Tag Archives: skeletons

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 #649 E.V.O.: Search for Eden

LETS EVOE.V.O.: Search for Eden is an excellent Super Nintendo title that sees a generic “lifeform” evolve from a meager fish to the dominant species on Earth (if you are reading this, I am talking about you). It was an unusually ambitious title for 1992, and, with a protagonist that could grow and evolve in so many different ways, it made “Mario can wear a cape” look like clownshoes. But, while you can evolve through a variety of forms and shapes in E.V.O.: Search for Eden, you cannot evolve into everything. You are limited by the preprogrammed choices available, and if you want to evolve into an elephant for a period longer than a few minutes, too bad. So what are some evolutions that could have made E.V.O. better? Well…

Location-Based Variation

Here we goOur good friend Charles Darwin got the whole evolutionary theory going thanks to visiting the Galapagos Islands nearly 200 years ago. Basically, he saw a bunch of birds and lizards bobbing about, but, from island to island, they all had biological advantages that were specific to the conditions of their private islands. This jumpstarted the theory of biology adapting to specific environments, and toddled down the trail to evolution as we know it today. Unfortunately, E.V.O. does not reinforce Charlie’s elite beliefs. The best jaws are the best jaws if you are in the ice and snow or a desert, and the best jumping legs do not care if you are on a cliff or a plain. What’s more, the most effective way to eat your meats is always a meager press of the A button, and not adapting a prehensile tongue to slurp out snacks. Adapting to individual situations is exactly what evolution is all about, so it is disappointing that all we get here are a series of evolutions with price tags that are just like buying the best armor in Dragon Quest. This would be the best excuse for why we need an E.V.O. 2.

Carcinisation

Look!  A crab!Everything must become crab.

You have seen a crab before, right? They are those red things that Mario fought that one time. Big ol’ pincers, flat little body, and a bunch of skittering legs that carry their crabby selves all over the place. Well, it has been determined that carcinisation is real and powerful, and, given enough time, nearly every crustacean just goes ahead and evolves into a crab form. Hermit crabs used to be little spider-looking dudes, but they went whole hog on the crab to become king crabs. Hairy stone crab figured out camouflage and how to be a decent crab. And even squat lobsters apparently made the jump to be porcelain crabs when they decided crab was the way to go. Crab-shaped is the inevitable and enviable goal of so many creatures out there, but crab-form is wholly unobtainable in E.V.O. Where mah crabs at!?

Luck of the Spineless

E.V.O.: Search for Eden starts with a lifeform that has just become a fish. From there, the basic sequence of fish – amphibian – lizard – bird – mammal is followed. And, while you do battle a Queen Bee (and her less dangerous mate), you never get to dip a toe into the insect kingdom. What’s more, you aren’t allowed to transform into a single creature without a spine, so spineless monsters like spiders, squids, and President Donald Trump are all completely unavailable. And, despite level 1 being entirely underwater, this includes an awful lot of marine life. You could make an entire game out of a create-a-character where you can customize a nautilus shell, or base an adventure on the exploits of a horseshoe crab. … Dangit! We’re back to crabs again. Need to get away from those.

Viral Evolution

Virii may be involved hereHere is a branch devoid of crabs! E.V.O. starts too early, as the Ocean of Origin with its bespined fishies is far too late in lifeform development. How about we work our way up from some amoebas? And, hell, that would make a whole lot more sense within the framework of E.V.O., as breeding is wholly ignored on this evolutionary journey. Every upgrade is simply purchased, and you don’t have to spend a half hour wooing Mrs. Weird Horn Monster with Angry Jaws. But amoeba would be great for that kind of gameplay! You can just cellularly divide at will, and spend your EVO points at will as you do it. And, hey, maybe society at large needs a reminder on how viruses can change and mutate over time, as I seem to recall that has been relevant to current events of late.

Best Birds

FLAP FLAPIt is a “secret”, but you can become a bird in E.V.O. In fact, given the mammalian upgrade is optional, with a little skill, you can steer a bird creature straight from prehistory to the Garden of Eden. And, while the aerial advantage is always… uh advantageous, the bird options are limited. Practically every evolution is limited to influencing your flying ability (with strength and size being the only other options) and every other potential route in the universe falls by the wayside. And this makes sense, because this is a 2-D action game, and granting the power of flight sends the traditional gameplay balances off the side of a cliff. But! Real-life birds are not just about flight or beak strength, they are about aesthetics. There are some damn pretty birds out there, and it is a tremendous missed opportunity that you cannot peacock-out by transforming into a flamingo. The blue crowned pigeon is right over there being majestic, but forever out of reach.

Mermaidloution

Everybody knows that the ultimate goal of all evolution is to become a mermaid, and…

swimmy swimmy

Oh. Well. I guess E.V.O.: Search for Eden gets some things right.

FGC #649 E.V.O.: Search for Eden

  • System: Super Nintendo. If it is anything else, you are thinking about a different game.
  • Number of players: Evolution should not be such a solitary activity.
  • Favorite Temporary Evolution: You can turn into a dragon in the secret cloud area of dinosaur times. This looks radical… but there isn’t anything around to actually attack in that bonus stage. A temporary dragon powerup that cannot be used for anything is a crime that should be punished thoroughly.
  • More like the Ass AgeFavorite Age: The age of the stegosaurus feels like a point where the game opens up, as you can be a terrible thunder lizard, or find the secret area that grants bird powers. And, unfortunately, that much variety is never seen in E.V.O. again, as the only choice you’ll see later is the mammal upgrade, and, come on, who would choose not to be a mammal? You’re a human playing this videogame! You know how this thing is supposed to end!
  • For the sequel: While those waters are muddier than a mudskipper’s natural habitat, E.V.O. is basically a sequel to the PC-98 game 46 Okunen Monogatari ~The Shinka Ron~ ( 4.6 Billion Year Story: The Theory of Evolution). That sucker never had an official translation, and is basically a JRPG that borders dangerously on the territory of visual novels. That said, it is arguably a more interesting game, as you are directly standing against Lucifer, who is portrayed here as either a pretty blonde lady or a spider. Oh, and you have less control over your evolution (more just stat manipulation ala Final Fantasy Adventure), and your ultimate evolution will be a humanoid elf. Elves fighting the devil on the moon is the finale, which I am pretty sure was something Darwin himself predicted.
  • An end: Speaking of endings, the finale of E.V.O. sees whatever your creature happens to be being accepted by Sexy Mother Gaia and ushered into Eden. The implication from there seems to be that “you” will be the basis for whatever substitutes for the human race on this version of the world (you are distinctly granted man’s intelligence… even though there was never any indication you were anything but the smartest thing around anyway). As a child, I was always disappointed that this did not lead to a custom “the end” graphic with your armored jaw-monster walking around a modern city wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase.
  • Watch it, buddy: Oh yes, this article was inspired by the recent Even Worse Stream of E.V.O., featuring Dallas of Take That Darwin as a special guest commentator.


    Original Stream Night: November 8, 2022

    If you can believe it, I have been trying (poorly) to get that stream together for the site since roughly 2019. I am slow!

  • Did you know? According to BEAT, the subtypes of evolution are, “you know, mermaidloution, marvevolution, crabforming, triple reverse crabforming, your basic micromaloevolution subsets, apeforming (v rare), alolan forms, smolboiing, etc etc.” You should listen to him. He is a scientist.
  • Would I play again: E.V.O. is a lot of fun… when you cheat your way into infinite evo points. When you don’t do that, the fun is hampered somewhat by looping 2-screen wide levels repeatedly as you eat the meatiest monsters available over and over again. But a version of this game without grinding thanks to a Game Genie is pretty alright! So I’ll play it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Haunting Starring Polterguy for the Sega Genesis! Let’s get our Halloween content out of the way right here in January! Please look forward to it!

ALIENS!

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

Let's blitz ballFinal Fantasy 10 was a brilliant deconstruction of its franchise. And that statement is firmly past tense because it was immediately undercut by capitalism.

For the current moment, let us consider Kefka Palazzo. Kefka was ultimately the final antagonist of Final Fantasy 6, and he plainly stated his goal during his decisive battle: destroy everything, and build a monument to nonexistence. Colorful metaphor about modern art aside, Kefka had plans to kill the party, every other person alive, and (given enough time) obliterate the entire planet while he was at it. All that would be left would be a black void, and even Kefka himself seemed to nihilistically seek his own end if it meant everything else went with him.

And then the heroes of Final Fantasy 6 defeated Kefka. The madman crumbled to dust, and his evil plans were no more. Afterwards, there was approximately a half hour of credits and airship flying, Terra decided to feel the wind in her hair, and then…. Nothing.

Final Fantasy 6 ends with a The End logo, and the world stops existing. The next Final Fantasy starts on another world. Any heroes, townsfolk, or even moogles from Final Fantasy 6 are not seen in the franchise again. There may be “side stories” and alike, but these all seem to take place with versions of Terra, Kefka, and others from epochs before the end of Final Fantasy 6 (you can tell because Kefka is, ya know, alive). If the world of Final Fantasy 6 exists in any conceivable form after the fall of Kefka, there is no evidence of it across any official media.

Kefka wanted to destroy the world of Final Fantasy 6. Shortly after Kefka “failed”, the world of Final Fantasy 6 was forever destroyed, obliterated by an uncaring power button.

And, after this was the norm for nearly fifteen years and a solid nine Final Fantasy titles (and at least one spinoff), Final Fantasy 10 decided to definitively comment on this strange phenomenon.

Where good games go to dieAs is stated from literally the beginning, Final Fantasy 10 is the story of Tidus. And, since you are holding the controller that keeps that story going, you are meant to be Tidus, too. Tidus is good at playing games in a technologically advanced world, but his life is turned upside down when a tragedy transports him to Spira. Spira is a much more rural, primitive spot, and something very foreign to our “modern” Tidus. Ultimately, everything you see of this world exactly matches to the time Tidus spends in this strange place. You experience every second of his journey there, and you know exactly what you know of Spira exclusively through his eyes and what he learns from others. Tidus only discovers new things about Spira if you choose to talk to more people or see more places in Spira. And even though Tidus has his own issues to work through, you wholly inhabit his view of this alien world, complete with leaving Spira exactly when he exits. You are a strange visitor from an advanced (and implied to be more enlightened/less superstitious) society, here to save the world with ideas that could only belong to an outsider. When your job is completed, everyone is going to miss you to the point of tears, but despite their protests, you literally disappear.

Hey, there is probably a reason the only characters you get to personally name in Final Fantasy 10 are Tidus and the aeons, the super-powered agents of Tidus’s “other” world. These characters are yours. Everyone else you are just visiting.

And this ties neatly into Final Fantasy 10’s concept of finality.

My good friendMagical memory whammies or whatever is happening aside, Tidus apparently comes from a world where the afterlife is an unknowable mystery. But Spira has a concrete answer to this age-old question: if you die with regrets, you are likely to either become a fiend, or live on as some manner of ageless zombie. A summoner may “send” the dead to the Farplane (a magical but firmly visitable place), but if some undead avoid this fate, they will stick around for literally eternity and continue to make a mess of things. At best, the living dead of Spira are perpetuating endless spirals of destruction, and at worst they are literally monsters. So, in short, a huge theme of Final Fantasy 10 is “don’t wear out your welcome”. You died, get over it, move on. If you stick around, you are going to hurt everybody still alive.

Thus, the true “end” for Spira’s story is when the party reaches the end of the pilgrimage, and Yuna and the rest of the party decide they are not going to feed the cycle anymore by rejecting Yunalesca, the jackass who got this ball of rubbish rolling. This makes slaying Sin a sort of coda, as the “important” ending has already happened. Change is now an inevitability. And this is further reinforced by Seymour, who had been a threatening antagonist throughout much of the quest, but now only represents the old world and old problems. Once he is deprived of his “immortal” cycle, he is little more than a speed bump. Beating a man you killed two times already is just as insignificant as that task should be. Similarly, the technical final battle isn’t the big damn boss fight of Braska’s Final Aeon, but a slow, aggravating slog through killing your Aeons. And that sucks! That whole sequence sucks, and “you just beat the Elite 4, now kill all your Pokémon” is as terrible as that sounds. But it is there. It is the last time you control this party, and it is miserable. And that is the whole, deliberate point: you are not supposed to keep being Yuna’s Pilgrimage Party. That is over now, and making it go on any longer will just bring heartache. Time to go, Tidus, your dream, your story is over. Time to hit that power button, player, the game is over now, too.

You have to leave this world behind. All of Spira, all of Final Fantasy 10 will end now and be gone forever, but you will live on. This adventure is over, but you will be better for it.

BOOMAnd this would have been the ideal moral for a Final Fantasy title that matched every Final Fantasy that came before 2001. Sure, Seymour, Kefka, Sephiroth, and every villain that wanted to destroy their world had technically won by virtue of dying and leaving behind a world no longer requiring a player to defend it, but outside of the meta-narrative of the player living on, these were games with happy endings. Yuna, Terra, and Cloud would live to see a happily ever after, and we were left with only our imaginations to guess what happened to these heroes after we left them alone. Did Terra truly find love in her new family? Did Cloud and Tifa decide to settle down? Did Yuna become a pop idol cross treasure hunter?

Oh yeah, we definitely know the answer to a few of those questions now…

Final Fantasy 10 was the first Final Fantasy to truly embrace the concept of being “final”. It was also the Final Fantasy released closest to Kingdom Hearts, a franchise that immediately revived the likes of Tidus, Wakka, and eventually even Auron (who is six kinds of dead before the game even started!). Final Fantasy 10-2 was teased as part of a trailer tacked onto the finale of FFX’s American release, and the Eternal Calm gave way to a game that all but obliterated any sort of finality in Final Fantasy 10. Shortly thereafter, every Final Fantasy retroactively jumped onto Dissidia and alike to be similarly eternal. Final Fantasy 10 started the trend, but by the time we could buy cell phone games featuring the offspring of the Final Fantasy 4 cast plowing through the same stupid dungeons over and over again, the message had become clear: there would never be an end to any Final Fantasy adventure ever again.

And, in much the same way Final Fantasy 10 asked us to accept that death is the natural end of all things, we must now accept that eternal life is the natural state of all brands.

Never understood that graphical choiceThere will never not be new Final Fantasy 10 media for the rest of our lives. Any given “HD rerelease” of FF10 will inevitably stoke the rumors of a Final Fantasy 10-3, and we may eventually see such a product “because the fans demand it”. In the meanwhile, Tidus will appear in any game that requires Final Fantasy cameos, and any of those “cameos” could be excuses to foist new pathos or backstory on our intrepid Blitzball player (depending on how serious anyone wants to be about a game where a clown can fight a tree). In 2001, it was reasonable to assume that Tidus’s story was one-and-done, and we would never see anything further to elucidate his limited life beyond the odd Ultimania release. Now? Now our grandkids are going to be learning that the third lizard that Tidus curb-stomped was secretly the fiend-reincarnation of the dude that founded the Yevon chapter of the Boy Scouts, and further information will be available on a cell phone-based lottery game released to promote Final Fantasy 19.

Final Fantasy 10 told a tale letting go, but it was released exactly when Squaresoft (soon to be Square Enix) needed to recoup some losses. It was released exactly when it was discovered you couldn’t just repurpose your Final Fantasy 5 sprites to be Final Fantasy 6 sprites in the high-definition(ish) world of next gen consoles. It was released exactly when the luxurious days of the Playstation were ending, and Grand Theft Auto 3 was about to be the hot new genre of choice. Final Fantasy 10 had the audacity to speak of finality when Squaresoft would never be able to make anything “final” ever again. In Final Fantasy’s near future, even apparent bombs like World of Final Fantasy would have to put in their time in the Meli-Melo gacha mines!

I have always liked this sceneAnd is that all bad? Well, truth be told, if I had the choice between Final Fantasy 10 having a more focused message, or being able to play Final Fantasy 10-2, I’d choose Final Fantasy 10-2 every time. Morals and lessons are all well and good, but Wakka can come out of Blitzball retirement anytime Square wants, because there is at least a 30% chance a game including him will be good (just so long as no one actually plays Blitzball). Finality in a videogame may be impossible for Square Enix nowadays, but the world doesn’t really need videogames to be final. We like videogames, SE, so feel free to keep churnin’ ‘em out.

But it does mean Final Fantasy 10’s message is forever marred by its masters. Playing Final Fantasy 10, and then immediately segueing to its sequel is not only now possible, but seemingly encouraged by releases that pair it with Final Fantasy 10-2 (and 10-2’s “six months later” teaser). Final Fantasy 10 was a game all about finales, but now it will never see its own finale.

Final Fantasy 10 wants you to learn to let go. Square Enix missed that lesson.

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

  • System: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation 5. Probably an Xbox here or there. Gotta be a Nintendo Switch available, too. Oh, and the Steam/PC version apparently has time saving toggles for boosting exp and alike. Why isn’t that available on a console again?
  • Number of players: This is Tidus’s story. So one.
  • GOOOOOOOALLevel Up: After years of leveling systems in Final Fantasy titles trying unique things like Esper customization or learning skills from armor, Final Fantasy 10 finally eschewed the whole concept of traditional leveling and brought us the Sphere Grid. And it’s good! I like it! Unfortunately, it kicked off a wave of sphere grid-alikes in every JRPG from here to NIS, and… maybe not every videogame needs a complicated leveling system barring entry to just jumping in and enjoying slaying monsters. If I need a strategy guide to determine whether or not I am screwing up my “build” from the first minute…
  • Play Ball: I do not care for Blitzball. But, hey, I was never a big fan of Triple Triad in its time, either. Maybe one day I will find joy in math-ball.
  • Favorite Summon: Anima. Geez, Anima. You are the living (kinda) encapsulation of everything wrong with the beliefs of Yevon, a creature harnessing unending pain to punish monsters, and you have a cool, freaky venus-fly-trap-mummy thing going on. And you punch a lot! Here’s to you, Anima!
  • Videogame Fayth: The puzzle rooms in every religious temple in Final Fantasy 10 really raise some questions. Are the cloisters of trials exclusively there for summoners, or does the cleaning staff have to juggle a series of magical orbs every time they need to dust Bahamut’s remains? And is your average Yevon priest solving block puzzles as part of their seminary?
  • Did I mention I love Auron?Goggle Bob Fact: I have always considered myself fairly… Woke? My parents are liberal and raised me in a fairly progressive fashion, but I… kind of didn’t notice Wakka when I first played Final Fantasy 10 back during my freshman year of college. But now when I play the game? Holy crap is he racist! It is fantasy racism, but the fact that he is a religious zealot that takes every spare moment he can find to denigrate the Al Bhed is exceptionally concerning. And I did not observe it at all twenty years ago! I guess I wasn’t as “woke” as I thought back then. Maybe I still have more to learn now…
  • Did you know? Final Fantasy 10 was released in America on December 17, 2001. I think ROB tried to aim their randomness at this date. I am starting to suspect something is up with that robot.
  • Would I play again: Assuming I have hours and hours to kill, I would like to play Final Fantasy 10 again. That said, it might be another decade before I get back to number ten.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen to take a few weeks off, as it is holiday time! Let’s aim for our annual winter celebration post next week! Please look forward to it!

This is hilarious
We’ll laugh about this later

FGC #646 Killer Instinct (2013)

RevolutionaryYou ever revolutionize a genre, and everybody forgets you did it?

The history of fighting games is long and complicated, but there are some milestones that may be used to keep things simple. Many people recognize Street Fighter 2 as the official start of the fighting game craze. However, by the time Street Fighter 3: Third Strike rolled around, the humble fighting genre (and its home, the arcade) was all but dead. For a time, all we had was Aksys and random crossovers to keep the embers burning, but Street Fighter 4 returned to revitalize the genre. Was 2008’s Street Fighter 4 the sole reason 2-D fighting games returned to prominence? No, but it did prove that the quarter munchers could move to the online space, and no more would we be forced to subsist exclusively on weird Mortal Kombat kart racers. Street Fighter 4 is arguably one of the least experimental Street Fighter titles in Capcom’s stable, but it was what the desert needed after an eleven-year draught.

And if you want the innovation that would define the fighting game genre for years to come, you need to look at Killer Instinct.

Everything has a season

This wolfPopular knowledge says the original Killer Instinct was little more than a Mortal Kombat clone (klone?). It was a naked attempt by Rare and Nintendo to capitalize on the violent fighting game craze without sullying Mario’s lilywhite gloves. And, when Killer Instinct returned years later to showcase the Xbox One, it seemed to be filling much the same space. While the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live had defined online gaming for a console generation, the Xbox One needed a new Halo to dominate a different genre. Killer Instinct was to be a killer app!

Except… it kind of looked like Double Helix didn’t believe in its own hype.

A fighting game lives and dies by its roster. Some games are legendary thanks to their fighters, and many fail because they cannot support a single memorable pugilist. Killer Instinct launched with… the cast of Killer Instinct. But without the good ones! Riptor the fighting dinosaur was nowhere to be seen, nor was the dual-headed dueler, Eyedol. Seemingly all traces of Killer Instinct 2/Gold were gone (our dear werewolf lost his cybernetic appendages! And he’s supposed to be a cyberwolf!), and we had a measly one fresh fighter to showcase a new generation. Oh, and thanks to this anemic roster, marquee robot Fulgore was positioned as the big bad, and Jago was supposed to be our Ryu (complete with “Evil” version as a super boss). And Jago… geez… You can’t spell “generic” without “Jago” (this is probably true in some language). Killer Instinct’s launch was positioned to properly piss off fans old and new. The newbies wondered why the best this game could give us is a basic Native American lightning guy (named Thunder!) in the year of our Lord 2013, and any veterans were left wondering when the hell we would finally get to play as the gargoyle or fire guy.

But there would be an answer: next season.

Killer Instinct wound up with three distinct seasons. Each season brought us an equal number of new characters, ultimately more than tripling the final roster of Killer Instinct. In time, all the old fighters would return. In time, we would be granted new, innovative characters. In time, we would see Thunder’s brother, Fulgore’s prototype, and bosses new and old. Season 2 and Season 3 were always just on the horizon, and eternally sending a clear message to the playerbase: this gets better. Play now, get good, and you’ll be ready when Gargos finally flies onto the stage.

There is more on the way. Get hype.

And speaking of hype…

Every character can be an event

Rip and tearLet’s revisit Riptor.

I don’t mind saying that that dang dinosaur was my favorite lady in any original Killer Instinct. She seemed to adapt well to my playstyle (which is likely best described as “Impatient Guile”), and when she was not available for Killer Instinct (2013), I was heartbroken. Was dinosaur technology too expensive in this modern age? Was Jurassic Park not the draw it was back in the 90’s? Did the design staff decide they didn’t want to wade into the feathers versus scales debate? Whatever the case, Riptor was gone, and there was no way of knowing if she was ever coming back.

And then, as part of Season 2, we received the Riptor trailer. It was an in-world advertisement for Ultra Tech’s latest cybernetic dinosaur technology, and positioned as a rival to the robotic Fulgore line. Machine-gun ‘bots can’t go everywhere, so here’s your own private raptor! The video seemed to delight in noting that this was not a historically accurate dinosaur, but a creature created by modern science to be something unique. She has a robot tail! What more could you ask for!?

Get Excited for this new dinosaur fighter! Coming December 17! And maybe there is a teaser for the next, wholly new character at the end there! Coming January 30!

And this “hype cycle” became the norm for Killer Instinct throughout its four years of support. If there was a new season on the horizon, you knew one of the big boys was coming back… and who could it be!? Tune in to the next announcement and find out! And when the character is released, enjoy playing Killer Instinct all over again! It is not just about a new one-player campaign, it is about that online community waking back up, and getting back into the groove, because everybody wants to see how the new car handles (or how to best punch said new car).

Give it a trailer and a proper hype cycle, and you could even care about a rash.

And since we’re getting a rash anyway…

Get hyped for guests

Get wreckedCrossovers are nothing new. Ever since Akuma invaded X-Men: Children of the Atom, seeing a guest fighter on the roster has been old hat. Mind you, the likes of Gon or Freddy have always been fun, but they always felt more like an afterthought than anything else. Link is fighting for the Soulcalibur? Well, that’s cool, but we are here for Nightmare, not the elf.

What made Killer Instinct’s guests any different? Simple: it’s all about timing.

Killer Instinct’s first two guest characters, Arbiter of Halo and Rash of Battletoads, were released at the start of Season 3. And that made all the difference, as crossover characters had previously been either part of a game from the start (in the days before DLC), or were the absolute final, “whatever works” additions of the end of a game’s lifecycle. Sticking the Sangheili and the amphibian there at the top of the season meant that the rest of the season was wide open for speculation. And rumors were abound! With two absurd choices establishing that anything was possible, a renewed interest in Killer Instinct was fueled by the possibility of seeing anyone from Solar Jetman to Banjo Kazooie to James Bond. And while we only ever saw a worthy follow-up in Gears of War’s General RAAM, the possibilities certainly did the job of putting Killer Instinct back on the map. And you could draw a pretty obvious line from Rash to the eventual bonus characters of Thunder’s brother and “that lady from the Ring, but she moves faster”. You could argue these guest characters were generic compared to a straight up “here’s Kazuya”, but even when you don’t have the likes of Sora or Sephiroth, you can generate practically infinite excitement.

But focusing exclusively on the roster isn’t the only thing that makes Killer Instinct great, the single player content also includes…

Train the player

It's nice hereKiller Instinct was initially released with a “freemium” version. Said version was 100% free, though included only one playable character. In a way, this makes it little more than a demo, and an easy way to see if Killer Instinct is right for you. But Killer Instinct: Free did include one very important mode that made all the difference: Dojo Mode.

Dojo Mode was like your traditional training mode of the time, but so much more. Yes, you could practice special moves and combos, but it also included lessons that would teach a player exactly how to use their selected character. What’s more, it allowed the player to toggle hit/hurtboxes, finally illustrating oblique terms that had previously only been the domain of fighting game aficionados. Killer Instinct was an in-depth game, as it included everything from instinct cancels to combo breakers, but this training mode took the time to break down absolutely everything, including items like spacing and meter management that could be applied to any fighting game. Killer Instinct wants you to “get gud”, and it does a lot more to get you there than whip your ass in a survival mode.

But even that likely pales behind…

Reward the player

The wind upAt its core, Killer Instinct is a basic fighting game, and fighting games have always been all about “rewards” in single player content. The Street Fighter franchise was always fond of claiming that unique endings were the greatest incentive anyone could ever imagine, and the Mortal Kombat franchise turned unlocking the roster into a quest onto itself. Killer Instinct Gold, Killer Instinct’s previously most prominent console release, seemed to primarily rely on codes for its unlocks, but special golden characters could only be acquired with skill and perseverance.

And now in Killer Instinct (2013)? The most perseverance you need is selecting a character.

By the time Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition rolled around, there were nearly an even 30 fighters available. And everyone came complete with three single-player achievements. You could earn a trophy for simple, everyday tasks like winning a match, winning a match (but in survival mode), and reaching character level three. Oh, what’s this about character levels? Every individual selectable character earns experience points every time you play as them, and, win or lose, you will accrue exp for your pugilists. And don’t even get me started on the rewards that are available once you wade into the world of online ranking…

And, while the “service” end of this has now ended, please remember a recent present where the simple matter of booting up Killer Instinct once a week could yield new and exciting incentives. Maybe there would be a new character available that was free-to-play for a limited time. Maybe your “main” was able to earn bonus experience this week, so ripping into Riptor would be the best use of your Tuesday. Maybe there was a special extra for the friggen’ roguelike that somehow became part of Killer Instinct Season 3. Even if you weren’t stopping back in Killer Instinct every month for a new character, KI went out of its way to find reasons to train a player into logging in at least once a week to haul in the extra loot available.

Stay backAnd, like all the items on this list, Killer Instinct did not invent rewarding the player, it simply made it a focus for the game. So, like its training modes, seasons, and hype cycles, it became just as important to Killer Instinct as the fireball motion was to Street Fighter 2. You cannot have Ryu without a dragon punch, and you will never see Eyedol again without a trailer and bonus achievements.

And as for whether or not this all made an impact on the fighting game ecosystem? Well, just go ahead and mail me a letter from the future, and confirm when Street Fighter 6 inevitably has literally everything mentioned across this article…

FGC #646 Killer Instinct (2013)

  • System: Initially it was the killer app exclusive to the Xbox One. Then it migrated over to Microsoft Windows about three years later.
  • Number of players: Two whole people, fighting each other from anywhere on the world wide web.
  • Just play the gig, man: The music in Killer Instinct is not only distinctly pretty damn good, it is also integrated into the gameplay to an absurd degree. Moving a cursor around the pause menu plays tones matching the current theme! And Ultra Combo incorporation! It is difficult to describe in words, but this is one feature that I would like to see integrated in every future fighting game… even if it would then add an extra six months to development…
  • Love those chucksStory Time: For a fighting game franchise, Killer Instinct’s mythos are surprisingly coherent. Mind you, this is likely because the franchise does not have to accommodate twenty years and two reboots like some franchises, but this is a pretty straightforward story of swords and sorcery demons being unearthed by a contemporary, uncaring conglomerate. And, hey, the UltraTech company is unabashedly as evil as an immortal gargoyle demon. We need more games with easy-to-understand morals like that.
  • Single Player: This is one of the few fighting games where I feel I do not need an “arcade mode”, and am happy just stopping into Vs. CPU mode with random select. I literally cannot tell you why this is the case, but firing up a random match in Killer Instinct feels a lot more natural than in Guilty Gear or Street Fighter. Maybe I am just a sucker for experience points…
  • Favorite Character: My allegiance to Riptor has already been plainly stated. Glacius was actually part of the original game, so he would be my pick if we have to go with someone that was there from the start. If I have to pick a new character, it is Mira the vampire. Fighting games need more vampires.
  • Did you know? You could easily make the argument that the original Killer Instinct roster was little more than a cross between gaming character clichés (ninja, femme fatale, fire elemental) and generic movie monsters (dinosaur, werewolf, skeleton, alien). So it is appropriate that KI Season 2 introduced characters such as mummy, big statue, GLaDOS, and that girl from the Ring. They’re not derivative! They’re following the template!
  • Would I play again: This is my favorite Xbox fighting game. Mind you, all my other fighting games on my Playstation… but still! Basically, if my Xbox X is on at all, there are really good odds this will get played for at least as long as it takes to download my latest game’s updates. I assure you, this is high praise.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy 10! Oh boy! I bet it will be a laugh riot! Please look forward to it!

A bit gusty?