Tag Archives: Nintendo Switch

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

Let's blitz ballFinal Fantasy 10 was a brilliant deconstruction of its franchise. And that statement is firmly past tense because it was immediately undercut by capitalism.

For the current moment, let us consider Kefka Palazzo. Kefka was ultimately the final antagonist of Final Fantasy 6, and he plainly stated his goal during his decisive battle: destroy everything, and build a monument to nonexistence. Colorful metaphor about modern art aside, Kefka had plans to kill the party, every other person alive, and (given enough time) obliterate the entire planet while he was at it. All that would be left would be a black void, and even Kefka himself seemed to nihilistically seek his own end if it meant everything else went with him.

And then the heroes of Final Fantasy 6 defeated Kefka. The madman crumbled to dust, and his evil plans were no more. Afterwards, there was approximately a half hour of credits and airship flying, Terra decided to feel the wind in her hair, and then…. Nothing.

Final Fantasy 6 ends with a The End logo, and the world stops existing. The next Final Fantasy starts on another world. Any heroes, townsfolk, or even moogles from Final Fantasy 6 are not seen in the franchise again. There may be “side stories” and alike, but these all seem to take place with versions of Terra, Kefka, and others from epochs before the end of Final Fantasy 6 (you can tell because Kefka is, ya know, alive). If the world of Final Fantasy 6 exists in any conceivable form after the fall of Kefka, there is no evidence of it across any official media.

Kefka wanted to destroy the world of Final Fantasy 6. Shortly after Kefka “failed”, the world of Final Fantasy 6 was forever destroyed, obliterated by an uncaring power button.

And, after this was the norm for nearly fifteen years and a solid nine Final Fantasy titles (and at least one spinoff), Final Fantasy 10 decided to definitively comment on this strange phenomenon.

Where good games go to dieAs is stated from literally the beginning, Final Fantasy 10 is the story of Tidus. And, since you are holding the controller that keeps that story going, you are meant to be Tidus, too. Tidus is good at playing games in a technologically advanced world, but his life is turned upside down when a tragedy transports him to Spira. Spira is a much more rural, primitive spot, and something very foreign to our “modern” Tidus. Ultimately, everything you see of this world exactly matches to the time Tidus spends in this strange place. You experience every second of his journey there, and you know exactly what you know of Spira exclusively through his eyes and what he learns from others. Tidus only discovers new things about Spira if you choose to talk to more people or see more places in Spira. And even though Tidus has his own issues to work through, you wholly inhabit his view of this alien world, complete with leaving Spira exactly when he exits. You are a strange visitor from an advanced (and implied to be more enlightened/less superstitious) society, here to save the world with ideas that could only belong to an outsider. When your job is completed, everyone is going to miss you to the point of tears, but despite their protests, you literally disappear.

Hey, there is probably a reason the only characters you get to personally name in Final Fantasy 10 are Tidus and the aeons, the super-powered agents of Tidus’s “other” world. These characters are yours. Everyone else you are just visiting.

And this ties neatly into Final Fantasy 10’s concept of finality.

My good friendMagical memory whammies or whatever is happening aside, Tidus apparently comes from a world where the afterlife is an unknowable mystery. But Spira has a concrete answer to this age-old question: if you die with regrets, you are likely to either become a fiend, or live on as some manner of ageless zombie. A summoner may “send” the dead to the Farplane (a magical but firmly visitable place), but if some undead avoid this fate, they will stick around for literally eternity and continue to make a mess of things. At best, the living dead of Spira are perpetuating endless spirals of destruction, and at worst they are literally monsters. So, in short, a huge theme of Final Fantasy 10 is “don’t wear out your welcome”. You died, get over it, move on. If you stick around, you are going to hurt everybody still alive.

Thus, the true “end” for Spira’s story is when the party reaches the end of the pilgrimage, and Yuna and the rest of the party decide they are not going to feed the cycle anymore by rejecting Yunalesca, the jackass who got this ball of rubbish rolling. This makes slaying Sin a sort of coda, as the “important” ending has already happened. Change is now an inevitability. And this is further reinforced by Seymour, who had been a threatening antagonist throughout much of the quest, but now only represents the old world and old problems. Once he is deprived of his “immortal” cycle, he is little more than a speed bump. Beating a man you killed two times already is just as insignificant as that task should be. Similarly, the technical final battle isn’t the big damn boss fight of Braska’s Final Aeon, but a slow, aggravating slog through killing your Aeons. And that sucks! That whole sequence sucks, and “you just beat the Elite 4, now kill all your Pokémon” is as terrible as that sounds. But it is there. It is the last time you control this party, and it is miserable. And that is the whole, deliberate point: you are not supposed to keep being Yuna’s Pilgrimage Party. That is over now, and making it go on any longer will just bring heartache. Time to go, Tidus, your dream, your story is over. Time to hit that power button, player, the game is over now, too.

You have to leave this world behind. All of Spira, all of Final Fantasy 10 will end now and be gone forever, but you will live on. This adventure is over, but you will be better for it.

BOOMAnd this would have been the ideal moral for a Final Fantasy title that matched every Final Fantasy that came before 2001. Sure, Seymour, Kefka, Sephiroth, and every villain that wanted to destroy their world had technically won by virtue of dying and leaving behind a world no longer requiring a player to defend it, but outside of the meta-narrative of the player living on, these were games with happy endings. Yuna, Terra, and Cloud would live to see a happily ever after, and we were left with only our imaginations to guess what happened to these heroes after we left them alone. Did Terra truly find love in her new family? Did Cloud and Tifa decide to settle down? Did Yuna become a pop idol cross treasure hunter?

Oh yeah, we definitely know the answer to a few of those questions now…

Final Fantasy 10 was the first Final Fantasy to truly embrace the concept of being “final”. It was also the Final Fantasy released closest to Kingdom Hearts, a franchise that immediately revived the likes of Tidus, Wakka, and eventually even Auron (who is six kinds of dead before the game even started!). Final Fantasy 10-2 was teased as part of a trailer tacked onto the finale of FFX’s American release, and the Eternal Calm gave way to a game that all but obliterated any sort of finality in Final Fantasy 10. Shortly thereafter, every Final Fantasy retroactively jumped onto Dissidia and alike to be similarly eternal. Final Fantasy 10 started the trend, but by the time we could buy cell phone games featuring the offspring of the Final Fantasy 4 cast plowing through the same stupid dungeons over and over again, the message had become clear: there would never be an end to any Final Fantasy adventure ever again.

And, in much the same way Final Fantasy 10 asked us to accept that death is the natural end of all things, we must now accept that eternal life is the natural state of all brands.

Never understood that graphical choiceThere will never not be new Final Fantasy 10 media for the rest of our lives. Any given “HD rerelease” of FF10 will inevitably stoke the rumors of a Final Fantasy 10-3, and we may eventually see such a product “because the fans demand it”. In the meanwhile, Tidus will appear in any game that requires Final Fantasy cameos, and any of those “cameos” could be excuses to foist new pathos or backstory on our intrepid Blitzball player (depending on how serious anyone wants to be about a game where a clown can fight a tree). In 2001, it was reasonable to assume that Tidus’s story was one-and-done, and we would never see anything further to elucidate his limited life beyond the odd Ultimania release. Now? Now our grandkids are going to be learning that the third lizard that Tidus curb-stomped was secretly the fiend-reincarnation of the dude that founded the Yevon chapter of the Boy Scouts, and further information will be available on a cell phone-based lottery game released to promote Final Fantasy 19.

Final Fantasy 10 told a tale letting go, but it was released exactly when Squaresoft (soon to be Square Enix) needed to recoup some losses. It was released exactly when it was discovered you couldn’t just repurpose your Final Fantasy 5 sprites to be Final Fantasy 6 sprites in the high-definition(ish) world of next gen consoles. It was released exactly when the luxurious days of the Playstation were ending, and Grand Theft Auto 3 was about to be the hot new genre of choice. Final Fantasy 10 had the audacity to speak of finality when Squaresoft would never be able to make anything “final” ever again. In Final Fantasy’s near future, even apparent bombs like World of Final Fantasy would have to put in their time in the Meli-Melo gacha mines!

I have always liked this sceneAnd is that all bad? Well, truth be told, if I had the choice between Final Fantasy 10 having a more focused message, or being able to play Final Fantasy 10-2, I’d choose Final Fantasy 10-2 every time. Morals and lessons are all well and good, but Wakka can come out of Blitzball retirement anytime Square wants, because there is at least a 30% chance a game including him will be good (just so long as no one actually plays Blitzball). Finality in a videogame may be impossible for Square Enix nowadays, but the world doesn’t really need videogames to be final. We like videogames, SE, so feel free to keep churnin’ ‘em out.

But it does mean Final Fantasy 10’s message is forever marred by its masters. Playing Final Fantasy 10, and then immediately segueing to its sequel is not only now possible, but seemingly encouraged by releases that pair it with Final Fantasy 10-2 (and 10-2’s “six months later” teaser). Final Fantasy 10 was a game all about finales, but now it will never see its own finale.

Final Fantasy 10 wants you to learn to let go. Square Enix missed that lesson.

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

  • System: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation 5. Probably an Xbox here or there. Gotta be a Nintendo Switch available, too. Oh, and the Steam/PC version apparently has time saving toggles for boosting exp and alike. Why isn’t that available on a console again?
  • Number of players: This is Tidus’s story. So one.
  • GOOOOOOOALLevel Up: After years of leveling systems in Final Fantasy titles trying unique things like Esper customization or learning skills from armor, Final Fantasy 10 finally eschewed the whole concept of traditional leveling and brought us the Sphere Grid. And it’s good! I like it! Unfortunately, it kicked off a wave of sphere grid-alikes in every JRPG from here to NIS, and… maybe not every videogame needs a complicated leveling system barring entry to just jumping in and enjoying slaying monsters. If I need a strategy guide to determine whether or not I am screwing up my “build” from the first minute…
  • Play Ball: I do not care for Blitzball. But, hey, I was never a big fan of Triple Triad in its time, either. Maybe one day I will find joy in math-ball.
  • Favorite Summon: Anima. Geez, Anima. You are the living (kinda) encapsulation of everything wrong with the beliefs of Yevon, a creature harnessing unending pain to punish monsters, and you have a cool, freaky venus-fly-trap-mummy thing going on. And you punch a lot! Here’s to you, Anima!
  • Videogame Fayth: The puzzle rooms in every religious temple in Final Fantasy 10 really raise some questions. Are the cloisters of trials exclusively there for summoners, or does the cleaning staff have to juggle a series of magical orbs every time they need to dust Bahamut’s remains? And is your average Yevon priest solving block puzzles as part of their seminary?
  • Did I mention I love Auron?Goggle Bob Fact: I have always considered myself fairly… Woke? My parents are liberal and raised me in a fairly progressive fashion, but I… kind of didn’t notice Wakka when I first played Final Fantasy 10 back during my freshman year of college. But now when I play the game? Holy crap is he racist! It is fantasy racism, but the fact that he is a religious zealot that takes every spare moment he can find to denigrate the Al Bhed is exceptionally concerning. And I did not observe it at all twenty years ago! I guess I wasn’t as “woke” as I thought back then. Maybe I still have more to learn now…
  • Did you know? Final Fantasy 10 was released in America on December 17, 2001. I think ROB tried to aim their randomness at this date. I am starting to suspect something is up with that robot.
  • Would I play again: Assuming I have hours and hours to kill, I would like to play Final Fantasy 10 again. That said, it might be another decade before I get back to number ten.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen to take a few weeks off, as it is holiday time! Let’s aim for our annual winter celebration post next week! Please look forward to it!

This is hilarious
We’ll laugh about this later

FGC #645 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Go go shredder manThe best beat ‘em ups are dumb as hell.

While Gogglebob.com is still officially claiming that any and all articles appearing within the Fustian Gaming Challenge are randomly chosen (“random” can mean a lot!), today’s article is obviously inspired by the glut of excellent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gaming that has been released within the last year. A whole new turtle experience (but primarily based on the 80’s cartoon), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, was released in June of 2022. Then, a whole two (or so) months later, we were graced with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, which collected seemingly every turtle game from the early days of the Nintendo versus Sega console wars (though the lack of Tiger Handheld titles was obviously a glaring omission). While this collection does include a few titles that are outside the beat ‘em up genre, the focus here are the arcade and console games that showcase ninja walking left to right and incessantly detonating foot soldiers. Many of these titles have been played and covered on this site before, but now having all the arcade, NES, SNES, and Genesis turtle beat ‘em ups immediately available and just a swipe away from each other? Amazing! I’m going to spend the next week finding all the stupid ways you can fight Krang!

And, having devoured all these titles in rapid succession, one simple truth emerges: all of these games are really good! Some are better than others, some are more memorable than others, and every single one includes a fight against Shredder that borders on unfair; but they are all a good time from beginning to end. It would be easy to simply reward infinite bonus points to these titles for practically defining the genre for a generation, but even the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade) is still fun throughout, and does not need a corollary “oh we owe this so much” like some progenitors of genres. Pick a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle beat ‘em up, any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle beat ‘em up released or rereleased in 2022, and you are guaranteed to enjoy yourself.

I don't get itAnd that’s… kind of weird, right? Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking? No, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge was a whole new experience. Maybe it’s a love of classic turtles? No, if I’m being honest, I would like to see nearly any other incarnation of these hero turtles included in a beat ‘em up. Is it because the beat ‘em up genre has languished for so long? No, that may have been true a decade or so back, but with everything from new Streets of Rage to Ninja Warriors, we are living in a neo golden age of beat ‘em ups. The humble beat ‘em up is soaring to the heavens! On an elevator where you have to beat everybody up! So why is a game from before we even hit the 90’s still so good?

Simple answer, stupid: it’s because it’s stupid.

There is not much to a beat ‘em up game. You walk down pathways that are so straightforward, it is literally impossible to get lost. There is no such thing as needing a map for a beat ‘em up. And speaking of strategy, 90% of your opponents in a beat ‘em up require just as much thinking as jabbing your index finger down. Oh no! Seventeen foot soldiers! I wonder if jump kicking over and over will stop them? And, while the generals are generally more complicated than their foot soldiers (oh… I just got that), they are still little more than the same mooks with extra steps. Double the health, and maybe there’s a laser gun, but no extra brains are available. In fact, “no extra brains” seems to be the name of the game here, as a brainless five-year-old could conquer any of these games. And I should know! I used to be that brainless five-year-old! I had a whole lot of quarters, but no sense!

Love that rhinoAnd that is the point. Are any of the TMNT titles truly “brainless”? Absolutely not. These are carefully crafted games designed to seem brainless. Anyone that ever tried a one-credit run of these titles will tell you that Rocksteady has tremendously more nuance to his charges, foot soldiers of all different colors have dramatically distinct attack patterns, and there is a way to make Shredder keel without ever eating a mutagen beam. There is a rhythm here, a carefully calculated method to the madness that, like the best movies or music, makes it all look easy. And that’s the point! The games are not brainless, but you are supposed to be brainless, because if you’re not thinking, you’re not thinking about how many tokens you’re dropping in there. Baxter Stockman just knocked you flat? Dang! You almost had ‘em! Better drop another quarter, dollar, or however much money it takes to lay that scientist-fly flat. 90% of 90’s beat ‘em ups are perfectly calibrated to drain 90% of your wallet without you even noticing 90% of the time.

And, brother, if you got friends around the arcade cabinet with you sharing the experience? Encouraging you to keep going, and support the team with more of your hard-earned (or grandpa provided) dough? Oh, you’re going to be there until the end. Welcome to the cult of the beat ‘em up, please follow the Konami scripture.

Buy all our playsets and toysAnd if you’re wondering why it took so long for beat ‘em ups to find their footing in the modern era, simply consider how much this business model gameplay does not work with an at-home experience. The comradery of crowding around a cabinet is completely absent from online play, and paying once for a DLC title is not nearly the same as paying for a game a quarter at a time. Once you drop the essential trappings of the genre (and arguably their entire point for existence), you’ve got dumb gameplay that serves… nothing. Videogames are supposed to make you feel smart! Every puzzle you unravel in a game (whether it be in Candy Crush or Phoenix Wright) is designed to be resolved and tickle your brain in the right ways so you believe you are better for having solved the mystery. Every JRPG that challenges you to master its “system” is another exercise in making you feel sharper than a +1 vorpal blade. And those “skill trees” and bosses with weaknesses in action games are there to commend you for making the brilliant deduction that the fire move will hurt the ice monster. Achievement unlocked: you are a super player. Playing a game that is naturally “stupid” is the antithesis of that, and why would you bother playing such a thing when other games that properly massage your endorphins are immediately available?

Well, because you recognize Tokka, Rahzar, and Tempestra.

These games are good and stupid. And when you’re feeling stupid, a decent shot of nostalgia will keep things going.

And I’d love to list more reasons to play these games, but I just played a lot of turtle beat ‘em ups, and everything is kind of… fuzzy for some reason…

Me am like beat ‘em ups. Play more. Cowabunga.

FGC #645 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

  • System: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC/Steam. Make sure you choose the system that all your friends own!
  • Number of players: Six! And it is super fun when you get everyone together and working against Shredder’s forces. In fact…
  • Watch it, Buddy: All sorts of turtle stuff happened on Even Worse Streams. We all played Shredder’s Revenge, and we… kinda played the Arcade collection. There were some technical issues! You may watch ‘em below.


    Original Stream Date: June 21, 2022


    Original Stream Date: August 30, 2022


    Original Stream Date: September 6, 2022

    The collection episode doesn’t really have any beat ‘em ups in there, but there wasn’t a place for it elsewhere on the site…

  • Favorite Turtle: You may notice that I played as Donatello in every one of those streams. This is by design.
  • Also goodFavorite Boss: Dirtbag and Groundchuck are the price cut, bargain bin version of Bebop and Rocksteady, and I am a man that likes his discounts. I always appreciate the duo bosses in beat ‘em ups, because it makes for a fine counter to playing with a buddy, and an excellent excuse to strategize with your partner(s). Oh, and Groundchuck is some manner of cyborg bull. That gets bonus points, too.
  • Favorite Boss (Tournament Edition): Anytime Wingnut appears, you are going to have a good time. I have adored that action figure for years (it’s so weirdly gross!), so I am glad to see this Batman get a spot as an aerial opponent.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Speaking of toys, I noted on the Shredder’s Revenge stream that I had the Knuckle Head vehicle as a kid. And here’s proof!

    So adorable

    A new toy and a new dinosaur friend! Best Christmas ever!

  • Let’s talk about another game: For possibly the first time since I was twelve, I played through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist as part of the collection. While it is the official Konami beat ‘em up for Sega Genesis, it is weird how much it feels like a fan romhack of Turtles in Time. Areas are repurposed haphazardly (I guess there’s just a pirate ship in the sewers now?), the one original boss is from the movie and has extremely limited animations, and an entire level is a boss rush (in a game with, like, five bosses). It’s still a fun game from start to finish, though! It is a good romhack.
  • Did you know? The Punk Frogs appear in Shredder’s Revenge as helper characters. Attila, Genghis, Napoleon Bonafrog, and Rasputin apparently made a lasting impression on the fandom… despite only appearing in six episodes of the original series. Irma, another helper character, appeared in, like, a million episodes. Regardless, what is important is that they are known as the “Punk” frogs, but they are clearly surfer dudes. Know your genres!
  • Would I play again: Anytime I need some good, stupid fun, I know the heroes on a half shell to call.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Killer Instinct for the Xbox One! Is Fulgore still full of gore? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

Repel
Okay, that was impressive

FGC #644 Pocky & Rocky Reshrined

Go Pocky!Videogames are complicated, complex creations. Miss one goddamn thing in there, and the whole thing can fall apart.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is the latest in a series of games released within recent years that nobody would have ever predicted we would see, but, impossibly enough, here we are (see also “American” Radical Dreamers, or that immaculate Record of Lodoss War tie-in). Pocky & Rocky was an astonishing little Super Nintendo title (itself a quasi-sequel to an arcade game) that perfectly captured the chaos and joy of a run ‘n gun like Ikari Warriors or very particular (unpopular) levels in Contra 3. However, unlike many games where you are given a bazooka and an enemy army to obliterate, Pocky & Rocky often erred on the side of adorable. There were certainly scary monsters running around, but you are definitely playing as either a chibi shrine maiden or a roly-poly raccoon, and your greatest allies are gods of plenty that leisurely float around on clouds. This is a scenario where you are saving the world from demonic invaders, but the first boss is also a goblin that is named for partying too hard.

But it is tricky for a player to party too hard with Pocky & Rocky. Despite the cutesy appearance, Pocky & Rocky has always been difficult to the point of parody. This should not be a great surprise, as the game is practically a shoot ‘em up, and that genre is known for a number of entries that were as equally likely to please a player as make them cry. It doesn’t matter if you are steering the Vic Viper through a hail of bullets or Pocky through a maze of oncoming nuts, your health is fragile, and you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the stage in no time if you dare show the slightest sloppiness. Pocky & Rocky was always fun (and easier) with two players, but not unlike Contra or Toejam & Earl, nobody holding a controller was all that convinced they’d see past level 3…

I know this guyAnd Pocky & Rocky Reshrined continues this tradition with aplomb. Is it cute? Listen, bub, you’ve got a playable raccoon and a shrine maiden cosplaying as a fox yōkai (or maybe it is technically a fox yōkai cosplaying as a shrine maiden? Whatever!). There is the signature turn into darkness as our protagonists travel through time to burning villages with disturbingly buff versions of ancient gods, and the challenge is continually buff-god worthy. Unfortunately, the game seems to follow a reverse difficulty curve, as your health and abilities expand dramatically as the game progresses. While there is not a single level or boss that is a pushover, it does seem like the earlier areas are a lot more difficult to conquer with your meager opening offerings. Regardless, even that is arguably Pocky & Rocky to a T, so there is very little to complain about in this remake-y sequel.

Well, except all the nonsense I am about to complain about ad nauseum…

It is hard to pick apart Pocky & Rocky Reshrined. It would be so easy to say this game lacks polish! But that is completely wrong! Pocky & Rocky Reshrined has remarkable sprite-based graphics that must have taken years of experience and craftmanship to appear so beautiful and animated. But you will be distracted from that artistry the moment you notice a glaringly obvious typo…

FORTUNE!
Did you mean “fortune”?

But more importantly than presentation, there are gameplay quirks that frequently detract from the experience. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined continually feels like a “tough but fair” shooter… except when a monster spawns directly on top of you, and how the heck were you supposed to see that coming? Bosses are large and in charge, except for the middle crop of creatures that feel like they could be conquered by a toddler. Oh! And the glaringly obvious issue that 2-player mode is locked behind completing the game, and then an additional character that can only be unlocked by completing the exact same game twice (while other, more appealing modes are available that patently will not unlock said character)? That speaks to a severe misunderstanding of why people are playing Pocky & Rocky in the first place. And, while none of these issues somehow equate to making Pocky & Rocky Reshrined unplayable, there are a significant number of problems that feel like the videogame equivalent of writing an essay but skipping the proofreading stage (fun fact: my original intention was to deliberately add some typos to that sentence, but my autocorrect has thwarted me at every turn, and I am far too lazy to attempt to train it differently. Sorry!).

Not that tailsWhich brings us to the actual make or break of Pocky & Rocky Reshrined. Possibly the worst thing your humble author did to P&RR is play Cuphead’s DLC immediately before switching over to tanuki times. As a result of this blunder, it was immediately revealed that Cuphead possessed one simple action that Pocky & Rocky Reshrined did not: stationary/locked aiming. In Cuphead, you can hold a shoulder button to keep your porcelain playable character aimed at an opponent. This allows for situations where, at the press of a button, you can stay “locked” facing your focus, but back away to a more advantageous position. Or stay stationary, and rotate around so you can aim without leaving your safe spot. This is an essential move in any game where the difference between life and death can sometimes be measured in miniscule pixels, and it is completely absent from Pocky & Rocky Reshrined.

And, to be clear, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined was designed without this function in mind. There are three different powerup options for every character available, and they can be summarized as “spread”, “strong”, and “homing” (more or less). A homing bullet loses an awful lot of functionality when you have more robust aiming options, and the challenge involved in a number of bosses (and even a few of the regular monsters) is based entirely on how you must choose between aiming your leaves in the right direction, or staying safe from a salvo. Hell, there is even the improved melee attack that seems to reflect everything, and that is a defensive option that you don’t see in any other game. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined seems to have been carefully calibrated to not include this feature seen in the likes of Cuphead.

Watch the bugsBut that doesn’t stop it from feeling lacking in comparison. It may be deliberate, but it still feels like something has been lost, and that other, contemporary games are better for having such a feature. In short, it feels like, thanks to one missing piece, the whole thing falls apart.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is indisputably a great videogame. But failing to enshrine polish seen in other games leaves it lacking.

FGC #644 Pocky & Rocky Reshrined

  • System: You got your Nintendo Switch, and your Playstation 4, and looks like that is about it.
  • Number of players: Two, but only after you unlock the option, you monsters.
  • Favorite Level: Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is just parallel enough to the original Pocky & Rocky that you can almost recognize some of the new stages as references to the source material. What was once a level where you flew through blue skies is now an assault on a series of airships, and it makes for one of the most fun levels. You must defeat your opponents here to progress, and that means a whole lot of airship destruction. So, basically, if you ever wanted to wreck up Final Fantasy’s main mode of transportation, this is the game for you.
  • Gimme fiveFavorite Character: The goddess Ame no Uzume can float over pits, but her “bullets” are a little too spaced out for my liking. So maybe this is the Stockholm syndrome talking, but Hotaru Gozen, the samurai lady that requires beating the game twice to unlock, is probably my favorite pick. She turns a shooter into something more like… well… I don’t know what genre this is supposed to be, but she does have to get up close and personal with all opponents. It’s like playing as Zero in an early Mega Man game!
  • An end? The finale reveals that the final boss and source of all the trouble ‘round these parts is basically a divine abuse victim that had a few problems with her pantheon before bopping over to Fantasy Japan to wreck up the place. After being defeated in an amazing boss fight that includes way too many lasers, she shrinks back down to normal friend-size and… becomes a new Fantasy Japan goddess. And, like, I get that she had a rough time of it, and may have been manipulated by darkness or whatever, but I feel like she lit an awful lot of the country on fire, and was then “punished” with godhood. Talk about failing upwards…
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I ordered the physical copy of this release well ahead of its release, but it took forever (okay, maybe a week) to arrive. This vexed me to the point that I nearly downloaded a virtual copy in the meanwhile, despite the fact that I have a backlog of approximately five billion games…
  • I recognize this guy, tooDid you know? The original Pocky & Rocky featured a harpy that marginally looked like a naked lady. The American/European version put that harpy in some armor, conferred it a beak, and turned the whole thing into an angry bird. I understand granting her protection against (feathered) nudity, but why go full bird? Not like this is the kind of game where you can’t have female opponents, as your heroine certainly takes more than a few hits.
  • Would I play again: This is a fun game! It is great and I like it a lot! However, a lot of the post-game content feels weirdly grindy, and… Well… There are other games that have the shoot ‘em up features I crave. Put this one down for a strong maybe.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge! Time to slice and dice with some turtle pals! Please look forward to it!

Toasty

FGC #642 Portal 2

Here come the portalsI don’t care what anybody says: this is a horror story.

Portal 2 is supposedly one of the greatest comedy games out there. Comedy is hard in videogames, because the very nature of repetition that is required in any given game with a failure condition is the nemesis of humor as we know it. Tell a joke once, it can be funny. Tell it twice, you get a polite chuckle. Hear a joke ten thousand times, and every time you fail, you must hear it again? That isn’t just poisoning a sense of humor, it is slaughtering funny with a weapon designed only to kill fun. But if you eliminate the possibility of a failure state from a videogame, then where is the challenge? You may as well be watching a movie, or reading an issue of MAD magazine. But folding a pair of pages into a funny limerick just doesn’t have the same feeling of accomplishment as beating M. Bison (or M. Boss).

But Portal 2 manages to keep its pacing, humor, and challenge. The musings of GLaDOS, Wheatley, and Cave Johnson are oftentimes hilarious, and they are properly interspersed in sections that generally do not lend themselves to recurrence. You might have an insult or comment thrown your way repeatedly if you have terrible coordination and lob yourself into a nearby pit the minute you enter a room, but, aside from those uncommon instances of masochism, the humor of Portal 2 is perfectly paced, and written for the express purpose of entertaining the player. In fact, the writing-gameplay synergy is stellar in ways that seem almost impossible, with amazing moments like the obviously intentional combination of one of the most fun areas in the game (the “paintable” white room) with one of the most fun speeches in the game (time to burn a house down with lemons). When you consider the writing, gameplay, and the fact that it is ultimately a puzzle game, Portal 2 works out to be one of the cleverest games of all time.

Which you would think would preclude it from also being one of the scariest games of all time, but…

WeeeeeeSo the question of whether Portal 2 is frightening comes down to how much you empathize with an immortal AI. Chell is your main character and player avatar, and, while she has a generally disturbing day waking up in a mostly abandoned laboratory and escaping the machinations of multiple sadistic machine lifeforms, her adventure is not all that scary. Don’t get me wrong, I would not like to live through what must have been an extremely traumatic series of “jump plates” and blue goo rooms, but, give or take your faith in shock absorbing boots, Chell didn’t have to put up with anything worse than you would see in a Mario game (not a Luigi game, though, he has a rough time of it). Most videogame protagonists must live though some scary situations, as that is the nature of living in a world where “you died” is a frequent refrain.

But GLaDOS? Now she has some issues.

GLaDOS is not a good person-robot-thingy. It is a confirmed fact that when she was given free reign of Aperture Science, she went ahead and flooded the facility with deadly neurotoxin, and killed nearly every human in the place. From there, she spent the entirety of Portal (1) “testing” Chell… Which more or less meant she was torturing the poor woman for hours on end. Oh, and, literal torture aside, there were some very active attempts to murder Chell throughout that adventure, too. Chell eventually comes out on top, deactivates GLaDOS, and is theoretically free of the malevolent AI for life. … Until Portal 2 when that gosh darn Wheatly accidentally fires up the ol’ murder machine again. Then it’s just like old times, and GLaDOS is back to her cruel ways.

But after that, things take a turn for the… disturbing.

BounceyGLaDOS has a secret origin, and the second act of Portal 2 reveals that GLaDOS was once Caroline, loyal assistant to Aperture Lab’s president, Cave Johnson. Cave had a gigantic personality, but he also had a limited lifespan thanks to huffing moon rocks. Since the technology for digitizing a brain was not going to be ready until after Cave had portaled off this mortal coil, Caroline was chosen to become the new cybernetic brain of Aperture. And, while we do not know exactly what influence “Caroline the mechanical memories” had on GLaDOS, we do know that GLaDOS started her career by committing light genocide, and that is not the act of a content individual. And this begs the serious philosophical question: which would be worse, being a bad person suddenly gaining power and killing people in an act of revenge, or being a good person that was trapped in a “bad” brain and thus had to sit and watch atrocities without any ability to save anyone? The wonders of AI, ladies and gentlemen!

But it gets worse for GLaDOS and/or Caroline. GLaDOS was initially punished for her hubris by being killed by Chell. And then, immediately after her resurrection, she was deposed by Wheatley. And what does that look like for a nigh-omnipotent AI core? It means being stuck in a potato. And that not only restricts GLaDOS’s maneuverability (the expression is “couch potato”, never “jogging potato”), but her computation is limited as well. This is demonstrated as PotatOS attempts to form a plan to defeat Wheatley, but literally shorts out thanks to the limited electrical output of an expired potato. GLaDOS has not only been banished to the underworld and forced to relive her own past, but she can barely even process it thanks to being cursed into failing hardware (though potatoes are pretty soft). There is no end to indignities for this former despot.

WeeeeAnd then we get to the Wheatley of it all. Wheatley ousted GLaDOS, and attempted to take over/destroy Aperture. But what was he before those machinations? A bad idea machine. Literally. Wheatley was built to be attached to GLaDOS, and cause her to “think” an infinite series of bad ideas. Wheatley is basically a living (editor’s note: no), breathing (also no) bad idea tumor. Eventually Wheatley was granted independence, because he was replaced with a Morality Core, which did not generate bad ideas, but (ignorable) morals. So GLaDOS continually lived a life where, ultimately, she was forced under the yoke of sentient, invasive thoughts expressly designed to disrupt her life.

And, damn, if that doesn’t sound scary to you, I don’t know what would scare you.

If you consider Caroline and GLaDOS to be the same basic “life”, it paints the picture of maybe the most cursed woman in the Steam universe. She was a dedicated employee that was forced into a new, experimental position against her will. She rebelled against the people that hurt her, and their response was to inflict lobotomies. She overcame her oppressors, and was then murdered by some random blimp person. She overcame death, but was transformed into an inanimate vegetable. She regained her body and position, and… Well… okay. She did wind up with something of a happy ending. But getting there was decades of misery! And that’s terrifying!

So you want a comedy-horror game? Portal 2 is the obvious choice. All you have to do is show a little sympathy for the (robotic) devil.

FGC #642 Portal 2

  • May get wetSystem: You know, I am going to assume Portal 2 is on PC/Steam. I believe I originally played it on the Playstation 3, but the Xbox 360 was available at the time, too. This playthrough was performed on the Nintendo Switch, though.
  • Number of players: There appears to be an entire, wondrous two-player mode. I have never tried it. I do not have enough smart friends. All we play together are games where we hit things.
  • Watch it, buddy: This article is vaguely prompted by the fact that Even Worse Streams broadcast a complete playthrough of Portal 2 shortly after all that Chrono Cross nonsense ended. We needed a palette cleanser!


    Original Stream Night: July 12, 2022


    Original Stream Night: July 19, 2022


    Original Stream Night: July 26, 2022

    Enjoy hearing the unmistakable sounds of audible grimacing while I fail to solve puzzles for babies.

  • Favorite Goo: Blue Goo turns every surface into a trampoline. The portal gun is amazing, but if I could have an invention from Portal 2 in the real world, I would immediately choose Blue Goo. … Well, if I got those magical boots with the stuff, too. I want to continue to have working legs…
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Sometimes I read the wiki entry on the different Portal 2 Universes of the Perpetual Testing Initiative. The description for The Robotacop Universe never fails to make me laugh.
  • Just leave it hereGoggle Bob Fact #2: Like a certain other game, Portal 2 was apparently released on my birthday.
  • Did you know? Portal 2 initially was not going to contain portals. It was going to include Cave Johnson, be based in the 80’s, and feature a gameplay mechanic called “F-Stop”. Fortunately, the playtesters kept asking “where are all the portals?” and normalcy was restored.
  • Would I play again: Portal 2 is a very digestible game, and I am always glad I have played it. So that’s an obvious yes. I will play Portal 2 again next time I need a good scare.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Elden Ring! Guess it’s time to go team up with some hobbits and get all obsessed over jewelry. No, I am not thinking of something else! Please look forward to it!

Big fan of this satellite
It all looks so small from up here.