Tag Archives: nintendo

FGC #626 Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Good day and welcomeAll I want is a hungry lil’ dude.

Noted friend of Gogglebob.com and professional Digimon enthusiast Abby Denton recently posed a simple question: “So pitch Kirby to me. What’s that guy’s deal?” And, while my response was pretty straightforward (see the opening sentence up there), the question itself did cause some inner turmoil. What is Kirby’s deal? A Kirby game is unmistakably a Kirby game, but what makes it unique from everything else out there? Mario runs and jumps over unique environments. Link explores a world while stabbing at skeletons. Sonic must move at a speed of significant intensity. Kirby? Is his source of individuality his copy ability? No, Mega Man has been doing that since before Kirby ever squeaked a squad. Beyond that, Kirby’s identifying distinction is…. What? That he can fly at will? An unmistakable love of food? His ability to “right back ‘atcha” any and all opponents? Wait. Does that last one mean he is responsible for “counter based” gameplay? Is Kirby the Dark Souls of Nintendo characters?

Today’s game is the Dark Souls of the Kirby franchise Kirby’s official foray into the world of 3-D. Or maybe that already happened? No… any recollections of multiple dimensions of Kirby racing around on stars is clearly a false memory. This is the first time Kirby has explored huge, open environments in a 3-D space. This ain’t Kirby: Breath of the Wild, but it is an excellent opportunity for Kirby to exist on a planet that allows for our favorite puffball to truly experience the life of a sphere. Little dude has to run, jump, and suck through a series of 3-D “challenge levels” that may also contain secret collectibles, hidden paths, and a whole host of rivals. All your old friends (like the petulant penguin and the crying tree) are here in this world, and Kirby even has a few new copy abilities to exploit in this brand-new world. And mouthful mode! Kirby has wanted to be a car ever since he swallowed a tire so long ago, and now there is a legitimate reason to race a bomb block to the nearest prize! Technology finally caught up to Kirb!

It's dark hereAnd, in a lot of ways, that is the crux of Kirby and the Forgotten Land: technology can finally support a 3-D Kirby adventure. This is not the same “3-D Kirby Experience” that would have been Kirby’s jump to the third dimension 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. This is not the Mario 64 of Kirby games, this is a game that looked to the likes of Super Mario 3D Land after Mario himself spent 15 years working out the kinks of what does and does not work in a 3-D space. This is a game that very deliberately pioneered “well that counts” style gameplay where if it looks like Kirby should have made that jump or hit that enemy, well, that counts. In short, Kirby and The Land After Time is a good game not just because it successfully ported the puff into a new environment, but also because it is the end result of two decades’ worth of designers learning from the games that came before. Kirby is exploring the far-future of a human-dominated world through the immediate future of game development!

But that brings us back to the central point: Kirby and the Forgotten is not simply a good videogame, it is a good Kirby game. And why does this never-to-be forgotten land nail Kirby so perfectly despite shedding his native dimension?

This looks painfulKirby has obviously been nerfed for this adventure. His floaty jump no longer allows completely unfettered altitude accumulation, and all that flapping around seems to tire Kirby out a lot faster than in any previous title. Additionally, while Kirby’s signature spit is as powerful as ever (and seems like the obvious win button for the first time since Plasma made the scene), his various copy skills all feel like shells of their former selves. Where Kirby Super Star would offer as many options as there are directional buttons back in 1996, 2022 offers a “fire attack” that barely includes the fireball dash. The upgraded abilities are a neat bit of potential permanency in a franchise that rarely sees the need to “level up” as Kirby progresses, but, let’s be real here: about half of these upgrades are “exactly the same thing, but now a tiny projectile pops off”. And while we’re on the subject of “exactly the same thing”, barely enough sub bosses to fill out a string quartet made the jump to this dimension, and the big bosses are more plentiful, but extremely similar. The same franchise that initially gave us a battle against a tree, Lolo, a shoot ‘em up blimp, and an extremely pissed cloud is now offering a big animal person with strong attacks, a big animal person with fast attacks, a big animal person with weird attacks, and, finally, a big animal person with big, fast, and weird attacks. And that tree from the first game is back, because I guess thematic consistency is nothing before tradition. In short (ha!), even when Kirby and the Overlooked Earth is following Kirby tradition, you can see where it falls short.

What was the point?But even if you slice a few choice cuts off a steak, you still have a steak (and one would have to assume Kirby enjoys steak as much as tomatoes). The basic gameplay of Kirby is still untouched here, and it sure seems like that is how you define a “true” Kirby game. Yes, other videogame stars run, jump, and/or copy abilities. But Kirby? That little dude has a weight about him that has been consistent for decades. He has a health meter that (give or take nightmare mode) means you can survive if you decide your strategy is going to be “stand there like an idiot and keep slashing”. He might not always have “jet” or “ghost”, but “ice” and “hammer” are pretty reliable. And, right from the first time Kirby bit down on an invincible lollipop, every Kirby game even seems to include a new and exciting way to completely wreck the place… even if that means you have to become a vending machine.

So you want to know the pitch for Kirby? Here it is: it feels good to be Kirby. No matter where he goes or who he has to fight, Kirby is Kirby, and it is a blast to explore a world with the pink guy. You can run, jump, attack like the other guys, but Kirby always does it like Kirby, and he does it well.

Kirby is just a hungry lil’ dude. And it’s good to be a hungry lil’ dude.

FGC #626 Kirby and the Forgotten Land

  • System: Nintendo Switch exclusive. The Playstation 5 just can’t handle this much sucking.
  • Number of players: Two player cooperative! I asked my wife to play, but she was afraid it would lead to a fight when I just ran off and she was left behind to fester. She was probably right.
  • Favorite Copy Ability: Hammer, but specifically with the Bonkers upgrade. I like ‘em slow and strong.
  • WeeeeeeeStory Time: So I was expecting there to be an explanation for what happened to this now-ruined “Earthy” culture. I, however, was not expecting a possible canon explanation for a super boss that previously only appeared as a random “color swap” in a previous Kirby game’s optional boss rush. There is now no doubt in my mind that there’s someone on the Kirby staff obsessed with justifying all the wannabe Kirby conquerors throughout the franchise.
  • Boss Rush: Speaking of bosses, I generally enjoy a good boss rush. However, KatFL finds a number of reasons to include a boss gauntlet through the final levels, and then revisits all the bosses in super forms for the nightmare mode. This makes the traditional “Kirby Arena” seem entirely perfunctory, as there are already reasons to beat down that gorilla repeatedly well before there is a timer available for your troubles.
  • Platinum Trophies: I enjoy the “waddle dee achievement” system in the main levels. I distinctly appreciate “dumb” achievements in videogames, and have vaguely been begging for “I stood on that thing” or “I found that secret passage” recognition from the game itself since I was a kid. It feels like a weird kind of acknowledgement from the developer, and I feel a deeper connection to games that recognize… that I have OCD. And half the fun of those things is that you are not given a checklist, you just find something, and then you see that there is recognition for it. Half of these Kirby “achievements” could just be another waddle dee cage in the secret cave listed in the achievement, or a cage that disappears when you fall in lava and “miss” the challenge of not doing so… but I’m fine with it just being a message and +1 on the stage score card. And I also appreciate that, if you clear a stage without accomplishing “the cool thing”, you will receive a hint to what you are supposed to do. I remember Kirby’s Dream Land 3. I remember looking at a FAQ over and over again with the question of “what the hell was I supposed to do to make this flower happy?” I appreciate the hint, even if it does come off as a checklist for revisiting a stage, as it saves me having to be completely stuck and consulting an outside source. In the end, I’m as happy with this system as a waddle dee being freed from their cage.
  • Watch it, Buddy: We played Kirby and the Forgotten Land as part of a stream, because absolutely everything else on my Nintendo Switch is garbage.

    I apologize for the frame rate. It was a rough night for OBS.

  • Did you know? Absolutely everything about Kirby “mouthful mode”ing a car, and then successfully driving said car, raises more questions than can ever be answered.
  • Would I play again: I really like this game/world, but it does feel a bit short. It needs a little more… even if “a little more” is just “an alternative to seeing Mr. Frosty again”. I am hoping for DLC. If we never see such, I am hoping a future Kirby game builds off this very sturdy foundation. So, yeah, I’ll probably play it again, but I am more hoping for Kirby and the Forgotten Land 1.5 than anything.

What’s next? Random ROB is taking some time off as we transition over to the Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play. I only have so much time to do videogame stuff! And Let’s Plays are complicated! I do plan on randomly posting FGC articles as the mood strikes me during this time, but the usual “Monday update” will be Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play chapters. At least that is the plan! We’ll see what happens! So please look forward to it!

Big ol' tree

FGC #621 Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Here comes those 'mon2001 saw the release of Shallow Hal, a generally unpleasant movie that took one fat joke and ballooned it to two solid hours. For anyone that never had the experience of watching the film (or missed the trailer, which is really all you need for this premise), the titular Shallow Hal is granted the hypnosis-induced ability to see people as physical representations of their personalities. So mean girls appear chubby and acne-ridden, while the overweigh-but-exceedingly nice Rosemary looks like Gwyneth Paltrow (because she’s Gwyneth Paltrow). This is, of course, an enormously problematic concept for a comedy, as everyone and their mother has already noted that there is no universe where such “unattractive” signifiers actually make anyone, ya know, unattractive. Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit is still Gwyneth Paltrow, dammit! Regardless, despite being mostly forgotten by the population at large, there is one bit in Shallow Hal that has always stuck in my mind. As part of the inevitable third act swerve, Shallow Hal is “cured” of his magical powers, and now sees Rosemary as the (supposedly) unattractive woman she has always been. The spell is broken in more ways than one, and now Shallow Hal laments the fact that he can no longer see his mate as the bombshell he always imagined her to be. Hal is forced to cope with how the woman he loves is no longer than woman he thought she was, even though she technically has not changed at all.

And that is a concept that has terrified me for a long time.

Get that bird!I am a weirdo. I like weird things. There is this one microwavable rice and chicken meal that was available in the frozen section around 2006 and I am convinced I was the only person that ever bought that (until they discontinued it for some odd reason). I have always had unusual tastes, and, while it is not impossible for me to like something popular, I seem to cherish the “weird stuff” a lot more than anything traditional. I am absolutely the person that would choose South of the Border over Disney World, and I am less interested in the Super Bowl than Netflix repurposing 1988 manga Bastard!! (of course I know it is going to be bad. It’s Bastard!!). And, to be perfectly clear, I am not noting all of this to paint myself as some cultural hipster that only likes the most esoteric of the eclectic; no, I am stating this simple fact to further reinforce that I do not know why I am weird. Where did this all come from? Why am I like this? No idea! And that means that whatever switch in my head that is labeled “likes weird stuff” could be clicked off at some point, right? I could wake up tomorrow, and realize I do not need a “Transformers collection” or “more comic books than could ever be read”. I could find myself in a situation wherein hobbies to which I have dedicated a lifetime no longer interest me. I could become someone who doesn’t like playing Pokémon games!

And, on a related note, after Pokémon Legends: Arceus, I never want to play a “normal” Pokémon game again.

I have always liked traditional Pokémon games. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Pokémon Ranger? Get that out of my face. But the good stuff? The games that started with the janky-ass Pokémon Red/Blue/Green, and, over decades, evolved into the Sword and Shield we know today? Perfection. Pokémon itself started when the Dragon Quest formula had been developed over multiple iterations, and now we had a perfect jumping off point for monster hunting. Eternally choosing between four moves! Evolution after certain conditions, but usually level ups! Trainers and pokémon alike itching for those turn based battles! And let’s not claim nothing has changed over the years. The types, breeding, and even simple battles have received multiple quality of life and speed improvements over the years, so it no longer takes hours to raise enough scratch to purchase better EVs. Pokémon, as a franchise, has always been “old school”, but it is the kind of old school that can be appreciated to this very day.

… Except when you play something that reinforces how “regular Pokémon” is a granny puttering along with Erdrick’s walker from 1984.

Too many 'monsRight from its announcement, everyone wanted to peg Pokémon Legends: Arceus as Pokémon: Breath of the Wild. And, let’s not kid ourselves, there is a lot of “open world” design involved in this Pokémon title. But you know what also heavily contributed to the latest way to catch a bidoof? Pokémon Snap. Pokémon Let’s Go. Games outside the catching genre, like Metal Gear Solid. There even seems to be a not insignificant amount of Xenoblade Chronicles in the mix. The mainline Pokémon series always felt like it was produced by people that had exclusively played the previous mainline Pokémon series, but now we have a Pokémon game that was designed by people that took a break from Blissey breeding. As a result, so much of what is Pokémon has been streamlined to a previously unheard-of degree. There’s an outbreak of gible? Once that meant challenging every last lil’ gator-dragon, reducing it to as little HP as possible, and then chucking balls and hoping for the best. Now you can catch fifteen of the suckers inside of three minutes, and all it takes is some bait and a good hiding place. Sure, you can still fight them, but why would you? Why would you ever bother with that again?

And, while the Breath of Wild comparison now comes to the forefront, the unprecedented level of physical motion allowed in this Pokémon title is… unprecedented. Like when you attempt to make a dramatic point but hit the wall of a limited vocabulary, previous Pokémon titles were infamous for how limited every region would become during actual play. Pokémon could be hiding around every corner was always the promise, but the reality was continually that chimecho was limited to a 4×7 block of grass outside one specific cave, pichu was only ever going to appear as the result of pikachu getting their volt tackle on, and you could always tell when you were inside a cave, because you spent the entire time tripping over low flying zubats. In short, from Pokémon Red to Pokémon Sword, you always knew you were on the prescribed path, and documenting Pokémon for a Pokédex that somehow already knew exactly where in the world to send you to find a kricketot. In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, though? Once you get some of the more mobile mounts, the idea of actually exploring for Pokémon opens up like a writer finally buying a thesaurus so they can use words like “unparalleled”. You can climb over rocks, sail across rivers, and even fly over a vast world where your literal bird’s eye view may also reveal a munchlax bathing in a nearby spring Taking flight(you pervert). You might still be bound by invisible borders and “limited” regions, but within those limits, it genuinely feels like you can go anywhere. And that is more important than anything in a franchise that has always vowed to make you, gentle trainer, the number one scientific authority on teddiursa habitats. For the first time ever, it feels like filling in that Pokédex is the result of studying a recently discovered spheal habitat, and not just that you tossed a pokéball after hypnosis finally cleared its accuracy bar.

And speaking of filling that Pokédex, holy croagunk on a cracker did they find new and interesting ways to simultaneously add new features to the universe and satisfy a player’s insatiable need for numbers to go up. Completing every Pokédex entry involves poké-specific challenges that seem appropriate for their various evolutionary stages. A baby ‘mon needs to be fed to gain points, while a fully evolved rock wrecker must be witnessed using strong moves to super effectively slay opponents. And, while we’re on the subject of slaying, “hit it until it faints” is not the answer to properly logging so many different pocket monsters. This is amazing in a franchise that has always claimed Pokémon can be our friends… and then proceeded to present a universe where you had to obliterate enough geodudes to build your own Stonehenge. It feels good to feed a piplup cake by the ocean, have a challenging fight against its alpha dad, and then see little check marks appear when you visit your local Pokémon professor. It is the same game it has always been, but now taken to a new level that simultaneously feels completely modern and honors what has come before.

And I don’t want to ever go back.

WeeeeeePokémon Violet & Scarlet was (were?) announced this past weekend. The next Pokémon generation is coming, and, for the first time in the franchise’s history, I am not excited about this new development. I am frightened. Do I think we will see another game in the style of Pokémon Legends: Arceus again? Absolutely, as today’s featured game has sold too well and been too critically praised to be a Pokémon Pinball-esque evolutionary dead end (RIP). But is Violet/Scarlet going to learn the lessons of Arceus by this Fall? Likely not, as the production time involved here seems to imply parallel teams, or at least a development department that would hesitate to throw the highly successful franchise into something that was already distinctly labeled as a spin-off (after all, this whole Legends game initially seemed to be marketed as a supplement to the more traditional Pokémon Brilliant/Shining Diamond/Pearl, a title(s) now resigned to the dustbin of history). In short, the gameplay of Pokémon Legends: Arceus seems unlikely to be repeated in a “main” game due to be released in a few months. And I’m not certain I can do without. I can’t go back to the old ways! Reducing a legendary to low HP and chucking Pokéballs like you’re desperately buying scratch off tickets is the worst part of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it’s the only way to catch in the mainline games! I have seen a better way! Sprigatito deserves better!

So Pokémon Legends: Arceus broke the spell. I used to be happy with the Pokémon franchise, and now I cannot even be arsed to look forward to its next main entry. The zen of catching pocket monsters has evaporated, and now I am left with an experience that previously entertained me for hours being little more than meh. Am I going to catch ‘em all again? Signs generally point to yes, but now I am going to know it can and has been improved elsewhere. What I thought was my dream is actually Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit, and now I’m going to have to live through an unparalleled enervation of my own making.

Thanks, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. You are a videogame so good, you ruined my life.

FGC #621 Pokémon Legends: Arceus

  • This guy is hereSystem: Nintendo Switch. I would like to make the statement that this feels like the first Pokémon game ever that demanded a “console”… but I still played it in portable mode more often than not. Pokémon works really well while watching TV!
  • Number of players: Hey, I completed the Pokédex without once having to deal with another human being. That is an extremely welcome first for the franchise, and a reason that obtaining Magmortar is viable again. There is definitely multiplayer involved here, but this is an intended-as-one-player game.
  • Favorite Hisuian Pokémon: Oddly enough, I got a lot of mileage out of “snail” Goodra. I never liked ol’ goopy before, but her new typing and backpack really changes the game. Conversely, I’m going to call out Ursaluna and Sneasler, as they add absolutely nothing to their original designs. “What if Sneasel was taller and sad” is not a question that needed an answer.
  • So, Pearl or Diamond? The Pearl Clan has a cute leader with adorable “overheating” animations, another time traveler from Pokémon Black/White, a dog breeder who wears goggles for absolutely no reason, and some shirtless dude who climbs glaciers for fun. The Diamond Clan has that one jerk with the blue hair who obsesses over a damn skunk. Team Pearl for the win, and it isn’t even a contest.
  • Goggle Bob Headcanon: Those weird bracelet thingies are keeping Irida so warm all the time. This is my belief. At least for now.
  • Look at that big lugAction Hero: There is a lot to like in PL:A. However, the control scheme is bonkers, and I cannot fathom why things like “switch mounts” are on the horizontal cross pad, but then “activate mount” is a lettered button (while the vertical crosspad buttons trigger a game-freezing menu). This usually is merely more confusing than anything, but some of the more complicated bits of the game become incredibly frustrating with this setup. Catching the genie quartet springs immediately to mind, as hopping on an elk, jumping and dodging tornados, immediately dismounting the elk, auto targeting, and then tossing a Pokéball should not be as complicated as it feels.
  • Picture it: Porygon’s existence is a mystery. If it appeared in Ancient Hisui due to time warps, was documented in that epoch, and then was the first artificially created Pokémon in modern times. So which came first? Did Porygon inspire its own creation? Or was it invented independent of reports from previous generations, and no one knows they were exactly the same? No matter! What’s important is that Professor Laventon’s entries in the ‘dex reveal his exasperation at the creature…

    He has issues

    Which inspired some art to be commissioned from Gogglebob.com contributor Poochtastic1

    Click for larger

    What is going on with this thing!?

  • Did you catch ‘em all? Yes, with Spiritomb and his blasted 107 component fetch quest being the denouement. I wonder how many people “naturally” found all those baubles, and had a completed normal ‘dex before the legendaries emerge. I may be surprised by the answer, but my personal belief is that Spiritomb and finding a wisp off in the corner of some poison swamp is the finale for a lot of players (if they even bother).
  • Did you know? The entire plot of this game is an excuse to create a painting that closes a stable time loop to inspire the bad guys of Diamond/Pearl. This is my kind of convoluted to a T.
  • I don't want to learnWould I play again: I still have to feed a few more cranidos to really complete my ‘dex, so I’m not putting it down quite yet. And after that? Well, if we don’t see another “Legends” game, I can certainly see returning. If this is somehow even further improved with later iterations though… wow, just thinking about it…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Infernax! Oh, that sounds nice and toasty for this time of year. Please look forward to it!

FGC #618 Body Harvest

SPACE STATION BODY HARVESTHelp me out here. I am trying to determine whether Body Harvest, a Nintendo 64 game released in 1998, absolutely needs a modern remake, or if it is a game that could only ever be a product of its unique time.

Body Harvest deserves the 21st Century!

Superficially, Body Harvest has a traditional videogame premise that could slot into any gaming epoch. Giant, vaguely mechanical bugs have attacked Earth, and it is your job to repel the invasion. Hell, that’s just Space Invaders! But the twist here is that you have the ability to 4-D travel along the timeline of their invasion, and you can battle bugs back in the far-off past of World War I or the far-flung future of six years ago (hey, 2016 seemed pretty advanced in 1998). And it isn’t just about slightly changing the background to match a setting, either, each of the four time periods featured in Body Harvest dramatically differ in the firepower, vehicles, or just plain people you encounter.

And that is the first check in our “please remake” column: this was Grand Theft Auto before there was a GTA(3), but with even more variety. Technically, this should not be a surprise, as Body Harvest was designed by DMA Design, which went on to become Rockstar, which was directly responsible for Grand Theft Auto 3 a scant three years later. You can see the exact gameplay with your little orange warrior skipping from car to tank that would be recycled for Claude hopping from… well… He got a tank, too, didn’t he? But, as much as Grand Theft Auto 3 and its descendants tried to mix things up with fun or interesting new vehicles, they still have nothing on rolling around in a Japanese Zero plane while splatting insects. The different time periods naturally lend themselves to a variety of vehicles, and Body Harvest deserves to have Adam grabbing a veritable Gran Turismo of automobiles during his 1966 trip to America.

Stay dampBut this also leads to a significant sign of Body Harvest’s times. There are multiple vehicles in every epoch… but they are all pretty much the same. A plane is a plane, a tank is a tank, and nobody ever likes to be railroaded into a boat. A modern remake of Body Harvest could actually make these vehicles feel distinct, as you better believe it would feel different to drive a Grecian jeep in 1916 versus an American luxury car in 1966. And the weapons? There is a mythical “sun shield” in early 20th Century Greece that functions exactly like a laser from decades later. Does that make a bit of sense? Nope. A game that was designed nowadays could truly make the gulf of a century of technology felt during gameplay.

And speaking of modern changes, you have likely heard that every franchise wants to be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild nowadays. Well, here is a game that was Breath of the Wild long before Link ever considered his first sheikah slate. The worlds of Body Harvest are huge, and they even follow a familiar pattern of “fog” obscuring the world map until you find and defeat a proper giant bug. Unlike a similar DMA Design game of the era, Space Station Silicon Valley, Body Harvest revels in its open world gameplay, and rewards the player with massive playgrounds when they unlock the epoch’s plane equivalent (usually a plane). Yes, the regions of these worlds work like “levels” with bite sized challenges, but the future tech justified “fast travel” between different areas reinforces how Body Harvest was definitely a game before its time.

What in blazes is thatAnd, yes, that means these “huge” worlds are 100% “huge” with the caveat that they are areas in a N64 game. Just like how the giant bugs scale with your lil’ space marine, so they do seem to be gargantuan, formidable opponents… that can barely move. In the same way that exploring a giant world needs a little more horsepower to craft a truly giant world, the enormous bug monsters would be a whole lot scarier if they were not hampered by a system that allowed them to move about as fast as a sloth contemplating the benefits of a reverse mortgage. The whole concept here is that bugs the sizes of buildings are wiping out humanity, so it is super important that these creatures are immediately perceptible as maddeningly enormous. Unfortunately, that makes everything but the basic drones effectively immobile, so a little more RAM under the hood could really add to the threatening bug realism here.

In short, everything that Body Harvest tries to do could be made better by modern technology. You can almost feel the game that Body Harvest could be if it were released in 2022.

But would it still be the same game if it were released today? Because…

Body Harvest is a relic of the 20th Century!

Want to know the number one thing that surprised this 21st Century Boy when playing this pre-2000 videogame? Adam the Orange Warrior can enter houses. In fact, you have to enter a house as part of the opening of the game, and making progress through the various areas all but requires stopping into people’s homes. And they are not just dialogue boxes hiding in houses: these are actual “maps” that include hidden items, health refills, and even the occasional puzzle. Some of the “ancient Greek” dungeons could be mistaken for Zelda areas, and some of the future “sewers” could be entire (terrible) games on their own. And they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore! You know that if Body Harvest were made a few years later, “somebody put the bridge up” would simply be a communications dialogue box, and not a house including a person. The “dungeon puzzles” would somehow be modified to be solvable without leaving your car du jour, and any sort of regional/epoch variety would be completely lost. Actually seeing and interacting with people in a game where you are trying to save said people makes a big difference. You are not rescuing random humans that fill up your “humans lost” meter, you are saving that guy that lives in that house over there. The one with the water barrel that fills up your health! He’s important!

This is a friendly placeBut that does bring us to the whole “different time periods” problem of Body Harvest’s design. To be absolutely clear on what happens in Body Harvest, every epoch also has its own geographic location. 1916 is Greece, 1941 is Java, 1966 is a generic city in America, and 1991 is Siberia. If you find some NPC you like in the first time period, sorry to say that you are not ever going to encounter that guy again. It is a shame, as one of the coolest things a videogame can do is play with time travel for the ever popular “plant a seed, watch the tree grow” experience that is generally impossible in actual reality (or at least far too boring). However, this also means Body Harvest straddles the line between “open world” and “levels”. By the finale of the 1916 area, you can go practically anywhere on that map, and maybe find a random laser component or two to make your life easier. But the minute you activate the boss of the level and claim victory? You ain’t seein’ 1916 or Greece ever again, boy-o.

And that is antithetical to modern day “open world” design. The benefit of Breath of the Wild is that, barring Link breaking his own legs while shield-surfing down a mountain, you can always return to the starting plateau. You can venture around the world in any order you want, and then venture backwards through that same world as you so choose. Cutting off areas by epochs? That is either going to mean there are places you can never return to; or, even worse, making “backwards” time travel a mandatory solution to puzzles. It is cool to see a world grow up over a hundred years, it is dramatically less fun to be told you have to scoot back to previous areas every other scene because someone programmed in backtracking puzzles. That’s the opposite of an open world! That’s a crap world!

It must stink down hereSo maybe Body Harvest is bound to its own epoch. Maybe we could never see such a game today, because too many modern conventions seem to state, “we don’t do that anymore”. Designing entire building interiors just to support random NPCs? An open world that is not an open world? Levels? Screw that noise. That is some 1998 wiz biz, and we are unlikely to ever see it again.

Or not? What do you think, humble reader? Could we see an ideal Body Harvest HD? Or is it never going to be half the game it once was in an effort to be the game it could be today? Past or Future? And does said past or future include giant bugs?

The world may never know. Then again, maybe we’ll see Body Harvest HD before Grand Theft Auto 6…

FGC #618 Body Harvest

  • System: Nintendo 64. It was nearly a launch game! … But then some stuff happened.
  • Number of players: Adam Orange must fight a hundred years of giant bugs all alone.
  • Where in time is giant bugs: Most of the epochs are just an excuse to pal around in familiar settings of the last century, but the modern level in Siberia is either a tremendous diss to Russia, or an excuse for a zombie level. Or both! Siberia’s military facility (?) is lousy with all sorts of modern armaments, but it also has a severe nuclear zombie issue. Maybe it is supposed to be a Chernobyl reference? The dangers of modern technology? Whatever. Point is that it is a really weird final “real” level, and maybe speaks to the developers getting bored about 80% of the way through their own idea.
  • I do not like it hereAn end: The finale is, as was the style at the time, a level that forsakes everything that made the game great, and just an excuse to zoom around an alien asteroid in a homicidal hovercraft. At least you used the hovercraft in other levels/battles, so it is not completely out of left field; but it is still a sad excuse to not have a final “future” level with more interesting future vehicles. And then you kill a giant cockroach that is also your brother. Real Shakespeare s%&# right there.
  • Filthy Cheater: There are also a variety of cheats coded into the game, with some lifesaving (health refill, have all weapons) and some a little more on the silly side of things (have fat legs). Come to think of it, the N64 era was the golden age of ridiculous cheats. Or maybe we all just enjoyed big head mode a little too much.
  • Favorite Vehicle: For some reason, my dad has always liked the Ford Edsel. It is a weird little car, and my dad is a weird little guy, so it makes sense. So imagine my surprised when Edsels pop up as the first car available in the America stage of 1966! Despite the fact that the Edsel stopped production in 1960! Weird little choice, guys!
  • Did you know? Body Harvest was going to be an N64 launch game compliments of Nintendo publishing. And, according to a scant few interviews on the subject, Body Harvest was micromanaged by Nintendo of Japan quite a bit before the company outright dropped the title for theoretically “it’s too violent” reasons. DMA Design struggled to find another publisher, and Body Harvest was eventually released in its current (and only) incarnation. Worth noting? This inevitably caused a bit of a gulf between DMA Design and Nintendo, and considering DMA digivolved into becoming Rockstar… is there an alternate universe where Body Harvest stayed the Nintendo course, and Grand Theft Auto 3 is a Nintendo Gamecube launch game?
  • God bless America/bugsWould I play again: Maybe? Body Harvest is a strange game that is very much a product of its time, but it is a downright shame it never saw a follow up to its own unique flavor of gameplay. Grand Theft Auto 3 is the obvious descendant, but I could use a game with a rocket launcher and a few more giant bugs. So maybe I’ll try Body Harvest again for the experience.

What’s next? Looks like Valentine’s Day is next Monday, so we’re going to have a special Wankery Week article ready for the holiday of love. There will be cooking! Please look forward to it!

FGC #607 Metroid

PRAY FOR PEACE IN SPACESamus Aran has been described as “The Hunter”. She has been described as a mobile tank. She was been described as the ultimate warrior. She has been described as the most powerful woman in the Nintendo pantheon.

And, after all that, I think a great Metroid game makes Samus Aran a bimbo.

My first Metroid was Metroid 1. I have three huge, unforgettable memories of Metroid from when I was a Wee Goggle Bob:

  1. The Ice Beam is so much better than the Wave Beam that, to this day, I still see the Wave Beam as a punishment/threat akin to those birds in Ninja Gaiden.
  2. Kraid is a giant pain in the ass (even when not giant).
  3. The Screw Attack was a boon like no other.

And to be clear on that final point, it is hard to describe the Screw Attack to someone who didn’t only ever play games like Super Mario Bros. (and its many contemporary clones) or Mega Man 2 for comparison. I remember distinctly describing “imagine you got a star man every time you jumped” to other kids that had not been able to make it through the caverns of Zebes. And did the screw attack actually serve the same purpose as a star man’s familiar invincibility? No. But it changed Samus for the better, and allowed her to sail through a number of monsters that previously would wreck her day. Whatever you consider the true final challenge of Metroid 1 to be (either an immobile brain in a lava factory or a dungeon full of jellyfish), the screw attack barely helps. But for actually adventuring through the other 90% of the game? Eat it, ripper that could otherwise soak 100 missiles, Samus Aran coming through, and you better get out of the way or be diced into your component pixels!

This seems dirtyAnd that feeling has never left my relative enjoyment of Metroid. In fact, I would argue that it is the main difference between Castlevania and Metroid titles. In a Castlevania game, you are constantly accruing new abilities and skills, but, by and large, it is a ladder system, and the bosses are climbing the rungs as you trade a +1 sword for a +2 sword/bat transformation. You are expected to graduate with these skills in the regular encounters just as much as the bosses that now have patterns that account for wolf forms. However, in a Metroid game, you get new skills, but are primarily improving what you have (practically) from the beginning. There are no gradually developing swords to find, just more missiles. Or more super bombs. Or more e-tanks. And the bosses are not 100% tests of skill, but gateways to confirm you have collected enough missiles, e-tanks, or whatever Samus has to find this mission. Can they be beaten with skill, precision, and a charge beam? Yes, but it feels more like they have 100 missiles of health because you are supposed to have 100 missiles by now. And you need those “gatekeeper” bosses, because otherwise you would just screw attack through everything straight to Mother Brain. And somebody has got to be a boss around here!

And that is ultimately what I want from a Metroid game. I do not need the difficulty to escalate as I venture further. I want it to get easier. I want Samus to become dumber, because she has upgraded her pea shooter to launch 50 continuous super missiles that are capable of literally rocking the planet. When Samus has 30 energy dots and the ability to transform into a cowardly ball, she should be precise and technical in all encounters. When she has more e-tanks than she knows what to do with and is blasting deadly rainbows out of her arm, she can soak a few hits while bad guys explode.

And if you still want a challenge? Then you have the option to not pick up that e-tank or missile expansion. Super Metroid‘s “would you like to turn off your screw attack” menu is poison to my playstyle, but it is an option. You can have a difficult trek through Zebes if you would like. “Challenge runs” are aptly named, but by no means required.

BLOW IT UPAnd speaking of Super Metroid, the original Metroid only included the Screw Attack, but Super Metroid upgraded everything down to Samus’s sneezes to be wholly homicidal. Jumping kills with the Screw Attack, running kills with the Speed Booster, and you can literally fly-dash-kill with the (slightly draining) Shinespark ability. And this is all before the finale of Super Metroid sees Samus gain a revenge beam that is capable of obliterating wall and brainnosaurus rex alike.

And it is interesting to consider what it means for Samus Aran when her ultimate goal is becoming practically invincible. Right from the start of Metroid, Samus’s abilities are some of the sharpest on the NES. Mega Man cannot duck, but Samus can roll into a ball to become a mobile, pint-sized target. Simon Belmont’s single-arc jump is one of the most perilous moves in his arsenal, while Samus has more air mobility than some birds (she takes after her dad). Mario can toss off bouncing balls, Samus can rapidly acquire beams that cover the length of the screen, freeze opponents, and/or travel straight through any object. Samus Aran is a formidable opponent from an era when most heroes could nary dream of having the mobility afforded by a Chozo costume. But once she has maximum missiles, energy tanks, and enough bird artifacts to soak a mortar shell? Well, then, who cares? She can just wade in lava like a toad (that enjoys a remarkably warm bath) and murder her parents’ killer by wave beaming through the floor.

NO PTSD FOR YOUAnd speaking of Ridley, that space dragon may exemplify this philosophy even more than the hyper beam. Meta Ridley of the Prime franchise may be sporting enhancements and brains, but “regular” Ridley is consistently all teeth, nails, and a tail that is 100% spikes by volume. By Super Metroid, Ridley is clawing and slashing and fighting like a wounded animal. There is no pattern to discern, no “phases” to go through. He is just a monster that may or may not eat your family, as there is no deeper Ridley to Ridley. This doesn’t work for everyone in this or any other game (Dracula would never sully his cape by fighting like that), but this is what it is to fight a bear… or The Incredible Hulk. Ridley is trying anything that works, and Samus is standing solid and using everything she’s got as her only defense. This kind of sucks from a videogame design perspective, but that “I just got lucky” feeling after Ridley finally explodes really works for why Ridley is memorable.

The best way to beat a brainless monster is to be a brainless monster.

So, yes, I want Samus Aran to be a bimbo by the time she reaches the end of her quest. After acquiring a PHD in Zebethian lost technology, I want Samus to be a big, dumb clod that will not get out of the way of a rinka while shoveling missiles into a jar. I want the last stand of Samus Aran to be the final flickering of her ultimate brain cell. A gibbering nincompoop could eradicate the Metroid menace with all those upgrades, and I want to play as that nincompoop.

And if Samus has to think about performing a single counter? That’s some other heroine. Samus is too dummy thicc with power to fit in with any of that rubbish.

FGC #607 Metroid

  • I don't understandSystem: Nintendo Entertainment System, but mostly played through e-reader in some version of Animal Crossing. Or maybe I am thinking of the version that was unlockable in Metroid Fusion? Or the GBA classic reissue? Look, it is on practically every Nintendo system ever created, save the Super Nintendo and N64.
  • Number of players: Samus does not encounter a single living thing that is not trying to kill her on Zebes, so only one player.
  • Favorite Powerup: You think it might be the screw attack? There is a reason I made that thing my desktop wallpaper!
  • Speedy Sister: The number one thing I noticed replaying Metroid in 2021? Dang, it goes fast. You only need, what? Morph ball, bombs, ice beam, and hi jump to complete the entire mission? No extra time spent here trying to remember where the hell the space jump got to, just nab some new boots and make a beeline for your local space dragon.
  • Ridley is too big: It is kind of miraculous that Ridley graduated to the main series antagonist role after Metroid, as he is certainly the easier of the two “mini” bosses of Metroid. Sure, Ridley officially has the second area, and gets a whole two scary statue heads leading to his lair, but Kraid? Kraid has his own weirdo clone to confuse new players, more health than has ever been measured, and the raw invulnerability of solid stomach spikes. And he even hides his requisite e-tank better than Ridley! Kraid got robbed when future editions devolved him into a mindless dinosaur. (And he lost all his hair, too.)
  • Map it out: My memories of playing Metroid as a child recall a Zebes that was easily ten times the size it actually is… mainly because I didn’t see a complete map until some “retro” Nintendo Power coverage of the game years later. When you are stuck in the depths of Brinstar with no way to distinguish between a lot of same-y rooms…. Well… let’s just say this game would be very different with Super Metroid’s automap.
  • The big finaleGoggle Bob Fact: I used to have a Nintendo sponsored calendar when I was young enough to not be literate. Metroid was the featured game of one of the months. As I was able to identify an “M” and someone clearly using an arm buster, I thought I was looking at Mega Man, not Samus Aran. I have been ashamed of this mistake continuously since I was 8.
  • Bounty Hunter: The original Famicom version of Metroid has save files, and a menu for such that is similar to The Legend of Zelda. If you complete the game, Samus’s icon receives lil’ money bag icons to indicate a clear. And if you finish the mission faster? Samus gets more money bags. But, money or not, the NES version is the only one with Zero Suit Samus and the “new game plus” of restarting with previous powerups. So what good is all the money in the universe compared to that?
  • Did you know? There are a few “unused” rooms within the code for Metroid. One contains an item orb on a random pedestal over lava. This is unusual, as item orbs only exist connected to Chozo statues in the normal version of Metroid. The room does resemble the location where you are likely to find your first missile upgrade, though, so maybe orbs were initially supposed to be more plentiful.
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only if there’s a map handy. I cannot remember which walls I am supposed to bomb for the life in me!

What’s next? Random ROB has not so randomly chosen… Metroid Dread! We just did the start, let’s see the most recent end! Please look forward to it!

THE END
“The Other Metroid?” Some kind of… Other M?