Tag Archives: psp

FGC #650 Haunting Starring Polterguy

Here comes the ghostIt is amazing how “eat the rich” can feel so right.

Today’s game is the marginally forgotten Sega Genesis title, Haunting Starring Polterguy. This was an Electronic Arts jaunt from 1993, and won a bit of acclaim at its release for being a very different kind of game. At a time when the consoles were dominated by furry platformers with attitude, Haunting Starring Polterguy was a distinctly humorous game with peculiar gameplay. You are a ghost, and it is your job to scare four different people by possessing a variety of objects that have been conveniently preprogrammed for potential scares. HsP definitely contains some annoying, contemporary “action game” conventions (there is a “Hell” level that is all dodging and jumping, and a completely unsuitable final boss), but, by and large, it is a unique experience that is still rare to this very day. We had… What? Geist? And that was mostly about being a first-person shooter in different forms? Haunting Starring Polterguy is one of the only titles to utilize such a universal concept in decades of gaming history despite the fact that playing as a spooky ghost trying to scare hapless humans is instantly recognizable. We have an entire holiday based on it! Two, if you include the works of Dickens!

And you know what else is another universal concept? Eat the rich. (Also a popular topic for Dickens.)

You are not a generic ghost in Haunting Starring Polterguy. You are, of course, the titular Polterguy. And Polterguy was not some born-dead apparition (eat it, Slimer), he was once a normal, living punk teenager who died thanks to a defective skateboard. And, since he blames this most bogus of deaths on the manufacturers of the board, he is going to haunt CEO Vito Sardini and his family until they run screaming from their home. And in much the same way that Polterguy is a very defined character (for a 90’s 16-bit title) the Sardinis are not just generic people in a house waiting for a spook ‘em up. The Sardinis are… Well, let’s look at Flo’s in-game biography…

Not an aunt

And if that was a little too subtle, how about we see what there is to say about her dear daughter…

Could one day be an aunt

The Sardinis are portrayed as three key things: vicious, selfish, and rich. And it is worth examining why those first two traits so quickly intersect with the third.

First of all, Haunting Starring Polterguy is a “children’s game” that does something far more brave than Grand Theft Auto: it involves children. Aside from fairly generic ghouls that seem to represent the basic concept of death, the four Sardinis are the only opponents Polterguy will ever face. And two of those Sardinis are kids! And, considering you are literally scaring them into homelessness, HsP does go out of its way to make prepubescent children creatures worthy of being tossed out on the street for their crimes. Tony and Mimi are presented as horrible little monsters in their own right, and, complete with unusual mentions of their love of various poisons, the basic concept here seems to be that the world would be better off without the Sardini family. Polterguy is a polter-guy while these rapscallions still live! That doesn’t seem right!

The garage is scaryBut why are Sardini children terrible? Well, obviously because they are rich. Papa Vito Sardini is just south of straight up being Mr. Monopoly as the very picture of capitalism with his suit and giant cigar, and Flo Sardini is the housewife that is assumed to be lambasting a cleaning staff just off screen. They are loaded, and their gigantic homes filled with wild excesses are monuments to their fortune. Hell, the warp from level 2 to level 3 is hidden in the “jacuzzi room”! There is no question that the Sardinis have grossly profited off suffering, and Polterguy is a not-living reminder that their money has been earned through causing literal death to others.

And it is amazing that I intrinsically understood this as a child.

I was roughly Tony Sardini’s age when Haunting Starring Polterguy was released. While I know I didn’t pick this one up on release day, I am estimating that my childhood memory of renting this game did occur when it was contemporary. And I will formally note that I do not consider myself to have been a smart child. Or teenager. Or young adult. Or… whatever I am right now. Adult? That doesn’t sound right… Regardless! I was not a gamer that ever picked up on subtext until roughly the release of Final Fantasy 13, so, back in the Final Fantasy 4 days, I was hopelessly drowning in a quagmire of the literal. But, luckily, there is nothing remotely subtle about the Sardinis. They are mean. They are rich. They are the enemy, and, should Polterguy fail in his mission to teach them a lesson, they will inevitably hurt more people. They are the bourgeois, and they must be stopped.

It's so hotAnd I got that. I understood that the rich were the enemy of a young, hip, teenager (who may or may not be alive). I was never cool/coordinated enough to be a skateboard champ, but I wanted to be a radical shredder. These “rich kids”? They were just as selfish and mean as the bullies at my school. And were the real bullies wealthy and privileged? Of course they were! One of my greatest enemies in primary school was the grandson of a superintendent. Kid was untouchable! I would have haunted his house in a second. And even as a dumb ten-year-old, I knew the reason he could get away with damn near anything was that his parents/grandparents were high enough on the food chain that none of my beloved teachers would ever so much as shoot an ornery glance in his direction. He was untouchable! And it was because of unearned wealth and power!

And, end of the day, when this is something that could be understood by a foolish child, it really raises the question of why “being rich” is something that is supposed to be aspirational.

We see it over and over again, right? We are told that “rich guy” is the smartest guy around, he has been so successful in everything, and then he’s put in a position where we can actively see the decisions he is making and the thoughts he is having, and it is clear we’re dealing with a charlatan. But then how was he so successful? Well, it is pretty easy to identify when someone has inherited billions of dollars, and how that could maybe purchase a few accolades and an entire public relations firm. And whether these braindead Scary Dancerbillionaires are aspiring to politics or simply owning a social media company, we do not need a Citizen Kane to be reminded that they are little more than monsters themselves. A wise writer once said of being rich, “In terms of cognitive impairment it’s probably like being kicked in the head by a horse every day”. And this fact is proven to us over and over again, generation through generation! It’s in our literature and parables going back centuries! We know it in our genetic code at this point that the rich would eat us all if given the tiniest opportunity!

So bite back.

Haunt that couch, Polterguy. When the revolution comes, you will be on the right side.

FGC #650 Haunting Starring Polterguy

  • System: Sega Genesis was technically the only place you could find Polterguy. However, there was an Electronic Arts collection released for the PSP. So EA Replay contains the most recent release of Polterguy… and that was 2006. Good luck finding this dead man now!
  • Scary SexyNumber of players: This is very much a single player game, but, inexplicably, there is a two-player mode. It is mostly an alternating adventure (player one haunts, dies, and then it is player two’s turn), but both players go head-to-head to race out of Hell and see who gets the next turn first. It is a shame that the simultaneous bits only occur in the dreary dungeon, as tandem haunting of the house might be fun. You could scare Sardinis into each other!
  • Optimum Run: And speaking of going to Hell: I literally cannot figure out if this game is meant to be… what’s the word that fits here… played without failure? Like… are you supposed to die? Or re-die? What I mean to say is that your health bar drains very quickly, and, considering “death” just means playing a different kind of level, it is difficult to determine whether “dying” is something that is supposed to happen routinely, or if there is some optimum way to scare everyone and always keep your health topped off. It certainly seems like the scares do not drop enough ectoplasm to keep Polterguy healthy, but maybe if you run all over the house and scare everyone in succession…
  • Cheat ‘em Up: Possibly as a concession to the above issue, there are level warps hidden in every stage. There is practically no way you would find these shortcuts on your own (less “run on top of some blocks to find the secret pipes” and more “haunt the garbage can in one specific room and press B C B B”), but they are quick and easy if you want to “continue” to a new stage. Or… just skip 75% of the game. That’s good, too.
  • Favorite Haunt: One of the doorways is enchanted to summon a skeleton cowboy with pistol blazing. Why is this doorway undead Western themed? Who knows!
  • Ride 'em cowboyAn End: The finale reveals that the family dog was some kind of malevolent force all along. Whether this entity is the reason the starring family is also malevolent is never explored, but you do have to fight the dog monster in a boss fight for which this gameplay system is woefully underequipped. But if you win, Polterguy is restored to life! And then he immediately dies again! Because that is funny! I guess!
  • Did you know? One of the most risqué haunts involves possessing a bath towel in the bathroom, and materializing a seemingly naked woman behind the towel. But when she removes the towel, it reveals she is a touch on the skinless side, and someone is going to be more than a little frightened by the Hellraiser lady walking around. Now that is something Nintendon’t do over on the Super Nintendo.
  • Would I play again: Maybe? This one is a fun curiosity, and really does have unique gameplay for the era. That said, Polterguy is not great at haunting my memory, and I am unlikely to pick it back up if it does not ever appear on a compilation again. So…. Fingers crossed for a Sega Genesis Mini III.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Goat Simulator 3! Let’s watch a goat do all sorts of things. I guarantee it will be spicy! Please look forward to it!

That's all, ghouls

FGC #638 Mega Man Legends 2

Mega Man Legends 2 is the final game in the official, started-with-Mega Man 1 timeline. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the complete, fictional history of Mega Man.

And I didn’t even call him a rock once!

FGC #638 Mega Man Legends 2

  • System: Playstation 1 in 2000, Playstation Portable in 2005, PSN/PS3 forever.
  • Number of Players: Mega Man has a great family, but is the only one allowed to fly to the moon.
  • Favorite Sub Weapon: Z-Sabre makes me feel like Zero and a quiz master. Best of both worlds!
  • Had to fit a GIF somewhere in hereLand of the Rising Fun: In the original Japanese version of Mega Man Legends 2, the “Quiz House” is more or less an “English test”, and quizzes the player on kanji (logographic language characters). This was changed over here to general trivia, which only breaks the universe a little bit when carbons of the future are asking questions about Richard Nixon and The Beatles. Though I suppose it only makes marginally more sense that a single language surviving thousands of years and apocalypses…
  • Story Time: Once again, the plot is teased at the start, and then loaded almost entirely into the finale. In this situation (as mentioned on the stream), I have to wonder if the directors had some kind of warning that they might not get another game, and had to spell out the whole secret history of ol’ Volnutt. Or maybe someone just had a cool idea for an origin, and it included a trip to the moon? Whatever!
  • Tron Resurrection: There is much made of the mystery of the keys and this hidden island and the secret of what happened to Roll’s parents. And it is all worthless next to air pirate hijinks. The ending seems to imply that Tron is going to firmly be on the side of the angels starting with the next title, so maybe it isn’t the worst thing that we never saw a Mega Man Legends 3…
  • For the sequel: That said, the lack of a Mega Man Legends 3 is proof we live in a blighted world wherein we are surviving through one long, continuous slap to the face.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Oh yeah. Want to see the stream? Here it is.




    The finale is great for hearing Caliscrub’s game of the year for every year that has ever happened.

  • Look at the chart: While we are talking about Mega Man stuff, I made this a while back in response to a meme, and it hasn’t been posted on the site before…

    This is very straightforward

    Let us all be amused.

  • Goggle Bob Fact: I produced this video across two continents and three countries. I didn’t work on it much while I was on vacation, but I’m going to claim it technically counted.
  • Credit Where Credit is Due: Good/Bad Elf art provided by Gogglebob.com contributor Poochtastic1. Also happy to have her contribute something pretty and/or scary.
  • Did you know? According to the designers and confirmed by leftover code, originally Roll, Tron, Bon Bonne, Glyde, and Gatz were all going to be playable in different parts of Mega Man Legends 2. Apparently this was scrapped due to making it difficult to animate skeletons in a way that wasn’t immediately reminiscent of Mega. But think of it! We could have had a playable Tron Bonne once again!
  • Would I play again: Capcom, please give us a Mega Man Legends collection. I want an excuse to play through this again while people aren’t shouting at me to fight robots better. It would be nice to have the entirety of the Mega Man timeline on my Switch, too…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for the Playstation 2! Let us once again slay a Dracula or two! Please look forward to it!

BOOM
Seatbelts are not for MegaMan…

FGC #606 Mega Man Legends

Go, Mega!I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so bad at Mega Man Legends, and I’ve settled on a culprit: it’s-a Mario.

As True Gogglebob.com Believers may already be aware, I recently streamed the entirety of Mega Man Legends as part of our now-been-happening-for-a-year-holy-cow Tuesday night streams. Mega Man Legends was chosen because we had been talking about it randomly across other streams, I was kind of anxious to replay the title, and (the most important factor) I just plain remembered liking the game. And I still like it! I just happened to discover that, apparently, I am no longer any good at Mega Man Legends. I died to that dang bulldozer boss like sixty times! It was nebulously embarrassing!

So, in an effort to make sure that every stream is not a gauntlet of Goggle Bob death, I went back to my original save, and loaded up the “final” save I had on my ancient Playstation 1 Memory Card. I beat the game from that file, and, since Wee Goggle Bob had satisfied the necessary conditions, I was able to play a New Game Plus/Easy Mode that all but guaranteed my success on stream. Nothing can stop MegaMan equipped with the Easy Mode Buster! And how do you earn that ultimate weapon? Well, you beat the game on Hard Mode. And wondering how you unlock Hard Mode? Simply beat the game on Normal Mode! So, to be clear, at some point in my not-too-distant past, I not only completed Mega Man Legends, but beat it twice with escalating exertion. I was once super good at Mega Man Legends! Data, can you tell me what happened!?

I hate this guyI will admit that I did not particularly like Mega Man Legends when it was released. I beat it. I played it a lot. But I did not like the trajectory of Mega Man and his fellow “8-bit mascots”. Castlevania had its 64-bit, 3-D adventure. The Legend of Zelda dropped its top-down perspective for 3-D fluting. 2-D fighting games had to make way for 3-D ballerina fights. Contra was doing… something. And, while we certainly had Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4-6 on the Playstation, Mega Man Legends seemed to imply that 3-D was the next big frontier for our Blue Bomber. Did I identify Mega Man Legends as a good game? Of course! It is a good game! But it represented a trend I did not endorse, so I felt my time was better spent banishing Jet Stringray over in the 2-D Mega Man X universe. In fact, while I played nearly every “3-D reimagining” of a beloved franchise that came down the pike, I want to say there was only one 3-D title that I replayed repeatedly during the N64/Playstation 1 era. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to look at Super Mario 64.

And, fun fact, I have no idea if I even like Super Mario 64.

Here are the objective facts: I have collected all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. I accomplished this feat “back in the day”, and without the assistance of a strategy guide or FAQ. I explored every inch of Princess Peach’s Castle, unearthed every last portal-world (it took me forever to discover that Rainbow Ride even existed), and saw Mario nab any and all “secret stars”. Despite 100% completing the game in 1996 or so (I wonder if I finished it in “just” three months…) Over the years, I have returned to Super Mario 64 again and again, playing through its many ports (Wii! WiiU! Switch for a limited time for some reason!) and incarnations A nice sip(Release the DS version again, you cowards!). Whenever I play the game, I always go for all the stars, because it is a Mario game, and tricking yourself into playing less Mario in pursuit of a “speed run” is folly. There is a whole portrait world over there that you can skip, but don’t you want more game out of your game?

Except… I am not certain I like any of those portrait worlds.

Here, I made this chart of courses in Super Mario 64, and my opinion of them:

Bob-omb Battlefield Fun, but a little too “baby’s first world”
Whomp’s Fortress One “fight the boss” course stretched to six remarkably similar challenges
Jolly Roger Bay Swimming world that is absolutely zero fun. Eat my ass, collecting 100 coins
Cool, Cool Mountain Princess’ Secret Slide is a better version of the one fun part of this course
Big Boo’s Haunt What’s the trick to this stage? Random “invisible” panels? Pass
Hazy Maze Cave Should probably be six separate secret areas, and not one big, boring dungeon
Lethal Lava Land If you are not surfing a shell through lava, you are not having a fun time
Shifting Sand Land Absolutely the worst. Every star is just… ugh
Dire Dire Docks Should have just been one secret star, extremely thin on other “challenges”
Snowman’s Land We reskinned the lava stage. Hope you don’t notice
Wet-Dry World One interesting gimmick on a level no one ever wants to play
Tall, Tall Mountain Pretty fun, assuming you do not have to worry about 100 coins
Tiny-Huge Island You like bottomless pits? Sure you do!
Tick Tock Clock No. Just no.
Rainbow Ride Oh we heard you like losing all your progress to bottomless pits from Tiny-Huge Island. Guess what?

And then the game ends!

WeeeeeAnd before Mario 64 defenders flood my inbox (yes, I still operate under the delusion that I am capable of upsetting the internet at large), I realize I am being hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single SM64 stage that does not include a justifiably redeemable star (well, except Shifting Sand Land. Screw that stage). And, yes, my own Mario enjoyment does seem to lend itself to Super Mario Galaxy-esque experiences where stages are over quickly, and you move rapidly from new setting to new setting. It seems only natural that I would swiftly tire of “now do the same thing again in a slightly different way” gameplay (looking at you, Cool, Cool Mountain). But if I am being honest, there are stars that I fear like nothing else in the Mario pantheon. I would chase a thousand Liquid Marios in Super Mario Sunshine before I ever wanted to collect a hundred coins across Tick Tock Clock again. And I would rather jump rope forever than follow around an eel in Jolly Roger Bay. I understand that it is the nature of the completionist itch that I do not have to do any of these things to fully enjoy Mario 64, but what is even the point in being alive if I play Mario 64 and don’t earn 120 stars!?

But I am alive, and I did earn 120 stars in Super Mario 64. Before I moved on from SM64, my cartridge had four different save files with a total of 480 stars. What was the point of that? Perhaps to showcase that I had done it. Or maybe to remind myself that I played SM64 more than practically any Mario title before or since. I may have hated individual levels, but I explored the living hell out of that castle. I spent hours and days of my life on Super Mario 64 to the point that it is now part of my bones. If I “had to” replay the game right now, gun to my head, you have to find Yoshi or you die, I could do it. I do not think I could do that with Mega Man Legends, and the stream of my failures all but confirms this. Why is that?

Because the Nintendo 64 didn’t have any other games, dammit.

BZZZZZZTI scrimped and saved my allowance to afford a Nintendo 64 at launch. I was the happiest boy in the world, and I was going to be damned if I did not use that system to its utmost… Even if the only other game available was Cruis’n USA. I may not have liked the general format of Mario 64, or even a number of its individual challenges, but I was going to play it as much as possible, dagnabbit. I would rescue the princess over and over again. I would toss Bowser into the sun as many times as it took. I did all of this because there were no other options. And, naturally, I got better at it. Naturally, I interpreted this endless playtime as some kind of affection. Naturally, I played the game when it was rereleased, because didn’t I play that game a lot back in the 90s? Yeah, that sounds right. Let’s try it again. I played and continue to play Super Mario 64 out of a sort of eternal attrition, because, for a time, it was my only videogame. Or, at least, it was the only next gen videogame worth playing.

Super Mario 64 kidnapped my attention, and gave me Stockholm syndrome for life.

WeeeeAnd Mega Man Legends? I am willing to say that is a better game than Mario 64. If it is not better, it definitely offers a different, wholly unique experience that is a parallel, but just as good, game as Mario 64. It is more of a “run and shoot” game than Mario’s punch ‘n hop times. It features a huge, interconnected dungeon world, and encourages finding connections between areas that would be eternally separate in Peach’s Castle. The characters and their attendant voice acting/animated acting are marvelous, and a far cry from Mario’s “let them eat cake” morsels of a plot. Mega Man Legends may not have anything as sublime as recklessly gliding over a bob-omb battlefield, but it does have jet boots to spare. Mega Man Legends is an amazing game, and, playing it in 2021 reminds me that this has always been one of the best Playstation games out there.

But it was just one of an amazing crop of Playstation games that were released in 1997. It was not the only decent N64 game release in 1996. As a result, one game got played over and over for years, and the other was left to rot thanks to the likes of Final Fantasy 7, Symphony of the Night, and maybe even Alundra.

And that’s why Mario is responsible for my lack of Mega Man Legends skills. It is all that pesky plumber’s fault…

FGC #606 Mega Man Legends

  • System: Playstation (1) is host to the original and most beloved release. The Nintendo 64 version came along in friggen’ 2001, and was way too late to make an impact on gorram anything. And it was a compromised port on top of it! The PSP version came out four years later (but exclusively in Japan), and a Playstation 3 port scuttled out a decade after that. This is arguably the saddest release schedule gogglebob.com has ever recognized.
  • Number of players: Would have been cool to see another digger get into the act, but we are sticking to one Mega Man here.
  • What's so funny?Favorite Sub Weapon: It is a shame that the signature “variable weapons system” of Mega Man is relegated to refining treasures here, and not gaining, like, the Bonne Blaster after a boss fight. That said, the tactical laser weapon on my original save file is the bee’s knees… and not something I felt like earning on the stream. I guess I am going to say the drill arm this time, because I very much appreciate drill appendages.
  • Story Time: I very much appreciate how 90% of Mega Man Legends is just “have fun running around a neat island”, and then the last 10% is some hoary old tale of apocalypses, fallen civilizations, and allusions to MegaMan Volnutt being the secret chosen one that will change the world. This is an extremely JRPG-esque twist, and I have to wonder if this kind of plot just automatically bubbles to the surface the minute your otherwise carefree games includes treasure chests. See also Hearts, Kingdom.
  • Come to think of it: Complete with the myriad of sidequests and an ending that pretty closely apes the beats of the original Dragon Quest, was this all an early attempt to make the ultimate Mega Man: The RPG? And, if that is accurate, why did it take two Mega Man Battle Network games to get there? And why did they even bother with Mega Man X: Command Mission? So many unanswered questions.
  • Tron Resurrection: Tron and her family are easily the best part of Mega Man Legends, and it is pretty clear this was noticed practically from the beginning. You see a Servbot before you meet about 90% of the cast! Not even counting the title screen! The biggest loss in not seeing the Mega Man Legends franchise flourish was having to only see Tron in random spin-off titles.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Want to see the previously mentioned stream? Well here you go.





    It gets good around Part 3. … Or I just get good…

  • Did you know: Motion capture was distinctly used to create the iconic cinema scenes of Mega Man Legends. This makes Mega Man Legends one of the first games to use motion capture in a videogame for something other than ruthless decapitations.
  • Would I play again: I will play Super Mario 64 again. I will not play Mega Man Legends again. What?! I would rather play Mega Man 3! That’s how it goes!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Metroid! The first one! With the space lady! Please look forward to it!

Roll your eyes
“Why you gotta make this about Mario, Goggle Bob?”

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!