Tag Archives: psp

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

Let us address the many sins of Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno. We shall see if absolution is possible.

The Sin of Violence: Dante’s Inferno gets a brutal update

Let's fightLet’s get the big one out of the way first: who sits down to read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and thinks, “Damn! This would make a fine beat ‘em up”? This is something that apparently must have happened, as, here we are, living in a world where Dante ventures forth to tear Hell a new one with a magical scythe. The OG Dante was a poet who wrote his self-insert character into a complicated, but generally mellow, fanfic; this Dante is in a continual state of grating the bones of his enemies across his washboard abs. It is a significantly different interpretation of the same character. And, what’s more, OG Dante’s Inferno is amazingly descriptive in its journey from the underworld to the heavens, but it is also clearly meant as something of an allegory or “imaginary tale” right from the start. Dante was having a dream about his own moral standing in the world! Meanwhile, VG Dante is exactly fighting to save his fiancée and rescue a world threatened by Satan and the unrelenting forces of Hell. Nothing allegorical about pressing X to drive a blade into a sinner’s face!

Excuse me. I’m getting ahead of myself. My own prejudices against PS2/PS3-style “mature” games are shining through here, and I apologize for dismissing Dante’s Inferno for being a reimagining that was beholden to (then) modern videogame trends. This is unfair, as Real Dante’s Inferno likely survived to the present day entirely because it was contemporary. It was an epic poem, but it was not written in Latin. It involved historical and fictional celebrities that were bumming around various parts of the afterlife. The main character was the prototypical everyman hanging with a trendy historical figure. Complete with more name-dropping than a Kardashian feature, the Divine Comedy was made from its outset to be a popular piece of media, and it is only through centuries and gradually changing standards that it now seems so stiff and religious. I mean, it was always going to be religious as hell with all those popes running around, but popes were basically the Avengers of 1320.

So, alright, VG Dante’s Inferno can be forgiven for going the “popular” route with its interpretation of OG Dante’s Inferno. History has proven that Dante Alighieri clearly would have forsaken all the indie JRPGs of the era to make his story a 3-D action title if he had the technology. But there is still the problem of…

The Sin of Heresy: Dante must cry

OopsDante’s Inferno was released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP in 2010. Given the marketing blitz that accompanied the game (“Please visit our E3 booth and be tortured by something other than long lines!”) and the years that have passed since, we will likely never get a real answer on exactly what the designers and marketing department responsible for Dante’s Inferno were thinking. In an obvious way, this deadly Dante screams “this isn’t your daddy’s epic poem,” and lurks around the caverns of Hell doing all sorts of things that could not even be imagined by an epic poet from 690 years prior. This is a videogame from the future, old man, get out of the way and start hammering O to earn salvation!

On the other hand, Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno is inexplicably beholden to the original source material. All of the Circles of Hell are followed precisely according to the source material, despite the fact that figuring out an action-game interpretation of “Level 13: Wood of the Suicides” must have been a pain in the branches. The setting is also firmly rooted in its original epoch, and many of the damned souls that appear across the game are not only seven centuries out of fashion, but also punished for a number of sins we wouldn’t even think about today (“Oh, damned to the circle of violence for… being gay? Really?”). It would have been wholly in the spirit of Dante’s Inferno to update Hell for the modern damned (“Do you punish for forgive this prominent ex-president that may or may not have started a hostage crisis to further his political career?”), or at least drop in period-appropriate fictional characters that are more familiar to modern audiences (not like Dante was doing anything but biting on myths about Helen of Troy anyway), but, nope, you get to make measured choices about Emperor Frederick II. You know! Emperor Frederick II! From all those movies!

And then there are all the little “flourishes” to remind you of the original poem. Game over screens drop annotated passages after every death (and there are quite a few before you see a repeat… assuming you don’t die every seven seconds). Virgil makes absolutely no sense as a character, but stops by to offer his (sometimes literally) same advice and narration as in the original work. And, if you need to answer the question of “what is the absolute worst way to experience a piece of literature”, you can read the entirety of this third of the Divine Comedy via a saved file on your Dante’s Inferno disc. Press L1 to scroll the text faster!

But this, too, could be forgiven. It is cynical to interpret all of these choices as some bizarre, aborted attempt at tying a videogame into school curriculums or college literary programs. Maybe the designers just loved the source material, and wanted to expose the unwashed masses to some culture. Maybe all of these attempts to cram more epic poetry into an epic game was wholly altruistic.

Though that would raise questions about tone…

The Sin of Fraud: Is this supposed to be serious?

The baby!So it is God of War, but instead of Greek/Roman mythology, it is Christian mythology (and, to be clear, I am a Christian, and I can tell you that 99% of Dante’s writings do not appear in the Bible, so “mythology” is the best way to designate this imagining of Hell). And the God of War franchise is known for being equally deadly serious about deicide or Icarus tripping down a hole. It is almost funny how Kratos responds to literally everything from enemy warriors to a dude trapped in a box with “this person must die”, but that is just who Kratos (circa 2010) is as a person. He lives in a serious, violent world, and he has serious, violent solutions to problems.

And then there’s Dante. Dante fights babies.

Dante’s Inferno has an amazing, unique bestiary with delightfully grotesque monsters symbolizing the various sins. There are also the unbaptized babies of limbo, which are literally just toddlers with swords for arms. And, since babies are not generally known for their threat level, you often fight many of the little tykes at once, prompting bizarre fights wherein you are viciously reaping widdle cutiepies. It is… a choice, and, while the grim and focused start of Dante’s Inferno tells you that this is supposed to be a tale of serious betrayal and heartbreaking consequences, the fact that you are slaughtering babies shortly thereafter undercuts the narrative. Earning the “bad nanny” achievement for “Kill(ing) 20 Unbaptized Children” is something that leaves an impression, too.

And, lest you think we are merely focusing on one ill-advised enemy, there are plenty of moments in Dante’s Inferno that turn hell into a circus (though, in case you are wondering, all clowns do go to Hell). The choice of torturing or absolving sinners is a constant struggle throughout this adventure, and, while torturing prompts a quick and gory cutscene, the road to salvation involves an unusual rhythm game that is shockingly reminiscent of Gitaroo Man. Then you have the fact that Hell is apparently littered with enough collectibles to make a bird ‘n bear proud, complete with happy little messages every time you find Tristan’s Desire or complete a challenge or whatever. Oh, and every goddamned person Dante has ever met in his life has apparently been damned to Hell, so get ready for the most family-reunion-based journey into darkness you could ever imagine.

And, individually, any one of these transgressions against sincerity would not impact the narrative. But when they all combine, they form an unstoppable Voltron of silliness that threatens to blazing sword any shred of dignity in Dante’s world to pieces. You can have a story about a disgraced knight fighting his way through Hell to save the world, but you cannot involve this many angry babies in the proceedings and expect it to be taken seriously.

But being silly should not be a sin. A sin should be something like…

The Sin of Sloth: This Hell is Tedious

It's a little chilly hereWriting in a contemporary vernacular is often cited as a prime reason Dante’s Divine Comedy has endured through the ages, but it is likely there is another, more obvious reason people have been reading The Inferno for so long: it is friggen fun. For being a tale of woe and suffering, it is enjoyable to see all the ironic punishments that Dante has imagined for the various sinners of the ages. In an unusual way, when you consider the number of “celebrity” sentences involved in the Inferno, Dante’s Inferno could have and likely did read as a revenge tale in its day. Did not like that one Emperor that overtaxed your grandpa? Well now he’s rutting about in poop for the rest of eternity! That’s what you get, loser! And that kind of thing persists into the modern era, because the concept of your landlord forever being tortured by Lucifer’s freezing wings is everlasting.

Gamer Dante’s Inferno is less everlasting, though. In defense of the game, there is a consistent, intimidating art style, and the monsters you fight across Hell are a lot more unique and diverse than your average beat ‘em up of the same three guys (or an army of the same shadow people). But sometime around when you explode your twelfth super fat puking guy, you realize that there is not much there there. This has a very American McGee’s Alice or McFarlane Toys Reimagining vibe to it, as everything has been reimagined to be broadly edgier… but that’s about all they got. Once you get past Dante’s bizarre fashion choices and slaughtered a baby or two, you realize that the best they will ever be able to do with the final boss is toss a few extra pentagrams into the proceeding. And once you do come to that realization, Hell becomes boring. There is a palpable tedium to seeing “shocking” items over and over, and it really does not help when those same outrageous opponents start looping endlessly during the finale.

And abandon all hope ye who believe the gameplay will save this adventure. That dreariness is locked in practically from the start, with the only real ability enhancements that significantly impact playstyles being reserved for four distinct points across the journey. Beyond that, you simply have relics and upgrade trees that make insignificant changes to the action (“Stop the presses! The combo meter has an extra two seconds of forgiveness!”), and the action is only ever “it’s God of War”. There were already, like, a bunch of God of War games before Dante’s Inferno hit the Playstation, guys! And the PSP does too count!

Look, when your Hell is defined by its monotony, you are committing a mortal sin. But even that sin is nothing before…

The Sin of Lust: Forsaken Beatrice

There is no saving thisThis Dante is not a poet or everyman. This Dante is specifically a knight of the Crusades. This Dante is a man that was deceived by The Church, and was told that his sins would be absolved if he was a good little soldier. When he died, he found he was damned, so he fought back against Death, stole his scythe, and then decided to fight to redeem his myriad sins (though you have to wonder how super damned you would be after literally killing the anthropomorphism of a cosmic rule). Unfortunately, he was dragged to Hell when he returned home and found his father and fiancée were both killed in his absence. Now the soul of said fiancée is in the hands of Lucifer (also his father, but nobody cares about that jerk). Dante dives into the pit to rescue Beatrice, and save us all from Satan along the way.

So before we go any further in this sad tale, let us examine the original Divine Comedy’s Beatrice. To be clear, in reality, Beatrice was not ever Dante’s wife, and was merely a nine year old girl who made a significant impression on ol’ Dante when he was also nine (if this sounds ridiculous, please consider that this whole scenario apparently worked for Darth Vader). Beatrice was a real person first, and never a lover. In the context of the Divine Comedy, Fictional Beatrice basically steals the chronicler role from Virgil when Dante hits Heaven, because Virgil isn’t allowed past purgatory. But don’t worry, Beatrice is more than a replacement Navi, as while Virgil is the eternal symbol of man’s intelligence and reason, Beatrice is meant to represent the divine, and the holiness of the humanities and man’s general impulses towards art. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché that a poet would consider poetry to be sacred, but you must give Dante a break, as you are someone reading these words on a gorram videogame blog. Beyond all that, though, Beatrice is certainly an unattainable beauty to Dante, but she is also literally the most helpful person in Heaven. That says a lot about the measure of the woman that is the celestial Beatrice.

In Dante’s Inferno for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Beatrice open mouth kisses Satan. For a while.

Big sloppy kisses

That looks vaguely uncomfortable for a woman that avoided the male gaze a few centuries back by simply being described as having fair skin and emerald eyes.

Once again, if you squint, you can almost see how this story was created. Dante is an unrepentantly (okay, not technically true) violent man that is irredeemable (again, the whole point is…) in his many murderous actions, so it is easy to see how he needed something “pure” to fight for to endear himself to the player. So if rescuing a princess worked for Link, let’s apply it to another knight. Unfortunately, that immediately delves into the “women as objects” trope, so someone likely thought it would be a good idea to give Beatrice some of her own agency. So no longer is Beatrice simply being damned by Dante’s actions, now she is a woman that chose to go the evil route with Lucifer as her new groom. Apparently selecting Hell in the stratum of the mortal sin of lust is… well, no two ways about it, you’re gonna turn into a whore. Like, literally, complete with pinup transformation and a whole lot of necking. And then, of course Dante has to rescue his former bride from the clutches of almost certainly kinky sex with the Prince of Darkness, because, dang, wouldn’t Dante feel bad if he went through all of this nonsense, and he didn’t win a sexy lady out of the deal?

And, hell, that’s terrible.

Just like the rest of Dante’s Inferno.

Yeah, let’s go ahead and damn Visceral Games’ Dante’s Inferno for all eternity. Some sins are beyond forgiveness.

FGC #603 Dante’s Inferno

  • I always liked NormanSystem: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PSP. The Playstation 3 version was used for this review, and the PSP is clearly some kind of mad dream of a deranged, damned king.
  • Number of players: Virgil would have been the obvious second player, but no dice there. Just Dante.
  • Pick your poison: In other games, Classic Mode implies the greatest challenge. Here, apparently, “classic” is meant to denote “based on a literary classic that does not involve buttons”, so Classic Mode is 100% easy mode. You can switch at any time, too, so maybe “practically invincible” mode can come in handy once in a while.
  • Eat the baby: Dante’s Inferno was released during that era where every game had to have a superficial morality system (thank you very much, Bioshock). Thus, you continually have the option of punishing or absolving sinners and/or demons. And, much like in many games of the era, absolving appears to always be the proper answer, as you continually gain more “holy bullets” and experience points from showing mercy. I appreciate the moral, but it is yet another example of Dante’s Inferno going about 30% into an interesting idea before immediately giving up.
  • Speaking of Morality: Okay, so the sin that damns Beatrice in the first place is that Dante forsook the vow he made before God to never make love to another woman. And why did he do that? Well, because an “enemy” woman begged for her brother’s life to be spared, and Dante satisfied this request for the nookie. But! The saved soldier was not her brother! He was her husband! And said husband then spent the remainder of his life tracking down Dante’s family, and then killing his father and Beatrice! And what are we supposed to take from that? Mercy leads to more violence? Sinning in the name of kindness leads to more sins? Sex equals homicide? Murderers are always gonna murder? Going to be a while before I unpack that one.
  • Plot Twist: At the finale of the adventure, Lucifer reveals that the gigantic chains Dante/you have randomly severed throughout Hell were actually the only things holding ol’ Scratch back. This would have been a much bigger surprise if you couldn’t hear Satan laugh maniacally every single time you cut a chain. Dude just has zero poker face.
  • What is he thinking?Downloadable Content: There were eventually legitimate expansions to Dante’s Inferno that offer a prelude (based on the poem, and involves werewolves) and an additional playable character (Dante’s guardian angel in the flesh). But right there from launch were purchasable “experience points” to kit out Dante with new moves faster for a few bucks. This is likely why the save file for Dante’s Inferno is locked against copying, because what is player autonomy in the face of potential DLC sales?
  • Watch along: Dante apparently stitched his own cross onto his chest, and that iconic quilt offers animated vignettes about Dante’s various sins. This… is actually kind of cool, even if it does raise more than a few questions about Dante’s apparently enormous embroidery skills. Less cool is that there was an animated tie-in film that corralled some pretty big name creators in the name of Dante’s Inferno: The Anime. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic seems to maintain the general visuals of its source game, but dodges some pretty important plot beats, like Dante conquering the Grim Reaper and stealing his signature weapon. And given it was Direct-to-DVD, watching it through traditional means may be all but impossible now. Maybe Dante could sew a recap blanket for you.
  • Did you know? They motion-captured an actual toddler to get realistic baby motions for the murder-infants. The designers were so proud of this, they made a featurette about it that only unlocks after completing the game. Learning more about child monsters is your reward for trudging through Hell. That has to be a sin, too, right?
  • Would I play again: I was very happy to see this disc leave my Playstation 3. I played the silly Dante game, Lord, do You want me to suffer again?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance! It just wouldn’t be October without a trip to Castlevania! Please look forward to it!

Eat up!

FGC #587 Hannah Montana: Rock Out The Show

Yes, let us all rockHannah Montana: Rock Out The Show is an “Only on Playstation” PSP title that sees Disney’s Hannah Montana rock out a variety of shows. While Hannah is rocking, it is your job to dress her and her backup dancers, prepare the stage, and then press a series of random buttons so your star can rock as optimally as possible. It is a pretty straightforward example of a rhythm game, though there is a smattering of a plot with Hannah stuck planning on her own world tour while her dad reminds Disney lawyers that the man responsible for Achey Breaky Heart does not appear in videogames. And, since we have a plot going anyway, may as well act out a few “skits” that are similar in tone to the television series that made Hannah Montana a household name.

Actually… uh… sorry to show my whole ass here, but I’ve never seen an episode of Hannah Montana. I apologize! I wasn’t the right age for Disney Channel programming, and… Wait, sorry, that’s a lie. I watched a lot of Disney Channel shows, because I am a perpetual adolescent that will always be excited about fantastical adventures (for further evidence, please see the entire rest of this blog). I just didn’t watch any live action Disney Channel content. I have enough real life in my real life! I don’t need to be reminded of a grotesque world that looks like mine, but Corey is somehow in the house! So I missed Hannah Montana when it was new, and thus do not know if her taking a tour to Madagascar or Mumbai is supposed to be normal, funny, or ironic. Are these characters always so antagonistic to each other? Is the obvious and impending fratricide a normal part of the programming? I just don’t know!

However, I do know one thing, and that is that you can judge an artist by their songs pretty easily. I do not have the time to consume 98 episodes of content to determine whether this Lilly character is relevant to the overarching themes of the concept. But I can listen to the eleven songs included on this humble UMD. And, from listening to these eleven songs long enough to parse out some lyrics, it has been determined that Hannah Montana has four, evidently Disney-approved themes:

Hannah Montana Likes to Party!
Song examples:

  • Pumpin’ Up the Party
  • Let’s Get Crazy
  • We got the Party
  • Let’s Do This

FancyOkay, easy one! Hannah Montana is an entertainer grown in Nashville labs for the express purpose of entertaining teens and tweens (“tweens” are presumably teens that enjoy the comedic antics of Wario). And what does that age group love? Partying! So don’t worry, not-kids, Hannah Montana is here to help you party like a rock star! Well… a Disney approved rock star. You can’t get too cray-cray when Lord Mickey is watching.

So Hannah Montana has at least four songs that are “party songs”. They are party songs that are about as generic as possible (yes, Hannah, let us all “get loud” in an authority-approved way), but they are at least teen-appropriate with a number of references to adults not understanding (“parents might not understand”) while the rocking is happening. And, hey, the songs do actually rock! Or at least there’s a steady beat! These songs are more exciting than… uh… singing hymns? Surely you would not be allowed to rock this hard in the presence of a nun.

“Let’s Do This” also contains references to the artist wishing to invite the whole of the audience backstage for the rockin’ “real party” after the show. This neatly brings us to our next point…

Hannah Montana is Secretly Better than You
Song Examples:

  • Best of Both Worlds
  • Just Like You
  • Rock Star

Dance itSo this is apparently the “conflict” of Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana is a stage persona, but the “real” Hannah Montana is Miley Stewart, a normal teenage girl just like you or me! Wow! She’s a rock star, but also has to go to math class! She can be the best of both worlds!

And, like, that’s great for you, Hannah, but this boasting doesn’t have to be the focus of, like, half these songs. There is probably some wonderful wish fulfillment here for teens who want to experience that same “the best part is that you get to be whoever you want to be”, but you will note that these songs do not sing about the glories of finishing your English homework. They are all about “living the dream” and “signing autographs” and having “dreams come true” despite being “just like you”. She doesn’t want to be treated differently! Except maybe she can still go to lavish movie premieres!

Can’t you see I’m just an ordinary girl? Who may or may not have servants that dance for her personal amusement? You don’t? Wow, that sucks.

And the stated surprise of “Rock Star” is “I might even be a rock star,” which seems to denote that this secret life could be the secret of most anyone. It, ya know, isn’t, but the implication brings us to…

Hannah Montana is Downright Better than You
Song Examples:

  • I Got Nerve
  • Supergirl

Something about butterflies“Supergirl” seems to posit that you do not want to be a super girl like Hannah Montana. This clearly-not-a-kryptonian claims in an opening lyric that just because she is a star, it does not mean she gets whatever she wants when she snaps her fingers “just like that”. And that is likely true! But the rest of the song outlines how she is on the “covers of your magazines”, is the center of attention literally everywhere she goes, and is apparently a trendsetter in everything from fashion to leisure activities. She once again claims to be like you or I, immediately before noting that she is “super cool, super hot,” and whatever the hell “super super” is supposed to be.

The message is clear: Hannah Montana has deep feelings and bad days just like you or I, but she is also the center of the universe. Even in your wildest dreams, humble(d) listener, you will never reach the lofty, exalted position as The All-Hannah Montana.

And then there’s “I Got Nerve”, which could be a great “every girl” anthem about having the nerve to understand that anyone in Hannah’s audience could be someone that says “I know where I stand, I know how I am” and “gonna get what I deserve”. But it starts with “we haven’t met, and that’s okay, ‘cause you will be asking for me one day” and ends with a haunting refrain of “I’m what you want” and “what you need”, thus reminding you the listener that Hannah Montana is not “every girl”, she’s Supergirl. She is unique. She is special. You are… what was your name again? Anonymous Fan #67,163? Wow! That’s cool! Are you named after your grandma?

Hannah Montana is Every Woman
Song Examples:

  • Nobody’s Perfect
  • Life’s What You Make It

Keyboardists rock!Bah, perhaps this is all too cynical. It is not about identifying Hannah Montana as some inaccessible, marginally impossible goal of super stardom at the age of thirteen, it is about escapism. Nobody chastises anyone that enjoys Peter Parker and his secret identity as the Spectacular Sticky-Man, and Hannah Montana should not be judged like a “real person” just because Miley Cyrus actually is a real person that got to achieve the rock star dream before she was old enough to drive. It is unerringly contemptuous to interpret these anthems as musical arrogance.

And besides, you have songs like “Life’s What You Make It”, which plainly states that you can make life hard or a party, it’s all up to you! You can party with Hannah Montana, you just have to believe in the Hannah Montana in your heart! You decide! Your life is under your control! And “Nobody’s Perfect”, which has a distinct refrain about everybody making mistakes! Hannah Montana has to “work it again and again to make it right”, and that’s a good lesson for anyone! “Try again!” It works for pop idols and regular losers alike!

Hannah Montana is a celebrity, but she is also a teenage girl, just like her intended audience. She is as mundane and universal as her songs. She is not perfect. She is just a woman trying to make her life what she wants to make it.

And you can help her by watching her internationally broadcast show, buying her albums, playing her videogames, purchasing her officially licensed Sony Playstation Portable variant model…

FGC #587 Hannah Montana: Rock Out The Show

  • System: There are Hannah Montana games on other systems (mostly related to the movie), but this specific game is only on the PSP. Did it make the jump to the Vita? Only Miley’s brand manager knows for sure.
  • Number of players: You can share your performances with other players, so does that count as multiplayer? If not, it is just Hannah Montana singing alone.
  • World Tour: Hannah Montana starts in Nashville, but then travels to international locations like Mexico City, Venice, and Tokyo. Even if this is a non-canon adventure on top of a fictional show, I appreciate any time a “world tour” visits more locations than “everywhere in the United States, and London”.
  • Hardware: There is a solid pink PSP-3000 that was packaged with Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show. To my knowledge, it was the only PSP-3000 that was distinctly “for the girls”. Also, it is the only PSP-3000 that I own.

    Also the sound you make for a cat

    What? I wanted something stylish for when I have to output my PSP games! Did you think I was emulating these things this whole time? Gitaroo Man does not deserve that.

  • A sign of the times: You can use your PSP’s online functionality to access the websites for Hannah Montana and Radio Disney! Yay! You would never be able to type those links in a browser on your own!
  • What’s in a name: Apparently Billy Ray Cyrus’s name on Hannah Montana is Robby Ray Stewart. I don’t know why this makes me laugh every single time.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: It is goddamned impossible to find the proper track list for this game anywhere online. I had to complete the whole story mode, and then transcribe the song names just to get this article started! The things I do for an article about a PSP game written to appeal to exactly no one, least of all the author!
  • WooooooDid you know? Apparently there is an episode of Hannah Montana that was pulled and repurposed in America because it upset the Children with Diabetes organization. The episode was titled “No Sugar, Sugar”, and was offensive thanks to its complete inability to portray diabetes in a remotely correct fashion. The episode did manage to air everywhere else in the world, though, and occasionally showed up in Disney syndication thanks to human error and/or the nefarious forces of Blubberman. Why does it still air in other countries, when its comments on diabetes are just as wrong outside the US? We may never know.
  • Would I play again: Is this a decent little rhythm game? Yes. Is it also entirely superfluous in the face of other, more modern videogames? Also yes. I will only play this game again if I want to revisit the fabulous world of Hannah Montana… which isn’t likely to happen ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Disney’s Kim Possible: What’s the Switch?! It’s our final look at Disney nonsense, and it’s probably even more alienating to my audience than this Hannah Montana nonsense! Hooray! Please look forward to it!

It's vaguely funny
Okay, the little skits are somewhat charming

FGC #583 What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 2

Shhhhh he's talkingLet’s talk about dungeons, Mario Making, and executive dysfunction.

Super Mario Maker 2 was released nearly two years ago. Initially, it had much the same issue as Street Fighter 5 or Splatoon 2: the previous version had been subject to frequent updates featuring both quality-of-life and just-plain-cool upgrades, and Super Mario Maker 2 did not feel different enough from its predecessor to really deserve that same dedication. I already made a bunch of Super Mario Maker 1 stages, why do I need to find new ways to utilize Cloud Strife-based puns for these same lakitu barrages? But, over time, Super Mario Maker 2 obtained its own updates, and now we’re looking at a totally new experience that involves frog suits, SMB2 mushrooms, and some patently-dubious ninji speedruns. Super Mario Maker 2 is well and truly its own animal at this point, and, while official support may be waning now (sorry, no new game styles for you), general community support is still there and active, so you can create infinity Mario stages for a very expectant audience. This is the perfect time to tear into Super Mario Maker 2!

Aaaand I can’t make a single damn level. The soul is willing, but the mind is weak and pasty…

There is a part of me that wants to create a Super Mario Maker 2 “game”. Eight worlds, four levels each, and theme each world around a different aspect of Mario. Maybe make World 1 something more based on Super Mario Bros. (1) gameplay, while a later world features the quirks of Super Mario Bros. 3. And the various powerups! And vehicles! I could make a whole world that is a vague shoot ‘em up! I love those things! I have a thousand ideas for Super Mario Maker 2, and I should be able to fill up a whole universe with ‘em inside of a few days.

Working awayBut, if I am being honest, that kind of project has always been a problem for me. I might want to do something, I might even have some great ideas for individual moments in some grand design, but when it comes time to actually sit down and do it, I am stuck. I cannot make even one level. Why? Well, some would claim it is a failing of the soul. Others may point to a low level form of executive dysfunction/dysexecutive syndrome and/or adult attention-deficit disorder. My father would just say I’m slacking off again (good job with the tough love, dad). Am I going to try to self-diagnose my inability to make Mario levels for a blog post? Maybe! But the end result is the same: there ain’t no Goggle Bob Super Mario Maker 2 stages available, and it is pretty safe to assume there won’t be any any time soon, either.

If you really want to get into the details of why Super Mario Maker 2 isn’t happening, look no further than the many, many options available within the game. I am being crippled by choice! I understand dividing it into manageable, themed chunks is not only a good design theory, but also something my brain can possibly process. I cannot deal with multiple “universes” of Mario availability, but I could potentially sit down and figure out the best damn Super Mario World courses possible. I could do that! But I’m not going to, because, even limited to one “style”, I can still choose from like twenty different monsters, ten different obstacles, and oh man I am totally ignoring how I could shoehorn Yoshi into all of this nonsense. And even all that comes after designing a level layout. How am I supposed to figure out how to stack seventy hammer bros if I can’t lay the path Mario is going to take!? Maybe I should start with a basic layout, and go from there… But would that be too boring?

Or maybe I should just play a game that is all basic layouts…

It's the food chain!What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 2 is a Playstation Portable title from 2008 that didn’t see North American shores until 2010. Since this article is already ridiculously autobiographical, I will note that I purchased this game back in the day for two distinct reasons:

  1. At the time, I believed NIS America to be the sole source of humor in videogames, and NIS America was responsible for this localization.
  2. I believed this to be a Warioware/W.T.F. style minigame compilation, as was the style with “eccentric” titles of the time.

By now, both of those assumptions have been proven to be differing degrees of terrible. Congratulations on NIS for pioneering the concept of being glib about JRPG conventions, but, man, the American indie scene adopted that tone, and now you can’t get six games into the eShop without ramming into thirty snide references to how the good ol’ days of gaming weren’t always so good. And, more importantly, WDIDTDTML!?2 is not a minigame simulator. This is a game that has one basic gameplay concept expanded to multiple levels. And that concept? You are the bad guy, and you have to build your own dungeon to keep the heroes out and/or dead.

But don’t worry! Being an evil overlord is easy! Apparently thwarting heroes is as straightforward as playing Dig Dug. There are four or five stratums of dirt under every dungeon entrance, and it is your task, God of Destruction, to grab that pickaxe and plink out a path through the mud. Along the way, various monsters will be released from the surrounding ether, and, after a sufficiently winding path is constructed, you will place Demon Lord Badman in the most fortified location. Then, the heroes inevitably start their march toward Lord Badman, and the only thing that is going to hold them back is a twisty dungeon filled with an army of monsters. And do not worry if you lose a few monsters, because their essence can be “recycled” into bigger and badder baddies, so maybe Dolph Heroman, Slayer of Slimes, will be devoured by a reincarnated lizard the size of a Buick. Lord Badman is in good (bad) hands!

It's a party!And, according to the narrative details of WDIDTDTML!?2, those monsters getting “recycled” is ultimately the point of the game. Every dungeon you create is a mini eco system, and depending on how food (other monsters, adventurers) is distributed in this environment, you may see all kinds of mutations and variants in your creature population. Mutants may appear because they are overfeeding (sorry, those slimes are just too delicious), or they have been absorbing too much ambient dungeon mana. Or maybe they just dropped into the place from a gateway to Hell, and they are about to throw the whole ecosystem out of whack! I mean, it’s all good as long as Lord Badman is protected from encroaching mages, but, still, would have liked to see those omnomnom worms survive. And, for the record, if you would like to play with this whole “ecosystem” mechanic, there is a mode in WDIDTDTML!?2 that is basically “free play”, and you can see just how many skelemans (actually their names this time!) you can have operating before a Wookiemon devours the whole lot. We’re all learning together!

But whether you are here to see the mating habits of dragons or not, there is definitely some magic happening. You are making a dungeon! Okay… yes… I’ve been saying that all along, but you’re making a dungeon carelessly! Wait.. that’s still wrong… You’re making a dungeon without thinking? Dammit! What I am trying to say is that when playing WDIDTDTML!?2, you are using the same basic tools as your average Mario Maker (making levels, distributing monsters/traps), but you are doing it with all the haste necessary to repel an invading force. There is a time limit. There are resource limits. There is an immediate challenge, and I can deal with an immediate challenge. I can work with a deadline. Would I make more complicated, noteworthy, and potentially brilliant dungeons if I were working with the unfettered freedom available in a different “maker” style game? Of course! But would I actually make anything in that environment? Evidently not!

Look at that spriteSo, as much as I hate authority, I know something simple about myself: I cannot work unless someone is yelling at me. I cannot create unless there is a clear and present deadline. I cannot trust myself to do goddamned anything unless someone, whether they be a Hell Lord or not, is complaining about my lack of output. I could do anything, but I’m not going to do a damn thing until it can be described as “looming”.

And I’m going to keep playing WDIDTDTML!?2 until Super Mario Maker 3 includes a mode where Bowser yells about not having a built castle yet.

FGC #583 What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 2

  • System: Sony PSP, and I’m pretty that’s it. There’s a quasi-sequel on the Vita, but I don’t think this UMD made the jump over to the digital realm of the Vita. Or maybe it did? I don’t know. Not like there’s an online shop where I can check.
  • Number of players: Just the one. It “feels” like it is 2-players with the existence of the invading heroes, but they’re exclusively A.I.-controlled.
  • What’s in a name? The original title for this game was “Holy Invasion Of Privacy, Badman! 2: Time To Tighten Up Security!”, however, there were some concerns about the Batman estate (carefully managed by billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne for some reason) taking legal action against the more Batusi-based title. The bad guy is still named Badman, though. Oh, and if we’re going with the original Japanese title, that’s “For a hero, [you are] quite [impudent/cheeky/bold] 2”. It must be a mouthful either way.
  • This is technically the first oneFavorite Monster: Black Hole Stomach is one of the overweight mutations of the succubus-style monsters. I appreciate the fact that this is, like, the one game I can name where there are “fat” human-type monsters, and they’re not just walking jokes or portrayed by a sprite that is simply marginally rounder. Black Hole Stomachs are just as jiggly as any other large monster. And their “ecosystem” stats mean they subsist on spirits! How do you gain weight by eating the ephemeral? Just a lot to like/unanswered questions there.
  • For the prequel: What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 1 was a DLC-exclusive title that could be lost to the ages… but WDIDTDTML!?2 included it on the disc via entry of a secret code (that is listed in the instruction booklet). Hooray for game preservation! Of course, WDIDTDTML!?1 kind of feels like a warmup for WDIDTDTML!?2’s more intricate gameplay, so there is very little reason to go back to basics. But, hey, at least the option is available!
  • Did you know? Apparently no one has a complete WDIDTDTML!?2 Almanac of Monsters (and Heroes) online. But there is a “Holy Badman” wiki, so one could suppose that progress is being made.
  • Would I play again: If this were more accessible, totally. As it is, I don’t get out the PSP that often, so it’s kind of a bother. But I do enjoy digging out tunnels for our favorite Badman, so I would like to get back into it sometime.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Captain America and The Avengers for SNES! The Avengers, eh? I think I’ve heard of those guys! Please look forward to it!

It's a crane game

FGC #580 Mega Man Powered Up

There was a meme circulating recently that asked a simple question: if you were able to “takeover” any company/production studio/IP with impunity, what franchise would you helm and/or revive? Obviously, my mind races at even the suggestion of such a scenario. Is it finally time for Gitaroo-Man to take the stage again? Or can I decisively make that “Metroid 5” title that sees Samus somersaulting through a 2-D, futuristic/abandoned city (well, it’s not technically abandoned, there is a lot of sand around)? Or would I zero in on one of my most beloved/expansive franchises? Trade Mighty No. 9 for that all-important Mega Man Legends 3? Continue the X franchise into the real 202X? Or would I turn my gaze elsewhere? Would I settle for a sequel to an all-but-forgotten PSP game?

Would I demand Mega Man Powered Up 2?

Let’s talk about Mega Man Powered Up (1). Actually, wait, let’s talk about Mega Man (1). Mega Man has been discussed on this blog before, and we came to an unfortunate conclusion: it is not very good. It is not bad! It is just not very good, and, considering there are five other Mega Man titles on the Nintendo Entertainment System (and at least two Gameboy games!), there really is not a reason to play Mega Man (1) beyond morbid curiosity. Sure, Mega Man is where it all started, but it is by no means an essential entry in the franchise that would shortly thereafter allow a player to whack a sentient fan with all the strength of a dog punch. And perhaps it was this unfortunate fact that prompted Keiji Inafune, Mega Man’s adopted father, to produce Mega Man Powered Up, a game with the basic premise of Mega Man (1), but more than a few significant changes.

Swing itFirst of all, as one would expect, the original Mega Man graphics of 1987 were updated to something that would be a bit more appropriate for nearly twenty years later. This was a carefully measured graphical upgrade, too, as the target system for Mega Man Powered Up was the PSP, a very particular handheld with its own widescreen dimensions. Mega Man was made for a big fat TV that could host a fighting robot just as easily as Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Mega Man Powered Up had to fit a world that was much more rectangular. Given this shift to a different aspect ratio, Mega Man’s levels had to be reformatted into something less vertical, and generally more horizontal. And, hey, the fact that nobody had to fight the memory constraints of an early NES cartridge probably changed a few things, too. And speaking of constraints, every Mega Man game after Mega Man 1 featured eight robot masters, while Rock’s first adventure only included six opponents. How about another two for the road? Include some dubious voice acting and a little extra personality for every ‘bot, and then you’ve got a proper Mega Man that matches the style of the contemporary Mega Man titles of the era. Mega Man is all dressed up and ready for modern times.

Except Mega Man Powered Up was a snip ahead of its time.

Let’s talk about the PSP for a moment. The PSP was Sony’s first prominent videogame handheld, and the intended rival to the Nintendo DS. And while the UMDs of the PSP could boast more intensive experiences than anything on the DScitation needed, one thing the system lacked was a touch screen. This would be rectified with the PSP’s successor, but the feature that would launch a thousand mobile games was wholly absent from the Playstation Portable. And, lest we forget our history lessons, the PSP was also riding high right on the cusp of wireless internet functionality being standard. All PSP systems had online capabilities, but, if you were off a college campus, the average PSP user didn’t have easy access to that functionality until late in the system’s go-based life. This led to a few curious scenarios wherein game designers practically begged their audience to go hook up to a McDonald’s hotspot, and maybe the prompted players could get a little bonus The good doctorfor actually connecting to the wi-fi. An easy and relevant example: Mega Man Powered Up would offer a playable Roll only through a PSP system-based download, and you could connect again later to get some seasonal costumes. The message was clear: kids, please go online, and we’ll give you free stuff. Just go online, players, you’ll like it, we swear.

These two failings of the PSP are relevant because Mega Man Powered Up could have really used a touch screen and an audience with extensive online support. Why? Because Mega Man Powered Up featured a pretty robust level editor. And who wouldn’t want that?! Make your own Mega Man stages! I’ve been doing that with graph paper and my grandparent’s colored pens since I was seven! The only issue was that, without a touchscreen, the controls were cumbersome, and without a reliable internet connection, there was no way to share and trade with others. The functionality was technically there, but the community decidedly was not. So Mega Man Powered Up: Make Your Own Levels was little more than a five minute novelty, and not the Mario Maker it could be today with a potential Mega Man Powered Up 2.

But if we’re being honest (and what is a videogame blog without honesty?), the whole “Mega Man Maker” of a potential Mega Man Powered Up 2 would be completely perfunctory next to the real reason this humble blogger wants to see Mega Man Powered Up 2: MMPU let you play the whole game (and multiple challenge levels) as all the Mega Man Robot Masters.

Freeze!And it is hard to overstate how this is simultaneously the best and worst idea for revitalizing Mega Man (1). On one hand, who doesn’t want to play as the bad guys? It was fun to grab Cut Man’s rolling cutter, but why not have the man with the head-blade himself? And who wouldn’t want to run around blasting away with atomic fire that also inexplicably works as headgear? But, unfortunately, the original Robot Masters have more problems than dangerously themed hats. The original Mega Man bosses were extremely limited in their movesets, and Mega Man won everything upon stealing their master weapon. Elec Man has an amazing Elec Beam, but take it away, and he is no different than Mega Man. Run, jump, unique weapon, the end. And some of those weapons/robot masters don’t even work. Guts Man is an iconic opponent, but his Super Arm is situational at best, and outright, irredeemably useless at worst. Even granting Guts Man the ability to summon new blocks only upgrades him from “ineffectual” to “at least he’s not worse than anyone else”. Playing as the bosses of Mega Man is pretty great, but, for the purpose of unique, interesting gameplay challenges, this is the worst crop in the franchise.

But the potential cast of Mega Man Powered Up 2? Now there are some luminaries. Air Man can blow out multiple tornados, and potentially use his winds for platforming hijinks. Flash Man can stop time and spread his pellets around. Quick Man would be an amazing mix of agile mobility and a hypothetically inefficient offense. The invincible dash of Heat Man. The leaf rain of Wood Man. The mettle of Metal Man (he lives every second knowing that one day that Metal Blade will toll for him). Mega Man 2 has one of the most amazing lineups for any Mega Man title (the whole thing would be perfect if Crash Man would just curl up and explode), and the promise of Mega Man Powered Up 2 allowing these Wily Bots to rampage along would be more than enough to guarantee a hit. Hell, you don’t even have to make ‘em good guys! Go the Mega Man & Bass route, and have any given character rebel for no reason! I would give my left pinky for a Bubble Man that is boiling over and taking no prisoners!

Clean up the placeAnd, yes, that is my immediate thought for what game I would petition for a “new” version. I like to imagine I would come up with some game that is innovative, original, and unique in the gaming sphere, but I know what I want. It’s Mega Man. It’s more Mega Man, based on the combination of two really good Mega Man games. Mega Man 2 and Mega Man Powered Up? Mega Man Powered Up 2, please.

And then when we get to Mega Man Powered Up 3…

FGC #580 Mega Man Powered Up

  • System: Playstation Portable, and only PSP. You’re not even allowed to play this bad boy on the Vita. Probably something to do with the online functionality.
  • Number of players: You could share your levels with the whole world, but you’re probably just going to be playing alone.
  • Is the Yellow Devil still terrible? Absolutely. Worst part of the challenges, worst part of the game, worst part of the franchise. It is appropriately named.
  • Favorite Robot Master: Apparently my original choice for Mega Man 1 was Ice Man, but I want to give Time Man a nod on this go round. He can slow down time! But not stop it! We had to save that for Flash Man, apparently, and it’s that kind of continuity that always makes me happy. Also, Fire Man ranks as low as possible on this list for being just south of straight up revisiting Flame Hyenard. What is with Fire Masters with voice acting?
  • Favorite Robot Master (To Actually Play As): Now here is where Ice Man wins. I love ice beam-ing through levels, and it is rather fun seeing just how much of any given stage can be transformed into one continuous series of ice platforms. That said, though, unfreezable bosses are a lot more difficult with that plinky little blaster.
  • Vaguely offensiveHe is not Slick: Oil Man is the other new Robot Master, and he is… a tar baby. Like, straight up, that is exactly what they were going for with the lips and coloration. And that makes sense! Tar, oil, it’s all connected! That said, just because something makes a kind of rational sense doesn’t mean it isn’t hurtful and racist, so someone down the lane should have noted that this was a terrible idea. And the fact that he has a… let’s say “colloquial” accent that involves other Robot Masters calling him a “thug” absolutely does not mean the localization helped. Love that oil slide move! Everything else deserves a rewrite.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: If you were wondering why I have such an exact memory of the state of internet connections at Mega Man Powered Up’s release, it’s because I had to “overwrite” my MMPU save with Gamefaqs-provided data in order to “download” Roll. What was I supposed to do? Purchase a wireless router? I was a poor college student, dammit, and the campus wi-fi isn’t quite there yet!
  • Did you know? Keiji Inafune claimed that the “chibi” style of Mega Man Powered Up was always intended from Mega Man’s inception, but was impossible with NES technology. So we can conclude that, much like George Lucas, Keiji Inafune is a confirmed liar.
  • Would I play again: Probably… but only if the PSP miraculously becomes a lot easier to pick up an’ play. I appreciate that my ol’ portable still has a working battery, but it is a whale of a lot easier to play Mega Man 2 on any given videogame system (and certain toaster models).

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… . Hey! That looks like math! I was told there would be no math! Bah! Regardless, please look forward to it.

Guess he got blocked
This is the only blocking in a fight I support.