Tag Archives: pinball

FGC #600 Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes: Part 4

They shall take me for a rideMarvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is an amazing, once in a lifetime game that brings together over 50 characters from wildly disparate worlds and franchises. So, in an effort to pay tribute to one of the games I believe to be the greatest of all time, please enjoy day four of a five-day, 100% complete, generally alphabetical look at every fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Today, we’re going to go down the rabbit hole with…

Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock

This is for Ms. Marvel…. Look, even I have limits.

We’re on day four here, and we’re at something like 15,700 words all about this nonsense, and… Gah, Psylocke. I really want every entry in this #600 to get to some “core” of a featured character. I mean, look at the crazy depth of the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 roster! It has at least one character that was five decades old when he appeared in the game, and he could fight a sentient, newborn cactus. That’s huge! That’s bigger than Mario! And the fact that it is unlikely we will see such a game again without excessive marketing department input or a bunch of weirdos meme-voting Deadpool’s companion unicorn into the proceedings is significant. We are never going to have Marvel vs. Capcom 2 again, as it was a perfect time capsule of an epoch before videogames and comics were the exclusive domain of commercial monopolies. Say what you will about the presence of Marrow or Ruby Heart, but there is no way we are seeing one of them take up a valuable “slot” again when Thanos’s latest rival is available.

But Psylocke? Even though Betsy Braddock has been kicking around comics since 1976, the “core” of this character is… It is impenetrable. You get any deeper than the surface level of Psylocke, and things get muddled at best, and downright racist at worst. I don’t want to write about how Marvel Comics had an incredibly ridiculous Asian fetish back in [insert any year since 1976], and damn near everything about that comes off as racist as hell if you examine it for more than three seconds! I just want to write about wacky mutants fighting equally wacky computer game dudes.

But, I suppose I have to see this project through to its end, so, with that in mind…

Psylocke was born Elizabeth Braddock, the mutant younger sister of Captain Britain, Sir James Braddock. She had several adventures with the X-Men as a telepathic, purple-haired supermodel with a tendency to attack her opponents via butterfly motif. In 1989, things got weird when Betsy was… urgh… okay… so originally “Psylocke” was given “new eyes” by Mojo (we will get to Spiral tomorrow), and… like… that made her Asian? But then that was misinterpreted by the next writer, so it was established that she was not just given some kind of eye surgery, but had her brain scooped out and implanted into an Asian woman that was incidentally a badass ninja assassin. And this explained why previously fairly chill Betsy suddenly could do backflips around the universe while wielding a katana that was a projection of the focused totality of her psychic powers. And, in time, there had to be an explanation on who the woman Psylocke was before she was Psylocke, so Kwannon was retconned, and now there was the eternal story hook of Psylocke being returned to a revived form of her old body, or Kwannon coming back for revenge, or… Gah!

It’s too much! In an effort to “correct” the uncomfortably racist plot of “someone made Betsy generically Asian”, an entirely new, marginally less racist story had to be created. And it is the story of a wealthy white woman stealing and tangentially killing an Asian woman. And Marvel’s staff has literally stated that it was meant to be temporary, but everybody liked Jim Lee drawing an Asian lady in a swimsuit. And damned if “Kwannon’s body” wasn’t plastered over every comic book cover, trading card, and even videogame from the 90’s until the end of time. Psylocke is even unnaturally “jiggly” in her Capcom appearances! This was a sold few years before Dead or Alive! And you don’t see Wolverine employing real-time sprite physics! All to feature a “stolen” body!

Argh! I just want to fight with the pretty ninja lady! But you jerks made it all terrible!

If you’re curious, in the current comics status quo, Betsy is back to being original Betsy, and Kwannon has reclaimed her original body (more or less) that is totally not being randomly killed by Mr. Sinister on an irregular basis. This seems like an effort to make the character(s) less problematic, but the fact that it took about forty years to get there is… a little disheartening.

And don’t get me started on all the times the writers “threatened” to bring back OG Betsy like it was the worst thing that could happen…

Anna Marie aka Rogue

Feel the MojoChrist on a cracker, Rogue is next after Psylocke? Dammit! I do not want to examine that “Southern Belle” dynamic here. Yes, she is flirty as hell but equally chaste because her power kills potential suitors. Can we look at something else? Something more fun?

Oh! Let’s play with names…

WW #11 Peach Ball: Senran Kagura

Due to the subject matter today, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…

NOW LOADINGWelcome back to Wankery Week!

It’s been since the Fall of 2018 when I last tagged a game for Wankery Week, and the last official Wankery Week entry was in the bygone era of that previous February, so let’s restate what Wankery Week is all about. Wankery Week is not just about looking at games that are overtly horny. Wankery Week is about looking at horny games, and seeing what they bring to the horny discourse (or, as it is colloquially known, the hornyverse). All too often, horny videogames are written off as “it’s just a horny game”, or “it’s offensive to over half of the population”, or even “titty soft, haha, moving on”. And, while such statements are useful for distinguishing between games that are “horny” or “just incidentally skeevy”, it’s not informative to people that are interested in playing a horny games. There are literally thousands of games on Steam that are all based on “you might see a boob”, so maybe we should take a deeper look at whether or not a game with such a premise is actually any good.

Or, put another way, we continually judge JRPGs by their overarching stories, fighting games by how complicated they made their inputs, and platformers by how well their specific jumping physics handle. Why do we just right off every horny game as “it’s horny”? That’s not helping anybody!

And there’s also this whole thing about sexuality, fetishes, and how we all interpret desire differently. But the important thing is whether or not you should play a certain videogame, right?

o, with that in mind, today’s game is Peach Ball: Senran Kagura…

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

Questin' Time!It takes a lot to get my attention. I’ve slain dragons. I’ve cast magical spells that would cross a wizard’s eyes. I’ve helped lesbians turn into a crystal pillar that holds up an entire world. There is very little in the world of gaming that gets my attention anymore. I have flown through the skies as the majestic hummingbird, danced with the deities, and one time I got a kangaroo to punch a monkey. And, through it all, it’s all been pretty much the same genres and “game styles” over and over again. Sure, I might be slaying the entire Greek Pantheon this week, but it’s still pretty much “just a beat ‘em up”. Is there nothing new under the sun?

And then there’s Pinball Quest. Pinball Quest is one of the most oddly original games I’ve ever played, and, what’s more, it was released over a quarter of a century ago.

Pinball Quest, as you might be able to guess, involves some pinball. If you’re just interested in pinball, here you go, three pinball boards of varying skill and complexity. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before or since, and, yeah, the boards are pretty alright. Nothing special, nothing El Dorado, but it’s a fun pinball time from the era that still held some affection for “pinball… on your TV!” That part is pretty basic.

Then there’s RPG mode. RPG mode is exactly what it says on the tin: pinball in a RPG setting. It’s bonkers.

In a way, RPGs and Pinball games should work well together. RPGs are all about how you suck. Wait, no, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that the combat in RPGs, the basic meat and potatoes of the genre, is entirely based on the fact that you will take damage. Pew Pew?This isn’t a Mario or Mega Man game where you could conceivably never take a hit; no, you’re getting smacked around by the first slime you see, and it’s your responsibility to make sure the party stays healed and healthy. In a way, this is an expression of the basic chaos of battle. You’re going to get a few scrapes and bruises, Gilbard is going to faint, but, in the end, (hopefully) you win. Pinball is very similar, in that you have the randomness of “where’s the ball going to go?” Sure, you try your best to hit those bumpers or whatever silly gimmick exists on the board, but, inevitably, that ball isn’t going to go exactly where you want it, and, sometimes, it’s going straight down the middle. Flick the flippers all you want, there’s nothing you can do, Gilball’s gotta die. Do your damndest, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. The pinball and RPG motto.

Pinball Quest’s RPG mode, meanwhile… well… in some ways, it’s much more an Adventure-style game, like Zelda. Each level is a different board arranged something like your typical double-decker pinball machine. Usually there’s some obstacle or gimmick on the lower portion that will grant access to the upper portion (like breaking the right gravestone [bumper] in the graveyard area, or pestering an ogre that will usher your ball into a minecart in the mine area), and then the second portion features a boss and flunkies of some kind. Ram the boss with the ball enough times, and you’ll be granted access to the next level. Repeat six times or so, and you will have defeated the evil king and rescued the princess. Actually, yeah, this is a lot like the original Legend of Zelda. There are even angry skeletons!

Get 'em!And, really, this would be a “Zelda type” if you had absolutely perfect pinball skills (or save states). After all, the gameplay isn’t Fight/Magic/Flipper, it’s much more of an overhead “dodge and stab” affair, with bosses that attack your flippers and a constant need to pelt the monster du jour with your weapon (which just happens to be “you”). This is much more “includes RPG-like elements” than “RPG”.

Except…

You’re gonna lose.

Actually, technically, you kind of can’t lose this game. It’s only possible to get a “game over” on the first (and, technically, “lowest” board), and, even then, you’re given an immediate chance to continue with very few repercussions. You lost, you suck, but the save point is right here, get back in there, soldier! On every other board, you’ll simply be returned to the next previous board, and, if you can nail the “exit” location on your first flip, you’ll be right back in the battle again. Even if your skills aren’t that great, though, you can re-defeat the boss du jour, and move on in that style. Sure, it’ll waste some time, but you’ll make it back… eventually.

But let’s say you’re a human being that actually doesn’t like having his or her time wasted. Well then, we’ve got some items for you! DON'T STEALBetween each stage is a shop, and, since you (naturally) accrue gold from every defeated monster, you can spend that cash on one of two types of items. You may purchase more powerful flippers, which will kill bosses faster, or you may purchase extra balls, which will cause you to immediately “return” to your highest level when you’d otherwise tumble down the gutter. Pick your poison! Are you the confident type that blows it all on a stronger sword, or do you stock up on phoenix downs in anticipation of a costly blood bath? Play the role of the ball, and plan for your game.

And, after a fashion, Pinball Quest proves to be a “real” RPG. The gameplay might be bopping around the adventure board all afternoon, and fighting wizards, demons, and succubae might show up in a few other genres; but what’s important here is that you, player, are planning ahead and determining how resources are spent… in a pinball environment. You’re going to need that potion, and it doesn’t matter if you’re using the fight command or flicking a ball at a perfect angle, it all winds up being an RPG in the end.

And we haven’t seen anything like it in 25 years. More’s the pity.

FGC #172 Pinball Quest

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, though, admittedly, kind of late in its lifespan (that would be defined as “anything after Castlevania 3”).
  • VIVA!Number of players: Thanks to controller passing, the “standard” pinball boards all allow for up to four players. RPG mode is, as ever, a solitary affair.
  • Favorite Standard Board: Viva Golf is pretty fun, as it includes more moles than Caddyshack, and the anime figures seem to fit into the course rather well. What? I have a peculiar fondness for the late 80’s Japanese aesthetic.
  • Favorite RPG Mode Boss: The boss of the fifth stage initially appears to be your kidnapped princess, but transforms into a deadly succubus after a few (maybe accidental) hits. I realize that this has become something of a standard trope in recent years (decades), but it seemed fairly original in 1990.
  • Speaking of Princesses: Ya know, there’s nothing that codifies the heroic Ball as male or female. Feel free to claim this is one of the few gender progressive NES games… even if you are rescuing a princess (yet again).
  • An End: Oh, and the finale sees the hero and princess trounce a gigantic (compared to a pinball), apparently sentient magnet.
    What?

    And here I thought gravity was the ultimate enemy.
  • Did you know? The box art for Pinball Quest shows a reflected skeleton warrior. Given the skeletons only exist for the first level, I’m going to assume the box artist did not get very far in this game.
  • Would I play again? Hey, sure. If I’m in the mood for pinball, I may as well knock over some turtles while doing it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Scope 6 for the Super Nintendo! Oh boy! Bazooka action? Wow! Please look forward to it! Not at all sarcastically!

FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

I'm hearing the theme song in my headHave you looked at the roster for Super Smash Bros. recently? No, not the latest iteration, just plain ol’ N64 Super Smash Bros. And, in this case, I’m talking about the exclusive, “members only” original eight selectable characters (sorry, Ness, I love you, but you were obviously a dark-horse choice). You’ve got Mario, who, before and since, has appeared in more videogames than any other videogame mascot[citation needed]. Donkey Kong is on a similar echelon, and he arguably started the trend of Nintendo “mascots”. Pikachu was a newcomer at the time, but that little fuzzball has practically conquered a generation or two. Kirby and Yoshi (the original Pokémon) might not be quite as prolific, but they’ve both headlined everything from puzzle games to lightgun shooters. And Link? Link needs no introduction, and might be considered the “coolest” character in gaming despite (or because of) being rather silent.

Consider that every character I’ve named thus far has starred in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Then you have the Nintendo space heroes, like “Star” Fox McCloud. Fox always seemed made to appeal to the kiddies (daring, cartoon animal ace pilot), but has yet to garner enough popularity points to net those lucrative licensing deals and pay off the Great Fox. Come on, guys, they gave him an entire planet of friendly dinosaurs and a deviantart-bait magical princess girlfriend, and he still couldn’t score so much as a spin-off until 2016’s Six Nights at Slippy’s. It’s good that Star Fox is still getting games at all, but it seems a little unusual that this pillar of the Nintendo universe hasn’t been ported into something a little more modern. Sure, shooters are dead, but this fox has legs (apparently), give him something new to do.

And, finally, we have the lone (confirmed) female of the game, Samus Aran, space bounty hunter. Metroid is currently a reputedly dead franchise (note to Nintendo: I will be perfectly happy to have this article look completely Icydated in exchange for a glut of new Metroid games), and, even when it was still on life support, it was considered, at best, to be mishandled. Super Metroid redefined the genre, but its 2-D descendants were improperly managed or far too derivative (or both). Metroid Prime was a revelation, but Metroid Prime 2 seemed like a typical FPS disguised in powersuit trappings, and Metroid Prime 3 was madly uneven. And Metroid Prime Hunters? Ugh, please don’t remind me that existed.

But… Metroid Prime Hunters is important, because there was a brief, shining moment in Nintendo’s history when Samus Aran was used to sell systems.

Alright, yes, that might be an exaggeration, but the Nintendo DS, eventually one of Nintendo’s most popular and experimental systems (ah, the heady days before the touch screen became standard) initially shipped with a game… or at least a demo for a game. Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt…. wasn’t much of a demo. The single player portion was practically nonexistent, but the multiplayer portion of MPH:FH was an eye-opener. Now, for the first time, you could compete with your friends in a “networked FPS” style death match, but you didn’t need a single wire or powerful PC, just a DS and a buddy within shouting distance. The DS might not have offered many options at launch, but Metroid-Doom dominated any place you might find a bunch of congregating nerds (like, I dunno, a college, for instance?) and probably sold more DS systems than Tetris DS ever would.

So, when Nintendo decided to produce a new upgrade for the little dual screen that could, they looked again to their favorite daughter, Samus Aran. The DS was to receive a new rumble pack accessory, and what better way to sell rumble in a videogame than with pinball?

Pew Pew… It’s really the thought that counts.

Metroid Prime Pinball is a very weird game. As the story goes, MPP was first conceived when someone at Nintendo noticed that A. Nintendo randomly makes mascot-based pinball games, and B. Samus, super serious space bounty hunter, often turns herself into a ball. It’s like peanut butter and applesauce! So, while most Nintendo franchises feature characters that just kinda bounce around like pinballs anyway, pinball was hoisted on Metroid, a franchise best known for measured exploration and deliberately paced powerups. Because, ya know, Samus Aran can turn into a ball. What’s more, rather than make this a “simple” collection of Metroid-themed pinball machines, Metroid Prime Pinball has a plot and level progression, with bosses/challenges that bar progress until they’re slain/completed. Pinball doesn’t work like that! There’s a reason we never saw Pinball Quest 2, dammit!

But, against all odds, it somehow does work. Metroid Prime Pinball isn’t exactly the best game on the DS, it’s not even my favorite pinball game starring a Nintendo character that can inexplicably become a ball; but, hey, it ain’t bad. While pinball purists would likely have an issue with my favorite parts, I’ve found that this game holds my interest over many pinball games by virtue of randomly inserting more traditional Metroid gameplay. Okay, really, it’s not Metroid gameplay at all, but it’s all inspired by Metroid gameplay, and that’s close enough for a pinball game. For instance, In order to attain that coveted high-score, you must collect bounties, and, while some of these bounties involve simply steering ball-Samus at enemies, many times a bounty will cause Samus to come out of her shell and start shooting that beam cannon. Or there’s an artifact at the top of a cliff, so you’re to alternate L & R to pull off a proper wall jump. Still got itOr there’s a boss to slay, so it’s time to whip out the missiles. I like pinball, but I like pinball a lot more when I’m given something else to do every other minute. Oh, bless you, Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. You’ll always be there for me until I see something shiny.

Unfortunately, given most people don’t seem to remember this game exists at all seems to be proof that Metroid Prime Pinball wasn’t much of a success. Metroid: Other M or Metroid Prime Hunters may be reviled, but at least people don’t think you’re talking about some kind of Club Nintendo promotion when they’re mentioned. Metroid Prime Pinball happened, guys! It was a full game! It was pretty alright!

It’s a shame that this game is so forgotten. Metroid Prime Pinball proved that, like Mario, Yoshi, or even Pikachu, Samus Aran could break out of her typical gameplay bonds and do something else. Yes, Metroid defined a genre so permanently it has literally become synonymous with 2-D exploration games, but Mario defined platforming, and he’s doing just fine on the go-kart circuit, too. Samus Aran could be a perennial Nintendo star like Link, and MPP proves it.

And don’t pretend that doesn’t matter. The current gaming landscape is choked with dudes that look just like me (maybe they’re a little less handsome), and, while I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more lady bounty hunters in the mix. Nintendo is better with diversity than most (by virtue of promoting electric rats and pink eldritch horrors equally), but its big two are still a pair of white guys. You don’t see an hours long demo featuring Linkle on the E3 floor, nope, it’s grade-A, grandma-approved, straight white male elf all the way. He’s even right handed now, because left-handedness is only for freaks and presidents.

It’s nonsense like Metroid Prime Pinball that makes kings and queens out of characters. Link has been fighting Ganon for ages, but he was spouting catchphrases at princesses well before he was the Hero of Time. Mario was ubiquitous on the NES, saving the Mushroom Kingdom, refereeing Mike Tyson, and then playing golf all in the same week. I might not expect Samus to sell the next big Nintendo console, but upping the profile of Nintendo’s only starring fantasy female (that is in no way a princess) could only be a good thing. Yes, I pretty much just want more Metroid games, but I’ll gladly buy another Metroid Prime Pinball to see Samus as the salesgirl for the latest Nintendo thingy. Samus Aran should have her own pair of bongos, dammit! Wait… that might have come out wrong.

So thank you, Metroid Prime Pinball, for proving that Samus can do more than explore musty old planets. You might not have been the best game, but you helped a struggling space bounty hunter, and that’s enough.

FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

  • System: Nintendo DS, with rumble pack accessory!
  • Number of players: Oh yeah, there is a two player head-to-head mode that even features its own unique stage. It’s just as exciting as 2-player pinball is meant to be!
  • He’s too big: Ridley manages to fit into a board that is almost entirely his own. It’s also the most frustrating stage, because if Ridley knocks you out, you have to go and retrieve an artifact from an earlier stage. Pinball doesn’t usually require savestates, but here we are.
  • Favorite stage: You wind up playing the first two tables very often thanks to how the game is “shaped”. That said, the Tallon Overworld area is pretty fun, and makes seeing “the same ol’ stage” again and again entertaining with its multiple ways to score. Oddly, its sister level, Pirate Frigate, comes off as boring, and should be escaped immediately.
  • Did you know? Metroid Prime Pinball is the spiritual successor to the Gameboy Advance’s Mario Pinball Land. That would be the pinball game that nobody liked.
  • Would I play again? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed replaying this game, so, yes, but only on the condition that it’s a downloadable, portable title. I’d fire this thing up for a few rounds here and there when around town, but I doubt I’ll ever put the actual cart back in my 3DS’s slot ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… to be quiet. I’m going to make #148 into #9 here, and deal with a different kind of robot for the next update. Please look forward to it!

Winner!