega Man Network Transmission really did work against it. While you could claim Mega Man Zero was made for “hardcore” fans, MMNT seemed to aim for a different audience. In fact, you could say…

This is a Mega Man Cartoon!

PointyMega Man has had a number of animated tie-ins through the years. There was that Ruby-Spears nonsense, the anime about saving Christmas, and (particularly relevant to this article) an entire anime based on the Mega Man Battle Network series. It was popular. It was so popular, it rivaled Yu-Gi-Oh for number of stupid card-based plastic wads that were released through tie-in merchandise. And, even better than Yu-Gi-Oh, you actually cared about the characters, so buying action figures was not off the table. Stick that Bass/Forte figure on your desk with pride, young one, as any digital personal assistant that wears a cloak has to be badass.

Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to be catering to the audience that watched that anime. This, the first MMBN to be played on console (and presumably a big screen television), was pretty as a princess riding an oddly attractive horse. It is cell-shaded, various viruses have twinkling auras, and Megaman.exe rarely looked so good (in 2003). It was a feast for the eyes, and the graphics style certainly seemed to be designed to appeal to anyone that was watching cartoons (as opposed to the more “realistic” graphics of its contemporaries).

What’s more, it had full voice acting (albeit, not in many languages), and an easy to follow plot that was more about making friends with your potential enemies than blasting robots into everlasting pieces. Whether it was difficult or not, the general presentation of Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to harken to the many times Mega Man had mega fun with his mega pals on the mega television screen.

Though if you really want to compare Mega Man Network Transmission to another Mega Man experience, you probably should consider…

This is Mega Man Legends!

ShinyMega Man Network Transmission, for one reason or another, was not received well. According to reviewers it was too difficult, too cartoony, and/or too different to survive. Or maybe it wasn’t different enough to be its own thing? Regardless of the reason, MMNT never saw a direct sequel to its distinct kind of gameplay, and the franchise moved on, never taking the time to look back at what might have been in the parallel universe where Mega Man Network Transmission was popular.

So, like Mega Man Legends never continuing again, Mega Man Network Transmission was a gaming dead end.

And nobody has gotten around to releasing it on modern consoles, either!

Mega Man Network Transmission is every Mega Man game all rolled into one. The good, the bad, and the heartache.

FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube, and then never anything again. And Capcom loves porting titles!
  • Number of players: The Mega Man Battle Network series is usually two player, but, sorry, only one netnavi at a time here. We can’t always have Mega Man 7.
  • MONEY!Cold Hard Cash: If you want to even stretch it a little further, the frequent zenny coins scattered around the levels are very similar to how screws were used to tempt players in the Gameboy classic Mega Man titles (Mega Man Land?). That said, “Mega Man collects money” is something that seemed to show up all across the franchises eventually, whether that be through screws, alloys, or zenny again. So you’re not getting a full section, Gameboy Mega Man, but you do at least earn a bullet point.
  • What about Mega Man ZX? I guess you can summon bosses? I don’t know. Ask me again at some point when I haven’t typed “Mega Man” 66 times.
  • Favorite Rival Navi: If we’re going with any navi, I choose Shadowman.exe, because I am secretly a twelve year old that loves ninja. If we have to choose one distinctly created for this adventure, though, I’d pick Gravityman.exe. That dude was never going to work in the constrained, “who cares about gravity anyway” world of MMBN, and he feels vaguely weighty (ha!) as a foe. He big. He round. He’s an absolute unit of an opponent.
  • Favorite Chip: For the second game in a row, I’m going to choose the humble sword. I like getting up close and personal with my opponents, and sword chips are so plentiful here, Megaman.exe practically becomes Protoman.exe. Runner-up is the life virus aura, but that does feel like cheating.
  • Did you know? Zero appears and becomes the first Mega Man X character to enter the canon of Mega Man Battle Network, but he would later be joined by Colonel and Iris. Unfortunately, none of the main Mavericks ever had a chance to shine in Battle Network or Star Force, so Wire Sponge got robbed.
  • It's too bright in hereWould I play again: If I was stuck on a desert island, and could only play one (non-compilation) Mega Man title, I would choose this one to get my Mega fix. That said, it is by no means the best Mega Man game, nor is it the most accessible, so the odds of me actually playing it again are slim. But maybe if Capcom deigns to release it again, it could happen…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Q*Bert! The little orange hopping whatsit rides again! Please look forward to it!

Year in Review: 2020

Disappointment of the Year: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Go Impa GoAnother year, another reason to state that the disappointment of the year is not the worst game I played this year, it is simply the game that in some (significant) way disappointed me (and specifically me, I’m a very selfish guy). And the winner this year? It’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a game that I anxiously expected, and then wound up bouncing off of like an arrow plinking off of Daruk’s mega-shield. Why? Simple answer: the goddamn world map. There was a lot of extra content in the previous Hyrule Warriors, but the main quest was sequestered off in its own little campaign with a little flow chart and maybe a Linkle (depending on the version). Hyrule Warriors 2, meanwhile, decided to stick the optional content all together on one map, and… and… I just can’t deal with that right now. 2020 has been an overwhelming year, and I cannot deal with 2,000 Hyrulian villagers that need some random quantity of fish. Look, guys, I’m dealing with a lot right now, I will get you your damn beetles later. Couple this with a plot that feels more pandering the more it unfolds, and I have a weird aversion to playing a game I was ostensibly eagerly anticipating.

So, yes, I’m saying I am stalling on a game I anticipated because my own anxiety can’t deal with Hyrule’s problems. It happens! And it’s disappointing.

Reason to not let me out of the house for the Year: Nintendo Switch eShop

Eerily accurateUgh, seriously? This category made a lot more sense when it was safe to actively leave the house. This has been an excellent year for me to avoid buying excess amiibos and alike, because, early in this year, I had genuine fears I wasn’t going to have enough income to buy food. It all worked out about as well as could be expected at this point, but, man, not a great year for randomly indulging in frivolous hobbies. I only bought like 7,000 “cheap” eShop titles during quarantine, so… Okay, maybe I still indulge in frolicsome nonsense. Did I really shell out for Wheel of Fortune? It was only five bucks? Okay, I guess that’s alright then…

Game with the absolute worst release date of the Year: Persona 5 Royal

Wake up, dummyIf it seems like this “year in review” list is dominated by references to the Great Plague of 2020, congratulations, you’ve noticed the theme, and nothing about that is going to change. From March on, this year has been conquered by COVID-19 (which is pretty damn impressive considering 2020 was an election year), and basically the whole of the world has been changed as a result. I am only noting this in case someone was lucky enough to be in a coma for the last ten months, just suddenly awoke, and immediately dashed over to Gogglebob.com for my annual year in review (hi, Walter, welcome back!). Everyone else reading this? I’m sure I don’t need to remind you. Anyway, this nonsense really kicked into gear around March 20 (to my recall), and Persona 5 Royal was released on March 31. And you know what nobody wants during an unprecedented pandemic that has changed life as we know it? A game that reminds you of The Before Times, both in its “real life”-based gameplay, and the fact that it is 90% a game you already played back during better times (and it had significant issues then). So, sorry, Persona 5 Royal, you managed to release at exactly the wrong time, and, while your protagonist might have the exact same “it’s quarantine” haircut I was sporting in April, it was not a great time to engage with an 80 hour, recycled JRPG.

Compilation of the Year: Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

Wakka wakkaAKA the Namcot Collection, this (these) compilation of NES Namco titles is notable for bringing us unique versions of games that could otherwise be lost to history. Or, to put it another way, we finally got that one Splatterhouse game. It might not be the best game out there, but, like Pac-Land or Dragon Buster, it’s something that should at least be available somewhere. And, bonus, we got unique “demake” versions of Gaplus and Pac-Man Championship Edition. This year was great for arcade-style games that are more focused on score attacks than… uh… focusing, so this Namco compilation really ate the power pellet.

… Would have been nice if it was all one, appropriately priced package, though…

Title of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077

I have not purchased and/or played Cyberpunk 2077. I have simply been an amused audience for all the glitches and nonsense that has been associated with this game that may very well be decent under this pile of glitches (OG Final Fantasy 15 filled that space a few years back), but there is no way I’m shelling out for a title that apparently was born on the backs of abused employees. That said? Holy cow is that a terrible title. Cyberpunk 2077? You’re just going to go ahead and name your game after a target that, head’s up, you’re not even remotely hitting? That would be like taking a game that mixed flying space stations and war machines with swords and sorcery, and then naming it something like “Fantasy Genre”! That’s just silly!

System of the Year: Nintendo Switch

Pew pewPlaystation 5 and Xbox Whatever: It’s The Next One were both released this year. Did I jump on them? No. Was it because I’d rather have an occasionally portable system that inexplicably contains compilations of every Mega Man franchise (save that one with the dork on the moon)? Yes. Thanks for being you, Nintendo Switch. You didn’t even need that Collection of SaGa to win this spot, but it was a nice bonus.

DLC of the Year: Pokémon Sword & Shield: Isle of Armor / Crown Tundra

Classy dudeI just like the bulbous headed deer that rides the horsey. That thing is better than Steve. I’m sure there are other reasons to enjoy the two expansions of Pokémon Sword/Shield, but the horsey comes immediately to mind. Maybe there was a karate bear? I don’t recall. He is nothing before the horsey.

Remake of the Year: Resident Evil 3

Uh… see the next section for the real winner of this category. Second runner up? Well, that Trials of Mana remake wasn’t so hot, so I guess Resident Evil 3. That seemed like a nice upgrade over the original. Staaaaaars and whatnot. Moving on…

Game of the Year: Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Going up?Look, there’s a part of me that screams “I don’t want to be that guy”. Last year, I chose Kingdom Hearts 3 as my game of the year. Before that (may have missed a year in there), I chose a nostalgic Sonic the Hedgehog title. So, what, my favorite every year is going to be some kind of “retro” videogame that reminds me of when I was young and pure and playing games that generally involved murdering monsters and robots? Apparently! I’d love to be original, I’d love to choose a game that is new and different and maybe involves a severed Medusa head, but here I am, choosing another Square Enix title that wallows in nostalgia and years of anticipation.

But at least Final Fantasy 7 Remake is right there with me. As discussed extensively in my original article on the subject, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has a lot to say about the past, the present, and the “good vibes” one gets from hanging out with old friends (even if those friends are remembered as 32-bit jumbles of polygons). It’s also just plain fun. FF7R is insightful and you get to fight a tonberry for no real reason. Could I ask for anything more? Well, yes, Aerith and Tifa could finally kiss, but they do have to save something for the sequel.

Games I’m sure are great, but I haven’t played: Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Hades, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Among Us, Moon

Look, just be glad I played any new videogames at all this year. It was a rough time! I barely even played Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and that should have been a slam dunk!

Gogglebob.com Introspection 2020

I’ve spent enough of this article bemoaning a terrible year for literally everyone I know (and don’t know!). But it’s also the year I got married. That was nice! And speaking of nice, this site has given me something “frivolous” to focus on through thick and thin, so I’m pretty happy with that, too. I maintain that this “project” is winding down (I swear I’m not going past FGC #655! I mean it this time!), but that doesn’t mean I’m preparing to abandon everything here. And this was the year that I picked up consistent live streaming with some friends, so that was an unexpected bonus of 2020, too. 2020 may have robbed us of my originally intended FGC #500 (I’ll make the real version… one day), but Gogglebob.com had a good year otherwise…

Oh, and here are some favorite articles from the year (not already casually mentioned edition):

FGC #473 Dragon Warrior 4
FGC #479 Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse
FGC #497.1 Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
FGC #503 Final Fantasy 5
FGC #520 X-Men: Children of the Atom
FGC #527 Mega Man & Bass & I Wanna Be The Guy
FGC #538 Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
FGC #541 Splatterhouse

And that’s it for this godforsaken year. Here’s looking for to a 2021 that isn’t such a bummer!

What’s next? Random ROB is back and has chosen… Street Fighter: The Movie. Oh boy! It’s movie time! Please look forward to it!

FGC #527 Mega Man & Bass & I Wanna Be The Guy

We'll start hereToday’s game is Mega Man & Bass. I first played this title in approximately 2000, and discovered it randomly on an old SNES ROM site. I thought I was aware of every last Mega Man title, but this was wholly new to me. And hard. And weird! So, naturally, I assumed it was a fan-made ROM hack. They were popular at the time, and it would certainly explain why this SNES game was using (Playstation) Mega Man 8 graphics. Videogame franchises don’t go backwards!

Of course, Mega Man & Bass was a legitimate Capcom release, it just wasn’t legitimately released in America until a few years later. However, playing the game today reminded me of that old “ROM hack” scene, and how there were an equal number of titles that repurposed sprites for new and innovative challenges… and more than a few that simply replaced Mario with Kenny from South Park and called it a day. It was a confusing time, and the quality was all over the place.

But there’s one game that was a cut above the rest. I Wanna Be the Guy is a game that repurposed sprites like so many of those ROMs of yesteryear, but was wholly original in its gameplay, and arguably created an entire genre all on its own. IWBTG is an amazing experience, and, since its release, has become a phenomenon all its own. Unfortunately, like many of its contemporaries, there isn’t much information on its creation, as your average publicist doesn’t quite know what to do with a game featuring a Green Dragon that is also a Yellow Devil (how does that work?). In an effort to get more information on I Wanna Be the Guy and its creation, I decided to sit down and speak with its writer/producer/director/artist/creator Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly. Hopefully this can provide a glimpse of “the scene” of the time (at least how it impacted the creation of IWBTG), and a passing oral history of I Wanna Be the Guy.

Goggle Bob: Let’s start with the dumb basics, when did you first have the idea for IWBTG?
This is Owata
Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly: So this was during the 4chan heydays. Back when everyone just kinda sucked instead of just being outward nazis. So for me, besides all the hentai, a big appeal was the flash board and the weird games on there. Which is where I played the original version of Owata, the 2chan emoticon based masocore game. I feel like it might have been the first game quite like that? It didn’t repurpose sprites — it had like ascii versions of videogame references — but it was the bedrock for IWBTG. Part of it was that since Owata was, at the time, unfinished, so I felt like I had an opening to expand to a bigger game.

Goggle Bob: and do you recall when exactly that was?

Kayin: Sometime in early 2007?

Goggle Bob: Gotcha. So when you first started working on IWBTG, was the audience you had in mind basically fellow 4chaners on the board, or something larger? Or were you even just doing it to amuse yourself?

Kayin: Mostly to amuse myself. I consumed 4chan, but never really was part of the ‘community’. The whole anon thing was weird to me, I actually like being a person. So I never linked or talked about it there outside a few situations where I found a thread about the game. No, it was for my friends and soon later, part of the “#FinalFight” community which.. wasn’t about capcom’s final fight so much as a community centered around Scott Sharkey. The community was getting to the point there where a lot of us didn’t even know who Sharkey was. I was just there because other people were. I shared my game with them on what was at the time the pyoko boards and later became the brontoforumus.

Goggle Bob: So IWBTG initially drew inspiration from a game that barely had graphics at all… but somehow still pulled from Super Mario Bros, if memory serves. How quickly did IWBTG start adopting outside sprites and alike during production?

Kayin: The most striking thing in Owata to me was these big ‘ascii sprites’ of Zangief and Guile that were…. an obvious inspiration. And it started basically as soon as I got to the first boss. I don’t know WHY I wanted to make a giant Mike Tyson but it… felt like the right idea.
Punch!  Dodge!
Goggle Bob: Never doubt the desire for a giant Mike Tyson. We’re jumping around a bit, but since you mentioned that memorable boss, a related question: a significant reason I personally find IWBTG so revolutionary is how it keeps one “base” kind of gameplay, and marries it to a number of disparate parts, like Mike Tyson from Punch-Out… which is… what? A rhythm fighting game? And combines it with gameplay that is closer to Mega Man or Metroid. And the question I’m getting to on that is… I suppose… Why? Like, why did you draw significantly from very different sources and adapt them to your game?

Kayin: I liked a lot of different games. I think it’s also because I’m a very visually minded person so games having very differing sources gameplay wise isn’t something that mattered to me. Or it mattered, but the discontinuity made it funnier, like with the platforming zelda section.

Goggle Bob: Which is certainly does! So your intentions with making it funnier was, during production, predominantly for a small, tight audience?

Kayin: Yeah. Maybe about half way through I started to have a looming sense it was going to blow up, but early on? Nah, just for a small audience.

Goggle Bob: So basically anyone of a certain age recognizes a number of the videogame sprites and such, but, if you were aiming for a small enclave initially, are there a significant number of inside jokes in IWBTG? Items that would be only understood by your “initial” audience?

Kayin: No, I still wanted to keep things pretty general? I originally intended on it but never got to any. While I knew who my audience was, I wasn’t making the game FOR THEM I made -A- game, knowing they would be there to play it

Goggle Bob: An excellent way of thinking… though I was hoping that would explain the prominence of Mecha Birdo…
Bad Birdo
Kayin: Why -not- mecha birdo?

Goggle Bob: Fair enough! Speaking of Birdo and friends, we’re talking about… 13 years ago. Technically not that long, but forever in technology time. With that in mind, how difficult was it during creation to get all the sprites you needed?

Kayin: It is forever ago! And not that hard. I think the site of choice at the time was Shyguy Kingdom which worked for finding most sprites I needed?

Goggle Bob: Was there anything you wanted to include but you couldn’t find a decent source?

Kayin: Not quite? I wish I could have found an actual transparent png of a good shmup warning image for Mecha Birdo but making one was just fine. I feel like 2007, sprites for most all popular games were ripped and widely available.

Goggle Bob: Which I’m sure made your life easier. How much of the art in IWBTG is original?

Kayin: Almost everything that isn’t obviously a reference? Tourian and Dracula’s Castle are the only two areas I believe that have tilesets taken from other games. Oh, and the Zelda screen, obviously!

Goggle Bob: So everyone remembers a giant, green Zangief, but a significant chunk of the game you had to manually create?

Kayin: Granted, I use the same tiles for most of the game. It’s not a lot of sprite work, but in terms of what the player sees, they see more of my stuff than references. My stuff, at least back then, just wasn’t impressive at all.

Goggle Bob: It got the job done. “Delicious Fruit” was original, right? That seems to have migrated across the internet

Kayin: Yes!

Goggle Bob: Is there anything in the game that is original that you find people THINK is a reference?

Kayin: Well everyone thinks I Wanna be the Guy is a Homestar Runner reference which is understandable but it was just a thing a friend said when we were babbling back and forth to each other.

Goggle Bob: Come to think of it, reference or not, how early in production did you “know” this was going to be “I Wanna Be the Guy (The Movie The Game)”?

Kayin: I went in with that name I think?

Goggle Bob: Then that would be pretty early! Alright, back to actual release: when was IWBTG officially first released, and where was it available?

Kayin: It was progressively released for months. I didn’t hide it. I had a website and people could play the newest versions. It was ‘finished’ as in completable in October of 2007.

Goggle Bob: You didn’t hide it, but did you in any way “promote” it?

Kayin: Not really. 100% word of mouth.

Goggle Bob: And since its release, have you ever really investigated where people “find” IWBTG? Have there been any particular “surges” in interest over the years?

Kayin: All of them now have to do with Let’s Plays and Twitch streams. Nothing else comes close. Even back in the day, YouTube is what made the game REALLY blow up.

Goggle Bob: Which seems to be a pattern for the masocore games… Come to think of it, do you feel more people have WATCHED your game, rather than PLAYED it?

Kayin: OH absolutely. A few pewdiepie videos equals more than IWBTG has ever been downloaded.

Goggle Bob: And how do you feel about that? You did create an intricate videogame, not a YouTube video

Kayin: More than enough people played it and I knew enough from watching people test it that watching was fun in its own way. I think it’s an excellent part of the experience.
Here comes a moon!
Goggle Bob: Yes, I can safely say that I have had more fun watching IWBTG than playing it: from a watcher’s perspective, it’s like reading a mystery novel, and having the detective reveal the murderer… just in this case, the “murderer” is a wall of spikes you were supposed to get in back of.

Kayin: I’d say watching it as a viewer is all about dramatic irony. You know tragedy is coming and it can’t be stopped!

Goggle Bob: I don’t know if you’ve heard this one before, but I actually “found” IWBTG back in the day thanks to a number of articles on TV Tropes referencing the game and its many “subversions”.

Kayin: I can believe that! The TV Tropes article on IWBTG is pretty extensive if I recall.

Goggle Bob: Which I guess brings us to another topic: you said you designed this game with one community in mind, but IWBTG seems to have created its own community and dedicated fans. Or at least there’s more of a wiki for it than Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Mall Madness. Even when you were beginning to suspect IWBTG would be a hit, did you ever expect its current level of fame?

Kayin: Surprisingly yeah? Like it exceeded my moderate expectations but I knew this was possible. I wasn’t counting on it or getting ahead of myself or necessarily thought it was so great. I just had this feeling like… “I… think I’m in the right place at the right time?” That said with fans, I did NOT expect the sheer amount of fangames. That said though, most fangames are fangames of fangames and not IWBTG fangames if that makes sense.

Goggle Bob: It makes perfect sense. Do you consider IWBTG a “fangame” for the games it references?

Kayin: I wouldn’t say that myself but if someone else did I wouldn’t say they’re wrong either.

Goggle Bob: Fair enough, IWBTG is certainly its own animal. But, of course, you can’t say something is totally original when “death by surprise Ryu” is a persistent threat. 13 years later, do you regret that IWBTG is so closely tied to IPs that were borrowed?

Kayin: Not at all. I think borrowing from culture is good!

Goggle Bob: So if some wizard cursed you to live your life over again… or at least from 2007 on… would you make IWBTG essentially the same?

Kayin: Outside of improving a few little things, yeah. No real regrets.

Goggle Bob: Any regrets regarding the seemingly aborted IWBTG sequel projects?
Back to Mega Man
Kayin: I Wanna Save the Kids didn’t have the legs I thought it might. It stopped because the idea wasn’t that great. Gaiden? 50/50. I regret it to some degree but at the same time I moved on for a reason Maybe one day I’ll make more Gaiden, but I mostly feel happier working on other games.

Goggle Bob: Which fits neatly with my next question: do you ever get the itch to pursue another project like IWBTG? Something simpler and more in the realm of borrowing, and not banging your head against figuring out how to program stairs to work perfectly?

Kayin: Not so much? I have an idea but I don’t have that ENTIRE DESIRE to make those ideas real. It also helps that it’s less economically feasible. Ads are basically dead and mixing legit and legally grey work together seems risky. It’s fine when you’re a nobody buuuuut… yeah. Also I feel like a lot of people do the masocore stuff better than me now. I’m not needed anymore.

Goggle Bob: And, prior to 2007, did you ever think that you would be in such a position as a result of IWBTG? Did you ever think that this game with Zangief shooting Blankas would put you in the place where you could say you made an impact on gaming, it’s time for a new generation now?

Kayin: Yeah that’s weird. Like I said I had a strong instinct that game was going to make it, but I didn’t expect it to be formative? When I made it I already felt late to the party but now that whole little stretch of history is a blip.

Goggle Bob: Which is why I wanted to interview you about this: there are so few voices from that period recorded, and so much from then has been litigated into oblivion. IWBTG is a success story in more ways than one

Kayin: Yeah, it’s funny, back then it felt like SO MUCH STUFF WAS HAPPENING AND EVERYTHING WAS HAPPENING SO FAST and it was so fast that a lot of it just got lost

Goggle Bob: And even if these games are lost to the ages, their impact is still being felt today. “Parody games” closer to the tone of IWBTG of varying quality are available seemingly monthly on digital storefronts, and whatever happens to be the latest “masocore indie” is practically a mainstay for Nintendo Directs.

Kayin: And a lot of the ‘cheap’ ones still are really clever!

Goggle Bob: I think that about wraps it up. Anything you’d like to say to anyone considering building their own “IWBTG” today?
They're sharp
Kayin: For anyone making a funny masocore game now: Consider you have to compete with the collective cleverness of everyone who owns Mario Maker.

Goggle Bob: Ha, that’s a high cliff to climb.

Kayin: Right? It’s not blue oceans any more for masocore.

Goggle Bob: Well, thank you again for this, I feel like it’s important to get SOME voices from the forgotten corners of gaming… even if some of the games involved are anything but forgotten.

Kayin: No problem! Hope it was what you were looking for! I know I wasn’t as nitty gritty in that scene as some people.

Goggle Bob: Not exactly hard hitting reporting, but its the kind of stuff that gives a little snapshot of what it was back then, even if it was just “this forum” and “that website”. Thank you again for providing a record of the creation of I Wanna Be the Guy.

Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly can be found at his website at Kayin.moe, or on Twitter at @KayinNasaki. Please look forward to his upcoming game, Brave Earth: Prologue (I know I am).

FGC #527 I Wanna Be the Guy

  • System: PC. Oh, I should have asked Kayin about a Switch port.
  • Number of players: Just one kid, trying to be the guy.
  • Let's be a guy!Special Thanks: Once again, a special thank you to Kayin for agreeing to this interview and being an excellent interviewee. Also thanks to BEAT, a skeleton who let me borrow some screengrabs from his ancient runthrough of IWBTG. That is one helpful skeleman right there.
  • Favorite Death: I will never forget getting trashed by Dracula’s wineglass. That is some primo humor through gameplay right there.
  • So, did you beat it? No, sorry. I played through most of the game back in the day, but I washed out at The Guy’s Castle. I just lost steam, and got distracted by something else. What was it? I don’t even remember anymore. Although, given I was mostly playing it at my old job… it may have been actual work.
  • Did you know? Dragon Devil is the only version of the Yellow Devil I can tolerate. How did Kayin do that?
  • Would I play again: I’d rather retire to watching I Wanna Be the Guy than playing it right now. I enjoy “difficult games”, but I just don’t have the time right now to rediscover the nuance involved in properly leaping across clouds and not being crushed by spike walls. Looking forward to Brave Earth Prologue, though…

FGC #527 Mega Man & Bass (the original inspiration for this article)

  • Chill OutSystem: The Super Famicom for one specific country, and then Gameboy Advance for international releases. From there, it was never seen again, even as part of the Mega Man Legacy Collection.
  • Number of Players: You may play as Mega Man or Bass, but not both.
  • Port-o-Call: It might not have an official translation, but play this game on the SNES hardware if at all possible. The GBA version crops the screen dramatically, and, considering we’re already dealing with big, chunky PSX sprites, you need to see everything that is happening. Or just memorize every room with ceiling spikes. Whatever works.
  • So, you thought this was a romhack? I said I was young and stupid! Look, it has all the hallmarks: sprites repurposed from another system, a difficulty curve far beyond the usual level for the franchise, and some great ideas with often bad implementation (for instance, Dynamo Man’s energy restore is a nugget of a good idea that winds up being nothing but frustrating). When I started this interview, Kayin sagely pointed out that MM&B would have been practically impossible back when I played the game, and I very much agree with him now, in the year 2020. But back then I just assumed Japanese fans were a million times better at creating games than Americans. It makes sense when you consider the gaming landscape of the time! I swear!
  • Mega Man or Bass? Bass forever. A double jump is the most essential move in gaming history, and the slide is right down there at the bottom with, like, inventory juggling or something. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to believe Mega Man could ever beat Bass.
  • Favorite Robot Master: Pirate Man is my everything. He’s a robot pirate! Does he steal software or treasure? I mean, his lair is filled with gold, but it’s entirely possible that gold is all really expensive optical storage.
  • Did you know? According to series director Keiji Inafune, the creation of Mega Man & Bass was like “one big party”. I assume this means the staff was high as hell the entire time, and that is the only explanation I will accept for King acquiring a Voltron-tank for his finale.
  • Stay hotWould I play again: I always forget about this game when I play other Mega Man titles (mainly because it doesn’t appear on so many collections), so MM&B doesn’t get played all that often. That said, it is a fun game, and I often get an itch for it… once every five years or so.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventure for the Atari! Let’s go battle some ducks! Please look forward to it!

I know that guy