Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

FGC #528 Adventure

Let's go on an adventure!Adventure was released in 1980, and many claim it was the origin of what is considered to be gaming today. Without Adventure, we wouldn’t have a template for games that feature inventory juggling, dragon-slaying, or the entire Legend of Zelda franchise. But, while even major motion pictures pay tribute to the influence Adventure had on gaming and pop culture at large, no one ever asks what happened to the venerable cast of Adventure. As the VH-1 frequently asked when I had cable: Where are they now? Let’s look into it!

The Bat

Flap flapAdventure’s most hated foe was no dragon or daunting maze, it was the aggravating bat. Just when you thought you had acquired that valuable key or chalice, the bat would come swooping in, pinch it right from your paws, and leave for parts unknown. Would you ever reclaim your lost item? Only that winged terror knows for sure.

Where is it now?

Bats have had a long, illustrious career in videogames. Did you know that bats are responsible for 90% of all deaths in the territory of Wallachia? Or that Batman finds a new and exciting excuse to utilize actual bats in nearly every game he ever visits? But these fun facts don’t get to the heart of the real question: what happened to Adventure’s kleptomaniac bat? Thievery is a very particular skill for a winged mammal, so where did that individual bat wind up? Well, if you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize the answer is obvious:

THE BAT

Aero the Acro-Bat is the most well-known thief-bat in gaming. He stole all of our hearts in 1993, and then retired a happy, prosperous bat after a reappearance on the Gameboy Advance. A true success story for the ages, and everybody knows there are no other thief-bats in gaming. None. Now be quiet, and stop eying that chaos emerald.

The Sword

Stabbin'The hero of Adventure is no swordsman (and possibly not even a man), but they don’t need to be. Sometimes a sword is all you need, and waddling over to a dragon and giving ‘em a good poke is all that’s obligatory to clear the threats out of this dungeon. The sword makes it all happen, and, while you can’t wield the sword while carrying literally anything else (you’d think a key could fit in your pocket), it is the one-size-fits-all murder weapon of choice for any and all adventurers.

Where is it now?

Sword is second only to Gun in the world of videogame weapons. Adventure may not have invented the idea of a sword-wielding adventurer, but it certainly cemented the sword’s usefulness, and the general relationship between swords and dragons (they’re not fond of each other). As a result, swords have been synonymous with adventure games ever since, practically to the point that if you see a hero with a sword, you’re already expecting to look around every corner for a hidden Triforce. Whether it is because of Adventure or not, the sword has experienced an unquestionably successful existence.

The Keys

Unlock conditionsSure, other games may have had keys, but did they have color-coded keys dedicated to color-coded gates? Nope! That was all Adventure! It wasn’t enough just to find a key, you had to find the right key, and you’d never get anywhere without it. That bridge can’t save you now, you need a golden key for a golden gate, mister. No entry allowed!

Where are they now?

Keys are synonymous with adventures, so a better question may be where aren’t they now (the answer is “your inventory”, because you used them all). One might claim that the height of “key mania” occurred back in the Playstation/N64 era, when the 1-2 punch of the Resident Evil franchise and Ocarina of Time sent those 90’s kids into a bout of key-mania. Who didn’t have a set of key-themed pogs? However, while keys don’t get the headlines as much now, they’re still out and proud, and even in ways you would never expect. Want to “unlock” that swimsuit DLC? Then you’re going to need a special key called “your credit card”. Keys are just as popular as ever!

The Mobile Bridge

A bridge too far to carryAdventure was the first game to feature a full inventory of items for your adventure (oh, I just got that), and the very biggest of them all was the mobile bridge. Sure, you may need a key or sword to conquer doors or enemies, but the mobile bridge is a goddamn freakin’ bridge. You want to get across something? Anything? It doesn’t matter, you’ve got a bridge that is four times your size, so you’re going to make it. Way to save the day, bridge!

Where is it now?

The bridge itself hasn’t seen much use in its original form since The Legend of Zelda saw a Link that occasionally had to ford rivers. But the spirit of that mobile and completely inexplicable structure is now more popular than ever. Want to play Minecraft? Fortnight? The most popular, universal titles in gaming right now all have a root in the simple joy of carrying an enormous bridge around the world, and we wouldn’t have people programming supercomputers in Mincecraft without it. The humble contribution of the mobile bridge has defined gaming in the past as much as in the modern era of lugging around an entire Home Depot in your virtual pocket.

The Magnet

It's magneticWhile there are other important items in Adventure, the magnet might be the absolute most useful. The other items are generally all “keys” (see!) that “unlock” specific conditions, like how a “sword” unlocks “a dead dragon”. The magnet, meanwhile, has unlimited utility. It, as one might expect, magnetizes any other item to your person. This makes the magnet simultaneously unnecessary and absolutely the most important thing in the maze. You can carry any item, sure, but you can’t carry any more than one item at a time. But if you’ve got a magnet, then the world is your oyster, and you can drag a parade of bridges and swords along for the ride. Bless you, magnet, you make a pause inventory completely superfluous.

Where is it now?

You hate to see it happen: the Magnet’s meteoric rise to fame happened fast and furious, as it seemed like every game after Adventure included a magnet. The peak of magnet-mania was likely Magnet’s appearance as a sentient robot in Dr. Wily’s Robot Master army in 1990. However, shortly thereafter, magnets severely dropped in popularity. Whether it was because “real” inventories gradually dropped the need for a “magnet-style” item, or because a posse of insane clowns claimed magnets couldn’t logically work was immaterial, the end result is that the once-ubiquitous magnet is now little more than a has been. Sure, magnetism sometimes appears as an innate or equippable “ability” nowadays, but being an abstract concept doesn’t pay the bills on that “Magnet Mansion” it bought with the advance from the Yu-Gi-Oh money…

Dark Areas

It's dark in hereIs there anything more important in a videogame than your field of vision? From the time Man progressed past the text adventure, Man was also encumbered by the need to see everything at all times. In Adventure, if you could see the whole of the maze from some glorious, mountaintop view, you would have no issue at all navigating its every twist and turn. But, no, you are damned to walk on the Earth, and finding your way to the sacred chalice is always a challenge. What’s more, some areas are dark, thus hampering progress with an inability to see even inches in front of your dot’s face. Oh, Dark Areas, you make simple walking a challenge.

Where are they now?

Bitch is everywhere! The darkness has crept into all of our lives, and now you can’t skulk around the labyrinths of Mars without bringing a danged flashlight. The Dark Areas of Adventure might be the single most enduring thing in gaming, as even Mario has to deal with a dark planet full of Boos every once in a blue (power) moon. Now, an attentive reader may notice that encroaching, unstoppable darkness being the greatest success story in Adventure is a bit… dark. And to that witty observation, I’d like to ask you a simple question: have you been alive this year? No further questions at this time, thank you.

The Dragons

Maybe it's not a duckThree dragons will stalk your hero, and, like Pac’s pals before them, they all have their own personalities. Or maybe they don’t! I’m not really going to test which dragon is the most angry when the end result of their collective tantrums is being devoured. I don’t want my little dot to live the rest of their days being digested, so I’m going to go ahead and hold off on the scientific studies until after this sacred chalice is retrieved. You’ll thank me later.

Where are they now?

One member of this trio was already established before Adventure. Eagle-eyed players noticed that Yellow Dragon was tucking a few extra heads behind his neck during filming, and, yes, Yellow Dragon was King Ghidorah slumming it in some videogames all along. The Godzilla money was running kind of dry in the early 80’s, and this “King” wanted to see if he could conquer a foreign market. It didn’t exactly set his career on (atomic) fire, but dude does have three mouths to feed, and a gig is a gig.

Red Dragon has similarly had a hard time establishing himself, but he has been “that dragon” in multiple projects over the years. The logo for Dragon’s Age? That’s Red Dragon. Dragon’s Crown resting on a dragon’s head? You know the dragon with that headwear. The fire dragon in any given Final Fantasy? Almost always Red Dragon (he was briefly in rehab opposite Final Fantasy 6, but it’s considered impolite to point that out). Red Dragon is well aware that red is second only to green in general dragon popularity, and all humans seem to think dragons look alike, so he’s always going to have a part. You might not always know it is him, but his IMDB page is longer than some wyrms.

And as for Green Dragon? Well, she recently got a gig with Nintendo…

THE BOTTOM

… Which makes her current popularity a real come from behind victory.

The Sacred Chalice

You can be a winnerIt’s not enough to simply find your prize in Adventure, you have to actually shlep it home. The goal of Adventure is to uncover a magical, strobing chalice, and then take it to a specific castle that may or may not be protected by cantankerous dragons. It’s a difficult quest, as you can only really carry one thing at a time, and apparently the concept of hanging onto a sword and a cup at the same time is the sort of fiction reserved for playing cards. But make it through the danger with your charmed sippy cup, and you’ll win this Adventure soundly.

Where is it now?

After decades of being replaced by every stupid glowing bauble that instantly ends your protagonist’s adventure (in a good way), we finally saw the return of the sacred, difficult-to-carry chalice in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It was everything Adventure had promised! Carrying a chalice was boring and unrewarding! And it made for a pretty fun game! It was confusing! And now there’s a remastered edition that can actually be played without the dreaded Gameboy Advance cable? Everything is coming up chalice!

Warren Robinett

There is a mysterious room/wall in Adventure that, should you pay attention to some very particular pixels, reads “Created by Warren Robinett”. What does that mean? Nobody knows.

Where is he now?

He’s not in the local phone book, so there’s really no way of knowing. I’m not certain who this Warren Robinett character is supposed to be, but he can’t be that important. His name doesn’t even appear in the game’s end credits (of which there are none)!

But every other thing in Adventure seems to have gone on to have illustrious careers, so most of Adventure is remembered fondly.

FGC #528 Adventure

  • I like purple, tooSystem: Originally for the Atari 2600, but also available at your local mall kiosk on one of those Chinese bootleg devices. It’s also on modern consoles in the Atari Collection, and that’s a pretty fine way to play.
  • Number of players: This is a solo adventure.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is the granddaddy of the Zelda-esque adventure genre, and it is downright amazing how much of this was repurposed for the genre we all know, love, and endlessly debate. That said, if you’re playing this in anything but random mode, you can probably finish easy or hard mode in all of three seconds. Were people not capable of making maps back in the day? Adventure is an amazing time capsule, but, as one of the first games with a true ending, I find it hard to believe it had to compete directly with Space Invaders.
  • Favorite Item: If you can’t figure it out from the article, the magnet is the best thing ever. I didn’t even know “magnet physics” were possible on the Atari!
  • Did you know? It never ceases to amaze me that Steven Spielberg directed Ready Player One, a film that hinges on uncovering the “credits” easter egg of Warren Robinett, and the damn overarching story or its themes don’t take a goddamn minute to consider why that easter egg exists at all. It was because Atari was trying to hide the names of the people making their games! It was a huge blow for the idea of games as art! And the people that create them being identified as artists! Switch itThis is still a huge problem thirty years after the release of Adventure, left alone in a bad future that is ruled by corporations that are clearly not crediting the creators of an army of virtual mods. But, no, it all has to be attached to a movie that is so rock stupid, it posits that no one could ever accidentally hit reverse at the start of a racing game. Bah!
  • Would I play again: Adventure is important to gaming as a whole. Will I bother to boot it up again? Nah. I can spend that whole two minutes elsewhere.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Banjo-Kazooie! Bear and bird are at it again for the first time! Please look forward to it!

FGC #372 Jurassic Park (SNES) & Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis)

Jurassic!Jurassic Park was a cultural phenomenon because it combined the two things that people love most:

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. Looking at Dinosaurs

Once it hit those two essential beats, Jurassic Park could have been the sad tale of two kids that go to the worst summer camp ever, it was going to be a success. Luckily, Steven Spielberg didn’t just rest on his dino-laurels, and decided to include a plot that at least moderately utilized science/Jeff Goldblum/Jeff Goldblum doing science. There are dinosaurs, there are hackers, and, somewhere along the line, Santa Claus learns that nature finds a way (to eat your lawyer).

When you sit down and look at the basic plot of Jurassic Park, however, you see that it was already a videogame all along. Theme parks are ideal for videogames, as they naturally produce interesting and eclectic levels without having to generate an excuse for why the volcano is six feet from the sewer. Random dinosaurs create an army of easy mooks (that one spitting dork), mid-bosses (raptors), and final bosses (terrible thunder lizards). The kids can either serve for an escort mission or some kind of assistive advice dispenser, and maybe we can toss in a hacking minigame or something. Oh! And Grant is a paleontologist! That’s a fine excuse for a fetch quest for dinosaur eggs or triceratops dung or whatever we can find. Jurassic Park the Motion Picture may as well have come with a controller, because it’s halfway to your preferred console already.

NoooooAnd, though I loathe to admit it, given the choice, Jurassic Park for the Super Nintendo would likely be exactly the game I’d create with the Jurassic Park license. Well, not exactly, but the fundamentals are there. It’s a top-down adventure-esque game in the Zelda vein. And that’s a great start! It would be easy to make Grant an action hero, but he is more of a science nerd, so it makes more sense to see him inhabiting an elf’s Pegasus boots. And the general plot and mood of the game is not one of oppressive dino-danger, it’s much more akin to a stroll through a (Jurassic) park. Granted, it’s a park where you could be devoured at any time, but the “have fun and explore” sunny blue skies and lush, green grass is a lot more inviting than a thunderstorm. And that’s what Jurassic Park is about! Sure, it’s a big, scary trek through a naturalistic horror of man’s creation, but a solid half of the movie is given over to the wonder anyone would experience when confronted with Barney’s more savage cousins. A Jurassic Park that doesn’t pause to let the player enjoy Jurassic Park seems contrary to the spirit of the movie itself, and it would be far too easy to turn JP into Grant’s murderathon.

But other than that? Jurassic Park for the SNES kind of sucks.

Jurassic Park is very Zelda-like. In fact, it’s very much like the original Legend of Zelda, a game that tells you it’s dangerous to go alone, hands you a sword, and then provides no more information. Sure, we’ve all taken it for granted with decades of Nintendo Power and speed running and maybe a cartoon or two, but The Legend of Zelda is a very confusing experience for someone with absolutely no context. What are you supposed to be doing? Why are you collecting triangles? Are these rupees for something? And why did that orange mush eat my shield? There is no Zelda tutorial, and, if you hit start on that title screen as quickly as possible, it’s entirely possible a new player would have absolutely zero information on so much as Link’s basest objective (kill pig wizard). In a similar manner, Jurassic Park welcomes you to Jurassic Park, and… that’s it. You’re on your own, Grant, and your objectives are about as clear as molasses. Kill dinosaurs? Collect eggs? Earn a high score? Nedry didn’t leave you a manual, and the occasional tip to “avoid t-rexes” isn’t exactly the most useful thing to learn after becoming tyrannosaurus poop for the third time.

Take a stepBut even assuming you’re not the most goal oriented player in the world (the goal of any theme park is to have fun!), you’re still stuck with a pretty lousy experience. Grant moves at a snail’s pace, and velociraptors… don’t. Ammo is limited, and your default, rechargeable weapon is a stun gun (lightning blaster?) that actually stuns. Knock out a dinosaur, waste too much time investigating the area, and then discover that that toothy grin is back up and barreling down on our poor hero. Dinosaurs and traps come out of nowhere, health is difficult to recover, and saves or passwords are out of the question. It’s a game where you have no idea what you’re doing, and you’re inevitably doing it poorly.

And we haven’t even gotten to the best part! The “dungeons” of Jurassic Park were 3-D, FPS-esque affairs. This could be interesting on a system that wasn’t the SNES, at a time that wasn’t the dawn of the FPS. But on this system, in this epoch? It’s terrible. The SNES controller is not equipped in any way for a FPS, and a thousand Grant corpses being devoured by a million raptors is a testament to this fact. And never mind that the graphics for these areas are just a step above something a dilophosaurus might spit out. And the back of the box has the audacity to claim “no polygons or two-dimensional sprites here! Ocean’s exclusive REAL 3-D graphics will have you screaming… for more.” I take personal offense at every word in that sentence.

Bah! This game sucks! What’s happening in the Sega Genesis version?

Awesomeness

Oh, I get a choice of characters? And the other choice is… a raptor?

Awesomeness

A jump kicking gangsta raptor!?

Awesomeness

And I can screw with Grant? For points?

Awesomeness

Yes! Raptor! Save the world!

Okay, yeah, Sega wins this round.

Being a dinosaur is the best.

FGC #372 Jurassic Park (SNES) & Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis)

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis for this review, but also available on every other system that was available in the early 90’s. Did you know there was a NES version? It was the Gameboy version, but with color!
  • Number of players: This is going to be a good week for single player experiences.
  • Hate himFurther complaints: SNES Park has a number of dinosaur enemies… and giant dragonflies. In the one game that is all about dinosaurs, they somehow ran out of dinosaurs. I hate everything.
  • Favorite Weapon (both versions): Is this where my love of rocket launchers originates? Grant can find a few in either game, and exploding dinosaurs into meaty chunks is always a good time.
  • Other Genesis Options: You can play as Grant in Genesis Park. It is not worth it. Oh, someone incorporated the river level? Well la di da. Grant can’t eat lil’ dinos for health, and I don’t want to deal with that.
  • Did you know? The animators for Genesis Park (including Doug TenNapel) studied real, live lizards to properly animate the dinosaurs that would inevitably devour poor Grant. The creators of SNES Park, meanwhile, stuck sharp sticks in their eyes so they could properly convey human pain to the audience.
  • Would I play again: SNES Park is never happening ever. Genesis Park is a solid maybe, but only because of one thing, and that rhymes with “Slayable Maptor”.

What’s next? We’re closing out our SNES vs. Genesis duel with one wish: world peace. Just kidding. We wished for Aladdin, and it’s coming up next. Please look forward to it!

Who?

FGC #233 Bubsy 3D

What a magnificent catHere is a partial list of things made worse by Bubsy 3D:

• First and foremost, videogames are worse, as a medium, thanks to Bubsy 3D. No matter what happens, whether we see the true Citizen Kane of gaming or if a videogame somehow rescues a starving boy from a well, people will be able to point to Bubsy 3D and say, “Yeah, but Bubsy 3D happened.” Stupid biased facts.

• Cats. Bubsy Bubsy Bubsy Bubsy Boooooooobcat is, technically a bobcat, but that’s close enough. I used to be a cat person, but Bubsy has made me a dog person through association. Sorry, my furry friends, you’ll have to chase your own red dots now.

• Bobcats. I mean, duh.

• The entire Third Dimension. It was a wonderful experiment, guys, but I’m pretty sure we should go back to some manner of flat world, because it’s pretty clear we can’t be trusted with depth and the perception thereof. I realize becoming 2-D in response to one lousy videogame may seem like overreacting, but can we really risk another Bubsy 3D?

• Jumping. This one is gonna hit the plumbers right in the overalls, but jumping is also another failure. Remember when Mario went 3-D, and he was granted a punch, because it was blisteringly obvious that jumping on moving, 3-D targets was going to get really old, really fast? Yeah, Bubsy didn’t learn that lesson, and even the most motionless monster is impossible to properly bop. And once you start running into those mobile UFO things? Nope, jumping was a mistake.

Move along, cat• Walking. Bubsy 3D somehow makes the simple act of walking a terrifying ordeal. Bubsy controls like a tank/Chris Redfield, and thus must be “steered”. Bubsy can only move forward or backward, and adding any sort of angle to that equation requires rotating like a bobcat on a BBQ spit. This is less than ideal on a good day, but the dark gods responsible for Bubsy’s existence decided to add another fly to the ointment: many pathways zig-zag. Walk forward, turn slightly, walk forward, turn slightly, walk forward, turn slightly, whoops, didn’t turn enough, fall to your death. No game should include a “walking challenge”.

• Water. Delightful, life giving water spells only death for Bubsy… which kind of makes sense, because we’re dealing with a cat, and they have legendary hydrophobia (and my grandfather has the scars to prove it). Except… Bubsy 3D has underwater levels. And, brother, if you thought nobody liked water stages in good games, you won’t believe the level of terrible going on in this abomination. So with water being either instantly fatal at the slightest touch or the basis for entire stages, Bubsy 3D can’t even be internally consistent with its insanity. Stupid water.

• Oxygen. The water stages run on Sonic the Hedgehog rules, and you must ration your air supply. At this point, not breathing is just easier than relaying the rest of that horror.

Won't someone think of the children!• Aliens. The “plot” of Bubsy 3D is that Bubsy accidently stowed away on an alien spaceship (presumably the same creatures from Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind), and is now wrecking up their alien planet because… he’s a dick? This isn’t self (yarn) defense anymore, he’s just attacking aliens because they’re there. If you think this is a “Oh, that silly Goggle Bob is making a mountain out of a molehill plot” thing, consider that the intro of the game features a panicked alien populace shouting, “What are we going to do!?” Bubsy looks bad, aliens look bad, and, somewhere, Steven Spielberg has a headache, and doesn’t know why.

• Cars. Cats should not be allowed to drive.

• The Mighty Atom. Despite being the building blocks of all matter in the known universe, and, incidentally, really really tiny, Bubsy attempts to use generics atoms as projectiles in Bubsy 3D. I say “attempts” because they are difficult to aim, will detonate and damage Bubsy if he holds one for too long, and, for reasons unknown, will boomerang and hurt Bubsy if they don’t hit anything. In short, atoms are the worst “powerup” in all of gaming. Imagine if a Fire Flower lit Mario ablaze, and you basically have the gist of it.

• Yarn. It doesn’t appear much in the game, but I don’t think I’m even capable of dealing with another yarn pun.

• Puns. No explanation necessary.

• Western gaming. You don’t see Japan cranking out crap like this. Well, you do, but usually it’s wrapped up in some kind of random sexual perversion, so at least you can admire their dedication to their craft. Incidentally, that “craft” is “panties”.

What even just happened?• The Sega 32X. This game was originally planned to be on the 32X, possibly one of the most under-supported gaming systems ever released. Star Wars, Doom, and that hummingbird game. There was a Sonic the Hedgehog game… starring & Knuckles. Sonic couldn’t make it. Doing his hair. Bubsy was originally slated to appear on the 32X, but his handlers decided that 32X wasn’t selling well enough, so the game was ported to Playstation. The Sega 32X wasn’t good enough for Bubsy. Forget After Burner, the 32X already has more burns than it can handle.

• The Playstation. No matter how much Sony owns the console market, it will always be the company responsible for allowing this game into our homes. The Playstation is worse for it. And, what’s more, since the Playstation brand had backwards compatibility up through the Playstation 3, Bubsy 3D is technically playable on three different systems. That’s three more systems than should have ever been allowed!

• The Sega Saturn. This was the second system to be snubbed by Bubsy 3D. Despite initial plans to ship Bubsy to Saturn, that trip was permanently delayed when Bubsy 3D was received about as well as a bobcat visiting a preschool. Under normal circumstances, not hosting Bubsy 3D would be a good thing, but the Saturn marks the second Sega system to be snubbed by the bobcat. That’s, like, how big of a failure do you have to be to be ignored by Bubsy twice?

• The Whole of Human History. In a way, we all responsible for letting Bubsy 3D happen.

And now a complete list of things not made worse by Bubsy 3D:

• Bubsy. Seriously, after his previous adventures how could he get any worse? The bottom is a lonely place, and, apparently, it’s home to a bobcat.

FGC #233 Bubsy 3D

  • System: Playstation, where it should stay contained.
  • Number of players: Oh yeah, there’s a 2-Player “death match”. Please don’t ask me to explain how that works in a shoddy 3-D platformer.
  • Just play the gig man: I can barely notice the insipid music, but the constant “cartoony” sound effects in Bubsy 3D are cause for alarm. I thought Scooby-Doo had poor sound design, but I had no idea.
  • Say something nice: The doctors tell me that my vision will return shortly, so at least the horrid graphics of this adventure do not cause permanent blindness.
  • How about some nightmare fuel? Sure!
    MELT AWAY TO NOTHING
  • Did you know? This was Bubsy’s creator’s return to Bubsy. He claimed that Bubsy 2 had damaged the Bubsy brand, and this was going to make Bubsy all better. Bubsy never headlined another game again.
  • Would I play again: If I do, that’s your sign that I have been replaced by some manner of replicant. If that occurs, do not hesitate, and please use a bazooka on “me” immediately. It’s better for all of us.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… House of the Dead: Overkill for Nintendo Wii! Hey! That might actually be fun! Who doesn’t like shooting zombies? Please look forward to it!

Serously?