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FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

Just like that legend!Motion controls, “shaking”, and general stylus/touch gaming… it’s all terrible. Buttons are here. Crosspads are perfect. Why reinvent how Link wanders over his world because you need to accommodate the latest gimmicks? Mario spin jumps just fine with that A button, thank you very much. Trick controls are lame, and I loathe their implementation in otherwise worthwhile games.

But WarioWare: Touched! isn’t lame, it’s fun.

WarioWare: Touched! is a phenomenal experience that was released early in the DS’s lifespan. This was a godsend, as previous Nintendo DS titles did little to push the benefits of the system. Oh boy! I can play a falling block puzzle game, but now I can tap on random squares for some opaque reason? No, that’s not going to push any portables. And this was a time before touch-screen cell phones began to dominate the market (hard to believe, I know), so even the mere concept of “touch here” seemed weird and foreign. I have to use this pen thing? Like I’m in school? No thank you, Nintendo. This sucker will never work. I’ll just put some preorder cash on the inevitably super successful Playstation Portable. That’s the future right there.

But WarioWare turned those opinions around in one tight/bonkers experience. Fresh on the heels of the previous WarioWare, Wario returned with more silly microgames meant to get the player using that stylus, microphone, and touch screen. And, like WarioWare before it, those minigames had a tendency to lean heavily into “what’s going to happen next?” (which is rather fun when “next” is all of ten seconds away) with games like “cut the snot”, “blow up the planet”, or the incredibly ludicrous “play the Metroid game”. It winds up being one of those experiences that can easily be described as entertaining, and, whether you’re five or five hundred, everyone can enjoy dicing flying vegetables.

Loop forever!But why does WarioWare Touched! work? Why, at a time when touch controls were new and scary, did WWT prove conclusively that touch controls are pretty damn awesome? Why does Wario succeed when even Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link all completely failed to push the idea that “gimmick controls” are your friend? And why did anyone ever think that Phantom Hourglass was a good idea? … Okay, that question is only tangentially related… but still!

The answer is simple: WarioWare Touched! works because it isn’t like other videogames.

Touch controls are an interesting beast, because, conceptually, they should be the same as buttons. “Touching” is a basic move for any given human. Even babies can do it! And using your finger to direct someone or something, whether it be a Hylian or Mr. Driller, seems like the most basic thing in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a finger or two to trace a route through an actual map of the world (“the world” in this case being “the path to the nearest Big Lots”), and that should translate well to guiding adventurers through dungeons. And, similarly, it’s completely natural to “shake it” when something isn’t going your way, so maybe a shake or two would be appropriate when you want Mario to have an extra jump. These are all perfectly normal, almost reflexive reactions, so they absolutely should work in a videogame. You can press A to jump, and you can shake it, too. Simple, right?

WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING!?Except, somewhere along the line, games became looooong experiences (I blame this guy). The latest Zelda game has a certain expectation of play length, and you better believe you have to collect three random mipmaps before gathering another pile of otherwise useless crap. You may not defeat Ganon until you’ve eaten every last vegetable, young man. And when an adventure becomes at least 20 hours (at least), that means that what may have previously been a quick play experience rapidly spirals down into the slog hole. And you know what we don’t need in the slog hole? An excess of movement. It’s super cramped in the slog hole!

You want to know why buttons are successful? It’s not like these lil’ duders were the only things available to early systems, because you all know I’ve got that Colecovision with the light gun to disprove that theory. The reason buttons are the dominant life form on Planet Videogame is because they require nothing. It takes next to no effort to push up on a control pad, and, if you have to do it for twenty solid hours, you’re not going to think about it even once. Give or take the occasional game that is all about timed button pressing, pressing a button is natural, its subconscious, and, once you understand a controller, it’s easier than drawing a line or shaking a chunk of plastic. For further examples, please note that that this article was written via a magical device featuring at least 26 characters that I can instantly access and use to type some weirdly high number of words per minute. And ain’t nobody writing a novel with “gestures”.

RAWK!That’s why touch controls don’t work, but why do they work with Wario? Because “mini” means “not twenty hours”. The average WarioWare game is limited to a whole ten seconds, and, win or lose, it’s done in less time than it takes to sneeze. And that’s brilliant for touch controls! It means that you are active, and moving, and enjoying these touch controls in the tiniest of bite-sized chunks. The slog hole is vaulted, and we’re happily skipping along the… let’s call this The Fields of Happiness. There is never a point in a WarioWare game when the player feels exhausted, and “actively” participating in WarioWare’s touching feels more akin to playing a sport or doing that going outside thing I keep hearing about. WarioWare isn’t a hike, it’s an inning, and that means you don’t have to hear whining about stopping for a water break every fifteen minutes. Play through a few periods, hit the bench for a break, and then return refreshed to hit a few more zingers.

And this is the essence of touch gaming. The best touch-based games are not Mega Mans or Marios; they’re short, quick affairs that you can play while waiting in line (for the latest Mega Man or Mario release). WarioWare hit the nail on the head (also a minigame) well before the idevices conquered the world, and your Flappy Birds and Fruit Ninjas owe it a debt.

Short, to the point, and touchy is the future, and Wario always knew that. Wario has all the best ideas. He’s greedy like that.

FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

  • System: Nintendo DS. Also playable on the 3DS… and I think it was a downloadable title? Maybe with Club Nintendo? That would be nice.
  • Number of players: One toucher at a time.
  • Eat-saFavorite Microgame Set: The answer to this is always the Volts, 9-Volt and 18-Volt. I could play mini classic Nintendo games all day, and… Oh, they eventually made that game.
  • Mikey likes it: Mike the Karaoke Robot exists exclusively to test the microphone capabilities of the DS… and then he disappears forever. This is in stark contrast with Ashley, who also premiered in this game, and went on to become some kind of internet darling.
  • Did you know? This game wound up released in America before WarioWare:Twisted!, the game that introduced the rich Mona lore regarding Mona Pizza. This means that that storyline in Touched is super confusing for anyone that just finished the original WarioWare. … Well, it confused me at the time.
  • Would I play again: Yes, absolutely. This is one of my favorite DS titles. I might not play from a “fresh” save file, but I’m certainly going to bite down on some random minigames again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy! Wait… just Final Fantasy? Like… the original? Not mystic, legends, adventure, explorers, tactics, theatrhythm, dissidia, or, I don’t know, Episode Pompadour? Neat. Time to save Kary for last, everybody! Please look forward to it!

Rake it in

FGC #027 Sega Superstars Tennis

NiGHTS of the deadAs I write this, every movie studio on Earth is attempting to copy the success of The Avengers by creating vast, interconnected movie franchises that all add up to huge blockbusters with all-star casts. Spoilers: this is not at all sustainable. Even if all of these “building” movies perform well (fun fact, this article is being written almost immediately after the disastrous release of The Fantastic 4. Errm… the 2015 disastrous release, not any of the other disastrous Fantastic Four movies), and even if all the movies naturally segue into Avengers-esque blockbusters, it will all come to a screeching halt in approximately a decade or two. The chief problem? Movies unfortunately star actors and actresses, and, thanks to a factory defect in humanity, actors age. Faster than anyone wants to admit, your handsome young movie star is looking a little less handsome and young, and suddenly movies have to be about aging characters, and that’s time better spent fighting galactic horrors. The world does not need another movie dedicated to explaining why the Enterprise’s central chair has been gradually widening.

But there’s hope for neverending franchises, and that’s in the video game medium. Back in the 1980’s, the fabulous jumping Mario was born: a tubby Italian dude of indeterminate (but certainly not “young”) age. A trio of decades later, Mario is still out of shape, but still jumping just as high as ever. Pudgy lil’ guy doesn’t have to worry about aging, nor does the entire rest of the Nintendo stable. Hell, if Kirby was portrayed by a real biological entity, he would have perished from a massive coronary about halfway through his first adventure. He’d never know the joys of being rolled around by a giant cat!

So it’s kind of odd that game companies, in stark contrast to Hollywood, have seemingly given up on creating new and exciting franchise mascots. Well, that’s a bit insincere. It’s not that Microsoft isn’t promoting Master Chief, as an easy example, it’s just that there’s no Halo cereal or Halo animated series or, I don’t know, Halo dog bathing service. Make no mistake, Mario hails from one of the objectively best video game franchises ever, but part of his popularity originates from ubiquitous 80’s marketing that just never went away. And there was, believe it or not, a time when Crash Bandicoot was actually considered a rival for the Mario empire… but Sony decided to go in another direction, and now they can barely scrape together a fat princess and a war god to populate their own dismal imitation of Smash Bros.

But one company never forgot the benefits of a stable stable of characters: Sega. In fact, I’d argue that Sega is the only game company that didn’t have a presence on the NES but still has anything like a cast of “All-Stars” to parade out for various tennis and racing games. And the sad thing? Almost the entire cast are a bunch of failures.

Sega, ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s take a look at the cast of Sega Superstars Tennis. These, right here, are Sega’s superstars.

Should you really be doing this to play tennisSonic the Hedgehog needs no introduction. This really is Sega’s all-star: a character that has become synonymous with video game mascots, but not necessarily worthwhile video games. Sonic is basically the Lucille Ball of our generation, as there will never be a time in our lives when there isn’t Sonic the Hedgehog based entertainment available. You could claim this is some creepy power play performed by Mona, Goddess of Hedgehogs, but it’s so much more mundane than that. Sega struck gold with Sonic, and never, ever let it slip. Yeah, you or I may be over the rodent, but there’s a new crop of kids every six seconds or so, and the blue blur is cool and fun and has just enough attitude to hook a whole new harvest of eyeballs. Sonic the Hedgehog is basically like dinosaurs: the concept is always going to be interesting to kids, because they’re cool and strong and follow their own rules, whether those rules be zooming around at the speed of sound or stomping on tiny mammals. Sonic is just as perennial as terrible thunder lizards.

Sonic is joined in this game by his supporting cast: Tails (the sidekick), Amy Rose (the girl), Dr. Eggman (the villain), and Shadow the Hedgehog (the walking turd). Strangely absent is Knuckles (the strong man), but it’s just as likely that Robotnik tricked him into mowing the Egg Mansion’s lawn the day of qualifiers.

No pipes neitherAlex Kidd was the Sega mascot before Sonic, and he was as big a failure as Sonic was a success. I think the general idea was to copy Nintendo’s success with a character that looked like the bastard child of Mario and Link, but, shockingly, Alex’s rock-paper-scissors “guess for your life” gameplay didn’t tickle anyone’s fancy. Alex Kidd will continue to appear in Sega productions for years to come, no doubt, as he’s a sort of a “you never forget your first time” character, fueled by nostalgia and man’s natural love of elves. Sometimes, Alex Kidd and Mr. Game & Watch hang out and play Pong together.

Gilius Thunderhead is the other superstar that predates Sonic. If you don’t recognize the name, I don’t blame you; Gilius is the jumbo dwarf of the Golden Axe series. If that means nothing to you, just know that there was an alternative to Streets of Rage on the Genesis that featured medieval times and a complete lack of fun of any sort. Oh, wait, you could ride those freaky bipedal bird snakes from Altered Beast. That was kind of cool. Gilius was chosen as the representative of Golden Axe because his other companions were simply Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, so it was legally determined that just ripping off Gimli was the best course of action.

Never get in a headbutt contest with a dwarfNow here’s where it gets ridiculous.

Everyone remembers the Genesis/Master System as Sega’s prime. This was the era when Nintendo vs. Sega meant something, and having an opinion on where you stood in that divide was as important as knowing the Konami Code. Sega Kids and Nintendo Kids battled long into the night, and much blood was spilled on both sides. I lost good friends in those days…

But during the time of the Super Nintendo, Nintendo expanded its pantheon to include many characters that are still fondly remembered and see love today. Captain Falcon, Star Fox, Yoshi, and Ness all premiered on the Super Nintendo. Samus Aran had her most famous adventure in the 16-bit days, and Donkey Kong firmed up his modern look and personality. And, depending on how you jiggle the dates and regions, while it was only on the SNES in a Super Gameboy capacity, this was the time a little yellow shock rat decided to make the scene. Nintendo basically became Nintendo in the midst of its battle with the Sega Genesis.

Here’s a list of Sega Superstars from the Sega Genesis that originated after Sonic the Hedgehog premiered:

  • NOTHING

Way to put all your eggs in one basket, Sega.

Like a clown blew up in hereNiGHTS and Reala of NiGHTS into Dreams finally came along in ’96 on the Sega Saturn. NiGHTS into Dreams was a game that seemed to have been built to show off the new Saturn analog controller, and very well could have been the next Mario 64, but its gameplay, while fun, was just a bit on the shallow side. I was not someone who had a Saturn when it was new, and coming back to the game around the time of the slightly more modern PS2 era was… well… it didn’t do the jester any favors. NiGHTS wound up being the Ark of the Covenant carried forward by the Saturn kids, though, and that crazy clown finally got a sequel on the Wii in 2007. This, sadly, makes NiGHTS one of the few Sega characters to have a genuinely new game within the last decade.

Dancin in skatesBeat and Gum skate onto the court compliments of Jet Set Radio. JSR might not have had the best controls in the universe, but it took full advantage of the fact that the Dreamcast could produce some gorgeous graphics. This one I experienced at launch, and, man, it’s kind of hard to describe uncovering this world for the first time. I guess this is where the NiGHTS true believers are coming from? However, looking at JSR with a more discerning eye reveals that this may have been a calculated move to make a Sonic the Hedgehog: The Next Generation. The emphasis from top to bottom is on attitude and speed, just now mixed with a more overt disrespect for authority and more “urban” stylings. The more I think about it, the more I feel like this was a miraculously successful Poochy to Sonic’s Itchy and Scratchy.

Wait, scratch that “miraculously successful” bit. Jet Set Radio hasn’t seen a new game since 2002. Yes, we’ve got a million remakes, but no one claims that Final Fantasy 4 is its own successful franchise. Well, nobody I’d care to listen to.

Shake it, monkeyJet Set Radio did set an amazing standard for music in games, so Sega produced a couple of games that were completely based on music. Amigo of Samba de Amigo hails originally from the arcades in ’99, but hit the Dreamcast in 2000. Samba de Amigo was a crazy Mexican version of Guitar Hero, but since it predated Guitar Hero by a fair few years, I guess we have to say it was trying to capitalize on the popularity of Dance Dance Revolution, which is such an odd statement to make in the far flung future of 2015. Shake a crazy pair of maracas to percussion along with an adorable monkey and his furry friends (maybe actually capital-F Furry, I mean, a couple of those guys just appear to be wearing teddy bear costumes). I want to say Samba de Amigo didn’t catch on with American audiences because there were six maraca controllers to pass around here in the USA, but Amigo and his buddies did make a return in a remake in 2007 on the Wii, where… it was just another damn Wii game with weird controls. Poor monkey just can’t catch a break.

Further shakingUlala and her frenemy Pudding are the stars of the more-popular-than-any-monkey Space Channel 5, another rhythm/music game. Despite the game’s future setting, Space Channel 5 oozed a sort of retro charm and was, if nothing else, immediately recognizable for its overflowing waves of kitsch. It was also fun to play, and didn’t require any whacky peripherals to do so. It was one of the standout games of 2000, so naturally Ulala hasn’t been seen in her element again since her 2002 sequel. As a result, I cry a single manly tear every time I see the pitiable gal forced to make a living swinging a racket around.

Finally, Sega’s tennis roster is completed with AiAi and MeeMee, the boy and girl monkey stars of Super Monkey Ball. This series got rolling in 2001, and features gameplay based on those damn wooden labyrinth toys that your uncle was always giving you for Christmas because I think he had a personal vendetta against all the times your parents said that you were such a smart little child, Roll with itso here’s a toy that will drive that darling child to punch a kiddy-sized hole in the refrigerator. Er-hem. AiAi and MeeMee are less playable characters and are more or less hostages in their own games: they’re stuck in the petite balls you roll around the stage, and should they roll off the side of the stage… well… try to be civil when delivering the news to their next of kin. The Super Monkey Ball series has actually been pretty healthy since its debut, probably because you can make a whole variety of games based around “ball rolling”. I’m pretty sure that’s how Soccer got so popular.

And that’s it. That’s your Sega Superstars. Let’s take a quick tally, hm? Of Sega’s All-Stars featured in Sega Superstars Tennis, exactly two franchises are still seeing any kind of new, non rehash/remake releases. Second runner-up is NiGHTS, who last saw moonlight eight years ago. Sega, you created a lasting troop of varied and interesting headliners, and have proceeded not do a thing with nearly the whole lot of them. Just keep holding on to that hedgehog’s spiky coattails and hope for the best, I suppose. At least you tried.

Nintendon’t shiv.

FGC #27 Sega Superstars Tennis

  • System: Wii for the purposes of this review, though damn near every system that was in existence at the time saw a release, too.
  • Number of Players: 4. Oh boy, a full doubles tennis group.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second? Fine. This is a tennis game. It is a perfectly competent tennis game. Every once in a while, you may use your character’s super power to, I don’t know, make the ball appear bigger or something. If you told me this game was a color/Sega enhanced remake of Virtual Boy’s Mario’s Tennis, I would believe you. I’ve bored myself stupid just writing this paragraph.
  • Favorite Character: Ulala in concept, but Eggman is just so charmingly weird to use. That is not the shape of a man intended to play sports of any kind.
  • Chicken Legs!Did you know? Those Golden Axe bird things are apparently called “Chicken Legs”. I would rather play tennis against a chicken leg. Or as a chicken leg. Or riding a chicken leg? Can that be a thing? Golden Axe: Tennis Riders?
  • Hey, some of these pictures aren’t from the featured game: Well, yeah. I had to play something to restore my faith in Sega. In retrospect, Alex Kidd and Golden Axe II are, at best, lateral moves.
  • Would I play again? Nope. I barely played this game when it was released. I thought it might be a fun alternative to Wii Sports Tennis for my friends, but guess what? We just kept playing Wii Sports Tennis. Heck, if I want to see the “Sega Superstars” again, I’m just going to fire up Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. It doesn’t treat the cast any better, but at least it’s fun to play.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania Portrait of Ruin. Hey! That’s a game I might even play without a robot’s provocation. Way to go, ROB. Please look forward to it!

FGC #008 WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!

$$$$It’s interesting to see how a mythological pantheon evolves in modern times. First we have Mario, the All-Father, the head-honcho and lord of his kingdom. He may be just a plumber, but his affinity for fire and position over all others likens the jump master to Egypt’s Ra. Next, there’s the perennial “wife goddess” Princess Peach, who embodies the very concept of femininity. Luigi is an eternal “lesser brother” god, who, like Poseidon, is his own kind of king, but eternally in the shadow of one that rules the heavens. Bowser is the adversary, through and through, always battling against the forces of good and coveting and stealing any light he can find. Donkey Kong is the archetypical “bestial” aspect of man, not unlike the concept of the werewolf, as he makes a fine cart racer or banana rescuer, but God help you when the full moon comes out, and he comes to steal your women to construction sites. Even noble Yoshi draws many comparisons to the noble steeds of legendary tales, like Pegasus or Sleipnir.

Nintendo has created a much fuller pantheon with its other franchises. Link is the hero, the mortal who ascends to legendary status through good deeds. Zelda is Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom (and war) who can always be relied upon to be the smartest deity on the battlefield. It would be easy to paint Ganondorf as another demon/adversary, but his actions are more akin to that of a god of war, an ongoing source of upheaval and death, but without which there would be no need for heroes. Samus Aran has suffered an identity crisis of late, because, in her most iconic appearances, she is little more than a death goddess. Point Samus at a problem, give it two hours, and wait for the sounds of an exploding planet. A single pikachu may be nothing more than a shockrat, but Pikachu as a Nintendo/Pokémon mascot has been portrayed as a mischievous but giving friend to children, not unlike the modern interpretation of Santa Claus. And Kirby sleeps soundly in his dreamland, growing ever closer to the time when he will awake, and devour iat aftft un a hauft ur lunk. Ha ghuftft ga’uia’ uia’ ghaalunt, ang ha ghuftft fta iantsullaftfta.

But every good pantheon needs a trickster. Africa’s Anansi, the Pacific Northwest’s Raven, Navajo’s Coyote, and all sorts of gods that didn’t even appear in Disney’s Gargoyles have haunted mythologists for years with tales of deceit and guile. The most famous trickster god is likely Loki of Norse/Marvel/Disney mythology, a continual thorn in the side of Odin and Thor, generally making both of their lives miserable, but not intolerable.

It's alright, I understand the desire for fameAnd that’s the trick with a good trickster god. Bowser the Adversary, as a good example, has become dramatically less threatening since his debut three decades ago, chiefly because his every last plan has failed spectacularly. He almost triumphed one time, and the entire universe reset just to spite him. Bowser is the bad guy, and he’s the bad guy in a medium meant to empower “the player”, so he is just never going to get anywhere. A trickster, though? A trickster can be a good trickster for centuries, as all he has to do is dupe the good guy, and, yes, the trickster will eventually be hammer-thubbed for his treachery, but he succeeded in his purpose, his trick, all the same. The good guy wins, the trickster wins, and the story is entertaining, so everybody wins.

Given you can read the title of this article, you can probably guess that I’m building to the reveal that Wario as the trickster god of the Nintendo pantheon. And you’re right! Gold star! Though, bad news, Wario will likely steal that gold star, and now you have nothing. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Wario started as a simple rival for Mario. In his debut, Super Mario Land 2, Wario heists Mario’s entire kingdom (newsflash: Mario has a kingdom?), and Mario has to reconquer his own land. Ho-hum. Wario could have easily been the next Tatanga or Wart, but, no, he returned for a few random sports games, and then got his own series starting with Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land. The Wario Land games cemented Wario’s “greed is good” credo, but played much like any other Mario video game. After all, isn’t the auxiliary goal of any Mario game to collect as many coins and treasures and doodads as possible on your way to the goal? Is shining champion Mario that different from gluttonous anti-hero Wario? In gameplay, not at all.

How is this so popular?But it’s WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! and its descendants that cements Wario as Nintendo’s trickster. The plot of WarioWare is simple: Wario wants all of the money forever, so he’s going to publish a videogame. Hey, worked for Nolan Bushnell, right? Only problem is that Wario has the video game crafting skills of Destructive Creations, so he has to round up his friends to craft his new masterpiece. Scratch that, that sounds too much like a teen movie or other such feel good story; no, Wario tricks all of his friends into creating video games for him. And that’s where the magic happens. Wario tricks you into playtesting.

Make no mistake, the entirety of WarioWare is a trick. WW was released in 2003, a full five years before the launch of the Apple App Store. Relevance? Much of WarioWare is based on bite sized games that last ten seconds, max. These short, “burst” games are all the rage now, in the age of cellphones and ipads and other devices those damn kids keep playing on my lawn. 2003 was still the age of “game lasts 800 hours and is considered college credit in six states”, when the idea of games that lasted three minutes because that’s how long you’ll be in the supermarket checkout line was a long way away. And the controls of WarioWare? One button, four directions, done. Want me to name another device with one button? It’s small and rectangular and rhymes with iTyrone. Nintendo… I mean Wario… invented a genre at least half a decade before its official debut. And how does one sell such a series of games before the advent of effortless downloads and teeny pricetags? Blend them all together, call it a combined “challenge”, and slap your most devious mascot on the cover. After all, we know we have a brand new, completely unproven (but fun!) game here, if it fails, we can just laugh it off as another Wario blunder. Oh, that wacky, smelly guy.

Mona... sounds like moneyWarioWare has served much the same purpose since its inception: a Trojan horse to get new ideas into your head. It’s no surprise that a WarioWare game has been released with nearly every new iteration of Nintendo hardware: WW Touched introduced touch gaming and the DS microphone to anyone with the new handheld, WW Smooth Moves showed off all the weird ways you can swing your wiimote, and Game & Wario was there to showcase the myriad of new tricks available to the WiiU’s tablet. WW Snapped was even there to promote the very idea of digital download games on a portable Nintendo System, and WW D.I.Y. stands as an early attempt by Nintendo to get a “community” going, an effort that would eventually bear fruit on the WiiU and its MiiVerse. WW Twisted is a clear forerunner to Nintendo’s own decade long love affair with gyroscopic, “move sensitive” gaming.

There’s a reason the Wario of WarioWare has superseded the Wario of the Wario Land franchise (and the Wario of Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!, which was just an early trick to get you to buy a portable Bomberman title, which you already should have been buying) in everything, from sequels to the Smash Bros. series, and that’s the simple truth that Nintendo no longer sees Wario as a platforming Mario knock-off, no, Wario is the trickster that uses his craftiness to hoodwink friends and consumers alike into testing his, and Nintendo’s, latest obsession. Smash Bros and other “party” Nintendo franchises portray Wario as a fat, weird, smelly, “off” buffoon, because who ever suspects the lout is the one swindling the masses?

Mario? Link? Pikachu? If they’re telling you there’s a new game with their face on it, what you see is what you get. They’re transparent, they’re comfortable, they are there to be trusted and worshipped, and they’ll summon you every Christmas season, and you’ll give your offering and take their blessing. Wario? Wario is the stuff stories are made of. You don’t worship Wario, but you’ll hear his tales all the same, because, when all is said and done, the good gods battling the bad gods is boring, and sometimes you just want to play with a rascal. You know the trick is coming. You know you’re being duped. But you’re going to enjoy it.

PEPPER!FGC # 8 WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!

  • System: Gameboy Advance
  • Number of Players: 1, though there’s a few 2 Player challenges
  • Highest Score: Got 74 on Dribble and Spitz’s challenges. I don’t even remember liking those games…
  • What’s with Nintendo associating “gross” with “experimental”? I don’t know, but it sure worked great for Earthbound!
  • Did You Know? Waluigi has never appeared in a WarioWare game, though he is considered by Smash Bros to be part of the Wario Universe. This is likely an indicator that the Mushroom Kingdom wants nothing to do with Waluigi, a sentiment shared by most anyone that has ever encountered that freak. Waluigi: a man without a country.
  • Would I Play Again? I’m lucky (gullible) enough to be a member of the 3DS Ambassador Program, so I have WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! permanently loaded onto my most portable gaming system. This likely makes this the first FGC game that I play frequently, albeit randomly. It’s not so much a matter of playing again, as I’ve never stopped.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Donkey Kong Country. Huh, guess ROB is on a kick thinking about his parent company. Bananas abound, everyone, please look forward to it!

FGC #005 Yoshi Touch & Go

Good catchThe cycle of video game releases is… unnatural.

As anyone that “stays current” with video games knows, there is a tremendous push in the industry for the latest and, presumably, greatest. As I type this, Batman: The Latest Battening has just been released, and social media is alight with discussions regarding The Bat’s firepower and framerate. In approximately two weeks, no one will be talking about poor ol’ Bruce Wayne, and we will have moved on to… let’s just check the release schedule here… ah, yes, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos Banana Split Edition. That one sounds like a winner.

In contrast, while video game hardware is pushed just as hard as its software, anyone who buys a video game system within its first six months to a year is considered an “early adopter”, or, as the French put it, “un idiot”. In my memory, there have been exactly two systems with software released in their first year that would last the entirety of the system’s existence: Nintendo Gamecube, exclusively due to Smash Bros Melee, and the Sega Dreamcast, which wins pretty much by a sad kind of default. No matter how box-y future and past systems have been, there has always, always been a dramatic draught of worthwhile games for anyone who buys a system at launch. Best case scenario? Maybe you can hope for five decent games within a system’s first year, and in some N64ish cases, that’s the best you can hope for forever. Buying a system at launch is costly from a monetary and sanity perspective.

So, it’s really no surprise that I do that all the time. It’s the most specific case of senility doctors have ever seen.

The Nintendo DS was the first portable system I was ever able to purchase at launch (and the second portable system I was allowed to own, ever)(If you don’t count the Virtual Boy as portable [because why would you?]}. Suffice it to say, I was excited to play a simultaneously gimped and improved version of Mario 64, and then… well… nothing.

Grapes equal eggs, duhI survey my Nintendo DS collection, and see games that I would never have purchased if not for this seemingly endless drought. Feel the Magic XY/XX? Wow, no. Zookeeper? You may have been at the forefront of a genre, but you’re about as fun as actually cleaning up monkey poop. Mr. Driller Drill Spirits? Actually my first Mr. Driller game, but another one that is somehow gimped on the “new” system. And then we come to today’s choice: Yoshi Touch & Go.

Yoshi Touch & Go had so much potential. This may sound like heresy to some, but Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is decidedly not my favorite Mario Bros game. In fact, it’s pretty low on the list. This is not to say I don’t enjoy Yoshi’s Island, quite the opposite, it is a very fun game; however, it introduced those “collectathon” elements to 2-D Mario platformers that drive me completely insane. I have that peculiar kind of OCD that compels me to follow the rulings of ludicrous plastic robots, and causes me to collect every last red coin and smiling flower that I can find. And they very concept of stages locked behind 100% completion? Forget about it. My favorite thing to do in Mario games is hold down the B Button and run like hell to the goal post, and Yoshi’s Island stops that impulse cold. Finding secret exits was one thing, but since Yoshi’s Island, I’ve had to scavenge around for red coins, golden coins, and yoshi coins, and something important has been lost in the midst of finding every damn bauble and bead. I can’t help but blame Yoshi’s Island on this development.

But Yoshi Touch & Go had the potential to be the all killer, no filler Yoshi’s Island. After all, it’s the same adorable Yoshi and friends in the same gorgeous coloring book atmosphere, but now there’s no great treasure hunt afoot, just time to just hoof it to the goal and enjoy the simple running, jumping, and egg tossing.

Adoption is weirdIt was supposed to be a thing of beauty.

Instead, here we are, with a game that also started its own kind of horrible genre. Yoshi is running alright, he is, shall we say, endlessly running through nondescript “levels” that feature the same stupid obstacles over and over again in slightly modified configurations. Oh, and levels start with an odd vertical section featuring a falling Baby Mario and even less control available to the player. The pendulum has swung in the other direction, where once there was a game that I lamented because it gave me too much to do, here is a game that contains about five minutes worth of “gameplay”.

I’m not one to assign dollar values to games. To some, a single video game is a tremendous financial burden, to others, its equivalent to a vending machine super ball. Nevertheless, Yoshi Touch & Go is the epitome of the modern “dollar game”. This is a game meant to be played on a phone while waiting in line to get into the local discothèque. This is a game that is meant to be downloaded, not played on a cartridge, and retrieved when you’re waiting for your Xbone to perform its nineteenth system update this week. Yoshi Touch & Go isn’t a bad game, it was just released about a decade before its proper format, for both pricing and play, was invented. Also, it’s a bad game.

Good catch, KamekThere’s a term I love in gaming, and that’s “late to the party”. For those of you that have just beamed here from Alpha Centauri 6, the term refers to playing a video game well after the hype has died down and anyone who cared about the game in the first place has moved on to greener, more bananaful pastures. I propose the term “early to the party” for any of the early adopters out there, as I can think of no finer metaphor. Ever get to the party too early? There’s you. The party host is still getting ready. The temporary host is someone you’d never want to speak to, perhaps the host’s spouse (whom you barely know) or parents (oh God no). The only other guests? The smelly kid, because that kid is always where suck can be found, and the well meaning guest with food, who came early because there was food to bring, but that’s where this particular guest’s social skills end. Who would you like to hang out with? Which will leave the greatest funk upon your soul? And what does it mean that you’re here with them?

Next time a new system gets released, just wait. Stay home, wait until a good amount of time has passed, and then go ahead and join the party. Maybe while you’re waiting, play some Yoshi Touch & Go. Replay the horror.

FGC # 5 Yoshi Touch & Go

  • System: Nintendo DS
  • Number of Players: 1. Okay, technically its 2P, but good luck finding another sucker to play this with.
  • Why Was This Post Delayed: Mainly because it is way too easy to slide into becoming one of those blogs that is always angry at games and ranting against how could some video game designer do this to me and blah blah blah. That’s not for me, there’s too much negativity in this world as is. So, took the time to find an angle to this game that wasn’t just “Wow, this game sucks”.
  • But this game sucks, right? Oh my, yes.
  • What’s Your Highest Score? I am not going to admit how much I actually played this game.
  • Did You Know? IGN said this game, “is one of the most original and unique games created for the system so far…” I want to remind everyone this game was released four months after the release of the DS. There were maybe fifteen other DS games in existence.
  • Would I Play Again? Decidedly no. It’s currently available for the WiiU, where I can play Bit Trip Runner 2 if I really need to. And you better believe my 3DS cartridge slot has better things to do.

And we're done

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Batman Arkham City. Hey, ROB, when did you get randomly relevant? Please look forward to it!