Tag Archives: nintendo age

FGC #582 Game & Watch Gallery

Let's watch some gamesThe best way to preserve your past is to literally own your past.

The Nintendo Game & Watch is technology that is fairly unique for this blog: the first Game & Watch was released before I was even born. While I have always considered myself blessed to be a games preservationist that has grown alongside the gaming medium, Game & Watch arguably belongs to Generation X with its initial release in 1980. Premiering with titles that I am doing my best not to describe as “primitive as a Flintstone”, the Game & Watch initially showcased games like Ball, Flagman, Vermin, and Judge. These pocket-sized devices all played one game per unit, and featured not only time-keeping functionality, but upwards of two game modes. Were these titles basic? Yes, of course. But could they be fun? Absolutely! If nothing else, they beat playing with your calculator on a train ride, so further Game & Watch titles were consistently released straight through 1986. At about that point, the Gameboy was preparing to take over the portable market, so new Game & Watch models became limited, and new titles for the “system” began to dribble out at a slower pace. But, for a time, Game & Watch ruled the roost, and Nintendo “the toy company” established itself in this new “videogame market” that may or may not have been recovering from an apocalyptic alien invasion (that is currently buried in New Mexico).

In short, if you are considering the whole of the history of videogames, you have to remember the Game & Watch. The Nintendo Entertainment System may have defined the home console for a generation, but just a few years before that box (and its dastardly robot) graced our shores, we were already playing with power, one Game & Watch at a time. And, while the “limited to one game” thing was saddening, this also encouraged an awful lot of wonderful mutations across the line. This was the first we saw buttons that increased or decreased in number according to a game. This was the first we saw the iconic crosspad. This is the first we saw “dual screen” gameplay, in both horizontal and vertical formats. Game & Watch is the first place we saw Luigi.

Boxes!And that latter point is pretty damn relevant, because when was the last time you heard about Mario’s other jobs with his brother? Nobody questioned when Mario claimed he was a doctor, because we were already used to his construction, bottling, and cement factory jobs…

A Mario Bros. where two brothers prove their plumbing credentials through flipping over turtles and crabs is the Mario Bros. everyone always remembers, but Game & Watch Mario Bros. was released four months before its arcade brother. It was a horizontal dual screen Game & Watch title, and saw Mario and Luigi (again, appearing in a game for the first time) working at some manner of delivery plant (is that a thing?). Both of the brothers (each clearly labeled by their respective joypads as “Mario” and “Luigi”) must work in tandem to pass something (boxes? cakes? bottles?) along and into a waiting delivery truck. There are not any “tricks or traps” to speak of, but the intermediary conveyer belt is a harsh mistress, and likely to break more than a few whatsits if the brothers (or your thumbs) don’t move fast enough. There are no monsters here, though, so this is a wholly mundane adventure focusing on what must be Mario & Luigi’s summer jobs. And speaking of jobs, this particular Game & Watch model eventually earned sponsorships from some businesses like Pokka (a Japanese food company) and Campari (an Italian liqueur producer). So Mario does know what alcohol is!

But if you are getting your historical information from Nintendo, Mario’s wine knowledge has been… let’s say obfuscated.

The new styleGame & Watch Mario Bros. has not been completely forgotten by Nintendo, but it has been diluted in modern incarnations. Mario Bros. appeared in both Game & Watch Gallery 3 for the Nintendo Gameboy, and Game & Watch Gallery 4 for the Gameboy Advance. Unfortunately, there was basically no way for modern (“modern” being “made after 1984”) systems to emulate the hugely horizontal play area of the original Game & Watch, so everything was compressed to fit a squarer playing area. And, obviously, Mario & Luigi now work at a simple package delivery company, so the impressionable players could never have an inkling that the super brothers were ever transporting wine. And the “modern” reimagining? Well, now we’ve got a cake factory in the works (not even a cement factory?), Wario is a delivery driver (that should not be allowed), and Bowser occasionally stops by to muck up the conveyer belts (dude does not have anything better to do today). In both the GBC and GBA versions, it is a much prettier and a more modern, palatable experience… but it isn’t remotely the same. The basic elements of Mario Bros. are there, but everything from the sunny graphics to the aspect ratio feels like an entirely different animal. For the first appearance of the most famous player two in all of gaming, Game & Watch Mario Bros. is preserved about as well as a sandwich bag filled with ranch dressing (honey, I know you hate to throw out food, but we have a perfectly good bottle of the stuff right there on door).

And don’t even get me started on Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda!

Rescue the laundry!But let’s not imagine we live in a world where Game & Watch and its contributions are completely ignored. Why, there’s Mr. Game & Watch right there, starring in one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises. And his “package attack” move echoes exact animations from Game & Watch Mario Bros. Same for his down taunt, which recalls the exasperated sitting of the brothers when completing a level. And we just got a Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Edition Game & Watch! It didn’t actually include Game & Watch Mario Bros., but it definitely included… uh… Ball, apparently! And Super Mario Bros.! Everybody likes Super Mario Bros. better anyway! What’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that whole likability thing with a healthy mix of hardware versus profitability. Would people rather play Super Mario Bros. or Game & Watch Mario Bros.? Well, considering the Game & Watch collection was a modest hit, while Super Mario Bros. is a game that is continually released on every system ever produced by Nintendo (and with a few weird mutations, too), it seems pretty obvious that more people are interested in seeing the brothers when they are a little more super. And that is convenient, because Super Mario Bros. can be perfectly (or at least reasonably) emulated to practically any device with a screen, whereas the wine factory (I am sticking to this for you, Campari) requires two side-by-side screens for a perfect experience. And Nintendo has decided to drop this whole “dual screen” thing as of the retirement of the 3DS and WiiU, so official Nintendo hardware is out of the question. Could some other company, maybe one without as many valid revenue streams as Nintendo, carry this burden? Some “lesser” hardware manufacturer would be happy to reissue a few Mario games. An Evercade for the Game & Watch? I know I would be down for such a boutique item.

Octo!But it ain’t gonna happen. Nintendo holds an iron grip on any and all legal ownership of Mario, Luigi, and the Game & Watch. It would not be as profitable to focus on “perfect” Game & Watch preservation as it would be to steer those resources into other departments, but, by the same token, there is no way Nintendo is going to let someone else profit from technology made by Nintendo nearly 40 years ago. The original creator of Game & Watch died nearly 25 years ago (!), but Nintendo is going to own that hardware lock, stock, and barrel until the day you die. And if you are under the mistaken impression that Nintendo would be cool with some modern modding, go ahead and ask anyone that listed a video on youtube about how to hack the latest Game & Watch release. Oh, wait, you can’t, because Nintendo copyright claimed all of them out of existence. Want to do anything you want with that fifty dollar doodad you got for Christmas? Not on Nintendo’s (game &) watch, buddy!

But this is the future for nearly all intellectual property out there. Nintendo will own Game & Watch for the next hundred years, and there is absolutely no reason they would ever have to loosen their grip on the IP. And, with that in mind, they control how Game & Watch content exists for the rest of time. You want to play the original game? No, no you don’t. You want to play with silly, beepy Mr. Game & Watch, and exchange tales of his “references” with your friends. You don’t want to remember when Nintendo was proudly peddling liquor sponsorships to get a foothold, you want to remember when the Nintendo Entertainment System defined gaming. There was never a “desperate” Mario that had to beg for your attention. There has only ever been a complete, genre-defining Mario.

History is what you make of it. And if you own your history, so much the better. For you.

FGC #582 Game & Watch Gallery

  • ToadholeSystem: Technically ROB chose the Gallery for Gameboy, but I did a lot of focusing on the Gameboy Color enhanced Game & Watch Gallery 3. Also tossed in some Gameboy Advance Game & Watch Gallery 4 action, too. I have a lot of random Game & Watch Galleries scattered about the place.
  • Number of players: You can link cable all of these games, right? If you can’t, I’m still going to claim they are two players, because you can at least do some boxing in Game & Watch Gallery 4. It counts!
  • Can’t you just be happy with the fact that there are four Gameboy games that preserve Game & Watch titles? Well, yes, that is good, but the last Game & Watch Gameboy title was released in 2002, with the more digital versions only seeing release as recently as 2008. While Game & Watch games are technically available in some ways (you can grab the GBA version on WiiU as of 2016), it sure seems the birth of Nintendo gaming is going to stay locked away in a vault.
  • So you’re saying a new Game & Watch line will be released seven seconds after publishing this article? Yes, that seems to be how it works.
  • Favorite Game & Watch game (collection based): Octopus is part of Game & Watch Gallery 1, and I appreciate how that game has always been as “simple” as other G&W games, but contains an awful lot of strategy. Or maybe I just like matching wits with an octopus. Whatever! You want the spiritual ancestor to practically every videogame I have ever enjoyed, though, just check out Octopus.
  • Love that little guyFavorite Game & Watch game (modern revision): Game & Watch Gallery 4 went harder than it had to with its remixed graphics, and I appreciate that Donkey Kong Jr. got one final showcase before he was retired seemingly forever. That little dude always needed a few more starring roles, and Gogglebob.com does not officially recognize Donkey Kong (of Donkey Kong Country) as Junior’s grownup incarnation. And further proof Mario once had a mean streak!
  • Favorite Game & Watch game (that we will never see again): Mickey Mouse had his own Game & Watch game. Like another children’s star, it was a game involving our hero grabbing eggs from chickens. Minnie was responsible for watch/alarm duties. And we will never see it again, because I cannot imagine the legal quagmire that would result from both companies even addressing the issue. This never happened, guys!
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Game & Watch Mario Bros. is one of the first videogames I ever played, as my cousin had that Game & Watch, and I successfully begged my parents to let me try it. I am moderately certain Toddler Goggle Bob did not immediately break the thing… but my memory from that time may be a little hazy.
  • Did you know? The Nintendo DS title Personal Trainer: Cooking, which is little more than a dedicated cookbook that is somehow not Cooking Mama, included Game & Watch Chef as a hidden feature. Chef… is not a game that is going to make you a better cook.
  • Save 'em!Would I play again: I like revisiting the infant stages of the Mario we know today. I would totally be down with all of these titles being ported to the Switch, as they work very well for dealing with random boredom. Other than that, though? Well, sometimes it is nice to know something is being preserved, but maybe I could play something else…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? 2 for the Sony PSP! Oh, what I have done to deserve this, my ROB? Nothing? It’s actually a good game? Okay, great. Then please look forward to it!

Where is Little Mac?

FGC #376 Ghostbusters (NES)

Who you gonna call?Ghostbusters NES is an eternal plastic monument to how Goggle Bob was a stupid, stupid child.

It all starts with the Commodore 64. For anyone that missed it (because you’re not old as dirt), the Commodore 64 was basically the home personal computer before anyone could afford personal computers. It accepted (inevitably multiple) giant floppy discs, the printer was dot matrix, and it had roughly the same processing power as a bag of doritos, but it could help with work and games! Imagine! A device that mom could use for word processing, and Little Bobby could use for playing exciting games where one block attacked another block! And there were rudimentary programming applications available! Never forget Logo Writer, the “game” where you programmed a turtle to do whatever you desired… assuming you could master Logo programming language, a programming language never to be seen again.

If you haven’t already guessed from that glowing paragraph, the Commodore 64 was my secret origin in more ways than one. Before there was even a NES in the house, the Commodore 64 could (with proper supervision) be utilized by Wee Goggle Bob. And, while I abused the word processing program before I even really knew how to write (I lurned at some point, right?), my favorites on the C64 were always the games. There were many available (I’m not going to accuse my sainted mother of software piracy, but it sure seemed like our C64 library expanded faster than other systems where you couldn’t copy that floppy), but my top choices were always two games: Rampage and Ghostbusters. Rampage was pure Id, and often the choice for two players, but Ghostbusters was much more cerebral.

ZAPGhostbusters might have been my first “comprehensive” videogame. Mario Bros and Mega Man are amazing titles, but they only require you to understand the alphabet up to its second letter (the letter that lets you shoot). Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64 tried to do something different and much more complex. The plot of Ghostbusters is not that you are Ray and Egon, no, you’re you, and you’re starting up a Ghostbusters franchise in New York City. You’re responsible for purchasing equipment, you’re responsible for maintaining your haunted bank account, and, if a Marshmallow Man stomps a building to bits, it’s your ass that is getting fined. While the game does feature a lot of repetitive nonsense (driving to locations is almost entirely pointless, and catching ghosts doesn’t really warrant a half hour of the same gameplay over and over again), there’s enough planning involved that the whole experience could truly challenge players of all ages. Wee Goggle Bob just enjoyed hearing the theme song and getting slimed, but C64 Ghostbusters was borderline WRPGian in its complexity. Screw Dragon Warrior, this is where you could really learn about inventory management while fighting monsters.

And then, four years later, we were burdened with Ghostbusters on the NES. Good news: the car segments are now more interesting, as you can dodge other vehicles and score gas cans as you drive over to your next haunted mansion. Bad news? If you run out of gas, it leads to a “pushing the car” scene so boring, the concept would not be revisited in gaming for at least twenty years. And if you so much as nudge another car, you lose $400 (in 80s dollars!). Once you arrive, capturing ghosts is mostly the same, but 90% of the interesting “Ghostbuster franchise” gameplay has been dropped. Randomly forming giant gelatinous gentlemen are a thing of the past, and any sort of indication as to what you’re supposed to be doing or working towards is gone forever. And, should you survive the experience for entirely too long, you’ll be granted access to fight the final battle.

And that’s when the fun really starts.

The final stage of Ghostbusters is a trek up 25 or so floors of nothing but stairs. And you can’t just “walk”, no, you have to hammer the A/B buttons to get your Ghostbusters to scuttle forward. If you don’t have a turbo controller, please give up immediately, it’s not worth the permanent damage to your thumbs. But even with that (NES) advantage, you have to dodge a set of four ghosts with random patterns the entire time, and, three hits later, it’s game over, man. And the game over screen is depressing!

Loser!

Your only options to survive are outright cheating (say hello, Game Genie), or purchase a pile of helpful items from the shop… which would only require about an hour of ghost grinding. It is nearly impossible to conceive of someone beating this area “the right way”, left alone being ready for more after such a feat.

But assuming you scale those stairs, you’re still not done! The peak of the building features Gozer the Gozerian flanked by Zuul and Vinz, and you’ve basically got a bullet hell final boss. But that’s not all! The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is scaling the building, so, every once in a while, you have to retreat, zap Stay Puft down to the ground floor, and then, finally, resume your assault on Gozer. Lose at any point, and its game over. Actually succeed (against all odds), and you’ll be rewarded with one of the lamest victory screens in all of gaming.

Winner!

Thanks for playing the worst port of a licensed game ever!

But, for me, the “conglaturation !!!” screen is not the end of the embarrassment. No, the worst part of NES Ghostbusters is how I would have done anything to see that stupid ending.

I didn’t own Ghostbusters NES as a child, but a friend, Kevin, did have a copy. By about this time, the Commodore 64 had either been mothballed (I still have it!) or was just occupying the space in my head that said “that’s mom’s computer”, and it didn’t see any additional Ghostbusters time from yours truly. As a result, I had a fuzzy memory of “old Ghostbusters” to compare to new NES Ghostbusters. I recognized that you couldn’t buy a new car like in C64 GB, but, other than that, I assumed it was mostly the same game. And then revisiting the game at a friend’s house years (and many other games) later, I was determined to team up with Kevin and beat Gozer once and for all. Our parents didn’t let us sticky, clumsy kids take games out of the house, so I was unable to connect my Game Genie to Kevin’s Ghostbusters cartridge. Thus, thanks to horrible/prescient parenting, we were unable to cheat. But Kevin and I were in this together, and we were going to beat Ghostbusters if it killed us.

Spoilers: we are now both dead. Big twist: this article is being written by a ghost.

SexyIn all honesty, I think the friendship between Kevin and I couldn’t survive the mental strain of trying to complete this horrid NES game. But try we did! We couldn’t stop ourselves, and we were convinced it was our fault we couldn’t scale those damn stairs. How could there be a bad thing based on the Ghostbusters franchise? We love those guys! They’d never steer us wrong! And the Commodore 64 version was pretty fun! This is the version on the same system as Castlevania 3! It has to be good! What are we doing wrong?!

And then, decades later, ROB chose this ghastly game. And then I played it side by side with its C64 brother. And then, finally, after years of experience, I learned that Ghostbusters for NES is just the worst. I’m okay, Kevin is probably okay (we lost touch sometime after Sega Genesis), and it was Ghostbusters that was wrong all along.

So I only spent 30 years wallowing in ignorance. Could be worse. Could be 71 years…

FGC #376 Ghostbusters (NES)

  • System: A version more or less similar to this Ghostbusters appeared on the Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Atari 800 (don’t be confused by the lower number, it was the greater system), and Sega Master System. And, yes, NES, because there wasn’t enough pain in the world.
  • Number of players: Looks like we can get three Ghostbusters on the screen at a time, but only one player is allowed.
  • GrrrrJust play the gig, man: The Commodore 64 version starts with the Ghostbusters theme, and a “karaoke” style display of the lyrics so you can sing along to your favorite legally Huey Lewis song. This joy is mitigated somewhat by the digitized Ghostbusters theme being looped forever for the entire game.
  • Big Finale: There is no crazy staircase in the C64 version, but you do have to avoid a skipping Stay Puft Marshmallow Man before booking it upstairs to cross the streams and save the day. It is a tremendously more satisfying climax.
  • New Game Plus: And speaking of which, beating the C64 version will reward the player with a password that will allow the Ghostbusters to start with more money on the next playthrough. This might be the first “new game plus” feature in a videogame.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: All of these bullet points are about the C64 version because I never want to see the NES version ever again.
  • Did you know? The Commodore 64 version has four cars available for purchase, and one is a 1963 Hearse. This is the closest vehicle to the “real” Ecto-1 available, and may be purchased for $4,800. Strangely enough, the car’s model does not correspond with the movie’s Ecto-1, but the price is exactly what Ray pays for the vehicle. Take canon where you can find it.
  • Would I play again: Never. Never ever ever. There isn’t a ghost of a chance.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Warrior for the NES! Dammit! Is this because I insulted the title earlier in this article? I feel like I’m being punished with gaming history. Oh well. Please look forward to it.

This sucks

FGC #344 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

CowabungaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was indisputably the most popular children’s franchise of… whatever year I happened to be a child. After the likes of He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe paved the way for “Saturday Morning Cartoons” that could also dominate every aspect of a child’s life from cereal to underoos, TMNT dominated the landscape with toys, blankets, live shows… and I’m pretty sure I still have a TMNT sleeping bag in my shed. It is keeping my lawnmower warm and radical. So it’s no surprise that there were also TMNT movies and videogames, as, come on, total media domination can’t just stop at a cartoon series that ran roughly every minute of the day (on my VCR, at least).

But, when you get down to it, this all raises one very important (not at all important) question: Where is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie: The Game?

Konami (occasionally under the guise of Ultra) once seemed to churn out as many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games as possible. Come on, we all knew it was going to be a fad, right? It’s not like the franchise would be rebooted again and again until the end of time like Batman or Spider-Man; no, these fighting lizard people or whatever are going to be no more remembered in ten years than everything on the USA Cartoon Express. So let’s crank out those games! A title set before the franchise even became established? Sure. Arcade beat ‘em up? Konami can spin that gold in its sleep. And let’s toss a few random portable titles in there! Maybe one could be a metroidvania? That might be fun. Yes, Konami did its best to exploit the Turtles license, and… did anyone complain? No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure TMNT: The Arcade Cabinet was responsible for supporting the economy of entire small towns (or at least the roller rink). Konami had no problem producing new TMNT games at the drop of a bandana.

Going up?But, once you get past the initial… uh… confused TMNT NES release, these games were all based on the animated series. And let’s not pretend you’re ignorant of what that means. Practically from its inception, TMNT had a tendency to introduce children to the concept of “micro continuities”. First, there’s the comic book that is a mixture of absurd and grimdark, wherein, incidentally, they killed Shredder within the first ten minutes. Then there’s the animated series, which is cute and bubbly and “rude” Raph at most occasionally makes a joke about Italian food. Then there are the toys! You might claim that the toys were just a logical outcropping of the series, but those of us that studiously read the back of those boxes knew better! This version of Ground Chuck is clearly different from the raging bull we got in the animated series, so the action figures must comprise their own universe. And then there were the storybooks and whatever was going on in the live show and Ninja Rap and…. You get the idea. Logically, all of those versions of the turtles couldn’t coexist, so any given TMNT merchandise that came down the pike had to fit into one or another category. Is Baxter Stockman a fly in this one? That means we’ve got a videogame based on the cartoon! It’s science!

Obviously, the movies had to be their own continuity. The turtles and April just met? Raph is the real leader? Corey Feldman? Yes, there’s no way this is real Ninja Turtles, this is everything through the Hollywood filter of “what’s gonna keep kids buying tickets”. After all, it’s easy to sell a tot a toy or “free” TV show, but good luck getting mom to ferry the whole brood to the movie theatre for the seventeenth time this week. We need real, human turtle monsters, and they need to be dealing with real, human problems like baldness and ninja gangs. And then they can travel through time! Because that’s something to do!

Snapping turtleAnd, of course, the TMNT movies had their own merchandise. There we children’s books (guess where I learned to properly spell “katana”). There were toys of slightly squishier plastic. There were posters and clothes and Halloween costumes that looked marginally different from last year’s Halloween costumes. As a surprise to absolutely no one, the TMNT movie was just as merchandized as every other bit of TMNT media.

But there was no videogame.

Not to say the movie universe didn’t influence a few videogames! For an easy example, the mutant stars of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze, Tokka and Rahzar, appear individually in today’s (generally ignored) featured game, and as a duo in the arcade hit, Turtles in Time. But they’re not the only villains to stumble off the big screen: Tatsu, Shredder’s dragon du jour, appears in the Genesis-exclusive Hyperstone Heist as one of the turtle’s greatest opponents. Seriously. He’s just a human dude, but he can actually block, which pretty much makes you invincible in a beat ‘em up. So it clearly wasn’t a matter of TMNT Movie characters being off-limits or forbidden by license limitations. Pretty much everything that appears in any given TMNT movie (Foot soliders, unique mutants, bald men) takes a jump kick to the face compliments of Konami.

(Oh, and if anyone wants to be pedantic, yes, Tokka and Rahzar did appear in the animated series, but it was approximately three years after their videogame debut. And, reminder, three years when you’re ten is more time than there is in the universe.)

But an actual TMNT Movie videogame never surfaced for any of the consoles. It would have been easy enough, too. It’s not like Konami needed to use photorealistic graphics or some such nonsense, just follow the excuse plot of one of the movies (or both! Together!), make sure the foot soldiers say “barf” instead of explode, and maybe toss in a cooperative Casey Jones for good measure. Are there not enough bosses in your average TMNT movie? Original TMNT NES had the turtles fighting anonymous robots when its stable wasn’t too established, and nobody complained about that (and, yes, we could deal with always-on-fire guy returning). What could have possibly been holding Konami back from TMNT: The Movie: The Game.

Oh, wait. Maybe it’s because Shredder kidnapping April and then suspending Manhattan in midair…

FLY!

Is more interesting than anything that ever happened in the movies.

Yeah.

It’s probably that.

FGC #344 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m kind of surprised we never saw this resurface with the likes of Arcade and Turtles in Time. It’s a forgotten gem! (Not to be confused with Hyperstone Heist, featuring a literally forgotten gem.)
  • This is coolNumber of players: Two! And there’s a twist! There’s a “regular” mode, and a “friendly fire” mode wherein Raph can beat up Leo to his heart’s content. At least, that’s what happened every time I played with my friends…
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is a TMNT beat ‘em up, but it’s the only one distinctly made for the NES. It’s pretty good! There seem to be some console bits you wouldn’t see in the arcade (like more of a story), and the graphics look more like they were made for the system, rather than scaled down from more robust hardware. And the special attacks are pretty cool! It’s still a fairly boring game half the time (there is practically zero enemy variety), but it’s a fun time. Or that’s just the nostalgia talking.
  • Favorite Turtle (this game): Raph’s drill attack is pretty amazing, and his traditional short range doesn’t seem all that short when throws are the way to go for most of the game. And jumpkicks are universal. Donny is second, because he’s Donny.
  • Nintendo Switch: You’re allowed to switch turtles after every death, so you don’t have to wait and waste a continue just because you picked the wrong tubular teen. Why isn’t that a feature in every beat ‘em up?
  • Don’t judge a book: There is a triceraton on the game’s cover. Triceratons do not appear in this title at all. I want to fight more dinosaurs!
  • Smart Kid: Even as a child, I kind of had a problem with the plot. The turtles are in Key West, Florida, and their plan is to surf back to Manhattan. For one thing, surfing does not work like that. For another, we’re talking about… let’s check the ol’ Google Maps here… 1,446 miles. 22 hours or so. I don’t care how mighty you are, you’re not going to be much of a ninja by the time you hit landfall.
  • OuchDid you know? In TMNT 3, Rahzar has an ice breath attack. In Turtles in Time, Tokka has ice breath, and Rahzar has a fire breath attack. What kind of breath do werewolves have, Konami!?
  • Would I play again: The nostalgia may trick me into going down this road again. It’s better than TMNT 2 in every way, but it’s also no Turtles in Time. Decisions, decisions.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the Sega Genesis! Oh! Spooky! Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls! Please look forward to it!

Showin' Hesh

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

I can fly!The problem with pets is that there is a lack of communication. Yes, your average dog is confident in his good boyhood, and your average cat is well aware that you are a willing slave to the feline oligarchy, but relaying more precise concepts is very difficult. Yes, you, human, are yelling… but… why? Is it because food is late? Is it because good boy did not sniff enough telephone poles? Or is it somehow related to how that pillow had to be dismantled, piece by piece, because it might contain angry ghosts? And, of course, all of the other pillows had to be destroyed, because, come on, you can’t leave a job unfinished. Is that why yelling is happening? No, it’s probably that sniffing thing. That seems like the most important item of the day.

Unfortunately, videogames are much in the same boat. Mass Effect Andromeda was a failure. But why? Was it the graphics? The sound effects? An uninteresting and unsightly plot? Not enough homosexual scenarios available? An odd subliminal message that pops up every thirty seconds that reads “Trump for President” despite the fact that the game was released like six months after the election? It’s literally impossible to point to one distinct reason a particular videogame failed, and you average gamer isn’t much help in that regard, either. “It sucked,” is not constructive criticism! Not that the marketing department is ever going to listen anyway, they’re still too busy insulting review aggregator sites to notice why their game might not be scoring a passing grade. Once again, there is a lack of communication between the people that want something and the folks that can actually do something about it.

This is why the playtesting phase of any given videogame production is so important. There were maybe two games produced in the last three decades that significantly changed after a demo/release thanks to “player feedback”, so it seems obvious to the layman that programmers and other creators behind our favorite medium won’t change much once it’s “out in the wild”. But in-house playtesting can reveal much that a programmer too close to a project may have missed. Like, ya know, when an entire level doesn’t work. Yes, it’s very easy for us to note glitches and flaws well after the fact, but who knows how many problems have been preemptively fixed by diligent playtesters (and the design teams that actually PIRATES!listen to said test dummies). And, come on, videogames are meant to be played. Nobody wants to play a game of conceptual dodge ball; when you’ve got a game in front of you, you want to know someone played and enjoyed it before you. Tried and true and tested, that’s the sure route to fun.

And it’s very clear that THQ didn’t hire a single playtester back in the 90’s.

THQ, one way or another, is responsible for publishing a number of games for the original Nintendo console. We’ve got such luminaries as Home Alone, Swamp Thing, and (the only videogame I know of based on a friggen’ series of art books) Where’s Waldo. THQ itself came from the world of toy manufacturing (Toy Headquarters, Toy HQ, THQ), so it seems only natural that their plan for the NES, the “hot toy” of the 80s, would be to adapt every available children’s property into a digital format. You make your action figures for James Bond Jr., then you make a corresponding game, and then you have pillow fights with supermodels in your money bin. Licensing has always been the same, and a Home Alone tie-in novel or board game can’t be that different from an accompanying videogame. All works out identical in the end.

STAB!And, while it’s easy to say THQ had no vested interest in advancing the medium or making videogames a household name or whatever lofty goals you could likely attribute to the likes of Nintendo or Konami, you must admit that THQ did want to be successful. After all, why make videogames if not to sell videogames? In every medium going back to cave drawings, there has been a clear line connecting “success” and “quality”. Okay, wait, that might be a lie. But even artists not appreciated in their time were able to sell the occasional bit of scribbling, and they didn’t need the Wayne’s World license to do it. You can make a licensed game and a good game at the same time! Capcom did it often! And they were rewarded for it! You can do it, too, THQ!

Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates, THQ’s first ever release, seems to prove that THQ was never interested in creating a game that was capable of being enjoyed.

Peter Pan could be an interesting character for a 2-D platformer. In fact, Kirby with a sword basically is Peter Pan. Fly, slide, slash, and maybe make some manner of rooster sound. Battle through woods, coves, and pirate brigades, and avoid a crocodile along the way. Faeries are already an established powerup, and heck, if you want to really go nuts, you could include some kind of “duel” mini-mode like certain other releases. Peter Pan is all about an action-loving teenager with unparalleled movement capabilities and an established antagonist that just happens to have his own infinite army of mooks. Every videogame title should just be Peter Pan!

Very wetBut Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates manages to squander everything fun about Peter Pan within its opening level. Peter Pan has a sword! Or dagger! Something pointy! Unfortunately, it’s about the same length as a twinkie, so we’re stuck with the raw damage potential of a 2-D Hylian that managed to leave all of his magic skills at home. But Peter Pan isn’t about stabbing! He’s about flying! And… that is difficult to control. And hitting any one of the bizarre, poorly-defined hitboxes of enemy or platform alike will cause Pete to drop like a dead fairy. Oh, and all flight is limited by a fairy dust counter, because I guess Peter Pan only has so much happiness in his cold, black heart. Wendy appears once to say watch out for snakes, Tinker Bell is nothing more than a health fill-up, and there are warp mushrooms that will randomly toss you somewhere in the stage. It’s all extremely underwhelming, and a complete waste of a decent license.

And then it somehow gets worse.

FPPatP is an old school NES game, so that means three lives and no continues. Considering the length of the first stage and the sheer number of deadly pterodactyls contained therein, it would not be a stretch to claim that many kids never made it past the first stage. Oh, and the game requires you kill every rando pirate in every level, so if you did manage to get to the end, it was likely you were sent back to start because you didn’t nail a Smee. Anyone lucky enough to find stage 2 would then discover a level that is primarily pits and traps, so, uh, good luck with that and Peter Pan’s overly finicky flight skills. I would estimate that, just spitballing, of all the poor children that got stuck with this abomination, probably only about 3% ever saw the third level. Beyond that? That’s just impossibility.

And, while I’m applying this thinking to the poor saps that wound up with this lesser Barrie adaptation under the Christmas tree, it’s pretty clear that the playtesters didn’t get very far either. The controls are already terrible, but something is seriously wrong when the fourth stage is simply a recolor of the first. Though, it was the NES age, one might expect that echelon of cost cutting. What’s the next level?

AHHH

Oh God! What horrible Virtual Boy preview hath THQ wrought!? There is no way a single human being saw that color scheme (red on red on red on… maybe brown?) and thought, “Yes, this is something that should be unleashed upon children.” Hell, had a parent’s organization even been in the same zip code as that stage, we’d see a complete ban of all videogames as early as 1991. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that this hunk of trash was a contemptuous contemporary of Mega Man 4, Metal Storm, and Battletoads? This was seven years after Urban Champion, and someone thought it was okay.

And then the final level is the same stupid level repeated three times in a row, followed by a final boss fight that is simultaneously impossible, difficult, and as boring as counting rice grains. Your reward for completing the game is one lousy bitmap of Peter Pan and the message that “It is so much fun being Peter Pan”.

No.

No it is not.

Was Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates a success for THQ? Signs point to no. It probably sold a decent enough number of copies (currently available at around $30 for complete in box, so there is likely a lot of this trash out in the world), but no one ever lists this 2 star (out of a possible million) title on their “best of” or “fond childhood memories” list. This game was crap, and it bombed because it was crap. Was there any way to relay this information to THQ, though? Of course not. Whaddya gonna do, write a blog post about it?

So, anyway, if anyone from early 90’s THQ can read this… Uh, your game sucked. Just a head’s up.

Bad, THQ. Bad.

FGC #343 Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. Please do not look for virtual console releases, as Disney has stomped this version of the franchise out of the universe.
  • Number of players: The other Lost Boys are completely absent. Seriously. Don’t think they even get a mention. I guess they’re…. lost.
  • Mushroom KingdomFoxy: “Fox’s” Peter Pan and the Pirates was a Saturday morning television show on Fox. Okay, you probably guessed that. Fox managed to outbid Disney for the license just this once, and made a surprisingly trippy cartoon series out of the whole deal. The Peter Pan nonsense was pretty tiresome, but there was a surprising amount of attention paid to (actually competent) Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Oh, and one time Wendy’s daughter from the future showed up, and Sailor Moon has taught me that that trope is always cool.
  • Say something nice: Unusual for a platformer, your health is a number in this adventure. And even more unusual, your health doesn’t seem to have an upper limit. So, assuming you stay out of the jaws of a crocodile, you should have practically unlimited health by the final boss. Or you’ll have practically nothing because of a random instant death trap. One or the other.
  • Did you know? Fox’s Peter Pan made Tinker Bell a redhead and the smartest of the Lost Boys. Disney’s Tinker Bell is a jackass.
  • Would I play again: And be the first person in history to play this game twice? Never.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project! Cowabunga! Please look forward to it, dudes!

TOO REAL