Tag Archives: rhythm

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

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #16: A Song for Kingdom Hearts

I try to stick to a FAQ format for most any Kingdom Hearts post
But some come out a little different than most
Many say the next Kingdom Hearts is but a song
And, for anyone curious, they’re not particularly wrong
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a rhythm game
It’s Theatrhythm: Kingdom Hearts in all but name
And if you’re looking for a fun time, it’s a can’t-miss
It’s great gameplay with a soundtrack that is bliss
Though that depends on how much you love the franchise
And whether you dream of sailing Chip n’ Dale’s skies
Or if you hum the Traverse Town theme to sleep
Or count Meow Wows instead of sheep
And you can play as Sora, Riku, Aqua, and Roxas
And use all their friends to smash heartless and boxes
This is pure, unfettered Kingdom Hearts nostalgia
Looking for something else will cause psychalgia

Looks like fun

But, as is ever common here
Nomura wants your ear
Yes, this game is nostalgia with a plan
(Even if we’re not going to include Tarzan)
See, at the end of KH3, Sora went missing
So it’s up to the girl that he should be kissing
To sort through her boyfriend’s thoughts
And find a memory that connects the dots
To find where her poor Sora has gone
And to make the time before KH4 drag on
Pretty Crystals

And to Kairi’s credit, she does find that important key
It just happens to be something Sora would never see
The answer was always in Kairi’s memories
And how “Ansem” planted one most cleverly
Back when our heroine’s planet heard its final knell
And the villain rocketed Kairi away like Kara Zor-El
Seems Xehanort was aware of other universes beyond their own
Worlds where a Gummi Ship has never flown
Places that appear in their own universe as mere fiction
But are real on the other side of this barrier’s restriction
So if Sora can’t be found
That is where he must be around
Here is that guy

And, by the end, our heroes have a new world to see
(And if you want to know how, be sure to buy KH3’s DLC)
Riku ventures forth to a whole new place
And Kairi stays home to, I don’t know, wash her face
And maybe the next adventure will truly let her participate
As opposed to just sticking her on the cover like fan bait
But if you’re looking for more plot, that’s all you’ll find
Because this whole game takes place in Sora’s mind
Very sparkly

But there is an unexpected bonus to this whole affair
And that’s the way the recap focuses on the joy and despair
Unlike a certain handsome blogger’s focus on franchise phantoms
This story wastes no time on the differences between Ansems
The whole tale of Kingdom Hearts is told from I to III to 358/2 days
And it features not the bad guys, and all of their wily ways
But the trials, tribulations, and feelings of our idols
Because Kingdom Hearts was never about lore bibles
It was always about a trio of separated teens
And how they reconciled through any means
And they made friends and enemies along the way
But didn’t let any silly Organization ruin their day
Let's all work together

Kingdom Hearts always had Disney and Square
And bad guys in cloaks with dubious hair
But it was never about Mickey, Ansem or all the rest
It was about a boy, a girl, and a boy that thought he knew best
And Melody of Memory takes the time to remind us all
That this franchise is more than a lore wrecking ball
It’s about the people that have caused us to care
And the pain that we all share
I know that guy

So, maybe this interpretation of a silly rhythm game is wrong
But I still think, at the very least, it is a game worthy of a song
And I might still be working out the key to its chorus
But that’s only because we’re trying to find our Soras

FGC #537 PaRappa the Rapper 2

You are now believingSo what’s wrong with failure?

PaRappa the Rapper is a phenomenon that is hard to explain to modern audiences. Look, it was like this: for a long, long time, videogames were just beeps and boops and graphics that were blocky as hell. Or, perhaps, it was just a matter of, for many “gamers” of the time, this had been all anyone had ever known, and that “ever” was our entire childhoods. Studies have been performed that have proven, without a doubt, that, when someone is a child, a year lasts approximately eleventy billion millennia. Meanwhile, when you’re older, a single weekend lasts roughly as long as one cheese sandwich. This created the lopsided imagining that videogames would always be no better than what could be pumped out by an NES or Sega Genesis, and the concept of a theme song or graphics that existed in three dimensions was little more than a pipedream (the old videogames did have a lot of pipes, incidentally). This meant that when PaRappa the Rapper was released stateside in the fall of 1997, players went unexpectedly nuts. In 1997, in one game, you had a CD that featured what many hailed as the culmination of an entire franchise, another disc (or four) showcasing the future of the JRPG genre and what was possible for storytelling, and, finally, here was this weird little rap game that went in another, amazing third direction. The graphics were distinct, bright, and colorful. It had voice acting for every scene, level, and character (in English!). The gameplay was wholly new, or, at the very least, it felt new. Rhythmic button pressing wasn’t new by any means, but this didn’t feel like FMV nonsense or some earlier attempt at guitar heroing. PaRappa was an unexpected feast for the eyes, ears, and thumbs.

Of course, nowadays, everything that made PaRappa unique is completely mundane, and it has been for nearly twenty years. If you’re still excited by voice acting in 2020, you were either just beamed here from the distant part, or you finally figured out how to crank your hearing aid. Or maybe you’re just excited a fighting game finally earned an English dub

Let's rapBut PaRappa was an unexpected success in 1997, and that inevitably meant it was time for sequels. And that’s great! Because the original PaRappa the Rapper sucked. Yes, the characters were memorable. Yes, it was charming as all get out. And, yes, the nonviolent setting that managed to tell a compelling story was and still is a breath of fresh air. But have you ever actually played PaRappa the Rapper on the original hardware? Practically constructing the entire rhythm genre from raw materials comes with its own share of problems, as so much that we take for granted today is nonexistent in this maiden voyage. Button prompts sometimes appear microseconds before they’re relevant. “Hit detection” is scattershot, and it’s difficult to know exactly why “U Rappin’ Awful”. And, for reasons that no one has ever understood, the instant feedback of a congratulatory tone when you do something right (or perhaps a punishing buzz when something is performed incorrectly) is replaced with… farts. Seriously! I can’t figure out a way to describe these noises in any other way. I’m trying to press triangle at the right time, failing, and the only indicator as to what might be going wrong is some dude slightly off-screen taking his shirt off and going to town with the armpit noises. It’s not helpful, Musical Mike!

So, yes, from a gameplay perspective, PaRappa the Rapper had some significant issues. It was very easy to lose, and, given you had to repeat the entire stage after every bomb, every loss grew more and more frustrating. Was this by design? Was the game “artificially padded” to prevent immediate progress so as to obfuscate the fact that there are a total of six short stages? If you know what you’re doing, you can complete PaRappa in less time than it takes to watch a television show (granted, this is true when speedrunning most games of the era, but this is without even trying). Was the advanced difficulty meant to extend the length of the game? You gotta!Or was the lack of relevant feedback meant to simulate learning a “freeform” skill like rap? It’s not just about pressing buttons at the right time, player, there’s a je ne sais quoi that cannot be captured by a simple tutorial or… anything but a fart noise. PaRappa the Rapper is exasperating, yes, but it may be for a reason. And if it isn’t for a reason, then they’ll fix it in the inevitable sequel. … Right?

PaRappa the Rapper 2 certainly went in… some kind of direction.

On the surface, this is the same game, just a generation of hardware later. PtR2 is an adventure starring PaRappa where, in an effort to see a dog get deflowered by a flower, you must guide PaRappa through a series of rap battles wherein he gains confidence and the ability to buy a hamburger. All of the raps are new, there are a few more levels on top of the original count, and everything looks and sounds better than it did on the old hardware. There are even escalating, clearly labeled difficulty levels to add a little more replay value to the experience. PaRappa the Rapper 2 did everything PaRappa the Rapper 1 did, but better (give or take your subjective feelings on whether or not a moose driving instructor is better than a moose drill sergeant). But was it easier? Did the directors make more of an effort to help the player through a rap or two? Well, PtR2 did at least give us this guy…

Let's practice!

Come on, PaRappa, relax, it’s time to address this weirdo from your second game.

That’s Boxxy Boy, and he appears at the start of every level. It is his purpose to provide a “simple”, beat-heavy version of samplings of the song, so you’re granted an opportunity to practice before starting a level. You cannot fail Boxxy’s training sessions, and you are welcome to test out your phat beats in an environment where you either pass or keep trying (and are never told you’re being awful). It is a safe space, and, frankly, it’s a great concept for inclusion in a rhythm game. The Hatsune Miku games of today (and games based off the same basic concept) have major problems with starting a featured song with 40 required inputs before you even have a moment to figure out the BPM, so a little “here is what this is like” is welcome. Nobody likes to see a game over five seconds after the “level” starts!

Proof I can do thisBut… would that be so bad? Obviously, it sucked whenever you failed a level in PaRappa the Rapper 1, but, nine times out of ten, that wasn’t because of errors in the opening seconds. It takes time to get to a complicated bridge! And what was the punishment for failure in PtR1? Nothing. You had to repeat the level, but you didn’t have to repeat every previous level, or insert a quarter, or search all over for your missing turtle friends (I’m probably thinking of something specific). Failing sucks, but you’re always a quick restart away from trying again. PaRappa the Rapper 2 is no different, and its additional emphasis on scoring and replays means that there are even greater reasons to ignore any botches that would happen without the omnipresent training tutorial. What’s bad about failing except knowing that you failed?

Or is simply knowing you can suck enough?

According to interviews, Boxxy Boy’s tutorials were implemented because Rodney Greenblat, the man responsible for fashioning PaRappa and his world, was bad at playing Um Jammer Lammy. Thus, Boxxy was implemented to offer a “gentle” tutorial for anyone that was desperate to make it through the “real” game. And that’s a noble goal! Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that Boxxy only repeats one distinct section of the song, and does not prepare a player for pushing through those final beats. So ol’ Rodney is probably still going to lose, except now he knows there’s an entire, useless “mini stage” attached to his failures. Is this why we haven’t seen any new PaRappa characters since? Rodney is too demoralized by Boxxy?

You gotta love?And is that the fear here? That people will give up on PaRappa the Rapper because it is too easy to fail? Is failure so disheartening that people won’t even try? You could claim modern games that revel in try and retry, like Dark Souls and its ilk, disprove this theory. Everyone is chasing that Dark Souls pie right now! But, on the other hand, Souls and the entire “rogue-like” genre is wildly divisive. So much as coughing out the words “Dark Souls” on a forum (they still make those, right?) will lead to a thousand gamers explaining why DS is simultaneously the best and worst thing to ever happen since the Power Glove. And a significant reason for this is that you know there are hundreds of players out there that tried this fancy shmancy new genre, died 70 times, and made up their collective minds to never “waste time” like that ever again. Failure may be upsetting, but squandering your precious time on something that will never lead to success is even worse. Isn’t that why you have a day job? And what is the point of playing a game if you are never going to “beat it”?

And maybe that’s why Boxxy works. Failure sucks, and you absolutely cannot fail when practicing with Boxxy. There is no game over, there is no “thou must not pass” (as you can always skip the lil’ dude with the start button), and Boxxy does not judge you. Boxxy is a safe, friendly buddy, and, while you might not beat the next level, at least you can have a little entertainment with this sentient boombox. Is it as much fun as the “real” game? No. But at least no one is going to judge your skills here. Pass? Fail? You’ll be fine just pressing buttons.

There’s nothing wrong with failure, but it is nice to have a place you can avoid failure. Boxxy is here to help.

But he won’t be back again, because PaRappa the Rapper 2 was a failure, and the franchise never returned.

… So maybe it is a good idea to avoid failing.

FGC #537 PaRappa the Rapper 2

  • System: Playstation 2 initially, and then Playstation 4. I don’t think there was a PSP/Vita version, but I would not be surprised.
  • Yummy!Number of players: Invite over a friend for a rap battle! … I have never subjected anyone I know to this fate.
  • Favorite Level: Stage 5: Hair Scare features Um Jammer Lammy and her band, Milk Can. I like Um Jammer Lammy so much more than the little dog in a beanie, so I appreciate that stage. Look, Lammy is just objectively better, as she gets through her entire game without trying to get laid every five seconds, while PaRappa is just a horndog.
  • Play it Cool: Every one of the teachers (save the friendly ghost of Stage 1) encourages PaRappa to freestyle until he hits “Cool” ranking. I have never understood what exactly makes PaRappa go Cool, as I have no sense of rhythm, and I only know how to make raps good through excessive rhyming. I’m a writer! Not a musician! … Do you think Boxxy could give me a tutorial?
  • What’s in a name: PaRappa Town might sound like one of those lame “the planet is named after the main character” situations (Nobody lives in The World of Lufia, dammit), but “PaRappa” just means “paper-thin” in Japanese, so it’s appropriate for this 2-D environment. Now nobody render anything in 3-D, or it’s all going to fall apart.
  • Very Concerning: Beard Burger Master is rapping from beyond the grave in an effort to help PaRappa construct hamburgers. This is a vision of Hell, right?
  • Did you know? Rodney Greenblat, the character designer that is responsible for PaRappa’s iconic look, Let's Jamalso was responsible for the album art for They Might Be Giant’s self-titled debut album. Put your hand inside the PJ Berri head!
  • Would I play again: It takes a whole hour to complete PaRappa the Rapper 2, so the fact that it is loaded onto my PS4 means it might see play again. It’s a fun little game, Boxxy invasion or no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Cadillacs and Dinosaurs! It’s like Jurassic Park! But with cooler cars! Please look forward to it!

FGC #523 Blues Brothers 2000

Gonna sing the bluesYou have to understand just how impossible it is that Blues Brothers 2000 for the Nintendo 64 exists.

As one might expect, this long, sordid story starts with The Blues Brothers, the 1980 film. Ever seen it? It’s a great movie! It’s a comedy featuring two comedians at the top of their game, and it is also, incidentally, completely bonkers. It’s a movie with a plot, an easily followed story, and clear, well-defined characters… but it’s also a bunch of dudes just messing around and seeing what they can get away with. This was the movie that originally held the record for most wrecked cars in a single film (a title that would eventually be stolen by GI Joe, apparently). James Brown, John Hooker, and Aretha Goddamn Franklin all turned in amazing performances that proved they had no idea how to lip sync to their own songs. Dan Akroyd claims to have included cocaine in the film’s budget to “help the cast stay awake during night shoots”. This may have had an impact on some of the actors involved, as there is this anecdote (compliments of IMDB) involving John Belushi:

John Belushi disappeared while filming one of the night scenes. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like that prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi “America’s Guest”.

Despite the Vatican approving of the film as an official “Catholic Classic” in 2010, there may have been some sinful behavior occurring during the creation of The Blues Brothers. And, unfortunately for the world at large, some of that behavior may have caught up with the iconic cast. John Candy, the marginal antagonist of the film, passed away at the far-too-soon age of 43. John Belushi, milk and sandwich fan, passed earlier at 33. And Dan Aykroyd, most tragically of all, made a guest star appearance on Home Improvement. The pillars of The Blues Brothers had fallen into oblivion since their amazing movie that had grown from little more than a Saturday Night Live sketch, so it was unlikely we would ever see the iconic characters ever again.

And then there was Blues Brothers 2000.

Press it my friendThe troubled creation of Blues Brothers 2000 could fill an entire article all on its own, so let’s just hit the bullet points. First of all, John Landis (director/writer) and Dan Aykroyd (Grosse Pointe Blank) originally created a script that was essentially exactly the first movie, just with slightly different guest stars. That was scrapped, but, somewhere between that and the final product, Landis & Aykroyd reportedly reached a point where they were convinced the “studio changes” made to the film would guarantee Blues Brothers 2000 would be a bomb. And it was! Ten years after the release of Blues Brothers 2000, Entertainment Weekly named the film #4 in the Top 25 Worst Sequels Ever Made. Why? Well, a pretty obvious reason is that Blues Brothers 2000 went in a wildly different direction from its origins, and adopted a very “magical” and arguably “kiddy” tone. Apparently this was a side-effect of that previously mentioned “studio meddling”, as the edict for Blues Brothers 2000 was to create something more child-friendly. Yes, somehow, somewhere, someone thought that it would be a good idea to make the sequel to a movie where the entire cast was high on cocaine into something that was an all-ages romp with a new, child Blues Brother that had previously starred in 3 Ninjas Kick Back.

But… well… it wasn’t a super terrible idea? After all, Dan Aykroyd had also starred in Ghostbusters, a film that took off in a surprisingly child-friendly direction. What was a movie that included harsh jabs at the concept of mortality, bureaucracy, and at least one instance of a protagonist preparing for some date raping became an animated series starring Garfield and produced enough toys to fill a (my) basement. Even now, the “child-friendly” Ghostbusters became more enduring than the “OG” versions of the characters, as you sure don’t see anything but Egon’s pomping rat tail on the comic shelves. Ghostbusters 2 seemed to lean into this child-friendly version of the Busters, so it made a certain amount of sense to hope for similar success with wee Buster Blues. It worked once, so let’s see if we can get Blues Brothers 2000 to the same point as Ghostbusters and its toys, spinoffs, and videogames.

Or you could just create the tie-in videogame regardless of movie popularity, and hope for the best. Let’s go with that option.

NEVER!There is evidence Blues Brothers 2000 was originally going to be a much more ambitious project. It was going to span multiple systems (aka the Playstation 1, and not just the N64, though this was also the era you could never rule out a Gameboy tie-in…), include some distinct racing/car chase segments, and, at the very least, contain many more locations from the actual film. Unfortunately, much of what was showcased in previews for BB2000 was never to be. What wound up being the final product was little more than a collection-based 3-D platformer that loosely followed the plot of Blues Brothers 2000. Elwood Blues has to get the band back together, and, thanks to a little clerical mix-up, he has to fight his way out of a prison and then against the mob to do it. Blues Brothers 2000 might not be an exact adaptation of its source material, but it’s the kind of thing that could work for a videogame. There’s a good chance it could be a successful movie tie-in product.

Of course, that would assume the game wasn’t released a solid two years after the release/failure of the movie. Hey! At least this Blues Brothers 2000 finally came out in 2000!

Big FightAnd Blues Brothers 2000 for the N64 could have had a chance if it released concurrently with its movie. In 1998, we were a mere two years past the release of Mario 64. 3-D platforming collectathons were still fresh and new! Camera controls were difficult, but even Mario had an issue with his Lakitu a time or two. There would have been a lot more forgiveness for a janky 3-D platformer in 1998. But in the year 2000? This was after Banjo-Kazooie had demonstrated that Mario wasn’t the only jump ‘n collect in town, and then Donkey Kong 64 exhausted all that good will. In fact, 2000 was just about the end of that console generation, so the likes of Perfect Dark, Majora’s Mask, and the entire Dreamcast library were hitting the shelves. This meant Banjo-Tooie was there, too, a title many claim is one of the best N64 games available. 1998 could have worked, but two years later was not the time to release a game where a malformed 3-D dude collects musical notes. It draws… unfortunate comparisons.

And if you think those extra two years of production were dedicated to making a more polished experience, you’ll be disappointed. Blues Brothers 2000 has some interesting ideas, like a pile of varied minigames, “hub areas” that are more than haunted castles, and powerups that only spawn while a gramophone are playing (it’s inexplicable, but at least it’s interesting), but all of them are more than a little half-baked. First and foremost, there is a mandatory PaRappa-esque rhythm game that pops up on occasion, and it is impossible. This could have been Guitar Hero before Guitar Hero, but, nope, it’s a haphazard “press A now” affair with terrible beat-detection and absolutely no indictors as to what you’re doing wrong. It’s “difficult” entirely because there is zero useful feedback on what the game wants. The combat of the game is similarly difficult, as the hit detection is atrocious, so you can never be quite sure if you’re losing because your timing is off, or if Elwood is being tossed across the room because his opponent suddenly gained the same attack range as a Belushi-sandwich search. And there’s no invincibility frames for poor Elwood! The odds of him being instantly obliterated by some errant door laser are high! There’s a skeleton of a good idea here and there, as this isn’t just a “stupid” collectathon that treads the exact same ground over and over… but that skeleton probably needed another 2000 years of playtesting.

ZAPAnd, while we’re considering what it would take for Blues Brothers 2000 to become an actually good videogame, also consider whether or not Blues Brothers 2000 was ever supposed to be, ya know, Blues Brothers 2000. Surprisingly enough, there is not much information from the creators of Blues Brothers 2000, so we’re left to wonder what happened here. The first stage is Elwood breaking out of Jail? Great! That makes sense for the often-incarcerated Elwood. And Chicago? That’s a gimme of a level for the Blues Brothers. The Louisiana Swamp makes a certain amount of sense considering the film’s finale (even if it mostly looks like a more mundane Bob-omb Battlefield most of the time), but “Spooky Graveyard”? That is about as generic as a videogame level as you’ll ever see, and could have been imported from literally any other title in production. Both Blues Brothers films featured a variety of iconic locations and set pieces that could easily be converted to videogame scenarios, but Elwood was never afraid of no ghost. Was this some generic platformer that was eventually married to a movie property? Was this something that happened during production? Did someone just need another level, and “haunted” was what came up on the ol’ genre roulette table? Titus isn’t offering any answers, presumably because they are still working through the backlog of unanswered questions regarding Superman 64. That’s a Clark Kentian task all by itself!

Big funBut, whether Blues Brothers 2000 was a random hackjob or a very dedicated piece of licensed software, Blues Brothers 2000 for the N64 happened. It is a very late 90’s Nintendo 64 title based on an ill-conceived sequel to a beloved classic starring many actors that were dead before said sequel was conceived. There is no way anyone should be able to control Elwood Blues with an analogue stick, but, apparently, here we are. Despite literally everything, there is a Blues Brothers 2000 game for the Nintendo 64.

The Nintendo 64: it missed out on the entire Square catalogue, but it had Blues Brothers 2000.

FGC #523 Blues Brothers 2000

  • System: Nintendo 64. Sorry, Sony fans, Nintendo has got a lock on Blues Brothers fun.
  • Number of players: The main campaign is single player. However, the rhythm game (which is a crime against humanity and basic decency) is available as a two player mode. I do not care for it.
  • Pak Watch: This is one of those N64 titles that would be capable of saving, but, nope, you need a N64 memory card controller pak to do so. Luckily, the whole of the game only takes like two hours, so you don’t really need that save feature. And additional lucky: no one will ever bother to play Blues Brothers 2000 through to completion, so don’t worry about it.
  • Just play the gig, man: You’re collecting musical notes to play music actually from the movie. And the background music seems to be N64-erized versions of familiar songs, too. The soundtrack of Blues Brothers 2000 isn’t quite as iconic as the original Blues Brothers, but, hey, it’s not bad hearing some bastardization of John Popper while hopping around.
  • Unsolved Mysteries: I have no idea what happens if you reach the final area and haven’t found every last collectible. Presumably, you’re barred from seeing the true ending that involves a skeleton playing the trumpet.
    Jug band!

    Can’t miss that!
  • Say something nice: Elwood Blues looks kind of cool in a N64-polygonal cartoon character kind of way. And the enemies seem vaguely reminiscent of the later Psychonauts. Does this mean Double Fine drew inspiration from Blues Brothers 2000? Probably not.
  • Did you know? “The Warden” is the first big boss of Blues Brothers 2000. In the actual film, the warden is played by Frank Oz. By association, this means that, without question, Elwood Blues has beaten up Yoda.
  • Would I play again: Absolutely not. This is not a fun game in any real way. It is absolutely passable, but should not be played over any other game for any reason.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2! Whip it good, Miriam, it’s time to show the moon whose boss. Please look forward to it!

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