Tag Archives: the ‘rona

Xenogears 14: Time is Running Out

My robot!Phew… Okay… So I have been informed that things are going a bit long, and we only have time for a total of five more sermons (including this one). That is going to truncate things a bit, as all the important things happen in Fei’s journey from about this point on… And… dang… Did I really waste two entire lectures on Fei doing nothing in prison? Woof. I am sorry. In the future, I hope I can pace these things a bit better.

Let’s see here… what to focus on… what to focus on…

We covered Solaris exploding last time? Oh, good, so we don’t have to…

Oh! Id! Yes. Id was secretly Fei all along. That is interesting, right? And, while Fei does not immediately grapple with his “inner” Id, he does gain a limited kind of control over his Weltall’s ability to enter Id mode. Given he successfully destroyed a centuries-old fortress the last time he let Id loose, this is something of a game changer for the man that is gathering more and more of -the power-.

And speaking of which, Ramsus was able to defeat Fei in one battle shortly after the fall of Solaris. We will talk more about Ramsus later… uh… if we have time… But his Omnigear leads to one of his few clear victories, and that is important to a man that has previously spent his entire life losing. … But we will not dwell on the fact that he was a significant loser about ten seconds after Fei got that Id upgrade…

HUGS!Oh! And Elly! Her parents are killed before Solaris is detonated (which, let’s be honest here, they would not have survived that explosion, so this was a delayed death at best), but then she successfully talks Fei/Id down from the rampage that destroyed her home. And then when Fei is caged for the crime of committing a genocide shortly thereafter, it is Elly that aids Fei in a daring escape. Thereafter, they reconnect emotionally before separating so Elly can join her step/real/magical daughter in a raid on the Mass-Driver Facility. And that was likely a pretty amazing adventure all on its own, but we don’t really have any information on that, because the population of the world is transformed into zombies shortly thereafter.

Oh, but before that, there was a Fort Hurricane, and a town that turned into a giant, transforming Gear, and that Gear used a flying ship as a cannon, and… Crap. Did we not even mention Grahf and the Executioner at this point?

Gah! We’re out of time!

Look, we will pick it back up with the Anima relic next time. Uh… For now… Um… The moral is that knowing how much time you have left is really important.

Even Worse Streams presents Xenogears
Night 14

Original Stream Night: May 11, 2021
Night of the Jumping Flash

Random Stream Notes

  • Do you like horny bunnies 2? How about robots? Welcome back to Xenogears. Caliscrub and Kishi are here with the usual crew.
  • “Is Billy Bart? Are they different?”
  • BEAT actually cares about Hammer! It impacts our reactions to his betrayal.
  • Hey, remember Executioner? Remember!?
  • “Why is there an FMV here?” Welcome to Weltall turning red and solving some mysteries.
  • BEAT is bound and determined to never address Xenogears, even as the most interesting parts of the game happen.
  • Good little dudeMags thinks we are old enough to be nostalgic for “He-Man and Betty Boop.” Let this be our epitaph.
  • We will live the rest of our lives hearing nerds talking about Neon Genesis Evangelion, and there is nothing we can do about it.
  • “Citan is there to make sure nobody starts a food fight in the cafeteria.”
  • Let’s talk about Legends of Tomorrow being good while Krelian talks to the TV sphere.
  • INSERT DISC 2! We’re here!
  • BEAT demands more games based on Queen songs. Ogre Battle is right over there…
  • Do rejuvenation tubes exist in real life? I keep asking this.
  • Aw, we all talk about our COVID vaccine experiences. Memories…
  • Please do not notice Weltall 2’s lack of a pelvis.
    We need more joints
  • While Fei is fighting Vengeance again, Caliscrub is losing at Street Fighter.
  • “Enjoy these JPEGS, because that’s it.”
  • As the plot really kicks into high gear (after a gear skirmish), we attribute this breakneck pacing to a really intricate plot… that doesn’t work. “They’re super over scope” is the best explanation.
  • For our giant zombie fight, Kishi once again makes great battle recommendations after the fight has already started…
  • “By the way we’re just in a dungeon now.”
  • Really good plots can sound terrible if you’re just reading a wiki of it… And that is basically what we have here. Welcome to the remaining Wiki of Xenogears.

Next time on Xenogears: We’re all gonna get laid!

Take that
This could have been an entire game!

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 #633 Sonic CD

Truly, he must go fastThe future ain’t what it used to be.

Here in the present, we are looking at Sonic CD. Sonic CD is the chronological sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog that was released shortly after Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It started its existence as a port of Sonic 2 for the brand-new Sega CD hardware, but evolved during development into something wholly unique in the Sonic the Hedgehog canon. But, as a result of being tied to finnicky hardware and not being rereleased nearly as often as its contemporaries, Sonic CD has become something of the black sheep of the 2-D Sonic family. While some claim Sonic CD is the pinnacle of 16(ish)-bit platformers, many more shuffle Sonic CD into the “don’t bother” pile with the Master System games and Knuckles Chaotix. In short, a lot of professed Sonic fans will tell you not to waste your time.

And that is a shame, because Sonic CD is all about time. Superficially, Sonic CD’s plot and setting are based on a magical island where the past, present, and future are a little bit more accessible than elsewhere on Mobius, and this grants the hedgehog and his most hated scientist buddy the opportunity to wage war across different epochs. Most worlds start in a pleasant present, but Sonic can easily travel to the future to see a world where Robotnik has conquered the (little) planet, or zoom back to the past to repel the egg army before it ever got going. And how does one save the world from the past? Well, it requires searching over the whole of the current zone, and finding/destroying two of Eggman’s “traps” (the animal/plant containment unit is understandable, but a projector of Metal Sonic somehow changing the shape of destiny raises questions). And the important part of that? The searching. Whereas general “secrets” have always been a part of the Sonic formula, Sonic CD dedicatedly hides two “essential” secrets in two distinct locations in every zone. This is not a situation wherein you simply push against every wall to find a giant ring transporter or two, this is an open invitation to learn the maps of these zones, and devote yourself to finding their specific minutiae. This is a “gotta go fast” Sonic the Hedgehog title, but the player is also all but told they will be more successful if they take their time.

But all is not lost if you absolutely want to play a Sonic the Hedgehog game like a hyperactive omnivore. There are two routes to the good ending: you can either explore every level and find (/destroy) every collectible, or you can conquer the special stages at the end of each level, and obtain all the Time Stones. Apparently claiming the Time Stones guarantees that Eggman will never find these precious rocks, and this will create the same eternally happy ending for everyone on Little Planet. And regardless of method, how do you know you obtained said happy ending? Well, you will see a happy little message at the end of every zone like so…

GOOD END

And fun fact? I am pretty sure that message triggered some kind of PTSD in my soul.

Mainly because I finally put my library back together after a year (home improvements! Oh boy!), I have been reading some “classic” comics recently. It has been mostly stuff from the 90’s heyday of the immediate aftermath of the likes of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman setting the funny papers ablaze a few years earlier. And the amusing thing about reading comics from this nebulous 90’s-or-so era? There are always excuses to peek at the far-off future of a few decades down the line, and it is not uncommon for their future to be literally now. 2015 or 2020 seems to be the exact point that a lot of authors of the time settled on for “the future”, and, while it is always fun to mock a random writer’s attempts at guessing the trends of the future (where is my jetpack fuetcha, you monsters?!), there is another pervasive trend in predicting the future: it is bad. And that is okay! Because these are fictional works starring heroes and heroines trying to make the world a better place. It is only natural that they would witness a “bad future” so they can be reminded what they are fighting for and/or against. A good future is bad! It’s boring! A future where your girlfriend has been transformed into a snake monster, and your best friend is missing all the fun appendages gives you something to struggle against. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only? Keep reading to find out!

Away we goBut there is a bit of an issue with the persistent use of the “bad future” trope. As someone currently living in the revolutionary future of 2022, I can confirm that we never saw half this “bad” coming. There is an international plague, and the biggest reason it spreads is the economy would be really inconvenienced if Sneezin’ Harold didn’t come in today to properly stock the Chex Mix. Our politicians are not necessarily overly corrupt ghouls, but they are almost universally old enough to base their decisions on opinions formed roughly around the fall of disco. And let’s not overlook the fact that an entire generation seems to have been brainwashed by online services initially created for the purpose of distributing silly cat pictures. Which generation am I talking about? Could be a few choices there! And the scary thing about all this? I wouldn’t even call this present-future bad. It’s not like we have to worry about dictators with alien, orange skin ascending to illegitimate power or something. Things can’t be all that bad! Nobody I know has cybernetic arms!

And it kind of scares me that we could be living in the exact bad future we have been warned of by fiction going back the last hundred years… and we just… got used to it? Sonic CD has a clear bad future: it is the future where Dr. Robotnik has conquered the planet. But do the happy little animals that have not been robotocized in that “future” still go about their daily lives? Are they still doing the same things they have always done, just with a few more badniks around? Sonic can save Amy Rose and “beat the game” without ever once creating a good future. Does that mean Sonic is okay with all of this? Just so long as the people close to him are safe, Sonic is totally cool with whatever the future brings? That is very zen of you, you monster.

I played trumpetBah! I’m overanalyzing a game about a hedgehog trying to stop a robot hedgehog from kidnapping a pink hedgehog. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Sonic CD was never intended as a social commentary on the world that would exist three decades after its release. These are just the musings of a writer that has experience an unusual amount of trauma in the last few years (and months and weeks and days). Things feel bad, and you are now reading these anxieties given written flesh and marginally viable metaphors. No badniks are currently littering the streets.

But there is something we can learn from Sonic CD. Sonic might not have to create good futures, but he can, and it just takes a little effort. Maybe it is through careful exploration, maybe through conquering special stages, but Sonic does have the ability to change the course of history. And we do, too. Are we living in a bad future? Maybe. But there is still more future ahead of us, and we can change that. Bad things have happened. Horrible decisions have been made. But it is not all over yet, and we can still put in the effort, and fish out whatever Time Stones are going to fix the mess.

You can make a good future (at least in zone 2).

FGC #633 Sonic CD

  • Here we go!System: Would you believe this was initially available on the Sega CD? It’s true! It seems there was also a standalone port on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC around 2011, and it was part of the Sonic Gems Collection on Playstation 2 and Gamecube. It most recently was available as part of the Sonic Origins compilation on Playstation 4/5, Xbox X/S, and Nintendo Switch (no slash).
  • Number of players: If there is a two player racing mode or something here, we are not acknowledging it.
  • Port O Call: As you have likely guessed, most screenshots in this article are from the Sonic Origins version of Sonic CD. What has changed from the original release? I have no idea! I mean, it is widescreen, there is no such thing as “lives”, there is the “drop dash”, you can retry special stages repeatedly; we all know those changes are in there. But the little things? Other than the fact that they dropped Sonic’s “I’m out of here” voice, I have no clue about the little things that have been changed. Let’s assume the fact that I played this a lot more intently than the Sonic Gems version is a simple matter of the ergonomics of the Nintendo Switch, and not because they made sweeping changes.
  • Favorite Boss: The Egg Conveyer is a deadly treadmill meant to trap Sonic in an endless loop of running… but the weakness of the Egg Conveyer is the very treadmill Sonic will inevitably run upon. So, basically, Robotnik built a machine that is weak to its own purpose. This is why you always fail, Ivo.
  • Favorite Zone: Stardust Speedway joins Sonic the Hedgehog’s Star Light Zone as another star-themed zone that is my absolute favorite. And, hey, I dislike Tidal Tempest as much as Labyrinth Zone! This really should have been the “first” sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog!
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I played through Sonic CD once before, but apparently it did not stick in my mind, as I totally forgot Sonic Mania’s Metallic Madness first appeared as the final zone of Sonic CD. I thought the shrink ray and “tetris spikes” were original to Mania!
  • Watch it, Buddy: In honor of the release of Sonic Origins, BEAT was going to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles on the stream. But he get held up for a week, so I was forced to play Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) instead. I am not going to play that again for the FGC, so here is the stream:

    Please enjoy watching how long it takes for me to get a ball in a hole.
  • Did you know? Every bad future theme on the Japanese soundtrack has lyrics/singing except Tidal Tempest. I do not know why bad futures gets vocal tracks, and what Tidal Tempest did to avoid such a fate, but here we are.
  • Would I play again: Count me as someone who finds Sonic CD to be more of a forgotten gem than a stain on Sonic’s good name. That said, I would still probably play one of the Sega Genesis CD-less titles first. Maybe I will get to this one again on its inevitable next rerelease.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Martial Champion! Never heard of it? I’m not surprised! Come back next week, and learn something new! Please look forward to it!

Look out!

FGC #620 The Incredible Crash Dummies

Learning!Let’s look at the history of The Incredible Crash Dummies, and how they are enormously relevant today.

Cars are amazing. Much like the common copier, a car is a normal part of daily life for many people, but something that would be impossible science fiction a couple centuries back. An automobile is a device that an individual personally owns, and allows said individual to turn a trip that would previously take weeks into a handful of hours. Want to transport groceries from the market? Go on a road trip? Steal a couch from your neighbor? A car makes it all possible!

Cars are also rolling murder machines.

Automobiles are terrifying. They are gigantic hunks of plastic and metal that we routinely hurl through our neighborhoods at speeds that could turn a human being into bloody chunks. Statistically, automobiles are one of the leading causes of unintended death and injury in the United States, with 37,595 motor vehicle deaths in 2019. And, while the US has experienced less motor vehicle death since 1999, there has been an alarming trend of that number ticking back up since 2009. Did we lose some driving skill points with the Obama administration? Are people returning to more reckless driving after watching Gerard Butler’s Gamer? Can we blame “self-driving” cars that have demonstrated a Christine-esque bloodlust? The world may never know. What is important is that cars are helpful and an incredibly likely way for you or a loved one to die/be seriously injured.

But maybe it won’t be so bad if you wear a seatbelt. I learned that from some dummies.

This is gonna hurtThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a US Federal Agency that is ultimately responsible for vehicle safety standards. Like many American institutions, it is three lobbyists in a trench coat claiming they are working for the public good (and they’re totally old enough to buy beer, too, mister). The NHTSA was founded back when America had a three company monopoly on the very concept of cars, and has often been responsible for legislation that punished companies both foreign and domestic for attempting to gain a foothold that might make Henry Ford cry. Look up some details on the Citroën SM sometime if you’d like to see how the safest car ever™ can apparently be torpedoed by headlights. But, even if their motives are suspect in many situations, people at the NHTSA are firmly in the business of safety, so we have those proud men and women to thank for less cars immediately immolating their passengers. Oh! And seatbelts! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was practically founded to get seatbelts around your tummy.

Legislation made seatbelts mandatory on all cars produced after 1966. Then Reagan (naturally) dropped ‘em in a fit of deregulation. But they came back shortly thereafter, as the Supreme Court sided with insurance companies that wanted seatbelts in all cars (for altruistic purposes, I’m sure). New York then became the first state to require seatbelts to actually be worn in 1985. From there, other states quickly followed suit, and now New Hampshire is the only lawless hovel in the USA where seatbelts are optional. But as important as laws are, they are only as good as their enforcers. A seatbelt law is great for pulling someone over for the slimmest of reasons, but there were also many cops that, having grown up in a seatbelt-less environment, thought the law literally wasn’t worth enforcing. Seatbelts were and are a greater good for society and vehicle passengers… but they were kinda uncomfortable, and nobody likes being told what to do. It’s impossible to say if it’s bad or not.

Enter the crash test dummies.

COMMENCE LEARNINGIn 1986, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began running public service announcements featuring crash test dummies. Where did they come from? Well, in 1869, Mary Ward was killed by a steam-powered car. 60 years later, someone decided to look into that, so Wayne State University of Detroit started seeing dead people as test cadavers in controlled car crashes. Unfortunately, measuring what the heck was going on was practically impossible with the tools available in 1930, so things were rough. But it did work in some fashion, as much of what we know about car design safety and bodies being ejected through windshields comes from this era. Look it up! It’s in The Journal of Trauma! Which is a real thing! There were also animal test subjects for a time, too, because humans are the trashiest animals of all. But at some point in there, people stopped strapping corpses and bears (!) into cars, and the crash test dummy became standard. The dummy was apparently first used in 1949, and technology on assessing exactly how damaged a dummy could be by a crash gradually progressed as the decades passed. And, as the crash test dummy became an iconic part of car crashes, someone had the bright idea to stick those dummies out in front of a camera. Vince and Larry (voiced by Garfield!) were born, and their slapstick hijinks lasted as long as a normal commercial, and they taught everyone “you could learn a lot from a dummy”.

And, while it is hard to measure the success of the Crash Test Dummies campaign, they were apparently effective. The dummies were ubiquitous in the old days of limited television channels/entertainment options. It seems certain that they aired these PSAs in conjunction with family-oriented programing, so if mom, dad, grandma, and Jimmy Jr. were sitting down to watch Head of the Class or Designing Women, the Crash Test Dummies would be a part of the experience. And they were entertaining! If you heard Vince and Larry talking about mundane-but-inevitably-fatal tasks like crossing the street or driving down to the store, you kept your butt in your seat, and watched the carnage unfold. At the time when the official campaign was retired in 1999, seatbelt usage had risen from 21% to 67%. Was this because people had learned a lot from these dummies? Or was it because children loved the toyline?

Because who could say no to this weirdo?

Colors are real
(Bomb Man and Tron Bonne provided for scale)

The Incredible Crash Test Dummies was an action figure line that combined the two things boys like most: vehicles and wanton destruction. Every Crash Test Dummy vehicle was built to be driven, destroyed, and then immediately rebuilt. And these were not Lego-esque construction toys, they were cars with crash-apart windows, crumple zones, and other fun features designed to break (and instantly unbreak). Everything scaled very nicely with other toy lines (if you want to see a GI Joe live through a generally harrowing experience, go nuts), and the actual figures had neat features, too (Vince and Larry can really go to pieces at the drop of a hat). There were even “little buddy” style figures, like the cat, dog, and crash test child that parents demanded be banned. So there’s a collector’s market, too! Hooray! They were never on the same tier as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers, but the Incredible Crash Test Dummies must have had enough of a fanbase to sustain three different seasons of toys.

Oh, and a few videogames. They… existed.

Here we goTechnically, today’s chosen game is The Incredible Crash Test Dummies for the Super Nintendo. This version was ported to the Sega Genesis, Amiga, and other systems that did not have the wherewithal to host Chrono Trigger. There was also a Nintendo Entertainment System version, and that more or less played like a primitive sports title/minigame collection, and it was ported to the portables of the time. What ties these two versions together is that they were all absolutely terrible games. The NESalikes at least consistently reminded you that you were playing with crash test dummies, and practically every event involved some kind of slapstick carnage. The SNESalikes, however, were simply 16-bit mascot platformers (from the people that brought you B.O.B.), and were practically indistinguishable from the rest of the poorly considered dreck of the time. There is the charm point of the dummies losing their limbs as they lose health, but that doesn’t impact the gameplay nearly as much as you would think. Beyond that, there is a P-Balloon-esque powerup that encourages some limited flight-through-inflation… and that’s about it. This could easily be Swift the Tenrec racing against the nefarious Dr. Walrus, because no one would notice the difference if the Incredible Crash Test Dummies license was missing from The Incredible Crash Test Dummies game.

But there is a plot to the SNES version! And that plot is surprisingly germane to today’s point (we’ll get there eventually).

The Incredible Crash Dummies toy line initially featured Vince and Larry, the same dummies from the public service announcements. However, shortly after the toys were initially produced, parents began protesting the toy line, and networks stopped airing the PSAs. The reason? It was assumed that the PSAs were now serving the dual masters of public health and turning a profit. Every ad that told you to buckle your safety belt was inadvertently also informing children they could go buy The Incredible Crash Test Dummies merch down at K B Toys. This was seen as a bad thing by the public at large, so the toy line was made more distinct from the PSA characters. Vince and Larry kept on informing the public of the dangers of hugging windshields, and colorswaps took over as Slick and Spin. From there, Slick and Spin gained Pro-Tek Suits, as they had to combat their new enemies: the Junkbots! And those Junkbots barely looked like Crash Test Dummies! How convenient! This prompted a Saturday Morning Special/VHS Tape that told the (computer generated) tale of how the Crash Test Dummies must stop the nefarious Junkbots from stealing a really kicky vest or something. This same story/conflict became the plot of the Super Nintendo game, and now you too can battle the Junkbots and all their rad playsets and toys. Nobody likes youAnd never shall a Junkbot interact with Vince and Larry, else the safety of Crash Test Dummies implode. In short, whatever initial plans for The Incredible Crash Test Dummies line ever existed were seriously derailed the minute it seemed like the toys might endanger the successful PSA campaign.

And I am just trying to understand a world where a capitalistic campaign to make money off children is derailed and modified for the sake of public safety. Christ, I cannot even imagine that anymore.

You want Angry Ranting Goggle Bob? Sure, let’s do this. I lived through a number of significant events in recent American history. I remember when we were first supposed to hate Iraq, and I remember when we were asked to do that all over again a few years later with a similarly named president. I remember when 9/11 happened, and we were told to “never forget” the deaths of 2,996 people. I remember friggin’ freedom fries. And why do I mention any of these tragedies? Because they became focused, national campaigns demanding compliance. There is not a single person on Earth that ever heard of a law renaming a condiment due to political pressure, but, somehow, for six months, all the local restaurants employed servers that asked if you wanted “Catalina dressing” instead of “French”. Forget the crash test dummies, I have seen ridiculously successful advertising campaigns that benefitted only the US Government my entire life, and the public at large doesn’t even recognize such as propaganda. Or, put another way, next time someone shouts “America is Number One!” go ahead and ask them to name their sources. And, no, “freedom” is not an answer.

But this is not to say the United States of America is terrible! It is simply an affirmation that when the federal government wants something to be the standard for the country, they don’t need to make a law. All they need to do is pump the ubiquitous media with interview after interview about how something is our “enemy” or some ambiguous-but-vital goal is “impossible if we don’t all work together”. We all need to go to the mall right now, or the terrorists win.

Jumpin' AroundYet, now that there is a public health emergency that is likely to cause us to confirm how many people over a million you need to see dead before you start using a plural, the government cannot get its messaging straight. Killing Middle Eastern people was the only way we were ever going to ever be happy again, but getting a vaccine? Put that in the maybe column. Wear a mask? No, that might offend some customers that think this Applebee’s staff is somehow dirty. Actually close some goddamned stores because the risk of a localized outbreak will have a greater impact on society than Cletus buying his 256th Funko Pop? Never! Our government has never had a problem taking a bold, unwavering stance on the subject of massive, coordinated death, but when it comes to public health, everybody is shrugging and claiming personal choice is important. Nobody was talking about “personal choice” when the local donut shop was being vandalized every week after 9/11, Joe!

And this pisses me off after the last two years: Where are the Crash Test Dummies for COVID? I understand that Lorenzo Music might not be available for dubbing, but can we get a few decent voice actors to voice the… I don’t know… Mask Buddies? Some kind of ad that runs between Hulu reruns that promotes public health in the slightest bit? And not some “we’re all in this together” commercial to get you to go to Starbucks? The original Incredible Crash Test Dummies were a successful PSA and toy line! And videogame! That was awful! But still! You can do this! You can save lives and make a couple of bucks! I know you can do it, America! You have literally done it before!

Listen to this dummy. You could learn a lot from the past.

FGC #620 The Incredible Crash Dummies

  • Battle all our playsets and toys!System: There was a full system breakdown during the article, so I will just reiterate that we’re focused on the Super Nintendo version today. Will I look at other ports? Absolutely not.
  • Number of players: This really should be two players, as Crash Test Dummies come in pairs. But no dice. Sorry.
  • Level Up: Your main offensive ability is jumping on your opponents, ala Super Mario Bros. But! You can also throw a limited-ammo spanner of some kind as a projectile. And it gets better as you defeat more bosses! Or… it is supposed to… or… something… as it mostly just gets “stronger” by flying in loop-de-loops or other bizarre patterns. Like a lot in this game, it is a choice.
  • Favorite Boss: It is hard to say how much this was influenced by the already toyetic movie, but it seems like the bosses were exclusively chosen to sell the vehicles offered by the toyline. And I’m okay with that! I have been fighting the Technodrome for years! The final boss is the best, as his morphing truck adapts the whole “build whatever” aspect of the Junkbots canon. Oh, but all the bosses are absolutely terrible to fight, because of horrendous hit detection, so you won’t ever see the final boss anyway.
  • Bonus Time: Every boss is immediately followed by a Turbo Tunnel-esque bonus stage wherein you are forced to ram your dummy into a wall with as much speed as possible. For this being the “bonus” of playing an Incredible Crash Test Dummies videogame, you would expect they would maybe put a little effort into parts flying everywhere, or possibly our favorite dummy saying something cute as he is ejected. Nope! Just dumb explosion graphics. Lame.
  • Away we go!Stage End: Every level ends with a spinning “Next Zone” sign, and your dummy rolling into a ball to eject off to parts unknown. That seems weirdly familiar for a 16-bit platformer….
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So I made reference to a local donut shop being vandalized during the article. This is seriously in reference to my college days. Immediately after 9/11, the local donut shop was run by a Pakistani dude who actually did have his 24/7 coffee/donut shop vandalized, like, all the time. This led to the situation wherein my friends and I, completely unaware of this, showed up one night at 3 AM for coffee and donuts, because we were, ya know, bored college students. The owner had a bat at the ready when we arrived, because he assumed we were there to rob and/or vandalize the place (admittedly, we did have multiple tall people with a post-Matrix inclination toward trench coats). It was a confusingly tense situation! Mostly because half our party was high as hell, and had a really hard time understanding what was happening! After we explained that we mostly just had the munchies, the guy calmed down, and we all had coffee and donuts and talked about how much it sucks that so many people were so reactively racist all of a sudden. And I want to say that, barring the premiere of the Justice League cartoon/Gamecube (we were nerds), we came back there and hung out with the guy every weekend that semester. After a few months, hostilities seemed to die down, he stopped personally working the night shift, and we went back to dealing with whoever was making minimum wage for corralling geeks on the graveyard shift. But the point is: don’t let anyone tell you the time after 9/11 was a time of “national unity”. It was only a time of national unity for people that didn’t have to protect their businesses and homes with baseball bats.
  • Did you know? Yes, actual bears were used as crash test dummies at one point in history. This is inhumane and marginally insane (do you know anyone built like a bear? … I mean… a real bear). But it did mean that, for some short epoch, bear was driving. And how can that be?
  • Would I play again: No. This is… No. B.O.B. might get a play first, and that’s horrible.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pokémon Legends: Arceus! Completely random that yet another Pokémon game appears on this blog! Maybe a Castlevania will be next! Anyway, please look forward to it!

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