Tag Archives: rogue

FGC #520 X-Men: Children of the Atom

Let’s start at the end to find the beginning.

Let's get infiniteIn 2017, Capcom released Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, possibly the most embarrassing flop in the history of videogames. This should have been a slam dunk! It was a fighting game released after the resurgence of fighting game popularity, so there was a built-in audience ready and willing to fight online and at tournaments. The cast was also at the absolute peak of their popularity, as the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Guardians of the Galaxy were dominating the box office with hit after hit. The latest Avengers movie had just produced more profit than the entirety of South Americacitation needed. And the Capcom side of things? Sure, some of the cast was a little esoteric, but seeing the likes of Jedah or Dante is exciting for people that actually play videogames (and, hey, this is a videogame!). And next gen graphics! I have been led to believe that people love those crazy framerates! Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite should have been a generation-defining fighting game for all sorts of reasons.

But Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was a dud. Why? Well, it seems like the big issue was that, in trying to court the Marvel movie audience, the direction of MvC:I left its fans in the dust. A bright, cartoony style was dropped for something that was trying for realistic, but wound up settling in the uncanny valley. The gameplay was weirdly stiff, and, even though the Story Mode was a hoot, the minute-to-minute of the experience simply felt… off. And perhaps worst of all, some of the most remarkable fighters from the previous title were dropped (sorry, Phoenixes), and the new arrivals were uninteresting, limited, and mostly DLC. When a franchise introduces a playable trash panda, you can’t follow that up with “Storm, but white”. And speaking of which, likely thanks to that movie-mandate, the entire X-Men cast was dropped from the franchise. Gone were the likes of Wolverine and Sentinel, and the best we could hope for was the (paid) return of Venom.

Let's go crazyAll in all, MvC: Infinite seemed like a lesser version of a game that had been released six years prior, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds brought the Versus Franchise roaring back, and Ultimate MvC3, its seemingly inevitable update, is noted by many to be the best in the franchise. This is clearly a title that was created by fans, for the fans (how else could you explain the presence of MODOK and Trish?), but also maintained a balance between the very disparate characters. You could equally have fun choosing a wee little red power ranger or a hulking… uh… Hulk. Hell, this is a game that managed to balance fights between multi-tentacled monstrosities and god-dogs. But, balanced or not, there was no lack of spectacle, and every last fight felt appropriately marvelous. Give or take Jill Valentine becoming some kind of angry cyborg cat (sorry, I have no idea what Resident Evil was doing that week), UMvC3 was received well for being a flawless entry in the Versus Franchise.

Just what I expectedAnd it’s not like that would be a cakewalk from UMvC3’s inception; it was forced to bring back the franchise after 2000’s Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, which is noted by many to be the best in the franchise. MvC2 is not a balanced game like its descendant, but it’s not like anyone wanted balance anyway. This is mahvel, baby. This is a game that decided to cap off the (at the time) end of the Versus Franchise (mostly due to licensing issues), and include literally every fighter that had ever appeared. After years of Versus games that liberally dropped and added fighters as it moved along, MvC2 decided to just throw everything against the wall to see what stuck (and maybe include a talking cactus, too). This led to one of the wildest fighting games in history, as suddenly a gigantic stand-in for Satan could get his tailed-ass beat by an army of miniscule Servbots. There were 56 total characters, and, while there were a number of Ryu wannabes and the occasional Iron Man recolor on the roster (and two Wolverines, for some reason), this roster remains to this day one of the most eclectic in all of gaming. Where else are you going to find a metal tyrant battling a mummy? And, while some nuance amongst the characters was lost, there is no greater feeling than unleashing three hyper moves’ worth of beam attacks against a walking suit of armor. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was just the right kind of absurd foolishness we all needed after weathering the Y2K bug (which, miraculously, was not a playable character).

Let's go crazyBut that wouldn’t have even been possible were it not for the release of Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes two years earlier. The “original” MvC is noted by many to be the best in the franchise, as it wrung every bit of action and distinction out of its (compared to its descendants) limited roster. This was the initial game to introduce familiar videogame faces that were new to the world of fighting games, so now, like Athena ascending to King of Fighters, you saw Captain Commando and Strider executing fierce punches for the first time. It also included a bevy of cameo characters that guested for singular attacks, which, finally, allowed Jubilee to join in the melee. And if the balanced tag team action of the Versus Franchise wasn’t enough for you, there was also the Variable Cross, which allowed a whole team to attack simultaneously, so War Machine could set Morrigan up for the spike. This was the perfect mix of old and new, so, like a playable Mega Man, it was the familiar seen in an all-new light that was somehow instantly and effortlessly refined.

KISSESBut why was it all familiar? Well, because we had already enjoyed X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1996 and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter in 1997. Both games were the starting bell for what would be known as the Versus Franchise, but primarily only reused assists from prior games, whether they be Marvel or Street Fighter titles. X-Men vs. Street Fighter at least gave us luminaries like Rogue or Sabertooth, but MSHvSF was wholly recycled from previous titles, and was likely only published because someone wanted to see Shuma Gorath tackle Sakura. Whether sprites and moves were recycled from earlier titles is immaterial, though, as this crossover gameplay was wholly new to the Capcom stable. You can fight as two people at once (kinda)! You can combine super moves (totally)! Wolverine can finally take a chunk out of M. Bison! And MSHvSF may have been light on new character content, but it did introduce the vital ability to summon your partner for an assist. In short, everything that defines the Versus Franchise was right there at its beginning, even if it wasn’t yet a welcoming place for Arthur to hang out.

UPPERCUTBut even before we ever had a single tag battle, the basic gameplay of the Versus Franchise premiered with 1995’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. XM:CotA (and its spiritual sequel a year later, Marvel Super Heroes) was essentially based on the Street Fighter Alpha engine, but with a little… mutation. While the Street Fighter franchise veered more into realistic, restrained fighting in Street Fighter 3 (well, as realistic as a fight can be when one participant is an albino made of electrified jelly), X-Men:CotA adopted all the “based on an anime” indulgences of Alpha, and dialed it up to eleven with super jumping, laser beams, and midair combos. It was still natural to anyone that had played Street Fighter (or, of course, Darkstalkers), but the pomp and bombast of every battle was an experience that was wholly unique. And that made perfect sense! These weren’t mundane “street fighters”, these were Marvel’s mightiest mutants, so you had to have a game that accounted for characters with a non-standard number of arms. X-Men: CotA started what would become a franchise all its own by taking the familiar and marrying it to the fantastic.

But where did X-Men: Children of the Atom come from? From Cyclops battling Silver Samurai to Mega Man blasting Marrow to Thor fighting Sigma on the Rainbow Bridge, where did this all truly begin? With Street Fighter? Final Fight? What is the origin of this decades-old fighting game franchise?

Well, if I told you it all spun out of the opening credits adaption of the Japanese localization of a Fox Kids cartoon from 1992, would you believe me?

So much jumping

No, of course not. That would be silly. Let’s just say this all started with Street Fighter, and call it a day.

Thank you, Ryu, for bringing us the amazing Versus Franchise. Let us never speak of Omega Red’s impact ever again.

FGC #520 X-Men: Children of the Atom

  • System: Arcade for the arcade experience, but the Sega Saturn version will do in a pinch. It kind of has a weird screen aspect thing going on, but it’s otherwise pretty tops. The Playstation 1 version is not discussed in polite company.
  • Number of players: We might not be able to select two X-Men at once yet, but you can certainly have two players.
  • Death SpiralWho Are These Guys: Even assuming the game is based primarily on the X-Men animated series, you have to wonder where half this roster came from. Wolverine? Great! Cyclops? A keeper! Psylocke? Okay, I guess Jim Lee got a vote. Omega Red? A poor man’s Sabertooth at least would have an interesting moveset. But Spiral? Spiral? Mojo’s occasional sidekick? And Silver Samurai? Did someone just have a “sword guy” moveset laying around, and here we are? I would love to see an interview with the team that made those decisions.
  • Favorite Fighter: That said, give me Omega Red any day. He’s got range, the ability to drain the life out of his opponents, and a rad ponytail. What more could you ask for?
  • Say Something Mean: I love this game and everything in it… save the fact that way too many of the fireballs or fireball-type moves are directionally controlled by your chosen attack button. That’s the kind of thing that works well in theory, but I despise keying in a fireball motion, but hitting the wrong button, so now said fireball is going straight up in the air, damned never to hit a soul. Maybe this is why Wolverine and his limited claws are chosen so often.
  • Versus Origins: In case anyone was curious, both of the “original” Versus games were Versus games before they ever officially earned that moniker. X-Men vs. Street Fighter starts in X-Men: CotA via a secret battle with Akuma, and a certain wee Darkstalker snuck into Marvel Super Heroes before Marvel vs. Capcom.
  • Win Quotes: The Versus Franchise eventually dropped win quotes (and then returned to them), but the fact that they discarded gems like Cyclops passively aggressively insulting the X-Men…
    I don't get it

    Or some big Akira Yoshida energy…
    Gaijin?

    Is a loss.
  • Forgotten Worlds: Playing through the whole of the Versus Franchise is interesting, as, while the characters are generally perennial (sorry, Marrow), the backgrounds of the various stages over the years portray storylines and locations that were important once, and are now completely forgotten. Remember when Daredevil was the leader of a ninja cabal? Or when the Celestials were prominent? Or when there was a Mega Man Legends franchise?
  • Did you know? When the Fox Kids X-Men series aired in Japan, each episode suffered some content cuts so they could make room for… promotion for this X-Men videogame. It traditionally involved the (Japanese) voice actors playing the game, and “acting out” their characters’ reactions to parts of the game. So maybe there is a significant connection here…
  • Would I play again: There are some parts of X-Men: Children of the Atom that are wholly unique and not simply absorbed by later sequels, so I occasionally return to this old standby. That said, it doesn’t happen very often, so my thumbs are a lot more likely to see Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Crash Team Racing: Nitro Refueled! Guess there’s going to be some racing, and we’ll try not to crash. Ha ha ha. Please look forward to it!

This seems apt
Submitted without comment

FGC #503 Final Fantasy 5

Not very finalLet’s talk about why you think the end of the world is a good idea.

Final Fantasy 5 has become one of the most enduring Final Fantasy titles. No, it has not yet warranted a direct sequel, nor is it receiving a high-definition remake featuring ring wraiths that really should have better things to do with their un-lives. Unfortunately, from a Square-Enix perspective, Final Fantasy 5 has been little more than a piddly JRPG that occasionally gets rereleased on cell phones. But the Final Fantasy fan community has been milking Final Fantasy 5 in new and interesting ways practically since its inception. Back in the day, thanks to FF5 never reaching Western shores, it was one of the first games that encouraged a generation to learn how to patch a rom to experience Final Fantasy Extreme. From there, fans continued to support this 1992 release well into the future with online competitions to see who could hate their life the most thanks to a twitter-based robot prescribing the use of berserker after berserker. Recently (well, relatively recently in the lifespan of FF5, as we’re talking about a game that is old enough to realize it has done nothing with its life, oh God, it can’t even think about having kids right now) fans seem to have come full circle, as there was the “Ancient Cave” mod for FF5, which itself needed a new English translation patch. This “whole new way to play” essentially turns Final Fantasy 5 into a rogue-like, using the already amazing backbone of FF5 gameplay and transcending genres. Not bad for a game that was released the same year as Night Trap!

Let's kick itBut if you’ve never played Final Fantasy 5, you may be asking why exactly this title is so enduring even among its luminous peers. Final Fantasy 6 or Final Fantasy 12 may be widely regarded as amazing, but you don’t see anyone saddling up with Ultrosbot for an annual online competition. Final Fantasy 11 or Final Fantasy 14 may have servers that will keep going until a meteor strikes the planet, but neither title has had the kind of fan support that has endured from day one to day 10,000. There’s a Final Fantasy 7 Remake, not a Final Fantasy 7 Ancient Cave. And why is that? Because Final Fantasy 5 is the perfect intersection of simple and complex. Final Fantasy 5 can be completed in a scant few hours (well, by JRPG standards), but there are 500 different ways to complete the game. And why? It’s the fabulous job system of Final Fantasy 5. This system has been seen before in the franchise, and would certainly be seen again, but here in FF5 it is somehow at its most pure. It is to the point that you could legitimately complete all of Final Fantasy 5’s challenges as your favorite combo of fighters, or with an entire party of Geomancers (which, to be clear, is no one’s favorite). Under the hood, FF5 is an incredibly well-balanced experience, and it is all thanks to a gameplay system that is immediately understandable and unerringly complex. You can be a Knight that just smacks things with swords, or memorize the Periodic Table of Elements to master the powers of the Chemist class. Both are worthy options! This is no mere advertising bullet point: you really can play Final Fantasy 5 a different way every time.

The enduring love of this Final Fantasy Fandom is all because of this amazing job system. And how do you get a job in Final Fantasy 5? Why, you simply watch the world fall to pieces.

And, don’t worry, it’s exactly as bad as that sounds.

I know that guyFinal Fantasy 5 is generally regarded as one of the more cheery Final Fantasy adventures. There aren’t any child suicides, the main protagonist is unerringly optimistic and not a sullen dork, and your prerequisite dead party member is an old man that already had his time to shine, not a 20-something young lady who still had so many folding chairs to master. However, over the course of your adventure, the winds cease and stagnate, fire loses its warmth, and the very Earth begins to lose its life. An ancient forest is burned to the ground (with some medium-well fire), kingdoms fall to monsters, and cartographers hurl themselves off towers thanks to unprecedented, instantaneous continental drift. The sun might still be shining, and everyone might be smiling, but, right up until the world is ultimately saved, roughly a third of the world’s population has been sucked into a black hole. By pretty much any rubric, that’s a bad time for everybody. And what is the cause of all of this devastation? The life-sustaining crystals representing the four primal elements are gradually shattered over the course of our heroes’ adventure, and the world is increasingly worse for it. Every time a crystal breaks to pieces, everyone suffers more and more.

Well, except the Light Warriors. They’re only getting more and more power from each broken crystal.

The job system that so perfectly defines Final Fantasy 5 is only expanded thanks to the power of the crystals. Each new crystal shattering is a disaster for the world, but it is also the only time your heroes receive new jobs. And, since you, the player, wants to have as many jobs (and possibilities!) as possible, you’ll be happy every time a crystal explodes. An entire kingdom has gone up in flames? That’s rough, but you just gained the ability to become a ninja! Score! Cheer up, peasant, Bartz is gonna dual-wield over the ashy remnants of your former life!

This is great!And, for the player, advancement through misery isn’t limited to just the jobs system. “Cool stuff” in Final Fantasy 5 is continually gated behind outright tragedy. The ancient, ultimate weapons are under glass until the big villain can get through about 80% of his apocalyptic plan. Two high level summons are only possible after killing beloved pets and companions. Stella. STEEEEEEELLA! (“Cool trauma, bro, you get a new song.”) Final Fantasy 5’s plot leans heavily on the concept that much of the misery across its world is thanks to the sins of the previous generation, regardless of whether they were well meaning heroes or older societies attempting to drain extra power from the crystals; but did they all have to pay for their sins with death? And did that death have to refill your HP for the final battle? Can there be a single catastrophe in this universe that doesn’t directly benefit the player?

And, while this may be a particularly egregious example of this trope, it is by no means the only videogame where this is the norm. Mega Man X hates killing his fellow reploids, but boy do you sure love getting shiny new weapons. Sad dads are continually sad about being sad dads that are forced to make sad choices, but you better believe you enjoy soaking in the tangible trophies of their sad carnage. And some games can’t even get going until an apocalypse has already happened! It would be downright psychotic to shoot congregating shoppers at the mall, but if they’re an army of infected zombies, you don’t even stop to reload. The message to your average videogame player is clear: once things go to absolute $^#%, that’s when you’re really going to shine. After the end of the world, that’s when you are rewarded.

And it’s important to note that that is some very dangerous thinking.

I know those guysFor future generations that may be reading this blog entry in the east wing of the Goggle Bob Museum of Stuff Goggle Bob Liked So He Got a Museum Museum, this entry is being written in the middle of a global pandemic. It has changed practically everything about our daily lives, and has killed literally thousands and thousands of people. It would not be a stretch to call this a sort of apocalypse, and it would be very much correct to designate this entire situation as a disaster. One way or another, it is a time when, for one reason or another, absolutely everyone needs all the help they can get. And what help would that be? Well, some people need readily accessible food, some people need other people to stay home so they can do their life-saving jobs, and some people just need the kind of emotional support that becomes necessary when you spend days and months isolated from human contact. And do you know what is zero help at all? People that know Rapid Fire, how to summon meteors, or anyone whose job could be listed as “Samurai”. Despite the terms “hero”, “war”, and “invisible enemy” being tossed around, the last thing this situation needs is people who think they can solve a problem by hitting it. The heroes of Final Fantasy 5? And the heroes of every videogame? They’d all be completely useless in this situation (save maybe Dr. Mario). We’re dealing with a global catastrophe on a scale worthy of Exdeath, but the idea that some Light Warriors could come and save everyone is ludicrous.

And it sounds obvious to say such a thing out loud, but it’s important to remember this information for… lesser disasters. Not everything is a global calamity. Sometimes bad things happen, and you don’t so much as get a crystal shard for your troubles. Videogames (and so much of fiction in general) runs on the concept that every cloud has a silver lining, and a tragic death in act two just means that a friendly ghost is going to help everyone in act three. That is not reality. He bitesSometimes you just lose. Sometimes you have to live with pain and suffering, and the best you can hope for is the mental fortitude to not dwell on it for the next twenty years. PTSD does not grant a level up bonus. Yes, it’s easy to nod and agree with this notion when reading it from the relative comfort of the internet, but your subconscious has been soaking up the hidden morals of Final Fantasy 5 and its ilk for decades. The world is falling apart! I hope I get a legendary sword out of the deal!

So what’s today’s moral? Final Fantasy 5 is an amazing game, but remember it’s only a game. Even after you strip out the talking turtles and magic trees, it’s still not even approaching reality. Keep that in mind as you make decisions in our all-too-real world. There aren’t any Warriors of the Crystals running around, and you’re not going to be granted a new job just because society is falling apart. Be the kind of hero this world really needs, not one that thinks they can solve problems with a “fight” command.

The end of the world isn’t good for anybody.

FGC #503 Final Fantasy 5

  • System: In Japan, originally on the Super Nintendo. In America, we had to wait for the Playstation. Eventually, everybody got it on the Gameboy Advance. And now it’s on a bunch of Playstations and cell phones.
  • Number of players: Final Fantasy 6 was the one with the 2-player, 2-controllers option, right? I think it’s just one this time.
  • BLAMPort-o-Call: Give me the Gameboy Advance version any day of the week, as it seems to have the best translation. And by “best” I mean “the one that contains nonsensical references to early 21st Century internet culture”. That’s all I want from a game! And there’s a bonus dungeon with bonus bosses and bonus jobs, too, I guess.
  • Favorite Monster: The Unknown creatures in the undersea rift are unpleasant to look at, just like a good monster should be. Second runner up is the tonberry, which makes its first appearance here in Final Fantasy 5, but didn’t really come into its own until the great doinkening of Final Fantasy 8.
  • So, what were your jobs: I played fast and loose, game genied my way to every job at the start, and just had some fun seeing if Necromancer is a remotely viable job in the first dungeon. Spoilers: it’s not great. Final Fantasy 5 is a game with such a glut of options, it practically encourages cheating your way into ridiculous, possibly Chemist-based situations. Just have fun with it, and, just in case you slot in a berserker before a sand worm fight, remember to save often.
  • Favorite Job: Blue Magic also appeared for the first time in Final Fantasy 5, and, considering it grants its user a spiffy blue mask, Blue Mage is my favorite job. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of the abilities are overwhelmingly overpowered… but the same can be said for about a quarter of the jobs in Final Fantasy 5, so we’re just going to stick to what is commonly referred to as “the cape factor”.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I first played this game emulated on a PC that didn’t even have a sound card. Battle on the Big Bridge? More like skirmish on the extremely quiet overpass. But at least I had the good sense to play the game after some nerd fixed all the transparency issues.
  • Axe you a questionDid you know? Each of the characters has default stats that make some slightly better suited for different jobs. Krile, for instance, has the greatest agility, so she’s better suited for… Bah! Who cares!? All that matters is they can all be Dancers, so just let ‘em dance.
  • Would I play again: Yes. Final Fantasy 5: excellent game, bad moral. Don’t go chasing apocalypses, kiddies!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Nintendo Wii. Oh good! I’m going to watch more planets explode. Please look forward to it!

FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

LETS EXPLORE SOME DUNGEONS!I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon.

Wait, no, that sounds bad. Let me try that again.

I hate everything about Etrian Mystery Dungon.

Let’s break that one down.

I Hate Rogue-Likes

This one is a biggie, and I realize I might be in the minority here. Actually, scratch that, considering the rogue-like genre languished for a solid twenty years of gaming history, I might actually be in the majority in not liking “rogue-like features”. Granted, rogues seem to have made a comeback in recent years (as rogues are wont to do), or maybe that’s just the latest trend in bullet points, like “over 80 hours of gameplay”, “contains RPG features”, or “a giant, open world”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rogue-like genre, it goes something like this: you are an adventurer, and you’re going to explore some dungeons. The dungeons are usually randomly generated, and, rather than reconnoitering a carefully planned dungeon like one might find in a Zelda or Final Fantasy, you’re stuck with a completely different, completely random experience every time. This haphazardness pairs poorly with the other big draw of the rogue-like: death matters. While death is generally only an inconvenience in practically every videogame available, death in a rogue-like can often be devastating. For today’s game, death in a dungeon means losing all of your items (discovered treasures and purchased items) and cash. And, while hobos might seem like the ideal dungeon explorers, it turns out that money even makes spelunking go ‘round. In short, death has a greater sting in a rouge-like, and a randomly generated dungeon with a randomly generated super rock monster is going to lead to a lot of headaches.

Away we goAnd I loathe this kind of punishment. I’ve mentioned this before, but I play videogames to escape from real life. No, I suppose that terminology is a little off. It’s not so much that I want to flee from reality, I just want a reality with a few more… amenities. I’m a hoarder. I’m a hoarder by nature, and I despise how every facet of biology does not deal well with this desire. I would like nothing more than to visit an Golden Corral, devour seventeen pounds of hush puppies, and then not have to worry about eating for the rest of the month. But noooooo, the human body can’t deal with that for some stupid reason, and I have to eat every five hours like a caveman. Back in the day, we didn’t even have refrigerators, and we had to eat food when it was immediately available, or starve to death. Who has time for that? Not me. All of human history has been about making life more convenient, and preventing time lost. Rogue-likes… not so much.

I play videogames to experience magical fantasy worlds where I can keep a megalixer in my inventory until ten years after I’m dead, and my descendants finally decide to use it on that one super boss (lousy ungrateful children). I don’t play videogames to lose all my precious possessions to some stupid ape dork that managed to keep scoring criticals while I missed thirty times in a row.

Though while I’m on the topic of pathological hording…

I Hate Inventory Management

MOLE!I want everything at all times. I currently live in a world where, at the press of a button, I can have a delicious bread bowl filled with alfredo sauce and pineapple delivered to my door slightly ahead of my seventeen Amazon orders for books that were first published two hundred years ago. And while I’m doing that, I can download every Mega Man game ever made, assuming I haven’t already downloaded every Mega Man game ever made. The only thing that might wind up being an issue is that I may have already downloaded a hundred games I’m never going to play, so I filled up my hard drive. But no big! I can just buy a bigger hard drive, and we’re back in business! No need to clean out the fridge when you’ve got a bigger one on layaway. All the everything! All for me! MINE!

Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a limited inventory. You can initially stow only thirty items, but that number can be increased by a paltry ten or so at a time. How is that helpful at all? Have you ever explored a dungeon before? Been down to the Marsh Cave? I usually carry 99 antidotes, and only two monsters actually use poison attacks! But ooooh no, that’s not allowed in EMD. Despite the fact that you could encounter anything down there, you’re stuck with your meager inventory bag, and if you decided to go for a revive-on-the-last-floor item (in anticipation of a deadly boss) instead of a simple potion (to recover from a surprisingly difficult creature on a higher floor), you may be screwed before you even breach the dungeon’s maw.

I realize that some people enjoy inventory management, but those people are the same kind of twisted freaks that are capable of packing a suitcase while avoiding what is best described as a “clothesplosion”. I was a Boy Scout, I like to be prepared for everything, and when I have to choose between holding on to a delicious box lunch or grabbing some fresh treasure, my mind completely shuts down. I wake up a day later, my 3DS’s battery has been drained, and I’m not wearing pants anymore for some reason. Don’t put me in that situation, EMD! I’m running low on pants!

I Hate Grids

Videogames are a lie. I know that. Mario can’t really fly, he’s always going to hit the top of the scroll, and that’s as high as that raccoon-man goes. Link doesn’t really have the ability to explore an entire world, there’s always going to be an edge he can’t surpass. UghAnd even in JRPGs where you obtain an airship or flying dragon or magical balloon or whatever, the looping world is a complete hoax, and you’re actually traversing a planet that, were it actually scale, would be no larger than a watermelon. But the good games, the Marios, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies, trick the player’s stupid ape brain into thinking there is a vast, magical world out there. The first time you hit the world map in Final Fantasy 7, everything feels so massive! … It’s a complete lie, but that feeling of exploring an entire world is there.

Grids are the opposite of that. EMD divides every dungeon into a chessboard, and the seams of the universe show immediately. What could be vast, unexplored labyrinths quickly become “levels”, and… that’s it. You’re playing a videogame with little videogame people. You’re killing time. You’re not exploring, you’re moving pieces on a game board. May as well be playing Chutes and Ladders, you time wasting child.

Yes, the grid system does make exploration more straightforward, but I hate it all the same.

I Hate Anime

Okay, that’s a lie. The record will show that I have a very high tolerance for anime bullshit. But that’s probably because I like anime when I know I’m getting anime. If I cue up Attack on Titan or K-ON, I pretty much know what kind of experience I’m going to get (though I admit, I would watch the mash-up Attack on K-ON). It’s kind of like… Hm… I don’t eat doughnuts every day, and doughnuts are delicious, but if I were eating doughnuts, I wouldn’t want a big piece of steak sticking out of my bear claw. These are not two tastes that go great together.

And you know what else doesn’t go great together? Sexual dimorphism.

MEDIC!

I am perfectly okay with a game where you play as 12 year old girls. I am also okay with a game where you play as dungeon dudes. However, I am not okay with Etrian Mystery Dungeon, wherein all the boys are ready and willing dungeon dudes, and all the girls are underdressed, prepubescent gigantic eyeball delivery homunculi. It is… off-putting. And yes, I can see those giant eyeballs on the cover, I knew what I was in for, but seeing a male medic that is all cool and ready for healing times next to a female medic that decided a dungeon would be an appropriate place for adorable striped socks… it’s… not good. I hate it.

I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon. It’s entirely possible the game gets more fun, interesting, and playable as time goes on, but after playing for a few hours, I dropped the wretched thing. I don’t like EMD’s core components. This game simply isn’t for me. It looks like there’s more than meets the eye to this adventure… but I’ll never see it.

And I hate that.

FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. I have to say that the dual screen map thing will be missed whenever the 3DS finally retires.
  • Number of players: One person controls a four-people party. No, you can’t make them all fight each other for your amusement. I hate
    that.
  • This guySay something nice: The localization is pretty choice. This could easily be another “straight outta Japan” release that offers the most cursory of translations, but the people in the EMD world seem welcoming (and human) enough.
  • Goggle Bob’s proposed franchise mash-up alternative: Etrian Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
  • Favorite Class: Sovereign is just weird enough to be my favorite. Why would you take your royalty into a dungeon? To bark orders and keep morale up, obviously. Usually I prefer something with a little more battling oomph, but I have a hard time taking any of the physical classes seriously in a game with these ridiculous anime faces.
  • Did you know? The Wanderer class is based on the hero of the rogue-like genre, Shiren the Wanderer. This is also the only class in the game where the female version doesn’t set off alarm bells. Okay, maybe the Protector sneaks in there, too.
  • Would I play again: This isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bad game for Goggle Bob. I can’t stand so much of this game, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I simply won’t enjoy it. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Excitebike for the NES! Vrooooooooooooooom! Please look forward to it!

Cool cool

FGC #096 X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Super Best BudsX-Men vs. Street Fighter was the start of, without question, one of my favorite Fighting Game franchises. On the other hand, to me, XvSF will always represent the end of an era.

It’s hard to describe today, but it seems like the arcades of yore are destined to be a singular, unique creature in the history of video games. Nowadays, arcade cabinets are something of a novelty. Look, you’re in a diner lobby, and there’s a copy of Ms. Pac-Man. How quaint! I can play a video game here in this alcove while I wait for my table… as if my phone can’t already do that. Similarly, actual arcades are now relegated to theme parks and tourist attractions, just as much a piece of entertainment fluff as Guess Your Weight Booths or Strong Man Contests. You wouldn’t spend a dollar to fill a clown’s mouth with liquid at home, and you wouldn’t blow 50¢ a pop to play a round of a video game either, but you might in the happy, shiny environment of a Six Flags. Whatever the case, arcades have ceased to become a destination, and are now nothing more than charming reminders of a time when tokens could be more valuable than gold.

To put all my cards on the table, I’m a child of the 80’s. As such, there was never a time in my memory that I did not possess a color television, VCR, and all the modern appliances of today (man, was the washing machine interesting to a ten year old). If there was something on TV I wanted to watch, I didn’t have to watch it through a store window like some Dickensian urchin, I watched it on the couch, or maybe a beanbag chair. What’s important was I didn’t have to wear shoes. We didn’t have Netflix, but we did have the video rental joint (heck, even the local supermarket rented movies), so any film I’d ever want to see (Back to the Future, over and over again) was available with like a buck and dad’s membership card. Point is, practically from birth, I had been spoiled with a complete lack of reasons to leave the house.

But the arcades were something different. I could puke out another seventeen paragraphs about this, but let’s take a quick look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the arcade…

Rockin' Steady

And then we’ve got the NES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game.

Not so Steady

See the difference? It’s subtle, but I think you might be able to notice a slight graphical shift between the two versions. Even beyond that, TMNT NES was merely a two player game, while TMNT Arcade could support all four ninja turtles simultaneously. Couple this with a few other quality of life improvements (I want to fight Bebop and Rocksteady together, dammit!), and no one would ever claim the NES version had anything to offer over its arcade cousin, give or take the ability to be squashed by a snowplow.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the obvious example, but so many arcade games absolutely demolished their console brethren. Double Dragon and Robocop barely survived the switch from arcade to console, and some games, like Strider or Bad Dudes, became completely different experiences on the couch. Some games could barely be ported at all, like “sit down” racing games and more complex shooting games that included their own guns. And some essential titles never bothered, like The Simpsons and X-Men: The Arcade Game (which featured an amazing six players!). Donkey Kong, friggen Donkey Kong, never received an “arcade perfect” port, and that game was shorter than Jump Man!

So, to a child of the 80’s, the message was clear: the arcades are where the real games are, and the consoles will always be pale imitations. OuchYes, by the SNES era we were receiving “better” ports like SNES Street Fighter 2 or TMNT: Turtles in Time, but, inevitably, these games were still, in some fashion, gimped. The Playstation took it a step further, with console and arcade Tekken blurring the lines between home and arcade, but there was definitely one place the Playstation was left lacking…

Depending on who you ask, Capcom invented the Fighting Game genre with Street Fighter 2 (and you can see how there might be a flaw in that reasoning if you stop for a second to consider the “2” in there), and, from then on, redefined “a good fighting game” over and over again. Darkstalkers springs immediately to mind, but there are also lesser known titles like Rival Schools, Red Earth, and Star Gladiator. And through it all, we all knew pretty much anything involving Ryu would be golden, whether it was the Alpha series or that one aborted attempt at integrating skeleton luchadores. So when it was announced that Ryu and his street fighting buddies would battle against the X-Men, well, suffice it to say there was more than a little hype.

Ultimately, the Vs. series was just an evolution of the X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems fighting games that Capcom had already produced. Rather than create another fifteen 90’s X-Men sprites, Capcom decided to only manufacture a new trio (Rogue, Gambit, and Sabretooth), a new boss (Apocalypse), and populate the rest of the roster with reused Street Fighter Alpha 2 sprites. Granted, the Street Fighters gained new moves to properly compensate for a group of rivals that could literally kill with a glance, but, by and large, you can see how much of this game was a cost-cutting measure to continue exploiting a worthwhile license on a budget.

But, oh man, did it work.

Ryu vs. Cyclops, Ken vs. Wolverine, and M. Bison vs. Magneto were the “headliners” of the game, but it was kind of impossible to not have a favorite “who would win” matchup in that roster. My only complaint is that we never got the obvious Blanka vs. Beast match I’ve been waiting for for years (they’re both very smart! Blanka learned how to channel electricity from eels!), Best Buds 4 Everbut we did get Rogue vs. Cammy, Storm vs. Chun-Li, and, my personal favorite, Zangief vs. Juggernaut. And if you were just an X-Men fan, there were plenty of choices: Spiral and Iceman might not have made the cut, but Rogue vs. Gambit or Sabertooth vs. Wolverine are classic battles. And former bosses Juggernaut and Magneto are right there for the picking, so if you want to be a bad guy with a punch the length of the screen, feel free. All around, X-Men vs. Street Fighter was a fun, and unique, fighting game.

Assuming you were playing it in the arcade.

A trademark of the Vs. series is tag-team play: you choose two characters, and may switch between them both over the course of the match. There’s a surprising amount of strategy involved there, as, not only should you choose the fighter best suited to the current opponent, but you can also swap characters so your prime fighter may rest and recover some vitality while the partner is out tossing fireballs. In later games, this would be expanded to include “summons” that allowed your partner to come out for a single move while your main fighter prepped for some other shenanigans. Honestly, it’s a very obvious addition to the 2-D fighter (King of Fighters says what?), but its “instant” implementation here never stopped being a blast.

Assuming you weren’t playing on the Playstation, at least. The Playstation couldn’t handle the tag-team play, so, sorry, you’re Ken is the masterstuck with one fighter at a time, and the “partner” is relegated to the occasional counter or “Variable Combination”, which allows both of your characters to use a hyper move simultaneously. This dramatically decreases the strategy involved in the game (Cyclops becomes the only partner worth having. OPTIC BLAST!), and, couple that with the reduced framerates and muddier graphics, it was pretty clear the Playstation version was inferior to its arcade counterpart.

But, really, that’s what we all expected at the time. It was another arcade port, so, of course it can’t be as good as the arcade version. That’s how it works: arcade games are always better in the arcade. Duh.

Except, for my memory, that was the last time that happened. Yes, there was also Marvel vs. Street Fighter and, eventually, Marvel vs. Capcom for the Playstation, but they both wound up ignored for one reason (“Don’t I already have a vs. game?”) or another (“I got it on Dreamcast”). By the era of the Dreamcast/Playstation 2, and, specifically, Soul Calibur and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, arcade ports had become perfect. More than that, they had become better than perfect. Show me someone who spent as much time as playing DC Soul Calibur as Arcade Soul Calibur, and I’ll show you someone who didn’t know a system could be thinking. Poor, misbegotten soul. And, yes, as some of you have already no doubt leapt to explain, there was a “perfect” X-Men vs. Street Fighter port for the home consoles, and it was on the Sega Saturn, a system that, unfortunately, was only owned by drug dealers and the criminally insane.

So, to me, X-Men vs. Street Fighter will always be the capstone on the end of an era. This was the last game that made me think, “It’s cool, but I’d still like to play that arcade machine.” There are other factors, but, looking at it from that perspective, it’s no wonder that, following this game’s release, the arcade’s grip on the hearts and minds of gamers began to soften, and, within a console generation, the arcade would go from The Spot to a minor novelty remembered only by ranting old men on blogs.

X-Men vs. Street Fighter, you may have been the swan song of the arcade, but at least you sung it in style.

FGC #96 X-Men vs. Street Fighter

  • System: Playstation for a gimped version, Sega Saturn for a good version, Arcade for the proper version.
  • Number of Players: 2, because Fighting Game. We’d have to wait until Marvel vs. Capcom for the true four.
  • Favorite Fighter: Split between who I like Think about itto use and who I want to be able to use. Rogue is awesome: I love her 90’s design, and, conceptually, I love her animations and special attacks that, really, boil down to “Superman that likes to punch things”. That said, I can barely win a match with her. On the other hand, I can somehow destroy everything with Dhalsim. Is he overpowered in this game? I’ve never been one for tiers, but it seems like he can zone like a champ in this one.
  • Z-Fighters: All winning X-Men get an “X” silhouette background, but Street Fighters get… a stylized Z? I suppose it’s a holdover from Street Fighter Alpha 2, but it’s surprising how that little detail has aged poorly alongside the perennial Street Fighters featured in this game (their 90’s designs are their designs).
  • Apocalypse Now: I want to say this is the first 2-D fighter I ever played to feature a gigantic, almost action-game-esque final boss. Apocalypse becomes screen filling in his final form, and he would eventually be followed by Onslaught, Abyss, and Galactus in other Vs. games. This was, incidentally, the best thing Onslaught ever did. Beyond that, it appears the Blazblue franchise and other “anime fighters” have picked up the tradition… which can be really confusing in an arcade mode that is over before you’ve even mastered your character’s super jump…
  • Akuma Now: Akuma is, once again, the unlockable fighter of this game. Despite his “hidden” status, he’s right there on the cover of the game. Such is the amazing draw of the one and only Akuma.
  • Did you know? I want to say this is the first game to include a lesbian kiss. I’m almost certain it’s the first game to include a lesbian-clone kiss.
    Southern Belle
  • Would I play again: I want to say yes, but, no, it’s completely overwritten with either Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (which includes all the fighters seen here), or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (which is the more modern interpretation). I guess this game does include a Rogue that can steal special moves as opposed to just stat boosts, but that’s no reason to ignore any and all games that include Morrigan.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kid Chameleon for the Sega Genesis! Aw, I thought we might get a full week of Capcom. No matter, this is still a good one… assuming you have like six continuous hours to kill… Please look forward to it!

The End